Which should you go with – online guitar lessons or in person guitar lessons?
The answer will come down to a few different considerations including:
- Your learning style
- Your budget
- Your proximity to instructors
There are definitely pros and cons for each. Read on to learn what they are so that you can make an informed decision as to which is better for you.
Online guitar lessons Pros & Cons
In some ways this post should be called good online guitar lessons vs in-person lessons. The quality of online lessons can vary dramatically – as can the quality of in person lessons depending on the teacher you get and whether you get group or private lessons.
Online Lesson Pros
- Considerable Money Savings
- Potential for Multiple Instructor choices
- Go at your own pace
- Pooling of knowledge
Considerable money savings
Online lesson subscriptions tend to average at around $100 to $200 for a whole year. If you were to do just one lesson per week it would come to around $2-$4 per lesson! And you are likely to be doing more lessons than that so the per-lesson-cost could be significantly less than that.
With a private instructor a 1/2 hour lesson will cost you at a minimum $20 – and anywhere up to $100 per 1/2 hour lesson. That could be the cost of an entire year on an online subscription.
If we assume you did a lesson a week then those in-person lessons could cost between $1,000 and $5,000 per year.
- Online = $100 – $200/year
- In-Person = $1,000 – $5,000/year
Potential for Multiple Instructor Choices
Good online lessons tend to have multiple teachers so that you can make the choice as to who you go with.
This is great for a few reasons.
Firstly, if you don’t like the first instructor you can move on to another that you might like better. Let’s face it, you are going to be less motivated to do the lessons if you don’t like your instructor. If you are going to in-person lessons it’s more difficult to change instructors – especially if there aren’t that many in your area.
Secondly, a certain instructor may also not teach in a style that suits your learning style. This will slow your progress considerably. With good online lessons you can move on and find the instructor that you learn best from.
And finally, with multiple instructors you can actually learn from more than one person and get multiple perspectives and influences which will help with developing your own unique style.
Go at your Own Pace
You can truly go at your own pace when doing online lessons.
You can stop the video part way through to practice something and you can replay a certain lesson over and over again as many times as you like, or parts of a lesson that you are struggling with.
This is a really big plus to online lessons.
Yes, you can go at your own pace to an extent in-person (if you are getting private lessons and not group lessons) but unless you are videoing the sessions you can’t go back over the lesson over and over again (unless you have a photographic memory I suppose!).
Pooling of Knowledge
Most in-person guitar instructors are self employed – and even if they are employed typically they still have their own lessons, perhaps with a bit of guidance from their employers.
But online lessons (good ones!) have the knowledge of several instructors and you can take advantage of learning from all of the instructors and not just one.
You can do your lessons in the comfort of your own home and at any time you like.
You don’t have to travel anywhere and you don’t have to do it at a set time (which may not always be convenient for you) – you can fit your lessons around other things going on in your life.
Good online lessons tend to be well structured. Because they cannot interact back and forth with their student the instructor must make sure they include everything that’s needed for a particular lesson.
Also because they can rehearse and edit the lessons they can make sure everything is in there and there’s little fluff to waste your time with.
Online Lesson Cons
- Need an internet connection
This is the biggest downside of online lessons, in my opinion.
You don’t get outside feedback about whether you are doing something correctly or not. If you have any questions you can have them answered usually – but this isn’t a substitute for an instructor being able to observe what you are doing and then correct you on the spot.
The good online lessons will cover common errors when they are going over a particular technique. This way you can observe yourself to try to determine if you are doing it right or making those errors.
But that instant feedback and correction is still missing and definitely a valuable thing – particularly if you aren’t someone who is very observant of their own behaviors.
A good in-person instructor can act as a great motivator but online you don’t really have anyone to motivate you.
Yes, a good online instructor will work to try to motivate you – and if you like them you are likely to want to do the tasks they set and get good at them – but you won’t be reporting back to them and showing them your progress so it doesn’t quite work as well as it does in-person.
If you are a self driven person then this isn’t an issue for you.
Need an Internet Connection
This isn’t a biggie. Most people have reliable internet connections these days that are easily fast enough to play the videos on online lessons.
Like online lessons the quality of an in-person instructor can vary a lot. So these pros and cons will assume you would be getting good in-person lessons.
This for me is the most important advantage of in-person lessons. This will be a bigger or lesser deal for you depending on your learning style.
Having that instant real-time feedback to let you know when you’ve done something just right or when you’ve made an error is really valuable especially for certain learning styles.
That interaction back and forth between teacher and student can make learning faster and easier.
This will be an important factor for some people and not as important for others.
I myself find I am very self driven and don’t need a lot of outside motivation to work hard at something.
But some people are very different to that and are a lot more willing to work at something if there is someone they can show their progress to, especially if their instructor is good with positive reinforcement.
Some people would also just prefer the social interaction of in-person lessons over being by themselves in front of their computers.
- More expensive
- Single perspective
- Lesson progression
Depending on where you live you may have to travel a fair way – unless you can find an instructor that will come to you.
Even if you live in a big city you may have to travel to get to a good instructor. Finding good lessons online is just a matter of doing your research and finding the best – they aren’t going to be further away than the next one!
If you live in a rural area or lightly populated area there may be little or no choice for instructors. Which means you’ll have to settle for whatever instructor is around.
Even if you are in a densely populated area and have a good choice of instructors, you may not be able to have your lessons at a convenient time. Especially when it comes to good instructors, they are in hot demand and probably can’t fit you in at your ideal time.
It is considerably more expensive to have in-person lessons – particularly if you are getting private lessons.
See the pros section above under “Online Guitar Lesson pros” for more details on the cost differences – it’s pretty dramatically different.
O.k. I know I’m supposed to be talking about good in-person lessons but I’ll digress from that for a second.
The chances of getting unstructured lessons (which will seriously hinder your progress) is greater with in-person lessons.
I once had a teacher when I was around 15 who would fluff around tuning and playing my guitar for the first 15 minutes of every lesson (I’m pretty sure he was stoned most of the time) and then he would teach me little licks and parts of solos that he thought were cool (which involved a lot more of him playing!).
He was a great guitarist but not a great teacher!
No matter how good your instructor is or how much knowledge they have to impart, you are still only getting one person’s perspective on playing the guitar.
And there is often more than one way to do something on a guitar – one of which will probably suit you better (either due to learning style or physical attributes such as the length of your fingers).
If you get private lessons you are going to be able to go at your own pace mostly but that pace may be slower than online – even despite the biggest downside of online lessons (feedback/interaction).
If you go to a lesson and then go away and forget how to do the thing you are supposed to be practicing you’ll have to wait until next week (usually – if you having lessons once per week) to go over it again.
Online you can rewind and replay as often as you need to.
What’s more, online you can do several lessons per week if you are picking everything up quickly. You don’t have to wait to move onto the next lesson.
Over to You….
It’s definitely a personal preference whether to go with in-person or online lessons. There a number of factors to consider to figure out which is best for you.
Thanks for reading and I hope this post has helped you to figure out the best option for you.
Which do you think you’ll go with and why? What lessons have you tried in the past and which do you prefer? Any other pros or cons you can think of? Leave a comment below – it’d be awesome to hear what others think about this topic.