James Berry, a guitar teacher on FindAGuitarTeacher, offering private guitar lessons in Brooklyn, has submitted the following article outlining his thoughts about the variable efficacy of guitar lesson length and guitar lesson intervals. We invite you to read what James has to say, as well as to weigh in with your perspective and experience (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org). We’d love to hear from you.
The Every-Other-Week Guitar Lesson Phenomenon
by James Berry
A few months ago, Chris wrote a blog post about the prevalence of half-hour guitar lessons—and how learning guitar requires a greater time investment than that.
I’ve been thinking for a long time about a related phenomenon: the every-other-week guitar lesson. I don’t offer half-hour guitar lessons for the very reasons Chris outlined in his excellent article, and my students often become adamant about how they don’t want to schedule an hour lesson every week. The reason: “I need time to practice between the lessons.” And then the clincher: “The lessons are really just a waste of money if I don’t practice what you teach me.”
Of course a student should play guitar between the lessons—that’s the goal of the lessons, after all—but something students don’t mention when they make this speech is that they always bring this subject up a few lessons in; i.e., when the novelty of the first guitar lesson wears off and the dedication that learning guitar requires becomes apparent. The every-other-week guitar lesson is a decision that allows a student to feel like he or she is learning the guitar in a way that’s more effective and cost-efficient.
But in reality, students who choose this path are distancing themselves from the guitar, and they don’t practice more. They practice less.
I’ve never seen a case where the every-other-week guitar lesson helps a student. The every-other-week guitar lesson becomes the once-a-month guitar lesson, which becomes “I really should get back to guitar lessons,” which eventually leads to the proverbial guitar gathering dust in a corner (if it’s lucky; it may end up in a closet and never see the light of day).
Chris said aptly, “It’s hard to imagine that anyone would think that someone aspiring to learn a new language could realistically hope to do so by taking a half-hour lesson, once per week.” You could say the same of one-hour-every-other-week language lessons. So if you want to learn guitar, think of it as learning a language, and it really is; the notes and chords are the grammar, and the music—the real music—is the mood, the nuance, the inflection of the language, which as we all know can take a lifetime to speak fluently. I recommend you take guitar lessons twice a week—and make each lesson 2 hours long. In language education, this technique is called “immersion,” and in my opinion it’s the only way to learn guitar in a real way. If the idea of making such a large commitment of time and money in an open-ended fashion bothers you, give yourself six months, and then assess your progress at the end of that period.
If learning guitar is something you’re sorry you haven’t done before, you owe it to yourself now to do it right, and take frequently scheduled lessons with a guitar teacher who will help you achieve your goals. The pages of FindAGuitarTeacher.com are an ideal place to look for that teacher.