Why Pentatonic Scales Are Essential for All Guitarists

Why Pentatonic Scales Are Essential for All Guitarists

Why Pentatonic Scales Are Essential for All Guitarists Want to learn scales on guitar but not sure where to start? Guitar teacher Joey I. explains why pentatonic is the way to go…

The title of this article says it all: Why pentaonic scales are essential for guitarists. Learning these scales is an absolute necessity.

Now is it really necessary to know pentatonic scales to be able to play the guitar? No! A lot of guitarists go their whole career learning riffs, songs, and making up licks based off of the knowledge that they have while enjoying every minute of it. However, a lot of these guitarists know in the back of their mind that they should learn their scales.

If you have been a guitarist for a little while, you have probably heard about it from other guitarists, musicians, teachers, and Internet articles that you should know your scales. And most guitarists have the desire to learn scales, but become overwhelmed because of how many scales there are to learn, and let’s be frank: there are a lot to learn and when you learn them, they are not easy to immediately apply to your playing.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the pentatonic scale is the easiest and most useful scale to learn. The pentatonic scale can be used in almost every single song. Even if the song you are playing to uses a scale other than the pentatonic, you can play pentatonic over it and it will sound amazing. The pentatonic scale gets more miles per gallon than any other scale, and the fuel is recyclable. You can just keep using it and using it, and it never gets old. It is truly the bread and butter of guitar soloing, and song writing. Most songs that you love that sound “complicated” are actually using pentatonic guitar scales.

G Major Pentatonic Guitar Scale 5 Positions

Let’s look at what makes the pentatonic scale so easy:

  • To start, the pentatonic scale has fewer notes than other scales.  The word pentatonic literally translates to 5 tones. Pent, meaning five. And tonic, meaning tone.
  • “Our brains are inherently wired to know the pentatonic scale,” says famous musician Bobby McFerrin.  Check out this Ted Talk video where Bobby uses the audience to show how we all naturally know the pentatonic scale:
  • Finally, you can play this scale over virtually every song, so this makes practicing a lot easier.

Now let’s look at the benefits of learning the pentatonic guitar scales:

  • Learning the scale shapes allows you to improvise over virtually any song or backing track. Once you unlock this ability, practicing becomes easier and far more enjoyable. Just put on a track and play.
  • The pentatonic scale is the foundation for almost every other scale there is. Learning this foundation will set you up to easily play the other scales. Especially the blues scale, natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, and the melodic minor scale.
  • It will increase your confidence in playing dramatically. No more feelings of being overwhelmed by scales or the guitar. Your skill level will increase two fold because of this.
  • Finally, it will allow you to seamlessly improvise with other musicians in a real live setting. Your friends will be thoroughly impressed and your confidence will soar.

Lastly, a few tips when practicing this scale:

  • Practice slowly.
  • Make sure each note rings out and sounds good.

Once you have become comfortable with this, try applying it by improvising over a backing track or your favorite song. Change the speed and rhythm, but most importantly, HAVE FUN!

joey i

Joey I. teaches guitar, bass guitar, and drum lessons in Aurora, CO. He studied music production and recording arts at Berklee School of Music and he has been teaching music lessons for seven years. Learn more about Joey!



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Ouch My Guitar String Bit My Finger

Beginning Guitar: How to Build Up Calluses

Ouch My Guitar String Bit My FingerThere’s no way around it, learning to play guitar is sometimes a painful process. If you’re feeling like your guitar strings bit your finger, take this advice from guitar teacher Joe H.

Struggling to hold down the strings of your guitar without feeling like you are going to cut your finger wide open? Do you put your guitar away after just a few minutes of practicing with your fingertips gleaming red and feeling raw? Don’t worry! This is a common problem for the first few weeks or so of playing until you start developing guitar calluses.

What’s a callus? A callus is “A thickened and hardened part of the skin or soft tissue, especially in an area that has been subjected to friction.” Plain English? The more you play guitar the harder the tips of your fingers will become, allowing you to play more and more comfortably without any pain. Today we are going to talk about a few things you can do right now to make things a little easier on your fingers until you build up this protective layer.

