CHOOSING AN INSTRUMENT TO GET STARTED ON GUITAR
I wrote this because there are different needs a potential guitar student has for learning, but number one is their need for an instrument. Some have little to invest in learning guitar. Others have more. I find it better to START playing guitar on an instrument that is
1. EASY to PLAY
2. AFFORDABLE in case you get discouraged and quit.
Ease of playing is usually determined by the distance of the strings from the fretboard (the point to which you have to PRESS those strings.) This is usually measured halfway up the neck. Electric guitars are generally easier to play, but CAN be frustrating to learn on, as your mistakes WILL be amplified. However, with some effects on the sound (like reverb, chorus, a little distortion) these mistakes will become less noticeable. So, if you decide to get an electric guitar to learn on, get a small amplifier that has BUILT-IN EFFECTS. You’ll be much happier. I do NOT recommend you get a 3/4 size ELECTRIC guitar. Get an acoustic guitar instead. ALWAYS bring a knowledgeable person with you when shopping for a guitar! More about guitar choices below.
Practice is what makes or breaks you as a student. Fact. Those that practice move ahead. Those that don't practice waste their money and time. I've seen this time and again. Don't take lessons if you think you won't have time to practice. I dislike teaching students that won't practice at all.
I ask my students to practice ONE HOUR per day. This can be broken into 15 or 30 minute segments.
I have found that students that actually practice an hour per day graduate from my BEGINNER lessons in around one year. Those that practice less can drag this out to two years or more. YOU SAVE MONEY BY PRACTICING.
I like to do a FREE "Meet and Greet" session with each student. I frequently stretch this out to 1 hour- in essence a free lesson. During this time I will try and see if WE are compatible, see if your GUITAR is good enough for beginner lessons, and see how much prior KNOWLEDGE you have and what direction you want to head, your GOALS. Again, this is free. If you don't like what you hear, DON'T COME BACK. So you have nothing but time to lose. Call me to set up this free "Meet and Greet" session. LADIES: You won't be able to effectively play guitar with long fingernails on your fretting hand, usually the left hand's fingers. You've been warned.
The following paragraphs are not essential to read now....unless you are not learning fast enough on guitar, OR you do not yet have a guitar to play, OR you need to learn of different ways to start learning guitar:
DIRECTIONS to Mr. Mike's :
I teach students mostly from the New Bern, Havelock, and Vanceboro, N.C. areas.
I have a Guitar Lessons sign out in front of my home and studio at 1401 Brices Creek Road, New Bern, NC. From Outback Restaurant - drive past it about a half mile to Madame Moore Lane, on the right. Head down Madame Moore's Lane about two miles (it will change NAMES to Brices Creek Road!) and look on the left for the Guitar Lessons sign pictured above. The studio is across from the 45 mph speed limit sign on the right. If you pass Merchant's Store and gas station on your left, you have gone too far! Turn around and come back, looking for the BACK of that speed limit sign, now on your LEFT. My studio is across from it. The Guitar Lessons sign is now on your right. Call me if I can help you find your way. (252-474-3990)
"My son started playing guitar for the first time ever in September 2010. I could not be happier with Mike and how my son is playing. After wanting to learn how to play guitar for since college (and one failed attempt to learn) I approached Mike to inquire about me taking lessons. He had been teaching four children, all under 13, at the time. I started taking lessons in January 2011 and although I haven t progressed as fast as my son (which is very humbling) I now can play guitar to a certain extent. I switched to playing bass guitar in December 2011 and have been working with Mike since with bass. Watching and working with Mike over the last year and a half have been a pleasure for my family and myself. Mike, with his teaching background, works well with a variety of personalities. I watched Mike at his student s guitar recital last year handle a diverse group of personalities from his students and work to each of their strengths. There isn’t another guitar teacher that I would want my son or myself to work with." Dave Schneider
SEE the recommendation here: www.local.yahoo.com/info-99914661
My students are required to bring 3 things with them to each lesson: their guitar, a tuner (I like the inexpensive "clip-on" type tuners (Snark brand, $11-15,) and a 3 ring binder notebook with 10 - 20 sheets of paper. That's it. If you own a smart phone, there are free apps that can tune your guitar. I still recommend a clip-on style tuner because your phone's mic will pick up other sounds/guitars around you and make you have to tell others to be quiet so you can tune. That's not a problem with clip-on style tuners.
