Back in the old days, the only way you were going to come up with some guitar tablature was to hope that there was a store in your area that carried sheet music. There, if you were lucky, you might find a few major artists with a guitar songbook for sale. The Internet changed all that. Never before has it been easier to find information to get you started with almost any song you can name, whether its popular or not. So, the answer is simple. Can you learn guitar songs online? Absolutely yes. Now that we’ve got that spoiler out of the way, let’s talk about how to do it.
Too Good to Be True?
Yes, for no money at all (except the money you pay for an Internet connection of course), you can find guitar tabs and chords to almost any song you can think of. You can even browse an artist’s entire catalog if you like. It sounds great and it is great, but there are some things to consider.
First of all, the reason that there is such a wealth of tabs and chords out there is because it is created by the community. Guitar tabs are not “official” in most cases. This means that they were not tabbed from the official sheet music of the recording. The good news about this is that it isn’t that bad because guitar songbooks were notoriously bad at this anyway. Even really expensive songbooks from quality companies were a crapshoot. They will show you how to play the notes but they might take great liberties on the method and style to do so. For example, a songbook might teach you to play a simple open chord that has the right tonality when in reality there is a lot more embellishment going on. I used to have a Prince songbook when I was starting out for his greatest hits, and I can assure you that the tablature did not come close to helping you learn the unbelievable funk vamping going on on songs like Controversy or even Kiss. It showed a chord box and told you what lyrics to play it under. In some cases, it was actually a detriment.
The information online is probably of no less quality in that regard, but it has a good possibility of being wrong. A lot of contributors just have a bad ear for music and think they are playing the right chord or tab. You will immediately know when you hit that wrong note that you have gotten hold of a garbage tab. Also, a lot of people that contribute these on the net are just doing it by themselves with a guitar. They are not playing along with a record. While they may have the right chord progression for whatever key they have decided to go with, when you play along with the record, you may realize that you are way off base. Of course, depending on the situation, that might only be a quick capo move up or down the neck from being right. It’s also possible that you like a different key than the record, especially if you find yourself unable to sing along in the original key. Basically, there is good and bad to it, and you are going to encounter both. That’s the price of getting free stuff.
How Do I Find Free Chords and Tabs?
We’re not trying to be smart here, but it couldn’t be easier. Just use the old Google and type in the song you are after and then add in something like “guitar chords” or “tabs.” Unless you are looking for something remarkably obscure, you will probably find at least a couple of hits for your search. Then it’s just a matter of trying a few of them until you find one that is right or works for you the way the contributor did it. It’s also possible that it might be right enough to set you on the right path to figuring out the missing parts yourself.
But I’m More Visual
You’re in luck. YouTube is absolutely stacked with instructional videos, and while many are guitar lessons, there are plenty of lessons that are just geared toward one song. Give the search engine a try. If it’s anything even halfway popular, there’s bound to be more than one instructor showing you the ropes in close-up. Even if it’s not that popular, give it a try anyway. You might be surprised what’s out there. Some of these channel operators even take requests or will teach you a song for a nominal fee. There’s really no substitute for someone literally showing you one chord at a time how to play a song. That used to cost big bucks if you wanted your guitar teacher to do it in person, but now there are dozens of ways to get lessons just like this on YouTube and the Internet in general.
The Verdict — Guitar Songs are Easy to Come By
The Internet has really changed the game on this, and now you most certainly can learn guitar songs online if you know where to look and have a little perseverance. Google and YouTube are two excellent places to start. If you don’t find them by searching easily, consider searching for fan pages of the artist you are looking for. Many people have forums where they might post obscure songs from artists for the community that they know is interested. For example, there are sites that specialize in Prince guitar tabs where you might find a B-side track that you wouldn’t be likely to stumble on through search engines alone.
These are viable strategies to open your horizons and learn new things. In addition to just showing you the chords, many of the instructors on YouTube will introduce you to techniques along the way, many of which you may have not realized were being employed in the song or maybe you just hadn’t tackled yet. The key to getting better on guitar and especially getting out of a learning rut is to keep challenging yourself with new and exciting things. The world out there of chords and tablature makes it easy to always keep exploring the musical landscape to see what you can absorb.