The Pros and Cons of Online Guitar Lessons

The Pros and Cons of Online Guitar Lessons

The Pros and Cons of Online Guitar LessonsSo you’ve heard about online guitar lessons but you’re not convinced they’re right for you? Guitar teacher Edward B. shares the benefits and drawbacks he has learned from teaching live online lessons…

Live online guitar lessons are filling a much-needed gap in society’s need for lessons, especially for students in rural areas who don’t have access to music teachers, and busy students who have trouble fitting lessons into their schedules. I’ve given guitar lessons quite successfully via Skype and Google Hangouts, and have found this method of teaching benefits students in the following ways:

Quality Teachers

I believe it is better to have Skype lessons with an excellent teacher than it is to have in-person lessons with a mediocre teacher. Searching for a guitar teacher online gives you even more options to choose from since you’re not restricted to your small local region.

No Traveling

You don’t have to fight traffic to get to your guitar teacher’s studio. Also, when a student is five or ten minutes late, I give them a courtesy call in case they forgot. But if they live 15 minutes away and they have a 30 minute lesson, it’s hardly worth it for them to come late. Taking lessons online means no missed lessons due to forgetfulness since the student and teacher can connect 30 seconds after the courtesy call.

Convenient Scheduling

There are more options for choosing the best day and time for the lesson when you look at all the teachers available online versus just the teachers in your local area.

Convenience of Recording Lessons

While students always have the option to record their face-to-face lessons, that almost never happens (at least, in the history of my teaching). But you can easily record Skype and Google+ lessons for review at a later time with software like Evaer and Super Tin Tin, or for audio only: Pamela MP3 Skype, or RecorderVodBurner.

Immediate Practicing

While face-to-face students must drive home before practicing what they learned, online students can practice immediately after the lesson when ideas are fresh. The first practice session will always be of higher quality when it is done immediately after the lesson than if it is done the next day, and the first practice session is the most important session of the entire week.

Warming Up

You can warm up right before your lesson, only stopping seconds before the lesson begins. This lets you show off your best playing to your teacher each week instead of starting rusty.

Increased Student Performance

Students actually spend more time performing during distance lessons than in face-to-face lessons.

Don’t Have To Be In The Same Room

You won’t need to cancel lessons because you had the flu two days before, because during online lessons you can’t pass illness on to your teacher.

Transferring Instructional Music Files

I can simply email mp3 audios and screenshare or email music documents.

Of course there are also a few drawbacks to choosing online guitar lessons…

No Physical Touch

Sometimes the most efficient way to achieve technical results with a student is to physically manipulate their wrists, fingers, elbows, etc. while their hands are on the strings. Your online guitar teacher won’t be able to give you physical adjustments if needed.

 Dependent Upon Internet Connection

The student and teacher must both have a fast Internet connection, and even if they do, sometimes there are days when Internet backbones are lagging, ISPs are having trouble, etc., although that’s a rare occurrence. Glitches still happen sometimes with Skype and Google Hangouts but seem to be happening less as the technology develops.

 Sound Quality

Even with a fast Internet connection, sound quality does not resemble the quality of a CD or the quality of hearing the student in person. Having said that, I feel that I’m still able to judge tone quality acceptably well.

Looking From a Different Angle

Sometimes (but not very often), I’ll walk to the other side of the student in order to see what their hands look like from the other side, in cases where I have to look specifically at the left hand position. Since I can’t do that in an online guitar lesson, students have to reposition their webcams.


Students may be more distracted at home by noises made by siblings, animals, neighbors, etc, than they would be at a teacher’s studio.

All things considered, I believe there are effective ways of working around these issues.

Interested in trying online guitar lessons? Find a great guitar teacher online now!

Edward BEdward B. has a degree in Guitar Performance and owns and operates his own private instruction studio in Wailuku, HI. He has over 25 years of performing and professional teaching experience and is currently an instructor for the University of Hawaii and The Maui Music Conservatory. Learn more about Edward here!



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7 Female Guitarists to Watch in 2015

Many dubbed 2014 “the year of the woman”, and in 2015 women show no signs of slowing down. Whether you spent last year hooked on Taylor Swift’s 1989, freaking out about St Vincent, buzzing in the Bey-hive, or feverishly anticipating Sleater-Kinney’s reunion, women dominated much of our cultural conversation about music.

