If you’re new to playing the guitar or been self taught for a while you’ve probably considered getting a teacher or taking lessons. It can be overwhelming trying to teach yourself guitar.
But are guitar lessons worth it?
Well it depends on what you want to achieve and whether you can afford them. Overall though the positives mostly outweigh the negatives. Taking lessons will help you get to grips with the basics, learn faster and avoid or correct any technique issues you may have developed.
But guitar lessons aren’t necessarily for everyone. And many people have become amazing guitarists by teaching themselves.
So we will take a look at the pro’s and con’s of guitar lessons, which types are suited to different people, how long you should take them for and more.
Is it Better to Take Guitar Lessons or Teach Yourself?
It depends on what your goals are. If you want to become a professional guitarist or make the quickest progress then lessons will probably be the best option. They aren’t a necessity and many great guitarists haven’t taken lessons but there’s no doubt they help and will probably speed up your progression.
Alternatively if all you want to do is learn a few basic chords so you can strum and sing-a-long around a campfire then you can probably do that from YouTube and save yourself some money.
The internet and YouTube have made teaching yourself the guitar so much easier than it was in the past. There are videos for every type of technique and tutorials for learning all your favorite songs as well endless websites to help with any questions you have.
Can it replace in-person learning though? For some people the answer is yes. But for others one-to-one tuition is always going to be preferable.
Overall though the positives of taking lessons outweigh the negatives. If you find a good teacher then your journey to becoming a better guitarists will be quicker and easier.
Let’s take a look at those pro’s and con’s of lessons though and why you may or may not want to take them.
Pro’s of Guitar Lessons
The benefits of taking guitar lessons are:
- Structure – guitar lessons give you a proper structure for learning from beginner through to a high level.
- Discipline and Motivation – having a teacher will stop you from being lazy or slacking off.
- Avoid Mistakes – a teacher will pick up and correct any mistakes you are making.
- Someone to Ask Questions – lessons give you the chance to ask your teacher any questions you have or explain things you don’t fully understand.
We’ll go in to more details for each of those below.
If you learn online, via a course or from a book then there will be an outline of what to do. It will have a structure, but that structure will only go so far.
A book only has a certain number of pages. By the end you might have learnt the basics but then you’re left having to find your own way. The same applies to courses.
It’s still all on you to find the next course or book and hope it’s the right one for your level. You see a lot of self taught guitarists who have picked up random bits and pieces without fully mastering a lot because they lacked structure.
There’s no real roadmap with signs pointing exactly where to go when you learn by yourself. You have to try and find the right courses or books each time and then move on to the next.
And that can be really tricky, especially if you’re completely new to the guitar or learning an instrument.
With the internet being full of courses and YouTube overflowing with videos all promising to ‘Make you the Greatest Guitarist in 30 Days!’ its very easy to become overwhelmed.
A teacher though will almost always have a plan. They will have lessons specifically for your skill level or to help you achieve your goals.
As you improve they will know precisely where to go next and how to best help you reach your goals. So the structure of lessons is very important.
Discipline and Motivation
Most of us are a bit lazy. Yes, there are people who are super motivated to learn and dedicate hours every day to practicing.
But the majority of us either can’t or don’t want to do that. But we still want to get good at the guitar!
We want to improve without putting in the hard work that is required. And we will look for ways to avoid practicing properly, end up procrastinating or find ourselves getting diverted far too easily.
And that’s the problem with learning by yourself – it’s just too easy to get distracted. There’s no jeopardy or consequences if you don’t practice.
But if you have a teacher you have reason to practice. If you know you’re going to be seeing someone in a weeks time who will critique what you’ve practiced or the work they’ve set it acts as a motivator.
You don’t want to look stupid in front of them. Or have them know you’ve not put in the hours of practice.
So having a teacher will motivate you and in turn you will get better and improve much quicker.
One thing you hear constantly from self taught guitarists is years after learning to play they had to go back and fix lots of issues. Things like hand and wrist position, the way they hold the pick, not using their pinky and much more.
