Should I Get Guitar Lessons?

Matt Plays Guitar Like A Keyboard

   I get asked this question all the time “Should I get guitar lessons?” and it’s a question that’s quite tricky to answer. As soon as people find out that I’m a performing live musician they ask if I had music lessons. The reason these questions are tricky is because I did take music lessons in general but I’ve only taken about 4 formal guitar lessons in my life and that was because it was required in my college music studies. I’m a self taught guitarist, it’s my best instrument and I play guitar professionally in two bands. So when I tell people, yes they should get guitar lessons, it’s hard to justify formal guitar lessons from my personal experience since I never really had them. I’m going to answer the, should I get guitar lessons, question today on the blog.

   The answer is different for everyone and it depends on what other musical training you’ve had. Let’s start off easy, if you’ve never had any musical training on any other instrument then yes, you should definitely get guitar lessons right now and hang in there taking the lessons until you have a good command of the guitar and a really good grasp of guitar theory and music theory. This may mean that you’ll switch teachers for different phases of your learning. You’ll start with individual or even group guitar lessons for beginners. Then as you progress, make sure you find a teacher that can teach you what you want to learn at whatever level you’re at. Your success, of course, depends on your commitment to the most important thing about learning any instrument, practice. Consistent practice is the key to getting good on an instrument no matter what your skill level.

   Now let’s say that you’ve had violin lessons, trumpet lessons, saxophone or even tuba lessons. This would include time spent in the public school system playing in band. Believe it or not, this musical training will be very useful on the guitar. You’ll most likely know how to read either bass or treble clef music. You’ll know how to count out note timings and rhythms in general. You’ll most likely know how to tune an instrument or at least tell if you’re out of tune. You’ll have a pretty good grasp of all the basic music theory. This will help you enormously on the guitar and you actually have a pretty good chance of picking up a basic guitar book and learning how to play on your own. So should you get guitar lessons? Again, the answer is yes. You should get some lessons to help you with guitar technique, more advanced music theory and of course guitar theory.

   The key for me, and the reason I was able to pick up the guitar so quickly on my own, was the fact that I took a few years of piano lessons as well as school band before I learned guitar. I can’t stress how valuable it is to have piano lessons and I’ve said before that the piano is the most important instrument to learn. With the piano you’ll have an excellent command of both bass and treble cleff music, a good foundation of music theory and a good working knowledge of rhythm and how bass and treble rhythms interact. The layout of the piano translates directly to the guitar on a string by string basis. Meaning that you can lay a keyboard pattern on an individual guitar strings frets and you will be able to tap melodies on a single string using only your knowledge of the keyboard. Pretty cool huh? So the answer to the “Should I get guitar lessons?” question in this case is, maybe. If you get a good book, or a video, that you can teach you how to tune a guitar, hold a guitar and basic mechanics like where to press the strings down, then you won’t need guitar lessons. You have an excellent chance of teaching yourself how to play the guitar! Later on you may want to take some advanced lessons to learn specific guitar theory. You may also want to take lessons to learn how to solo. If you’re interested in advanced guitar theory and soloing, look me up because that’s what I teach.

   In every case, it comes down to practice and I just can’t stress that enough. Your willingness to get that guitar and practice consistently will ultimately be the key to how good you can get on the guitar, or any instrument for that matter. I hope this helps you answer that common question “Should I get guitar lessons?”.

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Author: Live Musician Central

My name is Matt Rushton. I have been playing in bands for 27 years. I've been playing professionally for 21 years. I have opened for Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett, Little River Band, and Quiet Riot.

2 thoughts on “Should I Get Guitar Lessons?”

  1. Matt,
    I think that your right on as far as practicing as a key to getting good on guitar. It’s a simple concept although not easy for many. As far as lessons, I’ve found that it’s important to be learning the style of music that interests you. No beginner says “Hey, I want to learn the Dorian mode.” Buy if they can learn how it’s used in the music they want to learn, that’s huge.

  2. Todd, that’s an excellent point. Nothing will make you pracitce more than learning something that you want to learn. I know I was a lot more interested in learning the riff to “Hair Of The Dog” than I ever was in simply memorizing the E minor pentatonic and they’re basically the same thing. It’s when you make that connection that the “Hair Of The Dog” riff is the E minor pentatonic that guitar theory really starts to open up in a practical sense.
    Thanks for the comment. -Matt-

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