With International Women’s Day coming up this weekend, it’s a great time to appreciate the talents and ferocity of these amazing guitar-slinging women! Check out these awesome up-and-coming female guitarists in 2015:

1. Molly Rankin – Alvvays

Pronounced “always”, Alvvays hails from Toronto. Last year, their self-titled album of jangly, melancholy pop songs earned them rave reviews on Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. If you haven’t had the chance to see Alvvays yet, they’re planning quite a few American tour dates this year, including stops at SXSW and Forecastle Festival.

2. Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen‘s folky guitar style paired with her lovely classic-country vocals made her album Burn Your Fire For No Witness a stand-out release of 2014. I’ve seen her take the noisiest venue down to whisper-volume with just her voice and finger-picked acoustic guitar. You’ll have plenty of chances to see this indie it-girl this year. She’s got a busy tour calendar, including stops at Coachella, Sasquatch Festival, and Central Park Summerstage.

3. Jessica Clavin – Bleached

Bleached sound like a ’60’s girl group reimagined as a classic ’77 punk band, with a healthy dose of LA sunshine thrown in for good measure. They released their first album Ride Your Heart in 2013, and according to their Facebook page, sisters Jennifer and Jessica Clavin are currently at work on their second full-length release. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my fingers crossed we’ll get to hear it in 2015!

4. EMA

When it comes to Erika M. Anderson, who releases music under the name EMA, I simply can’t fangirl enough! Her guitar, raspy vocals, and electronic instruments can create dark soundscapes and grungy rock songs. Her critically acclaimed 2014 album The Future’s Void painted a dark picture of the way technology is changing us and our ability to connect to each other. So far in 2015, she has created and exhibited a musical virtual reality performance art piece at MoMA PS1. EMA stands out to me both as a musician and an artist, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

5. Sadie Dupuis – Speedy Ortiz

Guitarist and songwriter Sadie Dupuis creates clever and driving grunge rock songs as the frontwoman for Speedy Ortiz. This Massechusetts band will be releasing their highly anticipated sophomore album The Foil Deer in April, and they have American tour dates booked for this summer. Go see Speedy Ortiz for a rock show you won’t soon forget.

6. Theresa Wayman – Warpaint

Warpaint‘s haunting harmonies complement both their quieter, moody tunes, and their more upbeat disco-infused jams. Warpaint’s music manages to be both atmospheric and funky, although it does occasionally tackle some dark themes. If you get the chance to see these ladies live, don’t miss it! They currently have lots of European tour dates booked, but they will be back in the states in time to headline Desert Daze in May.

7. Katie Crutchfield – Waxahatchee

Katie Crutchfield wrote and recorded the first Waxahatchee album in a single week at her family’s home in Alabama, which actually says a lot about the intimate and lo-fi vibe you can expect from this project. She will be releasing her third album, Ivy Tripp, in 2015, and plans to tour extensively this year. Keep an eye out for the name Waxahatchee, and support this awesome musician when she comes to your town!

Of course, there are thousands more amazing female guitarists out there! Who are you excited about in 2015? Let us know in the comments below!

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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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Five Easy Blues Guitar Licks You Will Love Playing

5 Easy Blues Guitar Licks You Will Love to PlayThey say you have to have the blues to play the blues. But what if you’re blue because you don’t know how to play the blues to begin with? Guitar teacher Mike B. has you covered with these five fun, easy licks…

 Presented here are 5 easy blues guitar licks that are essential building blocks of a larger blues vocabulary. Before we dig into these licks we need to cover a few basic principles.

First, all five of these easy blues guitar licks come out of the minor pentatonic scale. If you do not know it I have tabbed out one of the fingerings of the scale in the chart below. The fingering I wrote out coincides with the fingering required for these five licks.

The second point I want to make about these licks is that they are all in the key of A. This means you can play these licks exactly as written over a blues in the key of A. In order to play in different keys you will have to move these fingerings to different sections of the neck, which we will cover a little later on.

