One of the great things about learning how to play the guitar is that it is a never-ending quest. No matter if you are a beginner just starting or a seasoned pro with a ton of experience under your belt, there is always something new to learn – and that’s a good thing!
In our opinion, one of the best options you can do to enhance your guitar playing skills is to take one-on-one formal guitar lessons with a well-qualified teacher. That being said, we’re sure you are wondering why I would take lessons when I can do it myself?
Great question – and it’s certainly one worth asking. Especially when you look at all of the free resources which can be found online these days.
So why would taking lessons be better for your development? That’s what we are going to discuss today in this article. While taking formal lessons isn’t a perfect solution (there are some downsides), we feel that the benefits outweigh the negatives. Let’s take a look!
Pro: You’re ignorant
OK – let’s step back for a minute. No, we aren’t trying to imply that you aren’t intelligent – not at all! To get our point, let’s look at the definition of the word ‘ignorant’: it can be defined as “destitute of knowledge or education” (Merriam-Webster).
Simply put, it means that you just don’t know what you don’t know. That’s not a bad thing! This is particularly true when you are just starting out learning how to play.
Not to scare any beginners off, but the bare fact is this – learning how to play the guitar isn’t something that people can typically ‘pick up and go’ (if it was that easy, then anyone could do it, right?).
Think about all you have to learn at the start:
- What the parts of a guitar are
- How to hold one
- Figuring out how to strum
- Figuring out how to pick individual notes
And that’s just working on the mechanics and the physical part of the instrument. Throw on even basic music theory (which is essentially the language of music’), and you can easily see where a beginner just may not know where to turn or what to do.
“Enthusiasm is everything. It must be taut and vibrating like a guitar string.” Pele
A good guitar teacher will be able to give you a roadmap to follow as you learn. They have been there themselves, so they will know how best to guide you along:
- What topics to learn.
- When to learn them.
- When it’s time to start focusing on something new to explore.
Pro: Holding you accountable
Why do some people hire personal trainers when trying to lose weight or just have better health? Because – as anyone will tell you – working out can be a royal pain. It’s so easy to be all fired up at the beginning and then lose interest over time. While a personal trainer can tell you what exercises to do, they also keep you motivated and always striving to do more (and do it better).
The keyword here is accountability. Accountability ranges from young children to guitarists of any age. And it can be a vital thing to have when the ‘going gets rough’ when, as a player, you start to hit some roadblocks and speed bumps in your progress.
One of our staff writers has an excellent story about this very topic. When he was younger, he had stars in his eyes, thinking that he would be the next major guitar hero. So his parents invested their money in a decent guitar and even more money with a local guitar teacher that had an excellent reputation.
Over time, it became apparent that our friend, in his young mind, was just losing the urge to be successful. He didn’t practice what the teacher was presenting, and it was blatantly obvious. So what did the teacher do?
He could have just said, ‘whatever – I’m getting paid no matter what this kid decides to do or not to do.’ But he didn’t. One day after another situation where our friend didn’t deliver, the teacher told him to put his guitar away. For the next several minutes, he proceeded to teach him a lesson more important than any guitar topic could be.
He pointed out that he (our friend) was wasting his (the teacher’s time). Not only that, he was wasting his parent’s time – and their money. And, maybe most important, he pointed out that our friend was wasting his own time. It was one thing to not care about anyone else’s time, but do not respect himself enough to learn was simply inexcusable.
He held our friend accountable for his actions. And it really hit home – it was a life lesson that, to this day, is burned into his mind.
Here’s the moral of the story: guitar teachers (well, any music teacher really) are the music world’s personal trainers.
Con: It can be expensive
Formal guitar lessons held in a one-on-one environment can be expensive. There’s no denying that, and it is a fair statement to say that it’s likely to be more costly than any paid (and self-guided) online lesson program you may come across.
But that cost needs to be taken into perspective. If your car broke down, do you have the knowledge to fix it yourself? Would you know what to do, when to do it? Would you have the right tools? Most likely, the answer is no – you wouldn’t.
A great guitar teacher should be looked upon as one of the best mechanics you could take your car to get it repaired. You are paying for the knowledge and experience that this person has and the fact that they are going to teach it to you to enable you to succeed.
One point to make here – as we alluded to in our introduction for this article, guitarists of all skill levels will pretty much always have something new to learn. So while some of our points about taking formal guitar lessons may seem to be directed at beginners, the very same things are valid for those around the block a bit.
They still may be ignorant (remember, that’s not a bad word in the right context) about specific guitar-focused topics, and they most certainly can get just as uninspired as any beginner does. And that’s where a great guitar teacher can make a world of difference.
In the end, we feel our recommendation to take formal guitar lessons (at least at some point when you are learning how to play) can be a priceless experience, and it may far outweigh any monetary cost that you may have at the time.
Discuss the pros and cons of taking formal guitar lessons in our guitar players forum.