Plenty has been written about the benefits of taking guitar lessons, but in this article I want to talk about the aspect of stopping lessons. Specifically, how do you know when you should stop taking lessons?
When should you stop guitar lessons? We recommend that guitar players can stop lessons once they have developed the musical maturity to self-guide their growth and achieve their goals independently; however there are benefits to continuing lessons at every playing level.
With that said, let’s now clarify what guitar lessons with a face to face instructor can provide for you, and then what factors you can use to decide if the time is right for you to discontinue lessons with your instructor.
The Purpose of Live Guitar Teaching
Guitar Teachers Act as a Guide
The true purpose of a good guitar teacher in a face to face setting is really to help you as the student a) define your goals, b) set a plan for achieving them, and then c) ultimately guiding you to achieve them.
This is why any good guitar or bass (or another other discipline) instructor will ask you during your first lesson what your goals are. Every teacher should spend a moment to determine what the student wants to learn and why they are taking lessons.
To clarify, this purpose is truly different than just teaching techniques or songs to the student. This instruction serves a higher-level purpose of also acting as a coach or guide. This is why many guitar and bass teachers will provide guidance during a lesson, but assign homework for the week for the student to investigate further. They are acting as a guide.
And just like in any other area of life, having a guide helps us find a better, faster, and more efficient path. This is the primary purpose of taking lessons with a music teacher, as as a student, you benefit greatly from having this guide.
Working Side By Side With a Master Musician
Another benefit of guitar lessons that is often overlooked is that lessons provide the opportunity to interact and even jam with an actual musician who is a master at their craft. There is a real benefit to sitting down with an instructor and spending time on a weekly basis with someone that is a master at the instrument.
Unfortunately, many players choose to hammer out their guitar experience alone at home for months or years without ever taking lessons. Besides the lack of having a coach as mentioned above, these players are also never putting themselves into a situation where they get to play or interact with a better guitarist than themselves.
I remember when I was just starting out taking lessons many, many years ago, and how cool it was to jam with my guitar teacher. As a beginner back then, it was an amazing experience to trade solos with such a great guitar player, and watch him pass the lead back to me. No where else would I have had the opportunity as a beginner to jam with such a great musician.
Don’t underestimate the value you’re receiving from interacting with a better guitar player through your lessons.
Live Feedback on Your Playing
A final benefit of taking lessons that I’ll mention is the live in-the-moment feedback that you get from working face to face with an instructor. Simply put, a live instructor can catch mistakes before they are fully formed and hard to unlearn.
Having someone point out small (or even large) errors in playing or technique is far better than picking up a bad habit and cementing that into your playing style over the next several months or years.
When You Should Stop Guitar Lessons
Are You Able to Achieve Goals On Your Own?
So when is it the right time to stop lessons? The best answer here is that you could stop taking lessons when you are able to set goals on your own and meet those goals. You’ve developed the ability to find, evaluate and implement learning resources effectively. In other words, you as the student have become effective at being self-guided.
When you get to the point in your musical journey that you can independently set your own goals and implement the resources to achieve them, then you’ve reached a maturity on the instrument where you can still progress without the direct guidance of a teacher. You’ve become the Ph.D. student that is now doing their own research in a sense. This maturity takes time to develop.
Do You Have Other Musical Connections?
Before stopping lessons, also take a moment to consider what opportunities you’ll have once you quit to be around great musicians that are better than you. If you’re in the situation where you don’t have an opportunity to jam with others or don’t play live, quitting lessons may put you in a situation where you are no longer around any players that are better than you that you can learn from.
Don’t be too quick to cut off your only opportunity to connect with a guitar player of a higher caliber. If you revert back to playing by yourself on the guitar, you now no longer have anyone that can help you play up to a higher level, which is an interesting phenomenon that happens when we play with better musicians.
Remember that one of the fastest ways to slow down your guitar progress is to stop making music with others that are better players than you.
Are Lessons Financially Challenging?
Of course, many students will simply decide to stop guitar lessons for financial reasons, which is completely understandable. If you’ve fallen into this situation, consider your longer term guitar playing and find out if taking lessons less often, such as bi-weekly or monthly, is an option with your instructor and something that you could make the investment in. There may be other options available to you if you ask.
Whether you decide to stop guitar lessons or not, always take a moment to evaluate if you’re achieving the progress that you want. Taking a look at your progress and determining how lessons fit into that solution is important for your long term guitar growth.