One free lesson is offered to each student that gets on the honor roll in elementary, high school, or college. This is to encourage excellence in all aspects of one's life and to teach that effort pays, no matter what you do. Please bring me the report card.
I charge $30 per 1 hour lesson. That's $120 for FOUR lessons, quite reasonable for my experience of 12 years teaching guitar. I do ask for payment BEFORE the lessons begin (not counting the free first lesson.) I take checks or cash. I've had a couple students that pay by the lesson. It's your choice. Please notice that I have NO CONTRACT FOR YOU TO SIGN, NO MINIMUM AMOUNT OF LESSONS that many teachers demand. If you decide to stop taking lessons, I will refund any money I have not earned. Promise!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 20, 2009 Learn to Play Guitar
- Their Value
- Make Music Your Hobby
- Making the Big Decision: Guitar Or Keyboard ?- ( Or Drums or Bass? )
- Deciding Between an Acoustic and an Electric First Guitar
- Finding Your First Guitar
- Starting Out
I'm a believer that almost everyone should learn to play a musical instrument. Doing so has added much to my life and my enjoyment of life, not to mention my understanding of the music around me and my appreciation for it. There is a body of scientific evidence that says playing an instrument challenges the brain much in the same manner as doing puzzles, etc., and consequently improves brain function long into adulthood and old age. Don't know about you, but I need all the brain enhancement I can get! Furthermore, if you sing along, the evidence is that you get about the same exercise as a swimmer would. Now, I'm not so sure about that statement's validity, but I know I sure sweat hard when playing and singing hard at a microphone, almost as much as most drummers with whom I've performed, and those dudes can work up a good sweat doing a one hour set of songs. I've also noticed I do not sweat nearly as much if I'm not singing, only playing guitar. Heck, I've even worn sweatbands on my head while performing, especially after I saw Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) do it in front of thousands of screaming fans.
Everyone needs a hobby. Too many (men, usually) retire from a lifelong career to find life can be boring. Many seem to die soon after retirement, I've noticed. You can only mow the yard so many times a week. So I recommend every man and woman, boy and girl - find a hobby. And being the "practical male" that I am, I recommend you choose a hobby whereby you can potentially make some spare change. Woodworking is a great hobby for that. So is music. And "spare change" it is! I've always said music is a great hobby and a lousy profession.
With music, it's not usually what you know, but who you know in the business that might propel your band to the next level. It's usually all a matter of luck or timing. Sad, but true. Talent helps though, no doubt. Music's a great hobby, but a frustrating profession. So take it up as a hobby, and if it turns into more than that, it's gravy.
I've tried learning keyboard (synthesizer/piano) and it is harder to learn, in my opinion. If you think you might really be a songwriter, then keyboard is probably the better choice, what with all the beautiful tones, emulations of real pianos, organs, strings, etc. that a good synthesizer can deliver at a modest cost. You can now-a-days do anything - ANY sound you want! - on a good synthesizer, except for the human voice. And Stevie Wonder does even that on his $150,000 Synclavier! With the addition of a sequencer, a synthesizer can play every instrument needed on an album! Real pianos may have ONE good sound, but they simply weigh a ton, and they are slowly disappearing for that reason. Songwriters should seriously consider learning to play a synth, one with semi- or fully weighted keys, tons of built-in computer memory, a sequencer, and a lot of backing by the company and third party suppliers. You can get a used Korg O1W FD for $200 on eBay, but do your musical purchase research for most instruments and amplifiers on HarmonyCentral.com. It has tons of user reviews.
So why choose guitar to learn? As I said, it's easier to sound proficient on guitar, easier to learn the basics. I tried the adult beginner piano book, and after 3 months of boring drills and scales gave it up. But, back in 1965 at age 15, with an old Sears and Roebuck Silvertone guitar and a $7.50 Beatles songbook, plus 4 weeks of practice, back in my bedroom (with my door firmly shut by my father!)- I managed to learn almost every song in that book. I was on my way to a lifetime of "pickin' and grinnin'."
