I get asked this question a lot by email, so I thought I would finally make a tip about it.  Usually when I make a tip like this, I get a lot of emails so If you have any constructive additions to make, let me know.

This is a very difficult question to answer and there's probably no set in stone answer for everyone.  A lot of it depends on your own personal talent, previous training, expectations, and goals.  I think one of the attractions of the guitar in the first place is that it seems to be an instrument that is convenient and easy to learn on your own but that's not always the case.

My son for instance, I like to brag about him : ), took piano lessons for years and then decided to learn the guitar.  I got him a new electric guitar for Christmas one year.  He went out and got books on scales and guitar lessons and taught himself to play exceptionally well in a few years.  He now plays professionally piano & guitar.  He can read music as well as learn by ear.  After years of only playing the electric guitar, he finally decided to get an acoustic.  After playing the acoustic for a few months, he told me his electric playing improved dramatically.  I think it's best to start out with an acoustic.  It will develop your hands better.

I suffered through trumpet lessons for years and learned the treble clef so when I tried to learn the guitar by myself, it was relatively easy for me as well.  I bought an E-Z Guitar Method book and started learning some pretty corny songs.  You do have to start out with the simple songs first.  My expectation at the time was to just learn accompaniment guitar for singing (impress the girls) but it grew as time went on.  Back then, there was no internet or tablature and sheet music for guitar was usually incorrect so I pretty much had to learn songs by ear anyways.  Now the internet is an invaluable resource for guitar lessons, tablature, lyrics...Sheesh!  I wish I would have had it back then!

I've heard the stories about great guitarists and songwriters that claim to know no or very little music theory but are still great anyways.  If you have that much talent, you are among the fortunate few.    For most people that have never had any musical training at least on the treble clef and want to learn the guitar, you'll need a teacher.  Try to find one that plays the same type of music you want to play.  A teacher can also show you easier ways to do things and keep you from developing bad habits.  You'll also need to develop some skills like tuning the guitar and replacing strings.  Some people play the guitar for years and are still afraid to replace their own strings or still have trouble tuning.  As soon as you get over this, your life will be happier : )

There are other levels to consider.  If you want to progress to the best like my brother in law, you're talking Bachelors Degree, Masters Degree, then a Doctors Degree in Jazz Performance?  What are your goals and expectations?

Bob, Gman ( o )==#

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