Can I learn how to play guitar online or do I need to take lessons?

Yes and yes! Either way works. There are some fantastic online resources, but it takes a lot of self-motivation and persistence to learn on your own. In-person lessons give you a personal coach who can adapt to your learning style and pace. It also offers accountability and motivation you might not get online, and the chance to meet other musicians and participate in showcase performances.

What are the steps and milestones involved in learning to play guitar?

Here are the basic building blocks of learning to play guitar. There are many ways to learn, so this is just one example. For the milestones, think of (and listen to) the song Let It Be by The Beatles. 

    1. Parts of the guitar – Know your instrument! You will learn about things like the body, neck, head, tuners, bridge, nut, frets and sound hole.
      Milestone: You can name all the parts of the guitar
    2. Chords – A chord is a combination of different notes played on different strings at the same time. The song Let It Be starts with the chords C, G, Am, and F.
    3. Strumming and strum patterns – This is all about what your right hand does. One of the most common strum patterns is “down-down-up-up-down-up”. 
    4. Chord changes – Once you know some chords and a strum pattern, you will then start practicing how to change from one chord to another.
      Milestone: You can play chords through an entire song at a steady tempo.
    5. Fretboard, notes & tabs – You will begin learning the names of the strings and notes on the fretboard. You will learn how to read music using tablature or “tabs”, which is a simplified and more intuitive way to read music for guitar or bass.
      Milestone: You can name the notes of the 6 strings and the notes on the 3rd and 5th frets for each string. You can 
    6. Scales – A scale is when you play one note at a time, usually in an ascending or descending order. You probably already know a Major scale: “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do”! You will also learn some“pentatonic scales, which is just a fancy way of saying the scale has only 5 (“penta”) notes. 
    7. Melodies – You can think of a melody as the notes the singer sings in a song. You will learn how to play some simple melodies, like the first verse of Let It Be.
      Milestone: You can play 2 – 3 simple melodies, either memorized or from tabs
    8. Lead playing – You will learn about note bending, hammer-ons and pull-offs (sounds complicated but it’s super fun and satisfying as you progress). You will combine these with the pentatonic (5-note) scale to play a basic solo, like the one in Let It Be.
      Milestone: You can play a simple lead solo
    9. Playing with others – A super fun next step is playing (sometimes called “jamming”) with other musicians. This will take your playing to a whole other level as you learn to play together as a single unit.  You can add a bass player, drummer, singer and keyboard player and before you know it you will have a band!
      Milestone: You can play 2 – 3 songs with other musicians
    10. Advanced Playing & Theory – Tirads, modes, inversions, sweeps, harmonics… oh my!

Learning how to play guitar has no end or limits. There is always something more to learn, even after several years of playing. That’s what keeps it fresh, interesting, challenging and oh so satisfying!