The Elephant Shaped Guitar in the Room
Why should you pay for a guitar teacher?
Let's start by addressing the elephant in the room
I make a good part of my earnings teaching the guitar so of course I’m going to say you should get a guitar teacher.
With that in mind, let’s take a slightly different approach to this problem, let's not think about guitars at all for a minute...
Name a Skill You've Learned
In any specialised field, whether it be a doctor, lawyer, plumber… there is always going to be a certain level of training that they have received.
Take a second to think about your life. Think of a skill that you’ve gained and visualise it.
Did you get good completely on your own with zero guidance?
OR did someone help you along the way at least once?
If you did it yourself, first of all, kudos for learning that skill alone. However, do you think you could have got there more quickly and more efficiently with some expert help?
I’d be inclined to say that the answer is ‘yes’, expert guidance would (and definitely should) speed up the process of learning considerably and if you value your time, this is something you might want to consider.
"A good teacher is there to get you from point ‘A’ of your learning journey to ‘B’ to ‘C’ all the way to wherever it is you want to go via with easiest and most efficient possible route."
Hey, even after turning professional, I still took lessons from teachers better than me for this very reason. I’m still open to it now, even after 22 years of playing.
Learning Guitar With YouTube
I LOVE YouTube. It's amazing to be alive at a time where information is so easily accessible. And if you know what you're looking for, it can be a fantastic and fun resource.
If you’re reading this, you’ve no doubt used YouTube to learn something and once again, kudos for taking learning into your own hands, the worlds needs more independent learners like you.
However, let’s consider for a second how long it might take if say, a Doctor tried to learn his craft on YouTube. Comparing a guitar teacher to a Doctor might sound a bit ridiculous at first but bear with me.
Obviously, the consequences of a self taught Doctor may well be disastrous and life threatening and it’s safe to say that no-one is going to die if we play the guitar less than perfectly.
That doesn’t make learning the guitar any less skilful and it doesn’t mean bad habits aren’t going to form.
Why should we settle for bad habits that we might later need to undo when we can catch them early on and avoid all of that frustration?
YouTube also has a LOT of videos. It can be difficult to first know what to look for, secondly find something that is structured towards our goal and thirdly, not get distracted by videos that have nothing to do with what we're aiming at.
Our valuable 30 minute practice routine has just turned into another rabbit hole and funny videos and yet again, our playing suffers.
Online Guitar Courses
The next step in the right direction is online courses.
Many YouTube teachers offer these and it forms a part of how they make their money.
It’s definitely a far better option than just bouncing around through random videos.
Good courses are purposefully aimed at a specific audience, solving specific problems and are structured in a way that is designed to take you from where you are now to your desired outcome in a series of manageable steps.
Many course creators will also be able to address specific questions to the people who purchase their courses and this hands on approach is of course valuable.
Good courses aren’t cheap, but the benefits are well worth the extra money.
The downside is that your questions can be left unanswered until the course creator reaches their allocated time to answer them and if there are a lot of people, yours might not be answered directly. It's also not a personalised approach, it's a one size fits all.
All in all though, they're a fairly decent option provided you pick the right one.
Online Guitar Lessons
Even better still are online guitar lessons you can do from the convenience of your own home.
If you can find a teacher worth their salt with a good internet connection who doesn't rely on Zoom (because of it's notoriously bad audio quality) then this a really great option. It’s also incredibly convenient for both parties.
You’ll be able to ask questions and address your playing issues in real time all from the comfort of your living room while wearing your favourite pair of pyjama bottoms!
A good teacher will of course, charge a good price. But here’s a tip...
"As much as you can, do not shop by price. Shop by the quality of the person teaching you and what they give in return for your hard earned money. Otherwise you may well end up developing bad habits that another more expensive teacher will have to undo later."
In Person Guitar Lessons
There just isn’t anything quite like that connection you get with someone when you play in person.
There’s everything you can do in all of the above formats and more.
I know what I'm about to say sounds a bit cheesy but...
...when your teacher demonstrates a particular musical phrase or technique you can really feel the music as the notes of a seasoned professional guitar player flow effortlessly into the air.
Being able to listen this way in real time makes you realise that whatever you’re learning is possible and you get a real sense of the quality of player you might one day become.
You also don't get the occasional lag of online lessons and all of your questions can be answered in that exact moment. Pro tip, have a note pad handy for lessons!
Also, a good teacher should be giving you a write up of this weeks practice routine as part of your lesson.
Don't go away empty handed.
In Person Group Lessons
This one is probably the best option. In person group lessons.
There seems to be a pervasive myth that 1-2-1 lessons are the best way to learn the guitar and for the most part, I have to respectfully disagree.
Think of how you learned language. Were you taught for one hour by your teacher once and a week and then spent 20 minutes practicing in your room? Of course not.
What actually happened was; you picked up the skill from many different people, almost certainly in group situations and you practiced it consistently until you were fluent.
And in case you weren't aware of it by now, music is a language too which means guitar playing is also going to be absorbed more quickly in a well structured, engaging group environment.
It's the same in schools, we learn in a group environment. Now admittedly, class sizes in school can be a little large with 25 - 30 people maybe. That's why I tend to air on the side of 4 -6 people. per group.
In a nutshell, group lessons should be on your radar.
The exception to this is if a player is particularly advanced and needs special attention on very specific things with an end goal of being a professional musician. Then yes, 1-2-1 is the best way to go here in my opinion.
Trusting Information from Your Guitar Teacher
Here’s a point to consider, especially early on.
If you’re new to something, how do you know the information you’re receiving is accurate?
How could you know if your new favourite YouTuber is qualified to give you advice?
"I mean, if we’re completely honest here, how do you know that everything I’ve said in this article is accurate or trustworthy and coming from a place of care?"
The point I’m making is, you should do a little due diligence on whichever teacher you choose to put your trust in no matter what format you choose.
Do they at least sound like a good person? Do they have proof of their experience? Are there any videos of them playing, especially live? Bedroom videos can be manipulated easily.
Never be afraid to ask, after all it’s your hard earned cash you’re investing and you deserve the best possible outcome.
Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of how getting guitar lessons compares to YouTube.
We’ve addressed the various types of lessons such as courses, online teaching, in person 1-2-1's and group teaching as well as finding someone reputable and trustworthy.
I even mentioned that as a professional musician and guitar teacher, I still take lessons from time to time.
Learning is a lifelong journey and having a teacher is by far the fastest way to get there.
Rock on! 🤘
About The Author
Aaron Carrington is the owner of Carrington Guitar Academy in Bath, UK. Since graduating from The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London Aaron has played in high profile locations such as Buckingham Palace, The Savoy and The London Eye.
He’s been a regular part of the UK wedding and corporate gig scene and has travelled internationally to the Middle East to play in top quality residency bands 6 nights per week. The finesse gained from this level of playing experience is passed on to his guitar students.
Now permanently in Bath, Aaron strives to deliver the highest standards of guitar teaching at Carrington Guitar Academy by offering a personalized lesson plan tailored to each student’s goals. You may also catch Aaron busking regularly on the streets of Bath. If you're interested in guitar lessons get in touch to book a FREE trial lesson!