Another question to add to this is, is it sufficient to teach myself from a book, or YouTube video or something like that?
My answer to that is it depends on what your reasons for playing, how far you want to take things, what you want to achieve, how patient you are, the style or styles of music you want to learn and many other variables.
If you just want to kind of potter about with it, happy to do just whatever, and amuse yourself and so on, and really not too concerned about too many technical ins and outs, then instruction of some description from a teacher is may not be your thing.
If, on the other hand, you really want to accelerate your learning and playing (at pretty much whatever level you’re at, beginner through to advanced) then there are numerous benefits in taking regular lessons from a good teacher. Of course, don’t take regular lessons from a bad teacher!! 😉
Why is this?
There are a number of reasons, but here are just a handful…..
1. You don’t know what you don’t know
One of the first things that comes to mind for me whenever people ask me this question is that you don’t know what you don’t know! There are some good books and instructional videos out there I’m sure, as there are rubbish ones. Even if you’re using the best book in the world how do you know you’re interpreting it correctly or in the most optimal way for you? And how do you know if the book or video has missed something? Or uses words or phrases that you’re not sure of?
2. A teacher can tailor things just for you
We’re all physiologically slightly different, so having a teacher to guide you in the pure physical mechanics of playing can prevent you from falling into bad habits (albeit unbeknownst ones) and/ or storing up potentially painful trouble later on down the line.
A good teacher will also have an armory of tools, techniques, studies, exercises and pieces to aid and supplement your learning – and to have fun with too!! Most importantly a teacher can help you to learn in the most effective way for you, not for the mass market.
3. A mentor can help accelerate your learning by helping you hone in on things you need to work on
Having a good teacher guiding you can also save you time and frustration. If a misunderstanding, sticking point or some other point of confusion occurs during your learning or playing your teacher will be able to help you sort it out and progress.
And, more often that not, it’s clear to a good teacher where a student needs a little further instruction or guidance on a particular technical or musical aspect where it may not necessarily be apparent to you (see point 1 above).
4. As human beings we’re biologically wired to learn from others
You know when you see someone fall over, or bang their thumb, you say “ouch”? Those are your mirror neurones firing up and simulating a watered down version of what that person is feeling in our own bodies. Our mirror neurons are what are responsible for us as very young infants learning how to use our bodies by copying what others do, how others move and these mirror neurones keep on working right throughout our lives.
So by not only listening and copying what a teacher is doing, watching and observing how movements are made to make those sounds can be a key part of the learning process. Apparently (and if you want to get technical about it), the same part of the brain (the right front insula) lights up in the same way when you’re aware of what your own body is doing and what another’s body is doing. If you’re making full use of your biological wiring and learning directly from a teacher it kind of stands to reason that it’s going to aid your learning.
5. A teacher can help cultivate not only your playing, but also your musicality, your “ear” and your sound
One of the key things a guitarist must always be striving for is the production of a beautiful sound – not many people want to listen to a thin, tinny sound right? A good teacher can ensure that your attention is always tuned into this vital element of playing guitar and aid you in the techniques (physical and mental) for physical production of your sound.
6. It’s fun!
Lessons are, by and large, enjoyable – who da thunk it?! (well, that’s a key aim in my lessons, anyway). Yes, one needs to work if one wants to progress and all that, but no one said the process had to be as dry as a dog biscuit and quite frankly reading from a book or sitting in front of a video can be a bit like that eh? Interacting with other real, live, warm-to-the-touch human beings is always much more fun! And whoever heard a book say “well done – that’s sounding great!”?