I thought it would be interesting for everybody to see the journey a few of my online students took while learning to play the guitar on my site. Sort of mini case studies on how your peers get started on the guitar.

As you know, I provide personal support to all free and premium members on my site, and I've seen many students who have really advanced their skills in the time they've been a member. I asked 5 of them if they would answer a few questions for me, a case study on learning guitar, if you will.

guitar student case studies

I asked them a lot of questions and will show you the most interesting bits below. I hope these guitar learning case studies will be an interesting read for many of you and will motivate you to keep at it. 2 of them asked me not to post their picture, so I thought I would just post an image of everyone's guitar instead 🙂

Josh from Atlanta

Josh's guitar & amp
  • Age: 35
  • Years playing: 2 years
  • Guitar preference: acoustic, electric
  • Playing level: strong intermediate

Tom: Why did you start playing, what was your goal?

Josh: I always thought the guitar was cool, and wanted to learn it ever since I was small. 2 years ago, my life turned upside-down, and I thought hey, what better time. I didn't really have a set goal, just wanted to learn guitar.

Tom: What methods of guitar learning have you tried.

Josh: Just online. To tell you the truth, I didn't even think about hiring a teacher.  Oh wait, I did buy a guitar book on day 1 when I bought my first acoustic guitar, but never really used it, didn't know what to make of it at the time. I've been a member on your site Tom for over a year now.

Tom: What do you love most about playing guitar?

Josh: Oh wow, I just fell in love with it pretty early on. It was difficult at times, but you get through it. I love being able to learn pretty much any song I want, and that it actually sounds pretty nice. I love how my son looks at me when we sit down and I just doodle around. I love just the feel of the guitar when I strum a chord, if you pay attention, you can feel the sound vibrations shaking the wood, it's awesome.

Milan from Serbia

Milan's strat
  • Age: 24
  • Years playing: 1 year seriously, 12 years on and off
  • Guitar preference: electric
  • Playing level: intermediate

Tom: Why did you start playing, what was your goal?

Milan: I actually started while still in school when I was little, but I never gave it my 100%. A bit over a year ago, a guitar player entered our social circle of friends, and we went to see him play often at small gigs. I really enjoyed the music, and that's what motivated me to start learning for real.

Tom: During the 12 year period, why did you stop? 

Milan: I started learning so many times, decided to really start and give it all I got each time, but the motivation always died off after a few weeks. So I restarted at least once-twice per year, but never really got anywhere.

Tom: Why do you think your motivation died off?

Milan: I think I was learning the wrong stuff. I didn't really have any courses or teachers guiding me. In the beginning, I first tried learning from books, then later came the internet. I was Google-ing all over the place, started learning something, but never actually learned anything.

Tom: Yes, lots of people do this, they don't stick to any single course, and just bounce between lessons without really learning. So after you met the guitarist guy, what changed?

Milan: I started Google-ing again :-), and I found your site and decided to start learning the songs you have. I think that's what made the difference since it makes things fun. It's still hard, learning new things, but with each song, I have the goal of playing just that one song. And as you told me once, learning each song helps develop my technique, and I really feel it.

Tom: Do you have any specific guitar goals?

Milan: Yes, my friend the guitarist said that I'm not that far from being able to start gigging with them as a rhythm guitarist. That would be great!

Gregory from Vancouver

Greg's acoustic
  • Age: 63
  • Years playing: 3 years
  • Guitar preference: acoustic
  • Playing level:  intermediate

Tom: Why did you start playing, what was your goal?

Gregory: When I turned 60, my wife surprised me with a guitar, I guess it made me look younger 🙂 So I said hey, I'm not getting any younger, I always enjoyed guitar music, so let's do it.

Tom: Do you feel your age is a setback.

Gregory: I thought it would be, that was the first question I asked you Tom, I don't know if you remember. You told me that as long as my fingers are mobile, age doesn't matter. And you were right, I don't feel I'm being held back at all.

Tom: What was the most challenging aspect of learning guitar?

Gregory: Definitely the barre chords, that took a long time to learn, but again, as you said back then, the more I practiced, the easier they got. I remember I used to look only for songs that didn't have barre chords, but you told me that was a mistake, to just learn those songs as well and don't worry about playing it wrong, to just practice a lot. And look at me now, I don't even notice barre chords anymore, I can play them just like any regular chord.

Manuel from Miami

Manuel's matching guitars
  • Age: 38
  • Years playing: 3 years
  • Guitar preference: acoustic, electric
  • Playing level: strong intermediate

Tom: Why did you start playing, what was your goal?

Manuel: I just like the guitar and wanted to learn it, no real goals of becoming a musician or making money from it.

