"Lean your body forward
slightly to support the
guitar against your chest,
for the poetry
of the music
should resound in your heart."
Andres Segovia


How to Buy a Guitar
Your Playing Level


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Finding the proper instructor to teach and mentor you through your study of the guitar is directly proportional to the degree of success you will have attaining your best musicianship. Let me say it again, this way: you will only become the best guitarist you can be, if you find a teacher who knows how to teach you to think as well as they teach you to play.

Is that a revolutionary idea? Is it something your never considered? Is it something your current instructor does or doesn't do?

The truth is, without informed thinking, musical understanding and the resulting correct analysis, a guitarists' playing will never be much more than adequate. It's not just about how fast your fingers move, or how accurately you play what someone else has already played -- so finding an instructor should not be based on who has played at the restaurant in town the longest. They may or may not be able to teach you what they do.

Here's an example, removed from the realm of music and the guitar: If you have a student in school who is studying a Shakespearean play, and they have been taught the characters and the plot and subplots. They will probably do well on their test. Then, there's the other student, also studying this Shakespearean play. This students has been taught the characters, plot and subplots, but also has been taught about the political climate that may have inspired the work, has delved into all the literary allusions used in the characters' dialog, understands when they are reading 'straight' dialog and when it is sarcastic and doesn't really mean what the words say and understands the Shakespearean English as well as the English he or she speaks at home. Which student would have the fullest grasp on the subject and which student's life could we expect would be permanently and deeply enriched by their study? It has nothing to do with the test score. Get it?

Bringing it back to the guitar: getting your fingers to all the frets is something just about anyone who has played guitar for a while, can help you do. If your goal is to get your fingers to a fret and make a sound, go no farther. You're at the wrong web site. But if you want to find an instructor, who will teach you a language and thought process that will enable you to understand music the way other people understand the books they read and the movies they see, read on.

The old saw, "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach," does not take into consideration that the "doing" that someone might have been created to do and to excel at, just may be teaching. A teacher must be totally versed in their subject, but that doesn't mean that their subject must be their full time vocation. They must also understand the learning process, know how to anticipate the difficulties you will encounter and direct you to the most efficient path of success. They must know how to correct you, after doing something incorrectly for a week, without crushing you or making you too embarrassed to go on. If you feel like a fool, you will not play well and you will grow to loath your teacher. If the old saw were true, we wouldn't have math, chemistry, biology or physics teachers. There wouldn't be teaching hospitals either. So it is in the arts, as well. Of course, an instructormust be highly proficient, but it is not a prerequisite for them to be working, performing musicians as well as teachers. Some excellent teachers are and some excellent teachers are not musicians for hire. So don't discount a prospective teacher who is not playing out each day, week or month. Their background and references are much more important. (My first piano instructor was at Juilliard when she was very very young, and she was an extraordinary musician. But she was not a good teacher. She was inflexible and taught every student the same musicthe same way.)


So, how can you find an instructor who will teach you correctly? Here are a few Do's and Don'ts for finding the right teacher for you. (If you're seeking expert
private guitar instruction in the Bergen County, NJ and Rockland County, NY area please contact me.)


1. DON'T base your choice of instructor on their hourly price. As with most things,you get what you pay for.Most teachers require weekly lessons. If you can't afford weekly lessons and are not a beginner, be frank with the instructors with whom you speak.
The last thing any teacher wants to do or can afford to do, is add a student to their schedule, only to have the student cancel frequently. If you are willing to have a 'last lesson of the day,' some instructors may consider teaching you every other week. If they won't, understand that the continuity of weekly lessons has direct relationship to your progress and success. Beginners should have weekly lessonswithout exception.

2. DON'T schedule music lessons with an instructor who is unwillingto meet you and discuss lessonswithout getting paid.

3. DON'T ask the guitarist in a band you liketo teach you and think you will be getting quality lessons, unless he or she is a professional instructor. A lot of people play but cannot teach adequately.

4. DON'T take lessons with anyone who asks you to take a CD or mp3 of the song you want to play to your lesson, unless you will be using it for YOUR OWN ear training. Many "teachers" listen to their students' CDs, write the tabs and give that to their students to play for lessons.

5. DON'T take lessons with friends or relatives, unless you can both be totally professional and treat each other like instructor and pupil.

6. DON'T work with someone who dominates lessons by playing more than you, or talking a lot about their playing. Some players have big egos and are more interested in you knowing how well they play, rather than being focused on your difficulties and progress.

7. DON'T take lessons with an instructor who requires payment in advance, for lessons or requires you to commit to taking lessons for a particular number of months. HOWEVER: do not waste a teacher's limited appointment times with a casual interest. This is their livelihood and they expect you will be spending your time and money in a sincere effort to learn your instrument.

8. DON'T ask a teacher who does not have time to teach you, to refer you to their competition. Most don't want to do it. Some will not because they don't know the character of the other teachers and can ill afford to put their personal reputation on the line. If you really want to work with the teacher, you should consider asking how long their waiting list is and when they think there might be an opening. Decide whether the anticipated delay is worth studying with an instructor with whom you are well impressed.


1. DO meet with any instructor you consider working with. If they are experienced, they will not want to have a first lesson without getting acquainted. Students are different and each one needs an individualized lesson so they will learn, understand and do their best. "Cookie cutter" lessons are not what you are looking for.

2. DO consider the recommendations of friends, providing the referred teacher does not teach from tabs.

3. DO ask an intended instructor this question: "Do you teach from tab or from notation?" The only answer you want is: "I teach from notation."

Discount them as a possibility if they reply:

"Whatever you want."
Because they do not have an effective plan for teaching you and do not know or do not understand that using notation is only way you will understand your music and your instrument.

"Tab because it's easier and faster."
Because they either do not know or do not understand that using notation is only way you will understand your music and your instrument.

Because they do not have an effective plan for teaching you and do not know or do not understand that using notation is only way you will understand your music and your instrument.

4. DO consider whether you, personally, will be more comfortable with a male or female instructor and do your best to select an instructor of the gender of your choice. It may seem inconsequential to you, but you will be developing a relationship with your teacher. Carefully consider your life situation when you make this decision.

5. DO ask the potential instructor how long they have been teaching. If there is some way to check, do it. Ask for a resume if they have one. Because they are strangers, most instructorswill not give those making inquiries, the names and phone numbersof their students for references. I do not.

6. DO choose an instructor who makes you feel comfortable at an initial consultation and who is willing to spend some time to answer your questions and lead you to your best musicianship.

7. DO realize that same day cancellations of lessons should be paid for unless made up. Don't allow a professional instructor's cancellation policy turn you off. You want to be paid for what you do, and a guitar teacher is no different. Most instructors will do what they can to allow you to make up a lesson, rather than them getting paid for not teaching you.


Tell a guitarist friend who might also have questions


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Wednesday, November 1, 2017