Thirdly, throughout I am going to refer to the fingers you should use with numbers. The numbering is as follows:

1 = index finger
2 = middle finger
3 = ring finger
4 = pinky

5 Easy Blues Guitar Licks

Lick 1

This lick is used a great deal by just about every blues and rock player. It is a great way to start a phrase, or a great way to extend a phrase with a new idea. To play this lick you want to begin by bending the 7th fret of the third string up a whole step. In order to do this you want to use your third finger to bend, while having your second finger behind the third finger to provide more strength for the bend.

For the next two notes (located on the fifth fret of the second string and the fifth fret on the first string) you want to use your first finger for both notes, since they lie on the same fret. To do this you should be rolling your finger from the second string to the first string, striving to separate the notes so they don’t ring together. In some situations you may want the two notes to ring together, which would allow you to simply barre your first finger across the fifth fret on both strings.

For the last note of this lick you want to bend at the eighth fret of the second string with your third finger. As before, you want to supplement your third finger with at least your second finger in order to increase the strength of your bend.

Lick 2

This lick starts exactly like lick 1 but ends with a pull off rather than a bend. In order to execute this you want to play the note on the eighth fret of the second string with your pinky and pull off to your first finger on the fifth fret. In order to do the pull off, you will pick the note with your pinky and without picking again lift your pinky off of the fretboard with your first finger already fretted below it. If done properly the note on the fifth fret will sound.

Lick 3

This lick is almost identical to the beginning of lick 1, except you are playing both of the notes simultaneously. In order to do this you want to barre your first finger across the fifth fret on both strings, and pick both notes simultaneously.

Lick 4

This first bend in the lick will be fingered exactly as the last note in lick one. Since we are fretting this with our third finger, it makes sense to fret the other notes on the eighth fret with out third finger. The remaining notes will be fingered with our first finger.

Lick 5

This lick will start with your third finger bending the string (reinforced by your second), and then your first finger fretting the fifth fret, finishing with your third finger on the seventh fret of the fourth string.

How to Practice Guitar Licks

It is important to drill these licks over and over until you are very comfortable playing them. You want to take little pieces of each one and combine them together with other fragments of the other licks to create your own licks.

Also, practice moving them around to all of the different keys. To do this simply move the lick exactly as-is to other frets. This changes which key you are in. To find the new key you are in, simply look at the note your first finger would play on the first string if you were playing a pentatonic scale in that position. That note is your root. A few examples are provided above.

I hope you enjoyed looking at these five easy blues guitar licks. The next step after this is to start learning solos by your favorite guitar players and see how they use these licks, as well as learning other licks and tricks they play that interest you.


Mike B. teaches acoustic guitar, blues guitar, and guitar in Arcadia, CA.  He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Guitar Performance from University of Redlands, as well as his Master’s Degree in Studio and Jazz Guitar from University of Southern California.  Mike divides his time between performing live, doing recordings, and being an educator.  He has been teaching students since 2004.  Learn more about Mike B. here!


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Learning to Play Guitar: How Often Should I Take Lessons?

Learning to Play Guitar: How Often Should I Take Lessons?You’ve chosen a beautiful guitar. You have picks, a capo, a tuner, and a guitar teacher. Congratulations! You’ve begun your journey to becoming a great guitar player. But how often should you take lessons?

Mastering the guitar requires blending many skills together,  and using your body and mind in unison to create music. You must perfect your muscle memory and fine motor skills, while remembering many chords, chord progressions, and how to find particular notes on your guitar. Playing electric or bass guitar can also mean having to remember and understand the use of settings on the guitar itself, as well as your amp and pedals. To combine all these skills takes practice and perseverance. A great teacher is invaluable, as is a lesson schedule which suits your abilities and goals.

How frequently you meet with your instructor depends heavily on where  you want playing guitar to take you. Do you want to be a professional studio musician? Do you want to join a band? Or, do you want to express yourself through a creative and enjoyable hobby? The more you seek to achieve from playing, the more long-term and consistent your instruction will need to be. Which is the best way to learn guitar for you?

As a Beginner Student

See your instructor at least once per week when you are just beginning. Weekly lessons are the best way to learn guitar because frequent check-ins will keep you focused and motivated.

As a beginner, the most important part of your practice is consistency. Playing every day, or even two or three times a day, is the key to success. It’s easy to get discouraged when your fingers are sore and don’t seem to want to do what you tell them to. Luckily, your ability will improve quickly in the early stages of learning.

