Using YouTube to Learn Guitar: Bite-Size Guitar Podcast Episode 49

Episode 49 of the Bite-Size Guitar Podcast looks at how you can get the most out of YouTube when learning guitar.

There are countless hours worth of great guitar lessons on YouTube, but there’s also countless hours of guitar videos that won’t help you improve. This episode will help you find the best quality guitar learning videos as well as some tips on how to get more out of YouTube’s videos.

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Podcast Episode 49 Transcript

Hi, I’m Aaron from and this is episode 49 of the Bite Size Guitar podcast.

In this episode, I’ll share my tips and advice on how you can use YouTube to help you learn guitar. I’ll start by sharing some tips you can use to get the most out of any guitar lesson video you watch. Then I’ll explain how to find good quality lesson videos, as well as explain the different types of videos that may or may not help you improve your guitar skills.

YouTube Tips

Okay let’s start with a few useful tips on how you can get the most out of YouTube to help you learn or improve your guitar skills.

My first tip is to set up playlists for different types of useful videos you find. Any time you’re watching a video and you think to yourself “you know, this is pretty useful”, save it to a playlist so you can easily find it again in the future.

The way I suggest doing this is to set up a playlist for different things you want to learn and work on.

Have a playlist for technical exercises and warmups, have another playlist for song tutorials, another one for guitar techniques, another for music theory if you want to learn that or any other topic you want to work on. Basically, create separate playlists for anything you want to learn.

That way, whenever you feel like working on something, you can quickly jump into the relevant playlist and find videos you’ve saved to those playlists that you know are worth watching again – more on that later.

Adding a video to a playlist is as easy as hitting the save button, then choosing an existing playlist or create a new playlist. While you can just add everything to the default watch later playlist, it won’t take long before that list becomes a long mess of videos you’ll never get to. So create different playlists to make it easier to sort out useful videos.

YouTube’s Speed Controls

The second tip is to use YouTube’s speed controls to slow down or speed up videos to suit your current playing level.

Being able to slow down a video is a great way to try and learn songs by ear, practice songs or exercises at a slower tempo, or give you a chance of being able to follow a guitarist’s fingers better during fast solos or riffs. Once you get used to slowing videos down, you’ll find that you may not need those step-by-step lessons anymore. With practice, you can get to the point where all you need to do is watch a cover video, slow it down, then figure out how to play the song from watching the slowed down performance. It’s a great skill I recommend trying out and something you can learn if you put the effort in.

Speeding up videos is also useful for talking based videos. If somebody talks faster or slower than a speed you prefer, use the speed control to find a speed that suits you.

To adjust a video’s speed on the app, tap the settings cog, then you will see the playback speed settings. If you’re on a desktop computer, you have more control over the exact playback speed, or you can install a browser extension to give you more control. Slowing down videos is very useful when a video is shot in 60fps, so check out a video’s resolution settings and select the 60fps option if you see it.

Next time you watch a video where a riff or exercise is demonstrated on guitar, try using the speed control and slow the video down. If you’ve never tried it before, you’ll see how useful it can be.

Re-watch Useful Videos

The third tip is to re-watch any video that you found useful on the first playthrough. This is something I talk about in a few articles on my website because it’s such an important learning technique. Re-watching a video multiple times helps reinforce new ideas or topics.

When you watch a video or listen to a podcast, you’ll gradually forget almost everything covered in that video or podcast over the next few days. For example, a week from now, you’ll probably forget the majority of the tips you’ll learn from this episode. It’s a normal thing that happens to everyone and it’s partly what makes learning guitar frustrating at times.

The simple fix to overcome our natural tendency to forget things is to repeat them. Every time you re-read a book, re-watch a video or re-listen to a podcast, you reinforce your understanding of the topic and sometimes pick up new things that you missed on the first time.

I go into the theory behind this in a guide on my website, but the main point is that if you learned something from a video, make sure you re-watch that video the very next day to help the video sink in to your memory. If you can rewatch a useful video 3-5 times over a week, that will make a massive difference in how much you remember from that video in the future. It will help reinforce what you learn and make sure that knowledge sticks.