Finger Placement

Make sure you are pushing down on the string just behind the fret you are trying to. When we are pushing down a string, our goal is to make the string touch the fret firmly to make a solid connection so we can get a clear sound. If our finger is too far away from the fret we are trying to hold down, we have to push down all that much harder to get a clear sound. By holding right next to the fret we get can get that solid connection with much less pressure being necessary. In this case less pressure=less discomfort!

Try Lighter Strings

Many guitars come strung with thicker strings than might be appropriate. Thicker strings require more tension on the strings to be tuned appropriately. By putting lighter strings, this tension will be lessened, and this will allow us to push down on the strings with less pressure to get that solid connection we discussed in tip #1! Make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing (i.e. a more experienced guitar player or a guitar store tech) set up the guitar to make sure it is still in good playing shape after the change.

Have The Action Adjusted

The “action” of a guitar is how we refer to the distance between the strings and the frets. All guitars need to have this adjusted from time to time. Many beginner guitars come with very high actions that make playing very uncomfortable and painful. To make a guitar easier and more comfortable to play, the action should be lowered until just before any of frets start buzzing when played. Again, make sure you have someone who knows what they are doing do this for you.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Make sure you are picking up the guitar almost every day if possible. Your practice sessions don’t need to be long, just a few minutes each day should suffice to help promote the building of guitar calluses. Find some good exercises to help build finger strength and play them at least once each time you pick up the guitar.

All of these tips should help make playing guitar comfortably more attainable for anyone who is just starting out, or picking the guitar back up. Now, there are no more excuses, get back to practicing!

Beginning guitar is easier when you have a guide. Your guitar teacher can help you along the way and show you the best way to learn to play the guitar. Search for your guitar teacher now! 

Joe H

Joe H. is a guitar and music theory instructor in White Plains, NY. Teaching since 2009, he received a degree in Jazz Studies from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and can help students specialize in blues or country guitar. Learn more about Joe here!



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3 Things Every Guitarist Needs to Know About Songwriting

3 Things Every Guitarist Needs To Know About Songwriting

3 Things Every Guitarist Needs to Know About SongwritingWriting a song can be one of the most satisfying experiences you’ll have with your instrument! Guitar teacher Samuel B. shares three things every guitarist should know about writing a song on guitar…

As a teacher, having you develop the ability to express yourself is my number one goal. Playing guitar solos is one form of personal expression. Writing songs is another. If you’ve never written a song, you might think of songwriting as something that only a few special people can do. In reality, nothing is further from the truth.

Anyone Can Write a Song

During an 1990s interview in Performing Songwriter Magazine, John Mellencamp was asked whether or not songwriting is something that comes naturally to him. His response was “I think everyone’s a songwriter.” He compared songwriting to shooting baskets and hitting baseballs. There are, of course, people with greater abilities than others, but he made it clear that songwriting is not something that only five people in the world can do.

Lionel Ritchie once slapped his hand rhythmically on the arm of a chair in response to a very similar question. “All of you who can hear a song or a melody playing in your head right now,” he said. “You’re a songwriter.” Songwriting requires no special training or qualifications – only the ability to hear music and the desire to create it. Although I teach soloing only at a set point in the curriculum (after you’ve learned chords in the keys of C, D, and E), songwriting skills can be taught at any time.

Most American Songs Are All Loosely Based On The Same Three Chords

E, A, and B7th are as basic to the key of E as D, G, and A7th are to D, and C, F, and G7th are to C. These are three examples of the I-IV-V chord progression which can be heard in campfire songs, gospel, contemporary country, rock, folk, and (of course) the blues. The pattern gets its name from the fact that C is the first note of the C scale (just as F is the 4th and G is the 5th). Although you’ll want to make variations in each song (such as the amount of time you play each chord), you’ll be surprised how many options three chords will provide you.

You may decide to write a song with verses and choruses only (ie “This Land Is Your Land”). You may decide to add a bridge (which you will play only once). You may decide to include verses and a bridge only. Whatever your preference, you will likely want to include a minor chord somewhere in the mix for variety’s sake. Am is the appropriate choice for a song in the key of C (just as Bm is for a song in the key of D and Cm is for one in E).

