While learning any instrument takes a great deal of time and effort, different learning methods can produce different results. There are a wide variety of ways to learn to play guitar based on the time and monetary resources available to the learner. Some methods include taking lessons at school or from a professional musician, self-learning through books or online lessons, and by mimicking sounds to play by ear. Different learning techniques may appeal to one's specific goals more than others. All guitar learning methods, however, demand some level of time and dedication if they are to produce any tangible results.
One of the most common ways for a beginner to learn to play guitar is to take lessons. Individual guitar players commonly offer one or more lessons each week at music stores or in their homes either to individuals or to small groups. Music lessons are helpful because they force the student to stay motivated and to adhere to a schedule. Additionally, the teachers of such lessons are able to provide solutions to problems specific to a given student that books or other impersonal information sources may not contain. The prices of such lessons vary, but affordable lessons can generally be found if one shops around.
Another learning method that one may choose is self-teaching, a method that is popular because it costs little or no money. Many different sites on the Internet offer free or low-cost guitar lessons that, although not tailored to the specific student, can still be quite effective. Additionally, countless books offer different methods for students to learn to play guitar, none of which require the assistance of an outside music teacher. Unfortunately, such sources cannot provide the consistency and personalized assistance of an actual guitar teacher.
One important division in the different methods by which one can learn to play guitar is the focus or lack thereof on music theory. Some books, websites, and teachers teach elementary music theory, such as basic skills in reading and composing music, along with the technical aspects of performance. One may, however, learn to play guitar without knowing any music theory at all. Some skilled guitar players are able to play completely by ear without actually knowing the names of the notes that they play. Others learn to play guitar based on guitar tabs, which represent notes based on the fingering pattern on the guitar's fretboard.