I'll get slammed for sure if I don't mention learning drums or bass guitar as choices. I've played both for over 25 years, and can summarize each easily: In my experience, drums are the easiest instrument to learn, or at least learn well enough to quickly get started in playing an instrument. You can be playing drums in a week, IF YOU CAN REALLY LISTEN TO THE MUSIC- THE DRUMS, AND IF YOU CAN DANCE. Seriously, if you can't dance a little, sit down. Drumming is basically dancing with your hands. Then you add your feet. It's just easy to listen and copy a facsimile of what another drummer is doing on a song, especially if you stick with it. Drums are easy to learn if you can dance a little- have a good sense of rhythm. But you can't easily write a song on drums. They have their limitations. Not a whole lot of melody in drumming. What you hear with drums is what you get. Drums are LOUD! (Do I hear a "Duh!"?) Even moderate volume drum practice can bother family, roommates, and of course neighbors so much, it has to be the foremost reason to not choose drumming as a hobby. If you live out in the country with nothing but cows around you, like I did when I got my first drum set, go for it! Drums just feel good when you play. Drumming can be excellent exercise IF you're playing at live playing volume levels. I've broken a sweat many-a-time playing along with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Try keeping up with them for 45 minutes straight! But drums take up a lot of real estate in your house and your car. They're harder and take longer to set up, if you play out much. The drummer in a band is inevitably the hardest worker in the band, the first to arrive and the last to leave.
Bass guitar is fun too, with the added bonus of hearing a perhaps more melodic rather than mostly percussive sound in your music. But bass is hard to practice alone, at least to me. If you choose bass, you'll force yourself to play with other musicians faster than most any other instrument, because of that problem of difficult practices alone. Of course they make little black band-in-a-boxes now, like the Boss JS-5 JamStation, that you can play along with in hundreds of styles of music for around $300. I'd say something like that might cure those bass blues. Check it out. Some newer bass amps might have a similar device built into the amp, like some guitar amps have.You'll need a decent bass guitar. Again, I recommend getting a vintage bass that will increase in value, unlike a new bass that depreciates quickly. Next best choice is almost any fair price on something like a Fender P Bass or a Fender Jazz Bass from Musician's Friend.com or any other reputable dealer. Basses are simply not as delicately built as six strings are, and luckily you can just order a bass from a reputable dealer, sight unseen usually, and it will turn out fine. I wouldn't order a six string guitar sight unseen. I'd want to check it out first. In summary:Seems bands are always looking for bass players, so I guess they are more in demand. Drummers, it seems, are everywhere. Mainly, I want to write songs, and you just can't do that on drums or bass. Here I have to mention that I once saw on T.V. a bass player competition of some sort that blew my mind. The contestants played Chopin and Bethovan sonattas on 5 and 6 string basses with such talent and beauty I was amazed. It turns out that quality bass, and perhaps any instrument, is what you make of it, what you make it do, what you coax out of it, and what you put into it.
THE FIRST GUITAR
So, what does it take to get started on guitar?A decent guitar and motivation to learn how to play it. That's all. Here is how to go about it: Find a decent guitar by deciding first how much you can afford. If you are serious about learning guitar and have the bucks, I recommend a vintage guitar, a collectable with years of playing on it and a "good vibe"- a feeling of being loved in its wood. A collectable vintage guitar will actually INCREASE in value each day you own it. So, if you outlay $400 to $700 for this instrument, you also just made an investment that will accrue value over time. If you buy almost any new instrument, it will decrease in value the moment you walk out that store's door with it. It's now a used instrument, just like buying a car. Choosing a vintage guitar is a topic beyond the scope of this piece, so I won't try to cover it here. But I will tell you to do your research on the topic before parting with your hard-earned dollars. There are fake vintage guitars out there. Always bring a real guitar "expert"- someone who has been playing for years- with you when you go to look at guitars.
