FAQ

Can I take lessons as I need them or do I have to pay for an entire month?

Although students have the option of taking occasional lessons, I discourage beginners from taking that path unless it’s absolutely necessary for financial reasons. Weekly lessons represent the best value because weekly visits allow me to evaluate and quickly correct technique problems and bad habits before they become ingrained. This results in overall faster progress as well as less frustration for the learner.

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    Can I wait while my child takes a lesson?

    YES! I have a comfortable waiting area with restroom facilities. One of the many advantages of my studio is that parents have the option of listening in and monitoring their child’s progress without being intrusive. After visiting, I think you’ll agree there is simply nothing else in the area that compares.

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      Do you accept students with special needs or disabilities?

      Yes. I’ve worked with a number of students who had special needs or disabilities — ADHD, blindness, Asperger’s, extreme shyness — and have seen very good results. Playing music has a therapeutic effect on people and should not be denied to anyone. Please contact me to discuss the student’s specific problems and/or needs.

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        How do I know if I’m at the intermediate level?

        If you’re thinking of taking lessons but aren’t sure if you’re at the beginner or intermediate level, ask yourself these questions:

        1) do I know quite a few chords? (major, minor, 7th)

        2) do I know how to play single note melody lines?

        3) can I read tablature?

        4) can I strum through an entire song?

        5) can I sing along with strumming?

        Although there’s always some grey area in classification, answering yes to many or all of these questions would place you at the intermediate level.

         

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          How many lessons will I need?

          This question is impossible to answer because the number of lessons depends on three factors: motivation; goals; and natural talent. On average it takes about 6 months to be able to play a dozen or so simple songs on the guitar, given adequate practice. It takes quite a bit longer to rise to the level of an intermediate player who can strum smoothly while singing. However, it can take years of study to become an accomplished guitarist who can perform competently and confidently in public. As with any musical instrument, the guitar can be a lifelong pursuit. Of course this process can be shortened considerably if the student possesses a good bit of natural talent.

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            How often should I have a lesson?

            Most students seem to do just fine with one half-hour lesson per week. More advanced students, however, often feel frustrated by a lesson lasting only 30 minutes and may find it beneficial to extend the half-hour lesson to 45 minutes.

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              I want to learn guitar…why do I have to sing?

              Over time I’ve found that engaging the voice and fingers together actually accelerates the learning process. Almost from the beginning I work with my students to help them recognize pitch and sing along with the songs they learn to play. Singing while playing also appears to be more gratifying for the student than simply rattling off snippets of rock songs without lyrics, the approach usually taken by other guitar instructors. However, my intention is not to make good singers but to make good musicians. A necessary part of that process is helping students gain the confidence necessary to use their voices as a means of expressing themselves through music.

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                Is my child too young for guitar lessons?

                The main impediments that young children experience when first learning the guitar are lack of manual dexterity and poor hand-eye coordination — conditions which are especially evident in children between the ages of 5 and 6. However, over time, I’ve developed a teaching method that relies on singing and using other instruments to promote the child’s musical development while taking age-related development issues into account. This method lays the foundation for future work on the guitar and has worked well with students as young as five. Generally speaking, eight is probably a good age to begin studying guitar. By that time most coordination problems are resolved and the majority of students are able to read and recognize differences in pitch.

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                  What are your musical influences?

                  Over the years I’ve been deeply affected by a number of musical genres including folk, blues, old-time country, bluegrass, motown, pop, rock, pop, reggae, classical and jazz. Of all these, I suspect that folk, blues, pop, and motown had the greatest impact on my playing. I spent countless hours listening to Josh White, Dave Van Ronk, Taj Mahal, Jorma Kaukonen, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, James Taylor, the Beatles, and Mississippi John Hurt and the other bluesmen of the deep south. Currently I listen to music from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s and I collect 78 records from those decades. Some of my favorite guitar players are Earl Klugh (jazz), Barney Kessell (jazz), Roland Dyens (classical/jazz), Tommy Emmanuel (contemporary), and of course, the undisputed king of melody, Chet Atkins.

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                    What if I can’t sing?

                    Over the years I haven’t run into any students who are physically unable to sing. Not one. I have, however, run into a great many who have emotional or psychological inhibitions when it comes to singing and I try to take that into consideration whenever I encounter it. I do not require adult students to sing, but I certainly encourage it.

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                      What if I don’t have a guitar?

                      There’s no way around it — having a guitar is absolutely necessary for anyone wishing to begin lessons. I’ve assisted many students in finding an instrument that’s right for them so if this is your situation, please mention it when you call and I’ll begin searching.

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                        What if I go on vacation?

                        If a full-time student will only be attending 1 or 2 lessons due to a family vacation or trip, they have the option of paying only for the lessons they will be taking, but at a slightly higher rate. However, the ONLY way to reserve a regular lesson time is to pay for an entire month of lessons. Please consult the PRICING page for my complete fee schedule.