Start by practicing ten minutes twice a day while your fingers are becoming callused, then move up to thirty minutes a day. Longer, less frequent practices are less effective, so try to avoid fitting a two-hour session in each week. Instead, make time every day.

As an Intermediate Student

By now you might be self motivated enough that you need to be reminded to put your guitar DOWN! As confident as you are in the basics, there is so much left to learn. This is the stage when you can really find yourself in your music. Experimenting with styles of play, different ‘voicings’ of your guitar, and even writing your own songs are all benefits of continuing your lessons. Meeting with your instructor once per week is still the best way to learn guitar for most intermediate students, allowing for consistent skill growth. If you’re finding you need more time to master new material, you can always move to lessons once every two weeks until you feel more confident.

As a Professional

Success! You’ve decided to make your living doing something you love! You’ve learned so much and come so far, but there are so many styles and variations that you could likely go on finding new and different ways to play guitar forever. Taking the time for a lesson every so often can refresh your playing immensely. New skills lead to new and better songwriting, and more impressive performances, so try to meet with an instructor every month or two.

For Your Child

If you are pursuing guitar lessons for your child, keep in mind that lessons can cause a lot of stress. If a child is expected to practice for long periods of time, or do many things during one practice, an instrument can become a source of frustration and anxiety. So many children tragically give up on their lessons due to stress. Far better to learn one song per week until a child becomes more self-motivated, than learn two or three songs a week for a year only for your child to never pick up the instrument again due to stress! Try to find an instructor who can be flexible with your child, and who will keep things fun and interesting in the long-term.

In the end, guitar is like any other skill- it requires effort and determination on your part, along with the experience and guidance of a great teacher. When you’re passionate and motivated, you can achieve your goals. The best way to learn guitar is to keep at it, so get started, and stay true to your vision! The world deserves to hear your unique and wonderful song.

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10 Free Guitar Videos to Help You Get Started

3398111658_fd545f1bd1_b (1)Whether you’re looking for an extra challenge between guitar lessons, or you need a refresher on some basic guitar concepts, YouTube is a treasure trove of instructional videos. But how do you find the best ones when there are so many free guitar videos out there? Follow these recommendations from guitar teacher Milton J.

Congratulations on your decision to take guitar lessons! This incredible instrument has given me joy beyond belief ever since I picked it up when I was 13 years old. As you begin your journey to musical mastery, here are ten wonderful free guitar videos you can watch to help you get started shredding, strumming, and soloing towards guitar amazingness!

This wonderful online teacher of Master Guitar Academy named Robert Renman provides a slew of lesson videos for beginning guitarists to the most seasoned ones. His introductory, two-part video on the Major Scale is a definitive must first-watch for a beginner. Scales are one of the first things you should learn on the guitar, and this video will help you master an important one.

Part 1

Part 2


8 Chords


In the next series of videos, Matt McCoy from the YouTube channel Acoustic Selection and our old friend Nate Savage from Guitar Lessons let you in on the few things they wish they had been taught when learning to play the guitar, as well as common mistakes even the most gifted of guitarists can make.

3 Things I Wish I was Taught

7 Common Mistakes

In these next two free guitar videos, YouTube lesson provider Andy Crowley will teach you how to play a few songs! Nothing’s better than getting introduced to the guitar, chords, and then some songs, right? In these videos, Andy Crowley shows you a few chord progressions that can be used across multiple songs you may know, and some you may not but will grow to love as well! These videos will help you understand the parallels many of your favorite rock or pop songs make in their progressions, further encouraging you to continue with this wonderful instrument!

10 Songs with 2 Chords

10 Songs with 3 Chords

Lastly, but certainly not least, learning major scale positions is very important to your development as a guitar player. These two videos should get you started in learning two tenets of major scales – pentatonic and diatonic major scales. What’s more is these scales will put you on your way to understanding melodies in your guitar playing and lead you to soloing as well! I’d advise you to take your time through both Marty’s pentatonic scale lessons and Mark Cote’s 5 Forms of the Diatonic Scale, as there’s a wealth of information in both that is best digested in smaller doses than just watching the video start to finish.

