Online Vs. Offline Guitar Lessons, Part 2

Online Vs. Offline Guitar Lessons, Part 2

Regardless of what we’re told, this guitar business is not as simple and straightforward as many people would have us believe, and finding some quality guitar instruction that fits your individual wants, needs, and personality isn’t always easy.

We’re basically presented with two general models when making this decision (offline and online), and we looked at some pros and cons of an internet-based curriculum in the previous article in this two part series.

The offline, “face to face” route is certainly the most traditional, but is it really the best way to go, considering the almost innumerable factors that comprise an individual’s guitar playing experience?

Again, there is no “one size fits all” approach for anything here, and this includes the processes of learning to become the guitarist you’d most like to be. Let’s dig into some common benefits and drawbacks of the offline model in this article, and help determine which is the best fit for your situation:

Offline Guitar Lessons


1. Personal, face to face interaction with the instructor (also a potential “con.”)

2. Increased ability for students to ask questions and receive relevant feedback about performance and progress.

3. Usually a greater possibility of working with curriculum tailor made for the individual, but not always the case.

4. Fewer options regarding potential instructors can mean less overwhelm when deciding which path to choose (also a potential “con.”)

5. Usually easier to vet the potential guitar teacher’s ability, strengths, weaknesses, personality, and overall “vibe”, but this can be misleading, too. Remember to think for yourself here, and not just go on the recommendations others have given you, no matter how qualified you might think those people are to make such recommendations.

The truth is, most people just really don’t know what works and what doesn’t, but they have ideas about what was/is most comfortable for them or those close to them in a given situation: the fact that a guitar instructor has a degree in music education, or they’re “good with kids”, have years of experience performing live, etc. means next to nothing when it comes to your unique situation, goals, and development.

Doctors go to school for years in order to be qualified to diagnose and treat illness, but people switch doctors and ask for second opinions all the time. Why? Because years of training and general competence in a given field alone don’t equate the most beneficial experience for someone personally. Be your own judge when it comes to this process.


1. Potential of too much personal interaction for those students who are particularly shy, self-conscious, or too “rigid” for those who need to work within a different timeframe for completion of curriculum. Some instructors have firmly set schedules regarding subject material and its completion, and this doesn’t always work so well for everyone (this is especially true of group or workshop type instruction.)

2. Usually working within a set schedule from one meeting/lesson to the next, so the instructor and material’s availability is more limited than with an online model. While I make myself available to students, and encourage any necessary interaction with me outside of scheduled lesson times, getting together at 2 a.m. to discuss the finer points of what we covered the previous week isn’t always a viable option.

If you’re working within an online model, you can more or less access content at any given time (provided you have internet access), but you’re pretty much limited to feasible and agreed upon meeting times with a one on one teacher.

3. Basically a matter of taking the best of who and what’s available, relative to your personal schedule, where you live, etc. Not all guitar coaches or methods are created equal, and you’re going to be somewhat limited to who and what is available to you based on the criteria mentioned in the first sentence: if you live someplace where there aren’t many options outside of the guy down the street who knows a handful of chords and plays now and then as a hobby, you’re not likely to find local instruction that can take you much deeper than that same handful of chords, at least in terms of theory, application, and overall “guitar-ness”, if that makes sense.

Likewise, if you find someone who you feel is qualified and a good fit for you, but your schedules aren’t congruent, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Just because someone is available in your area doesn’t mean they’re necessarily available to you, personally.

4. Potential (probable) inability of the instructor taking you beyond a particular place in your knowledge and/or playing, based on points #2, #3, and #5, which is listed next.

5. Unqualified “teachers” offering lessons (or, what I affectionately call the “F.O.S. Factor”), which can often be more prevalent offline than online. Remember: the fact that someone offers instruction does NOT mean it’s worth your time or money. Also, the fact that a prospective teacher comes recommended by someone else doesn’t really mean anything, aside from the idea that someone recommends them, as we’ve already covered.

Bottom line is, some people who don’t know what they’re doing make money by charging a fee for teaching other people who don’t know what they’re doing, and this works because the latter doesn’t know any better.

This group of “teachers” usually stick to a pretty regimented and rigid curriculum, as they themselves lack the depth of understanding and ability to deviate too far from what they feel works, or from what they’ve read/heard/etc. works from people who *do* know what they’re doing.

This is a problem for many reasons, not the least of which is the inability to understand that not only is every person and playing situation different, but that as an instructor, you need to be able to shift gears and ditch one method in favor of another, more effective course, often in real time.

Sometimes, it’s worth dealing with the feelings of overwhelm while searching for solid online instruction, simply because you can see whether someone can actually play, whether what they teach is legitimate (the internet can be used to find information, too!), etc.

Okay. Like I said in the first article of this series, these lists are by no means exhaustive, nor do they fit the criteria for every person in every situation. But, they offer a good, general overview of common perks and pitfalls of both online and offline courses of guitar study, and in the end, you need to decide for yourself which way you’re going to go.

To me, the ideal situation is one of working with a good, qualified instructor one on one, and adding internet resources as supplemental materials. As we’ve seen, that “ideal” scenario won’t always pan out, though, so being prepared and thinking for yourself become crucial to this process. And, isn’t that a goal of the guitar antihero anyway?

I hope you’ve found this helpful, and that you put it to good use. Now, get to work and break some paradigms with your own guitar playing.