If, like most, you want to get started on guitar as cheaply as possible, then your best bet is a used, inexpensive guitar, the cheapest being one stored in YOUR Uncle Bill's attic. Check with family to see if they want to keep that dusty guitar in the family and will consider giving it to you. Next, I recommend friends or acquaintances with used guitars. They may have bought one, tried taking lessons on it, and given up. Now it's used and priced accordingly, usually around 50% of what the owner paid. That's how I got my second guitar, stored under a friend's bed. I still have that 1967 $40 Harmony guitar, and love it more than any other I have owned. Like most cheap guitars at that time, it came with no way of adjusting the neck for playability, and when the years of my abuse took its toll and the neck bowed so much the steel strings became unplayable, I put nylon strings on it. It has a wonderful, soft, warm tone and is so easy to play with no finger pain that I recommend anyone frustrated with finger pain from playing switch to nylon strings, unless they can endure the pain until they build up callouses on their fingertips. I know the guitar wasn't "designed" for nylon strings. I don't care. Sure the spacing between the strings is narrower than the standard "classical" guitar, but I find that a benifit, not a detriment! It's more like the spacing on the rest of my standard guitars. I heard a fellow guitar player at my weekly jam session say recently that he got three decent guitars that week from pawn shops, all available because of the downturn in the national/worldwide economy. If you've got the cash to spare, now is a good time to shop your local pawn shops, it seems.
One more point. IF you think you might be "playing out"- in a room larger than your living room, or on a professional or semipro level, GET AN ACOUSTIC/ELECTRIC GUITAR. These guitars can be plugged into an amplifier or PA system with ease and produce great sound, but they don't have to be plugged in to work just fine. I much prefer the plugged in sound of my Martin acoustic/electric to the sound of my near vintage Martin D-35 with a microphone on it. An acoustic/electric will only cost a few dollars more than the same guitar without the electronics, so strongly consider this option. Some even have a guitar tuner built into the electronics. Now you're actually saving money because I strongly recommend you get a guitar tuner with the purchase of your guitar. The old days of tuning with a pitchfork tuner or pitchpipe are done, thank goodness! A $20 digital tuner will help you sound so much better on guitar that it will actually increase your practice and playing time over playing on an out-of-tune guitar. Get a tuner.
Why do I recommend getting an acoustic guitar over getting an electric guitar? On the first night of owning my first electric guitar (a 1964 Fender Stratocaster) I actually tried to give it away to a friend going out my front door. He was probably leaving because of my awful sounding playing. I was playing through a used 1965 Fender Super Reverb amp that I still own, and playing with no effects, other than a little reverb. I could fairly play an acoustic, but my electric playing sure couldn't prove it: It sounded horrible! Every mistake was amplified and louder than "to what I'd become accustumed", the acoustic guitar. In my opinion, it is much EASIER to hide mistakes with an accoustic, if for no other reason than at least you are not amplifying bad sounds! Fortunately, my friend knew I had had a couple beers and refused my offer, thinking it "was the alcohol talking." No, it was my sheer exasperation and shock at sounding so poorly.
I now know a local guitar teacher that prefers his new students start on an electric guitar. Why? Because it is easier to play most electrics; the strings are usually set down lower. AND many modern, even inexpensive, small amplifiers come with lots of effects built into the amp! This can have the sound modified nicely with chorus, reverb, and subtle distortion to the point that a beginner can sound pretty good. He has a good point there. It didn't used to be this way. Back in the day, just 30 years ago in the '80's, you got a cheap amp, as big as you could afford, then you bought 3 or 4 effect "stomp boxes" to plug into it to get your sound, up to sometimes 20 effects! I switched when the technology did and went with the newer, "all-in one stompbox"- the ubiquitous Digitech RP1. This added up quickly in extra expense. Plus I've lately given up using it because of the NOISE it adds to my guitar signal. I like a cleaner sound. Thus I developed my attitude about starting with a simple acoustic guitar. Times have changed, and maybe I need to change with them.
