Frequently Asked Questions:
1) How long will if take me or my child to learn to play the guitar?
A lot depends on a few variables to this question.
First, how much time is devoted to practice plays an important role in the mastery of the skill that is being developed. (There is more on this subject in the answer to the next question.)
Second, how adept the student is in applying those skills is another major factor. This factor has to do with the overall talent the student has. That is not to say that one with lesser ability will be a bad player, it just means they will have to work a little harder than the student with more natural talent.
Third, how interested or enthusiastic the student is in learning the guitar will determine whether the student will have a lasting relationship with the guitar This may be just a passing phase they’re going through on the way to finding their true passion. Having enthusiasm can aid the not so talented student and even raise him or her above the more naturally talented student, especially if the latter lacks the drive to carry their talent to the ultimate.
To truly master the guitar one must spend many hours, days, months and years practicing. How far each student goes depends on where, in their development, they feel satisfied musically. For some it may mean just learning to play a few tunes while for others, it may mean going on to the level of the concert stage or beyond. Each student must answer that question themselves. Honestly, a person can study the instrument their entire life and still find new things to learn.
2) How often should a student practice?
In the beginning it is important to practice every day. As with any new skill that is being developed, the more one does it, the better one becomes acquainted with it. Learning music is like learning a language. Language skills must be practiced daily in order to fully implement them into every day use.
Most beginners can start with 15 to 30 minutes daily. As more skills are learned and the hands build strength, then that time may be increased to an hour. To develop properly, one must stay focused on the skill being developed so that it can become second nature to the student. The student’s ability to stay focused on the task is critical in mastery of the skill. Students that don’t have the ability to focus will take longer to master the skill or worse, may never master it.
As the student learns new things, the old skills must also be reviewed. If one is passionate about learning, then practice time is not a chore but a pleasure. The greater the enjoyment factor for making music, the longer the practice session will become.
3) What type of guitar should be used?
This is dependent on each individual. I personally recommend a nylon string guitar. For one, the strings are softer on beginning fingers which makes practice time more enjoyable. For another, the strings are further apart allowing the fingers plenty of room to find individual strings without interfering with adjacent ones.
I had a student once that had purchased a steel string guitar before he signed up for lessons. He had fairly large hands and as we worked through the lessons he had great difficulty avoiding strings he was not supposed to play. He was very proud of his guitar, and I didn’t want to say anything against it so we just continued doing the best we could. After about 2 years of lessons, he played a friend’s classical nylon with the wider neck. Needless to say he was amazed at the difference and bought his own classical the next week. He never had that problem again.
It is also important to fit the instrument to the student. A full size instrument would be nearly impossible for a 7 year old while a half-size one would look ridiculous in the hands of an adult. It would also be a challenge to play. There are manufacturers that make different size instruments. Guitars are available in ¼, ½, ¾ and full sizes. Find the one that allows the student to sit comfortably with it and still able to reach the strings with their hands without cramping or stretching them.
If you have an old guitar that has been in the family a long time, have an experienced player or teacher check it over before you decide to use it for lessons. It may not be in the best shape or it may not fit the student. If it needs work to make it to playable, let a reputable repairman get it into playing condition for you.
Since I do teach finger-style, an acoustic guitar, whether nylon or not, is preferred. When I play electric, I still use fingers and not a pick. However, should a student wish to play electric, I can accommodate them by teaching pick style.
4) Where should I buy my guitar?
With the popularity of the guitar probably its highest level ever, many places sell them.
It is very important to purchase one that is playable. If it is not, that is the surest way to take the fire out of someone just beginning to learn.
My suggestion is to buy a guitar from a reputable music dealer who specializes in musical instruments. Have someone who is knowledgeable about the guitar go with you or get advice from a teacher or respected player. If you already have a teacher ask them to help you find one.
5) How much should I spend on the instrument?
That depends a lot on the quality of instrument you wish to purchase. Guitars are available in all price ranges. Most playable guitars designed for beginners are within the $100 to $200 range. You may save some money initially buying from a large retail chain or discount house, but the guitar will probably not be playable. Of course as the price of an instrument goes up, so does the quality and the playability.
If you start with an acoustic, the only other purchases necessary are a case, music and music stand. With an electric, you will also need an amplifier and cord. That will probably raise the initial cost to $300 plus.
6) Am I too young/old to learn?
Of course you’re not. As long as you have a willingness to try new things, anybody can learn something on the guitar.
For the younger student, it’s important to strike while the iron is hot. Developing guitar skills early can lead to a lifelong enjoyment of music and playing. The hand and brain are more receptive to new concepts and tend to grasp them faster at a younger age.
For the older student, learning the guitar can provide the relaxation and enjoyment that only music can bring. Some elements may pose more problems to an older student than a younger one, but older students usually have learned patience and can persevere through those challenging moments.
7) What do I look for in a teacher?
All teachers are not created equal. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. What music a teacher knows will be imparted to the student. A teacher can not teach what they do not know.
If a student only wishes to mimic a particular player or style, then they should seek out a teacher that will help them reach that goal. If the student wishes to learn the ins and outs of music, they should seek out the most knowledgeable teacher, one who can effectively guide them on their individual musical journey.
It is important to find a teacher with the right temperament for that student. A teacher should be flexible in their approach because each student learns differently and may not accept an approach other students respond to.
Over time, a teacher of guitar becomes more than just a teacher with a student. A good teacher will become a friend and confidant of the student through the bond of music exploration they share together.
Good teachers produce good students. Not all good players can teach and not all good teachers can play. The best ones know how to get their students to think and reason for themselves and they also act as guides through the musical journey each student takes.
Ask questions about your prospective teacher. What are their qualifications and credentials? How long have they been teaching? What is their approach to teaching music? What style of music do they play? Are they highly recommended by people that you know? Have you heard any of their students and were you impressed with what you heard?
I am sure that as you look for an instructor, you will have you own questions that pertain to your particular situation. My hope is that you find my information informative and helpful in you search.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 940-322-9738 about any of the above information or if you have further questions regarding lessons.
copyright 2011-16 © Bruce Canafax