Are Guitar Lessons Right For Me?
So I know what you’re probably thinking. This is a website for promoting my guitar tuition services. Who in their right mind would write a blog post discouraging people from taking guitar lessons? And to an extent you’re right, obviously I want you to come and learn guitar from me. But my primary motivation for teaching guitar is to help people achieve their goals as musicians, and I can only do that for people who come to me for the right reasons. So to that end, in addition to my own thoughts and experiences on the subject, I have collected some additional opinions from experienced musicians with different approaches to learning their instruments.
The reason I offer a free trial guitar lesson is to let students decide whether my style of teaching is right for them. It also allows me to ascertain what it is that I can do for a new student to help them improve. Usually within that first 45 minutes I can see at least one or two things that immediately need fixing to create a more efficient playing technique. But the students who always do best with guitar lessons are the ones who come to me knowing in advance what it is that they’re hoping to improve upon.
The students that I tend to find get the least from guitar lessons are the ones who do it because they feel they have to take them rather than they want to. Whilst adult students tend to know what they want, in younger students this comes in the form of parental pressure, with parents wanting their children to have guitar lessons because they believe it will be good for them. Whilst there can be benefits to children having music lessons, these benefits only really take effect if they're interested in music. Obviously you know your child best, but an approach I have seen work many times is to try getting them to listen to different types of music for a few months before asking them if they'd like to create some for themselves. Once you've done this let them try an instrument in a free lesson before deciding whether to continue. You may well find this is a much more effective way of engaging them in music.
There are plenty of good reasons to take music lessons.
Sam Cutbush plays bass guitar for the Portsmouth based band Foxer. Whilst he was initially self-taught and learnt guitar and bass from watching the players in other bands he’d been in as a vocalist, he has since had a few lessons, believing there is “only so far you can get on your own.” But is overall happy that he started out by finding things out for himself.
“I always feared getting taught the same as everyone would make me sound the same as them, but now I'm more open minded and realise if you be yourself as a muso then that comes out.”
Jamie Godfrey is a professional musician working in the High Frequency function band and with his own blues/rock project Triple J. Jamie was very quickly drawn to playing the guitar, and believes that the solid grounding he got from music lessons at an early age gave him the skills he needed to become a working musician later in life.
“The classical base I got when I was very young gave me the abilities I needed to progress to a professional level... Could I have done it without those initial lessons? Maybe... Would I have? Doubtful.”
Whilst their approaches are almost polar opposites, both of these musicians have achieved many of the goals they’ve set for themselves. The one similarity they have had in their experience with guitar lessons is that they had aims for what they hoped to achieve. For Sam he wanted to tidy up his playing as an adult and learn some practical theory, whereas Jamie he sought out the guitar as a child and the aim was to lay a solid foundation for future learning. The difference in ages at which they began lessons demonstrates that guitar tuition can have a positive effect at any point in a guitar player’s development (I’ve had students join me in their 60s and still make great progress).
Taking in to account what they have said, and my own experience, I would suggest that some of the key things guitar lessons can offer students are as follows.
Helping beginner guitarists get through the difficult early phases of learning guitar (where everything sounds bad and you need to know that this is how it is for everybody) as quickly as possible.
Helping self-taught guitarists break through the glass ceilings they have hit by correcting long standing flaws in their technique.
Introducing players to new ways of playing and types of music that they might not have sought out on their own.
Encouraging ambitious but undisciplined guitar players to develop a practical practice routine and encourage consistent development.
There are more benefits than these obviously, but these are the ones that I find students most frequently really need from me.
Do you need a guitar teacher? quite possibly,even if it's only for a few lessons. Take a little time to think about what it is you or your child wants to learn, and if you can’t see the path to getting there yourself come along for a free trial lesson. If I can help you I will. If I can’t, I’ll hopefully be able to tell you how you can help yourself.
Martin Sean McConnell Guitar Tuition 10/06/15