What’s Better: Learning Music as Self-Taught or With Formal Education?

If you are passionate about music, at one point, you’ll probably want to try and learn how to play an instrument.

Years ago, I started to play the guitar. In the beginning, I took some classes, but I wasn’t really happy with the teacher and the repertoire he wanted me to practice on. So, I decided to teach myself for a while. After a couple of years, I decided to go back to some formal education. Now I can finally say that, even if I am not yet a professional musician, I am probably on the right track.

I decided to share my experience to consider the various aspects of a formal education approach and an autodidact approach to music learning.

Being a Self-Taught Musician

If you want to give it a try with self-teaching, I suggest choosing an instrument like the guitar or the piano. Instruments like horns, the violin, and drums need a technical approach (for example: how to use a mouthpiece, how to hold the bow and the drum sticks) that only a professional can teach you.

Plus, browsing the internet, I was able to find unlimited resources for guitar or piano beginners. I took advantage of YouTube lessons and downloaded music scores to practice my favorite songs.

Despite this may sound like a good beginning, after a few months of practicing by myself, I realized that my handgrip on the neck was not correct, and I was trying to have problems in playing complicated chords. At that time, I could not read music, but only guitar tabs, which do not contain information on the right fingers to use nor rhythm or timing notation.

Not long after that, I started to feel pain in my left hand, and I developed tendinitis that lasted for about a couple of months, during which I could not play at all because of the inflammation. When I got better, I decided that my passion for guitar was getting serious and that I needed some professional guidance to avoid future problems with my hands.

Keep in mind that what I said about the guitar is also valid for the piano, where you have to stretch your hands to play chords and melodies.

Formal Music Education

When I finally decided to get some proper music education, I looked for a modern music school. If you prefer the classical repertoire, then you can try to be admitted to a conservatoire of music.

In a music school, you usually get a one-to-one class per week, then music theory group classes. Once you become a little more experienced with your instrument, you may join a music workshop with musicians at your same level of expertise and directed by a teacher.

At the end of the year, the school usually organizes concerts and events where students can participate, experiencing the excitement of jumping on a stage and playing in front of an audience.

In my opinion, attending a music school is a great and rewarding learning experience. I could make new friends, form bands, and try to get my first gigs in live music venues.

In the End, Which Method Should You Choose?

You can try to teach yourself music if:

  • You are on a tight budget because you can take advantage of free resources on the internet.
  • You want to study at your own, relaxed pace.
  • You do not necessarily want to commit to everyday practice.
  • You are not thinking of becoming a professional musician.
  • You already have some basis and you think you can progress even without the guidance of a teacher.

You should enroll in a music school if:

  • You want to take your music studies seriously.
  • You eventually want to become a professional musician.
  • You want to learn how to read music, including solfeggio and music theory.
  • You can invest time in practicing your instrument regularly.
  • You’d like to meet people with the same passion.
Author: AGMN