Self-Taught Musician: Pros and Cons

All the ups and downs of learning music on your own.

Self-Taught Musician: Pros and Cons
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I've seen a fair bit of debate recently on the topic of whether self-taught musicians can ever reach the level of their professionally-educated brethren, how long it would take them comparatively, what they need to do to get their, et cetera. But this debate always seems to devolve into opinionated conflict. The self-taught crowd takes on an air of independence, spouting ill-conceived lines like "You're just following your teacher's instructions because you don't have the skills to actually choose your own learning path." From the professionally-schooled crowd, it usually takes on a monetary overtone, something like, "Why do you think lessons are so expensive? I pay as much as I do because there are things you can only learn from a teacher. You'll never master your instrument if you don't take lessons from someone who knows those secrets." What often gets lost in this all-too-quickly degenerating debate, is the actual answer to the question, "Can a musician legitimately become as professional without a teacher as one would with a teacher?" As a self-taught professional musician myself, my own personal experience says, "yes." HOWEVER, there are, again in my own personal experience, certain steps that the self-taught musician must follow of their own accord. These steps are the same steps that a teacher bases his or her lesson plan around, but does not often share with the student. In the following video lesson, I explain this four-step program in-depth, and it should enable an aspiring self-taught musician to improve just as much as any professionally-taught musician. Enjoy!

