Can you teach yourself?

Classical Guitar technique: studies, scales, arpeggios, theory
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Can you teach yourself?

Post by JohannesBrahms » Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:57 pm

I have experience on both the electric and acoustic guitar in various styles of music and am mostly self-taught. I've had classical piano lessons in the past and I love classical music. Recently, I've become greatly interested in classical guitar. Do you think I could teach myself to play classical guitar? I mainly want to play for my own enjoyment. I can read music and already can play finger style guitar, although I understand that the classical style is different. What are some challenges you believe I will experience.

Another question I have is whether you believe it is acceptable for classical music to be played on an acoustic steel-string guitar? I don't really have the money or desire to buy a nylon-string, and I like the steel-string sound. I understand that this goes against the grain in classical guitar performance.

Thank you for any thoughts, advice, etc.!

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by George Crocket » Sun Oct 29, 2017 6:40 pm

Hi JohannesBrahms. Welcome to the forum. Could you please introduce yourself here.
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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by Rasputin » Sun Oct 29, 2017 10:09 pm

I think it depends very much on you and on the teacher you would be going to. I have done a bit of both and found the lessons very worthwhile - but I had a good teacher. There are good technical resources out there and if you record yourself - and occasionally video yourself - you can identify a lot of the things you need to work on and figure out how to go about it. Still, you'll make faster progress and spend less time in blind alleys if you have a teacher, and there's a certain amount of motivation you get from knowing you have a lesson coming up.

I would say that if you are the right kind of learner and have good ears you can teach yourself, but you will end up better if you find a good teacher.

You can play classical repertoire on a steel string, but the technique is going to be different because the neck is so much narrower and the strings respond differently to the RH (and the LH, come to that). You can't expect to learn classical repertoire on a steel string and then switch at some point and have it all transfer across.

Personally I think you either take the plunge, or not. I did (having previously played electric) and don't regret it.

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by tormodg » Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:52 am

If what you are after is to learn classical guitar, then you really need a classical guitar. It is a different instrument than an acoustic steel-string.

Andrew York is an example of a composer who has played his compositions on both kinds (for example, check this out: ). However, I think that piece in particular makes good use of the metallic sound of the strings.

I also warmly recommend finding a teacher. You will learn something on your own, but you will not get the benefit of learning from someone with a depper experience than you.
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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by Contreras » Mon Oct 30, 2017 10:55 am

I agree with the people above, that you will benefit from a teacher, but the answer to your question is: Yes, you can teach yourself.
However, IMO, you can't really get far into the classical repertoire on an acoustic - I've tried. Get a reasonable classical guitar and you'll hit the ground running with what you already know.
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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by Mara Fortune » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:32 pm

Yes, and a certain extent. You can do both, you'll just be more limited in what you can play and how well you can play it.

I originally started playing classical on a steel-string acoustic (self-taught), and continued to play on it for 7 months until I scraped together the money for a classical guitar. There were definitely some disadvantages to playing on a steel-string--higher tension strings made some techniques harder, closer strings also made fretting/plucking more difficult, instrument was too big to play upright in classical position, sound wasn't ideal for classical.

That said, I managed ok on my steel-string, though keep in mind I was only playing beginning/very easy intermediate music. Not sure how well it would work for more advanced music, though I suspect the more advanced the music, the more problematic a steel-string will be. If you just want to give classical a try on your steel-string to see if you like it, I'd say go for it. However, if you do end up really liking it, I'd recommend trying to save up for an inexpensive classical guitar, if you can.

As far as being can definitely do it, but there are lot of disadvantages: Learning stuff wrong, missing fundamentals because you don't know they exist or that you need to learn them, learning more slowly than if you'd had a teacher, having to experiment to figure stuff out, playing inappropriate repertoire because you don't know your level yet, challenging yourself too much or sometimes not challenging yourself enough... The list goes on. I know, as I'm self-taught. :)

Is it best to have a teacher? Sure, but not everyone has the resources/opportunity to do so. So if you want to learn, I'd say learn, even if you have to teach yourself. You won't be perfect, but then, you don't need to be if you just want to play at home for fun.

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by A.Arcese » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:53 pm

When I started lessons as a kid, I didn't have a classical guitar, and my parents weren't interested in buying me one until I showed a sustained interest. So I went to lessons with the family steel string. It was okay for me to begin this way. I think I did more right-hand learning than left-hand, and iirc this phase lasted about three months and I got a guitar for Christmas.

Regarding classical guitars, you might change your mind ... it has taken me a while to figure out I'm very interested in 19th-century guitars and in the balanced, warm sound heard in of some of the guitars from the Markneukirchen / Vogtland area of Germany. A present-day example of a Markneukirchen guitar can be heard here:

Maybe you would like a flamenco guitar, or maybe a cutaway with a pickup, or a nylon-string Ovation (has pickup, different tonal palette, easy to play).

My point is there might be more nylon-string possibilities than it would seem, and these might be good to investigate if you find that steel strings hamper your progress.

I think regarding self-teaching that in a sense we are all self-teachers. I have always made more progress with teachers, though. Now there are options like Simon Powis's website Classical Guitar Corner that can provide a structured program with visuals and the opportunity for feedback. Maybe something to consider.

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by CathyCate » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:36 pm

Is it possible for you to borrow or rent a classical instrument? If there are any shops around that will let you take one home on approval, arrange a weekend tryout. It will be like a puppy following you home, and I bet you'll have a hard time saying goodbye to it. Life is short. CG life is even shorter. You deserve providing yourself with the best tools and people to ensure enjoyment and success. All the best!

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by Debussychopin » Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:23 am

Why borrow or rent if you'll be perhaps paying same amount as just buying a cheap Yamaha c40 for hundred bux and you can use it without fearing damaging it

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by KevinCollins » Fri Nov 17, 2017 7:21 pm

JohannesBrahms wrote:
Sun Oct 29, 2017 5:57 pm
Another question I have is whether you believe it is acceptable for classical music to be played on an acoustic steel-string guitar?
Good question. You could but there would be a lot of work-arounds. The classical (Spanish) guitar is actually a different instrument than the steel. The classical has 12 frets clear of the body vs 14 on the steel. This affects where the right/playing hand falls on the guitar.

The steel is played "off the hip" so that the picking hand falls at the back of the soundhole. But if you play the classical off the hip, the right hand falls way up over the soundhole or fingerboard. Similarly, if you play the steel string on the left leg, in classical position, the right hand falls over the saddle.

The difference is classical technique asks for independent thumb and fingers. Playing off the hip, nylon or steel, brings the thumb into contact with the fingers and the i finger hooks around the thumb. I'm sure you could have an enjoyable career without ever looking down there, but sooner or later it will become apparent that there's more to it than what kind of strings you have.

I for one would welcome someone with your background. Things like continuous transfer of weight and articulation are taken for granted in most instruments, but rarely mentioned in guitar.

I am an old teacher and what an old teacher has is a sympathetic prioperception. They can get in your body and tell you where the blockage is and help you find ways to unblock yourself. And tell you if you should hold off on playing certain pieces until the handshape is set. My teacher posts his lessons freely maybe that will give some ideas.

Good luck and happy fingers to you.


Kevin Collins, Amherst, Mass, USA All rights reserved.

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