Posted on July 27, 2011 by Andy John

I think this is probably my favorite question I get from fellow musicians, students, and other folks.  Why indeed.  It’s expensive, it’s restrictive, and everything is already on the internet already.

Here is one answer, of sorts.  Learning anything is up to the individual wanting to learn it.  If you are completely dedicated to the guitar and practice for eight hours a day and are confident in your ability to teach yourself what you want to know, I would say you don’t need a teacher.  I do know musicians like this.  It is, however, a journey and much like a road trip it is helpful to have a map.  I have had students who come in who have learned songs but don’t know how to solo.  The first thing I ask them is “do you know your scales?” and usually they don’t.  Scales are the only way I know to get around the instrument without simply hunting and pecking until you find the right notes, which takes a lot more time.  Mastering the minor pentatonic scale in five positions on the guitar takes about six months of regular practice.

Another possible reason to have a teacher is to find out what you don’t know.  This may seem silly but imagine trying to learn chemistry without a teacher.   Where do you start?  Should you memorize the periodic table?  Should you start with organic chemistry?  There is a logical order to learning anything and it’s nice to have a teacher to point you in the right direction.

Another reason to take lessons is to keep you on track, the “kick-in-the-butt” reason.  If you come to a lesson every week and have nothing to show for it, you will have yourself and your teacher (and possibly your parents) to be disappointed.  Lessons keep you on the right track.  A teacher can also give tangible goals to keep you motivated.

A teacher can also provide performance opportunities.  I like to get my students involved in whatever way they feel comfortable.  The Asheville Music School offers student recitals three times a year and I encourage all my students who are ready to play a piece and fully half of my students choose to perform.  Many of my students want to play at church, which is another good outlet.  Coffee houses, house parties, jam sessions, talent shows, garage bands, the list is infinite.  Get involved!

Why should I take music lessons? Look at Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, … they were self taught.