Bridges Are Often Structurally Simpler Than Verses And Choruses

One song I teach that’s become a favorite of at least one student is Bob Dylan’s “Man In The Long Black Coat.” The entire song involves four chords (Em, G, D, and C), includes verses and a bridge only, and involves fewer chord changes during the bridge than the verses. The Em, G, and D progression is repeated four times during a verse before a full measure of C interrupts the flow. The verse concludes with one final round of the Em, G, and D sequence.

The bridge, however, begins with a full measure of C. Its second measure involves two strums of D and two strums of Em before another full of measure of C is played. Just like in the verses, the bridge concludes with a single go-around of the opening sequence (Em, G, and D). You might think of the bridge as the song’s chance to “air out.” For the musician, it’s actually a more relaxing part of the song as it tends to be where both the tempo and the rate of chord changes decrease.

Although these are all important guidelines for how to get started, you may find that your compositional preferences involve more (or fewer) chords than those I’ve recommended. You might become absorbed in an elaborate picking pattern that requires fewer than three chords. You might branch out into jazz a bit and want to embellish a four-chord song with some additional variants (ie minor seventh, ninth, augmented, and/or diminished chords). Songwriting is a process (not a product) in which you slowly discover who you are as a musician. Enjoy the ride!

SamuelBSamuel B. teaches beginner guitar lessons in Austin, TX. He teaches lessons face-to-face without sheet music, which is his adaptation of Japanese instruction (involving a call-and-response method). Learn more about Samuel here!




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What Should I Look For In a Guitar Teacher for My Child

What Should I Look For in a Guitar Teacher for My Child?

What Should I Look For In a Guitar Teacher for My ChildOne of the most important factors in guitar lessons for kids is finding the right teacher. Guitar teacher Raymond L. shares his secrets for finding a great teacher for your child…

In my opinion one of the first qualities, you, as a parent, have to look for in a guitar teacher is that they inspire your child and help them develop a profound love for this beautiful musical instrument.

If your guitar teacher does not inspire your child, very likely they won’t be able to motivate your child or awaken in them a passion for the guitar, which is so essential to assure a progressive and sound development in your child’s musical and technical abilities.

As a parent, you should ask yourself these questions to see if a guitar teacher is right for your child:

  1. Does the guitar teacher know how to stimulate a positive attitude in my child?
  2. What systems does he or she use to motivate my child?
  3. Does the guitar teacher have good teaching skills and experience?

Stimulating a Positive Attitude

It is crucial that your guitar teacher works with your child to create a positive mindset because many students get easily frustrated when they are taking beginner guitar lessons. So the guitar teacher has to help with the anxiety of the student, always making him or her feel at ease.

They should tell your child, from the start, to avoid using the words “hard” or “difficult” in their vocabulary whenever they are experiencing some technical difficulty in playing a piece of music, but rather to substitute the word “challenging” for other words that have a more negative connotation.

Your guitar teacher should encourage your child to never say, “I can’t”, but to say instead, “I will”.

It is also essential for your guitar teacher to get to know your child’s interests: for example what kind of music they love in order to be prepared and able to teach your child those songs, or the type of music that most inspires them.

Your guitar teacher has to establish long-term, intermediate- and short-term goals together with your child, by brainstorming with them and incorporate those goals in the curriculum.

Your guitar teacher should never foster the feeling in your child that they are being punished, for example, making them repeat a song or a passage too many times. On the contrary, they should reinforce the child’s self-confidence by accompanying them, while repeating the song or music section, just enough to keep their interest and help them continue learning.


When your child achieves one of their goals and is able to play their first song, riff, or piece of music satisfactorily, they will get what we call in psychology, “intrinsic motivation”.

This type of motivation develops from inside your child, from the pleasure they get from the task itself, from their enjoyment of playing, or even the satisfaction of working with the music. Many children are already intrinsically motivated because they simply love music or have an idol that they want to imitate or emulate.

Your guitar teacher should also stimulate your child’s motivation by using “extrinsic motivation” by rewarding him or her for their progress, especially if they notice signs of discouragement or low motivation. This approach will help to compensate for any gaps in intrinsic motivation and keep your child’s motivation at a high level.

