First published June 25 2012
I receive a lot of enquiries every month from people who are interested in having guitar lessons and they email me whilst in the process of checking out the local guitar tutor(s).
One of the questions I frequently get asked is “how many guitar lessons do you think I will I need...”?
Now, this question in particular is quite a tricky one to respond to because it doesn’t really have an answer, but the whole ‘potential lesson booking’ scenario can hang on the outcome of what I as the guitar tutor, is or isn’t about to say…
There are a lot of factors involved in how quickly you can learn the guitar, the main one being how often can you practice? Chances are, if you’re already asking me the ‘how many lessons…’ question then you are quite keen to crack on and will throw yourself into it, which is great but please remember that just turning up to your lessons and sitting near a guitar tutor isn’t enough to progress effectively – (I call this phenomenon ‘learning by osmosis’…) – you DO need to practice in between sessions.
“How much do I need to practice?”
Little and often is the key here, but if you are a busy working professional, or a self confessed social butterfly then as little as 10 mins a day is acceptable to start with.
This is why young people can pick up things so quickly – when I was 15, I had so much time to spare that I played the guitar for hours every day, but then of course I didn’t have a job, a family, or the internet…
Progress is slow and you need to keep practicing, going away then repeating again and again – a bit like learning lines to a play. You simply cannot expect to learn something instantly.
Everybody has 10 mins spare during their normal day to pick up the guitar and practice and quite often once started, those 10 mins will become 15, 20 or 30 mins. However, if that's not possible then anything really is better than nothing!
NOTE – a 2-hour-long cramming session before your lesson does NOT work in the long term and only serves to get you stressed about your lesson, not excited.
It is something you want to do, right?
“So, if I book 5 lessons then will I be able to…?”
Another common misconception – please don’t expect that after a set amount of time you will be able to do X,Y or Z (or even A, B or Cm7b5 – a music ‘in joke’, sorry!) because it’s not as simple as that. Everybody will learn different things at their own pace.
Please don't begin by putting unreasonable expectations on yourself and your tutor. You could be setting yourself up for disappointment from the start.
There’s not a recipe or a set-time for learning something, like baking a cake – we’re not uploading guitar skills into our memory, ‘Matrix’ style.…but wouldn’t it be cool?
Anyone who does tell you that after 5 lessons “you will be able to play…” without meeting you is not doing you any favours and they are just selling themselves to you by telling you what you want to hear. What happens if they say that after 5 lessons you will be able to play ‘Wonderwall’ and you can’t – then what? Is it their fault as a tutor? Can you get a refund? Should you get a refund?
If you have a good tutor and an open mind you can achieve things that you never thought you would be able to do, even as quickly as your first lesson – it may not be what you expect but enjoy it for what it is and focus on the journey. You might exceed your expectations and find that you are a ‘natural‘ or inversely, you might discover that it’s much harder than you expected and it will take you longer than you originally thought. It may be easy to start with and then becomes harder (it does) crushing your hopes of winning ‘Guitar Idol‘ this year…
If you want to learn, then great – we as guitar tutors are very happy to teach you but one piece of advice every guitarist will tell you is that it’s about the journey and the enjoyment of learning and discovering new music as well as being able to play your favourite songs, not the end goal because with music, there isn’t one.