Newbie Series Part8 : Guitar Lessons

Neal February 25, 2011 10

Okay, so you’ve got your guitar, your amp and a few basic accessories – the only problem now is figuring out how to play the damn thing!  There’s almost a limitless number of ways to learn how to play guitar, but the path you choose will depend on a number of factors such as personal ambition, free time, budget, location and many other variables.

You may have all the ambition in the world and be willing to drop $120 an hour for lessons from a god-like tutor, but if you can only spare 30 minutes a week for practice time this method of learning would quickly become frustrating as well as ridiculously expensive.  Conversely, you may have all the free time in the world but no budget for lessons, which would result in you using some of the many free online resources to learn from.  This would also become frustrating as you try to figure out which of the many millions of pages/videos to use.  A balance must be found to suit your personal needs!

Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways that people learn to play…

A Personal Guitar Tutor

If you have a real burning ambition to become a top-flight guitarist in the shortest time possible then investing in a personal guitar teacher is going to be the best option for you.  A good tutor will be able to devise a plan specifically designed to get you to where you want to be in the most efficient fashion.  When you are spending your hard-earned cash on lessons you will probably feel more motivated to actually sit down and learn the material so that you don’t waste money covering the same lesson during the following session.

Don’t worry if you cannot find a good teacher in your area as many excellent tutors also offer online lessons via web-cam. In fact, if you are willing to shell out the big bucks many highly respected professional musicians offer this service (although you should probably wait until you are a little more advanced!).  For example Greg Howe, Dave Weiner and Tom Hess all offer lessons over Skype.

Choose This Option : If you can devote the time and money and want to advance quickly

DVD/Online Guitar Lessons

Perhaps you don’t have the money to spend on a private teacher, or maybe you’re busy and would much rather work on guitar at your own pace when you have the free time.  If you are not in the situation of being able to use a tutor then DVD lessons may be a great choice for you.  A high quality video lesson will still provide you with a structured lesson plan (albeit less personalised), but the big advantage is that you can chip away at it at your own convenience.  DVDs are generally also only 2 or 3 times the cost of a single private lesson.

If you are new to guitar and just starting out I would recommend trying to find a DVD ‘course’ which takes you from absolute beginner to an intermediate or even advanced level.  You really don’t want to mix and match lessons from different sources in the hopes that you will end up at the right place.  Once you’ve learned the basics you can start picking up DVDs which cover individual styles and topics.

Also note that websites such as offer an online alternative to DVD lessons.  This is an option I still use myself to widen my repertoire and I can highly recommend JamPlay.  Paid website lessons are a little cheaper than DVD lessons due to the lack of a need for tangible materials, packaging and shipping etc. However you will need an internet connection to use such services as they usually operate on a subscription service – but since you’re reading this article I doubt that’ll be a problem for you right? ;)

Choose This Option : If you have a limited budget or want to progress at your own pace.

Guitar Instructional Books

As a beginner you may find that books are not necessarily as useful as DVD lessons as you won’t be able to actually see what you should be doing – this may result in poor technique. If you do decide to use books then try and find examples which come with audio CDs so you can at least hear the lessons.

Guitar Magazines

Guitar magazines can be a great resource for learning guitar, just make sure you pick one that is aimed at newer players (in the UK Total Guitar is a great choice for new players).  Taking out a subscription will usually come with a free gift (I recently got a distortion pedal with a new magazine subscription) and each magazine will sometimes come with a smaller free gift which is more often than not very useful, i.e picks, strings etc.  In addition to the lessons you will also learn about the latest bands, equipment and news.  Magazines also cover a wide variety of different genres of music so they can be a great way of expanding your horizons.  Also be sure to check out some of the excellent free online magazines such as Premier Guitar and iGuitar .

Free Online Resources

If you have no budget to spend on lessons then utilising some of the many free online resources is probably going to be the option that you choose. The danger with going along this route is that there is so much information out there that it is very difficult to know exactly what you should be learning and so it is easy to become lost and frustrated.

For that reason I’d suggest using free online lessons as a supplement once you have learned the basics.  YouTube is a great place to search for free video lessons and another of my favorite lesson sites is  If possible try and find a resource that offers some type of course which shows you all of the basics.

Choose This Option : If you have a limited or non-existent budget.

Learn by Listening

We really take the internet for granted these days – with a few clicks of the mouse we can unearth an unending supply of lessons, tabs, videos, backing tracks etc.  But how did famous players like Hendrix learn to play? They certainly didn’t download tabs or study on YouTube!  These guys learned through trial and error by listening and copying other artists and you can do the same – in fact I absolutely recommend it!

By listening to your favourite bands and trying to copy their songs you will develop a great ear – a fantastic skill to have! If you spend years learning songs from tablature you will never develop the skills needed to transcribe songs by ear.  You should try and start figuring out songs by ear as early as possible in order to become a well rounded musician.

Choose This Option : Not an option! Supplement this with your regular learning method of choice.

Social Learning

Surround yourself with other musical people by forming a band as soon as possible.  Even if it’s only a once per week jam with a few friends who are also new to their instruments you will be surprised at how much you can pick up from other people.  Most importantly, playing with others is a ton of fun!  Make some videos on your webcam and upload them to YouTube for some constructive criticism (and ego massaging!).

Join a guitar forum and participate in the conversations.  Generally people on these forums are more than happy to help out new players and as a result they can be a great place to learn.  Seeing what other players are achieving is also a great motivational tool to spur you on to the next level!

Choose This Option : Not an option! Supplement this with your regular learning method of choice.

That’s All Folks!

Hopefully if you have read through all 8 parts of the ‘Newbie Series’ you should be well on your way to taking your first steps with this rewarding instrument.  The guide is purposely very basic in design but hopefully you should now be roughly on the right track.  If you are still confused leave a comment below, shoot us an email or make a post in the forum or Facebook page. Best of luck and see you on the road… ;)

Want to get your guitar playing off to the best possible start? Well check out! In our opinion JamPlay offers the absolute ultimate online guitar learning experience – in fact, we guarantee it will improve your playing ability!


Part One : Important Tips Before You Buy

Part Two : Beginner Electric Guitars
Part Three : Beginner Acoustic Guitars
Part Four : Beginner Bass Guitars
Part Five : Amps
Part Six : Effects
Part Seven : Accessories
Part Eight : Lessons


  1. randell smith February 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    thanks for the beginners tips lefty,you answered alotta questions,and alleviated alotta first timers jitters! i`m so very glad i found you!

    • Neal February 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm - Reply

      Excellent, glad you found the series to be of some use Randell :)

  2. Brian October 26, 2011 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Are there specific left handed DVD lessons?

    • Neal October 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm - Reply

      There are specialist left handed books and CD courses, personally I’ve never noticed any DVD courses. Don’t waste your time on them though, learn from regular DVDs.

  3. Brian October 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    And I am looking for left handed acoustic guitar lessons.

  4. Nick November 27, 2013 at 2:01 am - Reply

    I still dont know what to buy, i have a $ 200 budget.

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