Many budding guitarists fall for a deceptive claim that learning how to play the guitar is easy. Of course, such a claim depends upon how one defines the word “easy.” I have been playing guitar for over 20 years. I learned how to play like millions of other guitarists. I took formal guitar lessons for several years. I can assure you that I have never been able to find easy guitar lessons.
What Are Formal Guitar Lessons?
Formal guitar lessons consist in a guitar teacher imparting his or her knowledge of playing guitar upon a student. The effectiveness of the guitar lessons depend in large part upon the quality of the guitar teacher. Naturally, the beginning guitar student must have a strong desire to learn.
There are many guitar instructors, so called, that try to teach people how to play guitar for a fee. Unfortunately for someone looking for easy guitar lessons, an incompetent guitar teacher might make a new student believe that guitar mastery is a couple months, or even weeks away.
An ineffective guitar teaching method is obvious when the teacher focuses on performing for the student, rather than teaching the basics from which the student can build upon. Over the course of a few short weeks and months, the new student becomes an ex-student. I cannot begin to tell you how many people I run into that tell me they took guitar lessons for a couple months and then quit.
The Components of Excellent Formal Guitar Instruction
Before I get started on this subject, let me assume that you are not looking to become a performing classical guitarist. If your aspirations are to play in a classic orchestra such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, then you will need to enroll in an accredited music school. I am guessing though, that you want to play some popular music tunes. Okay, with that out of the way, what are the components of excellent formal guitar instruction?
1. Hire a Professional Guitar Instructor
Your guitar teacher should be someone who has earned a music degree from an accredited college or university. You definitely should not take guitar lessons from someone who is self-taught. Just because a guitarist can play “Eruption” by Van Halen does not mean they can teach you how to play guitar. Therefore, I recommend that you take formal guitar lessons from an instructor affiliated with a reputable music store. I have found that some of the best guitar instructors work out of family owned music shops, not chain stores.
2. You Need To Be Dedicated
If your guitar instructor does not demand that you practice at the very least, one half hour per day, then you are not going to adequately develop as a guitarist. Mastering the guitar takes years of practice and learning. If you plan on taking guitar lessons just to learn one or two songs you happen to like, you will never learn those songs or any others. Be realistic about your ability to devote the time and effort needed to really learn how to be a good guitarist.
3. Your Guitar Instructor Must Be Demanding
A demanding guitar teacher is very essential. I am not saying the person must be mean or cruel, but there are certain standards in regards to proper posture and fingering. If you find that your guitar teacher is constantly correcting your posture and repeatedly telling you to use the tips of your fingers, then you have a real gem of a teacher. As a beginner, I cannot tell you how many times my first guitar teacher told me to change position, use the tips of my fingers, and to “do it again” until I got it right. You might not like being told over and over to readjust your body or replay a certain guitar part, but it is well worth it.
4. The Basics of Guitar Music Theory
Despite your worst fears as a beginning guitarist, you will need to learn some music theory in order to understand how music works. The guitar is a complicated instrument because of the immense diversity of musical options on the fretboard. The guitar is what I would consider a 3-dimensional instrument. Whereas, the piano is a 1-dimensional instrument. Why? All the notes on a piano are in a straight line.
Now, effective guitar instruction will teach you how to read music. Yes, reading tabs is fast and easy, but it does nothing for helping you understand the musical structure of a song. You can be assured that music theory for guitar is not at all difficult. You just need to focus a little bit. Remember, this is not classical concert guitar school. Learn it and move on. You will find that music theory is an aid to being great on guitar.
5. Do Not Expect To Be Jamming Immediately
You have to learn to crawl before you can walk. And, you have to learn to walk before you can run. You will have to play “Tom Dooley” and “Streets of Laredo” before you can play “Dust In The Wind.” There is no way around it. If your first lesson as a beginning guitarist is to learn how to play a contemporary rock guitar solo, then you will be an ex-guitar student very soon. You must be persistent until you are able to play some more difficult tunes. You will eventually walk and then run. Give it time and practice.
Guitar Lessons Are Expensive
If you cannot afford in-person formal guitar instruction, there are some wonderful options available to you. Distance learning via the internet has taken the world by storm. Some online instruction programs are excellent. I have looked at some of these and find the quality of the teachers to be top notch. Also, the educational materials that accompany the lessons are comprehensive. The only drawback is that you are left to your own devices, which might be a problem.
A solution would be to perhaps take an in-person guitar lesson every so often to make sure you are on the right track and not developing any bad habits in terms of form and method. But, it is possible to learn how to play the guitar from a very good online instruction program.