I recommend creating a ‘watch again’ playlist and add every video you find useful as soon as you watch them. You can still add the video to any other playlist you create, the idea with having a watch again playlist is to give you a reminder that you should revisit the video in the next day or two. Once you watch the video one or two more times and you feel like you’ll remember the main ideas, you can delete the video from that playlist. Still keep it in any other playlist you added it to, but remove it from the ‘watch again’ playlist so you can keep that playlist full of fresh videos to revisit.

So next time you watch a video and you feel you learned something useful from it, add it to a watch again playlist and make sure you revisit the video in a day or two. **Try it out with this video. Save it to a new playlist, call the playlist “watch again”, then watch this video again tomorrow, along with any other videos you add to the playlist today.**

This tip alone can make a big difference to how YouTube can impact your guitar progress, so I recommend trying it out straight away.

Watch Cover Versions

The next tip is to watch covers of songs that you’re currently learning to play on guitar.

While it’s great that there are so many lessons on specific songs that walk through the song one note at a time, don’t fall into the trap of having to rely on them to learn everything. There’s a lot you can learn from watching other people cover a song.

For example, different guitarists often use different finger placements or shift parts up and down to different strings. Watching somebody cover the song you’re learning can give you ideas on different ways you can play the song that wasn’t covered in the lesson you followed. You might notice someone using a different picking technique that looks easier than what you’re currently using. Or you may find a better way to play a part or you may even find the lesson you watched didn’t get a part quite right. You might also identify mistakes in the covers or bad habits you might want to avoid in your own playing.

Studying cover versions helps you develop a stronger understanding of the songs you’re learning.

Use YouTube’s speed controls to slow down any video where you see the guitarist play a part slightly different than how you play it. See if you can figure out what they’re doing different. This is great practice to help you eventually learn full songs by ear, so try it out. You don’t have to change the way you’re playing the song, but it’s good to practice this and study how different guitarists approach the songs you’re learning.

So if there’s a song you’re currently learning, look up a few guitar covers for the song and spend some time watching some. Compare their finger placements to your own, look at what picking techniques they’re using and try to find anything they do different to you. There’s something you can learn from every cover, so take a close look at a few versions for the song you’re working on. Don’t rely 100% on song lesson videos, instead, add studying cover versions to help you learn songs.

One side note with watching cover versions is to not get discouraged whenever you see a flawless performance. Some people make guitar look so effortless that it can feel disheartening, especially if they breezed through a part you’ve been struggling with. But what you don’t see in those flawless videos is the countless hours of practicing. You don’t see the mistakes they had to work through over and over or the multiple takes to capture the best performance.

There’s videos of nine year old kids with flawless performances of highly technical songs. Let those videos inspire you to keep practicing rather than discourage you. You’ll get there if you stick to it. Use cover versions to motivate you.

Types of Videos

Okay, so before I go into specific advice on how to use YouTube to learn guitar, it’s worth taking a closer look at the different types of guitar videos you’ll find on YouTube. Different types of videos can help you in different ways, and some types of videos may not help you at all. So it’s a good idea to think about what type of video you’re watching so you can get the most out of them.

First up, there’s the straight-forward guitar lesson type videos that aim to teach you specific skills or songs. These are obviously very useful and can play a big part in your progress.

There’s also lesson videos where there’s less talking about what to do or maybe no talking at all. These videos tend to show TAB or notation on screen during a performance. While typical guitar lesson videos are easier for beginners, videos with limited or no talking are very useful when you just need some guidance on learning a song or exercise. I recommend spending time trying to learn songs from these type of videos, because it’s a great skill to develop. If you spend time learning songs and exercises using these videos, eventually you’ll get so good at them that you’ll be able to just watch a performance, see the guitarist’s fingers move, and figure out how to play the song yourself. Maybe not every song, but you might surprise yourself.

The next type of video you’ll see all the time is cover versions. As I explained earlier, these are incredibly useful when you’re working on a song. Make it a habit of watching a few cover versions for any song you’re trying to learn and you’ll see how it can positively impact your progress.

The next type of video that’s very common is explanation type videos. I guess this video falls into that category. These type of videos aren’t quite guitar lessons, but you can still learn a lot from hearing somebody talk about a guitar-related topic. For example, my video on the 4-cable-method explains a different way you can connect guitar pedals to an amp and why you might want to try it. You won’t get better at guitar by watching that video, but you can still learn something you can put to use.

