Learning to play the guitar: 6 reasons to hire an instructor

Whether you dream of delicately picking a classical guitar or shredding an electric, learning to play the guitar requires patience, motivation and reliable lessons. While you can take self-guided lessons online or through books and DVDs, taking music lessons from a qualified instructor offers several benefits.

1. Learn to do it correctly and more quickly

If you're just starting out, a good instructor can guide you through the basic principles of playing guitar, such as chord formation, terminology, techniques and mechanics. He'll also be able to correct improper hand positioning before it becomes habit and answer any questions you have.

Once you've had a few lessons, your instructor can tailor a program based on your interests and individual learning pace.

2. Get more accountability and structure

Practice makes perfect, but making time for practice isn't always easy. Regularly meeting with an instructor can make you more accountable for logging practice time. You're less likely to blow off practice or skim over the hard parts when you (literally) have to face the music the following week.

Improvement also comes from constantly challenging your current skills. An instructor can structure your lessons so that you're always advancing.

3. Lend a (trained) ear

When you begin to take guitar lessons, you won't notice as many mistakes or problems with timing and tuning. Your instructor's trained ear can help you key in on mistakes and become more aware of what might seem like small differences in tone and timing.

4. Round out musical influences

Chances are, you picked up the guitar to play a specific type of music. A guitar instructor can help you discover other types of music that might complement the style you want to learn, broadening your skills. As you progress, you'll become a well-rounded guitarist and may even find new musical interests.

5. Get access to equipment

Some specialty guitar shops offer guitar students access to higher quality and vintage equipment that might normally be out of reach. Availability varies, but this is a great way to learn about high-end gear and other guitar accessories.

6. Build relationships with other guitar players

Playing with other people is a sure way to improve your guitar skills. Watching people who are more advanced can help you pick up new techniques and stay excited. Teaching less skilled players techniques you've learned helps cement them in memory. A reputable instructor may be able to introduce you to other students with compatible skill levels.

What to look for in an instructor

Since you'll be spending some time together, look for a good personality match. You might not always like your instructor, but you will need to take his direction and constructive criticism. Talk to the instructor before you agree to lessons to make sure you'll get along.

Ask for credentials and find out how long the instructor's been teaching—a music degree doesn't always make a good teacher.

Finally, make sure the environment is one where you can have fun. Learning to play the guitar is hard work, but should be enjoyable overall.

Did you know?

  • The origins of the guitar can be traced back as much as 4000 years.
  • Musicians are less likely to suffer from memory and hearing loss as they age than nonmusicians.

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I've been teaching for 15 years and this article sums up how and why I teach perfectly. I will send prospective students to this page in the future.

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