You decide then based on the volume you might need (but know that my Martin acoustic/electric can keep up with all but the loudest electric guitars) or the image you may prefer to convey (as electric players are viewed with scorn by some bluegrass, gospel, and even some country purists,) and obviously consider the musical style you prefer. Again, bring a true guitar player with you to help you pick out your guitar! He or she will check the guitar's neck for straightness, the string height above the fret board for playability, and the overall versatility and usefulness of the instrument. If it's an expensive guitar, then the tone of the sound will become important. One rule I've learned: a good electric guitar will sound good unplugged as well as plugged in. There's no need to plug in every electric guitar you have a passing interest in. Just play it unplugged and if it sounds really good that way, just wait until you plug it in! That's how I bought my '81 Gibson Les Paul Heritage Elite guitar. I played 30 Les Pauls at a huge guitar dealer show, and I never plugged one in. The one I chose was the dealer's private instrument, used in his band playing days. The action of the neck is incredible! It's a keeper. (Update: I sold it for nearly $3,000 profit.)
While you're at it, go ahead and get a case for your guitar. I didn't and had to wrap my first guitar in blankets, etc. whenever it left the house. It got scratched and beatup some. Find a case commersurate with the value of the guitar you place in it, and use it a lot. Either it's in the case when not being played, or hung it on the wall (out of direct sunlight- especially if it's an Ovation!) using a guitar hanger from the music store. Do NOT use garden/ garage tool hangers with a rubber coating making contact with your guitar. It WILL come off on the guitar I found. Or get a "gig bag"- a soft, padded bag with a zipper for the guitar, usually sold at half the price of a good case.
Keep good guitars away from kids and not so good pets. Always unplug any electric or acoustic/electric before hanging it. I tripped over a guitar cord once and pulled my friend's Stratocaster right off the wall to the floor. It landed flat and wasn't hurt, luckily. Never again!
Now that you've found your guitar, it's time to decide just how to go about learning to play it. You have a few choices:#1 Take private lessons. They range from $40 per half hour down to $25 per hour around here. The $40 per half hour rate is at a local music store that has 4 or 5 small classrooms within its walls. There are poor, average, and excellent teachers, so ask lots of guitar students for their recommendations! Most teachers will want you to learn scales, it seems, no matter what instrument you want to learn. A few will teach you actual songs, thus motivating you more. It all depends on the teacher. An advantage of having a teacher and a set schedule is that you will practice more, knowing you will be "judged" soon by that teacher before he or she allows you to progress further. Most people don't like wasting their money, so they practice. Another advantage is that a good teacher will keep you from learning something that later has to be unlearned- bad habits. I used to make a G chord by using my thumb. That took two years to unlearn! Another reason for getting a teacher is that a good teacher will teach you how to practice by yourself so that you utilize you time wisely. It's easy to "wander" away from actual practice when you're having fun.
#2 Learn from a correspondence course over the internet. I know this is available now, as I have looked into it a little. The system I found was for around $50 a month. I have a LOT more to learn about this system before I will recommend it. They say you can send them sound clips of your playing, but it all sounds too "distant" for my tastes.
#3 Teach yourself. Yes, that's what I did. I can't say it's the preferred method, but it was the cheapest by far. Here's how I did it: Go out and get a "fakebook"- a songbook collection- of your favorite music. It will cost now around $25-30 for the songbook. Make sure there are pictures of the actual cords you will be playing and not just the cords' names (letters) above the lyrics. Your guitar playing buddy can look at the cords and determine if they are too hard for a beginner. If not, and you like the music, and you have a copy of most of the songs in the songbook so you can listen and learn from listening, get it. You'll enjoy playing the songs you like. I've found YouTube.com to have lots of free guitar lessons, but the quality of the teachers varies a lot. Look for songs there that have just 3 or 4 chords, the easier the better. DO NOT insist on learning your "favorite song" early in your struggle to play. Work TOWARDS being able to learn it later on.
#3 Have a friend teach you. Even a beginner can teach another beginner. Plus it's a lot more fun than playing alone. The key to making progress is to make it a regular, weekly get-together with a new song added each time. The best learning experience I ever had on guitar was back around 1972 when my neighbor and buddy, Bruce, would come over with his six string electric, plug into my amp and play bass on the top four strings while I practiced my interminably bad lead solos over and over to his patient bass playing. This went on for months. What a guy! I owed him bigtime! Before I moved away I found an old Fender Mustang Bass guitar, bought it and gave it to him. You should have seen the look on his face when I told him it was his. He still plays it today.