Why? Because when you self teach you don’t have anyone to correct you. It’s so easy to pick up bad habits.
But if you have a teacher who is observing you on a regular basis they can quickly notice and correct any dodgy habits that are sneaking in.
This can save you so much time and effort later on. It’s really difficult trying to unlearn a technique or something you’ve done for years that now feels natural.
Not only is it awkward but it’s time you could be spending getting better at the guitar. Instead you’re having to focus on something you should have learnt properly right back at the beginning.
Having a teacher and taking proper lessons will mean you avoid those mistakes and learn everything the correct way from the beginning.
Someone to Ask Questions
When you come across something you don’t understand – and you will – having a teacher means you can ask them to explain it. If you aren’t taking lessons and don’t have a teacher then you are left to try and find the answer yourself.
That means Googling it or searching YouTube for the right video. With no guarantee you’ll find an answer.
Which is why many self taught guitarists have big gaps in their knowledge.
There’s no doubt that having a teacher you can ask questions to at every lesson and discuss anything you don’t fully understand is beneficial.
Con’s of Guitar Lessons
It’s not all positives though. There are drawbacks to guitar lessons as you’ll see:
- Price – taking lessons can be expensive and more than some can afford.
- Availability – not everywhere has an abundance of teachers. You might struggle to find one.
- Bad Teachers – some of those offering guitar tuition are poor teachers.
You could argue if you have a passion for something and really want to learn then money should be no barrier. But for a lot of people spending $30-40, if not more, every week or 2 weeks just isn’t possible.
It may not sound like a huge amount but it adds up. And if playing guitar is just a hobby it can be difficult to justify spending that much on something that is purely for fun.
If you live in a big city then finding a teacher should be fairly simple. But if you live somewhere a bit more remote then it’s not a given you will have a local teacher.
Online lessons have become more popular and are a way to get around that if it’s a problem. But if you’ve got your heart set on in person teaching then it might be a struggle if you haven’t got anyone nearby.
Sadly there are lots of teachers who just aren’t very good.
That could be because they aren’t skilled enough guitarists themselves to be teaching others. As anyone can call themselves a guitar teacher and start looking for students it’s no surprise you get people who aren’t much above beginner level trying to cash in and teach others.
Alternatively you might find they are talented enough musicians but don’t have the right skills needed to actually teach. Being able to impart knowledge in an easy to follow way is a skill in itself, one many don’t have.
And sometimes you just don’t gel with a teacher. Whether you have differing personalities or their teaching style doesn’t work for you, whatever it is sometimes people don’t get along.
You can’t really plan for any of those. The only good thing is you are free to stop taking lessons with one teacher and move on to another. It might take a while and you might have to try a lot of different tutors but eventually you should end up with one that you like.
In Person vs Online Lessons
If you are going to take lessons then which is better – in person or online (either via an online course or with a teacher over things like Skype or Zoom)?
We’ve talked extensively about the pro’s and con’s of in-person lessons above. The benefit of remote lessons though is that you get the best of both worlds.
You’re still able to ask questions and get feedback from an actual person teaching you but you aren’t restricted by your location. It’s also more affordable and offers more flexibility.
You can have a teacher from thousands of miles away in another country if you want. This is especially helpful if you have mobility issues or a disability and wouldn’t be able to get to more conventional one-to-one lessons.
Whilst remote lessons aren’t without issues – internet connections can be temperamental, mistakes can be missed by a teacher if they’re not in the room with you – there’s no doubt that remote guitar tuition is a step up from self taught courses.
Whether you prefer them to an actual in person lesson comes down to preference and circumstances. If possible it’s a good idea to try both but remote lessons are
What About Group Lessons?
Group lessons can be a lot of fun! You might find your local community center or school has group lessons once a week and it’s a relaxed environment you can try out with no pressure.
The positives of group lessons are:
- Learning with others, especially if you’re all at the same skill level, can help you to feel less self conscious about your ability (or lack of!).
