by Scott Zimmerman

This article is about how to know if guitar lessons are worth it for you, and how you can be successful if you take lessons. If you’re interested in learning guitar online, you can do that here by viewing our courses.

Private guitar lessons can be expensive. Also, they require time to be set aside for taking the lessons, and a commitment to regular practice. Let’s try to objectively set some criteria to determine if guitar lessons are worth it for you.

Essentially, there are two basic methods for learning the guitar: teach yourself or have someone show or teach you. (Teaching yourself includes using online tutorials, online recorded courses, books, etc.) Most guitar players have learned the guitar using both methods, at one time or another. But, if you’ve never had formal private guitar lessons and are wondering if they are worth it, we will evaluate aspects of private instruction, by means of a checklist, to see if private lessons may be right for you.

 Are Private Guitar Lessons Worth It? Private guitar lessons provide individualised instruction as well as offering encouragement and motivation for students. Guitar students who desire these benefits, in order to progress on the guitar, will find guitar lessons worth their cost.

Unique Aspects Of Private Guitar Lessons

Learning on your own and learning through a private instructor are similar in terms of the information that can be learned about guitar. There are many good video tutorials and courses available. In fact, there is more information available in these formats than any one teacher could possess.

However, there are a couple things that only a private lesson can do; and, if you need one of these things in order to move forward with your guitar playing, private instruction is the only option. Let’s unpack two unique attributes of private instruction, they are: Motivation and Individualized Instruction.

Motivation

Everyone is motivated by different things. This is where knowing thyself is very helpful. If you are motivated by being held accountable by others, or honouring commitments, or by justifying money spent, or by learning and asking questions, or any motivation that is drawn from a human interaction, then this type of motivation can only be obtained in a private lesson or class lesson. 

Individualized Instruction

When you are learning on your own, if you get stuck or don’t understand something, you have to figure it out or leave the question or issue unresolved. Due to the interactivity of a face-to-face lesson, you can receive real-time feedback to your questions and issues, as well as, direction from an objective source.

Should Everyone Take Private Lessons?

Ultimately, all good teachers want their students to take what they have learned and eventually be their own teacher and guide. So, if someone is able to guide and teach himself already, I don’t think private lessons will give them anything they don’t already have or can obtain on their own.

However, if you are an absolute beginner and prefer some guidance in order to get started; or, you are in a “rut”, so to speak, and need some outside help and encouragement, then private lessons may be for you. If you are in this situation, let’s take a further look into whether private lessons are suitable for you by asking a series of questions in the form of a checklist.

Checklist For Determining If Private Lessons Are Worth It For YOU

1. Do You Have The Financial Resources?

Typically, private guitar lessons range between twenty-five and thirty dollars per half hour. It will take a couple lessons for you and the instructor to get to know each other and set goals. After that, a couple more lessons to get into a routine of learning, practicing, and setting new goals. It is realistic to expect to commit to two or three months of lessons, in order to see progress. Be sure that you can afford this expenditure in order to give yourself an ample amount of time to see the results of the lessons.

2. Do You Have Time To Practice Between Lessons?

Frequently, many students have the assumption that taking a private lesson will improve their guitar playing without practicing outside of the lesson. This will not happen. Keep in mind, the lesson is for receiving new information and feedback, and for having an opportunity to ask questions. It is not a time for the teacher to watch you practice.

If you have other duties such as work and family obligations, you will want to realistically access when you will have time to practice, this will determine the frequency of your lessons. Be sure to find a teacher that is flexible in their scheduling. Typically for adults, every other week lessons are the most practical. This will give you two weeks to prepare your lesson. 

3. Have You Already Tried Teaching Yourself?

A good preparatory step for taking in person lessons is to purchase an online course and work through it at your own pace. This will give you a sense of what structured lessons are like at a fraction of the cost of private lessons. Additionally, you will be able to narrow down what your guitar playing goals are by trying different courses, e.g. Blues, fingerstyle, etc.

4. Do You Have A General Idea Of What You Would Like To Learn?

Having a general idea of what you would like to eventually play and do with the guitar will help you select a teacher that will best serve your needs and make the best use of your time and financial resources. If you are an absolute beginner, you may only have a vague idea, and that is ok, e.g. I would like to play my favorites songs, I would like to sing and play, I want to learn rock guitar, etc.

If you have some experience with guitar, try to come up with more specific goals for your next level of guitar playing, e.g. learn more about improvisation, writing songs, fingerstyle, blues, etc. If you are able to clearly articulate your goals, in your own mind, and you have not found an online resource, or you would like help with these resources, you are in a good position for benefiting from private lessons.

5. Do You Accomplish Goals Better With Some Type Of External Motivation?

We all have our own learning style. If you know that you accomplish goals better by having an external source of motivation, e.g. assignments, outside accountability, commitment to a meeting, etc., then private lessons will provide these for you. 

6. Do You Think You Will Be Comfortable Being A Student Again?

If it has been awhile since you were in a class; or, if you have never participated in a one-on-one lesson, think about how comfortable you will be in that situation. Even with the most mild mannered teacher, this can be an intimidating situation, if you are not used to it. You will be playing for a teacher, and the teacher will be giving you feedback, in a constructive, supportive way, of course. (If you feel that this may be too intimidating, an online private lesson may be better suited for you.)

7. Do You Have the Necessary Items to Be Successful?

While it may go without saying, it’s also important that you have access to a guitar, and if the lessons are in a face to face format, you have access to a ride to get to the lessons. I’ve had students before that have only had access to a guitar when they were at their father’s home on weekends, but not during the week. I’ve also had students that have had to walk several miles to lessons. It’s important to make sure you have access to everything you’ll need to be successful in guitar lessons.

If you have answered yes to the above questions, you are in a good position to benefit from private guitar lessons. Let’s take a look at the next step.

Steps To Prepare For Private Lessons

1. Write Down Your Personal Guitar Goals

2. Set Up A Practice Schedule (see: How Much Pro Guitarists Actually Practice…And Why

3. Determine Your Frequency Of Lessons, e.g. weekly, bi-weekly

4. Contact Teacher(s) 

5. Set-Up First Lesson

Practical Tips While Taking Lessons

1. Have A Clear Understanding Of Your “Homework” Before Leaving The Lesson

2. Be Prepared For Each Follow-Up Lesson

3. Cancel The Lesson If You Are Not Prepared 

4. Decrease The Frequency Of Lessons  If You Need More Practice Time 

5. Think Of Lessons As “Mini-Courses” With A Beginning And End Period, e.g. two months, three months, etc.

6. Plan Ahead For Taking Breaks From Private Lessons

7. Set Your Own Goals By Using Online Tutorials or Online Courses When Not Taking Private Lessons 

8. Resume Lessons If You Need Guidance or External Motivation 

Conclusion

Private guitar lessons can be worth the expense and time for the right person and under certain circumstances. If you are considering private lessons, determine your goals, develop a practice schedule, and find a teacher that is right for you. 

Author’s Note: I have been teaching private lessons for over twenty years, averaging between twenty and thirty lessons per week. The observations and information in this article stem from my experience working with students in a private teaching capacity. The checklist is based on factors that, if present, make for a successful private lesson experience for the student. It is also a teacher’s wish list for the ideal student. 

About the author 

Scott Zimmerman

Scott Zimmerman is a professional music instructor with over twenty years of guitar performance and teaching experience. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Music Education from Peabody Conservatory.

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