If you’ve never played the guitar before, then guitar teachers can seem an alien breed. We use strange words when talking about music. We make playing the guitar look easy while you practice diligently just to get a few notes right. You may worry that a guitar teacher will be frustrated with how much you don’t know. Or you may suspect that after your first lesson, your teacher will giggle uncontrollably at how little you know, and then call every other guitarist in town so they also can giggle at you.
The reality, however, is that I’m delighted to take on a beginner. For me, every new student is a new challenge, and beginners can start with a clean slate. So don’t worry that you don’t know enough. After all, that’s why you’re coming to me in the first place. In fact, there are only a few things that I ask of any new student:
If you can do these things, then I’m happy to teach you to play the guitar.
Your first step to beginning lessons is to either e-mail me or give me a call. I’ll ask you a few questions about yourself, just to get an idea of where you’re starting from. I’ll also ask you about what kind of guitar you have, and what style of music you’re interested in learning. If you don’t yet have a guitar, I’ll offer suggestions. Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to answer some of my questions, since that in itself will help me know how to approach our first lesson. We’ll also discuss scheduling, to find a lesson time that works for you. I may also recommend what materials you’ll need for your first lesson. And obviously this is a good time for you to ask any questions you may have.
For most beginners, I usually recommend starting with one half-hour lesson per week.
At your first lesson, I’ll usually begin by looking over your guitar to ensure it’s in good condition. I’ll then tune it for you, and we’ll move right into learning how to hold the guitar. Depending on how well things go, you’ll learn a few notes to practice at home, and I might show you a chord or two. I try not to overwhelm beginners with too much work. At this point, I’d rather you learn a few things well than a lot of things badly. In the week after your first lesson, you can expect to practice about thirty minutes a day.
Starting with a new teacher can be a bit disconcerting at first. In most cases, you don’t know me well, and I don’t know you well. So start by reminding yourself who’s paying whom. It’s not your job to impress me. It’s my job to help you. You should focus on doing the best you can with the time you have to practice.
As a beginner, focus on the process and don’t worry about whether you’re progressing as fast as you should. Everyone learns in their own way and time, and there’s no schedule that applies equally to everyone. Some people will learn faster than you, others slower. That’s not to say you should ignore people who progress faster than you. There’s always something to learn from them. But don’t let it discourage you. Intelligent and self-confident persistence is a powerful thing. In time, you may surpass some of those who burst out of the gate faster.
Try to be as consistent as possible with your practice time. Learning to play the guitar is a lot like mastering a language: it’s much harder to do in fits and starts. One week of dedicated practice followed by a week of no practice isn’t the way to go. If you put in the time and good quality practice, then eventually the guitar will reward you. There are, of course, the realities of life. You have responsibilities, and sometimes other things must take priority over the guitar. But if other things constantly bump the guitar from your schedule, then you won’t get far. The guitar needs your attention, and it won’t reward being ignored.
Perhaps the best thing you can bring to learning the guitar is a commitment to an ever deeper understanding of excellence. The difference between good and bad players is often that the good player refuses to settle for mediocrity and the bad player does. If, for example, a thin and scratchy sound doesn’t bother you, then that will be your sound. But if it does bother you, then you’ll try to correct it. This can be frustrating at first. Finding flaws you can’t immediately correct may drive you crazy. But this is no cause for despair. In fact, it’s a necessary step toward getting better. You need to recognize flaws before you can go about correcting them.
I have a saying:
And so it goes. This is the ultimate reality of learning to play the guitar. If you can accept it with equanimity, you’ll get far more enjoyment from your journey with music.