- You will motivate each other and maybe even be in friendly competition to see who can improve the fastest or nail a tricky song.
- They are a good way to make friends and find people to jam with.
The negatives are:
- Very little one on one help. As it’s a group you don’t get much personal time with the teacher.
- Nothing you learn is petsonalized to you. You have to learn what everyone wants to learn and go at the groups pace.
- As a group it’s easy to lose focus and let distractions get in the way.
- If you’re highly motivated and want to learn in the fastest and most effective way then group lessons may be a bit too relaxed and casual.
Group lessons are most popular with beginners and are a good way to get an introduction to learning the guitar in a very no pressure environment. Quite often people begin with group lessons and then move on to private tutors when they decide they want to take it more seriously.
When Should You Start Guitar Lessons?
You can start taking lessons at any point. Some people take lessons right from the beginning and carry on doing so for years. Others start learning on their own and eventually switch to lessons.
The advantage of starting straightaway or early on is that you don’t develop bad habits. But many decide to try lessons later on and find them incredibly helpful even as a more intermediate player.
How Long Should You Take Guitar Lessons for?
You can take guitar lessons for as long as you like. Some of the best guitarists in the world still have lessons decades into playing. Maybe not every week but here and there. It helps to keep them fresh and have someone they trust give them feedback or areas they should be focusing on.
You know the phrase “you never stop learning” – well it’s famous for a reason!
If you’re a beginner it’s probably best to keep them going until you reached a level where you feel comfortable doing your own practice. At the start having a teacher to guide you is extremely helpful as you don’t really have any idea what you’re doing.
You might reach a point where you feel like you’re not getting as much from lessons or that you can continue learning on your own. You could start to scale them back at this point with the aim of stopping altogether.
But at what point that is will differ from person to person. Really you should take lessons for as long as you feel necessary.
How Often Should You Take Guitar Lessons?
If you’re completely new to the guitar then the more regular the lessons the better. Once a week is the most common number of lessons and it’s a good starting point.
If you’re a bit further along your journey then having a lesson once every 2 weeks should probably be enough. That gives you a chance to practice on your own and learn by yourself but have your teacher assess your progress and help every couple of weeks.
As you improve and become more familiar with how you learn the guitar then you can do more by yourself. That’s when you might want to consider reducing the frequency of lessons. But that could be years into learning.
Are 30 Minute Lessons Worth It?
They can be. Some people struggle with concentration and so a shorter lesson may suit them better. You can also take two 30 minute lessons a week instead of one 60 minute lesson so you’re getting the same amount of tuition but spread out.
30 minute lessons are also ideal for children who usually have shorter attention spans. As they progress and find they are enjoying themselves then you can consider moving up to 45 minutes or even 60 minutes.
If you’re taking lessons as a beginner then 30 minute lessons are often recommended. This is because at the start there’s a lot of information to take in and struggles with the physicality of the guitar. An hour long lesson can easily cause burn out.
Once you’ve progressed and reached a higher level then 45 or 60 minute lessons won’t feel so overwhelming and you can switch to them.
And finally 30 minute lessons are going to be less expensive. If you have a limited budget then 30 minutes is better than nothing.
What is a Fair Price for Guitar Lessons?
This will depend on what country your in and to an extent the quality or qualifications of the teacher. Someone who has attended a prestigious music school or played with world class musicians will probably be able to charge more than someone who is self taught and has no professional experience (however technically good they may be).
But overall somewhere between $20- $50 is going to be the normal rate. Possibly more if you’re in a big city and have a really good teacher.
So, are Guitar Lessons Worth it?
Yes! Learning by yourself is worth trying and can have great results but nothing beats proper in person, one-to-one tuition.
While it may not be for everyone the vast majority will find taking guitar lessons with it. They are absolutely the best way to make good and steady progress, avoid developing bad habits that will need to be corrected and build a solid foundation of technical ability and understanding of the guitar.