Your guitar teacher can use different methods and systems to reward and motivate, such as:

  • Playing the guitar for your child
  • Using encouraging words such as: “Good job”, “Perfect”, “Awesome”, etc.
  • Rewarding them with stickers for their music book or notebook when they play a song correctly
  • Practicing together with your child, accompanying them while they play the instrument
  • Repeating and adding rhythm to the song or music if they have played the song correctly
  • Giving out certificates of merit and achievement
  • Organizing jam sessions with other students of the same level
  • Organizing recitals together with students for parents, family and friends
  • Organizing awards and competitions between students

Parents should also use what I call the “Motivation Meter” that shows the measure of their child’s motivation. This is the intuition or feeling you get when your child starts showing lack of interest in attending guitar lessons. Once the “Motivation Meter” sends the alarm signal to your mind, immediately you should start looking for the cause of this lack of motivation in your child. You’ll want to be able to talk to their guitar teacher about the problem too.

Teaching Skills Versus Technical Skills

It is of vital importance for parents to know the type of education, preparation, musical background, technical skills, music knowledge, and even written reviews their child’s guitar teacher has.

Do not be impressed only by a guitar teacher’s technical skills (how well they play the guitar) because this aspect is not always a guarantee that they also possess the ability to communicate information clearly and with ease. It is important to distinguish a performing artist from an educator.

Parents, you don’t want to have to struggle with your child to get them to their guitar lessons, neither would you like to see them dragging to practice. I’m sure you would like to see your child enjoying their guitar lessons, so please consider these tips to evaluate and select your child’s guitar teacher with consciousness. Consequently you will contribute to a delightful experience for your child with the guitar.

Interested in guitar lessons for kids? Search for a guitar teacher near you!

Remi LRaymond L. teaches guitar, classical guitar, musical theory, ukulele, and Spanish in Jacksonville, FL. Raymond has been teaching for over 30 years and he specializes in pop, blues, modern, Latin, classical and popular music. Learn more about Raymond here!



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Explore the Fretboard With These 5 Essential Pentatonic Scale Shapes

Explore the Fretboard With These 5 Essential Pentatonic Scale Shapes

Explore the Fretboard With These 5 Essential Pentatonic Scale ShapesKnowing your pentatonic scales on the guitar will open up a new world of possibility when it comes to improvisation and soloing. Guitar teacher Milton J. explains why…

The guitar is a wonderfully rewarding instrument to play. Its versatility lends itself to a variety of melodies and chords that make the instrument welcome in many musical genres. As we find all of the wonderful ways the guitar will bring musical joy to your life, an essential part of learning the guitar is understanding the pentatonic scale and how to find it on the fretboard.

The Pentatonic scale is a musical mode made up of five notes per octave, which contrasts to the normal heptatonic, or seven-note, scale such as the major scale and minor scales we learned early on in our guitar lessons. Understanding the construction of the major pentatonic scale is made easier by using the circle of fifths. One construction takes five consecutive pitches from this circle of fifths starting on C, these being C, G, D, A, and E. Transposing, or rearranging, these pitches to fit into one octave gives us a major pentatonic scale: C, D, E, G, A.

However, most commonly used for blues and lead guitar scales would be the relative minor pentatonic scale, derived from the major pentatonic. The scale tones, or notes within the key numbered 1 through 8, would be 1, 3, 4, 5, and 7 of the natural minor scale. Using A minor as a example since it is the relative minor of C major, the notes would be A, C, D, E, and G.

With that said, the following represent the 5 main pentatonic scale shapes for guitar, which can be transposed across all minor keys.

5 Pentatonic Guitar Scale Shapes

G Major Pentatonic Guitar Scale 5 Positions

Much like playing the piano, each finger has a purpose on the fretboard. As you read the tabs above, understand that each number corresponds with the fret and each line corresponds with the string your fingers should be placed upon (the bottom string being the low E string, and the representing the high E string). From there, your fingering should also correspond to the numbers, as each fret has a corresponding finger. When the tab calls for a skip of a fret, you also skip a finger.