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    spiff-corgi
    As a self-taught musician, I have to say I would probably be a lot better if I had a professional teacher. The only thing that held me back from getting a tutor was that I wanted to learn at my own pace and not turn my hobby into work.
    manyscissors
    yes! I realised that everything I did at school/in lessons became immediately less enjoyable than i would otherwise find it because of deadlines and often doing things i don't like. I couldn't let that happen with guitar
    jebus44
    I'm in the same boat as you. I had Sax lessons in school, and while I liked playing it, I never learned all the awesome sax stuff like blues pieces. It was all classical music which just doesn't translate well to sax. I picked it up again after 2 years of not playing and teaching myself guitar and piano, and voila, I'm loving it. Playing what I want to and all that. However, the techniques I would have never been able to teach myself.
    K33nbl4d3
    Personally I need a teacher primarily because of my own faults: I can't commit to focused learning, so I need something that I essentially have to work on.
    Wininacan
    Everyone is a self taught musician, you cant put knowledge into someones head if they don't want to let it in. Teachers simply offer guidance and motivation.
    MaggaraMarine
    This. Teachers only tell you good ways to practice and give you feedback. You are the one that practices and learns things. People who say you lose your style if you get a teacher, no you don't. Everybody has their own style because they have different influences. A teacher doesn't learn stuff for you. You still learn it. But a teacher can see if you are doing something wrong or you actually sound terrible when you think you sound awesome. Teacher isn't going to change your style. Teacher only gives advice and can tell you if you are doing something wrong. That's not what books and youtube videos can do.
    Ishiga
    I noticed when I was taking lessons that learning was most definitely work; However, I've also noticed that while it's more relaxed and a bit more fun to learn on my own, learning from a teacher had a better payoff. It was work but it was well worth it and I wound up having much more fun in my free time playing on my own as a direct result of the work my teacher made me do. It's been years since then though. I think some are meant to learn on their own, others to be taught, but everyone could benefit from trying both. If you already know some stuff, learn a few tips and get some insight from an instructor and carry that wherever the hobbyist in you wants to take it.
    GodzillaRAWRRR
    To be honest I don't think there is a such thing as a "self taught" musician I mean if you're using the internet for lessons you're still getting lessons just not paid ones.
    philip.hausner
    You have any info on how to self teach guitar? like websites or books that may have helped you learn sheet music?
    NeilTheDruid
    You hit the nail on the head there mate. I took lessons for 10 years between the age of 6 and 16. By the end it nearly knocked my love for music (never mind the instrument) out of me. Although, I'm 26 now and looking back I'm glad I stuck with it for as long as I did. It gave my a grounding that would have taken a lot of figuring out otherwise.
    Sir_Taffey
    I am self taught and haven't stopped regretting not getting a teacher. I am one of those people that learns very quickly (not blowing my own horn) and have absorbed and taken in everything I have found. But it all lacked direction and guidance. A friend of mine was also self taught, now has a teacher for technique and playing and another for theory and application and is now miles ahead of me. His improv is so much better and it seems to me having a teacher would make you better by miles
    KevinGoetz
    It all varies from person to person. There are literally more factors involved in learning speed than I can list off, everything from life circumstances to genetics to even diet. It's good to compare yourself to other musicians as a reference point, e.g. "They're there, I'm here, let's start moving toward them." But when you start comparing progress rates like that, you're only setting yourself up for needless disappointment.
    Elintasokas
    You know, he might just be a more talented musician than you.
    KevinGoetz
    Meh, talent's actually a bit of a myth. But that could be a whole other video in and of itself.
    Elintasokas
    Maybe, but I am 99% sure talent exists. Some people just learn ridiculously fast, others never get particularly good even if they practice for 10 years. This applies for pretty much everything.
    mattjamesrenn
    i was like that for years and just stagnated, but it's all about practice the right way. When I started to do this both physically and mentally it really does wonders.
    shawnkenneth
    Many self taught musicians have picked up the instrument because they discovered that they have a passion for it.. While most (Most, not all) professional musicians are made to learn the instruments at an early age, usually by the parents.(Feel free to disagree). Self taught musicians are obviously the ones who would try to develop their skills experiment more, create new sounds etc. as compared to their counterparts.
    MaidenRules95
    I agree, most of the guitarists I've personally known in my area that took lessons don't progress at a noticable rate, as opposed to the self taught ones who are trying to progress as much as possible. I wish I could say as a self taught guitarist that I was progressing at a noticable rate, unfortunately I've slowed quite a bit on that front
    Mouloudo
    I think it's safe to say that most famous guitarists are self taught, and most session men are educated, so for me it's a no brainer lol
    Kueller917
    Age is probably a factor. Someone young would probably go with a teacher with some coercion from parents or school options, but someone going to study in high level education usually has to have a passion for that instrument to spend years solely learning it.
    Djaydjay
    most so called self-taught musicians don't deserve that name, they are actually taught by a cheap-ass teacher: the internetz. They didn't learn on their own. In that regard, most of the positive sides of self-teaching (creating your own techniques, being more creative, experimenting more, etc...) don't really apply to that kind of self-taught imo
    jacobm3412
    Guthrie Govan is self taught so I am sure that it can work (but then again not everyone is Guthrie Govan). I think being professionally trained makes it more likely that you will become an amazing guitarist.
    nargoth
    Pretty sure guthrie learned theory at school and A levels though, and studied heavily independently
    haifisch234
    Even the best teacher in the whole world couldn't help when a guitar player doesn't heave enough motivation to develop his/her playing. So after all it doesn't matter much whether you are self-taught or not. The most important thing is to develop an own style of playing, own characteristic sound etc., a teacher won't help you with it much.
    0ld H1pp1e
    It literally takes thousands of hours of practice to master the instrument. If you are unwilling to do that, it don't matter who your teacher is. Totally agree...
    Human371
    Totally, you just have to have the discipline. You can seek the same information out whether you have a formal teacher or not.
    fin ramage
    Jimi Hendrix, nuff said.
    seanjtysoe
    Why do people think this guy is such a great guitarist? He sucks. Just cause he played stairway to heaven which is one of those songs that everyone likes for whatever reason doesent make him a good guitarist.
    Elintasokas
    The thing is, you CAN have teachers without having a teacher. Just open youtube and search whatever topic and you will find lessons on it. And it covers almost every single topic. I've learned all the same theory from the internet/books you can learn from a teacher and I get to decide what to learn and when. The downside is I can't ask "is this how I should play this?" so it requires more common sense.
    HGF
    self-taught for 11 years now. for me it all comes down to reach a more personal style (I'm not saying you can't do that taking lessons, but it seems easier for me jamming on your own for hours to get that). Big con for me is the lack of techniques you forget to master, but everything is possible (I started soloing this year)
    Mouloudo
    man you needed 11 years to start soloing? lol, that's the first thing I tried to do when I picked up a guitar
    K33nbl4d3
    I think balance is important: a teacher is incredibly useful to have to start out, to avoid bad habits and to improve technique, but obviously they can't be expected to make you a good guitarist.
    seanjtysoe
    what the beep? 11 years to start soloing? I'm self taugh Ive been playing seriuosly for a couple of years and have no problem playing satch, yngwie, etc. My god if its taken that long to start soloing is it worth even playing an instrument.
    thechaostheory
    Now that you have mastered soloing perhaps you should master modesty. I here that gets even more girls (or guys) than soloing does.
    0ld H1pp1e
    I am mostly self-taught. But in my past I had a teacher who really helped me break the log-jam in my playing. He was a former studio musician who had fallen on hard times, living in the back of a truck camper and was willing to tutor me for the cost of a six-pack. I know I would not have progressed at the rate that I did without his teaching. With his teaching, I had a ton of "Aha!" moments. Rest in peace Mark Edward Harrington-Hauser III.
    i_am_metalhead
    Neither way is wrong or right. Some of the "best" guitarist out there are self-taught and have never had any kind of lessons or formal education. It's all about how dedicated a person is to learning. The only thing a teacher can do is give you material to practice that you would otherwise have to find on your own and give you advice on how THEY prefer to do certain things. It's all about whether or not you're willing to put in the extra effort required to teach yourself or not.
    av0n
    I dont like those kind of articles. Introduction, and there you go, a Youtube-Video. I want to read sometimes. Not watch a guy talking to me, regardless of whether the content is good or not.