Why You Shouldn’t Learn Guitar On Your Own Before Taking Guitar Lessons

I often get asked by prospective guitar students if they should learn guitar on their own before taking guitar lessons? Let me answer this question with a question: If you wanted to become a brain surgeon, would you want to learn on your own first before going to school for it to be trained by someone who knows exactly how to become a good brain surgeon? It doesn’t make sense, does it?

In all seriousness, I understand the main fear that is behind this question. People don’t want to look stupid. They want to feel like they have some kind of skill before coming into a brand new environment (their first lesson) so they don’t feel so incompetent. They don’t want to waste the teacher’s time with how “bad” they are. The fear of failure, looking incompetent, and the unhealthy need for approval is going to keep you from ever trying a new thing, growing as a person and having a successful and happy life doing things that you enjoy. Everyone feels stupid in life from time to time. There is no way to avoid this completely. Look past the fears of failure because failure is an important part of learning on the road to success.

Here’s something that should make you feel better: I frequently correct players who have been playing for 20+ years on how they are holding their guitar. Forget how they play, the very majority of new students, no matter how long they have been playing guitar, don’t even have the basics of holding the guitar down! Feel better?

Starting a new skill with a completely clean slate is a gift. That means that you get to start from the beginning learning everything the right way, in the right order and according to what level you’re at. A clean start like this means you won’t form any bad habits! There are so many players out there that are self taught and have a lot of things to “un-learn” before they can actually learn when they start lessons, things that have hindered their playing for years or maybe even caused them physical pain. I was one of them.

Learning from an expert guitar teacher takes the pressure off of you. If you try to teach yourself before coming to a guitar teacher, you’re the one who spends tons of time searching for info, gathering it and organizing it. You have to discern and decide what you should learn, in what order it should be learned, and figure out how to practice, and hold yourself accountable. With all the information out there on the internet, how do you know where to start? Let alone if the source is good or not? And say you find a reliable voice on the web, how do you know if it’s the right place to start?

This is more than enough to overwhelm any beginner and dissuade them from playing guitar at all. Skipping all that trouble by going to an experienced teacher gives you immediate assurance that you’re learning the right methods. The teacher, if they’re good, already has content gathered and organized, ready to hand to you in the right order when you are ready for it. And they give you you real time feedback on your playing which provides you with accountability.

Lastly, if you are worried about wasting the teachers time…it’s their job! They are getting paid to do something that they love; play and teach guitar. And they actually want to help you. For me, it’s so rewarding when a student has an “ah ha” moment and their face lights up because of their victory. And if you’re worried about wasting anyone’s time, be worried about wasting yours by trying to teach yourself at home!

It’s ok to look stupid at first, everyone does. But thankfully, people have a very short memory. Short term memory can only hold seven items for no more than 20 or 30 seconds at a time. Think about all the things you did today. Most of it you won’t even recall. If you are really passionate about learning guitar, don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from giving yourself the best possible start to your journey (starting with an experienced guitar teacher!) which will lead to the best possible results.

About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional guitarist and teachers guitar lessons in Seattle, WA.