Learning Guitar without a teacher

In my earlier post on guitar instruction methods I talk about why it is best to get private lessons from a good teacher.

I still think this is the ideal approach for learning guitar, for the same reasons that I listed before. That is to say, that having a teacher right there in front of you and paying undivided attention to how you approach the instrument will give you a level of feedback on your playing that you just won’t get from books, dvds, magazines or downloadable courses.

But I gotta say there are some very good reasons why you might want to learn guitar without a teacher.

You can’t find a good teacher in your area

By all means, look for a great teacher, but be aware that not every teacher is great. Some are incredible players, but just can’t communicate that well. Others are great at teaching but are disorganised and unreliable and will make a habit of cancelling or rescheduling your lessons at the last minute. Others are just lazy and don’t prepare their lessons properly. A good guitar teacher is worth their weight in gold, but a bad one is just a waste of money, time and effort.. and even worse, they will leave you feeling discouraged about playing. It’s much better to learn without a teacher, than to settle for a bad one.

You can find a good teacher, but they’re not right for you

Even a good teacher might not be the right person to help you do what you want to do.

Maybe you want to read music. Plenty of good players have no idea how, and even a lot of good teachers aren’t that great at reading.

Maybe your goal is to rip out jaw dropping shred metal guitar solos. This is not something that every or even most guitar students want to do, and a lot of otherwise great teachers will not know where to start with teaching extremely technical lead guitar.

Or perhaps you want to get really into gypsy jazz, or chicago blues.. and your teacher comes from a totally different background. Whatever. The thing to remember is that even though a teacher might be good or even great, it doesn’t mean that they are the best person to teach everything.


This is a big one, and it’s true – guitar lessons cost money. Usually not an extraordinary amount, but you have to pay for every lesson and it does add up over time. I think a great teacher is worth paying for, but hey, not everyone can always afford it and if you’re short on cash then you’re short on cash.

If money is a problem for you at the moment, consider downloading some Guitar Instruction Software. You do have to pay for the best programs, but they’re usually quite affordable (around about the cost of 1-2 weeks of private lessons), and you do get a LOT of useful material for the money you spend.

You want to learn at your own pace

A lot of teachers will want you to come in every week. This is particularly true for professional teachers.. ie those who make their living solely or mainly from teaching guitar. And you can understand why, after all they need to have a steady income just like everybody else, and students who only want a listen once every 3 weeks or just whenever they feel like it might not be worth the hassle.

For people who are serious about learning and can’t wait to get better, weekly lessons is a good thing. But some people see guitar more as a bit of a hobby that they just toy around with in their spare time, and only occasionally look at tackling something new. This is fair enough, so long as that is the approach to playing that you enjoy, and you might be better off without a teacher in that situation.

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