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                          What if I have to cancel my lesson?

                          No problem. Simply give me at least four hours notice and I’ll be happy to notate a make-up lesson for the student on my schedule. However, anything less than four hours notice will result in no make-up lesson being given. Sufficient notice allows me to organize my schedule and plan my work day.

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                            What if my child won’t practice?

                            I do everything I can to ensure that my students progress at a good rate. However, over the years I’ve found that the students who make the best progress are those whose parents are directly involved in the learning process. What this means is that parents should monitor practice time for at least the first six months, which is usually how long it takes the beginning student to discover how much fun it is to play the guitar. Although monitoring should not be as necessary after the first 6 months, the proactive parent will still want to arrange opportunities for the beginner to perform for parties, reunions, holidays, and other family events.

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                              What material do beginning students cover?

                              Beginning students can expect to learn the following: how to use the pick; how to read music; how to read Tablature; how to strum; and the fundamentals of music theory;. In addition, beginners will learn the major scales — both sharp and flat — in first position as well as the natural minor scales in first position. They will also learn the following: to accurately identify and reproduce pitch; basic singing; and basic performance techniques. Please consult the VIDEOS page to see examples of what my beginning students are able to accomplish.

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                                What other accessories will I need for guitar lessons?

                                Students of the guitar are fortunate because, unlike many other musicians, we require so few tools — and the few we do need are quite inexpensive. The essentials for all beginning students are: an appropriately sized guitar; a footstool; a music stand; a tuner; a metronome; a capo; and occasionally, picks and strings. Once the guitar is purchased, the other accessories should cost no more than $100.00. Please let me know if you lack any of these fundamental supplies and I’ll be happy to assist you in finding them.

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                                  What should I look for in a guitar instructor?

                                  What you look for in a guitar teacher depends mostly on your age and level of accomplishment on the instrument. Adult beginners should look for someone who has a systematic approach to the material and the ability to easily convey techniques and concepts to people who are new to the instrument.

                                  Young beginners, however, face a unique problem because most guitar instructors DO NOT want to deal with children. I’m not sure whether it’s because they can’t relate to them or because they think it’s not challenging enough. Whatever the reason, parents need to be very selective about who they choose to get their kids started on guitar.

                                  The fundamental problem for all students of the guitar is that people often assume that because someone can play guitar well, they are able to teach others to do the same. That is a false assumption. Playing well is an important component, but personality and teaching ability is always paramount in a learning situation. My advice is to interview the teacher prior to signing up for lessons.

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                                    What should I look for when buying a guitar?

                                    The two most important things to look for when buying a guitar for a beginner are appropriate size and playability. A guitar that’s too large or too small for the person holding it can cause frustration, which in turn discourages practicing. The same applies to instruments that require too much effort to press the strings down. For Intermediate and advanced students, the main considerations should be quality of construction and materials used, playability, and, of course, sound or tone. If an instrument has a pleasing sound, that can often outweigh other negatives such as mediocre construction. And playability can often be adjusted by a trained repairman.

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                                      What style of music do you teach?

                                      I specialize in teaching beginners and intermediate level players (99% of guitar students) and for those groups there is no need to teach a particular style. In fact, doing so would be counterproductive. The most valuable thing a beginning student of the guitar can have is a good foundation in musicianship. What does this mean? A good ear for pitch, a good sense of tempo and rhythm, good technique, good practice habits, the ability to interact with other musicians, and of course, the ability to sing. Parents of beginning students should beware of enlisting their children with instructors who teach a style (rock, for example). Only those students who have a good grasp of the fundamentals should consider narrowing their focus to a particular style.

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                                        What style(s) of music do you play?

                                        My preferred style of playing the guitar is called fingerstyle and I create many of my own arrangements based on songs made famous by groups such as The Beatles. Samples of what I play can be heard on the MEET JOHN page.

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                                          What type of guitar is best to learn on?

                                          This is fertile ground for debate. However, my experience has shown that acoustic guitars with nylon strings are best for beginners because they sound good and are easy to play. Second best are acoustic guitars with steel strings. Electric guitars are third best and are acceptable for lessons (I have an amp in my studio).

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                                            What’s the difference between nylon and steel strings?

                                            Guitars with nylon strings are usually called Classical guitars and though they used to be confined to playing classical music, they are now used by guitarists across the musical spectrum. In general, they have smaller bodies and are constructed more lightly than guitars designed for steel strings, which gives them a distinctive sound. Typically they have wider necks and flat fingerboards. Nylon string guitars are great for beginners because they require less effort to play and the wider neck allows more room when squeezing fingers together to make chords. Guitars with wider necks can also be a good solution for adults with larger fingers.

                                            Steel string guitars are louder but are more difficult to play. They have narrower necks and fingerboards that are slightly curved, making some chords easier to play. Steel string acoustic guitars are definitely the favorite of contemporary singer/song-writers.

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