The 5 Positions of the Major Scale

The 5 Forms of the Diatonic Scale

I hope all of these free guitar videos help you in your quest to become the very best guitarist you can be. Happy playing!


Milton J. teaches guitar, music performance, music recording, piano, singing and songwriting in Corona, CA. He received a double Bachelor of Arts degree in Ethnomusicology and African-American Studies from University of California Davis, and is currently taking classes at University of Redlands for his Vocal Music Performance degree. Milton has been teaching students since 2011.  Learn more about Milton J. here!


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5 Ways to Balance the Cost of Guitar Lessons

3413422661_69043d875a_bThinking of learning to play guitar but put off by the price of lessons? It’s possible to get great results without dropping tons of cash, just follow this guide from guitar teacher Derrick C.

Price is one of the big determinations in people’s decision on whether or not to take guitar lessons. It can be a significant expense, but there are ways to lower the costs without sacrificing the quality of lessons.

1. Take guitar lessons on a bi-weekly or monthly basis

The standard for private guitar lessons is to come in once a week for a 30 minute or 60 minute lesson. Coming in every other week will cut the price in half, and your teacher can give you enough material to work on for two weeks. Another option I’ve suggested to students is to take 3 lessons a month, which lowers the price, maintains some consistency, and allows for a week off in case they’re busy at work or have a lot going on.

2. Buy used guitars and amps

One of the biggest expenses of learning a musical instrument is the cost of the gear. You can save some money by buying a used guitar instead of a new one. Typically, used Yamaha acoustic guitars such as the FG700 can be purchased for around $100-150, depending on the condition. There really isn’t much that can go wrong with an acoustic guitar that isn’t going to be immediately visible when you buy, so there’s nothing to lose by purchasing one from a private seller.

Got an electric guitar and need an amp? Get a used Line 6 Pod 2.0 for $50 off of Craigslist instead of an amp. You can plug headphones into it or plug it into any sort of stereo system or powered speakers that have a standard headphone jack. The sound quality of the older model is just as good as the newer ones.

3. Cut expenses elsewhere

Do you really need to have a thousand cable channels and pay $150 a month to watch the handful of shows you actually like? Your life will be better if you ditch cable altogether and spend your money on music lessons. Then spend the time when you used to watch TV playing guitar. If you have a show that you really love and don’t want to give up, see if you can buy episodes from Amazon Instant Video or another online source. I do that to watch The Walking Dead instead of paying for standard cable. If you already have a cheap cable plan but are paying a lot for your smartphone plan, shop for a cheaper carrier.

4. Take lessons with a friend and split the cost

I’ve had students do this in the past and they really enjoyed it. You just have to make sure both of your schedules will allow this, and have a plan for an alternate day if one of you can’t make it and you need to reschedule.

5. Fund your lessons with birthday and holiday presents

That’s right, tell your friends and family to buy you lessons for your birthday. Obviously you only have one birthday a year, but if you get four or five free lessons out of it, you’ve lowered your expenses by 25% for a third of the year.

Guitar lessons may be a little pricey at first glance, but they are definitely worth it if you really love music and want to learn to play an instrument. YouTube videos can supplement lessons but will never replace private instruction, regardless of how many people think they’re learning to play guitar by watching them. Try some of these money saving ideas instead and sign up for lessons with a qualified instructor.


Derrick C. teaches acoustic guitar, bass guitar, guitar, and music theory in Dedham, MA.  He has a Bachelor of Arts from Wright State University and won Boston’s Best Places for Guitar Lessons award in 2013.  Derrick has been teaching students since 1991.  Learn more about Derrick C. here!



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The Surprising Benefit of Learning Guitar Without Sheet Music

learning guitar without sheet music

We’ve talked about how to read chords and tabs before on the blog — but what about a new approach of learning guitar without sheet music at all? Here, Austin, TX teacher Samuel B. explains his teaching technique…


During my college years, I was given a brief introduction to instructional methods common to Japan. Specifically, I was told that playing the shamisen or the koto (two native stringed instruments) is a skill learned by way of the student facing the teacher and playing what the teacher plays. I continue to use this teaching technique, and feel it has many little-known benefits.

