One of the great things that has come from the explosion of the internet is the wealth of free learning resources online. For guitarists especially, the shift from in person lessons and paper books of guitar tab over to learning guitar from websites like KillerGuitarRigs
and of course YouTube has been a huge time and money saver.
However, guitar books still sell in huge numbers, even when there’s so much information available for free.
Ultimately, YouTube has pros and cons for guitarists, enough that many still pull out books when they can.
Let’s look at some of the main ones.
YouTube Pros for guitarists
The biggest advantage YouTube has is the vast wealth of knowledge that’s in one place. There are hundreds if not thousands of experts available on YouTube to teach you just about anything guitar related that you can think of.
Another advantage is that you might need to go get a specialized book to learn about a specific concept, whereas on YouTube, there’s probably five or ten videos on the subject.
For many the biggest plus is that you can hear someone play a concept they’re trying to teach you, instead of you learning it on the page. For example, if you’re learning modes, it can be hard to get the concept into your head until you hear the different modes played over a backing track in that key. With YouTube, the person explaining any given mode will naturally play it for you, allowing you to have an instant lightbulb moment that you don’t’ get with books.
In addition, YouTube is very much a community when it comes to guitar content. Many of the biggest guitar YouTubers know each other, and so if you find someone who plays a style you like, it’s only a short skip to another youtuber who can continue to expand your knowledge.
YouTube Cons for guitarists
For all the breadth of content that you can get on YouTube, the biggest issue is it’s entirely unstructured. If you want to learn how to play guitar, there are a million lessons, but nobody to say “start with this, then do that, next learn this” and so forth.
With a good guitar book, the lessons are in order, which allows you to start at one skill level and follow all of the lessons until you get to the end, at a higher skill level and with all of this new information.
The way that YouTube suggests videos to people, and the viral nature of what works on YouTube, means that few content creators think about their channel as a body of work. Moreover, they think of it as a series of videos loosely based on a topic, with titles to catch the user’s attention.
Another drawback of learning guitar from YouTube is how easy it is to get distracted and go down a rabbit hole that takes you away from what you were trying to do in the first place. Maybe you started out trying to understand the circle of fifths. An hour later you’re twenty minutes into a Metallica live video, and you’ve already forgotten your guitar is on your lap.
Finally, with such a wide range of lessons on YouTube, it can be easy to see something inspiring and then not be able to find it the next day. It’s much harder to have that happen with a good guitar book, because it’s a physical object of finite length.
At the end of the day, there is no right and wrong, only what works for you. Maybe you’re the kind of guitarist who wants to sit with a book and absorb it with no distractions. Maybe you’re the kind of guitarist who needs a video lesson where someone gives you audio examples of the concept they’re teaching you in order to have it sink into your brain.
Or maybe, in 2021, you’re the kind of guitarist who can take a hybrid approach and absorb both when the time is right.
That’s where the real gold is!