FAQS

 
 
Is it better to start with group or private lessons?

    The only actual benefit of taking group lessons is that of saving money. And the savings may only be imaginary in that the instruction for the student is less personalized and less flexible for the student's needs due to the diversity of ages, abilities, learning styles, personalities, interests and the sheer numbers that make up a group class

     A beginning student needs the full attention that only a private instructor can provide in a one-on-one setting. A private instructor can focus on the individual student at all times, answer all questions at any given moment, be flexible in what the individual student wants to learn from week to week and continuously adapt the lessons and teaching approaches as the student grows musically throughout their lessons.

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What kind of guitar is it better to start with, acoustic or electric?

 

    In a perfect world the student would start on the type of guitar that appeals to them the most and is used in the music that they are wanting to learn. Unfortunately, there is an urban myth that says that a student must start on an acoustic guitar before they can then switch to an electric guitar later on as they get better. Fortunately, this is not true.

    When considering the two basic types of guitars, acoustic and electric, if the student desires to play an electric guitar I would suggest that that is the type of guitar to be purchased. Here's why:

1.  An electric guitar is physically easier to play than an acoustic guitar. The body of the guitar is smaller and therefore easier to hold and handle. The neck is smaller and therefore better for younger students hand size. The strings are lighter and have less tension and are therefore are easier to press down thus making the guitar easier to play overall. The benefit is that the fewer obstacles and impediments that is put in front of a beginning student the greater their chance of success.

2. If the student is interested in rock music the electric guitar is what is used in that style of music. The student will be able to get the sounds of the music that they are listening to and practicing out of their instrument. This provides the student with more motivation and enjoyment out of their musical experience and helps ensure that they will stick with it for a longer period of time.

3.  If the student starts with an acoustic guitar (but wanted an electric), progresses enough on the instrument to warrant the later purchase of an electric guitar, the starting acoustic guitar could be seen as an unnecessary expense.

4.  If you need to sell the starting acoustic guitar later (after the purchase of an electric, or the student quits playing altogether) an acoustic guitar does not have as high a resale value as an electric guitar does. A lower priced acoustic guitar can expect to lose 50% to 75% of its value at resale, whereas a comparably priced electric guitar may only lose 25% to 40% of its resale value.

    The typical factor (for parents, at least) for deciding which guitar to purchase to start taking lessons is money. It is less expensive to start a student out on an acoustic guitar than an electric guitar. Ultimately, it is up to the student and/or parents to figure out which starting point works best for their given situation.

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How much should I expect to spend on an acoustic or electric guitar and amplifier? 

For an acoustic guitar expect to spend from $100 to $250 for a serviceable to decent acoustic guitar.

For an electric guitar pack (guitar and amp) expect to spend between $200 to $500.

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What brand or model of guitar should I buy? 

Below is a link to the most commonly purchased beginner's acoustic guitar, the Yamaha F-series -

These are generally priced between $200 to $300.

     Yamaha FG700S -                 Yamaha FG720S -                 Yamaha FG740S -

http://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical-instruments/guitars-basses/ac-guitars/fg/?mode=series#tab=product_lineup

Below are two links to the most commonly purchased electric guitar and amplifier packs.

Fender Squire - $349.99 to $499.99


    Affinity Series Strat HSS with Fender Frontman 15G Amp -                                 Affinity Series Strat with Fender Frontman 10G Amp -                                 Affinity Series Tele with Fender Frontman 15G Amp -


http://www.fender.com/guitars/?price_range=100_499.99

Epiphone Les Paul - $199.00 to 259.00

    Les Paul Player Pack -                 Les Paul Performance Pack -                 Goth SG Performance Pack -

http://www.epiphone.com/Products/Packs.aspx

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Do I need to know how to read music? 

 

If you were to ask this question twenty-five or more years ago I would have said , "yes". When I was starting to learn thirty years ago all information was in standard notation. In addition, for me to go to the music school that I went to it was necessary for me to read music. Fortunately, though, for today's guitarist it is unnecessary to learn how to read music. Virtually everything in the guitar education industry (books, DVD's, magazines, websites, and probably some music schools) is written in tablature.

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How many times a week and for how long should lessons be? 

 

Typically, the best schedule for a beginner is a half-hour lesson once a week. A half-hour is enough time to get setup, tune their guitar, check on the student's progress on the prior week's lesson, and then introduce and teach the new week's lesson. I recommend an hour lesson only if the student is an advanced student or the student/parent feels that they would get more benefit from an hour lesson. An instructor might try to sell you on an hour lesson but this generally is of more benefit to the instructor (i.e. $) than the student.

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How much should a student practice each day/week? 