I should begin by making it clear that I’m a kinesthetic learner — I learn by doing more naturally than I do by seeing or hearing. I didn’t even know that I was kinesthetic until I was in my early 30s. Up until that point, I knew of only two orientations (visual and auditory) and I had no idea which one I was.

I began learning guitar — the blues, specifically — by hearing the music of Delta artists such as Mississippi John Hurt and Robert Johnson while I was in my teens, and I began developing my adaptations of their techniques simply by building on basic first-position (first three frets) chord patterns, which most of my students master in fewer than five lessons. I picked out various riffs that now seem to me to have been more like tributes to these giants of the form than actual attempts to imitate them. In reality, I was just experimenting.

How I Teach My Students

These experiments have given way to effective instructional techniques based squarely on factors such as your coordination and the development of your left-hand muscles. “F” in first position is a good example. Given that the chord involves holding down two strings with one finger, I taught my first student to play each half of the chord (the index finger holding the first and second strings, the third and fourth fingers holding down the third and fourth strings). Several go-arounds of playing each half of the chord solidified her understanding of it to the point of her now playing it as proficiently as I do.

Learning guitar doesn’t have to include sheet music. In fact, I’ve never actually taught with it, because I regard it as an emotionless third party to my very personal teaching style, which is tailored as closely as possible to your individual needs and rate of progress. I’m committed to focusing squarely on your gradual accumulation of knowledge, confidence, and personal initiative beginning literally on the very first note. I believe that sheet music widens the distance between you and I, producing weaker results that the ones achieved by imitation. As a former classroom teacher (who still retains a New Jersey-based K-8 certificate), I’m a veteran of alternative education that provides exactly this — fluid individualized instruction with minimal deadlines that develops your personal strengths rather than your ability and/or willingness to assimilate.

I’m remembering a scene in the film “Hoosiers” in which the coach reminds the team that the dimensions of the hoop and the backboard (width and distance from the floor) are EXACTLY the same on the state championship court as they are in the small-town gym back home. Similarly, I will remind you of the following:

  1. The progression of triads in the middle of the neck are the EXACT SAME chords you will have learned in first position during your introduction to the blues. As you are learning guitar with me, you will learn “Sweet Home Chicago” and “How Long Blues” (or similar tunes) involving the first-position versions E, A, and B7.  Afterward, the fifth-position triad version of “Mailbox Blues” will be taught.
  2. Any scale can be transposed to another key in another position. It’s easy to lose sight of the identical fingering of a scale in first position (which typically involves playing open strings) and its counterparts elsewhere, which involve using the left index finger to play the transposed versions of the open-stringed first-position notes. As you may have guessed, I will merely be teaching you different versions of the same thing and/or the same thing in different keys.

My body of musical knowledge is not exclusive to only one genre. I specialize in folk, rock, blues, and (some) jazz. I consider it fitting to create a space where you can explore your preferences of genres, playing styles, and hand-strengthening processes, in a space squarely conducive to the development of all three. “You cannot teach (a person) anything,” said Galileo. “You can only help (the person) find it within.”

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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Should Your First Music Lessons be 30, 45, or 60 Minutes Long?


You’ve found a great music teacher and are ready to book – but if you’re not sure how long your lessons should be, you’re not alone! Read on for some helpful advice from Greensboro, NC teacher Alanna H...


When first starting music lessons, either for your child or yourself, it’s hard to know how long your lessons should be. Eventually many students can work up to 60-minute lessons if they want to, but where is a good place to start? Here’s my advice:

30-Minute Music Lessons

–Young children (elementary school and most middle schoolers)
–Students who have never played the instrument before

30-minute lessons are great for young children and people brand new to the instrument. If you have a young child (middle school or younger) who is new to the instrument, I would definitely start with half an hour. In addition to not having the playing endurance, young students often don’t have the attention span to get full use of an hour or a 45-minute lesson. There are of course always exceptions, but that is a good rule of thumb. Adult beginners might also find that 30 minutes is the best for them endurance-wise.

45-Minute Music Lessons

–Children who are serious about learning the instrument
–Adult students who have never played before

45-minute lessons are great for adult beginners, high schoolers, and younger children with a keen interest in music and longer-than-average attention span.

