The failure rate of online guitar programs is astounding.  And it's absolutely not the fault of the many outstanding guitar programs out there.  The failure is the in people buying and then never finishing (or starting!) the thing.  However, there are some very specific things you can do to have great success in learning guitar online and actually start playing that dusty guitar you've been staring at.

With a bit of careful planning and diligence, you can easily learn how to play guitar on your own time with the right training course.  There are two different kinds to choose from.  Some programs take place completely online, others come as a set of DVDs. They both work essentially the same.

What I won't be talking about here is trying to design your own guitar curriculum through blog posts and YouTube videos.  It's really a much harder way to go unless you're an advanced guitarist just looking for information on specific techniques. 

Something like 80% of home study courses never get opened let alone started.  People who pay good money and have the best intentions, yet never even open the package.  And of the 20% that do start, only 2% will actually finish the course.  Again, not because of any failing of the guitar course itself.  I know of some outstanding home study courses for guitar.  And they really want you to use their product to its fullest potential. 

So, how can you make sure you're in that 2% of successful people?  Simple...

1. Set a start date.  When you receive the course in the mail or email, open it up and take a look through the materials.  But don't start hammering away at it just yet.  It probably showed up in the middle of the day when you already have other things going on.  Your goal should be to get on a solid, consistent training schedule.  Having a solid start date will get you off on the right foot.  Grab your calendar and set a day and time to start.  It could be tomorrow or next week.  Then you won't have to feel guilty in the intervening time about not doing it because you'll know exactly when you're starting.

2. Plan and schedule your practice sessions.  Consistent shorter practice sessions will help you advance much faster than trying to cram hours of guitar into one day and neglecting the other six.  Plan to work on your course 5 days a week for 20-30 minutes.  Depending on what you're working on, you may need more or less time, but it's a good starting point.  Extra tip: If you're going longer, take a short 5 minute break after the 20 minute mark.  Then come back and your focus will be better.

Schedule your practices on your calendar just like a doctor appointment for date to pay bills.  Or just like if you were studying with a private guitar teacher.  It's important because you want it to be.  Be sure to stick to your schedule.  "I'm too tired" is the worst excuse in the world for anything.

3. Use all the resources available through the program.  Good guitar courses offer more than just a bunch of lessons.  You should also get some social support, often in the form of an online bulletin board where you can ask questions.  The instructors of the course are usually there themselves to answer your questions.  I've even seen live chat with qualified instructors on some.  You don't have to do it all on your own.  Go to the people that want to help you (and are included in the price!) and you'll be a better guitarist faster.

4. Make yourself responsible to someone else.  I don't recommend announcing your goal of learning guitar.  Scientific studies have shown that telling people about your goal stimulates the same parts of your brain that get going when you've already accomplished the goal.

BUT, one of the biggest benfits of in-person lessons is that you have to see that teacher every week and either show off your new skills or cop to not having practiced.  Hopefully the former.  You don't have that constraint with a home study guitar course.  To make up for it, pick one person that you're going to check in with each week.  It's even better if that person is also learning guitar.  Here's where those bulletin boards come in handy again.  Make a friend on there and ask if you can check in once a week and discuss your and their progress.

Learning the guitar is fun, wonderful, frustrating, stimulating, and aggravating.  You will face constant challenges at every turn.  But if you follow the 4 steps I outlined above you'll become the guitarist you want to be and we can welcome you to the successful 2%!

Learning how to play the guitar can be a wonderful, frustrating, stimulating, and aggravating experience.  You will be faced with constant challenges.  But if you follow the four steps I gave you, you'll be able to do the work and be the guitarist you want to be.  Good luck!