In Example 3, the first two notes call for an A on fret 5 and a B on fret 7. Use your first finger to fret the note on the fifth fret. For the second note, use finger 3 (ring finger). That means your fingers numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4 correspond to the frets 5 through 8 on the guitar. Maintain this alignment as finger 1 needs to be moved across the fretboard; for example, when finger 1 acts as a barre in example 4. When practicing these pentatonic scale shapes, be sure to practice using these fingerings to build muscle memory in your left-hand fingers!

Now, it is important to note that routine practice and memorization of these five shapes will allow you to use scales effectively for your lead guitar solo lines and melodic improvisations. To understand more fully how beneficial these pentatonic scales can be for your guitar playing, now is the time to begin guitar lessons with your local TakeLessons teacher today!

Happy practicing!

MiltonJMilton J. teaches guitar, piano, singing, music recording, music theory, opera voice, songwriting, speaking voice, and acting lessons in Corona, CA. He specializes in classical, R&B, soul, pop, rock, jazz, and opera styles. Learn more about Milton here!




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7 Easy Pop Hits to Play on Guitar

7 Easy Classic Songs to Play on the Guitar


7 Easy Pop Hits to Play on GuitarReady to learn a few fun songs on the guitar? Guitar teacher Heather L. picked out 7 easy tunes just for you…

So, you’ve practiced your scales and played the songs out of your guitar method book. You’ve checked your posture, your hand position and your guitar technique. You’ve finished all of your theory homework. Now, you just want to play guitar! Here are seven easy songs to play on guitar and a video for each.

1. “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison (G C D Em)

This song evokes all the fun of young love, and it’s easy. Strum four beats for every chord.

2. “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by John Denver (G C Em Am D)

The 1960′s singing trio, Peter, Paul and Mary may have made this song famous, but legendary singer/songwriter/guitarist John Denver wrote it. Like many of Denver’s hits, this song has a light, lilting feeling.

3. “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan (G A D Bm)

“Blowin’ in the Wind” became one of the most influential and best known anti-war songs ever written. Here’s a great video of Bob Dylan performing this live on TV.

4. “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival (D A G)

The title might suggest the opposite, but “Bad Moon Rising” is a bright and lively song. Listen carefully to the strumming pattern and the general rhythm in the intro, and you can then play it throughout.

5. “Yellow by Coldplay” (G D C G)

The strumming pattern that Coldplay chose in their original recording is simple: down strums all the way through. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change it up a little!

6. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynard (D C G)

The fact that this popular hit song is so simple allows for greater creativity and ad lib on the part of the artist. Let the simplicity inspire a little riffing or a solo.

7. “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty (D G Dsus D Asus)

In the beginning of this song, in the intro anyway, the chords are strummed only once each. For the rest of the song, you can strum however you like. Then again, I’m all for taking artistic liberties!

These are all great easy songs to play on guitar and let loose. But as a musician, I hate missed opportunities to hone my craft. And easy, fun tunes are great opportunities to pay closer attention to your posture and hand position. So be sure that your fingers are arching easily over the frets, with the palm of your hand away from the back of the neck. Most importantly of all, have fun!

Looking for more great songs to learn on the guitar? A guitar teacher can help you choose songs that are appropriate for your skill level, and give you the support and guidance you need to get to the next level. Search for a guitar teacher now!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!



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Blues Guitar Basics: How to Play a Blues Shuffle

Blues Guitar Basics: How to Play a Blues Shuffle

Blues Guitar Basics How to Play a Blues ShuffleReady to learn to play blues guitar? This lesson from guitar teacher James W. is the perfect place to start…

What is a shuffle, anyway? A shuffle is a rhythm of 8th notes played in triplets, essentially playing 3/4 time over a 4/4 beat to make the music swing.

Blues, pop, jazz, and rock musicians all use the shuffle. The blues shuffle is a fun pattern that is simple to absorb into your playing across many genres of music. Think of pop, rock, big band, and blues as being a part of the same family. They all have one thing in common: rhythm.

Ready to learn to play a blues shuffle? Let’s get started!

Step 1

The blues shuffle is made up of eighth notes alternating between a long and short note. The long note falls on the beat. The shorter note is in between and comes in on the upbeat. You are playing an eighth note triplet but leaving out the middle note. Simple as that. The easiest way to get a feel for the rhythm is to play along to a recording or with your guitar teacher. Mute your strings at first so you’re not worried about playing specific notes while you get the rhythm down.

