The pitfalls of self-training

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

I got my first real 6-string
At the Five and Dime
Played it ‘til my fingers bled…

If you are as excited with your new guitar as Bryan Adams was with his, you can’t wait to begin playing. That’s great! If you keep your enthusiasm, you will progress quickly — but you will also need some help. Self-training may sound like the quickest, cheapest way to learn guitar, but it can also put you on the fast track for failure. Following are 5 things that you want to consider before going it alone.

You may be practicing wrong

Professionals in any art form will tell you that only perfect practice makes perfect performances. You may be practicing your little heart out, but what if you are not practicing perfection? You may have an idea of how to do it correctly. You may even spend hours practicing that idea. But, if that idea is wrong, all you have done is practice to fail. It’s better to learn correctly from the beginning and be steered back on course if you should veer.

You may limit yourself

If you get to comfortable with what you are playing, you may decide to just keep doing the same old thing. Sure, it’s fun to play “Louie Louie” until the cows come home — but then what? A professional guitar teacher will challenge you to grow and expand. You may spend some time outside of your comfort zone, but that will only expand your comfort zone. Sometimes you need that extra push that only an outsider can give you.

You may lose interest

If you are not being challenged, or you are not challenging yourself, you will get bored. Whether you choose one-on-one instruction or group instruction, you will always be offered a challenge to rise to. It’s hard to lose interest when you are aspiring to a new level.

You may get too cocky

Many is the star who died young and tragically because they were too sure of themselves. While your guitar playing may not be life and death, it can certainly affect your future. If you think you are “all that” and find out that you are “all wrong,” you may want to give up. It’s OK being born with talent, but talent alone is not enough. Talent must be honed and refined. This can only be done with constructive feedback from others.

Hermits are not great musicians

Going it alone may give you some freedom, but it may also take away some freedoms, as well. If you want to try out a new sound, you will need an audience. If you want to play in public, you will need connections. When you jam with some friends or you learn with a teacher, you get both social interaction and feedback.

You may feel like a rebel learning all by yourself, but how many gifted musicians were successful entirely on their own? Jimmy Hendrix had a band to back him up. Mozart had a whole symphony. Even the greatest solo acts of all time had backup bands and mentors. Reach out!

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