If you are interested in learning the guitar, you may wonder how to start off. Basically you have two alternatives: find a teacher, or teach yourself. I will explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of each path to give you an idea of what is right for you.
FINDING A GOOD TEACHER
The main benefit of learning from a teacher is that they (hopefully) have experience and expertise in the instrument that will assist your development. Although this seems obvious, many teachers lack enough experience or expertise to really help students learn effectively. Also, in some places it can be hard to find a decent teacher.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A TEACHER:
As I explain later in my experiences, it is hard to assess the effectiveness of the teacher from the outside. Also, if you are a beginner, it can be almost impossible at first to gauge the quality of the teacher. So my first piece of advice is:
1. Find out what others say about the teacher
Ask the teacher if you can contact another student of theirs to ask their opinion. Some teachers will be fine with this and others won’t. Remember that there are privacy issues here so don’t assume the teacher is bad if he says no – he may just be protecting the privacy of the students.
2. Ask the teacher how he teaches lessons
This question is great to catch out those who don’t properly understand what it means to effectively teach. Everybody learns differently. That means that each student should receive lessons differently. If the teacher responds with a set plan or method, move on to a different teacher. If on the other hand the teacher explains that everybody learns differently and lessons will be adjusted to your needs, it is a good signal that the teacher actually knows how to teach.
3. Ask about the teacher’s experience with guitar.
Obviously more experience is better. But there are always exceptions. Many teachers who have studied teaching may be great to learn from even if they don’t have decades of experience on guitar.
Consider the above points as a whole when deciding on a teacher. In other words, don’t use one single point to make your decision. Another important issue to consider is whether the teacher is part of a music school or a private tutor. In my next article I explain important issues with both types.
MY EXPERIENCES WITH TEACHERS:
I started learning guitar at the age of 9. My first teacher was a private tutor with an extremely limited understanding of guitar. In fact, he couldn’t play anything on it – he was a keyboard teacher. Although this situation sounds like a disaster, he was the best teacher I had. His thorough understanding of music surpassed that of all my later teachers and more than compensated for his lack of guitar skills.
After I moved towns I had to find a new teacher. I took lessons at a local music school and experienced the complete opposite of my first teacher. The music school teacher could play guitar but had a very shallow understanding of music.
The main problems I remember with this teacher was:
- He wasted time during lessons
- Every student learned the same material in the same order
- He only offered group lessons
After a while I gave up with the mediocre lessons and have never looked back.
The lessons I learned from my experiences were:
- Researching to find a good teacher pays off
- Not to assume teachers at music schools are better than private tutors
ADVANTAGES OF LEARNING FROM A TEACHER (SUMMARY)
1. Having a guide can help you learn at a fast pace
2. Teachers can pick up early on bad habits and correct them
3. Having weekly lessons can keep you motivated
DISADVANTAGES OF LEARNING FROM A TEACHER (SUMMARY)
1. It can be hard to find a decent teacher
2. Lesson prices may be out of your budget range
3. A lot of money and time can be wasted on a bad teacher
LEARNING ON YOUR OWN
Many people will straight away shun this path emphasising the need for a teacher. There are many good reasons to think this way. The main drawbacks of learning on your own include: slow progress, developing bad habits, frustration, lack of motivation. If you think you will have trouble staying motivated or don’t think you are able to learn something on your own, save yourself the hassle and find a good teacher.
However, some people have a natural ability to learn things on their own and develop skills without assistance. Many famous guitarists were supposedly self taught including Jimi Hendrix, voted the best guitarist of all time in many listings. One of the great advantages of the internet is the abundance of free resources available at a single click. You can learn guitar being a complete beginner all the way to advanced techniques all for free.
MY EXPERIENCE LEARNING ON MY OWN:
I did start off learning from teachers (as written above), but I eventually gave up because of the terrible quality of teachers that were available in my area. In total I had two years of lessons and I still considered myself a complete beginner. I then decided to have a go learning on my own. I started off learning songs I listened to and searched the internet to find lessons when I came across something I didn’t understand. It was obvious to me how much faster I was improving on my own compared to before. Since then I never considered finding a teacher again. I believe having limited lessons at the very beginning helped, but the one and a half years I spent with terrible teachers wasted too much time and money.
The lessons I learned from my experiences were:
- It is possible to effectively learn without a teacher
- Learning on your own can turn you into a unique player
ADVANTAGES OF LEARNING ON YOUR OWN (SUMMARY)
1. You can learn at your own pace
2. You can learn without paying anything
3. Learning on your own can build up skills such as discipline and initiative
DISADVANTAGES OF LEARNING ON YOUR OWN (SUMMARY)
1. You may develop bad habits that can be hard to correct later on
2. You may have trouble keeping motivated
3. You may learn at a slower rate than students with teachers
Basically the choice is yours depending on a wide range of factors. But the point is that either way is possible – don’t listen to those who preach that you must learn with a teacher. It is possible to effectively learn on your own, it depends on your self-determination. If you choose to find a teacher, make sure you find a good one. If you choose to learn on your own, find lessons and articles or books that you feel you can gain the most value from. I hope you have gained some value from this article and I will try to come up with plenty of valuable lessons in the future.
My purpose for creating these articles is to assist those who wish to learn on their own without formal lessons. I aim to post lessons and information regularly starting from the most fundamental aspects. So feel free to check back here if you like my style of explaining. Remember that everybody learns differently and there are many different ways to learn the same thing. Feel free to let me know any improvements I can make to this article or any questions you have.