Listening is important. After a few attempts at playing it slowly by yourself you can speed it up and play with confidence. Then you have it locked in. Like riding a bicycle, over time the rhythm will become automatic for you.

Step 2

Most Blues songs are 12 bars long. Try playing through this example in A Major using the IV chord, V chord, and the I chord which are: D, E, and A respectively.

Blues Guitar Blues Shuffle

Step 3

Now that you’ve got the rhythm, you will start to notice it and identify it in songs you have heard for years in jazz, blues, and rock. Blues guitar inspired songs to check out include: “ Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble, “Rockin’ Me” by The Steve Miller Band, “You Shook Me” by Led Zeppelin, and “Something To Talk About” by Bonnie Raitt. Now that you know how to play a blues shuffle, you’ll be able to learn these tunes in a snap!

If you want to take it to the next level and solo over a blues shuffle, it’s easiest to work off the pentatonic scale for the key you are playing in. You can’t hit any wrong notes with pentatonic scale shapes. You can also use your ear to throw in blue notes using a blues guitar scale shape. To find the key of the song look for the key signature on the sheet music or use your ear. While sight-reading music is a handy skill to have, I prefer to use my ears, as it is quicker for me. Find what works best for you and enjoy playing the guitar!

For more tips on mastering the guitar, why not sign up for lessons with a private guitar instructor? Your guitar instructor will be able to give you the personal attention you need to reach your musical goals. Search for a guitar teacher now!

james-walsh-150x150James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons Team in 2010. Learn more about James here!



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3 Steps to Prepare for Guitar Lessons in Your Home

3 Steps to Prepare for Guitar Lessons in Your Home

3 Steps to Prepare for Guitar Lessons in Your HomeExcited to begin your guitar lessons? Guitar teacher Sean L. shares some helpful hints on preparing for your guitar teacher to come to your home to teach…

Preparing for your guitar lessons is just as important as the lesson itself, and having an adequate in-home lesson space is an integral part of preparing for your private instruction. Without a proper space your lessons will suffer, and you will not get the most out of your money.

Here are three things to think about to better prepare the perfect base of operations for you and your teacher to share.

1. Find Your Space

Finding that perfect place to hold your lessons can sometimes be overwhelming task; there are many factors that come into play when looking for somewhere that best fits your needs. The three most important are:

1. Noise

Will this area be too loud, or will you be too loud for this area? Noises can be distracting so avoid areas where volume would be a problem. Also, you don’t want to disturb neighbors or other people who share your living space. If noise is a problem everywhere in the house, try to let everyone know your lesson time so they can work around it. The acoustics of your spot should also be taken into account. This means stay away from places with an echo, such as stairwells and wine cellars.

2. Foot Traffic

You don’t want your lesson to get consistently interrupted by roommates/family, so find a place that can remain undisturbed for the entity of your lesson. I tend to use my living room, and I let my roommates know my teaching schedule, this leaves my lessons uninterrupted.

3. Comfort

There should be enough room for you and your instructor to sit comfortably, along with fitting all of your equipment. This means closets should probably be avoided. Along with looking for somewhere that has an adequate amount of space, try to find somewhere that is not too humid, as places like basements tend to be harsh on strings and equipment.

Once you’ve chosen your space, keep it neat! Nobody wants to see last weeks gym socks when they are trying to learn or teach guitar. Aside from gym socks, you should also clean out some clutter from your chosen spot. This will help create a more welcoming area for you and your instructor.

2. Prepare Your Equipment

Think of the following questions as an equipment checklist:

Do you have a music stand? You may need one for your lessons as well as practicing. A music stand is necessary for reading tab, chord charts, and sheet music. Most teachers will give you handouts every lesson.

Is your instructor willing to bring an amp, or do you need to have a second for your teacher? A working amp is vital for electric guitar lessons; for yourself, and your instructor. Also make sure your amp has distortion if that applies to your lessons.

