well I thought I could kinda play guitar as a hassle-free habit, and that if I just play long enough I would get good eventually...

I mean, some of the greatest greats of guitar playing never took any formal lessons...

the thing is, I'm stuck at this mediocre level, and no matter what I do, it just seems that I can't get fast with my fingers at all

while currently don't have the time or leisure for lessons, I'm seriously considering getting one in future... but then again, what more can an instructor do for my speed than teaching me what to practice (which, in turn, is easy to find on internet these days)

so to all you decent players out there,
did you get there by yourself? or with professional (and paid) help??
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I did it all by myself, and I think I'm a decent player. The key is slowing everything down to a comfortable pace, then speeding it up. If you start fast and do it sloppy, it will be 10x harder to do it right because guitar is all based on muscle memory. By teaching your fingers to do it sloppy, they will want to do it sloppy, and it's harder to correct bad technique than start with good technique.

An instructor can help you start out with good technique, and criticize you. They can tell you what you're doing wrong, and help you fix it. By doing it yourself you don't have that. You can learn yourself and become a great guitar player, but you're a little more likely to develop a bad technique.
Everybody plateaus at some point. You just have to practice and rely on the fact that at some point it will pay off. Do picking exercises slowly at first and build up speed.
nope, and i actually had the same problem. i got stuck eventually to where i didnt see any improvement for months. just have fun with it, maybe learn some solos that arent too fast but are faster than you can play now. slowly work up your speed.

i also improved speed by running through scales, mainly the Am pentatonic, over and over again getting progressively faster.

also make sure you are playing clean, it doesnt matter how fast you are if it sounds sloppy.
Sometimes we all seem to stop imporving or even go back a bit. Don't worry just keep going and you will be fine. I have never had a formal guitar lesson but have asked questions of and been advised by much more experienced guitar players to help me improve.
I took formal lessons for about 9 months, it's worth it.

My current job doesn't allow me the time for lessons, but if I could i would take them.
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As far as technique is concerned, lessons will put you on the right track, but achieving higher speeds is mainly about practicing, and doing that in the right manner. There are a lot of useful videos on youtube that cover various techniques. Most of them will tell you to slow down and play at a comfortable speed and then increase it gradually.
I'm 100% self-taught, and I have been playing for 3.5 years. I took only 4 lessons in my entire life just to see if there were other musicians in the music school to form a band. Unfortunately, no one was interested, lessons were expensive and the teacher wasn't familiar with rock and metal, so I stopped.
I'm was self teaching myself for about a year, but then I wasn't improving so I decided to take lessons and IMO it was well worth it.
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I've never had a single lesson and I sound like it too.

Yes, I know everything. No, I can't play worth a damn.
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As it goes, learning how to learn is an art by itself. Someone need a teacher to figure out how they learn guitar the best way but it's entirely possiple to do that on your own.
If you fell like you are on the rigt track just keep on trucking and you will get there.

Just because you fell like you are slowing down your learning pace now, it doesn't mean that you can't have a "skill boost" in the future.
My parents and I wasted thousands of dollars on private lessons from a guy who was supposed to be a genius guitar tutor. He had a Berklee degree, famous guitarist friends, and had taught some local prodigies. I never could get much right other than simple classical pieces and power chords. I always thought that he was a great teacher and I was just kind of an idiot, and eventually I gave up.

About ten years later I started playing again, this time using Metal Method videos and internet resources. I found out that my teacher just sucked. Almost everything he taught me about about theory or technique was missing important information or just plain wrong. It was no wonder my guitar was always out of tune, because what he told me about setting it up was wrong. It’s no wonder he was teaching teenagers in a crappy southern town—he was too bad to do anything else!

So I’m a big fan of the video lessons that are out there today. Some of them are being produced by teams of professional musicians and teachers. They’ve been refined based on years, in some cases decades, of feedback. They’ve caught the mistakes, filled the holes, and it’s just a generally better experience than handing some guy a $120 check every month for lessons and just hoping he’s getting it right.
I paid $20 a lesson and my guitar teacher was an amazing guitarist. He was EXTREMELY talented.
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I started playing recently and have a formal tutor. It`s going preety well, you can always find a better one if you look, but the reason why I pay money to learn is because I`m to lazy to pun in the extra effort. I`d would take to much time solo. I`d suggest taking lessons until you reach a level from which you can continue freely. That shouldn`t take more than a year.
I've been taking lessons for two years from two different teachers. One taught me scales and the roots of theory, the other is teaching me chord construction and the essentials of jazz guitar.

