15 Tips For Self-taught Guitarists

It’s easy to think that you’ll never reach the same levels of playing as your favorite guitarists. Whether it’s Jimmy Page, Slash or Tom Morello, they all had to start somewhere, right?

Learning how to play has bfecome more accessible now than ever before with online lessons and tutorials. You can find hundreds of videos on YouTube alone. But, there are some things you should know which will make the process faster and more rewarding for your efforts.  

1. Start with easy riffs (Jimmy Page)

Jimmy Page is one of the most influential guitar players of all time, but he didn’t get there overnight. He learned by playing along to his favorite rock and roll records so it’s no surprise that he started with some of the easier licks, like the ones in “Mister You’re a Better Man Than I” by The Yardbirds.  

2. Use different tunings (Slash)

Slash didn’t just learn how to play guitar in standard tuning. He also used open chords and dropped his guitar down to create a lower tone.

3. Pick up the basics (Jimi Hendrix)

Jimi Hendrix didn’t learn how to play lead guitar right away. He started with rhythm because he felt that it was more important to know what you’re playing, rather than just having fun shredding. He spent a lot of time developing his left hand techniques, including finger picking and chord work.

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4. Practice scales (Eric Clapton)

Eric Clapton’s early influences included blues greats like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters so it’s fitting that he learned how to play by learning their songs note for note. That’s why he always started with learning how to play the blues scales so that he could improvise over chord changes.

5. Find your own sound (Chuck Berry)

Chuck Berry taught himself how to play guitar so it’s no surprise that his technique was all over the place! He didn’t have any rules when it came to his solos and instead just played the way that felt right. His unique style of playing influenced rock and roll players for years after he started performing in the 1950s.

6. Record yourself (Paul McCartney)

Paul McCartney was a self-taught bass player but also recorded guitar parts on certain Beatles tracks, like “Doctor Robert” and “Taxman.” In order to get the right sound, he would play along with a loop that he set up using his reel-to-reel player. He didn’t want to waste time practicing and often came up with parts spontaneously while recording.

7. Practice switching between chords (John Frusciante)

John Frusciante is a self-taught guitarist and he would often practice moving between chords to build up his stamina. He started with simple major and minor chord progressions so that he could focus on the difficult transition from one chord to another, rather than learning complex single note solos.

8. Play by ear (Tom Morello)

Tom Morello is a self-taught guitarist who learned how to play by ear, so he never learned how to read music. He didn’t receive any formal training and instead just played along with his favorite records. He would often come up with new guitar parts for Rage Against the Machine songs by playing around with effects pedals, which enabled him to create the unique guitar sounds that he became known for.

9. Learn from experienced players (Randy Rhoads)

In order to improve his playing, Randy Rhoads sought out teachers and other musicians who he could learn from, including classical pianist Alice Sara Ott. He didn’t limit himself to just one type of music but instead drew inspiration from everywhere. That’s why his solos were always intriguing and full of cool guitar runs.

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10. Practice in front of people (Eric Johnson)

Eric Johnson is known for being a master of the pedal steel guitar but he also knows how to play lead guitar really well! He started playing electric guitar at age 16 and knew that he wanted to be a professional musician. To improve his skills, he played in various bands and even busked on the street.

11. Listen to your favorite players (Jimi Hendrix)

Jimi Hendrix had a hard time finding other musicians who shared his unique style of playing. Before he made it big as a guitar player, he played with various R&B and soul groups where his style was often criticized as being too weird. In order to keep learning, he practiced by listening to his favorite players like Eric Clapton and B.B King instead of repeating the music that his band mates were playing.

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12. Practice slowly (Keith Richards)

Keith Richards had to teach himself how to play guitar since he never received any formal training. He taught himself by learning and memorizing the Rolling Stones songs and figuring out how to replicate their parts on guitar. One of his favorite tips for self-taught players is to practice scales and chord changes slowly because that’s how you’ll be playing them on stage, too.

13. Create your own exercises (Brian May)

Brian May was only able to take two lessons when he first started learning guitar but he continued his studies by reading books and taking private classes with various teachers throughout the years. He also created his own exercises and would often write out the guitar parts for Queen songs and play them on his own. This helped him improve immensely as a guitarist and he became one of rock’s most well-known axemen.

14. Key message

In order to become a great self-taught guitarist, it’s important to stay dedicated and play as often as possible.

15. Final note

Also, realize that you won’t be a master right away but with a lot of hard work and by learning from the best players, you can improve rapidly over time!

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