How To Successfully Use YOUTUBE To Learn The Guitar.

This week on On Guitar I want to share what I have learned from watching YOUTUBE videos.  YouTube is amazing in that anybody can post almost anything for free.  Because of that there are a ton of videos from guitar teachers, and players available.  The best ones give you almost everything you need for free with the invitation to join them on a paid membership level of some type.  And then there are those that suck.  You’ll find a few shorts of me noodling on my Spoon Says channel.  I’m there to practice playing in front of people and learning how to use the video equipment I bought.  I have as much fun doing that as anything.  

The only good thing that has come out of the pandemic for me is my return to guitar.  I never the time before.  This go around, I bought a guitar from a famous guitar maker and have been using YouTube like bandit.  Learning guitar with YouTube is an art form though.

YouTube is an amazing source to learn from.  Here’s some of my tips for doing it well.

  • Know that everyone has a preference
  • All videos and teachers are not equal.
  • You need to make a plan.
  • Slow down and learn before moving on
  • Manage your expectations
  • You don’t know what you don’t know. i.e. tunings, 
  • Subscribe 
  • Tech can help but…

You know that all guitar videos and instructors are not equal.  

First, don’t freak out if you can’t get it immediately.  Not everyone is a good teacher or teaches the way you learn.  We all have preferences and learning styles.  There may be a language barrier.  Some of the best players on YouTube don’t live where you do.  Their accents, British, Australian, Japanese, Filipino, Brazilian, Spanish, and even some parts of the United States, may sound like Greek to you.  All of these examples are real.  I have watched and learned something online from cats from these locales.  

Secondly, most are teaching a very small segment of guitar in these clips.  A riff is not a song but man can you get enjoyment out of being able to recreate one from your favorite guitarist. Sound is very important.  Make sure you don’t miss out that there may be an “alternate” tuning than you are using or that your instrument is out of tune.

The best way to learn from YOUTUBE is to have an agenda.  Without a plan it is easy to get sucked into the shiny object syndrome. 

If you had a live teacher, they would break down what you just watched into smaller pieces. It would take you weeks to get through a lesson plan. You can make your own syllabus by planning what you want to learn.  A how to book may start with fretboard basics, chords or a simple song.  You can use that book as the topic finder to search for online.

He/she would make you slow down before moving on.  So to do it on YOUTUBE, you have to manage your expectations.  What happens when we create expectations that we should be able to play ‘X” in our mind that don’t come to fruition exactly as we hoped? When our preconceived notions of how we play isn’t what happens?

Or worse information overload.  When we have too many options we do nothing.  Information overload, technically is the act of learning so much that it hinders you from taking action.

For example, maybe you just reviewed countless videos on guitar information on the twelve bar blues and then felt completely inundated with varying perspectives and opinions.

The most common manifestation of information overload is “analysis paralysis” in which we get so much information about something that we can’t decide which decision is the best one to make. There are simply too many options brought forth by all of the information you just consumed, so you just think about all of the different avenues without moving forward.

Take small jabs at the amount of information you are getting.  If you want to lean the secret of the twelve bar blues, for example, watch ONE entire video per day max, and then go back and then learn 

Marty is one of my favorites.
Justin has a lot of different styles
This guy is technical.

If you did this little exercise you’d see that each has something a little different.  The problem with YouTube is it is information by fire hose.  You can get too much information you need a plan.

Youtube guitar heroes can make you humble.  I never realized how great Hendrix, SRV, T-Bone Walker, and so many musicians were till I tried to play their music.  It’s a sucky feeling when you can’t get it fast.  Our expectations can have amazing power over our feelings and cause us to be saddened when we’re not as good as we thought we were.  I think a lot of folks quit because of this. If this is you don’t quit.

Expectations, however, do not have to be hindrances to your happiness. In fact, you can harness our expectations and strategically make them work to your advantage.  How?  Keep it real.  Put in the work and practice/learn one part at a time.  Use the multiply views and content creators for different takes and views on the same piece. There is often more than one way to play the same notes.  Find the one that works for you.

One of things that is distracting is the ads.  If you can afford it, get a paid subscription to YouTube so you can alleviate that.

Lastly, make tech work for you and not against you.  You may find the video on your tiny screen also known as a phone but try to practice on the biggest screen you can use.  Many SMART TVs have a YouTube app.  Use it.  It will help you find the proper frets and strings to mimic.  If you can’t see it, you will make it harder on yourself.

Take it easy on yourself.  I realized that I can be extremely demanding and unforgiving in my learning.  If I didn’t pick it up within a few minutes, the defeatist spirit would come and tell me “you can’t do this.”  Most of the time, I was missing a small but key point.  I missed the chord pattern, I didn’t hear what the teacher said the first time, I was out of tune, or I just didn’t have the coordination yet.  In golf, when you make a mistake players say, give yourself a mulligan. A mulligan is a second chance for a golfer to replay a stroke if he/she blundered on the prior one. How many times do we personally give ourselves a mulligan (or grace) in life, since life is filled with mistakes and blunders?  

And speaking of tech, did you know there is a Bluetooth device that you can use to pause, fast forward and rewind a YouTube video? It’s not a must have but it is kinda cool.  It’s called an Elmore Pedal.   It’s a plastic gizmo, to be used like a foot switch. It feels like a toy, but it worked for me on my iPhone and iPad.  I wouldn’t recommend you stomp on it or wear hard shoes when using though. It cost around $100 USD.  I like it.  

This is me.

I didn’t get it to work on my tv which would have made it a boss.

Using YouTube , however can expand your repertoire, your knowledge base and take you far if used correctly.  How cool is it to learn from an Aussie, or a local legend in Great Britain.  On the same note, there are clowns online.  Some of them even have “schools.  Caveat Emptor.  From what I learned – having a good teacher, a real mentor and coach is invaluable.  If you can find someone do it.  The reason many of us do not have teachers is that it’s expensive (time, travel and money) and sometimes they don’t know how to take you from where you are to where you need to be. A great teacher would.  A friend or relative you can play with will help the most. 

Music is made to enjoy live.  Get out of your basement and jam with someone.