Learn to Play Guitar for Free: Intro Courses Take You From The Very Basics to Playing Songs In No Time

Like many peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion, I got my first elec­tric gui­tar as a teenage birth­day gift, took a few lessons and learned a few chords, and imme­di­ate­ly start­ed a band that bashed out angry punk rock at break­neck speeds. Some of my favorite bands made it seem acces­si­ble, and I didn’t have much patience for real musi­cal train­ing on the instru­ment any­way. Though I’d played brass and strings in school, the gui­tar had an entire­ly dif­fer­ent mojo. It stood alone, even in a group—primal, wild, and uncom­pli­cat­ed; as Radio­head once observed, any­one can play it.

Well, any­one can play it bad­ly. There wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly any­thing wrong with the way I learned—it was great fun. But as my musi­cal tastes broad­ened, so did my desire to play dif­fer­ent styles, and years of play­ing with lit­tle for­mal train­ing meant I had to un- and re-learn a lot of tech­nique, no easy feat with­out access to a good teacher. Pri­vate instruc­tion, how­ev­er, can be cost­ly and good teach­ers dif­fi­cult to come by. Pre-Youtube, that is. These days, any­one can learn to play gui­tar, from scratch, the right (fun) way, and the wrong (also fun) way, with great teach­ers, innu­mer­able online mini-tuto­ri­als, and some very thor­ough begin­ner lessons.

We’ve high­light­ed a few celebri­ty lessons here and there, and as far as they go, they’re great ways to pick up some tricks from your favorite musi­cians. But while peo­ple like Paul McCart­ney and Bri­an May don’t have a whole lot of time on their hands to make free gui­tar videos, a num­ber of high qual­i­ty teach­ers do, at least as pro­mo­tion­al tools for pay­ing gigs. At the top of the post, an instruc­tor named Ravi presents the first ten lessons of his 21-day begin­ner course, offered on True­fire, an online gui­tar course ser­vice fea­tur­ing for-pay lessons from such greats as Frank Vig­no­la, David Gris­som, and Dweezil Zap­pa.

This hour-long video func­tions in and of itself as a com­plete intro­duc­to­ry course that’ll def­i­nite­ly get you start­ed on the instru­ment. To fur­ther help you get the basics down, you can spend hours work­ing through the oth­er free videos here, a “quick start” series offered by Guitarlessons.com and taught by an instruc­tor named Nate Sav­age. These short videos take you from rudi­ments like “How to Strum on a Gui­tar” and “8 Gui­tar Chords You Must Know” to the slight­ly more sophis­ti­cat­ed but still begin­ner-wor­thy “Dom­i­nant 7th Blues Chords.” You’ll learn scales and pow­er chords, the bricks and mor­tar of lead and rhythm play­ing. You’ll even get a cor­rec­tive like “7 Mis­takes Gui­tar Play­ers Make,” if, like me, you learned a few things the wrong way, on pur­pose or oth­er­wise.

Of course mis­takes are a nec­es­sary part of learn­ing, and often the keys to inno­va­tion, so don’t be afraid to make ‘em. But with so much qual­i­ty, free gui­tar instruc­tion online, you can also learn tech­niques that will set you up for suc­cess in a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent styles. Above, you can watch Justin­Gui­tar’s much-praised videos, which will give you a mul­ti­part intro­duc­tion to play­ing blues gui­tar. The key, as with any skill, is prac­tice.

And per the sug­ges­tion of our edi­tor, we’re also giv­ing a men­tion to Gui­tar Jamz, which fea­tures tons of instruc­tion­al videos that will show you how to play clas­sic songs. In fact, you can find a playlist of 182 easy acoustic songs for begin­ners right above.

As anoth­er, very patient instructor—the host of series “Met­al Method”—explains, “learn­ing gui­tar doesn’t need to be com­pli­cat­ed. You don’t need to under­stand how an inter­nal com­bus­tion engine works to dri­ve a car, and you don’t need to under­stand com­plex music the­o­ry to become an incred­i­ble gui­tarist.” So get to work, gui­tarists out there, begin­ners and life­long stu­dents. And please share with us your favorite free online gui­tar resources in the com­ments.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sto­ry of the Gui­tar: The Com­plete Three-Part Doc­u­men­tary

Oxford Sci­en­tist Explains the Physics of Play­ing Elec­tric Gui­tar Solos

The Evo­lu­tion of the Rock Gui­tar Solo: 28 Solos, Span­ning 50 Years, Played in 6 Fun Min­utes

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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