Play guitar they said. It'll be fun they said. That is until pick up you're guitar pull up Youtube and you're met with an onslaught of never-ending guitar tutorials that cause a mind-numbing effect of confusion and frustration, which is doing you more harm than good if you're a beginner or intermediate player.
Let me just say that I'm not bashing Youtube guitar instructors, in fact I think there are a ton of great teachers out there and that Youtube is an awesome resource! The problem is, you need to already have a decent understanding of how to play the guitar, solid fundamentals and technique, and a conceptual understanding of what is being taught to take advantage of the lesson material. If you're just starting out from square one, or if your knowledge is a bit limited, the truth is that Youtube won't work well for you. Here are some of the main reasons why Youtube is often a bad place for beginner and intermediate players:
1. The lessons focus on songs not techniques.
Do a search for just about any song and you'll find a tutorial for it on Youtube. That's awesome, if you already know how to play guitar proficiently. If you're still at the early stages you won't be doing yourself any favors by learning songs on Youtube. As a guitar player of 20+ years and an instructor with 10,000 lessons under my belt, I can tell you that having the ability to learn ANY SONG requires a solid foundation in technique. For example, want to try and learn "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica? You have to be able to fingerpick, do barre chords, play in 6/8 time, use power chords, understand strum patterns, and know your scales if you want to play the lead lines. That's a lot of technique for just one song. But guess what, every song is like that to some degree! You need to understand the "Pillars" of guitar technique as I call them, and you'll be able to learn absolutely anything. As I see it, the techniques every guitar play should know are as follows: Open Chords, Strumming/Rhythm, Power Chords, Barre Chords, Chord Arpeggios, Fingerpicking, and a little bit of practical music theory. If you can do that, you can do anything!
Want help learning the Pillars of guitar technique? Watch this FREE LESSON.
2. There is absolutely no organization.
As I said, Youtube is a great resource IF YOU ALREADY PLAY GUITAR. You can look up a song or maybe get some tips and tricks from great instructors. However, if you're trying to actually learn the instrument via Youtube, you're going to have a lot of trouble. Let's say you pull up a couple beginner lessons and you learn some new chords, well that's awesome but then what? How do you practice them effectively so you can actually play them in a song? How do you build enough muscle memory so you can actually switch between them quickly? How do you develop the strumming rhythm in your right hand? How do you continue to build on what you learn? The answer is, you can't. And that's the problem so many aspiring guitar players have, they don't know how to APPLY what they have learned and actually master it. You can watch videos all day along explaining this song or that theory but if you don't APPLY it correctly and continue to build on what you have learned then you're just not going to get any results. Period.
3. There's Too Freakin' Many!
There are thousands of free lessons on Youtube! That sounds great, but is it? How do you know where to start? How do you know you're not learning bad habits from an unqualified instructor? How do you stay focused? When it comes to learning a specialized skill like guitar, QUALITY trumps QUANTITY every time. Plus, who the hell has time to go through thousands of videos? Most people I talk to say they struggle just to find the time to practice. I totally get it, life is busy and it's hard to set aside that practice time everyday. But if it's hard just to sit down and practice what you already know, how are you going to find the time to comb through thousands of lessons as well? It doesn't make any sense and it's often very confusing because one instructor will say one thing and another instructor will say another. What you need to do is think about your goals. Do you want to be able to play some chords and sing your favorite songs? Maybe you want to play lead guitar and shred some solos? Either way you have to keep your eye on the prize and not get distracted with the high volume of lessons and noise out there because it just won't help. Think about what you want to get out of playing guitar, find a great instructor that can help you (online or in-person), and stick with it! It'll will pay off in the long run and you'll actually learn the instrument. THEN you can check out those song lessons on Youtube and learn whatever the heck you want with ease, and that's the really fun part!
As a beginner/intermediate player, don't get sucked in by the high volume of lessons out there. They just won't do you much good. Understand your goals and stick with an instructor you like. Try and find lessons that build on your technique and make sure you apply what you learn in regimented practice time.