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The Big Challenges for a Self-Taught Guitarist

by Jake Wilmot



There are all kinds of challenges that you will overcome when you are playing guitar. Some are small, some are huge and some are in the middle. However, there are certain challenges that is unique to guitarists that are choosing to learn on their own.

Make no mistake, learning guitar on your own is very hard. You will have a long road ahead of you, it will take you a long time to become the player you want. Yes there are some exceptions who have managed to learn guitar themselves in a fairly short period of time.


These people have stumbled upon the correct ways to play guitar. The chance of you doing this is small and does take a long time for most people. Either they did this or they were not really self-taught. Here are the main challenges that lie ahead.


1- You don’t know what you don’t know.

In other words, to put it bluntly, you are clueless. This is not an attack, this is merely the nature of trying to learn on your own. This is the path of trial and error so by default you don’t know what it is you need to learn to become a great player.

You either have to try and find out by searching on the internet, (there’s a lot of incorrect things on the internet) or you have to try and think of the right answers yourself.

As a self-taught guitar player you have nothing to go on.


2- You don’t know the correct ways of playing.

“But surely there are no right ways of playing guitar, all my favourite guitar players play guitar differently”, not so fast. I am not talking so much about playing style here, I am talking about the technique of playing guitar.

There are easier ways to play guitar, from picking and fretting hand playing to other things, and there are hard ways. There are guitar players who can play well despite playing guitar in a difficult way.

You can learn to play the hard way or the easier way, why would you choose the hard way? Because you don’t know what the easy or hard way is, how can you know? You have to try and figure that out.


3- You don’t know what habits to build

This is similar but slightly different from the above. This is habits that will make it easier to play but not necessarily the way you are playing.

But when you are self-taught you don’t even know what the right habits are. As a result you will pick up bad habits and not even realise it. And then you will wonder why your playing hits a plateau.

You would have to figure out that you have a bad habit, what it is and how to solve it. All very hard to figure out alone.


4- You don’t know how to practice guitar

Or that you even SHOULD know or learn such a thing. Until I just said that, it may not have even occurred to you that you need to learn how to practice guitar. Don’t you just play every day and hope for the improvements to come?

No. There is a lot more to it than just playing every day and hoping that improvements will take care of itself. To some extend this is true, however this is very slow. The faster way is knowing how to efficiently practice. This topic alone is huge and is rarely talked about on Youtube.

And if it is, how do you know if the information is any good? This brings me to my next point


5- You don’t know the good stuff or the bad

I am talking about looking at video lessons on Youtube here. But this applies to other guitar playing advice online. How do you know if the advice you are getting is any good when you are self-taught.

You don’t.

You have no way of knowing what videos and advice is great, whether you even need this information or now, or if you are learning in an effective way. This goes back to my first point, the big challenge with being self-taught is you don’t know what you don’t know.


I don’t suggest you try and learn guitar alone. It is so much harder and will take way longer most likely for the reasons above and many others. You can go self-taught but why learn the hard way? I have had students who had been trying to teach themselves for 10, 20, 30 or in 1 case over 50 years and they still couldn’t play the way they wanted to yet.

I am not saying you can’t learn on your own, it’s just way harder. Why not shave off years or decades of your life and learn from someone who has done it?


About the author: Jake Willmot has been a guitar instructor in Exmouth since 2016. He’s been playing guitar for nearly 12 years, very passionate about great playing.

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