The internet has been a blessing for bad guitar players.
Struggling shredders can feast on hours of concert footage to see where pro players placed their fingers in their favorite songs. Then they can pause and replay them to make sure what we’re playing at home matches up.
Unfortunately for guitar geeks, most videos are edited to be interesting to people other than guitar students. But if you need a three-minute-long shot on a guitar player’s hands, there are loads of videos of musicians showing off their flawless performances in long, single camera takes. And if you’re still stuck, dozens of guitarists offer online lessons.
A quick note on genre: musical tastes on guitar videos tilt towards Guitar Center employees, i.e., lots of progressive rock, classic rock and metal. There are countless Van Halen videos but it’s a struggle to find indie rock, jazz, pop or funk.
With guitar cover videos, a technically proficient show-off trains a camera on his or her guitar as they play along to a song. If you’re an OK or better player, guitar covers are a great tool. Since the video was made for a guitarist to show off their skills, they’re shot in long, static takes to prove the performance was flawless. That minimal editing gives you ample opportunity to study what they’re doing. The camera’s usually tightly trained on the guitar so you never have to see their dumb faces (pro tip: never watch a guitar player’s face while they play. They either look like they’re having sex or doing math. Sometimes both.). Watching them rip through a song you’re struggling to learn can be humbling, but remember that you don’t know how many takes they went through before they got it perfect.
With isolated tracks, you can’t see much but you hear everything. The videos feature guitar tracks from famous song alone, with everything else—drums, vocals, bass, etc—stripped away. They popped up online with the release of the Guitar Hero games, which featured remastered tracks of rock hits that tech savvy music lovers could mine for isolated tracks. Due to copyright claims, they don’t last long on the internet so listen while you can.
With guitar arrangements, the show-offy-ness gets dialed up to 11. The guitarist doesn’t just play a song’s guitar part, they play an interpretation of the whole song, including the vocal melody. It typically involves advanced techniques like fingerpicking or fretboard tapping. They vary in quality but in general, they’re better for entertainment than instruction.
If you really want to hate guitar players and the entire endeavor of guitar playing, videos of dudes talking about guitars is a great way to get there. They’re either obvious Guitar Center employees or very divorced baby boomers and their opinions generally range from worthless to terrible. The one below is actually among the best of the bunch, in terms of production and personality, but …
Thinking about buying a guitar effect pedal? You can spend days falling down a spiraling rabbit hole of professional and amateur videos of players running through settings on effects old and new. They can help let you know how things sound but sometimes you’ve just got to live your life, you know?
With lessons, a guitar teacher faces the camera and shows you how to play a song. Generally, they suck hard. Following an embarrassing homemade graphic intro, some idiot says “hey guys” to the camera before spending a solid minute talking about their other videos and begging people to subscribe.
The platonic ideal of guitar lessons is Andy from pro guitar shop (now Reverb). He plays through the song first. Then, after shilling for whatever guitar pedal the video’s promoting, he runs through the song again, slowly. Throughout, he keeps the talking to a blessed minimum.