As another example, let’s say you currently learn all your songs from lesson videos where they explain how to play the song step-by-step one note at a time. These videos are fine for early beginners, but all it takes is for you to watch one explanation video on how to read Guitar TAB and you won’t need to rely on those note-by-note explanations anymore. You can then learn songs just by watching performance type video that shows the TAB alongside the performance. That’s the way to think about explanation videos, you can learn a lot and they can help you grow as a guitarist, even if they’re not directly teaching you something on guitar.

It’s worth regularly watching these type of videos, just make sure you don’t mix up an explanation-type video with the next type, which is..

An opinion type video. This is when a guitarist talks about a topic, but instead of trying to give you an objective look at topic, they share their subjective opinion on a topic.

Sometimes, these videos can give you great insights and wisdom. Other times, they spread myths and poorly thought out ideas. These videos aren’t likely to help you become a better guitarist, yet they’re very common because it’s easy for a YouTuber to turn their camera on and just talk about their opinion. I’m not saying you shouldn’t watch them, just know that you’re probably not going to get much out of them.

The next type of video is very common and that’s gear-based videos. Gear reviews, gear demos, or just talking about different guitar gear. As someone who runs a website called, it’s no surprise that I’m into guitar gear. But I know that if I spend an hour watching gear-based videos, that’s an hour where I’m not playing guitar, and I’m not learning anything important that will help me become a better guitarist. Yes, gear is important to an extent, but there’s a difference between watching a tutorial where someone explains how to use a pedal or get better tones from your gear, and watching 50 pedal shootout videos where they’re all comparing almost-identical Tubescreamers. As someone who loves writing articles about gear, don’t fall into the trap of watching endless gear videos.

The final type of video I’ll mention is a lot of different types that all fall under the entertainment umbrella. Memes, skits, reactions, crazy challenges, and all the vlogger style videos can all be lumped together as entertainment videos. There’s nothing wrong with watching these videos, but always keep in mind that for the most part, these videos won’t make a difference to your guitar playing. Sometimes you’ll learn something, but more often than not you won’t learn anything. If you’re struggling to find time to practice guitar, start by looking at how much time you spend watching these type of videos or similar videos on TikTok or other platforms. Most YouTube shorts are purely for entertainment because that’s what the algorithm pushes.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying any of these type of videos. As long as you understand and remember that they won’t impact your guitar playing. If you feel stuck on guitar or are unhappy with your guitar playing, take a look at the type of videos you watch and see if you can shift your focus more towards educational-type videos instead of entertainment-type videos.

There’s thousands of hours of incredible videos that can help you become a great guitarist. Or you can spend hours every day watching guitar related videos that won’t teach you a thing. It all depends on what type of videos you watch and which YouTubers you follow.

Okay, now that we’ve looked at the main types of guitar videos on YouTube, let’s look at how you can find good quality learning-focused videos.

Entertainment vs Educational Videos

The first thing to keep in mind with YouTube is that the best educational guitar videos aren’t necessarily the ones they push in their recommended videos. In fact, most of the best lesson videos will never show up in your recommendations.

A big reason why is that YouTube gets more clicks and makes more money with entertainment videos instead of educational videos.

A video with a clickbaity gimmick grabs far more attention than a detailed lesson on a specific topic, which means YouTube’s algorithm tends to promote gimmicks, memes, and clickbait instead of videos with a purely educational focus.

This is partly why you will see so many videos with clickbait titles such as ‘The 5 Mistakes Ruining Your Playing’ or ‘You’ve Been Using Your Pick Wrong’ with big red arrows and an over-the-top confused face. Then when you watch the video that has been padded out as long as possible to fit in more ads, you realize you already knew all of the points covered and didn’t learn anything. And it turns out you’ve been using your pick the right way the whole time.

Now I’m not knocking the YouTubers who make entertaining guitar videos. Guitar is something to enjoy so there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a video with someone who pulls faces in their thumbnails and makes light-hearted content.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that those type of videos are going to make a big impact on your guitar playing.

