The Self-Taught Musician: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Learning an Instrument on Your Own

The decision to learn an instrument can be a daunting one, and many people wonder whether it’s better to teach themselves or seek out formal lessons. While there are certainly benefits to both approaches, there are also potential drawbacks to each. In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of being a self-taught musician, and help you decide which approach might be right for you. From learning at your own pace to having complete creative control, the decision to teach yourself an instrument is a personal one that can have a lasting impact on your musical journey. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of the self-taught musician.

Is Self-Teaching the Best Way to Learn an Instrument?

Advantages of Self-Teaching

One of the primary advantages of self-teaching is the flexibility it offers in terms of learning pace. Unlike traditional classroom settings, self-taught musicians can take their time to master a concept or move on to the next level when they feel ready. This approach allows for a more personalized and tailored learning experience, which can be particularly beneficial for those who may struggle with the traditional classroom setting or have a busy schedule.

Another advantage of self-teaching is the potential to save money on lessons. While private lessons can be an invaluable resource for musicians, they can also be costly. By learning on your own, you can avoid the expense of lessons and instead invest in materials such as instructional books, online courses, or apps.

Finally, self-teaching allows for learning at your own convenience. You can practice at any time of the day or night, without having to coordinate with a teacher or other students. This flexibility can be particularly helpful for those who have other commitments during the day, such as work or family obligations.

However, it’s important to note that self-teaching also has its own set of challenges and potential drawbacks. Without the guidance of a trained teacher, it can be difficult to identify and correct mistakes, and self-taught musicians may miss out on valuable feedback and guidance. Additionally, self-teaching may require a significant amount of self-discipline and motivation, as there is no one to hold you accountable for your progress.

Disadvantages of Self-Teaching

Lack of Proper Guidance

While self-teaching offers a great deal of flexibility, it also means that learners may not have access to the same level of guidance that they would receive from a professional instructor. Without the benefit of a teacher’s expertise, learners may struggle to identify and correct mistakes, and may not receive the same level of feedback on their technique.

Limited Feedback on Technique

Another potential drawback of self-teaching is the limited feedback on technique. Without a teacher to provide guidance and offer constructive criticism, learners may not be able to identify and correct mistakes as effectively. This can lead to the development of bad habits that can be difficult to overcome later on.

Difficulty in Correcting Mistakes

Finally, self-teaching can make it more difficult to correct mistakes. Without a teacher to provide feedback and offer guidance, learners may struggle to identify when they are making mistakes, and may not know how to correct them. This can lead to frustration and a lack of progress, as learners may not be able to identify and fix the root cause of their mistakes.

Traditional Music Lessons: The Benefits and Drawbacks

Key takeaway: Self-teaching offers flexibility and potential cost savings, but also lacks proper guidance and feedback, making it difficult to correct mistakes. A hybrid approach combining self-teaching with occasional lessons can offer the best of both worlds. When choosing an approach, consider your learning goals, budget, schedule, and personal motivation.

Advantages of Traditional Lessons

Learning to play a musical instrument is a rewarding experience that can provide many benefits. For those who are considering taking traditional music lessons, here are some advantages to keep in mind:

  • One-on-one instruction: Traditional music lessons offer the advantage of personalized instruction from a trained teacher. This can be particularly beneficial for beginners who may need more guidance on proper technique and method. With one-on-one instruction, students can receive personalized feedback and have their questions answered in real-time.
  • Personalized feedback: One of the benefits of traditional music lessons is the opportunity to receive personalized feedback from a teacher. This can help students identify areas where they need improvement and develop strategies to overcome challenges. Additionally, teachers can offer encouragement and motivation to help students stay on track with their practice.
  • Access to a broader range of resources: Another advantage of traditional music lessons is the access to a broader range of resources. This can include sheet music, method books, and other materials that can help students develop their skills. Additionally, teachers can recommend supplementary materials that can help students progress in their studies.

Disadvantages of Traditional Lessons

Limited Flexibility in Scheduling

One of the primary drawbacks of traditional music lessons is the limited flexibility in scheduling. Many music schools and teachers operate on a strict schedule, with limited availability for make-up lessons or rescheduling. This can be especially challenging for students who have other commitments, such as school or work, that may conflict with their music lessons.

Dependence on the Teacher’s Availability

Another disadvantage of traditional lessons is the dependence on the teacher’s availability. If a teacher is unavailable due to illness, vacation, or other reasons, students may be left without lessons for extended periods. This can be frustrating for students who are motivated to learn and progress in their music studies. Additionally, if a student wishes to change teachers, it can be difficult to find another teacher with a similar teaching style and availability.


Traditional music lessons can also be costly, especially for students who wish to take lessons on a regular basis. The cost of lessons can vary depending on the teacher’s experience and location, and may not include additional fees for materials, recitals, or exams. For students who are on a tight budget, the cost of traditional lessons may be prohibitive, making self-taught methods more appealing.

