Making a dream come true takes a lot more than 3 years of playing Guitar Hero.
A knowledgeable teacher can help you learn proper techniques that will serve you well for the rest of your life, no matter what style of music you play.
At what age should my child start lessons?
There is no best age for starting lessons on the guitar. I've found that any age from 6 up will often work. But rather than using age as a criteria for determining readiness, ask yourself these questions before contacting a teacher.
Has he/she shown a sincere interest in playing?
Are his/her hands of sufficient size and strength to fret the instrument properly?
Can the child keep focused on a project for more than say 10 minutes?
Does he/she possess good basic reading-readiness skills, i.e. can he/she read simple sentences, or at least begin to sound out simple words and have the ability to read from left to right.
There are many programs for young children that help them develop basic music skills, yet are not as structured as formal lessons. If you call or email me, I'll be happy to recommend a program in our area.
I'm a senior citizen. Is it too late for me?
You might not become the virtuoso you're dreaming of, but older folks do quite well with the guitar. If you learn to play correctly there is minimal stress on the hands and fingers. I've had several students older than 70 who have become accomplished enough to play for friends and family and have developed a very enjoyable hobby. After we retire we often have the extra time to focus on learning to play. The results can be very rewarding.
No ear! Can't sing! No talent! Too difficult for me?
We all have different learning styles. Some of us learn better from visual stimulation, others learn best from listening. Still others learn from using motor skills, e.g. remembering where the fingers go as opposed to what the tones you are playing sound like. Learning the guitar usually requires the development of all these to a certain extent. Since learning to read music doesn't require much in the way of a sense of pitch, the person who believes they have a "tin ear" can learn to play relying on this approach. It has been very rewarding to me over the years to see how many students develop this sense of pitch just by listening to themselves play.
Will I learn to read music?
As mentioned in the above paragraph, there are three ways to learn an instrument. If you are fortunate enough to be blessed with the gift of a great ear, and can discern what sounds proper when playing, it is often not necessary to read music in order to play music you already have heard, or to pick out even complex original music on your guitar. I firmly believe, however, if one is to develop into a complete musician, it is important to learn to read standard guitar notation at least at a basic level.
I think it is sad when someone rejects reading music as something that is not cool. This restricts her to playing only music that she has already heard or has made up herself. She is locked out of playing an enormous variety of printed music, that perhaps would open so many exciting doors. The reverse can also be true. Once in a great while, I've known folks who were accomplished music readers, who, because they didn't take the time to develop their sense of pitch as well as they might, were locked out of the rich heritage of folk or pop music, which is often not written down.
Yes, I will teach you how to read music as well as eventually working on your sense of pitch, so that you will have the ability to play in any style you like.
Can I learn to play well by learning just rock guitar?
If you are blessed with a great ear, and if you truly believe that is the only style of music you will ever play, I suppose it is possible. After all, a great many rock guitarists learn by copying other rock guitarists. However if you use this approach, and I stress you need a pretty good ear, you are likely to learn some playing techniques that will seriously limit your ability to play more complex music.
Do I start off learning chords?
Most so-called guitar methods, because of their learn-quick approach, want the student to feel like he/she is a guitar player right from the start. So chords are introduced right away. The idea has some merit since the more success someone has from the beginning, the more they will want to continue, thus, ensuring the teacher income from that student for at least a while.
Unfortunately, this is a false sense of accomplishment. In order to keep all the strings pressed down at once, the student quite often has to grab the neck of the guitar like a baseball bat, hence developing the wrong muscles for the most accurate playing. Also if the student doesn't have a natural aptitude for hearing when the chords should change, and some ability to sing while playing these chords, learning by this approach is almost useless.
It is far better to start off with the student holding and playing correctly, but playing only one note at a time. The lessons can be made interesting by playing duets and perhaps a few tunes with which they might be familiar. It is not long before he is playing two notes at a time, then three. At this point he is playing chords. Since he has arrived at them in the context of other aspects of music, learning chords like this will round out his ability to understand how they should properly be used.