Are all your cables working? Always makes sure all your equipment works. Cables break often so always double check

How will you access backing tracks and music? A phone, tablet, or computer with Internet access works best. You may also need a pair of speakers, because the speakers on your device may not be sufficient.

Is your guitar in good shape? You need to check if your guitar’s intonation and action is correct. The intonation will affect how in-tune your guitar sounds, and if the action is bad your guitar could be too difficult to play or there could be fret buzz. For more information on this topic ask your instructor, or visit this article.

You will also need to tune your guitar before your lesson, as tuning shouldn’t take away from valuable lesson time. Megan L. explains all the ways to tune your guitar in this blog post. Lastly you may need to change your strings if they are old. Old strings can affect how well your guitar stays in in tune. Noaa R. explains how to change strings here.

Also, ask your instructor what sort of equipment he or she requires for your lesson. Lastly, always check to see if your equipment works before your lesson.

3. Prepare Yourself

Another important part of getting ready for your lesson is preparing your mind and body. This means taking time throughout the week to practice and learn the materials your instructor has given you. You will also need to be prepared to receive constructive criticism during your lessons. Criticism is an important part of learning guitar.

If you follow these simple steps, you and your instructor will have a much more enjoyable time. A well prepared student leads to more productive lessons. Also don’t forget to practice, and inform your household when your lesson is scheduled so they can work around it.

In-home guitar lessons are the easiest way to learn guitar! Still looking for a guitar teacher? TakeLessons teachers are available to teach in-home, in-studio, and online lessons. Find a guitar teacher to fit in your schedule today!


Sean L. teaches acoustic guitar, guitar and music theory in Methuen, MA.  He has received many awards and certifications in the music world is currently working towards his Associates In Music from NECC.  Sean has been teaching students since April 2014.  Learn more about Sean L. here!



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5 Easy Guitar Licks to Impress Your Friends

5 Easy Guitar Licks to Impress Your Friends

5 Easy Guitar Licks to Impress Your FriendsLearning a few simple licks is a great way to get started playing the guitar! Even better, some of the most famous riffs in rock and roll are incredibly easy to play. Guitar teacher Matthew K. explains how…

Anyone can learn the guitar, but it can be frustrating at first. Sore fingers and cramping hands can deter anyone from getting their first song down. This is why I compiled a list of five of my favorite simple guitar licks that sound great, and once you get them down, you can impress your friends and family. A couple of them are only on one string! This will help your dexterity and fuel your confidence to learn more.

If you haven’t learned how to read guitar tabs yet, take a moment to familiarize yourself. I’ll be right here when you get back.

Remember, always start slow, and if you cannot get it at first, break it down into sections. Get the first half down, then the second half, and when you are ready, put it together.

Let’s start with the easiest one first. This is an old stand-by, and the very first song I learned on guitar.

1. “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple


You can start by only using one finger on one string, but when you get that, try it with your index, ring, and pinky fingers.  Use your index finger on the 3, your ring finger on the 5, and pinky on the 6.   Doing so will make the rest of the songs easier.

2. “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes

Second we will take on a more modern classic riff. It can be played on only one string.  Just make sure to sure to use your pinky finger to hit the 10th fret.  Then you can slide your index finger down the neck to play the rest.


Now let’s involve the other stings. Take your time with the next three songs. They are broken into sections. If you have trouble. Take it one section at a time.

3. “Beat It” – Michael Jackson


4. “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd


“Sweet Home Alabama” looks tricky, but there is a simple way to play it.  First make the D chord shape, but instead of putting your middle finger on the 2 of the high E string, keep it open like this:

D Chord


Use that middle finger for the A and low E notes.


In the fourth section of the lick, you will want to use your index finger to hammer on for every 2nd fret.

5. “Day Tripper” – The Beatles


“Day Tripper” seems trickier than it is.  For the notes on the second fret, make sure bar your index finger over the A and D strings. Also, use a hammer on for the last note.  When you get that, move the same pattern up to the A string.


The only way to learn is to practice guitar licks daily, and have fun while doing it!

Matthew K

Matthew K. teaches guitar, piano, and music theory lessons in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music composition at Mercyhurst University, and he has been teaching lessons for four years. Matthew is available to teach in-person lessons as well as online via Skype. Learn more about Matthew here!



