Can you learn to play classical guitar from lessons on YouTube? Because of the sheer volume of videos on it, the quality of content on YouTube is sporadic and not guaranteed. You will find stuff not applicable to you at all. And the ones that appeal to you may be too random, piece-meal or isolated to give you an overall understanding of the basics.
Fortunately, there are some excellent resources to guide not only the beginning classical guitar player but also the intermediate level player. Let’s dive in.
1. LessonsByJames on YouTube: Quick and easy gains
This YouTube channel has close to five million views and its most recent content dates back to 2014. It not only continues to be popular, but the surprising fact is the site is mainly devoted to regular pop/rock guitar with only a mini section of the site for the classical guitar.
The approach is simple and direct – the first video on the classical guitar, for instance, is on the lovely and simple Spanish tune Malaguena. James Devon dives into playing the song right away. And then while breaking the piece down as part of the analysis and teaching, he introduces the basic concepts of right-hand plucking – free stroke and rest stroke. There is no talk of notation, no musical score sheet shown. It’s just a matter of getting the fingers to the frets and playing by ear. Job is done!
It’s this simplicity of approach that must have won it nearly one and a half million views, even though the video itself was put up way back in 2011. Especially to acoustic and electric guitar players, this no-nonsense introduction to playing the classical guitar must be appealing and accessible.
Other popular, good-to-play-and-hear songs for the classical guitar covered here are Greensleeves, Spanish Romance, Country Dance, Leyenda, Scarborough Fair, Espanioletta, Canario Earl of Salisbury’s Pavane, Ecossaise and Adelita. It can be rewarding if you prefer this direct and uncomplicated method of learning an instrument. On the assumption that once you learn the songs first, everything else will fall in place later.
2. Edson Lopes on YouTube: Great for beginner studies
Classical guitarist Edson Lopes has quite a few guitar performances in his channel worth a watch in their own right. But his performances of simple beginner grade studies are of great value to students. These show how a piece of music is to be performed rather than just played by going through the motions. Even etudes by the classical masters like Aguado and Coste and Giuliani were meant to be played musically, not as technical exercises.
These videos are not tutorials in the sense of being walk-throughs. They are simply performances. But because Lopes plays these etudes as pieces of music there is much to learn by simply observing the master at work. Like I said, don’t expect any words of advice or guidance. There aren’t any.
The works here are the standard staples from the well known classical period composers. And the playlist shows the following:
AGUADO, Dionisio (1784-1849)
- Lesson No. 19 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
- Lesson No. 40 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
- Exercise No. 8 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
- Lesson No. 38 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
- Exercise No. 3 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
- Lesson No. 20 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
- Exercise No. 2 from Nouvelle Methode de Guitare, Op. 6
CANO, Antonio (1811-1897)
- Exercise No. 4 from Metodo Completo de Guitarra
- Exercise No. 3 from Metodo Completo de Guitarra
CARCASSI, Matteo (1792-1853)
- Etude No. 10 (Op. 21, No. 17)
CARULLI, Ferdinando (1770-1841)
- No. 6 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare, Op. 241
- No. 5 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare, Op. 241
COSTE, Napoléon (1805-1883)
- Lesson No. 5 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare
- Lesson No. 16 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare
- Lesson No. 14 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare
- Lesson No. 13 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare
- Lesson No. 21 from Méthodo Completo pour la Guitare
GIULIANI, Mauro (1781-1829)
- Op. 51, No. 1
- Op. 51, No. 2
- Op. 50, No. 6
TÁRREGA, Francisco (1852-1909)
- Etude in C Major
3. Bradford Werner’s YouTube channel: Structured for beginners
This YouTube channel is a gem. Here is a set of 25 video lessons that are meant to go hand in hand with Werner’s free PDF method which you can download from thisisclassicalguitar.com or from the link below these YouTube videos. Many of these videos are duet performances although of the elementary kind. A total beginner can skip over these duet videos and get to the meat of the instruction from the rest of the videos. These videos deal with the how-to of playing the beginner etudes listed in the PDF method.
Werner does the teaching in his patient and thorough style and the beginner can learn a lot about the basics of classical guitar playing – forefinger and middle finger alternation of the right hand, open string exercises, left hand placements and much more – using the etudes as examples of techniques to learn.
These videos are from 2017 and still hold good in every sense. There is a similar set he did in 2016 for an earlier version of his PDF method which is also worth learning from. It is a series of 96 videos, covering not only etudes but also specific technical lessons on slurs, cross string exercises, arpeggio patterns, left-hand exercises, warm-up routines and similar coaching material all aimed at the beginner. This playlist goes under the name of Beginner and Easy Classical Guitar and is a great resource.
4. Classical Guitar Shed on YouTube: The biggest resource for tutorials
Guitarist and teacher Allen Mathews has a whole YouTube treasure-house of a channel, full of goodies for the beginner as well as for intermediate players. In his channel, there is a playlist called Tutorials which has a humongous 364 video lessons covering topics such as dynamics, triplets, phrasing, LH independence, harmonics, beginner mistakes, guitar squeaks, practice tips, scale practice, arpeggios, slurs, repertoire how-tos and ornaments. Each video is on average about 7 to 8 minutes in ready-to-digest form.
There is a similar collection of short video lessons under the playlist title of Practice tips which has 289 videos. These cover topics such as phrasing, capos, accents, injuries, segovia scales, stretches and warm-ups, sight reading, tone production, the works!
And yet another YouTube playlist titled Technique holds nearly 190 video lessons for learning to use mirrors, legato playing, shifts up the fingerboard and vibrato.
