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Guitar lessons *should* be about playing music, FIRST. You may not know it yet, but ultimately you’ll want to learn to be expressive and creative. Have you every thought about how to develop your own playing style? What about developing a good ear? It can be appetizing to start learning riffs and licks. But, Music is like language – if you don’t learn to speak for yourself, then you can only copy other people. Now, imaging picking up your guitar and feeling confident AND creative at the same time! That would be rewarding!
The best option is always a private guitar teacher. That’s because you want real-time feedback, customized lesson plans and opportunities to jam. Live lessons typically offer the most natural progression for students. But, for total beginners, you’ll appreciate the personal interaction and encouragement. However, even for more experienced players, they’ll want advice and perspective from someone who’s already “walked the trail”.
The next thing you should consider when taking guitar lessons on the internet is how you’re going to stay focused. Online lessons leave you in charge… which isn’t always a good thing. Traditional in-person weekly lessons help students stay on track because it’s an appointment you need to keep. For many guitarists (especially adults), life gets really busy and it can be hard to fit lessons into your schedule. This is one of the big advantages of online lessons over traditional private lessons – optimizing time. With high-quality video lessons, adult students can watch (and rewatch) as many times as necessary. Plus, it’s becomes possible to take advantage of downtime. Maybe you commute on the subway or have time to kill on lunch break?
Although learning guitar can seem overwhelming to many beginners (because there is so much to learn), having a strategy for tracking your progress can help a lot! For example, it may bolster your confidence if you reflect every week on what you’ve learned. It’s also helpful to identify what you plan to learn next. Tracking your progress and staying focused will help you learn more efficiently and stay relaxed as you go.
I’ve taught hundreds of students thousands of private lessons. Even in a private lesson, students find it hard to focus and do the work necessary to get better. I’ve found that digestible materials, concise lessons and regular progress check-ins always help students stay engaged. Sure, there are a lot of topics to master, but you know what they say about eating an elephant? “One piece at a time!” By focusing on one thing at a time, you can make progress on anything! Some of the most common topics of interest in my private lessons are: 5 Scale Shapes and Guitar Modes, Guitar Arpeggios, Soloing and Improvisation, Fingerpicking, etc. Music Protest has organized a lot of learning in the following features:
Depending on which level of player/student you are, you should take a slightly different approach to guitar lessons. For example, a beginner may be trying to learn a basic C Major Scale. But, as that beginner progresses, they’ll want to navigate the fretboard and play the 5 scale shapes. It’s important that lessons are graduated and follow a structure and flow.
It’s uncommon for me to give my students quizzes in a private lesson. However, I do offer them online quizzes. This benefits them since it helps them evaluate their own progress. I also find that students grow faster when I offer clear assignments and exercises regularly. This benefits them because they can apply what they’re learning. Often this will involve attaining a benchmark (playing all 12 scales in under 2 minutes) or practicing over jam tracks.
It’s important that you can study YOUR interest right away. Don’t let a teacher make you learn stuff that THEY are interested in. Of course, a good teacher needs to occasionally build a foundation for more advanced topics. But, you should know that not every good guitarist makes a good teacher!
Music Protest makes it easy for students to enroll in specific courses, if there is a single skill that they’re interested in. Perhaps you want a quick lesson on the mixolydian scale for guitar. Or, maybe a review of guitar arpeggios is all you need for your next rehearsal… Individual courses generally cost only a few dollars and you’ll own access to those guitar lessons permanently, which is always nice to know 🙂
For highly motivated students (online or private), I think their best strategy is having a guided lesson plan. In other words, if you’re highly motivated then you’ll want someone to give you a list of options that you can explore on your own, in any order you find appropriate.
I do this with my intermediate and advanced private guitar students. Eventually, this became the model for Music Protest’s Premium Membership. Motivated students will grow more quickly with a guided lesson plan. If you want to have lessons and courses suggested to you (based on your interests), the Premium Membership offers that guidance. But, from there, you can decide what to do first, second, third, etc. Plus, you’ll gain access to ALL video courses (not just guitar). You’ll also receive weekly emails (to keep you focused) AND get useful progress-tracking features so that you can always be clear that you’re getting value for your time and money.
By this point in the article, it should be obvious that guitar lessons can get complicated! In fact, there is more to learn than anybody could EVER know. But, don’t let that make you feel discouraged. Actually, that is the reason that playing guitar is so rewarding!
Now, it is common to break any topic into beginner, intermediate and advanced, right? Yes, but the real-world experience of learning music is much more nuanced than that. For example I prefer to think about learning in terms of Essential, Transitional and Authentic subjects.
The Essentials are unavoidable and valuable to every student. Essential skills include things like learning the minor scale for guitar. Next, I prefer the term “Transitional” to intermediate. Intermediate means you have the essentials figured out, but you’re still expanding your musical vocabulary (with the dorian mode for example). This stage of growth includes many, many “transitions” along the way.
Finally, there is what I like to call the “Authentic” skill set. This is where a player graduates from standard lessons into being a creative artists. As the student develops their authenticity, they become aware of how and when to bend the rules. My lessons for authentic-level players are focused on revealing deeper potential hidden in their existing skills. Sometimes this can mean developing technique. Other times it can mean listening to an iconic player or analyzing an iconic solo. As guitarists get better, it becomes more and more important to develop their own improvisational style in order for guitar playing to stay fresh.
Sometimes the best way to augment guitar lessons is to listen to your favorite guitar players. Doing that gives you perspective and will help you imagine your own ideas. Also, reading about how music works can be very helpful. For example, I’ve shared some interesting facts about how and why the major scale sounds good. Plus, I’ve shared a lot of gigging anecdotes with my private students and I encourage them to read textbooks, listen to recordings and search out all available teachers. When it comes to your musical growth, gaining perspective is every bit as important as practice routines or technical skills.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand more about taking guitar lessons. As an extension of this article, the following Student Portals are available for free to anyone. These pages will make it easier to access topical content from Music Protest. This is of particular value to the community of students currently enrolled in one of Music Protest’s 3rd-part online courses (from Udemy and Skillshare).