BASIC COSTS TO GET STARTED WITH GUITAR:
used acoustic guitar: free-up to $100---- new: $300
new acoustic-electric $300----500
guitar clip-on type tuner $12-$20 ----
soft case for guitar $40 ---- 75
fakebook/songbook of your favorite artist $25 ---- $40
couple guitar picks ( I use nylon picks that don't split) under $1
new electric guitar: $150---500
used electric guitar: $75---300
new amplifier: $100--- 250
used amplifier $50 --- 150
new amp w/effects $250 ----
(1-10-22) I just watched a Youtube teacher say to NOT get the cheapest new acoustic or electric guitar to begin learning, but to save up and BUY ONE STEP ABOVE THE MOST INEXPENSIVE INSTRUMENT'S PRICE. Good advice!
I recommend you shop locally, get to know your salesperson, and don't be afraid to ask for a deal! I also strongly recommend you bring someone who really knows guitars with you when you shop. They will also be able to find Craigslist possibilities, sweet eBay deals, etc. easier than you can.
The Bottom Line:
So you can get started for around $170 for a used guitar, a case, tuner, songbook, and a couple guitar picks. You don't need a strap. Standing is for performers. or very heavy folks that have trouble holding a guitar on their lap. Any armless chair or stool will do for sitting and playing. In general, you get what you pay for. Not always. Just ask the guy that was given his granddaddy's old Gibson J45 guitar!
Have fun and you'll practice more. This generally has the effect of making you improve. (Do I hear another "Duh!"?) Next you'll get the inevitable compilment anyone who improves should get, and obviously you'll play more. The cycle begins. You get it. It feeds off itself. Kind of like reading books. You learn more vocabulary as you read more, thus you comprehend more of what you read, causing you to enjoy it more, so you read more, and on and on. Get your cycle started soon, and start playing.
CALL MIKE FOR MORE INFORMATION:
DAYS and HOURS of INSTRUCTION:
My hours and days of instruction are pretty flexible. Just ask. I do like to start after 1 PM and finish by 6:30 PM, MONDAY through FRIDAY. I don't advertise and seriously don't want more than a handful of students. That way I'm not rushed or stressed, and you get my best work.
It is often recommended to only touch lightly upon music theory during the first year of guitar lessons. So do not expect a lot of boring repetition of scale playing. No music notation is taught here. I have repeatedly seen music teachers kill student motivation with their demands the student learn scale reading and music notation. Instead we use mostly CHORD CHARTS and some of the world-wide "guitar language" called Tablature or Tab for short. Motivation and enjoyment are too important to cloud it with music notation at this stage of learning. We do scale playing when learning lead guitar soloing unless you opt to NOT learn how to play solos, which a few students do decide to skip. And all my students learn the chromatic scale (used in all Western music) when we move on to barre chords. I know ONE PRO guitarist in my 55+ years of playing that USES music notation, and he only uses it 1 hour per year, on average. Think about that. NONE of the Beatles could read or write music notation!
Basically, my students go as fast as their ability and amount of practice will allow them. Those that practice the prescribed time -or more- advance much faster than those that only practice a little. It's common sense.
SEARCHING NOW FOR A GUITAR?
Of course the best guitar or bass to start is a free one, so long as it is playable. The next best would probably be a used guitar, say from a pawn shop. A nearby city, Havelock, seems to have more than its share of used guitars in their pawnshops. Those young Marines at the base there often get nice guitars and then decide they don't want them. So Havelock is a good place for pawnshop finds. But if you don't want surprises later (say from a bowed guitar neck that can't be straightened, etc.) then maybe a NEW beginner guitar is for you. I highly recommend shopping locally. Here in New Bern it's Fuller's Music on Trent Road for new guitars. Wade Fuller, owner and manager, is a very good man. Ask for Jon, his assistant manager, and tell him I sent you: Phone 252-638-2811. https://www.fullersmusic.com/
If you want to shop the web, try Sweetwater.com. You can modify the search by clicking on the parameters on the left column, like say "electronics- yes" to find ONLY acoustic/electric guitars under $300. https://www.sweetwater.com/
Another web source I've had great luck with over many years is Musician's Friend. https://www.musiciansfriend.com/ Prices are almost exactly the same at both.
