by Scott Zimmerman

This article provides a step by step process into how to learn the guitar at home. You can also view our article about different methods to learn guitar at home, as well as our courses.

A lot of people ask us if they can learn guitar completely from home. Because there is so much interest in this topic, we’ve dedicated an entire article to a step by step process you can follow to learn guitar from home.

Can you learn guitar from home? Anyone can successfully learn the guitar at home. By determining your end goal(s), selecting the appropriate curriculum, and setting and documenting the achievement of short-term goals, you can successfully learn guitar at home.

Learning guitar at home on your own is a great way to learn the guitar and develop your skills. In fact, this is the most common way of learning the guitar. If we take a look at how most of the top professional guitar players achieved their status, you will find that, for the most part, they developed their skills and playing style on their own, at home, e.g. Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Segovia, etc.

The difference being, they took what they learned at home into the public forum, and shared it with the rest of us through recordings and performances. However, this is not to say, that they did not have guides along the way in the form of teachers, mentors, and outside influences; but, even so, they mastered their craft on their own. And so, we know from these examples, that this method gains results. Let’s take a look at seven sure-fire steps to learning guitar at home and working toward mastery of the guitar.

#1 Determine You End Goal(s)

Any great achievement begins with the end in mind. This is also true for mastering the guitar. Think about what you would like to play on the guitar, and do with the guitar. Maybe, you would like to learn to accompany yourself while singing, or play in a group. Or possibly, you would like to learn how to play blues guitar, fingerstyle, or classical guitar. Take some time and think about what you would really like to play before you set your course for learning guitar at home. If you are not sure, that’s OK too, your initial goal may be to explore different areas on the guitar before setting a more specific goal.

# 2 Set-Up A Practice Schedule

Once you have a goal in mind, it is time to create the infrastructure, so to speak, that will enable you to achieve the goal. To that end, review what a typical week is like and look for areas where you can plan your practice time. You want to take the time from discretionary activities and not from necessary duties or obligations, e.g. give up watching the late show, so that you can go to bed earlier and wake up a little earlier for practice. Also, start with a schedule that you can adhere to and maintain.

It is better to set a small weekly practice goal, e.g. two fifteen-minute practice sessions a week, and accomplish the goal than to fail at a goal that is not realistic. You will know that you’ve found the right balance between practicing and your other duties, when, on the one hand, you are not feeling constantly over-burdened, and on the other hand, you don’t have that nagging feeling that you should be practicing instead of watching t.v. or spending time on social media, etc. For more information on practicing see: 7 Big Reasons To Practice Guitar Daily 

#3 Choose Your Learning Resources

Based on your goal(s), determined in step one, you can now choose what will be the course, i.e. curriculum, to achieve your goals. There are two approaches to curriculum. You can choose to follow a curriculum that has already been created; or, you can develop one yourself. A well designed course will sequentially move you from one step to another; each new piece of information will build on the previously acquired knowledge. In this way, learning is effective, and hopefully, not frustrating.

On the other hand, you can design your own curriculum. This takes more effort and you may have to make adjustments along the way; however, the advantage is that: what you are learning is completely tailored to your goals. A simple approach to a DIY (Do It Yourself) curriculum is to create a list of songs that you want to learn. Then, you can search for tutorials that teach these songs, e.g. video lessons, TAB sites, books, etc. Similarly, if your goal is to learn beginning blues guitar, research this topic and collect materials from online and traditional print sources.

#4 Set Your Short Term Goal(s)

Now that you have your materials, set a short term goal, e.g. this week I will learn song X, or complete chapter one of a course, etc. It is also important to have a practice schedule; this will enable you to achieve each short term goal. See our article  7 Big Reasons To Practice Guitar Daily.

If you need to adjust the completion time of your goal, that’s fine; however, don’t allow yourself to move on to something new before completing the goal. (If you realize that the short-term goal needs to be adjusted in mid-course, that’s ok, but hold yourself accountable for completing the goal.)

#5 Document The Completion of Each Short Term Goal

Staying motivating in the long-term can be difficult. When we begin a practice program, we are, typically, highly motivated, and this can last for a couple weeks. However, once this becomes routine, it can be hard to objectively see progress unless you are documenting it along the way. The best way to document your progress is to make a recording. A professional recording is not necessary; instead, record yourself on your smartphone or tablet.

After the completion of each short-term goal, make a recording and catalog it for later review. For example, if your curriculum is based on learning songs, after you have learned a song, record yourself playing along with a backing track. If you are using a pre-packaged curriculum, after the chapter or module, record yourself playing the exercises or examples. Keep in mind, the purpose of this activity is to create markers of your progress, not to have perfect recordings that are flawless.

#6 Maintain Your Inspiration 

Inspiration is the fuel for accomplishing your goals. You have to keep an eye of the fuel level, so to speak, and periodically refill your tank. If we continue with the fuel and engine analogy, we can say: fuel is first obtained and then it is burned (this order is important to keep in mind). It is also important to separate these activities in your mind. Use online resources such as video tutorials, live concerts, guitar and guitar equipment channels, etc. as a method of sustaining your inspiration to practice (which is the burning of the fuel).

To that end, here are a couple of helpful guidelines: watch these programs, but do not actively practice when you are watching them (you can make a mental note of a particular tutorial that you may want to use during your practice time). Watch tutorials or live concerts that are not in your “wheelhouse”, i.e. styles of music that you may not actually ever play. By doing this, you are feeding your mind with inspiration. Just absorb the experience and enjoy the experience of passively taking in information. Furthermore, online forums and virtual jam sessions, with friends or family using online video platforms, can be another way to maintain your inspiration.

#7 Home Recording Studio

Creating a home recording platform is, perhaps, the single best way to learn guitar at home and stay motivated. Due to technology, home recording is available to everyone, regardless of budget. When you engage in the recording process, you are performing and creating at the same time. These are the two end-goals that all musicians work towards; whereas, practicing is only the means to these ends. Practicing alone, without an end goal, is unsustainable- this is why many people stop playing their instrument.

However, if practicing is a necessary means to achieve your goal, you will be motivated to practice because you can objectively see the need for it. So, let’s unpack why recording is such an essential piece for  learning guitar at home. First, practicing is built into the process. When you record a track, if it is not correct, you do another take until it is correct. During this process, you are practicing in a very focused manner, which is the most effective way to practice in order to achieve good results. Secondly, you are activating the part of your mind that can value and judge aesthetics, i.e. of or relating to beauty.

When evaluating your performance on the recorded track, you will be making value judgments based on the aesthetics of your performance, e.g. tone, timing, note selection, form, etc. This is engaging in music at its highest level, and it is extremely stimulating for the brain; and therefore, creates a high level of motivation. Lastly, having a tangible product, i.e. your recording, creates a sense of accomplishment that can be continually enjoyed and shared.


Remember to start with the end in mind and work backward to set your goals and routines for learning the guitar at home. After you have set your long term goals, choose a method of instruction that supports these goals. Create small goals along the way and document your progress. Stay motivated by watching and listening to other players, participating in online forums, and virtual jam sessions. And lastly, I can’t stress enough, create your own home recording platform!

About the author 

Scott Zimmerman

Scott Zimmerman is a professional music instructor with over twenty years of guitar performance and teaching experience. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Music Education from Peabody Conservatory.