Monthly Archives: July 2012

  • 0

Think learning music should be easier?

Category : Guitar Lessons

light bulb

I see students all the time that become very discouraged after “practicing” for several weeks and they have nothing to show for it. Progress is slow and can often be invisible to the student. Remember when you were younger and went to visit a relative after not seeing them for many weeks? The first thing that they probably said was “Wow, look how tall you’ve gotten.” or “My how you’ve grown!” You probably thought that there is no way that you could have gotten any taller or grown any noticeable amount since the last time you saw them, right? Well when someone doesn’t see you every day the small changes that are occurring right under your nose are more noticeable. This is the same phenomenon that takes place with students and teachers. Private lessons are typically once per week. If you practice 5 days between lessons a teacher can see and hear a difference, where you may think that nothing has changed.
Students who have strong learning capabilities, pick up on new subjects quickly, and are usually “a natural” at most things often have trouble learning an instrument. Most of these types of students are not used to having to practice over and over again to achieve very small results. These small results quickly add up to very large accomplishments! You must be determined and understand that learning music is a lifelong journey. Continue to practice and celebrate your small victories and have fun with music and you will find learning to be very rewarding.
If you are currently enrolled in private music lessons, class instruction, band, or trying to learn by yourself there are many different challenges. First and foremost I often advocate finding a well-trained private instructor (obvious right? Since that’s what I do for a living), this does not mean take lessons from a friend that you think plays well or from a relative that played many years ago. The reason being, finding a friend that plays well is easy, finding one that can also show you appropriate good habits and easily correct problems that may present themselves to be larger issues down the road, is another story. Family friends or relatives that played many years ago may be unfamiliar with current techniques, equipment, and performance practices. If you can’t find a professional in your area or are limited on expendable income, learning with only a book or (gasp!) the internet may be the only option. Learning by obtaining a quality book would be my 2nd choice, if you don’t have access to a teacher. There are many fine books on the market, however I can only recommend a handful that I have personally reviewed and of which I find the most logical and paced for the beginning player. If you think that learning to play an instrument from videos on the internet, be warned, ANYONE can produce a video with ANY information and post it on the internet. This being said, from the students point of view it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between someone who really understands how to teach instrument technique and intricacies of music from those who know very little in how to help a student. Be careful with the advice you take from music teaching videos on the internet. This goes for tablature and sheet music that is available for free on the internet. Sometimes you will find reputable versions of songs available for free, but often these are riddled with errors and inaccuracies that do not represent how the music should be played. Now that I wrecked your childlike innocence here is the good news! Once you find a teacher, book, or reputable online source learning music and instrumental technique is not impossible. It does take time, patience, and determination, but by no means is it impossible. Anyone can learn to play!

  • 0

Choosing a instrument

Category : Guitar Lessons


Choosing an instrument

When shopping for a new instrument there are so many different options from which to choose. Brand names are often a good starting point when looking for a new instrument. This can give you information on an manufacturer and/or models reputation and reliability. There are many different manufacturers that produce instruments that are often recommended as student line instruments. The old adage “You get what you pay for.” is applicable in this instance. Obviously, budgets are a concern for almost everyone, so finding the biggest bang for you buck is important. The importance of buying an instrument that has reputable brand recognition can be confusing for some. Instruments have moving parts, hinges, pads, wiring, metal, wood, screws, and other very small custom made parts. When something happens and you need your instrument repaired you will need a qualified repair person, typically, to get things moving back into the right direction.


Wood or Plastic? – With students returning to school or embarking on their first musical journey, this is a common question. While typically students will be renting an instrument during their first year or two of band, buying one is also an excellent option. Instruments are very easy to resell either via Craigslist, Ebay, or Classified ads and typically don’t depreciate all that much (depending on the brand). Finding a used instrument is similar to buying a used car. You want to see and typically play it first to determine if it is an appropriate fit for you or your student. Also, having a qualified repair tech check the instrument for things like loose or broken springs, bad pads, and other common age induced issues that are common on a used instrument. That being said, finding an used instrument will dramatically reduce your initial investment (as long as there are not a boatload of repairs to be made, hence see a tech).

Back to the original question. Wood or Plastic? Typically I recommend beginning students get a plastic clarinet, although the actual material may be called something different like resin or a composite material. These are not prone to cracking and do not require as much attention to upkeep as a wooden instrument. Also, a student can also use this plastic clarinet for marching band, as you do not want to march with a wooden clarinet. Stick to brands that your band director recommends. These will usually include: Yamaha, Buffet, Selmer, Leblanc, Bundy, Vito, and possibly a few others. Stay away from the “great” deals you might find on ebay that are often Chinese made junk. These cheap off brands often come with a history of problems and are hard to find replacement parts, if you can find them at all. Students that are really making progress with their instrument and are starting to take their progress seriously may want to invest in a wooden instrument in order to achieve better tone, intonation, and overall playability. This again would be fine, but only after a student has developed a good basic understanding on the instrument and embouchure required.


Acoustic or Electric? – This is one of the biggest questions I get asked. This is usually coming from a parent of a younger student in regards to hand strength or complains about the strings “being too hard” to push down. Personally, I like to start students out on an acoustic guitar. This makes transitioning to the electric guitar much easier later. Of course, students may receive some difficulty at first since the string tension on the acoustic guitar makes for a slightly tougher time for the left hand, this is much like learning to drive a standard transmission car. If you can drive a standard transmission car, you will have absolutely no trouble driving an automatic. Now, if you are an adult student and have an issue with hand pressure due to an injury or other condition, starting on an electric guitar should be perfectly fine. In the end, its all preference.

What size guitar should I buy? – This is where heading into a guitar shop will make the best sense. Typically I like to have my students purchase a standard size acoustic guitar as long as they are able to sit, play, and handle the guitar without any issues. Students under 9 (depending on size) usually will go for something in the 3/4″ size range. Students under 7 might need something as small as a 1/2″ size, but traditionally I only teach as young as 7 years of age. If your student can handle a full size guitar, then by all means buy it. Being able to reach and fret all the way from the 1st fret to the 12th (at a minimum) will ensure that the size is in the ballpark. Arm length is another consideration. Make sure that they can get their right arm around the thickness and width of the body. If this feels very uncomfortable it might be a sign that a smaller size is needed. Again, the best technique to sizing is to go into a store with lots of different sizes and models and see what feels right.