I recommend Yamaha and Epiphone acoustic guitars for the quality/price point.
AVOID IBANEZ BRAND GUITARS! They have good prices, but POOR customer support. I once got an Ibanez acoustic electric guitar for a student who lost a small, plastic volume control knob on it. Ibanez refused to sell me the $1 part and insisted I buy the entire $150 preamplifier the knob was attached to! This is silly and unfair. I no longer even look at Ibanez guitars.
If you're willing to get an instrument you'll likely keep a lifetime, look for Fender, Martin, Gibson, or Taylor guitars, IF they are made in the U.S.A. (SOME ARE NOT.) But I own a fine Takamine jumbo acoustic that I dearly love, made in Japan.
DO NOT RUSH YOUR SEARCH!
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A GUITAR- IF YOU NEED PRODDING TO MOVE FORWARD, PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING
by Mike Upchurch
I teach ages 13 and up. I recommend ukulele for younger ones. There's less of an investment in the instrument if they decide to quit lessons, which is OFTEN. Ukuleles are smaller than guitar,( but small, medium, and large ukuleles are available!) Ukuleles fit a kid's body and hands better. The strings are nylon and softer to play than steel string guitars. Once you learn to tune a uke, learning it is easy. The chord shapes are almost all the same (but with different names,) except it's just four strings, so switching later to guitar is easy. If you have a young child, consider getting a ukulele. Sorry, but I do not teach ukulele at this time, or drums, or bass, though I play them all.
I do not consider myself an advanced guitarist. Because of this I prefer to teach beginners- up to intermediate players. I play and teach rock, blues, country, gospel, Americana, folk, some bluegrass, etc. I do not play any jazz or classical. If you are already an intermediate player, you can ask if I will take you as a Performance Guitarist, with emphasis on live performing. See the Performance Guitar page for information.
POSSIBLE Solutions to Students Not Practicing Enough, or Not Making Good Enough Progress:
The only real problem I have with teaching guitar is that some students simply waste their money coming to lessons but not practicing what they are taught ENOUGH to make any discernable improvement. Sure, they still make progress, but it is incremental. Not enough to satisfy me. Of course I realize we are all different, we tend to learn differently, and are motivated by different things. But, when I have to backtrack and reteach a previous lesson, I don't like it. I am a "results oriented" teacher. Always have been. I've only recommended that three students quit guitar lessons. Two simply didn't have the maturity to practice enough. In a couple years they might mature enough to handle the responsibility that comes with spending their parents' hard-earned money. The third one kept coming here high, "enjoying his retirement"- and took too long to grasp simple lessons. So what steps could a student do to practice more?
1. MAKE YOU GUITAR IMMEDIATELY ACCESSIBLE TO YOU. Don't keep it in its case, tucked under your bed. It's too much trouble to get it out. I found hangers for hanging guitars on the wall great for making the instrument quickly accessible. Just don't use cheap "U" shaped garden tool hangers found in hardware stores! They may be rubber-coated, but that rubber WILL react to the finish on your guitar neck and noticeably mar its finish, thus lowering its resale value. (Yes, I learned the hard way.) Buy a $14 guitar hanger that fits your headstock fairly tightly and you'll love being able to take it down on a whim just to strum a few chords. Those "whims" add up! Plus, guitars look great hanging on a wall. If you buy one and the U-shaped opening is too large for your guitar, put it in a vice and slowly close the gap in the "prongs." Just don't overdo it. Or carefully lean the guitar in a corner of the room. I try and never lean a guitar against a flat surface. I watched one of my Martin guitars slip off such a surface and pick up what I call a "hundred dollar dent." Never leave your guitar where it can be knocked over easily by little kids, dogs, etc. Never leave a guitar plugged in. Never leave it where it gets full sunlight on it for long periods. Wood reacts to heat (and humidity.) Or buy a guitar stand! They come in all price ranges.
