Even before 2020 and the widespread stay-at-home orders, to learn guitar from the comfort of your own home was a popular and increasingly viable option.
As access to the internet continues to spread and course developers get better at building on-screen curriculum, almost anyone with an internet connection can take guitar lessons at home without having to pay a teacher for a time slot.
Instead, you pay the monthly — and vastly cheaper — fee to the website and you stream your lessons just like you would Netflix or Hulu.
It has made it very easy to learn guitar.
We can put forward a short answer to the original question: How can I take guitar lessons at home?
The answer: Use an online guitar lesson program.
In this article we’re going to go into some of the details involved with taking guitar lessons at home and how you can get the most out of the experience.
Which online guitar lesson courses are best to learn guitar at home?
One of the fundamental questions we routinely work to answer is this: Which online guitar lesson program is the best option?
Obviously this will change depending on your situation, per the above quiz. However, the two programs that are consistently the best-rated would be Guitar Tricks and JamPlay, both of which have been highlighted here.
Guitar Tricks (full access membership)
- Our Rating: 92.8
- MONTHLY PRICE: $19
- YEARLY PRICE: $179
- VIDEO COUNT: 11,000
- IDEAL SKILL LEVEL: Beginner
Guitar Tricks has done the best job of organizing their content and ordering by topic, making it extremely easy to start at “the beginning” and work your way through. When you want a break from EDU mode, checkout their licensed song lesson section with over a thousand titles taught in a patient, over-the-shoulder tutorial style.
JamPlay (downloads & streaming)
- Our rating: 88.7
- MONTHLY PRICE: $19.95
- YEARLY PRICE: $159.95
- VIDEO COUNT: 6500
- IDEAL SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate
Though it has published fewer lessons than Guitar Tricks, JamPlay manages to cover a wider range of styles with a larger roster of instructors. For intermediate players who want to niche-down and study something specific, JamPlay has a ton of great content for that journey.
Do I need to “practice” when I learn guitar at home?
What some might find unclear about taking guitar lessons at home is the line between taking a lesson and simply practicing. If you’re at home, isn’t the entire process a sort of lengthy practice session?
I would say no, and would make a distinction between lesson time and practice time, even if it’s all done at home.
Taking a lesson — even if you’re just watching a pre-recorded video — is a time where you’re absorbing new information. Practice should be a time set aside, usually much longer than a lesson, where you apply when you’ve learned during your lessons.
In other words, in a given week you may have an hour of lesson time and five or six hours of practice time.
Thus, whether you take guitar lessons at home or not, you should still be intentional about separating your lesson and practice time into their own slots.
And that begs the question:
How often should you watch a guitar lesson at home?
How Often to Watch a Video/Take a Lesson
When you’re streaming your lessons you could — theoretically — take a lot of guitar lessons in a fairly short period of time.
However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend “binge watching” guitar lessons the same way you would a Netflix show.
While it depends on your own age and attention span, I’ve found that most people can do somewhere in the range of 20–40 minutes of lessons before they need to stop absorbing new information and spend some time practicing or applying the new concepts they’ve been shown.
How to Make Your Own Schedule
One of the best ways to get this all straight in your head, is to just make a schedule and stick to it. For example, your lesson and practice schedule could look something like this:
- Monday: 30 minutes of watching lessons and one hour of practice
- Tuesday: Two hours of practice, no lessons
- Wednesday: 30 minutes of watching lessons and one hour of practice
- Thursday: Two hours of practice, no lessons
- Friday: 30 minutes of watching lessons and one hour of practice
- Weekend: Two hours total of practice, no lessons
In total, this gets you 90 minutes of lessons and nine hours of practice time.
And if you were to mod the schedule at all, I’d cut things down and aim for 60 minutes of lessons. This particular outline is a lot, so you could certainly go for a smaller workload. In general, I’d aim for watching lessons in roughly 30 minute segments, three times a week.
How to Stick to Your Schedule
Once you make a schedule, how can you discipline yourself to stick to it?
Again, this is going to depend a lot on your age and the “stage of life” you’re in. For example, as a 15 year old homeschooled kid, I had a ton of time to play guitar, and I loved it. During those years, I’d play as much as possible.
But as a dad of four in my early 30s, I don’t have a ton of time to devote to playing and I instead need to compartmentalize my day in order to get things done.
If your schedule is tight, there’s no easy way to stick to any one thing in particular.
In reality, you just have to make it a part of your routine and stick to it. When you’re older, if something isn’t part of your routine, it’s not going to get much attention. Those who are able to make their lessons and practice a habit, particularly at home, will have the most success.
How fast of an internet connection do I need?
Most people with a cable, satellite or fiber internet connection will have plenty of speed to stream guitar lessons off websites like Guitar Tricks, JamPlay, or YouTube. Where I’ve occasionally run into problems is when trying to stream 4k lesson videos, but in that case I usually just drop the video quality back to 1080p, which still looks fantastic.
