What are the best online tutorials for a new guitar player?
December 26, 2018 8:11 AM   Subscribe

I am now the proud owner of a very basic beginner's acoustic guitar. What are the best online tutorials for an adult who has never picked up a guitar before yesterday?

Call it an impulse, call it a midlife crisis, but I pinned a guitar on my Pinterest wish list last year and for one of the first times since my letters to Santa phase, people actually referred to my wish list.

My musical history includes 3 years of playing violin poorly as a tween and being able to tap out "jingle bells" on a piano. BUT... I'm not going to be able to swing in-person lessons until spring. Assume I am motivated to learn, both by the love of learning and to quash others' predictions that my guitar will do nothing but gather dust. But I'm also at step zero. I don't know the string names. I don't know how to tune it. I'm a completely blank slate and there is no better place to turn to for advice in that case than here.

Who's your favorite online guitar teacher?
posted by kimberussell to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Justin Sandercoe (Justinguitar on YouTube) has a lot of really good material. I’m on mobile and don’t have a URL handy but a search engine should get you there!
posted by Alterscape at 8:31 AM on December 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Try Yousician: the free version is pretty dang good, mainly it just limits how much you can practice each day and you have to listen to some short ads for Yousician premium.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:57 AM on December 26, 2018

Be prepared for sore fingertips. They will feel better as soon as your calluses develop. So, you've made a commitment.
posted by JimN2TAW at 8:58 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

JustinGuitar, but not only on youtube -- there's more material on justinguitar.com and there's a mobile app. Assumes no knowledge of string names or anything about music -- there may be a couple bits at the very beginning you can skip. I've been using the app for about six months, it's good.
posted by clavicle at 9:57 AM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Fender Play. I recently began playing bass and found that the Fender app has by far the best instructional videos (clear verbal instructions and videos from multiple angles including a view from the player's perspective) and organized things in a logical way.
posted by Swiss Meringue Buttercream at 10:19 AM on December 26, 2018

I'm about a year ahead of you. Yousician is pretty good for getting started--enough so to actually pay for it, IMO, because it's great to have a bunch of right-sized, appropriately pitched lessons and songs to get you started.

I found that after about ten months I was at level 4 or 5 or something and was feeling kind of stuck, in a few senses--not enough picking control, that Yousician wasn't really teaching; also a feeling that I didn't want to "follow the bouncing ball" forever and wasn't sure where to go next.

A few weeks ago I discovered Guitar for Beginners from Berklee College of Music on coursera.org and that has been enough to get the wind back in my sails, for free. I'm going to start lessons with a live teacher in January.

Good luck! It's a fun challenge!
posted by Sublimity at 12:48 PM on December 26, 2018

yay! I really like JustinGuitar. He has a lot of beginner songs and tutorials. MartyMusic is very good too if you can get beyond his "hey, what's up guys?" rocker vibe. What I like about both of them is they do more than tell you where to put your fingers. They tell you a bit about what you're doing musically, and what chords you're playing.

I'd highly recommend you take at least a few basic lessons with a real teacher who can point out your bad habits. Learning bad habits early on ruined me forever and to this day I am a very mediocre guitar player who can't unlearn my bad habits.

You will be sore, and for the first couple of weeks you'll think it's impossible to make a clear note. Then a couple of weeks later you'll be able to make a chord but it will be impossible to switch to another chord. Then one day it will click and you'll be able to play. When that happens it's SO MUCH FUN. Then you learn barre chords and start all over again. :-)

Buy a clip-on tuner. I like the Snark. They're cheap enough (maybe $20) and small enough. Don't use any tuner or tuner app that uses a microphone because you'll go crazy telling people to quiet down so you can tune. Clip-ons don't have that problem. I mean, use another one if that's all you have, but try to get a clip-on soon.

Good luck and have fun! And when you're looking to upgrade to a sweet, custom-built electric I know a guy...
posted by bondcliff at 1:58 PM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't have that kind of advice, but I do have a little tidbit that I was told when I purchased (online) an inexpensive but well-rated guitar for a newbie guitar player. (I have no experience in music myself whatsoever.)

If you don't/didn't buy it from and have it optimized by a local guitar/music store, take it in to a well-recommended one and have them do it. A competent person can improve a tolerable cheap guitar into one that plays and sounds much better, and the better that guitar sounds, the more likely the newbie will turn into a guitar player who keeps playing in the long run.
posted by stormyteal at 5:32 PM on December 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

nth'ing justinGuitar and 2nd'ing everything Bondcliff said. Back when I was you I started with his CAGED system where you learn the basic chord shapes (starting with A, D, and E) then adding the transitions between them. 'Cause then just like magic you're playing songs. The songs Louie, Louie and Wild Thing both use the same AA, DD, EE, AA chord progression and a bunch of other songs that use just those three chords. Adding C and G chords adds a ton of additional songs and by that point it's not that hard to add the minor chord versions. It's a pretty short route to playing some actual music that's more fun that plucking our Mary Had a Little Lamb. That means you'll want to practice more and the solution to every problem playing guitar is more practice. Seriously, practice every day if you can, especially at first to first build and then maintain those calluses.

Two things I would have done differently if I had it to do over again. 1. I would have learned and practiced scales more (and this is a good thing to learn via in-person lessons) 2. I would have started practicing bar chords much sooner. It's an awkward way to hold your hand and you'll need to build some strength to do it well and consistently and that strength benefits your playing more generally even if you can't quite play the bar chord (you use your index finger as a "bar" to press down all the strings and also use your other fingers to press some other strings).

I always recommend taking any guitar that's new to you to a good luthier for a setup.

Is this a steel string or nylon string acoustic? Steel strings will be harder on your fingers than a nylon strung guitar but they're not interchangeable and steel string guitars are more common. There is tons of advice to be found online to deal with it. The biggest one is just using the lightest gauge strings the guitar is meant for. It affects the tension needed in the neck which is part of the setup so it's something you'll want to mention to the luthier.

Once you've established that it's a hobby you enjoy and will stick with, you will buy additional guitars. For well known, common brands buy used, for new there are excellent "knock-offs" and some great custom builders in the world that make guitars that will sound as good and play as well as a higher end Les Paul or Stratocaster at a third of the cost. You'll likely develop preferences about neck shape or string spacing that have a lot to do with the size and shape of your hand and combination you want might not even be available on a more mainstream brand guitar.
posted by VTX at 6:45 PM on December 26, 2018

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