Will I play songs I know?
Yes and no. When learning how to read music, it is often best not to give the student too many pieces he/she might know. If they can sing the song, they might rely on the ear instead of reading the music. Not only will they not learn the notes as quickly as one might, the way they hear the song in their mind may not be the way it is written on the paper. This entails some unlearning, and wasting time. So while I usually give some music that may be familiar, too much of a good thing can be counter-productive.
I would never want to discourage a student from learning pieces on their own. If we work through the lesson material that I know will help make him a good guitar player, I am delighted to help with any extra pieces he might bring to the music stand.
Do I have to play scales and exercises?
When I took piano as a kid I hated them. In the beginning, there is little need for a student to play a lot of scales and exercises. If the teacher picks music that is appropriate for the student's level and which makes use of techniques that she needs, these gymnastics, while probably useful, are quite often ignored by her. This leads to some guilt because of the lack of practice, and the honesty between the student and teacher may be permanently affected, leading sometimes to her quitting prematurely.
As a student progresses she knows when playing a passage of music is hard, and she then will be willing to work on an exercise that is pertinent to the situation. When she realizes the value of playing such an exercise, she will be much more open to learning more.
How long do I need to practice?
It is rather hard to learn to play just by coming to your lessons. It's amazing, however, how many students try this. Of course the more one practices, the faster (usually) they develop. I've found that if a student can practice the length of their lesson time every day, they will make reasonable progress. But of course, the more the better.
When learning, what type of guitar is preferred?
This question opens up a whole guitar case of worms. The lure of electric guitars and the giants of the pop/rock world who play them is often overwhelming to the young person's heart, not to mention the boomer's who grew up with the Beetles and Stones. The following paragraphs have little to do with the style of music one might play. They simply are concerned with developing the proper techniques to learn to play any style, from classical to rock, as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
It is generally considered good technique when playing the guitar, to place the left-hand thumb with its pad pressing on the neck directly opposite the fingerboard. Someone who is in front of the playing guitarist should see little if any of that thumb prairie-dogging above the fingerboard. The modern electric guitar neck is carved to be as thin as possible. Thus, it offers little support for the thumb. These necks are so narrow, that manufacturers set a steel rod into them to keep them from warping from the pull of the strings.
Steel-strung acoustic guitars are often little better, but a nylon-stung classical guitar offers the most support for the thumb. Also this guitar is balanced to sit comfortably in one's lap where an electric guitar often needs a strap to position the guitar correctly.
Therefore, my preferences for students are, first, the nylon-strung classical guitar, second, the steel-strung acoustic, and finely, the electric guitar.
If I don't have the best guitar to learn on, can I rent one?
Yes, I keep a few guitars around to rent to students and parents who are not sure if they want to invest in the purchase of a new guitar.
I am a beginner?
Most likely you would only need half-hour lessons. Often children's attention spans begin to expire about the end of a half-hour lesson, or if you are an adult with limited time or budget, a half hour may be sufficient. It is surprising how much can be accomplished in a small time frame with proper organization.
I am more advanced?
An hour lesson may be essential to cover all that is required for your success. If you are quite advanced, or if you wish to combine more than elementary theory with your instrumental skills, an hour lesson may be required. Often the adult student who has the means will take hour lessons so that he/she doesn't feel rushed. The added time of an hour lesson can be a source of stress relief as well as musical growth.
I am a virtuoso?
Drop by, I'll put on the coffee and we can talk shop for a while.
How much can I expect to pay for lessons?
I keep my rates in line with most good teachers in the Delaware Valley. The price will vary with the length of the lesson, and whether the student pays per lesson, or per month. The current rates as of September ’09 are, $27 per half-hour lesson, or $80 per month. For hour lessons, the current rates are, $50 per hour lesson, or $150 per month.
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