Anytime I write an article like this one, there’s a high probability that I’ll get a few emails from guitarists saying that they think lessons are a waste of time and money. They’ll then mention some amazing players that are self-taught. Because of this, let’s get something out of the way right now…
- On one extreme, some people will get to incredible levels of playing being entirely self-taught. For example, both Allan Holdsworth and Guthrie Govan are self-taught, and both are absolutely world-class players. Few people will ever get to their level of playing, with or without guitar lessons.
- On the other extreme, some people will not even reach a rudimentary level of playing if they try to teach themselves. They will fail miserably with trying to learn to play guitar.
Obviously, most people will lie somewhere in between these two extremes. This means that the majority of guitarists can reach a certain level by teaching themselves, but will probably benefit from the help of a skilled teacher at some point in their development.
With that said, I really need to stress here that the point of this article isn’t to persuade you to get lessons. If you want to go it alone, that’s great. And I wish you all the best! But if you have been thinking of getting some guitar lessons, then continue reading…
What Are Your Goals?
Before you even contact a guitar teacher, you need to think about your musical goals. The reason is that this will often dictate how many lessons you might potentially need. If you have very modest musical goals, such as learning a few campfire songs, then will you need to take a lot of lessons over a period of years? Probably not. On the other hand, if you have very ambitious goals then it’s unrealistic to expect any teacher to get you there with just a few lessons. You’ll probably need ongoing help and support from a teacher over a long period of time.
How Disciplined Are You?
The people who generally succeed the most with teaching themselves are very disciplined practicers. They don’t need a teacher to motivate them to practice their asses off. But I’ve found from teaching MANY people over the years that most people just aren’t this disciplined. If left to their own devices they will practice in an off-and-on way. In other words, when they start getting busy with work and other obligations, they don’t have the discipline to maintain their guitar practice. They will sometimes have days, or even weeks, where they don’t practice.
It’s normal for most guitarists to start practicing way more once they start lessons. They also find it easier to maintain their practice knowing that they will be coming for a lesson in a week or two. This fact alone makes ongoing lessons very valuable. If going to a lesson each week helps you to stay motivated with practice, then that alone is worth the cost of lessons!
How Realistic Are Your Expectations?
Many guitarists have totally unrealistic expectations with regards to lessons. They are expecting the teacher to help them reach their goals in a ridiculously short period of time. For Example: I’ve had students start lessons with me who had incredibly ambitious goals, and it was abundantly clear in the first couple of lessons that they had no intention of ever taking ongoing lessons. In other words, they wanted me to perform a miracle.
It’s also interesting to note that they had been to a lot of teachers before me, and had never stuck with any teacher for more than a few lessons. While it’s possible that they had incredibly bad luck with choosing terrible teachers, I feel it’s much more likely that their expectations were just totally ludicrous. They were expecting things from their teachers that just weren’t possible.
Understanding The Value Of Long-Term Lessons
In the world of classical music, it’s normal for people to start lessons at a very young age and then get weekly lessons for an extremely long period of time. The reason for this is that reaching a high-level of playing classical music is a very long-term goal, and many obstacles need to be overcome along the way. Getting help from a good teacher will almost certainly speed up the process of overcoming these obstacles. For this reason, people starting to learn classical music generally see regular lessons as a necessary investment rather than an unnecessary expense.
I’ve found in my own teaching, that the people I help most are the ones who commit to a long-term course of study with me. I can give them ongoing support, advice and guidance as they become more-and-more advanced as players and musicians.
I’m not saying that just having a few lessons wouldn’t be beneficial. Some lessons will definitely help more than none. But there is only so much help I can give someone if they only come for a couple of lessons. (It’s impossible to help someone if I don’t see them!).
A Few Last Words
As I said earlier, I’m not trying to persuade anyone to take guitar lessons. But if you decide to get lessons from a good guitar teacher, then you might as well commit to them until you’ve reached your musical goals. This will help you to get maximum value from their experience and knowledge. And, like many things in life, if you don’t commit to something, it’s unlikely you’ll get a lot of value from it…
- If you decide to go to the gym, how much value will you get from only going three times and then stopping?
- If you decide to study at university, how much value will you get from it if you only go to three lectures and then quit?
- If you decide to get guitar lessons, how much value will you get from only going to three lessons and then quitting?
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