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Perhaps we're a bit biased, but learning to play the guitar is one of the most rewarding journeys you can undertake. It's a cool skill to have, and it comes in handy whether you're the go-to guy to strum some tunes around the campfire with friends, or you turn it into a career. Who knows, some of you out there reading this might even be bound for rockstardom...
But where does one start? What kind of a commitment does it take - both financially and time-wise - to get started? How long does it take to make significant progress?
If you're a parent buying lessons for your child, or if you're a kid reading this, or if you're any age and simply want to take up guitar as a hobby (or more), you've come to the right place.
In this article we'll demystify the in and outs and compare the costs of 1 on 1 guitar lessons, lessons from national chains like Guitar Center, and online lessons.
How Much Do Guitar Lessons Cost?
Let's start with cost, since it's a consideration for almost everyone.
And by online lessons, we don't mean somebody doing a private Skype call with you. We mean signing up for a service where the video lessons have already been recorded, and you follow along a lesson plan. The reason this is the most inexpensive option is because it's not private instruction tailored to you. Services like Guitar Tricks, JamPlay, and Fender Play have pre-recorded thousands of lessons, so the fact that they paid those instructors up front means they want to sign up as many people as possible to their service on a recurring/subscription basis.
You can sign up for a subscription to an online guitar lesson website for as little as $10/month, though a more common price point is $20/month (depending on which service you choose).
If instead we're talking about in-person private guitar lessons, the price goes up substantially. In many cases you pay per-lesson, and you choose how long you want each lesson to be - typical lengths are 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minutes.
It's hard to give an exact price, because unlike online lesson websites that have a fixed membership cost, every guitar instructor (or guitar school) sets their own rate depending on where in the world they are located, their level of experience, and if they have to travel to your house as opposed to you going to where they are.
A broad range for personalized, in-person instruction would be $40-$80 per hour. So if you take three hour-long guitar lessons per month, that works out to anywhere between $120 and $240 per month - not exactly a cheap expenditure!
In the next sections, let's dive into the ins and outs of the different types of guitar lessons you can seek out.
One-On-One Private Guitar Lessons
Traditionally this is what most people think of when they think about guitar lessons. Either you go to a teacher's home, school, or other meeting location, or the teacher comes to you.
Typically, in-person lessons are a minimum of 30 minutes; any less than that and you're not really going to get much out of it. If you're a beginner, 30 minutes might be enough to be flooded with new information and receive plenty of practice material to take home with you.
However, if you can afford it and/or are a more advanced student, instructors are usually able to offer 45 minute lessons, and even one hour.
From our own personal experience, 30 minutes is enough to go over a new concept, drill it a couple of times, but it will be up to you to go home and practice. With 60 minutes of instruction time, the teacher will be able to take a closer look at your technique and watch you practice several times. This allows them to catch some of your mistakes early and send you home with a more fine-tuned practice regimen.
One-on-one guitar lessons have the most variables, so it can be a little tricky to begin your search. The cost is impacted greatly by the following factors:
Lesson length - We already covered this one, but obviously a 60 minute lesson will cost more than a 30 minute one. Usually instructors offer a small discount the longer the lesson is. Another consideration is if a teacher offers a discount for committing to a lesson package up front.
Instructor experience - How long has the teacher been playing guitar? The longer they've been playing AND teaching, the higher of a fee they will command.
Geography - Where in the world are you located? In cities where the cost of living is higher - like New York and San Francisco in the USA - the cost of a guitar teacher will be on the higher end.
Travel - Are you going to them? Or is the teacher coming to you? Some teachers may charge a premium to come to your house to cover their cost of gas and travel.
Equipboard is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and a quick online search reveals that guitar lessons in this city cost about $1 per minute. 30 minutes of a guitar teacher's time will cost you $30, and an hour will cost you about $50.
If you can get a good guitar teacher for under $1 per minute, consider that a great deal!
So, where do you look for good one-on-one guitar teachers?
There are a few helpful websites that make it easy to get in touch with guitar instructors:
Yelp is a very trusted service centered around user ratings and reviews for local businesses. Try searching for "Guitar Lessons" near your area, and look for teachers or schools with an average of 4 or more stars, and a decent amount of reviews from students.
Thumbtack helps you find local professionals for just about anything, including guitar teachers. Look for "Guitar Lessons" and type in your zip code to see what's available. Every teacher on Thumbtack has ratings and reviews, and there are some very useful filters like "musical styles" and "travel preferences."
TakeLessons is another great service to look for guitar teachers that have been rated and reviewed by students. Their filters are great too, such as being able to choose what gender teacher you want, or only teachers that have undergone a background check.
Craigslist is a website where anyone can list anything, from furniture or concert tickets for sale, to their guitar lesson services. Buyer beware - Craigslist doesn't have ratings or reviews, so it would probably be our last choice when looking for a teacher. That said, you could find a diamond in the rough, like a college student who's a phenomenal guitar player and will give you a great deal.
Guitar Lessons From National Chains
With learning and improving guitar being such a popular pass time, it's only natural that some national name brands have gotten into the game. Here we'll discuss two of the big ones - Guitar Center and School of Rock.
