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Guitar lessons - what do they teach you?

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(@slodogg)
Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 75
Topic starter  

well, more exact, if you take a lesson for your very first time, what is they teach you?

Ive been trying this whole time to teach myself a bit, but i believe ( and so does the rest of my family i might add !) I need to take a couple lessons and was just wondering what they taught on your very first one. With what i already know, would i be ahead of the game, so to speak, a little?

Thanks all !!

SLODOGG62


   
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(@quarterfront)
Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 225
 

My "lessons" have been very informal, given by a friend who plays well. The first time he talked about posture, how to hold my pick, how to place my finger on the string at the fret, how to position my right hand for playing finger style, and he showed me some basic chord shapes.

I already had an understanding of interval relationships in the scale so he gave me an assignment to draw out the fretboard and put dots at each fret where a note of the E major scale would fall all up and down the fretboard. He showed me a blues scale and told me to do the same thing with the blues scale, and also to draw out the dots for playing the blues scale across the neck.

He taught me a simple arrangement of "Time in a Bottle" and told me to work on it.

This was about a 2 hour lesson, BTW....


   
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(@kingpatzer)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171
 

As a teacher, the biggest thing I think I bring to my students is an awareness of what they need to know to achieve their goals.

While many of my students could probably fair very well on their own, the reality is that there is always something that they won't realize they need to know.

I help to minimize that.

With the benefit of my experience, I can help prevent bad habits from developing and help keep important concepts and techniques from being missed.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 8184
 

I have a question for the teachers. What are the advantages to learning on an acoustic? Out of the 6 or so teachers I phoned, only 1 would teach on the electric guitar.


   
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 Taso
(@taso)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 2811
 

There are very few OWA.

The biggest, and most solid, is that it is much easier to teach on an acoustic, equipmently speaking...All you need is two acoustic guitars: No amps, no cables, no pickups not working.

Other than that, most of the reasons are absurd, and highly arguable, the most popular being: Acoustics demand that your fingers stretch out more, and don't allow for mistakes. XXX Electrics do the same thing regarding mistakes if played on the clean channel, and your fingers will stretch out over time anyways.

http://taso.dmusic.com/music/


   
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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342
 

There's certainly no reason not to learn using an electric; after all, there's nothing you can do on an accoustic that you can't do on an electric.

You don't need a whopping great pile of kit either. If I'm going to a student, I'll take a small 10 watt Marshall with me, and if a student is coming to me then I've got the 30 and 10 watt amps in the music room in case they haven't been able to bring their own amp or other equipment. You don't need to ramp it up loud in lessons.

So, the only difference between learning on an electric compared to an accoustic is the weight of the guitar and the amp. The study material's the same, the music stand doesn't weigh any more, and the diary your teacher shold be scribbling in like crazy whilst he's teaching you is the same for you and all your teacher's other students.

What's important when you're learning on an electric, IMHO, is that you learn to play it clean. Distortion covers a heck of a lot of bad technique, and whilst everybody wants to be <insert name of Guitar Hero here> and ramp up the dirty channel, if you can't play it clean then you ain't going nowhere. Learn it properly, then hit the distortion button.

Best,

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


   
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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

I agree with Taso.

Just last week I was at a music store and a guitar teacher was telling a parent that her son should learn on acoustic. I know the teacher - he's a fine blues guitarist (on electric and acoustic) - and he looked to me for support. I disagreed, which upset him a bit. I figured hey - I didn't offer my opinion, you asked for it :)

The right instrument is the one you'll play most often. If a student has his/her heart set on learning metal, they won't practice as much on an acoustic - s/he wants to sound like Dimebag or Yngwie, not Roy Rogers, and the instrument's sound can be a turnoff. If they want to play Joni Mitchell, the opposite is also true.

The only substantial differences in technique occur between classical and plectrum. I've had parents tell me they want their child to learn classical first "because it's harder" (I've often heard classical teachers give that reason to parents/students too). There may be some truth to it - the fingerboard is more than 3/8" wider, and the picking hand techniques are more complicated. In my view, it's not harder... just different; it's geared towards counterpoint, rather than chords. Many classical players I know can't even name the chords they play - much like many piano players - they just follow the notes.

In my experience, students will acquire skill sets in a slightly different order if they learn on electric vs. acoustic. Electric guitars use thinner gauge strings, making it easier to develop a light touch - and that's essential for fretting hand speed. So electric students tend to get 'faster' before acoustic students. The lighter strings also help them get over a couple of early hurdles, like the F chord.

But acoustic guitarists develop dynamic control sooner than electric guitarists - they can play with more sensitivity. That makes it easier to acquire a aspects that get grouped together under 'musicianship' - they usually play melodies with a sense of 'maturity' faster than electric guitarists.

Both skills, speed and sensitivity, are essential to becoming a good guitarist. Eventually you'll learn both no matter where you start.