There is a wealth of material for free covered in these three playlists. Obviously, there are many overlaps and the same videos feature in multiple playlists. Even then this is a massive learning resource. The only downside for a total beginner is having to try and make sense of everything here – especially, where to begin and how exactly to proceed. For a diligent student, the educational material is all there, ready to be devoured.
5. Classical Guitar Corner on YouTube: A great learning ground for intermediates
This is the YouTube channel for one of the foremost teachers of classical guitar in the online world, Dr Simon Powis of Classical Guitar Corner. There aren’t hundreds of videos and they aren’t all for a total beginner, but there is valuable guidance for a classical guitarist who has gone beyond the basics.
The Repertoire tutorials playlist caters to early intermediate guitarists. The pieces themselves are not too difficult unless you are completely new to the classical guitar and the explanations and guidance are top notch. Powis is a thoughtful and gifted teacher, who gets to the heart of musical interpretation with clear explanations and demos. The kind of pieces explored in some depth include:
- Capricho Arabe by Tarrega
- Prelude No. 1 by Villa-Lobos
- Prelude by de Visée
- Lagrima by Tarrega
- Sonata in A by Scarlatti
- Largo BWV 1056 by Bach
These are popular pieces for players who have gotten beyond the initial stages. Powis’s instructions and approach are refreshing and of a high standard.
The Technique tutorials playlist has 15 video lessons covering aspects like slurs, learning the fretboard, getting a sweet tone, warm-up exercises, string crossing, basic posture, pi scales, fixed fingers exercise, economy of motion, buzzing, left-hand preparation and left-hand exercises. The quality of instruction is excellent and precise.
6. Gohar Vardanyan’s Lessonettes on YouTube: Pick up performance ideas
Vardanyan is a US-based concert classical guitarist who is associated with the leading guitar strings online retailer Strings by Mail and is sponsored by them. Her YouTube channel playlist Lessonettes with Gohar Vardanyan has a set of 40 video lessons that can be of great value to intermediate players.
She covers topics like right hand exercises, metronome speed practice, LH shifts, hinge bars, bar chords, trills, scale practice, tone production, vibrato and slurs. Her two-part video on the technique of tremolo is very instructive. In general, her videos are short and about 5 minutes long. Her style is direct and engaging, her playing is precise. She always comes across as a thoughtful player who believes in slowing down the learning tempo to master accuracy first. Speed will follow.
Also of great interest and value to guitarists is her YouTube playlist Guitar Etudes with Gohar Vardanyan. In about 10 minutes for each video, Vardanyan teaches you the essentials of playing various famous etudes written for the classical guitar. There are more than 35 videos in all here. Composers like Sor, Giuliani, Brouwer, Carcassi, Villa-Lobos, Aguado, Tarrega, Sagreras, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Barrios and Pujol are all represented here with their well-known etudes. Her instruction quality is impeccable. There is a lot to learn here.
7. Tatyana Ryzhkova’s YouTube tutorials: For next-level performance
Tatyana Ryzhkova is the kind YouTube sensations are made of. Her videos have excellent production value, her playing is superb, her attitude is vibrant and infectious and all in all she is a performer you’d love to watch. Her Bach renditions among many others in her repertoire are of a high caliber.
For all her skills as a performer, Ryzhkova is also a charming and vivacious YouTube host with her numerous playing tips and interviews. She has many videos of instruction that are great value to intermediate guitarists looking to up their game. Her experience as a performer comes to the fore when she takes up subjects like memorization and avoiding tension in the hands. She also gets to basic topics like how to practice, how to choose a classical guitar for yourself and even has a couple of videos on the subject of guitar strings.
In addition, her YouTube playlist Guitar Tutorials deals with warm-up exercises, barre tips, right-hand exercises, tremolo, memorization tips, melody vs accompaniment, practice routines, shaping your nails, scales, avoiding tension while playing, etc. Some of these videos overlap with her other popular playlist Ask Tatyana in which she answers specific questions asked by her fans. Her observations and advice are always worth a watch, to say the least.
8. Douglas Niedt on YouTube: Learn useful technical skills
This YouTube channel is different from all the ones we’ve discussed so far. It is not about learning a bunch of classical guitar tips. It’s about just this one aspect of playing the guitar – the ability to play scale passages fast.
Douglas Niedt is a guitarist of repute and a teacher who runs his site douglasniedt.com which is full of helpful tips on practically every aspect of classical guitar playing, Most of his technique tips are free and if you can dish out a measly $3 a month you get access to all of his technique tips. Very worthwhile indeed. Typically these tips are in the form of articles dealing with some aspect of playing technique. Each article is chock full of numerous videos that break down the topic into tiny chunks with excellent instruction that spares no detail.
Since a classical guitarist is often asked by friends to play fast passages for their amusement, it is always a useful skill to have in the bag. Ideally, the skill is to be used not for showing off but for purely musical demands made by a composer. In his playlist Douglas Niedt on fast scales, the guitarist breaks down the subject matter into 20 tiny videos under two minutes’ duration each and guides the student to the ultimate goal with step-by-step training.
Just on the single topic of speed playing, this set of videos delivers. You can, if you wish, also read the associated article on speed playing on Niedt’s site to better learn the technique.
If you want to supplement your YouTube lessons with some tried and trusted method books, check out my 6 Method Books for Classical Guitar for details. For intermediate players I have an article 12 Essential Classical Guitar Books to help. To get further tips on teaching yourself to play the classical guitar, read my piece Self-teaching Classical Guitar.
Instead of printed books, if you prefer learning from websites that offer video courses read my article Video Courses for learning Classical Guitar and gauge your options.
You may be wondering how long it takes to become proficient in playing the guitar. I have shared practical and realistic estimates in my article How Long Does It Take to Learn the Classical Guitar? to help you with the time frames.