Sheldon Conrich
Sheldon Conrich - Teaching pose

What is the best way to learn the guitar?

What is the best way to learn the guitar?

Solo Musician For Events - Sheldon Conrich

Every person who picks up the guitar has a different background, motivation for learning and personality. All of these factors will heavily influence the way you will practise and the best way for you to learn the guitar. So what is the best way to learn the guitar? Is there just one way? Is it through books, YouTube, guitar teacher, songs?

To answer this I will look at two different approaches and from there you can come to your own conclusion.


jonny lang - guitar star

Transcribing sounds like a very fancy word but essentially it means copying. But more than copying it means trying to copy note for note what’s going on in a song. When you transcribe a guitar part from a song you’re aiming to copying the exact chord changes, picking or strumming patterns, chord variations, soloing notes and techniques etc. Transcribing is a really great way to sound close to or even exactly like your favourite guitarists. But is it the best way to learn the guitar?

In some respects by transcribing guitar songs you will learn subconsciously a whole bunch of things. You’ll learn without having to think where chords are – maybe not their names – but certainly how to fret certain chord shapes. You’ll also learn quite advanced fret board movement but not really see it as advanced. This is because you’re copying the muscle positions rather than thought process behind these movements.

So really the transcribing approach takes away the thinking element of learning the guitar which can suit people who just want to play their favourite songs, or maybe sing and strum along to songs. This will also suit learners who are happy to learn only a few songs but play them really well and are happy to go over them lots and lots of times.

Learning the guitar musical matrix

Jazz guitar lessons

The second approach requires a different kind of motivation when it comes to learning the guitar. This approach really breaks down the individual elements of guitar learning. So for example instead of learning a chord shape, it may be a case of trying to find multiple ways of playing that chord around the fret board. This requires patience and lots of practise.

Instead of copying exactly what you hear, this method looks at understanding what you hear. So after hearing a song a few times this method would look at breaking down the guitar concepts found in the song. Maybe there are particular strumming techniques, rhythmical ideas, melodic movements etc. By delving into the guitaring matrix you’re actually trying to understand the guitarist’s mind. And this approach allows you to take what you’ve learnt and bring it into other songs. Is this the best way to learn the guitar?

Well this is the best way to get good at everything at an even rate. With the transcribing approach I generally find that these types of players have a particular thing they’re good at. For example their chord shapes or soloing ability is really high. But then their rhythm is much lower, or their tone quality is poor. With the guitar matrix approach you’ll find these players take longer to get very good, but all elements of their playing are at a similar level.

In conclusion

New Years Resolution - Learn the guitar

I can not give you the definitive best way to learn the guitar. As mentioned earlier this heavily relies upon your personality and motivations. But the great thing is that there is an approach to learning the guitar for everyone. So just try things out and see how you get on. If you’re looking for guitar lessons and live in or around the Borehamwood area feel free to get in touch. My studio is based at the Maxwell Park Community Centre and I teach Monday to Friday. Also feel free to check out some of my YouTube video lessons which look at basic rhythm, chords and scales. I hope this has been helpful for you and happy learning.