For those that want a more technical answer, here are the numbers my speed test turned up on a fiber internet connection in central Virginia:
Typically, I get the following results:
- Download speed: 10–15 Mbps (this is what matters most for streaming)
- Upload speed: 4–5 Mbps
In my experience, this is going to be plenty fast for streaming lessons in HD. Now, if you’re really concerned about streaming in 4k, you might want something a little quicker but, even then, you should still be able to watch without much trouble.
If you want to test your internet connection at home, speedtest.net will give you the same report I posted earlier.
What kind of device?
Personally, I’ve found that iPads and desktop computers are the easiest ways to watch guitar lessons, since you’ll usually also have a guitar in your hands.
Though iPhone and Android mobile devices are fair game as well.
Here’s some more info on each one.
Mac or PC Desktop
With a desktop computer, material is accessed through a web browse like Chrome or Firefox. We typically use Chrome to test these programs, though most major browsers will work fine. Desktops are a little more convenient since they have the mouse and keyboard, making content more easily accessible as you hold a guitar.
Mac or PC Laptop
As with a desktop, you’ll use your web browser to access guitar lesson programs on a laptop. The only reason we like this device less is because it’s harder to use a laptop and hold a guitar. I would argue it’s the least convenient arrangement, if you’re just talking about what type of device to use. If you do use one, we’d recommend setting it on a desk in front of you and using peripherals (external keyboard and mouse).
iPad or Tablet
I’ve found that an iPad is a good fit for taking guitar lessons just because you can set it down in front of you and still see what’s going on (bigger screen). This is my six-year old son’s preferred method of taking lessons, for easy movement between videos. Plus, it makes it easier for him to do everything on the couch.
iPhone or Android
The only problem with using phones (even though most guitar lesson programs have a mobile app) is that the screen is just too small. While it can work, we’d recommend going with a larger screen so you don’t miss any details.
Tips for not Getting Distracted
Computers, devices, and the internet in general, are distracting places. When you’re trying to take a home-based guitar course online, how do you avoid getting distracted? Here are five tips that I’ve found helpful.
Tip 1: Avoid YouTube
Unless you’re relying on YouTube for guitar lessons, I’d recommend avoiding it during your guitar lesson time slots. It’s extremely distracting and a generally unproductive place to spend your time unless you’re really disciplined about it. For those who aren’t (myself included), I’ve found the distraction-free browser plugin quite helpful.
Tip 2: Avoid social media
As with YouTube, social media sites are extremely distracting and — arguably — less useful. Keep them closed while you’re taking lessons.
Tip 3: Block off time to learn guitar by watching lesson videos
This tip goes back to our scheduling recommendation. Make sure that when you set aside time to watch guitar lessons you’re able to give them your full attention. In other words, don’t have one browser tab open for lessons and another one working on a project or researching another topic entirely.
Tip 4: When done watching videos, practice away from the computer
When you’ve watched your videos and taken your lessons, move away from the computer for practice time. This will cut down on distracting temptations and allow you to focus solely on your instrument without any unnecessary screen time.
Tip 5: Watch in a quieter part of the house
Are your kitchen and living rooms high-traffic areas? Mine are, and there’s no way I can do any kind of work in those spaces. Setup your lessons in an office, bedroom, or a quieter part of the house to make it easier to concentrate.
What about having a tutor come to my house?
I’ve written about the differences between in-person and online guitar lessons in this article, which I’d recommend for a more in-depth look at the distinctions. However, I’ll just go through a quick pros and cons rundown in this section.
Because technically, you could have a guitar teacher or tutor come to your house and teach you. It would still be a guitar lesson at home.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of that arrangement:
Advantages of in-person lessons
- Instant feedback
- Able to help you quickly correct mistakes
- Ideal for extroverts and social learners
- Often able to explain things in ways that are easier to understand
- Can be more thorough and more customized to what/how you want to learn
Disadvantages of in-person lessons
- Far more expensive than online lessons
- Can be awkward interacting with a tutor if you don’t know them well
- Not ideal for introverts
- Scheduling is far more limited
- Can be hard if you don’t “click” with your teacher
- A single teacher won’t be able to cover as many topics/styles (limited to their own perspective and interests)
In terms of which one is better, that’s up to you to decide. We also cover a lot of information about how you can make that decision based on your learning style in this article titled, Easiest Ways to Learn Guitar
That is essentially everything you need to know about taking guitar lessons at home. It’s an increasingly popular option as distance-learning and online resources become even more widely available. Even if you’re not used to that style of learning, it’s worth trying because of how easy and flexible it can be for tight schedules.
It’s also one of the only ways to cover that wide a range of material, with access to multiple teachers and perspectives.
If you can do it all at home, why not give it a try?
Questions and Comments
For those of you that aren’t sure or have questions about the process, leave a note in the comments section below and I’ll respond there.