Chances are you've at least heard of - if not been inside - Guitar Center. They're the largest music retailer chain in the United States, and offer in-store guitar lessons for ages 7 and up. Not all locations offer lessons, so use their Purchase Lessons page to see if any of their locations near you offer lessons.
The Guitar Stores stores near us have been outfitted with small sound-proof booths where the lessons take place.
Pricing is pretty simple. You buy one of two packages:
Four 60-minute lessons for $238.00 (+$30 Registration Fee)
Four 30-minute lessons for $119.00 (+$30 Registration Fee)
The nice thing about buying a four lesson package is that it makes you commit to a month or so, which is a good amount of time to decide if in-store lessons are right for you.
Just like private one-on-one lessons, the price does fluctuate depending on where you are. At Guitar Center in Manhattan, the packages are priced $278 and $139 respectively.
Guitar Center Lessons are priced pretty fairly. They hover around the $1 per minute price (give or take), which is roughly equivalent to finding a private teacher on your own, and you don't really have to do much work aside from showing up at your local store.
The bad thing is that you don't get any info on the teachers ahead of time, so you'll have to hope you get matched up with someone you jive with. Luckily you can talk to Guitar Center staff and they can help find a tutor who matches up with your goals and style.
School of Rock
Unlike Guitar Center, School of Rock is JUST a music education school. The good thing about that is that they're much more specialized, and don't have Guitar Center's 7 and up age restriction. They have lessons for preschoolers, kids, teens, and adults with different styles and curriculums to match the way people of different ages learn best.
School of Rock has locations all over the world, from Brazil to Canada to Australia, but the majority of their locations are in the United States. Head to their Locations page to find one near you.
Because they're more specialized, School of Rock lessons tend to me more expensive. It varies by location, but this is what's stated on their website:
Depending on the program, School of Rock's guitar lessons can cost from around $150 to $350 or more per month. Exact prices vary between locations.
One cool thing is that School of Rock has a social aspect which is missing in other types of in-person lessons. With a membership, you can go hang out at School of Rock anytime it's open (for instance, you can go jam with other members).
The good thing is that you can schedule a free trial through their website, so you can get a taste if these lessons are right for you (or your child).
Online Guitar Lesson Platforms
Almost anything can be learned online these days - from how to give someone a haircut to a new exercise routine - so why not guitar? The online guitar lesson trend has become huge, with several websites out there providing massive amounts of video lesson content for a very reasonable monthly fee. Even Fender, the legendary guitar manufacturer, now offers online guitar lessons across all platforms (phone, tablet, or computer).
The two main selling points of taking lessons on your computer or smartphone without leaving your home are COST and CONVENIENCE.
There are dozens of websites and apps offering guitar lessons, and we've spent a substantial amount of time using them to determine what the best ones are.
As you can see, a typical cost of online guitar lessons is about $20/mo if you pay month-to-month, but if you commit to a year up front, the price is even better.
Online guitar lesson platforms like Guitar Tricks, JamPlay, and TrueFire have an immense catalogue of content and lessons covering different styles of music from numerous instructors.
They also have well-thought-out lesson plans to guide beginners through the basics.
If you take into consideration the amount of quality material you get, the monthly price is an absolute steal!
With in-person guitar lessons, there's a certain pressure that comes with meeting your teacher at a certain time, and practicing every week as to not waste money and time.
Unfortunately, life happens, and we can't all keep up the necessary pace all the time. The beauty of taking guitar lessons online is that they are always there when you need them, and if life happens or you need a break, you can always pick up right where you left off (or go back a bit for a refresher).
While 30 minutes is a good amount of time to set aside for lessons, sometimes you'll only be able to dedicate 15 minutes, and some days you might have the stamina to go for 2 hours! With online lessons, you can go completely at your own pace.
You also have the option of taking the lessons with you wherever you go. Most online lessons these days make their content accessible on smart phones and tablets, and some even let you download course content in case you don't have internet access.
The point is, if you find yourself with a guitar in your hand, you always have a way to access some lessons.
Are Online Guitar Lessons as Good as In-Person Lessons?
Generally speaking, yes, online lessons are just as good - if not better in many cases - than taking lessons from a private instructor.
Both have their pros and cons. If you're a more advanced student and have some very specific needs, it'll be harder to find online lessons that cater to you like a live instructor might.
Also, if you have issues with motivation or self-organization, in-person lessons might force you to practice so that you don't let yourself and your instructor down. Online lessons can be a little easier to forget about since nobody but yourself is keeping you accountable.
For beginners especially, online lessons are a fantastic option.
Every beginner generally needs to learn the same concepts - tuning and holding your guitar, how to strum, open chords, simple scales... there's just not that much innovation that a live guitar teacher can add to an already tried-and-true beginner curriculum, like the Core Learning System offered by Guitar Tricks, or the Paths offered by Fender Play.
And if you find yourself in need of some private help, Guitar Tricks offers that too! Head to their “pro” section, where you can take live, 1 on 1 lessons with a teacher. Simply choose a lesson length (30 or 60 minutes), choose an available instructor, pick a date and time, and you’re all set!
Whether you're looking for guitar lessons for yourself or a loved one, we hope this was a good primer on where you can begin your search, and how much you can expect to spend. If you know of any other resources people should consider, let us know in the comments!
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more