If you’re new to learning guitar or are planning to start, you may be asking yourself – should I get in-person instruction or take online guitar lessons? It’s important to know that there’s no right or wrong way to study guitar – it all depends on your personal preferences and goals.
What works well for one person may not be what’s best for you, and there are pros and cons to both options.
Here’s how we’ll compare these two learning formats:
- Convenience and flexibility
- Learning styles
- Social aspect
A few quick points before we begin:
- A mix of both online and in-person lessons will likely be the best choice.
- In this context, we use the term "online lessons" to refer to pre-filmed courses, YouTube videos, and other digital materials (either free or paid).
- Getting a private guitar lesson through Zoom or Skype is still considered the same as taking lessons in person.
Advantages of online guitar lessons
Convenience and flexibility
Studying guitar online is the most convenient option. You can schedule it to fit around your routine and complete the lessons at your own pace, all from the comfort of your own home.
- No need to rely on a physical tutor.
- Complete lessons whenever it suits you – morning or evening.
- Take days off without needing to notify anyone – with a tutor, you'll probably be charged for a last-minute cancellation.
- No travel expenses.
There’s more freedom to choose what you want to study with online guitar classes, meaning you can focus on specific topics or genres that interest you. It’s not always possible to find a local tutor that is skilled in the styles and techniques you want to learn.
This brings us to our next point, which is one of the main advantages of online guitar courses.
Access to a wider range of resources and materials
When it comes to online guitar classes and resources, there’s almost too much choice!
- You can find the perfect course to suit your tastes.
- Learn from a guitarist you already know and admire.
- If you’ve outgrown your local guitar tutor, you’re guaranteed to find lessons online that will challenge you.
This is a really important point for you advanced players – no matter how good you are, there’s always room for improvement!
Whether you’re into jazz, metal, blues, pop, or country, amazing lessons and specialized courses are waiting for you online.
There are some downsides:
- Too many options can make it difficult to pick a class – like staring at that neverending Netflix menu, it’s easy to get lost searching for the perfect choice.
- You can also spend more money than you need to, especially when buying a course is as simple as clicking a button – so be careful!
Speaking of money – internet-based courses are significantly cheaper than in-person lessons. A private guitar tutor can be an expensive choice and many people just can’t afford the high cost.
In those cases, using online resources is a great option.
There’s some really amazing material online for a reasonable price – and plenty of good free stuff too. Depending on what you need, and the type of class you’re looking for, online guitar lessons can cost a few dollars a month, or a couple of hundred dollars a year.
Ability to review lessons at any time
One big advantage of online materials is that your resources are there to review whenever you need to.
This allows you to:
- Brush up on weak areas.
- Go over something you may have missed.
- Rewind and slow down specific moments.
Your in-person guitar instructor won't always be able to respond to your questions and clarify anything you forgot. If you bought guitar lessons online, you can review them as often as you like. Plus, certain platforms (like Pickup Music, wink wink) provide the ability to get unlimited learning support from a team of professional guitarists.
Advantages of in-person guitar lessons
Personal attention and customized instruction
What makes in-person guitar lessons so valuable is the interaction and communication between you and the teacher.
Online material is often a one-way street – you can’t ask questions or get feedback (at least not in real time).
Titles like “Beginner lessons” and “Advanced lessons” just give a rough idea of the skills required for a certain course.
The term ‘advanced’ can mean something totally different depending on the person. Bar chords are considered advanced for new guitarists, yet basic for experienced players.
With an online course, the teacher doesn’t know you, or what your playing level is.
An in-person teacher can:
- Create a lesson plan to fit your specific needs and ability.
- Detect mistakes in your technique that you may otherwise miss – which helps avoid building bad habits.
- Give you immediate feedback on your technique.
Immediate feedback and interaction
This point is also significant, particularly for beginners. It's crucial to form good habits when beginning to play the guitar.
If no one demonstrates the fundamentals to us, we might not know how to correctly:
- Hold a pick
- Pluck the strings
- Fret the notes
- Hold the guitar neck
The interaction you have with your teacher and the feedback you receive might be essential to your initial progress.
A weak-picking hand won't be an issue right away for a beginner player, but it will be in the future. Therefore it’s important to have someone help you and point these things out early on. It’s much more difficult to unlearn bad habits than it is to just learn properly from the start.
Hands-on experience with the instrument
If you take in-person classes, your teacher will show you everything you need to know about the instrument itself.
You may even be able to spend time trying out different kinds of guitars before you decide whether to get an acoustic or electric.