So the first point to remember is to not rely on YouTube’s recommended videos to help you learn or improve guitar. When you open YouTube, the videos you’re likely to see first pop up may not be educational at all. Some of them may be great educational videos depending on your viewing history, but they’ll keep trying to push clickbait and other stuff.

So what to do instead? Instead of opening YouTube and letting YouTube decide what you should watch, put yourself in control and try to use YouTube with a purpose. Before you even open it, ask yourself “what do I want to learn today?”. Then immediately type that into the search bar without looking at any of the videos YouTube is trying to push you to watch.

To some people, this will be obvious advice. To other people who open YouTube and just start binging videos without a single thought, it’s a crazy recommendation. But try it. The next time you find yourself watching a video on YouTube and you don’t even remember opening it, stop the video and ask yourself “what do I want to learn today?”, then type that into the search bar. If you can’t come up with an answer to that question, close YouTube and pick up your guitar if possible. Get into the habit of using YouTube as a learning tool rather than something to binge when you’re bored.

This is something I’ve been working with my students on and they’re usually surprised how well it works. Just try it for a week and hopefully it’ll make sense why I’ve spent so much time talking about it.

Finding Good Quality Videos

Finding the best videos on a topic depends on what type of video you need. This is why I covered video types earlier.

If you want to learn a song, your searches should include the song name and “guitar lesson”, “performance”, or “guitar cover” to try and narrow the search results down to those type of videos. You don’t need to see hundreds of reaction videos or opinions on the song. So make sure your search tries to focus on the type of videos you do need, mainly, lesson videos, performances, and cover versions.

If you want to learn a skill or technique, your search should include the technique name and “guitar lesson”, “exercises”, or “explained” to narrow the types of videos down. Searching this way should also help avoid typical “you’ve been using palm muting WRONG!” clickbait and videos with no substance. Some of those videos might have useful information hidden behind clickbait thumbnails, but more often than not there will be better videos on the topic that completely avoid clickbait and typical YouTube nonsense.

The main point to remember is to think about the type of video you need to watch, then try to narrow your search down to find that type of video and ignore all the other types of videos that won’t help you.

Also, try to ignore clickbaity thumbnails and titles. If the thumbnail has big bold text saying something like “you’ve been palm muting WRONG!” and an over-the-top surprised face, the chances are it’ll just waste your time. Watching those videos just encourages YouTube to push more clickbait your way.

General YouTube Tips

Okay, let’s finish up with some general tips and advice for using YouTube to learn or improve guitar.

A quick tip is to turn autoplay off. Autoplay is when YouTube will automatically load another random video after the video you’re watching has finished. Turn it off. Don’t give YouTube control over what you watch or you’ll end up in an endless cycle of videos that won’t help you improve. Watch videos with a purpose rather than let YouTube decide what to play for you.

Next is to make sure you don’t get discouraged by flawless performances. There are plenty of videos with incredible performances that seem superhuman. But you don’t get to see the countless hours of practice or the mistakes and bad takes that didn’t make the final cut. Just like you shouldn’t compare your life to the curated lives you see on Instagram, you shouldn’t compare your guitar playing to the polished performances you see on YouTube.

Next I just want to remind you that it’s okay to watch videos purely from entertainment, but don’t get fooled into thinking you’re getting much out of them.

Likewise, don’t get sucked into the trap of watching gear videos. You can spend the rest of your life watching a constant stream of guitarists talking about pedals, amps, and guitar features. Do you really need to see yet another pedal shootout comparing almost identical sounding pedals? If you enjoy those videos, just try to put a limit on how much time you spend on them.

Finally, just remember that the most valuable learning content isn’t usually what YouTube recommends – you need to search for it. Before you open YouTube, ask yourself what you want to learn, then search for that rather than let YouTube decide what you should watch.

Try applying the tips and advice I’ve covered in this episode over the next few days. Set up a few custom playlists, make sure you re-watch helpful videos, add any useful video you watch to a watch again playlist, try searching out for relevant videos that can help you with songs and skills you’re currently working on, and avoid the traps I’ve talked about.

Check out some relevant resources at

This was a much longer episode than usual, but seeing as so many people use YouTube as their main source of guitar lessons, I thought it was worth spending extra time covering these tips. If you have any questions about using YouTube to learn guitar, ask me on that page.

Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you next time.