I started playing guitar in 1984 at the age of 15. At that time, the landscape of teaching and learning the guitar was much different than it is today. Actually “much” is an understatement. Let’s use the words “polar opposite.” In those days there were no such things as easy tabs or guitar learning software. In fact, there were no CD’s. Cassette tapes were the "new thing." There were very few accurate guitar books, and even fewer good guitar teachers. Laptops, tablets, cell phones, and for that matter the internet, did not exist. We had to do it the old school way. With our eyes, ears, brains, common sense and a whole lot of practice and love of the instrument.
Because of the learning landscape of the day, there were no such things as video guitar lessons. There were no such thing as “FREE” lessons anywhere (free usually means useless). This was, in hindsight, the very best situation I could have been in. It resulted my drive and focus, and in many ways is the reason that I still play today. I have a had a 36-year relationship with the guitar, as a player, writer, recording artist, live performer, and teacher.
After researching and seeing what players are up against now in the nearly impossible search for quality guitar education, I count my blessings every day. I was lucky enough to have an amazing private guitar teacher who cared, to help me navigate the maze of learning the guitar; guiding me into the right direction and steering me away from things that would destroy my progress.
I am now proud to be following in my teacher’s footsteps and helping guitar players excel and reach their goals on the guitar. Ours is a thriving guitar lesson studio with many happy students. Happy because they make progress while their friends and peers continue to struggle. I don’t take much credit for anything other than guiding them. The students do the work. They drive the boat; I simply help them to navigate the waters.
The NUMBER 1 REASON that people seek out professional, personal guidance for a guitar teacher (other than maybe being a beginner just staring out), is because they have been trying to learn on their own with video guitar lessons. You know the ones. YouTube, although pretty good for learning how to wash your dog or to make great enchiladas, falls way short of offering up anything in the lines of effective guitar lesson programs.
Free video lessons are not the way to learn guitar unless you really want to spend all your time wading through things that don’t’ work, getting confused and frustrated from conflicting information, and getting side tracked because the newest viral video of your favorite bands, or of how to groom your Pomeranian are lurking in the side bar screaming for your attention.
If you really want to scramble your own eggs, do a Google search, for “video guitar lessons” and it will reveal about a million results on how to play the guitar. For the aspiring guitar student, it can be frustrating and overwhelming to sort through countless video lessons to find the one with the information they’re looking for. And even if they find the information, it is often incomplete and in direct conflict with the very next piece of information in the search.
As a beginner, it can also be almost impossible to determine when you are or aren’t getting accurate information and becomes much easier to put the guitar down in a cool looking spot in your house and turn on the PlayStation.
Although there is no shortage of video guitar lessons out there, you absolutely should never rely on pre-recorded video lessons alone to learn how to play the instrument. In this article, I’ll explain five ways that learning from pre-recorded video guitar lessons can hurt your progress and damage your guitar playing, and worse, get you to contemplate giving up on the guitar entirely.
The 5 reasons that online guitar lessons can hurt your progress and damage your playing.
1.They’re a One-Way Conversation
Guitar students need guidance, feedback, and constructive criticism, but video guitar lessons are a one-way conversation. You can’t stop mid-lesson if you have a pressing question to ask or need clarification.
Best you can do is to stop the video and watch the same part that confused you in the first place again and again.
Perhaps the most important aspect of in-person lessons with an experienced guitar teacher is that you have an informed pair of eyes and ears watching and listening to you play. When something isn’t going the way it should, you have someone with the knowledge who can point it out to you. With a good teacher’s guidance, you’ll begin to learn to identify and correct mistakes on your own before they become bad habits ingrained into your playing. These are the habits that make you struggle and have a much more difficult time playing the guitar.
2. The Lessons Aren’t Custom-Built to Your Individual Needs
Pre-recorded video guitar lessons are specifically made to be applicable to thousands of students with different learning styles. But the most effective guitar lessons aren’t one-size-fits-all, cookie cutter plans taken one after another. Each student has different goals, ambition, taste, and reasons. That’s’ why each student will need a different strategy to achieve what he or she desires to achieve.
What one student finds impossible to overcome, another student might breeze through with little thought. Without a good teacher to help plan a course of action, students frequently jump between pieces that are either too easy or too difficult. They have trouble gradually building their skills. A teacher will notice where a student’s struggles lie and help create and effective (it will work) and efficient (it will work quickly) practice that will build those skills.
3. You Pick up Bad Habits
When learning a new chord, solo, scale, or song, aspiring players tend to play however it feels “right” to them. If playing with a certain fingering feels correct, a student has no reason to think they should be playing it differently. Even if they notice something is off on their own, they rarely know what to replace the incorrect habit with.
This is another reason why it can be dangerous to learn the guitar without any feedback from a live instructor. A teacher is often the sole voice of clarity for students who naturally revert to motions that their hands are familiar with. If you’ve ever struggled with a barre chord, scale pattern, song part, solo, or other concept, you know what I’m talking about.
If you’re learning from video guitar lessons alone, it can be easy to fall into the habit of playing something the wrong way, just because it “feels easier.” When working with a private teacher, you’ll learn new ways to master tricky concepts more efficiently, and to develop your skills in a balanced way that allows you to play everything you play at a much higher level.
4. You Will Get Discouraged
When attempting to learn the guitar from videos alone, self-taught students are more prone to choosing something that is too difficult for their skill level. These students often get frustrated and discouraged when their playing doesn’t sound as good as they want it to right off the bat. Unchecked frustration and discouragement almost always lead to quitting the guitar altogether.
In the rare case that a student begins with something easy, they frequently move on too soon and jump to something much harder right away. Most guitar players are out of balance with their skills. This is because they are practicing the wrong things in the wrong order in the wrong way and at the wrong time. Ninety percent of the time when you talk to people who have quit the guitar, it’s because they tried to teach themselves.
5. You Will Miss Out on Music Theory
Music theory is a necessity when learning how to play the guitar. Most video guitar lessons either focus on a specific technique, or exclusively on theory. But to really understand music theory, it must be consistently applied in a musical setting. Preferably in the music that you are actively pursuing.
Students understand theory best if it’s a part of their musical language and expression from the beginning. If as a beginner, you focus on watching YouTube tutorials for all your favorite songs, you will definitely miss out on a deeper understanding of the music itself. If you think your favorite pro players do not know music theory and how to use it, think again. It is nearly impossible to become proficient on the guitar without it. And it is completely impossible to become a pro without knowledge of Theory and how- to apply it.
Learning music theory is like learning a foreign language. Because music theory can be difficult to understand, it’s best to learn in an interactive environment where you can ask questions. Try taking online or in-person music theory classes from a qualified live instructor and you’ll find yourself learning much quicker than with pre-recorded lessons.
With the help of an experienced guitar teacher, you have a much greater shot at musical success. Video guitar lessons are best when used as a supplemental tool or for entertainment purposes (Its sometimes fun to watch online “teachers” yell like car salesmen or completely screw up and do it wrong. A qualified teacher can help protect you from conflicting, bad, and just plan wrong advice, which is rampant and abounding online (some of which can even cause injury).
Don’t keep trying to press forward on your own when excellent, reliable help is so readily available! Find a trusted and qualified guitar teacher near you and start out and stay on the right path to achieving your goals and becoming a great guitarist.