How to Choose the Right Guitar Instructor/Teacher
At MayosMusic we offer Private, Semi-Private and Group guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, fretted instrument and auto-harp lessons. Plus, we are a complete luthier service that includes guitar and amplifier repairs/restorations. Through the years we have been asked numerous "Guitar Lesson" and "Guitar Repair" related questions (many repeatedly) by new/current/old and prospective students and customers. Here is our answer to: How to choose the right guitar instructor/teacher?
When first interviewing an instructor, does he/she have a plan or program that will meet the needs of the student? How does the instructor determine this program?
First, as a private instructor, the teacher does not have the luxury that a public school or college instructor would have, where a student has met the prerequisite requirements before starting the class. Thus the instructor must first interview, test and evaluate the new student to effectively recommend the best starting point or program.
With the proper teacher the student will progress faster and increase his/her chances of success, thus saving both time and money in the long run.
In the first lesson, the teacher/instructor should test and evaluate the student’s current abilities, and then discuss the student’s goals. This includes:
- Guitar or intended instrument (includes playing)
- School Band or Orchestral instruments
- Choir (school and/or religious)
- Music Theory
- Other Instruments
- Based on the student’s level of playing, knowledge of music and their goals with the guitar, the teacher/instructor would then recommend a course of study.
- The study of guitar is broken down into 3 categories:
- Note Reading (melody playing with & without tab.) lessons
- Chord & Rhythm Studies, including lessons in strumming, flat-picking, & finger-picking styles.
- Lead Improvising (instruction in scales, arpeggios, small-form chords, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tapping, slides, etc.)
Note: Music Theory instruction will be included within all categories for deeper understanding.
Breaking Down the Study of the Guitar
The guitar is unlike most other musical instruments, in that you can play both single note and multiple note combinations, thus creating chords. Most string and keyboard instruments are capable of this but not so with horn or reed instruments. Thus, guitarists can play three different types of note combinations, Chords, Scales, and Arpeggios. Proper study of the guitar needs to includes all three. The study of guitar is broken down into 3 categories:
- Note Reading (standard notation and with tab) Lessons
- Chord & Rhythm Studies (strumming, flat-picking and finger-picking lessons)
- Lead Improvising & Techniques (lessons in scales, arpeggios, small-form chords, bends, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tapping, slides, etc.)
The student, in studying these three areas, will use all three types of note combinations (chords, scales, & arpeggios) and apply these skills to songs.
Lastly, ear-training is most important and I teach it throughout all stages of instructions. After all, a musician will only be as good as his/her ear!!
Where To Start
Choosing which of the three basic areas to study first:
- Breaking it down by age (with no or minimum background)
- Kid’s ages 5 to 10 years old usually do best with single note studies as chords can often be difficult for small hands. Single note playing also strengthens the chording hand and develops calluses which will ready the student for future chord studies. Single note or melody studies are accomplished through note-reading both with and without tab.
- Student’s ages 11 through most adults, with little to no background on guitar, usually do best by starting with chord & rhythm studies. You will get going faster and be able to fit in and play with others sooner.
Note: Chord & Rhythm studies are the best starting
point if you:
- Want to sing and play in a band
- Want to become a singer/songwriter/guitarist
- Play guitar in a church worship band
- High school or college jazz band
- Join an existing band with a good lead guitarist (they will need a good rhythm player)
- Form a basic “garage band” trio (guitar, bass, drums) where your role will be to fill the sound with chords mostly.
- Senior adults w/arthritis usually have difficulty arching the fingers properly to form chords when beginning the guitar. I begin with single note playing so that the hand will strengthen and loosen up and this will ready the student to later study chords and be successful.
- Breaking it down by age (with experience)
- Students ages 7 through 10 can add or start chords or beginning lead studies
- Students ages 11 and up, with chords & rhythm background who want to sing and play, can also study note-reading (this trains the ear and you can learn to sing by copying with your voice what you play).
- Want to be a lead guitarist? Although there are many good reasons to start first with some chord studies, a beginner could start with lead guitar styles. I recommend beginning with the study of Arpeggios (most often heard as “riffs” in songs), then moving on to scales and further ear-training, and jamming along with songs, etc.
Right of Left Handed Players
If you are a right-handed person, you will play a right-handed guitar (strum with the right hand) period. However, if you are a lefty, you may play either left-handed or right-handed, and choosing the correct orientation for you is most important for long term success and will allow you to reach your maximum potential. All players have a dominant right or left side playing orientation.
I have found the following to be true of lefties:
- If you are 100% left-hand oriented you are 99/100% going to play left-handed guitar.
- For every body movement that you choose to do right-handed (throw a ball, cut with scissors, write, kick a ball, etc.) the odds start to increase that your dominant playing side may be right-handed guitar.
- If you are ambidextrous, you have a 50%+ probability that you will play right-handed guitar.
When playing the guitar, there are three body functions to consider:
- Holding the guitar – how it feels overall sitting on your lap, your arm over the body of the guitar, etc.
- The fret-board hand – the hand that fingers the fret-board, plays chords, scales, etc.
- The strumming / picking hand
Of these three, only the strumming / picking hand is important. This is because all of your rhythm and timing are best done with your dominant hand (thus why a right-handed player strums with their right hand). The non-dominant hand will learn to play chords, scales, and arpeggios, etc. The non-dominant hand will never be as good with rhythm and timing as the dominant hand.
With all beginning students, I ask “are you right or left handed?” and if they say they are left-handed or partially left-handed, I will give them an exercise to play both right and left handed, and after about a week the dominant side will appear.
The time spent determining right or left is crucial to the success of the player. Once you have the correct playing orientation, you are ready to move forward with lessons and playing.
IMPORTANT! DO NOT take lessons with a teacher that forces all students to play right-handed. Many teachers do this because they have a problem working with left-handed students. That teacher is choosing what is easiest for themselves, and NOT what is best for the student.
Experience since 1968
Providing Guitar, Electric Bass & Ukulele lessons and Guitar/Amp Repair in the Greater Phoenix Valley area of Arizona
including Maricopa County and The Salt River Valley.
Mayos Music will continue to provide Guitar/Amp Repairs in Southern California's South Bay cities and Greater Los Angeles Area.
Originally located in Manhattan Beach and Torrance, California.
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