The best ways to learn to play guitar in 2019: Guitar learning methods compared

learn to play guitar

There are lots of ways to learn to play guitar – but what’s the best method in 2019? In this article, we’re going to compare self-learning, In-Person Lessons, and a Hybrid method.

We’ll look at the pros and cons of each, along with costs, to help you decide which approach is right for you.

Method 1: No-tech 1990s Approach

Back in the 90s, the internet wasn’t such a big thing. You would walk down to a shop, buy a book and start working through it by yourself.

Playing by ear would also fit this category. If you have a good musical ear and a lot of time on your hands, you could try listening to your favourite records and imitating them. But this can be very difficult, time consuming, and will only get you so far. Ear training is definitely something I recommend every guitar player should do – but not so much in the beginner stage. First, you want to be able to play songs from start to finish, and there are quicker ways to do that.

What you get:

  • Pictures
  • Text
  • Sometimes a CD
  • No accountability from a teacher or mentor

This could work ok, but it isn’t the most inspiring way to learn guitar. You’d be missing out on a lot of what newer technology has to offer, and you wouldn’t have anyone to ask questions or check your playing.

Best choice for: Hipsters & luddites with no internet

Cost: $$

Method 2: Self-Teaching Online

I’m talking about YouTube, Free websites, and apps that claim to be the “best way to learn guitar”. There’s a lot out there. Everyone’s a teacher on the internet (I know, including me). Sometimes it’s just overwhelming, and you could spend hours each week sifting through the good & the bad.

When it’s hard enough just to get your practice in each day, you don’t want to be hacking through a jungle of YouTube lessons, that may or may not help you. Guitar players who come to me after learning on YouTube often feel like their learning is a “Frankenstein” monster – disconnected, stitched together, and nothing seems to make sense.

What you get:

  • A huge amount of choice for free videos online – an overwhelming amount
  • Usually no structure or plan (skills are ‘stitched’ together and gaps in knowledge occur)
  • No real, human feedback on whether you’re doing things right
  • No accountability to a teacher or mentor

Best choice for:

Someone who’s on a tight budget, and has a lot of time & patience to go through lots of content. You would also need lots of self-motivation.

Cost: Free or Cheap

Method 3: Traditional In-Person Lessons

Taking weekly Guitar lessons from an experienced local teacher could be expensive, so it’s not for everyone. On the other hand, you might find someone cheaper, but they might have only just started teaching lessons!

Due to the limited number of people in a town or city, It’s difficult for a local teacher to specialise in one style. So your teacher could be teaching Jazz, Blues, Folk, Rock, Pop, Metal, Country & Classical, at any level… kids, teens, adults, retirees… some will even teach multiple instruments. What’s the problem with this? You might end up getting a jack of all trades, and a master of none.

Would you trust a takeaway that does kebabs, pizza, curries, burgers, fried chicken, and wraps?

You do get the benefit of a “hands-on” approach, and instant answers to your questions. A good teacher should be able to show you how music theory applies to the guitar. Some teachers will offer performance opportunities, as well.

What you get:

  • Personal evaluation from a teacher
  • Sight-reading training
  • Music theory knowledge
  • Structure & step-by-step instructions (with a good teacher)
  • Practice routines to follow (sometimes)
  • Opportunities for public performance (sometimes)

Best choice for:

  • Aspiring professional guitarists
  • Musicians applying for university / music college

Cost: $$$$ (The most expensive option – ongoing lessons can really add up)

Method 4: Learn to play guitar with a hybrid method

Thanks to the internet, you have access to tons of teachers outside of your geographic location. You’re no longer limited to the teachers local to you. This is exciting, as you can choose a teacher who specialises in the style(s) you want to play. A hybrid approach brings technology and a real-life human together.

What you get with a Hybrid Method:

  • Live private lessons over webcam with a teacher
  • Ability to record the lessons for later review
  • Practice routines to follow
  • A clear structure with an end-goal in mind
  • Interactive Flashcards for memorising chords & other stuff you might easily forget (with Chris Morton Guitar)
  • Interactive TAB-player – loop sections, slow the tempo, play along to real songs (with Chris Morton Guitar)

Best choice for:

Students who want the benefits of personal mentorship, and a well-thought out structure, without needing to travel to a teacher.

Cost: $$$ (The middle option – no commitment to long term lessons. Learn in weeks/months, not years.)


  • No need to travel to a teacher. Learn to play guitar from home, help reduce emissions, and save time.
  • More choice when finding a teacher
  • Ability to record lessons for later review
  • Teacher can see your hands and correct posture or mistakes
  • Straightforward payment


  • You’ll need a webcam on your device (most computers, tablets & phones have one built-in)
  • Your teacher can’t physically adjust your hand position
  • Potential time zone difficulties depending on your location

Want to find out more about my Hybrid Lessons, or interested in a free introductory lesson?

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