MYTH BUSTED: PRIVATE LESSONS ARE NOT THE BEST FORMAT FOR LEARNING GUITAR

 

BY JON CHORBA

 

Are you looking for a guitar teacher or thinking about taking guitar lessons? If you are like the majority of people out there looking for a way to learn the guitar and/or improve your guitar skills, you’ve probably thought or been told that private one-on-one instruction with a guitar teacher is the best method for learning guitar. Well, it’s the most popular method for sure, but if you want to become a well-balanced guitar player and reach your goals faster, it’s not the BEST method, in my honest opinion and assessment.

 

Do you want to know why private lessons are the most popular form of guitar instruction? Get ready for the big insider guitar-teaching secret. Ready? They are the most popular method simply because that’s what other guitar teachers do and have always done. Show me a scientific study that shows that learning guitar through only private instruction is the best method of learning. You can’t, because no such study exists. Private lessons are the most popular just because they are really easy to coordinate and organize and because they are the status quo.

 

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that private lessons are bad. I still teach quite a few students in private only formats and real results can be achieved. What I am saying here is that there are some very big disadvantages to taking only private lessons and no one is telling you about them. Before we talk about the disadvantages, let’s take a look at the advantages of private lessons.

 

Advantages of Private Lessons

 

-One-on one attention. In all honesty, this is the only real advantage of private lessons over other formats. In a private lesson, you don’t have to share time with any other person. So, when you have a question, you can ask it right away and the teacher can literally take you by the hand and walk you through the content that you are working on. Also, the most value that you will ever get from a private lesson is having the teacher watch you practice to ensure that you are practicing correctly. Most students don’t know the correct ways to practice and having an experienced teacher watch, guide, and correct you on your practice habits is essential to getting big results faster.

 

-Lesson strategy can be more customized. This is really only an advantage when you compare private lessons to group classes that have a standard syllabus, like a class you might take at a local college or community center, but it’s an advantage nonetheless. The students that I work with in private lesson only formats typically have very specific goals in mind, like wanting to learn a specific song in a certain amount of time, and I am able to create their lesson plans based off of those goals.

 

Ok…so what about the disadvantages? Let’s take a look…

 

-Not the best way to learn and recall content. The reason why people like private lessons is because they get to have a teacher show them exactly what to do. However, how much of that are you going to remember by the time you get home? Unless you have a photographic memory or you have permission to audio/video record the private lesson, you are going to forget the majority of the things your teacher tells you by the time you get home. Sure, you may get the gist of it, but the little things on how to practice and how to become more efficient are often forgotten by the time the student walks out of the door…and it is those little things that really end up making BIG differences.

 

-Comfort zone becomes too comfortable. When you are in a private lesson only format, you get comfortable playing in front of your teacher, but what about playing with other musicians and playing in front of other people? If you have goals to play in a band, don’t you think it would be a good idea to get experience with playing with other musicians and in front of people? You can’t accomplish that in a private lesson only format.

 

-Monotony. Sure, when you first start taking private guitar lessons, everything is exciting and new. Inevitably, lessons become routine, especially if they are at the same day and same time every week. It becomes a chore and chores are boring. So what happens is either the student starts losing focus (and therefore hinders their progress) or worse yet, they quit altogether.

 

So, as you can see, there are some pretty big disadvantages to just taking only private lessons. But let’s be fair here. Let’s take a look at other formats of learning guitar and see what the advantages and disadvantages are for each of them.

 

Group Classes/Group Lessons

 

Advantages:

 

 

-You get to play with other musicians. As I stated above in the disadvantage section of private lessons, if you want to play in a band or play in front of people (even if it’s just entertaining friends and family), being in a group class will make you a tighter player and it will quell the nerves of playing in front of others.

 

-You learn more. When you are in a group class, you get to see what other players are doing and not doing. Sometimes, another student will ask a question that you never thought to ask or were afraid to ask. In a group class, you end up not just learning from the teacher but from everyone else involved.

 

-It’s more fun. In group classes, you get to share the experience of learning the guitar with other like minded individuals, who probably have similar goals as you. Being in that kind of environment is not only rewarding, it’s also a lot of fun.

 

Disadvantages:

 

-Shared time with others. Depending on the size of the group and how many teachers are teaching the group, you may get very little one-on-one time with an instructor.

 

-Inefficient way to learn new material. No two guitar players are alike. Everyone has different goals, tastes, strengths, and weaknesses. What could be very boring for an advanced player could be extremely difficult for a beginner guitar player. More over, everyone learns at different rates and some methods of teaching can be more effective for some and not effective for others.

 

Instructional Media Based Learning/Self-Teaching

 

The method I am referring to here involves using various forms of media (i.e. instructional videos, books, magazines, etc.…) to facilitate the learning process. Like private lessons & group classes, this method also has its advantages and disadvantages.

 

Advantages:

 

-You can learn at your own pace. Because you have the ability to pause a video, bookmark a page, rewind, or review, you can really take your time with learning new material.

 

-You can review the material at any time in the future. Unless you lose the book or video, or the YouTube clip gets deleted, you can always refer back to it in the future. This has a financial advantage over private lessons because if you need to be retaught any specific concept or technique, you end up paying twice for the same lesson.

 

Disadvantages:

 

-No feedback or guidance. The video or book is not going to tell you if you made a mistake. You can’t ask the video or book any questions. Also, in the vast majority of instructional material that I have come across, very few authors actually spell out exactly how you should practice a concept/technique for maximum results. Usually, they just demonstrate the idea and tell you to repeat what they do as many times as possible. There is much more to practicing guitar then simply mimicking your instructor’s demonstration.

 

So, what’s the best method of learning guitar/improving your guitar skills? The real answer is that it really depends on what your goals are. However, the most successful guitar teachers that I know (the ones who get their students to guitar playing goals in shorter periods of time) typically have programs that combine each of the aforementioned formats. Here at DFW Rock Guitar Academy, I run a program called Guitar Team that utilizes Instructional Based Learning, Private Lessons, and Small Group Classes. This allows the student to get ALL of the advantages of each format without experiencing any of the disadvantages of choosing just one of the formats. If you’d like to learn more about Guitar Team and hear what my students have to say about the program, you can do so here.