Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Benefit of Traditional Music Lessons vs Self-Taught Lessons

Written by: Jasmine Dursun

Date: June 7, 2014

The Internet has transformed the world by allowing users to find anything they want, anywhere they want at the click of a mouse. With the introduction of social networking, users can reach out to one another through forums, blogs and multimedia and share information from thousands of miles away. The Internet has allowed people to become self-sufficient and independent when it comes to the information they retain, and music has been an outlet where users have especially taken advantage of exploring - even if they don’t have any musical experience to begin with.

Search “beginner guitar lessons” on YouTube. The results yield over 500,000 results, with top videos being viewed over a million times. It’s true that the online medium has allowed potential guitar players to learn through the computer screen at any time, as often as they like, free of charge. But there are also deficiencies that come with being a self-taught musician that’s dependent on the Internet to learn.
  • Early taught music training can broaden scholastic learning such as reading. When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills.1Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the electrical brain waves of college students in response to complex sounds, where the group of students who said they had musical training in childhood had more robust responses. Their brains could better process essential elements, like pitch, in complex sounds when tested. The experiment showed the effects of active engagement and discipline, which correlates to strengthened memory, abilities to disambiguate speech sounds, and making sound-to-meaning connections in reading, according to Professor Nin Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. Alexandra Parbery-Clark, a doctoral candidate in Kaus’s lab, suggests that teaching “a kid who is maybe 3 or 4 years old” will work “not only on their auditory skills but also … their attention skills and their memory skills - which can translate into scholastic learning.”
  • Music education taught to young children can benefit language development. According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain.2“Recent students have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways,” the group stated. Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine supports that the relationship between music and language development, explaining, “language competence is at the root of social competence,” where “musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”
  • Self-taught musicians may develop poor habits and techniques when learning how to play themselves. With having an instructor to guide them, students, especially young children, can learn through trouble areas, maintain good form and technique, and develop a good practice routine.3There is little accountability to someone who is trying to develop their own skills, and when problems in playing arise, the student has no one to reference directly to work through them. Networking may also be challenging for a self-taught student in order to reference someone to help them in person.
  • The presence of an instructor motivates the student, which in turn, gives the student patience to continue with lessons. The International School of Music suggests that music lessons should be an organic process and enjoyable. Having an instructor to guide and encourage the student through their playing progress motivates the student to want to play more. In the beginning, it helps if the instructor rewards the student for a successful week of practice. With time, students will practice because they enjoy the process and they want to do it out of love and not because they have to do it.4Praise and acknowledgement tend to be sought of young musicians, and having someone present during lessons could be the drive a new musician needs to continue learning.
The Internet is a great resource to get in contact with musicians that could lend advice for playing, but ultimately, traditional lessons prove to be the best investment for a person who has no musical background at all. Learning basic music skills through an instructor can help the musician’s prowess, allowing them to advance on their individual time if they become interested in learning outside lessons. They’ll always have the instructor to guide them through.


  1. Klass, Perri, M.D. “Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits.” Well, 18 and Under. The New York Times. 10 Sept. 2012.
  1. Brown, Laura Lewis. “The Benefits of Music Education.” Music & Arts. PBS Parents. No date available.
  1. Wallace, Emily. “Traditional guitar lessons versus self-taught instruction.” Huntsville Guitar. 18 Feb. 2012.
  1. The International School of Music Faculty. “E-Book: Guide to Music Lessons.” How should one practice? pg 10. The International School of Music. 2010.

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