Top Tips for Learning Classical Guitar On Your Own

Hello dear readers!

I’ve been contacted recently by a reader who’s just started learning in the last three months, but in a position time-wise and financially where taking lessons just isn’t a possibility.  And I would imagine that said reader is not alone in this.

Yes, it’s ideal if you can take lessons on a weekly basis, but just because you’re not able to do this for whatever reason that should absolutely not be any kind of roadblock or reason not to start learning, playing and enjoying the wonderful instrument that is the classical guitar. I’m all about sharing and helping, so here are my thoughts and top tips for kick-starting your classical guitar journey solo-style.

(1) You don’t have to do it on your own!

With the wonders of the internet these days, you don’t actually have to do anything anymore in isolation. Admittedly it’s not quite the same as learning things in a tailored one-on-one environment, but checking out videos online, seeing if there are any quick “pointers” videos out there – or even blogs like this! – makes things a heck of a lot better, easier and far more pleasant than sitting in your lounge room or bedroom wondering if you’re doing something “right”!

In fact above encourage any of you seeking advice or if you have thoughts on a topic you’d like me to cover to get in touch and ask away. I’m always keen to help if and where I can. I might even be able to post up a video or photo to help with a dilemma or an issue.

(2) Keep on practicing, even just a little bit, every day

We are our habits, and the more frequently you do something, the more ingrained the behaviour comes. Get used to practicing, even if it’s just five minutes – even 2 minutes! – every single day or at the very least 5 days out of 7. This is where you’ll find your development sneaks up on you without you noticing!

(3) Immerse yourself in guitar music and its many sounds

Get to know your favourite players and their sounds inside out. Watch them on YouTube – listen and watch how they produce their sounds. Seek out and get to know guitarists you’ve not heard of before and do the same. Listen, listen, listen. Get to know, feel and understand what good sound sounds like to you. It will take a lot of listening over a period of time to appreciate the subtleties in sound quality, like getting to appreciate good wines or whiskies, but overtime your ear will discern finer and finer differences in sound.

Why is this important?

It will impact on your own playing significantly. Not having someone like a teacher to give you feedback on your sound production and sound quality means it may take a little more time (or not!) for you to understand and appreciate (a) what “good” sound could sound like and (b) how you personally can physically produce a “good” sound (which is totally subjective of course).

By effectively training your ear to become more sensitive to variations in sounds (and observing, where possible, how they’re produced) will mean your own sound production will become more sensitive and informed by what you’re hearing.

(4) Use a well-known and recommended method book

There are plenty out there, and most will give you a reasonable start in learning the guitar. A New Tune A Day For Classical Guitar by Michael McCartney is not a bad book to check out and comes with a CD that plays the tunes, and acompaniments. If you feel you’re not moving ahead with the book you’ve chosen feel free to drop me a line and I can help suggest some alternatives. Similarly, if you feel you’ve moved beyond the book you’ve been using and don’t know where to go to next please feel free to drop me a line.


Thanks again for the reader (you know who you are) for getting in touch. Just to reiterate, as I said above encourage any of you seeking advice or if you have thoughts on a topic you’d like me to cover to do the same. I’m always keen to help if and where I can – Nicole.



What Do I Need To Start Playing Classical Guitar?

The easy one-point answer to that question would be get yourself a half decent classical guitar and away you go.

There are, however, a fewer other little bits and bobs that you should look at getting in at least in the first few weeks or months, if you’re not able to get from the outset (which is preferable), which will make your first forays into playing a little easier and potentially (even) more enjoyable (if that’s possible!).

So I’ve put together a wee checklist for the beginners out there or those of you thinking of picking it up to give you a helping hand with some of things you’ll need to get your hands on.


Here you go:


  • A robust case for your new prized instrument – let’s face it, over time your guitar will get the occasional minor scratch and dink as part of normal playing and practice. However, you’ll want to protect it as much as you can when not playing, when storing it at home or when travelling around. The best way to do this is with a hard case. There are soft case options, which are lighter weight for carrying around and obviously tend to be cheaper. That can be a false economy however if your beloved guitar suffers an accidental bump, knock or drop whilst in its case. Your guitar will be far better protected and stand a greater chance of surviving any knocks if you keep it in a hard case.
  • A good sturdy chair or stool – when first starting out it can pretty tempting to say I’ll just sit on the edge of the bed or whatever, but choosing an overly squishy seat or a seat which is liable to movement can impact on your seated position, which will impact on your playing position, which in turn will impact on easy or otherwise it might be to play (not to mention how it impacts on the sound you’ll produce). Getting your seated posture sorted from the outset is crucial in setting up good posture habits andsignificantly minimises your risk of playing-related injuries, aches and pains. You don’t need anything fancy – test out a dining room chair for starters. This is what I use formy own practiceeach and every day (with a nice cushion to save my bony butt!).

    Electronic tuner
  • Foot stool or guitar rest – it can be very tempting to say you’ll prop your leg up on something like your guitar case or the side of the chair,  prop the guitar on your right leg (if you’re right handed) or sit with the cross legged with the guitar on your right leg. Again, this can really impact on your playing position and potentially lead to postural issues later on down the track if you get stuck in this habit. Invest what can be really a small amount in an adjustable foot stool or guitar rest (my recommendation is the latter) and you can play around with a position that is most comfortable for you to facilitate easy and pain-free playing.
  • Electronic tuner – your guitar certainly won’t stay in tune between leaving the music store and getting it home and it won’t stay in tune between one practice session to the next. You’ll definitely need to tune the instrument prior to each you play or practice. Why? Guitars strings and tonewoods are highly influenced by changes in temperature and humidity and so expand and contract on a minute scale in response. As such the tuning is impacted. To make sure you’re playing in tune – and that what you’re playing doesn’t sound unintentionally all over the place! – tuning up each time you play is essential. The easiest way to do this is with one of the many inexpensive electronic tuners or tuning apps on the markets. You play a string and the tuner will tell you how sharp or flat (high or low) each string is compared to what it’s supposed to be. Easy.
  • Nail files and scissors – a vital part of every guitarists tool kit! The subject of preparing ones right hand nails (if right handed) is a subject of a least one blog post in itself and I won’t go into it here. When you’re starting out I recommend you keep close at hand at least a pair of nail scissors for your left hand nails (need to keep them nice and short), an emery board for taking down length and broadly shaping your right hand nails and one of the multi-sided, multi-surfaced files for finer shaping, buffing and shining of the nail playing edges.


Happy playing!