I dabble with other things in my spare time. I'm pretty decent for playing for two years. I'm arguably better than some of my friends who have been playing for the same time or longer without lessons.
whenever I hit that plateau I do something different,
sure i'll always start playing my technique exercises first but the things I play after that are completely different.

usually I play doom/death metal but the last few weeks I've been playing classical songs, attempting some covers of some of ludovico einaudis work or doing some blues improvisation, and I like it, I personally think that when you hit that plateau is the perfect opportunity to advance as a guitar player, I automaticly switch to stuff I wouldn't even think about otherwise and in the end it actually pays of

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don`t try to get every technique perfect at the same time, master all the basics of a advanced technique and expand your knowledge slowly.

I was self taught upto the point that i studied music at university then it took on a whole new level, with someone actually teaching you will advance more rapidly.

as far as hitting a plateau you need something to drive you forwards, so start a band or join one, other than that find other musicians at school / college and hang out you`ll pick up loads from other players, goto to jam nights or open mic nights (don`t be put off by stage fright or embarassment with more seasoned players there - they will help you.)
The thing is you always have to challenge yourself and learn what you can't play. You don't get better by playing what you can play, You get better by trying to play what you can't play. A good guitar setup helps too if you haven't had a setup. And no, I never had a guitar lesson. My best friend did show me a few things to play but that doesn't really count, does it?
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Last edited by Gargoyle2500 at Jun 20, 2010,
well I had lessons up to the point where I reached mediocrity. after that, all my improvements were directly related to the songs my band wanted to play. you see, 4 insane people demanding that you learn bodom's keyboard solos on guitar for the next week tend to do wonders.
I'm taking lessons for about 1.5 year. It does pay off.
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I took formal lessons for about 9 months, it's worth it.

It helped me to get into guitar, correct position and such, but in the end, my playing skills are more or less based on what I've done at home. I learnt classical guitar for 9 months too, so I have some experience around finger style techniques, but I rarely play that way any more... and playing with a pick I've learnt on my own, with all there is about that.

With my new JamKat I might return to some finger style soon though... =)
I take lessons. I tried to learn by myself but it quite didnt work out for me. I just had a lot of information available on the internet and I didnt know where to start. It was too overwhelming.

So now my teacher takes care of that. And about speed, it's not the only thing you should be worrying about. I'd say the least actually. You should worry about sounding good. Speed will come eventually.
I suppose lessons are good for absolute beginners, but once you get over that first hump it was a total waste of money for me. I quit and started using the internet and subscribed Guitar World, and that has made all the difference in my playing.
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I'm just going to reiterate what most of the other users on here are saying. Lessons can help you with technique and theory, but ultimately it's up to you to become the guitarist that you want to be. I've had a few mock lessons from a so-so music teacher who plays some guitar at my school, and they helped, but I found the internet to be a very useful resource for learning music. I took learning guitar into my own hands, and it payed off. You can improve technique by watching your favorite guitarists play. Watch their hands and their fingers, and listen.
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I took two formal lessons after I had built my technique. The amount of stuff I learned in those two lessons was unreal.
Are you sure you're challenging yourself enough? I've learned that in most things in life, you get better quickly by attempting difficult things and getting outside of your comfort zone.
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Man, I had a friend that got me into it and showed me the ropes, but he wasnt a formal instructor. I played for 4-5 yrs and plateaued and got frustrated and gave up for about 4 F'n years. Now I'm back and now I guess you could say have the maturity to be patient and know now what will work for me. I just took a hard lick, memorized it and played it really slow and picked up speed with it and have now smashed through the plateau that I was struggling with before. I have also taken a few formal lessons and came to realize that no matter how amazing the instrctor was, getting better requires a shit ton of practice and in the end its all up to you. I think a lot of people look to instructors as a short cut to getting better but in the end it just depends on how much time and practice you put in to it.