Teacher + Online

I thought I’d post my experience of combining online guitar lessons with additional instruction from a teacher. As a newbie to guitar, and a 70 year old ancient one who’s never played an instrument, I decided to take up guitar, joined justin guitar and started through the lessons. I had difficulty with finding posture and left hand grip that worked. I tried the positions that were recommended online, but my hand just would not go there. I got fingers that always hit the strings besides the ones that I wanted to fret…frustration was mounting. I did the online lessons religiously, practicing at least an hour every day, but could improve.

I went to the local music shop (which has a school as well) and had a chat to one of the sales guys. He recommended a specific teacher who was also a well known muso who played the music I wanted to learn (blues and jazz).

Had the first lesson and explained my difficulties. He looked at what I was doing, changed my posture slightly, and changed my left hand grip to almost the opposite of what online recommended. Suddenly I was hitting strings much much better. He also gave me some scales to to practice - to get my fingers working - a pentatonic and major scale. He showed me that just those two scales would become useful later for jazz. I continued my online lessons, then had the second teacher lesson, my fingers were working much better, and more accurately, so now he started me doing some finger picking. He explained that he had had numerous students who knew “in their brain” what to do, but couldn’t get their fingers to do what they wanted. Doing some scales and practicing finger picking songs, got both right and left hand working together. I have made significant progress in just 2 lessons with a good teacher.

The combination of online lessons and teacher, is, for me at least, better than either a teacher, or online alone. I think I may have given up if I had not sought personal instruction. Having had it (and continuing to do so), I will maximise the benefit of the online lessons, Sometimes you need someone to show you how to improve and fix problems you can’t fix yourself…

just my 2 cents


That’s fantastic Gary, I am sure the benefit a 121 session with a good teacher will always supplement online learning, even from someone like Justin, The problem will always be finding a good teacher but sounds like you are doing ok. But I am not qualified to judge his teaching methods but if you are improving fantastic.

It’s great that your direct sessions with a teacher are working for you. While I’ve had some good direct sessions, I’ve also struggled with some of the others. For me the problem was teachers pushing scales and theory onto me far too early. Justin has a good lesson (can’t remember the name of it) where he talks about when to learn theory. My paraphrasing of that lesson is it’s best to learn it when you have a specific goal, not just the vague “it will make you a better musician in the long run”. And that describes very well when scales have and have not worked for me.

Each of us is unique, so my comments aren’t directed at you. For me, learning to play complete songs all the way through was my goal and it gave me the rewards I was looking for.

Keep playing and keep having fun with it.

100%. I started teaching myself and learned through Justin’s videos way back when this site was just getting off the ground. I had a private lesson with Justin himself when he was in NYC, and he pointed out little things I was doing wrong! Even though I was following his lessons!

I’ve used a combo of online and in-person teachers over the years.

I’m curious, what were the posture and hand position adjustments your teacher made that helped?

Thank you for sharing your story!

Sounds like you got a good teacher and I agree with others that in person feedback and encouragement are always helpful and make your progress not necessarily faster but a good teacher can spot some bad technique early on before it becomes hardwired and starts inhibiting your progress further on the journey.

Enjoy your music journey Gary!

the teacher got me to push the neck of the guitar a bit in front of me - this stopped me from unconsciously rolling the guitar backwards towards me. It also put my elbow in to a much more relaxed position that felt less cramped. Almost every online site shows thumb in line with index -middle finger on the back of the neck - I just could not make this work as I ended up assuming unnatural positions bent at the wrist to fret chords. He got me to put my thumb along the line of the neck, and got me to put a fat pen in the palm of that hand to stop the palm contacting the bottom of the neck. This forced me to curve my fingers in an arch and hit the strings more vertically. It felt very comfortable, and fretting correctly became much easier. Also got me to hold the neck end higher than I had been - this changed angles on the neck so that it was easier to extend my fingers more naturally…


1 Like

Thanks for sharing your story, Gary.

I think the one big drawback with online self-study is getting necessary feedback to correct issues as well as to solve problems when you get stuck, as you were. Nothing wrong with getting face-face instruction.

When the time is right for you, you can also consider posting video recordings of you playing here - #all-about-your-music:audio-video-of-you-playing - which closes that feedback gap to a degree.

Keep on keeping on!

I miss the days of face-to-face teaching my guitar students. Good times. Pre-pandemic of course.

Your thumb is horizontal along, parallel with the neck, perpendicular to the fret wire? And he deterred you from touching the underside of the neck at all?

| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide

It wasn’t deterring me from touching the underside - the pen acted as a spacer to help me curl my fingers more - I was tending to pinch the high E string and the B string as I was tending to bend my fingers in an L shape rather than an arch and was pinching the bottom of the neck. Using a spacer lodged where my fingers join my hand helped me to arch the fingers…Hard to describe so I hope you get the gist… Thumb at about a 45 degree angle to the frets - not perpendicular…no more hand strain