60-Minute Music Lessons

For serious music students, or students preparing for auditions or competitions, 60-minute lessons are ideal. An ideal candidate for a 60-minute lesson practices regularly and therefore has built up the playing endurance to feel comfortable all the way through the lesson.

Music lesson length can also be determined by the actual time you have available, as well as budget, and those are perfectly acceptable reasons to choose a certain lesson length. If you still feel unsure about how long the first music lessons should be, contact a TakeLessons Student Counselor, or speak with your teacher about your goals, experience, and schedule prior to your first lesson to get a recommendation.

AlannaHAlanna H. teaches music theory, clarinet, and saxophone lessons in Greensboro, NC. She received her degree in Music Performance (Saxophone) from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Learn more about Alanna here! 



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Learn to Play Guitar: 4 Common Myths Debunked

guitar myths

Always wanted to learn to play guitar? Sometimes the first step is the hardest one – just simply getting started! Here, Philip R. shares the top myths and realities when it comes to playing…

“Not me,” “I can’t,” “but you don’t understand.” How many times have these phrases held us back? How many plans were scrapped by us over the years, as negativity held its death grip around our throats? Answer: too many. As you learn to play guitar for the first time, most students are susceptible to such doubtful thinking. We marvel at musicians as doing something magical. But it is imperative that you remember they ALL started somewhere.

That being said, there are several nagging myths the newcomer to guitar struggles with before even holding the instrument. I am here to debunk some of the most common myths I usually hear as students learn to play guitar. I believe overcoming these persistent myths is the first step to learning the guitar.

So, without further adieu, here they are:

Myth #1: “My hands and fingers are too small.”

Simply NOT true. I personally have small hands and fingers and it hasn’t held me back or been a detriment to my playing guitar. In full disclosure, it does help to have long fingers but mostly for very technical tricks you will learn much later on in your development. Please remember, it is not VITAL to playing the guitar and you can play thousands of songs with short fingers and hands. Don’t let this common myth hold you back from as you learn to play guitar. My fingers aren’t much bigger than my nine-year-old nephew’s fingers.

Myth #2: “I am tone deaf.”

This one can be overcome easily, if you find the right guitar teacher who knows how to train your ears to hear and distinguish tones and more importantly changes in tones. This is a skill that can be learned, like riding a bike or tying your shoelaces. It is best achieved through tuning exercises, practiced again and again, as well as comprehensive ear-training drills. It is necessary of course to be able to tune your guitar. I have personally helped my students overcome, in nearly every case, their perception of being tone deaf in a few short months. These students even went on to listening to a song and recognizing the chords and notes BY EAR, without the aid of tabs, sight reading or YouTube videos.

Myth #3: “I don’t have the time to practice.”

Well, I have to admit it; in our busy world this is a big one. However, I have always recommended to my students, at all levels, that they put aside only 20 minutes to a half-hour of time. Two to three times a week of slow, deliberate practice is all you need to grasp the concepts and techniques required for playing the guitar. Now granted, practice is repetitious. There is really no way around this. Guitar is learned through repetition but the rewards are so great. Imagine being able to put a CD into your stereo, listening to a song for 15-20 minutes, writing down the chords you hear as you go along, and then PLAYING that song you love. It can happen. I’ve seen it with my own students, mostly within the first five months, if they met me halfway and practiced regularly. It is always a two-way street.

Myth #4: “Guitars are really expensive.”

These days a new, decent quality guitar can be had for $99. I don’t recommend spending a ton of money up front until you see if you like playing the guitar first. Of course, you get what you pay for, but remember you can learn on cheaper guitars just as well as on expensive ones. My first guitar was $40 and was purchased out of a catalog. I had it for years and that was the guitar I learned on. Besides, you can always get a better guitar as you progress on the instrument. Just be patient. You have to start somewhere, but you can do it.

Well, there you have it. Four guitar myths debunked and up in flames. Please don’t let these or any guitar myths hold you back from taking guitar lessons. You can do it! Make the most of your life and have fun. You deserve to play your favorite songs on guitar. It will be a skill that lasts a lifetime.

PrintPhilip R. teaches online guitar lessons. In beginner lessons, students will learn how to tune a guitar, change strings, strum, scales, finger exercises and 28 chords used in today’s most popular music. Book lessons with Philip here!




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