Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to some of the most common questions that I've been asked over the years.
What kind of guitar should I get as a beginner, acoustic or electric?
Either an electric or an acoustic guitar is perfectly fine for learning on. I would choose one or the other based on what type of music excites you. If rock music is what inspires you to want to learn how to play music, you should probably look into getting an electric guitar. If you are mainly interested in folk, country, or singer-songwriter music, then an acoustic guitar would be the best choice. You can always start with one and switch to the other later on. Almost everything you learn will apply to both types of guitars. I should note that electric guitars and nylon string acoustic guitars (classical guitars) are easier on the fingers than steel string acoustic guitars, which might be worth keeping in mind.
Where should I go to look for a new guitar in the North Seattle area?
There are a few stores in the area that I recommend going to first. My top recommendation would be Dusty Strings in Fremont. It’s my favorite music shop in Seattle. They used to specialize only in acoustic instruments, but they now have expanded to include electric guitars and amps. The employees are very friendly and knowledgable. Don’t be afraid to pick their brains like crazy! That’s what they are there for and it’s a good way to learn a few things about what you’re looking for.
After that, if you haven’t settled on something yet (and once you know a little from talking to them, and from looking at a bunch of guitars) I would go to Trading Musician, a used music shop on Roosevelt and Ravenna, and check out their used guitars. Compare the feeling and the prices with the new guitars you liked at Dusty Strings.
American Music in Fremont is a great store to try as well. Again, ask a lot of questions. If you are specifically looking for a classical guitar (nylon string guitar) definitely go to Rosewood Guitar in Greenwood.
Should I get my child a full sized guitar or a smaller one?
Three-quarter sized guitars are a great option for young children starting new on guitar. Ask about these guitars at the stores listed above when shopping around.
Can I use one of your guitars during our lessons?
Yes, I have extra guitars and you can use one during our lessons if you need to. However, I do recommend bringing your own guitar. The more familiar you are with your own instrument the better. It can be strange learning something brand new on one guitar then going home to practice it on another. Circumstances where a student needs to use one of my guitars could be: biking to the lesson (which I totally support), bussing, haven’t purchased a guitar yet, or if their guitar is getting repaired.
Do I need to learn how to read music?
I usually require at least a small amount of music reading in my curriculum, but it’s not a core part of the way I teach. Ideally I want you to have some sort of basic foundation in understanding how to read music. If being a good reader does become important to someone after years of playing music, and they have had no exposure to it at all, it can be extremely frustrating to learn from scratch. This is why I especially require younger students to become a little bit familiar with it. Some adults make it very clear that they are not interested in reading music and that’s totally fine, especially if they have other specific goals in mind. But younger students have much less clarity as to what they want out of music and where it might take them in the future, so I do at least expose them to the basics of reading. If your lessons are focused on either jazz or classical guitar playing, then reading music will definitely be an integral part of the curriculum that I create for you. In short, I will always hone in on the topics that excite and inspire students the most, sometimes reading is a part of that and sometimes it’s not.
Do I need to learn music theory?
If you are taking lessons from me, yes. I emphasize music theory in all of my teaching. Theory is one of the studies that can take us from being someone who plays the guitar, to being a musician who happens to use the guitar to speak the universal language of music (an important distinction in my mind). The advantages of understanding the structure of music in any style or context is extremely powerful. Understanding music theory on the guitar is essential for becoming proficient on the instrument – it speeds up the learning process and substantially improves the ability to remember and retain music after you learn it. Plus, I love it and it’s fun! You’ll see how all music is more the same than it is different.
How often should I take lessons?
Most people take lessons once a week, which is what I recommend. Meeting with a teacher regularly is an essential part of the learning process. Some people do choose to take lessons every other week, usually to save money, which is understandable. Sometimes this works if the student stays focused and maintains a good practice ethic on their own, but often I see that progress is much slower on the bi-weekly schedule. If you are a beginner, once a week for a while is definitely critical. It’s important that you don’t end up practicing and learning anything with bad technique over a two week period that you will then have to unlearn at your next lesson.
How much will I be expected to practice?
How much you practice is not as important as practicing regularly. The amount is up to you, but whatever that is, make sure that it is consistent. For some it’s several hours a day, for others it’s ten minutes five times a week. I work with each student individually on their personal practice routine, refining it and updating it regularly.
How long will it take for me to be able to play through a song and sound good?
This is a very common question and a very hard one to answer. It really depends on what you put into it. I’ve seen complete beginners playing songs they love after only a couple of months. For others it can take a whole year. If you prioritize practicing and take it seriously, then playing and having fun with it will come very fast. If finding time to practice is difficult for you, then you will still progress, but understandably it will take much longer. Either way, patience is the key. It will come if you want it.
Should my child be taking hour long lessons or half-hour lessons?
I don’t teach very many half hour lessons – they go by very quickly. However, for kids, especially those just starting out, this is a very good option. It’s important for guitar lessons to be something that we look forward to and have fun with. By limiting lessons to a half an hour, kids are more likely to leave wanting more, which makes them more inclined to practice. Shorter attention spans and more delicate hands are good reasons for kids to take half hour lessons as well. At some point switching to hour long lessons is probably a good idea, but that depends on the age of the student and their level of interest.
Can you teach two people at once or group lessons? If so, are your rates different for these?
Yes and yes. Please contact me to ask about double and group lesson rates
I enjoy teaching double or group lessons. Keep in mind that they are very different than one-on-one lessons, but they can also be more fun because we can work on playing and rehearsing together. Individual progress, especially on challenging aspects of playing like technique, tend to progress a little slower because each person has different strengths and needs for me to focus on. However, some ensemble playing skills like time and repertoire can improve steadily in a group environment. I think the sense of togetherness and community that happens from people learning at the same time can be very rewarding, inspiring, and creative. If one student is making much faster progress than the other(s), then I may need to make adjustments to the setup, but often I can work around this by assigning group parts at different levels.
With groups of three or four people, lessons can be more like masterclasses on specific topics, which I will often prepare ahead of time. For example, we might analyze a song, walking through the theory of each element of the song, discovering and understanding what’s happening in the song on the fretboard. I find the presentation/interactive-lecture type of approach to be quite effective and fun with groups of more than two. These “masterclass” style group lessons can also happen on a one-off/case-by-case basis if you’re interested in doing them every so often.
How Fast Can You Play?
Really fast. :)
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