So really, are guitar lessons worth it? Oh yes, for sure. At least that’s the short answer, if you ask me. And if there is anything that 16 years of playing has taught me, it’s that a good teacher will make a huge difference.
There are a few ways to go about the arduous business of learning guitar, so let’s get right into it. And let’s talk about why lessons should be something you should consider.
Different Ways to Learn Guitar
Needless to say there are a number of ways to acquire your guitar skills, so let’s take a closer look.
Private In-Person Lessons
This is what I would say is the most classic way of learning the guitar, and probably what all of you think of when you hear about guitar lessons. This could be at your local music store or some sort of music studio. Or in some cases in your own home, if the teacher is more of nomadic nature.
Either way, this is a golden opportunity to dig deeper into the stuff you want to learn and ask those burning questions. That’s why these types of lessons are so valuable. And of course rather expensive, especially with a good teacher. More about that later on.
I took several private lessons when I first started out, and they really made a difference to my playing. The teacher was a young man in his early twenties, but a very skilled player. He was more into shred-stuff, but gave me some invaluable tips for the future.
Private Online Lessons
Although not quite the same as in-person lessons, this fornat comes pretty damn close. And even have some advantages.
There are online schools you can sign up for that have teachers you can book for a weekly video lesson over Skype or Zoom. There are also websites offering independent teachers more or less the same way. This is particularly helpful if guitar teachers are hard to come by where you live, or if you just have a need for a specific style of music that’s only available online. Maybe there aren’t that many jazz players in your area…
Group In-Person Lessons
This would be your typical classroom kind of setting. Lots of people in one room, sharing a teacher. Not too bad, but perhaps not ideal. Definitely not as pricey.
The advantage here is of course the price, but also that you get to meet other musicians eager to learn. Playing with others can be both stimulating and inspiring. Which sort of brings me to the disadvantage. This type of setting can also be insanely frustrating, especially if you are more or less advanced than others. And getting some well needed attention from the teacher can be somewhat of a challenge.
This was actually the first kind of lesson I ever took, and it was definitely what spurred me to continue. Fortunately the teacher, an American metal-head called Zack, had an amazing way to get his message across to a large group of people. So for me it was a positive experience.
Informal In-Person Lessons
This is of course jamming with a friend, or a group of friends. Obviously it’s not going to be a lesson per se, but more an opportunity to get some tips and tricks. It’s probably not going to be enough for you to advance as a guitar player, but very valuable as an addition to any of the other ways mentioned here. If my friends want to jam I never say no!
Self-Taught With Books And Videos
I think self taught had a more profound meaning back in the day when “self-taught” literally meant you figured out everything yourself. Today there is no shortage of videos and books that will teach you just about anything, from techniques to music theory to learning songs.
But, even though this approach is very doable on its own, and clearly there are some successful players who have taken this route, it lacks in many other departments conducive to growth. There is no feedback to be had, and nobody to answer any questions you might have. And it takes the patience of an angel.
Teaching Yourself, Pros And Cons
Maybe you are on a tight budget and want to save money. Maybe you are hesitant about the effectiveness of lessons. Do they really make a whole lot of difference? Can you teach yourself to play the guitar?
Well, it’s definitely possible, especially in this day and age. But it requires enormous dedication, and is certainly not for everybody. It takes a certain type of person to succeed, and you have to prepare for a lot of trial and error. Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
It’s inexpensive. This is of course a huge benefit to those on a budget, and with so much free material available you hardly have any expenses at all teaching yourself. Why not check out our guide on 11 Best Free Online Guitar Lessons?
Freedom. You can focus on whatever you want whenever you want, and how much you want.
You set the pace. Find the pace that is right for you, and do things at your own tempo.
It’s harder to stay motivated when you go it alone, that’s just a fact. This is actually one of the biggest reasons self-teachers give up. Without a plan or direction it’s very easy to get distracted and frustrated. Progress is slow, and keeping a high spirit is very tricky. Lot’s of players end up too frustrated to continue. Remember, the guitar is one of the hardest instruments to learn. A subject we’ve already covered in Why is guitar so hard?
When you don’t have anyone to ask or consult you’re likely to also miss out on many vital and basic things, which in turn may hold back your progress. The risk of learning things incorrectly is a lot higher than if you had a teacher.
There is no feedback. Feedback is super important when learning new skills, particularly a musical instrument. It tells you if you’re on the right track or not, and what to change or improve on. And of course boosts your confidence when you do things right.
Reasons To Take Guitar Lessons
There is of course nothing wrong with teaching yourself, if you are so inclined, but there are a lot of advantages to be had from taking lessons. Especially when you’re starting out and building your foundation as a player.
Learn It Right The First Time
Getting the basics right is crucial for any future progress. If you hold the pick wrong, or position your hands and fingers wrong, or finger chords incorrectly you’re setting yourself up for failure. Imagine for instance a student only downpicking for a few months, and then realizes you can actually alternate pick and create a myriad of strumming patterns. Re-learning at this stage will add months to the journey. A teacher will catch this and make sure you get all the basic stuff right.
If you sign up for lessons you will be inclined to show up on time for those lessons. It also means that there are expectations on you, that you practice the things your teacher tells you to. A good teacher will not only know when you’ve skipped practice, but will also have the decency to point it out if necessary.
