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.


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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by ronjazz » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:21 pm

We all teach ourselves; the ones with the best guidance do the best job. Unlike elite sports coaching, where the athlete gets many hours weekly with the coaches, most of us get only an hour a week with out guides, so the rest of the time we must pay real attention to principles of movement and balance, etc. I have benefitted greatly from the blogs of Philip Hii and Christopher Berg, along with their publications and youtube examples. They are both superb players, but also are able to break down techniques and practices into understandable language, Hii from the "eastern" philosophy, Berg from the "western" sciences. Also Fred Hand's guitar course now available inn youtube is very well-done.
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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by Todd Tipton » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:04 pm

I'm going to answer this question a very different way. As one small example, I am currently examining issues I am having with right hand speed. I won't go into all the details. Let me just say that I am not aware of the problem. Have I reached my own limits? Is there counter productive tension I am not aware of? Concerning all those endless hours of the most important conversations with my past teachers: we always agreed that they WERE the most important, but that we had no way of confirming that each other fully understood what the other was saying. At least we HAD the conversations. They were important.

A totally different perspective: there is no shortage of videos, free lessons, how to play this piece, that piece, videos for scales or arpeggios, etc. Free "lessons" are everywhere. And some people charge just to let you watch those videos. Taking it a little further without being too explicit, lots of assignments are given at lots of places. Assignments are completed by lots of eager and ambitious students.

With all the material available out there, there is something that disturbs me about it. It rarely ever gets down to the real, actual work. That real actual work is learning to work effectively and efficiently, and learning to play with security and confidence. In all my years of study and practice, it has been a challenge finding educators who understand that, and have the ability and desire to share that. I have been fortunate enough to find some of the best in the world. As a result, most of my best lessons often occurred when I went to a lesson the LEAST prepared.

Why? Because there were assignments to complete. Things to be done. Pieces to play. Pieces to improve upon. Advice to take with particular problems. Etc. No doubt, these things are important. In fact, they are VERY important. However, a constant focus on these things takes away from the most valuable part of studying with a competent instructor; it's worth copying and pasting: That real actual work is learning to work effectively and efficiently, and learning to play with security and confidence.

I've played for decades. I've played for years before I ever had a competent instructor. Without their experience, I wouldn't know enough to even know how important this reply of mine is.

Happy practicing! :-)
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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by Ledhand75 » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:35 am

I would strongly encourage you to find a good teacher, if only to check in periodically to make sure you are on the right track with your self guided study. I played for years studying with lesser qualified or invested teachers, or on my own, only to develop significant pain issues in my left forearm and fingers due to faulty technique. It took a great teacher to help me reconstruct my approach. Even after 30 years of playing, I’m amazed at what I learn in my biweekly lessons by being made aware of habits that I couldn’t see within myself.

For those living in smaller cities without easy access to a good teacher, there are now many great options available online, via Skype.

If this is not possible, you may find it helpful to video yourself playing. Even with the above mentioned adjustments to my technique, my teacher will occasionally remind me to be mindful of my left wrist, which I have tended to bend almost to a 90 degree angle at times.

Good luck, and enjoy.

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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by bear » Fri Dec 08, 2017 11:50 am

I am self taught, I've been playing 50+ years. I switched to cg about 7 years ago because my damaged hands couldn't handle the narrow string spacing.
Yes, it's possible to teach your self, but having done it, not my first choice. It's like walking through the woods. It's faster and easier if you have a path.
I used to play classical music on my ES 335. It's not the same. My hands are a mess and yet in switching to nylon I've become a much better guitarist than I ever was (and that includes when my hands were good).
You can pick up a used cg for little cash. I paid $100. for my C3F (used) and it looks new. There are yamahas that I've seen on c-list for less than that. I'd stick with the standard 650mm scale 52mm nut. There is a temptation for steel string players to go for cross overs but in my opinion, there crap.
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Re: Can you teach yourself?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Fri Dec 08, 2017 4:07 pm

Last edited by AndreiKrylov on Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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