Music shops can be a bit intimidating for complete beginners.
You’ll also get useful advice on caring for your instrument, like how to:
- Tune it
- Clean it
- Change its strings
- Read it a bedtime story
A real-life tutor can give support all the way through your journey, from your first guitar to your first gig.
Opportunity to connect with other musicians
While you can always find communities and like-minded people on the internet, nothing beats meeting people in real life. Attending guitar classes will expose you to many musicians, not only guitar players.
- Other musicians are a great resource for knowledge. Your teacher will probably have many like-minded students and would be happy to connect you with them.
- Maybe even help you put your first band together?
- This is especially true for intermediate to advanced players who may take just a few lessons with established players in their local scene.
You’ll also experience the life of a musician, not simply playing an instrument. Regardless of your level, you have something to share with others, both musically and individually, and they will share their experiences with you too.
All influences in life can help you grow as a musician.
Comparison of in-person and online guitar lessons
Effectiveness and value
Depending on your skill level, one method will probably be more valuable than the other.
- An in-person tutor is likely to be more beneficial to a new guitarist – as we already mentioned, setting a strong foundation is important.
- However, if you’re an intermediate guitar player, you might want to try online classes and resources to improve certain parts of your playing.
Different learning styles
Many of the guitar instructors you’ll find in your area are likely seasoned musicians who can teach you a little bit from most genres.
Depending on what you want to learn, you may have more success looking for it online – there’s going to be a much bigger selection to choose from. That said, much of the decision will come from personal taste and learning style.
If you learn better by watching, listening, and copying, online classes might be a great option for you.
On the other hand, if you prefer the instant feedback and guidance of in-person classes, it may be best to find a teacher nearby.
Interaction and feedback
Speaking of feedback and guidance, it’s often possible to ask questions and receive feedback when using online courses, but it doesn’t happen in real time, which can be a little frustrating.
When you sign up for an online course you can often become part of a broader community of members.
This gives you the chance to communicate with other people on the course through online platforms – where you’re able to:
- Share experiences
- Receive and give feedback
- Exchange ideas
- Review other students' progress
As mentioned earlier, this can be found while attending in-person guitar lessons, too. But, for many platforms like Pickup Music, the online community is a huge part of being a member.
As we've seen, there are good reasons for both methods of guitar training. Much of it just depends on what works best for you.
They work well together and just because you’re using one right now, doesn’t mean you can’t switch to the other when the time is right – variety is always good!
You may not get the personal interaction when you sign up for an online course, but you will get:
- A community filled with helpful members
- Classes on demand
- More control over your schedule
You may also want to consider a hybrid setup where you occasionally see an in-person instructor to help you work through a predefined online course. Remember, not all guitar instructors are created equal. Some might not be great at giving you a clear course to success.
Advantages of online guitar learning
- Study from anywhere
- Flexible schedule
- Access to a wide range of materials
- More affordable
- Lessons aren’t personalized
- Less accountability – easier to skip class
- A bad routine can slow your progress
Advantages of in-person learning
- Personalized lesson plans
- Immediate feedback
- Hands-on experience
- Meet local musicians
- More accountability from your instructor
- More expensive
- Smaller selection of tutors
- Fixed time and location
A great combination
It’s also important to remember that one doesn’t eliminate the other. If you take in-person classes, you can complement that with cheap or free material online.
Just remember that combining the two will work well, figure out how to make the most of both methods.
If you do online courses, maybe there is an option for you to occasionally take in-person lessons, or attend group master classes. These are great opportunities to ask any specific questions you may have about techniques, styles, gear, live performance, etc.
Whatever you choose, enjoy the experience and explore all the possibilities this magical instrument has to offer!
How Pickup goes beyond traditional online learning
At Pickup Music, we’re a small group of guitar nerds who are obsessed with making learning guitar online just like learning in person.
From our ultra-guided Learning Pathways where we show you exactly what to work on at every step of the way, to our community-focused approach to learning where you can practice alongside like-minded guitarists, we’re committed to helping guitarists break out of playing plateaus.
Here are some other benefits of a membership with Pickup Music that other online platforms don’t offer:
- Unlimited guidance and support from our team of professional guitarists.
- Personalized feedback videos on your playing.
- Live-recorded jam tracks with professional Los Angeles session musicians.
- Guided Learning Pathways for every level and style of guitar.
A big advantage of online resources is that you can try before you buy. At Pickup Music, you get a 14-day free trial when you sign up for a class or courses.
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