Tom: So look at you today 🙂

Manuel: Yeah, I make money from it performing with a band at bars. Not much of course, just a few bucks, but it's fun and I meet a bunch of people doing it. This isn't my day job of course.

Tom: You achieved a lot really quickly, what's your secret?

Manuel: Is that a trick question?

Tom: You tell me 🙂

Manuel: Ok, so we talked about this in the beginning, I contacted you and asked if there were any secrets to learning guitar quickly. And you said no, the only secret is practicing the right way, and perseverance.

Tom: Yes, I get this question very often, and I usually don't expect a person asking this question to have a long life as a guitarist, but you proved me wrong.

Manuel: Thanks, yeah, I started learning, and I really fell in love with it. I started practicing more and more, and pretty soon, I was spending most of my free time learning, I averaged around 3 hours per day.

Tom: Yep, that's the secret!

Felix from the UK

Felix's guitar
  • Age: 31
  • Years playing: 4 year
  • Guitar preference: acoustic, electric
  • Playing level: intermediate

Tom: Why did you start playing, what was your goal?

Felix: Good question, I don't really know. I guess guitarists have this cool image around them, and I wanted that. I went into a few guitar shops and bought a beautiful electric guitar, and just started.

Tom: How did you start learning guitar?

Felix: The shop I bought the guitar offered group lessons, I attended those at first. They were pretty useful, but I just couldn't fit them into my schedule. Next, I hired a private teacher to come to my flat, but that was terribly expensive, something like 30 GBP per hour, twice a week, so 240 GBP per month. Then I tried learning from websites, and that's what I stuck with, as you know Tom. I've been learning from your site for 2 years now.

Tom: Are you satisfied with your progress? How much do you practice?

Felix: I try to practice an hour a day, sometimes more, sometimes I miss a day here and there. I must admit I miss a week here and there, vacations, too much work, so things like that, and I can really feel it. Regardless, I try to pick up the guitar every day and learn as much as possible.

Tom: Did you ever feel like you're not really advancing?

Felix: Yes, that's when I first contacted you. I was learning wrong, being too comfortable, not pushing myself to learn new things. As soon as I started learning new things, as you said it would, I started progressing again.

Tom: How do you practice? So what does a practice session look like?

Felix: I think I have a pretty good practice regimen, it goes like this:

  1. 5 minutes to warm up my fingers with scale runs
  2. 30-40 minutes to play a few songs I already know
  3. 30-40 minutes to learn new stuff

It's funny because with time, the new things which are hard at first, become the things I enjoy. It's crazy!

Tom: Yes, the only way to advance is to practice new things and push yourself forward. What do you enjoy most about playing guitar?

Felix: Oh, I can't even imagine not having a guitar anymore. When I don't play for a few days, I miss it, and sort of feel guilty for not playing, it's weird. When I pick up the guitar at home and start practicing, I just feel this overwhelming serenity, calmness, and loads of positive vibes. Then when I get to practice new stuff, I do get somewhat frustrated when I can't play something right off the bat, but I now know from experience that it just takes a bit of practice, and it will eventually become easy. Of course, I'm no guitar superstar, but I love playing, and I don't think I'll ever stop.

I hope you enjoyed these guitar student case studies, I think a lot of you will be able to relate to many of the topics from above.

As you can see, it's important to keep in mind that learning guitar is all about practice and dedication, but if you put your mind and effort into it, you will definitely advance and become a real guitarist.

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  1. I am 51, my fingers are not that nimble. I have tried to learn by doing the teacher (lasted 4 months) and the internet (3 different courses) but I just don’t feel like I can do it. I picked up the guitar about 5 times now… starting and stopping. Do you think and really believe ANYONE can learn to play guitar ‘good’? Where they can play a lot of songs and sing along with no prob. And not take 3 years to just get down G, C, D chords? lol, you know what I mean. I just don’t want to practice and try so hard and after even a year… not be any closer to ‘playing’ guitar.

    1. Hi, yes, I believe anybody can get to a level where they can play songs and sing along.

      4 months isn’t much with a teacher. And by doing 3 different online courses, you are not sticking with any of them. You were probably bouncing to a new course once things got a bit harder.

      You need to stick with a given course and practice every day to see results!
      It would be cool if you came back here after 1 year of REALLY doing that, and tell us how you are progressing.

  2. Hello Tom I can tell you I feel about the same way as Felix, when I don’t pick up my guitar I feel guilty, but when I do play I feel this sort of calmness, and complete. I am 59 years old and started when I was about 12. My dad played and I just fell in love with listening to the guitar until I just wasn’t satisfied listening and had to learn to play. I just never thought it would take this long.

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