The big tell for me has been the numerous students who start out with the instrument they don't want (because that's what Uncle Jack gave them for Christmas or whatever). Once they acquire the instrument that matches up to their own vision of themselves as a guitarist, their practice time - and the results they get - expand dramatically.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@ricochet)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

I found it harder to play cleanly on an electric without making a lot of extraneous finger noises on the strings, which you don't hear with an acoustic. Clears up with experience.

I agree, it's best to learn on what you're going to play on, but it's nice to have experience with both.

My teacher was happy to play with either. He had a keyboard amp in the room that we could plug two guitars into. Sometimes I'd take one of my little amps in.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

I might as well answer the original question too :)

The first thing I do is ask questions:

- how long have you been playing?
- what kind of music do you listen to?
- do you play any other instruments?
- what to you want to gain from your lessons?

That lets me assess a starting point. If a student plays another instrument, they probably understand standard notation and musical terms. The type of music they listen to tells me what kind of songs I'm going to use to demonstrate and teach techniques. If a student has clear goals, I want to give them what they're looking for.

What I teach at a first lesson depends on the answers. If they've never played guitar, I cover:

- how to hold and handle the guitar
- the names of the strings
- the way strings, frets, and fingers are numbered
- how to tune a guitar
- how to fret a single note
- some finger drills to build up strength and callus
- one or two basic chords
- strumming motion
- if a student will be learning standard notation (most of mine do), the E-F-G notes on the first string
- a couple of basic principles of changing chords
- if time allows, a one or two chord song

Students who play another instrument tend to get more 'stuff' at a first lesson. I've had students who play piano well learn all the notes in first position at a first lesson; last year I gave some lessons to a professional bass player, and the first lesson covered major scales on the entire fretboard.

If they have played guitar before, after the questions I have them play something. Anything. I watch their technique closely looking for bad habits that need to be fixed: neck position, thumb placement, the depth of the pick they present to the strings, they way they change chords or positions. If I see any flaws in their technique, we start with that - what they're doing wrong, why it's limiting, and exercises to help them break the habit.

What they choose to play gives me a good handle on what to do or ask next. One song isn't going to show me all the skills a student has acquired on their own, and I don't want to waste their time by recovering all the old ground. I might ask them to play the same thing with a maj7 chord or 9th chord in place of something to assess their chord skills, or ask them to improvise in a different position. If they fingerpicked as part of it, I might want to see it using a different finger stroke, or hybrid picked. Maybe I'll ask a theory question about what they played.

Whenever a student has playing experience, either with another teacher or self-taught, I have a lot more work to do. The guitar doesn't have a standard pedagogy (a sequence in which musical concepts are taught) so each teacher develops their own sequence.

If I'm teaching 'from scratch', I'm going to present things in an order I've thought through: triplets before 16ths, extended chords before alterations, etc. Each new skill builds on the prior concepts. When a student is accomplished, they may have skipped over things... I have to figure out if any basics are missing before working to advance them further. The more accomplished they are, the harder that is to do.

The more advanced a new student is, they less likely they'll feel satisfied at a first lesson - that's just the nature of it, because a first lesson is diagnostic, and the more skills you have the more there is to assess. If you already feel you play pretty well, it's usually the second lesson that will be the key: does the teacher seem to have a game plan for helping you? Is it geared to the music you want to play (or can the teacher logically connect the technique to the music you like)? Do you leave the lesson with a sense that you've learned something new?

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@fretsource)
Prominent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 973
 

In addition to all the valuable insights given above, the point about whether what you've already taught yourself puts you "ahead of the game" is one that teachers often have to deal with. Some students who have learned a little from various sources arrive for their first ever lesson with an inflated perception of their knowledge and abilities, and a fixed idea of how to progress. In some cases it's obvious that their previous 'learning' has put them behind the game rather than ahead of it - and they're not too happy to be told about it or to spend time unlearning bad habits or wildly incorrect facts.
To quote (roughly) some wise words:
"The problem ain't what you don't know. It's what you know that ain't so".

Slodogg - The fact that you asked the question in the first place shows you're not one of those types, and have the right attitude to learning.
Good luck with it :D


   
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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171
 

I have a question for the teachers. What are the advantages to learning on an acoustic? Out of the 6 or so teachers I phoned, only 1 would teach on the electric guitar.

The differences between electric and acoustic simply don't exist.

Some things are easier on one than the other, but for every "advantage" there's an equally compelling "disadvantage." And what they really are are differences.

I agree with Noteboat here -- the right instrument is the one the student will play.

The bigger problem I have with most parents (not students) is refusing to believe that the quality of the instrument matters. I've had more than a few kids give up because they didn't like playing, now maybe they would have done this anyway, but the guitars they were playing were such utter pieces of junk that I'd have quit too . . .

