If you search on the internet “Why study music” you’ll get into several articles (mostly written by music schools to promote their courses) that explain benefits of studying music like learning skills improvement, creativity, discipline and so forth. This approach may interest parents who don’t know if to encourage their kids in these studies or not, but it’s not very useful for people who already play and just have to decide if to continue on their own as self-taught or turn to formal studies.

I’ve been a student in a music school and I’ve also been a self-taught (I still am with other instruments that are not the bass), so I know both these paths and today I’d like to explain you what I think it’s the difference between them.

In last week’s article (here) I said musical studies don’t define a musician’s skills. 

| Intuition, talent and a good ear are qualities that have permitted musicians to play for decades even without a musical degree. |

So, why people choose to study?

Degrees and certificates aside, I think the matter about learning as a student instead of self-taught is it’s easier. 

Self teaching can be confusing, especially at the beginning, because you don’t know if you’re doing right, if you’re loosing your time in useless exercises, and what are the priorities to focus on first.

| Teachers can improve your progresses through their experience. |

“Why does my instrument sound bad? Is it set wrong or I’m missing something?”
People ask me these and more questions on Instagram and Facebook, and when they do I use to ask for pics or videos of them playing, because I need to know if their hands setting is right. They can’t understand it by theirselves because they don’t have reference points.

Your doubts can be easily figured out by someone with more experience than you and who’s been in your shoes before.

| Teachers know ways to make you improve your skills you’d have never consider. |

When we study alone, we take inspiration mostly from musicians we like and our favorite music, that’s a great start, but it’s limiting in the long run.

In music schools, lessons are focused on internalising the basis that allow you to learn without being followed all the time. Once you get this you’ll be able to recognise where are your limits, if you’re playing right or if you need more practice, and if so what kind of practice. 

On the other hand, one of the best things of self teaching is the time factor: for example I feel comfortable in organising my studies according to my free time, that’s a fraction of what I used to have when I was eighteen or twenty, and I wouldn’t have energy to put in a full-time course now.

Music schools make you reach your achievements faster, but they require a lot of time and discipline and not everyone can afford it.  

A private teacher could be a good middle way, he’s more flexible with lessons scheduling and his attention is totally focused on you, so he can personalise his program according to your learning speed.

Being a self-taught after the music school was easier for me, because I already knew my learning process and I had a method I could apply to other instruments I wanted to play.

Having said that, I don’t think formal studies are a mandatory choice.

On one side we have the difficulty to overcome obstacles without a guide and on the other the independency that makes you free to decide how much time you want to spend on your studies.
The balance between them is a personal choice. 

What do you think? Are you a student or a self-taught?

Let me know here in comments or write me via contact form!

See you next week,