Being held accountable for your own progress will keep you on the right track those first crucial weeks or months. Also, you paid for these lessons, and nobody likes to waste money
Learning About All The Other Good Stuff
There is a whole lot more to the experience than just staring at tabs and strumming away. And the great thing about having a teacher is that the more you bond with them, the more you also talk about all the other things that surround guitar playing. Like which amp is the best, or which guitar, or how you can form a band and so on.
A teacher will share music experiences that will help you grow and better understand things, and also invite you to expand on your taste in music. Not to mention how related equipment works, and how to best dial in a good tone on your amp.
I could list a number of other things here, but the main takeaway is that a teacher often will fill you in on all the interesting parts that are somehow connected to playing guitar. And that sure is valuable.
To build anything, be that a skill, a company or a house, you need things to be done in a certain order. It’s just the way it is, and guitar playing is no different. Picture the way kids learn math in school. They start with simple stuff like arranging numbers in size, doing simple addition and subtraction and then gradually move on to more advanced things. These new skills then serve as a platform for adding yet more advanced formulas to the mix.
A good guitar teacher will go through all the right things in the right order with you, so that you build a solid base of knowledge. This way it’ll be easier for you to expand on that knowledge on your own later on.
To have someone bring structure and order to the things ahead of you also keeps you at a safe distance from overwhelm. It prevents you from being drawn to the wrong things, like trying to tackle intermediate stuff when you’re at beginner level.
As already established, guitar is a pretty difficult instrument to learn. So motivation is key for your success. Without someone to guide you and keep you focused, it’s easy to lose interest. Without a plan or direction frustration is likely to build, and you might trick yourself into believing you are not capable.
The encouragement and steady guidance from a teacher will go a long way to prevent this, and lessons are great for getting through those first hurdles.
Feedback On Your Playing
This is another crucial difference between guitar lessons and teaching yourself. For instance, a video lesson can only show you how something is done, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get stuck on that particular thing. A guitar teacher will be able to pick up on the subtle difference between what you are doing and what you need to do to make it work. In other words, your teacher can show you what to do when things don’t go as planned, or sound as you’d hoped.
In addition to explaining why the movements you’re making are producing the wrong sound, they can also tell you the exact changes you need to make to get it right. And probably also provide you with the correct exercises to make it all happen.
This is a very important role of the guitar teacher, and will shave off a lot of time from your learning curve. Haven’t we all been in that position, where we think we’re doing something right but after receiving some well deserved feedback realize how incredibly out of bounds we are? Why did we not consult someone sooner? Been there, done that, even got the lousy t-shirt.
Cost of Guitar Lessons
I think we can all agree that lessons are quite expensive, especially private ones. It’s been a while since I took lessons, but it seems prices range from $30 to $60 per session, but I’ve seen both cheaper and more expensive ones. Of course, it all depends on where you live and who the teacher is. Generally speaking, online lessons over Skype or Zoom fall into the lesser priced category.
One session is anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and I’d say that one session a week is definitely more than enough. The rest of the time is for you to practice. For more advanced stuff you might need more time, or maybe you can find something online that covers what you want to learn. More advanced players tend to fare better with instructional videos and online programs.
And please remember that good teachers aren’t necessarily more expensive. A high price tag doesn’t always equal a great teacher. Shop around and feel your way, and don’t hesitate to change teachers if you’re not happy. Do plenty of research before taking the plunge; does the teacher in question have a good track record and reputation?
Are Online Guitar Lessons Worth It?
Absolutely! They are a phenomenal addition to regular lessons or courses. In this day of internet galore there is no shortage of possibilities. Some of the premium ones are great even for those starting out and are mindful about their budgets, or have difficulties finding a good teacher.
Apart from actual one-on-one lessons online, you have a vast array of courses and video platforms to suit every player. Some of them are completely free, and then you have some more premium options available as well. The premium courses tend to be better and more informative, but they will cost money. I certainly have my favorites, so feel free to check them out.
Famous Artists Who Took Lessons
I know that some of the biggest rock legends, like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, were self taught. Players and bands in the 1960’s and 70’s didn’t have all the stuff available to them like we do today, and not all of them had lessons.
Listening to records, trying to emulate your heroes and learning from others you jammed with was commonplace back then. If you couldn’t afford lessons, that’s what a lot of players had to do.
However, you’d be surprised to know that many famous guitar players have at one point or another in their careers taken lessons or enrolled in a music school. This to further their journeys and gain more knowledge otherwise hidden to them. Here are just a few.
Kirk Hammet, Joe Bonamassa, The Edge, Curt Cobain, Steve Vai, Jimmy Page, Buckethead, Keith Urban, Joe Satriani, Brad Paisley, Zakk Wylde and John Mayer
You can check out the whole list here.
Clearly, taking lessons and being schooled in music isn’t such a bad idea.
So are lessons worth it? Oh yes, no question. If you can afford them, get them. If not, it could be worth your while to save up.
In the end of course, it’s up to you to decide which model works best for you. But if you ask me, I would highly recommend taking lessons, especially as a beginner. It’ll save you a lot of time and headache. And you’ll be able to build that basic platform of knowledge we all need, in order not to throw in the towel. And without ever letting go of motivation and excitement.
But why stop there? There is no harm in seeking out all the relevant books, videos on Youtube and online programs to help you develop further. Or jamming with friends or forming a band. That is simply how you develop as a player. The better you get at playing, the easier it’ll be to pick up new things by listening and watching others play.
So, time to choose your path and get going.