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Learning Guitar? Private Instructor or Online?

Over the years I learned to play guitar from a variety of different sources. I started out learning by watching friends and copying them as well as listening to records and trying to play what I heard. I went on learning from books and DVDs. Eventually, my path led to university classes and private lessons from a variety of teachers. The newest source of learning, as well as arguably one of the most interesting, has come from online courses and lessons.

All of these have played a vital role in my ability to enjoy creating music and playing guitar today.

In this video, I’m going to talk about two of the most common paths to learning guitar and how to decide which one is best for you.

Like all things, there are benefits and disadvantages to each of the paths.

I’ll include the most important information I believe would be useful for you. Let’s start with Private lessons…

Learning Guitar Eye Ball to Eye Ball

The first path is one-on-one lessons with a private instructor. This is often done in a music studio or in the home of an instructor. It’s traditional to have weekly lessons with time to practice in between.

Here are some of the most common pros and cons of taking lessons from a private guitar instructor.


  • Some Flexibility – possible to adjust pace and material to fit your needs.

  • Accountability – you are more likely to practice when you know you are going to see your instructor.

  • Corrections – an instructor can make corrections when you do something incorrectly.

  • Support – a good teacher can support, encourage and motivate you.


  • Expensive – paying for one on one time with any skilled professional can be expensive.

  • Quality – all teachers are not necessarily good teachers. It can be difficult to discern for the beginner.

  • Schedule – good instructors are busy and may not have much flexibility in their schedule.

  • Travel – most good guitar teachers require you to come to their teaching space. Depending on how far and the time of day this can be time-consuming and stressful with traffic.

Guitar Lessons In The Digital Age


The second path is learning online. Many people today start out with random YouTube videos. However, what I’ll be discussing is an organized paid-for online course. This is much different than random YouTube videos in that there is this usually a systematic approach and an orderly progression to the lessons. In addition, there are often additional resources like play along videos and opportunities to get feedback.

Here are the pros and cons of learning guitar from quality online courses or guitar learning membership websites.


  • No Travel – you can do them in your own home

  • Flexible Schedule – Usually you can do them when it’s best for you

  • Easy Review – because you have access to the lesson online you can review it as many times as you like. You’re not likely to forget what to practice.

  • Less Expensive – Often quality online lessons are less expensive than private or even group lessons.


  • Lack of Feedback – usually the online instructor cannot see what you’re doing and cannot offer valuable corrections or feedback.

  • Environment – some can focus on their own home, but for many, it’s helpful to go to a separate place for lessons to take advantage of a specialized learning environment.

  • Lack of Accountability – no live teacher to see your progress? “I can just practice tomorrow (or the next day, or next…)”

  • One Size Fits All – with most online lessons every student does the same lessons regardless of previous experience or learning speed.

Now that I’ve given you a basic summary of the pros and cons you might be asking which one do I recommend?

I believe there is an incredible value to have a personal relationship with a competent systematic enthusiastic instructor if you can afford it.

However, I would choose a quality systematic online course any day over an incompetent unorganized instructor at any price.

That said there’s always the possibility of combining the two and having the best of both worlds.

As the owner of Starland School of Music, I’ve been hiring and training instructors for over 35 years. I’ve created a blog post that includes much of what I’ve learned as well as a downloadable checklist to help you choose a quality private instructor. Here’s the link below for you to access that.

>> How To Hire A Good Guitar Instructor

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