If you're thinking about learning the guitar, or even if you've been playing for a while, it might be a good idea to get some guitar lessons from a professional guitar teacher. While this will obviously be more expensive than learning from books, it does have some very important advantages. For one thing, it's a lot easier to learn how to do something when you can actually see and hear how it should be done, first hand, than it is to try and learn the same thing from a picture in a book. As such, having guitar lessons can dramatically reduce learning time. It also ensures that you learn the correct techniques, and stops you from forming any bad habits. Plus being able to stop and ask questions, or get more details on a specific area of playing, is a huge advantage, and something you just can't get from a book.
Guitar lessons come in two types: group lessons, and individual, one to one, lessons. Each type has its advantages and I'll look at them briefly here. Group lessons tend to be cheaper as there are more people paying for the same amount of the teacher's time. They also give you the chance to meet and interact with other guitarists. Members of groups, which can range in size from two to ten or more, can help spur each other on to practice and improve. Some people, however may find this kind of situation intimidating, feeling insecure about playing in front of other people, and so prefer the privacy of one to one lessons. Another advantage of one to one lessons is that the teacher is totally focused on you, rather than a whole group, so can tailor each guitar lesson to your specific needs.
Another consideration to make when looking for guitar lessons is where they will be held. Some guitar teachers are happy to come to your house to teach you whilst others ask that you go to them. Generally they will charge more if they have to come to you to make up for travel expenses, but this can be weighed up against you not having this hassle or expense yourself. In some respects though, it can be better if your teacher has his or her own teaching venue, whether it's at their home or in a local school or church hall, as they may have equipment such as amps already set up, recording gear to record your progress, or a computer to print out new learning materials as and when you require them.
As for how much you can expect to pay for guitar lessons, of course it varies from teacher to teacher, and in most cases you get what you pay for. Private lessons with a world renowned guitarist could cost hundreds of pounds per hour. The standard hourly rate for private guitar lessons in the UK, as recommended by the musicians union, is 27 per hour, although there are plenty of teachers working for less. As mentioned earlier, group lessons tend to be cheaper, and if you are at school or college then you might be able to get subsidised, or even free lessons through them.
Another thing worth mentioning is grades. Music grades in the UK run from grade one to grade eight, and form a staple part of the curriculum for most instruments. They tend to be less popular with guitarists though. That said, you can still do them and it might be worth thinking about, although it's perfectly reasonable to learn guitar without taking any grades.
A word on guitar teachers themselves now. When looking for a teacher you should find out how long they've been playing, as well as how long they've been teaching. You should also ask about what, if any, qualifications they may have, although this is less important. It's worth remembering that being a good guitarist doesn't automatically qualify someone as a good guitar teacher, so don't just go for the one who impresses you the most with their guitar playing.
That's pretty much it on guitar lessons. I hope that's helped you to decide whether you think you need them or not, and if so has given you enough information to start looking and find the right teacher for you. Whatever you decide, good luck, and make sure you enjoy the experience.
Chris Lake is a professional guitarist and guitar teacher and writes articles for several online publications. If you'd like some more great advice and tips about learning the guitar please visit his website: GuitarSkills.net