Balancing Self-Teaching and Traditional Lessons

Hybrid Learning Approach

When it comes to learning an instrument on your own, many musicians find that a hybrid learning approach, which combines self-teaching with occasional lessons, is the most effective way to progress. Here are some ways in which you can implement this approach:

  • Combining self-teaching with occasional lessons: By alternating between self-teaching and traditional lessons, you can benefit from the best of both worlds. For example, you can use online resources and tutorials to learn the basics of an instrument, and then supplement your knowledge with occasional lessons from a professional teacher.
  • Accessing online resources and tutorials: There are many online resources available that can help you learn an instrument on your own. Websites like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are great places to find tutorials and videos that can help you learn specific techniques or songs.
  • Seeking feedback from peers or music forums: Connecting with other musicians who are also learning on their own can be a great way to get feedback on your progress and get advice on how to improve. Joining a music forum or attending local jam sessions can be a great way to connect with other musicians and get the feedback you need.

By using a hybrid learning approach, you can get the best of both worlds: the flexibility and autonomy of self-teaching, and the guidance and feedback of traditional lessons.

Choosing the Right Approach for You

When it comes to learning an instrument, there are various approaches to consider. It is important to assess your own strengths, weaknesses, and learning style to determine which approach is best suited for you. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right approach for learning an instrument:

Considering your learning goals

The first step in choosing the right approach is to identify your learning goals. Are you looking to learn how to play an instrument for personal enjoyment or do you have aspirations of becoming a professional musician? Understanding your motivation and end goal will help you determine the most effective approach for achieving your objectives.

Assessing your budget and schedule

Another important factor to consider is your budget and schedule. Traditional lessons can be expensive and may require a significant time commitment. On the other hand, self-teaching can be more affordable and flexible in terms of scheduling. It is important to assess your financial resources and availability to determine which approach is feasible for you.

Evaluating your self-discipline and motivation

Self-teaching requires a significant amount of self-discipline and motivation. If you are able to set aside time each day to practice and are driven to learn on your own, then self-teaching may be the right approach for you. However, if you struggle with self-discipline and require external motivation, traditional lessons may be a better fit.

In conclusion, choosing the right approach for learning an instrument requires careful consideration of your learning goals, budget, schedule, and personal motivation. By assessing these factors, you can determine the most effective approach for achieving your objectives and reach your full potential as a musician.

Reflecting on Your Progress

Evaluating your skills and achievements

One of the key aspects of reflecting on your progress as a self-taught musician is evaluating your skills and achievements. This involves taking stock of what you have learned so far and identifying the areas in which you have made significant progress. For example, you might assess your ability to play different songs, your understanding of music theory, or your proficiency in playing specific scales or chords. By evaluating your skills and achievements, you can gain a sense of how far you have come and what you have accomplished on your musical journey.

Identifying areas for improvement

In addition to evaluating your skills and achievements, it is also important to identify areas for improvement. This may involve recognizing areas where you have struggled or made slower progress, or identifying areas where you would like to expand your knowledge and abilities. For example, you might identify a particular piece of music that you have been unable to master, or a musical style that you would like to explore further. By identifying areas for improvement, you can focus your efforts on developing your skills and abilities in these areas.

Setting new goals and challenges

Reflecting on your progress as a self-taught musician also involves setting new goals and challenges for yourself. This may involve setting specific goals for improving your playing, such as learning a new piece of music or mastering a particular technique. It may also involve setting broader goals for your musical development, such as expanding your knowledge of different musical genres or improving your overall musicianship. By setting new goals and challenges for yourself, you can continue to grow and develop as a musician, and stay motivated to continue learning and playing.

Embracing the Journey

Enjoying the process of learning

One of the most significant advantages of being a self-taught musician is the ability to shape your own learning experience. Rather than being bound by the structure of traditional lessons, you have the freedom to explore your interests and take your time to develop your skills. By embracing the journey of self-discovery, you can foster a love for learning that will carry you through the ups and downs of your musical pursuits.

Developing patience and persistence

Learning an instrument on your own requires a tremendous amount of patience and persistence. As you progress through your journey, you will encounter obstacles and setbacks that can test your resolve. However, by embracing these challenges and refusing to give up, you can develop a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in your accomplishments.

Celebrating small victories along the way

Finally, it’s important to celebrate the small victories along the way. Whether it’s your first successful attempt at a new piece or the gradual improvement of your technique, every achievement should be recognized and appreciated. By acknowledging your progress, you can maintain motivation and continue to push yourself towards your goals.

Overall, embracing the journey of self-taught music is about finding joy in the process of learning, developing patience and persistence, and celebrating the small victories along the way. By adopting this mindset, you can overcome the challenges of self-teaching and develop a lifelong passion for music.


1. Is it better to teach yourself an instrument rather than taking lessons from a teacher?

2. What are the advantages of learning an instrument on your own?

3. What are the disadvantages of learning an instrument on your own?

4. How can I determine if I am suited for self-teaching?

5. Can I still become proficient in an instrument if I teach myself?

6. How can I make sure I am progressing when learning on my own?

7. Are there any specific instruments that are better suited for self-teaching?

8. What resources are available for self-taught musicians?

9. How important is practice when learning an instrument on your own?

10. Can I still enjoy music if I don’t have formal training?

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