 

Obviously, the more a student can practice the better. I suggest as a minimum that a student practice at least 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week. 30 minutes a day is the minimum amount for a student to make steady forward progress on their instrument. For younger students, this time can be broken in half with 15 minutes at one part of the day and then 15 minutes at a later part of the day. This helps younger students stay focused and not get mentally fatigued.

I
believe that at least 5 days a week is a proper amount in that the student can miss a day here and there and not feel guilty about not practicing. It is best as well that the student does not have more than one day missed in a row so that they do not forget important details that can be forgotten about the assignments that they are working on.

 

One lesson a week is sufficient in that the student needs time to practice between lessons to assimilate the new lesson or make sufficient progress on a prior assignment before receiving any new one.

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Are there any other things that I might need to purchase before starting lessons?

    This is a list of some items that are either necessary or can be beneficial to a student.  Though none of these items are necessary to begin taking lessons they can be useful for the student and acquired as the student progresses through their lessons.

Lesson Organizer:      We have all heard the age-old saying that “practice makes perfect.” This is not entirely true .It is only “perfect practice that makes perfect.” By practicing in an unorganized manner it is likely that you will achieve random, unorganized results.  To get the most benefit and make the most progress during each lesson and in the week between each lesson is obviously the goal of all involved.  A lesson organizer will enable you to organize practice time, practice on a routine basis, utilize practice time to maximum benefit, make more progress in less time, and in general be on top of all aspects of your lessons and practicing.

Music Stand: A music stand enables the student to have their sheet music and books at eye level and at arm's reach. It also helps with body posture when practicing because the other options are to place the lesson material on the floor, a chair, a bed, etc., which promotes bad practicing posture.         

Instrument Stand: An instrument stand helps keep the instrument safer from damage by having a secure place to rest the instrument when the instrument is not in the student’s hands during practice times. In addition, an instrument stand can help the student practice more by having the instrument out of the case and in plain view and ready to play at all times.

Metronome: A metronome is essential in helping the student develop good timing. It also keeps a student from practicing a lesson at too fast a pace, and thus making mistakes, by regulating the tempo. In addition, a metronome can be a motivator in that it can show the student their progress in regards to the speed at which they have attained over the course of time.

Tuner: A tuner allows the student to keep their instrument in tune between lessons so that when they are practicing their instrument is producing the correct pitches in relationship to what they are practicing. It also helps the student learn how to tune their own instrument and learn to hear what an in tune instrument sounds like.

Cleaners, Cloths: A clean instrument functions better, looks better, and holds its resale value better when properly cared for. Also, by having the student clean their instrument regularly the student will take more pride and ownership of their instrument and musical experience.

Extra Picks and Strings: Having extra picks and strings on hand is essential. If a student breaks their last string or loses their last pick during the time between lessons this will necessitate an unscheduled trip to the music store or the other option is that the student will simply not practice for the rest of the week. Neither of these is desirable and it is much easier to have extras of everything on hand that the student will need.

Blank Staff or Tablature Book: A blank staff/tablature book allows the student to complete assignments by their instructor that require the student to write out the assignment using notational staves. In addition, the student should be encouraged and have the means to write out their own musical ideas and inspirations.

Songbooks: Having songbooks of the student’s favorite music is a great motivator by allowing the student to have music available that they listen to and truly enjoy. When students are learning their favorite music they have more fun and thus are more motivated to practice.

Music Dictionary: A music dictionary allows the student to look up a musical term, symbol, phrase or concept that may have been forgotten between lessons thus allowing the student to continue forward with their practicing till their next lesson. It is also hoped that the student would occasionally read randomly in the music dictionary and thus pique the student’s curiosity for further areas of study.

Jam Tracks or Play-Along Tracks: Jam Tracks are CD’s with a rhythm section (drums, bass, keyboard, guitar) which play full band accompaniment minus the melody or lead instrument. These recordings allow the student to practice scales or soloing with a full band backing them up. These recordings greatly increase the student’s enjoyment of scale practice and helps with creativity, rhythm, and melodic invention.

CD Player or MP3 Player: Most instructional books come with CD’s today and thus a CD player is fairly essential. In addition, since music is a “hearing” art the student needs to be actively listening to music as much as possible.

Timer: A timer allows the student to effectively manage their practice time by either dividing it into small segments for individual assignments during their practice time or by simply keeping track of the overall time that they practice and thus making sure they achieve their goals in regards to total time practiced each day.

Mirror: A mirror allows the student to have an “instructor’s eye view” while they are practicing so that they can make immediate adjustments to posture, hand positioning, etc. so as not to develop bad habits between lessons.

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