Learning the guitar at home takes patience, practice and a solid WiFi connection.
Learning the guitar at home in the midst of a global pandemic may be just what the doctor ordered. Who needs Valium to combat anxiety when you can channel your frustrations in a punk rock medley? Perhaps some classic rock is more your jam? Or the mild rumination of indie folk?
Whatever your taste in guitar-driven music, learning to play the six-string in the comfort of your home is easier than ever. Thanks to a plethora of YouTube tutorials, “play along” apps, and an online catalog of tabs, tricks and tips to last at least eight weeks, you have no excuses.
With that in mind here are a few pointers (though by no means exhaustive) to get you started developing those precious callouses on your fingertips.
Learning the Guitar at Home – Apps
First things first, download Ultimate Guitar app to your phone or tablet. Ultimate Guitar is the oldest and most robust library of guitar tabs, chords and lyrics in the world. The original website launched in the early ’90s. It provides an endless catalogue of song and artist choices. In addition, the ecosystem includes a social network component, tutorials and the option to share your music with the community. Don’t know the chords to a song, or the lyrics? Ultimate Guitar is your ultimate resource.
Guitar Tuna is an app solely dedicated to ensuring your instrument is in-tune. This is critical, since you’ll be stuck indoors with other family members who must endure your lessons within earshot. Guitar Tuna enables players to tune a guitar to multiple tuning configurations, from standard, to drop D, to virtually any custom setup. Moreover, Guitar Tuna also supports tuning for the bass guitar, ukulele, violins, mandolins and a host of other stringed instruments. Cast off with Guitar Tuna and reel in the praise of your audience.
Amazing Slow Downer
Amazing Slow Downer, from Roni Music, is a really cool app that actually slows down a song you wish to learn while maintaining proper pitch. This is very useful for beginners who may not have the dexterity to make quick chord or finger position changes. Moreover, Amazing Slow Downer is compatible with Spotify Premium to help you learn all the favorites from your curated library.
Four Chords is an app that can take the most complicated song and break it down into four basic chords. The root of 99 percent of popular music is fundamentally derived from three or four chords. Getting to the hard granite of each is a great way to build up one’s ear training and song playing ability.
Learning the Guitar at Home – Immersive Platforms
For an immersive experience, Yousician is a dynamite tool. It’s framed around a player’s desire to play lead or rhythm guitar, or simply deepen their music theory and technical knowledge. Each lesson includes a virtual instructor that outlines the lesson plan and practice techniques and exercise. From there, it’s on to the fun part.
Youscian’s platform allows users to “play along” with a background track of their song choice. It provides a “follow the bouncing ball” type of notation with the notes or chords to match. Players earn points for each correct note or chord played, which facilitates progression and learning. The gamification aspect keeps you wanting more. There are tons of features on the platform. Enough to write a book about. Dig in and rock out.
Rocksmith is available on PlayStation, Xbox, and Windows platforms. It is a super fun experience that resembles playing Guitar Hero — except on an actual guitar. While not necessarily geared towards beginners, per se, it’s perfect for intermediate or advanced guitar players to step up their game and impress all of their virtual fans.
With a database of more than 11,000 lessons taught by real instructors, GuitarTricks.com is an amazing learning resource for learning to play the guitar at home. In addition, to the 11,000 standard lessons, players can book private coaching or group lessons with instructors. GuitarTricks.com offers a propriety “Core Learning System” developed for beginners or those returning to guitar playing after a hiatus.
Fender is world renowned as top manufacture of guitars. Most notably their legendary Stratocaster and Telecaster models. In addition, Fender built one the best immersive guitar learning platforms to date. FenderPlay is a multi device ecosystem that includes live learning, pre-recorded lessons, intuitive site design, beginner to advanced learning spectrum and hosts of other features, all at a very affordable price.
With over a half million satisfied customers, JamPlay is one of the largest libraries of guitar lessons online. They offer over 110 instructors, 450 on-demand courses and more than 6,500 lessons. Beginner to advanced, acoustic to electric, blues to country, JamPlay offers something for everyone.
Notable Online Instructors
While there are many independent guitar players teaching on YouTube or via their own websites, few do it better than Justin Sandercoe, founder of JustinGuitar.com. Hailing from the UK, Sandercoe has well over 1 million subscribers and dozens of celebrity endorsements. His simple, straightforward, yet in depth approach to guitar lessons is unrivaled. In addition, with more than 1,000 lessons in his library across every genre, you’re bound to find a song you’ll love and be jamming it with Justin within minutes.
Marty Schwartz could easily be a member of Sesame Street. His friendly demeanor and approachable style make him one of the most loved and popular online guitar teachers, with over 1.8 million YouTube subscribers. Marty excels at breaking down complex songs and enabling his students to join the jam party right away. Not just for beginners, Marty has the chops and theory knowledge to help even advanced guitarists progress.
The UK based Andy Crowley has been teaching guitar lessons on his Andy Guitar YouTube channel since the site launched in 2006. He has over 1.2 million subscribers and has received over 140 million views. Andy Guitar covers acoustic and electric techniques with structured guitar tutorials and step-by-step instruction to get the newbie player jamming around the campfire in no time.
When in Doubt, YouTube it
In learning to play the guitar at home, there’s no better resource than YouTube. There are millions of DIY guitarists out there pushing the envelop of guitar playing and sharing their music, inspiration and insights with the world. While one must separate the wheat from the chaff, endless hidden gems exist.
Key Tip: When learning a particular song, search YouTube for other guitar players that “cover” the song. Doing so enables you to hear how a “normal” person might play and sing the tune. Hence, you won’t measure your performance to the original (an often unattainable) recording.
Bringing it Home
No matter what tool one uses when learning the guitar at home (there are loads more not mentioned), the best time to start is now. After all, what better tool exists to survive self-isolation and drown out your nagging spouse, overbearing in-laws, whiny children or obnoxious cousin than a few hours learning (or perfecting) Hot Cross Buns.
For example, here’s a bit of home cooked cover goodness from yours truly.
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James C. Sullivan is a guitarist, singer and long-time journalist having worked at publications including Snowboarder Magazine and USA Today. He recently returned to his roots in New England after a decade in California because cold winters and cloudy days inspire more creativity.