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6 Reasons Why All Guitarists Should Learn Music Theory

5 Reasons Why All Guitarists Should Learn Music Theory

6 Reasons Why All Guitarists Should Learn Music TheorySome guitarists have a lot of excuses when it comes to learning music theory. Guitar teacher Zachary A. shatters these excuses, busts a few myths, and shares why music theory is so important for guitarists after all…

Music theory is a vast, almost unending, amount of knowledge. Many of music’s greats studied and had schooling for decades. In all honesty I do not believe that you ever really finish studying, at least when you are dedicated and when you have the desire to learn music.

The study and journey continues throughout your whole life. You are always learning new tricks and new parts of the musical language. Music, just like English, has a set of grammatical rules. Similar to English, the more rules you learn, the better you will be able to formulate sentences or musical structures.

Now with guitar you can learn quite a bit without knowing all too much theory. However, to tap into your true potential as a musician you really need to know theory. I will give you five reasons how learning music theory can be help you stand out as a guitarist. As well I have included some excuses I have heard over the years to why people don’t need to learn music theory.

1. Music Theory Helps You Play By Ear

I’ve heard quite a bit of excuses when I tell people who are setting out to learn guitar that they need to also learn theory. They include “well why do I need to know theory, I can just play by ear”. Now in this case if you can play by ear, you can’t really know what it is you are playing unless you know some theory. You won’t know what key you are playing in, or how to play in a particular scale. You won’t know which chords go together and why. Music theory helps you understand what you are hearing, and this knowledge will help you to improvise or write your own music.

2. Music Theory Won’t Hurt Your Creativity

Another famous excuse, “theory will stifle my creativity” a statement that couldn’t be more far off. In fact, the more you know about theory, the more easily you will be able to apply to your creativity. This is the same as when writers learn new words or new approaches to writing. These new tricks make it easier for them to get the story out of their head in the way that the writer envisions.

This example is the same for a musician, you may have some melody, rhythm or guitar riff playing in your head, but when you try and write it down and get it on paper you either, flat out can’t or perhaps you aren’t able to get the exact music that you have playing in your head. This can be excruciatingly painful and stressful.

3. Music Theory Helps You Write Your Own Music

Through theory you will be able to command what musical thoughts you will have. if not at least you’ll know the vocabulary and be able to articulate what it is you are trying to do. The vocabulary of music is just another one of those helpful tools in articulating your musical ideas to help you stand out as a musician and guitar player.

4. Music Theory Helps You Learn Smarter

Another great thing about having knowledge of music theory is when you are applying the teach-yourself approach, by perhaps reading up online or finding old textbooks and journals of teachers. I know there are a lot of music help books out there; I have bought more than a handful of these books myself.

In some cases, more information is not always the best option, especially if you don’t have a working knowledge of theory. You could just wind up very, very confused! With knowledge of music theory under your belt,  you will have the ability to cut through the noise to find what information is actually going to be helpful to you.

5. Music Theory Has Been Proven to Work

Another reason music theory can be beneficial to learning how to play the guitar is that it has proved to work for countless amount of years by too many names to list. I’ve heard this excuse more times than I can count: “Well, insert a famous musicians name here, didn’t know theory so I don’t need to know it”. I’m sure Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth, Guthie Govan, Joe Pass, John Scofield, just to name a few would just roll on the floor laughing at this sentiment considering how long each spent studying music and perfecting their guitar-playing skills. Each of the guitar players I have mentioned all have an extensive amount of schooling and are all considered master virtuosos at music. And on top of all that, I am sure learning guitar theory didn’t hamper their creative output one bit.

One of the best things you can do for your playing is to find a guitar teacher who knows a lot about guitar theory, a mentor. Someone you can trust, and who can help answer any questions you may have. For example, if you were hiking up the Alps you would want to hire a guide, right? No matter how much research you do online and how many people you talk to, a guitar teacher will still be the one who can give you the most reliable knowledge, and keep you going while you are on your adventure! 

Zachary A

 Zachary A. is a guitar instructor in Katy, TX specializing in beginning and intermediate students. He is currently earning a degree in music theory. Learn more about Zachary here!




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