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


   
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(@chris-c)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 3454
 

Some fantastic answer above. :D

There's so many possible different paths and aspects to learning guitar that it's hard to find an answer that suits everybody. But here's a couple more thoughts:

  • How much can you afford?

    If you hired a bricklayer for 4 hours you wouldn't expect them to get far with building you a house. Yet it's amazing how much progress that some students think that they'll make in 8 half-hour lessons.

    Anybody who decides to study with a teacher should be prepared to spend a fair amount of money - probably a good chunk more than they paid for their first guitar, just for a reasonably basic grounding. They should also expect that no matter how much the teacher knows, there's little point in them just blatting it all out as fast as they can - you won't be able to do much if any of it, and you won't understand it all anyway. So it will be a slow process and the limiting factor will be your own speed of learning. This will not just be a matter of how smart you are, or how keen to study, but also how fast you can physically learn to train your hands to do the moves. Much of the basic theory behind the guitar can be learned a lot faster than you can actually put any of it into practice.

    Where do you want to go?

    To start with, most of us only have a vague idea of this, and our ideas will probably change as we go along anyway.

    If you knew in advance that all you ever wanted to do was crank up the distortion, hack out a few power chords, and have some rough and ready fun with your mates then you may not need to learn much at all in a formal teaching setting. But if you had your heart set on being a concert standard classical performer then the path to follow, and the discipline involved would be in a completely different league altogether. Most of us want something in between - but we don't yet know what. We also don't know in advance how hard the bug will bite, how good a student we'll be, how much time we'll be motivated to put in, or how much money we'll be prepared to spend on teachers. It's a lot of unknowns. :?

  • The reality is that most of us don't know the answers to these questions, so we just settle for what seems like a good idea at the time (which often boils down to what Dad and Mum will pay for... :wink: ). Most of us just really don't know what standard we want to achieve, how long it will take, or what is involved. And there's no easy way of finding that all out in advance. So a few lessons can certainly help shine some light on some of the various answers. If you get a teacher then ask, ask ask, as well as listen, listen,listen. And squeeze as much as you can out of the time between lessons.

    I took two terms of lessons (about 20) and thought it was money very well spent. But I sure wasn't that much of a player at the end. :shock: Long way to go yet.... 8) Unfortunately, that teacher is no longer available, and I haven't yet had any luck with finding another who is as good, so I'm learning from books and from friends now. That seems to be good enough for where I want to get to - but who knows???? :) I think I'm almost there now - but when I do get there I'll probably just set a new bunch of goals!

    Fortunately, it's all good fun, and if you pay attention and keep an open mind you usually don't go so far wrong that it can't be corrected.

    Cheers,

    Chris


       
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    (@quarterfront)
    Reputable Member
    Joined: 19 years ago
    Posts: 225
     

    Just a comment re. the Acoustic vs. Electric issue....

    I'm 42, began as a 40 year old beginner on an electric. A friend of my brothers told him to tell me to lock up the electric and switch to acoustic because if I didn't I'd get carpal tunnel syndrome and never play again.

    As it happens I did manage to get some tendonitis after about three months of playing. I did a bunch of research and found that it had nothing to do with the Electric guitar I was playing. It had to do with being a 40 year old beginner with a strong desire to learn that translated into practicing 2-4 hours a day. In fact, the electric having lighter strings probably made it less of an issue than it'd have been had I been playing acoustic.

    Granted, if you're playing an electric and fancy yourself some sort of rock star who slings his guitar so low that he's wearing holes in the knees of his jeans off the back of the guitar you will twist your wrist around into a pretzel and trash your tendons. Don't do that....

    But fact is that an electric with light gauge strings is easier to play than an acoustic. And when your a beginner who's old enough that the spectre of arthritis is looming over your shoulder, taking care of your hands is especially important.

    I do have an acoustic now, and love it. But I play my electrics more and can only play the acoustic so much. Too much on the acoustic and my hands tire out or worse, get worn out. The more I play, the stronger my hands get, the lighter my touch gets and thus the easier it gets to play the acoustic. But in my case I have to take care of myself if I want to be able to practice as much as I want to and learn as fast as I want to, and that means playing an electric most of the time.


       
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     Taso
    (@taso)
    Famed Member
    Joined: 21 years ago
    Posts: 2811
     

    Yeah, as you said, wasn't the electric that caused it. I don't think it was the 2-4 hours a day, I used to play around 5 hours a day for about 2 years when I first started, never had any issues. It's more likely the way the guitar is being held, posture, etc.

    As far as acoustics being harder than electrics, put either in the hand of an accomplished guitar player and he or she will play something beautiful. Neither is harder than the other, they are just different. There are certain things that don't work well on electrics, and certain things that don't work well on acoustics.

    http://taso.dmusic.com/music/


       
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    (@anonymous)
    Illustrious Member
    Joined: 16 years ago
    Posts: 8184
     

    sorry, very drunk when i wrote that.


       
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