2. REALIZE YOU CAN MAKE ASTOUNDING PROGRESS BY STICKING TO A SCHEDULE FOR PRACTICING. If you only practice when you feel like it, your progress will be severely limited. You'll end up wasting money by dragging your lessons on and on. You actually SAVE lots of money by practicing more! One student of mine made a simple sign reminding him to practice. He put his sign on his refrigerator. Whatever works for you. But do something to accelerate your learning process. Do not accept stagnation.
3. BLAME THE TEACHER FOR YOUR LACK OF PROGRESS. I can't believe I typed that. But to an extent it is true. IF your personality isn't compatable with your teacher, find another. IF you've made it through many lessons, learned many of the teacher's songs he chose because he knows that by learning them you will make progress, and you still don't care for the songs your teacher selects, find another teacher. I don't play heavy metal, and I abhor rap (it has little to NO melody.) I don't teach them. I do teach rock, blues, country, folk, gospel, and bluegrass. But there are other teachers out there. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe with another teacher you'll make decent progress. Maybe not. Maybe YOU are the problem.
4. CONSIDER CHANGING INSTRUMENTS. I would be foolish if I said I believed guiter could be "mastered" by anybody. IF you've given guitar lessons a good try and practiced regularly and still are not making good progress, maybe a change is needed. Some folks just are not cut out for learning a musical instrument. Others just need to look at learning a different instrument. Consider learning bass guitar, drums, or even keyboard. Consider taking singing lessons. (Yes, your voice IS an instrument.) Change is good. I had a 50 year old male student switch to bass lessons after 4 months of guitar lessons, and he loved it!
1. I'm not at all afraid to tell a student (or the parent of a student) that they are wasting their money on lessons. If I was a 35 year old, dependent on income from teaching guitar, I probably wouldn't say anything negative and only offer encouragement in an effort to keep those checks coming. I'm just not that needy. But, if after 4 to 8 lessons, the student is not making enough progress, I will suggest they wait a year or two and then attempt lessons again, or that they try another instrument. Most teachers won't do this. If you value honesty, then you'll value my approach.
2.I will no longer teach my students current Top 40 songs, Hip Hop, or Rap. Why? Because I've done it and regretted it every time. I spend an hour learning how to play some currently popular song, another hour typing up and copying the chord chart, spend another hour teaching it to the student, then watch as the song's popularity quickly fades into obscurity and no one cares to hear it anymore, even the student that requested it. Instead I teach mostly classic songs: Classic Rock from the 50's, 60's, 70's, and some 80's, plus a few Classic Country/Bluegrass, Classic Folk, and Gospel songs. These songs are often called "timeless" because they have endured the true test of time. That's the reason you still hear them on the radio, in movies, on TV, and even played in different venues around the nation and world. I have many examples of wasted effort teaching a current hit. But many instructors will gladly teach you current music. Good luck with that.
3. I have 40 + years of teaching experience, (10 years in elementary, 21 in high school, 5 in private tutoring of students from grade 2 through college, and 12 years teaching guitar.) I know students well and have much more patience than the average person. Experience is hard to beat. In addition, I have played guitar for over 50 years, doing everything from solo wedding gigs, to duets with Debbie, my wife, to country club New Years Eve dances with my band. I love teaching guitar lessons, and I have learned how to do it better and better with each year. No, I'm not perfect. But I'm a pretty good teacher.
4.I will ask you to sing, not right away; but after you get comfortable playing a song, I will gently encourage you to sing it too. Why? Because I've found that if my students play AND sing they simply enjoy learning guitar more! If they enjoy it more, they practice more. If they practice more, they make greater advances. They turn into "performers." Even very young or weak singers learn faster and enjoy it more. I've repeatedly seen it. So, do you HAVE to sing to take lessons from me? NO- But it certainly helps.
I hope I have you as a student. And I hope you enjoy taking lessons from me. But, if you are unhappy here, you'll be glad there's no contract involved. Walk away and find another teacher, but don't quit playing guitar.