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Technique vs. Feel: Which Is More Important?

By Chad Crawford, PMI Guitar Instructor

If you have been learning guitar for any length of time then you know that unbridled self-expression is a long term project rather than a once-done event. Along the way you may at times find yourself wrestling with a vague sensibility that your playing seems to be technically correct as best you can tell, but yet does not seem to have the lively gut-wrenching feel of your favorite guitarist playing the same thing. Then you may be tempted to think that your technique development endeavors are not getting the job done. If you go online to read some articles about such things, you may stumble across lengthy arguments regarding whether or not technique is more important than feel, whether or not music theory stifles creativity, and so forth. If you are in that stage where you have pretty good technique but do not feel that you are expressing yourself well, you will probably be tempted to align with the “feel/creativity” side of this age old debate, versus the “technique/theory” side.

Let me point out some pertinent issues before addressing the core of the matter: (1) humans (myself included) are averse to work and we will latch on to any rationalization we can find to get out of doing some work, such as technique development, and (2) people who do not have a fully developed understanding of a thing often insist on convenient, simple answers to things where such answers do not exist. So it goes with ideas about learning guitar. Aligning with either extreme in the “technique or feel” debate betrays a lack of experience that leads to further lack of understanding and consequent erroneous judgments over the more subtle aspects of musicianship. Asking whether technique is more important than feel is like asking if a tire is more important than the wheel it mounts to. In both cases, neither can do its job without the other such that they are both critical to achieving the desired results.

So here is the core of the matter: Playing with feel is not the opposite of playing with good technique, but is rather the outgrowth of having developed your technique to the point that it is no longer a barrier between you and self-expression.

By way of example, I recall in my youth being greatly moved by certain beloved songs. I had more than enough feel. I was bursting over with it. What I did not have was any idea how to make such sounds come out of my guitar. My lack of knowledge and technique utterly crippled my efforts to pull what I wanted to express out of my guitar. I needed knowledge of what my favorite artists were doing, and the precise finger control and hand coordination to make it happen. Without sufficient mastery of technique, all the feel in the universe is useless in making music.

So I set out on my technique development journey with a scale book, metronome, and various private lessons. Some years later I reached a point where I could rip through scales at speeds I would have never thought possible for myself, but I still could not make my licks sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s level of raw passion roaring from every phrase (or at least not to the level I wanted to … some folks thought my playing was quite good at that point).

The next level for me was working on refinement of my bending and vibrato, particularly the accuracy of the start and stop points of the bending, plus the rate and proportions of the sweep of the bend. Then to nail these down beyond pure technique accuracy, I looked toward my favorite Blues players and mimicked their technique. Bear in mind, if I had not had the experience and results of laying the foundation of accurate and timely bends then I would not have had the ear for what my favorite artists were doing, much less the finger control to reproduce it.

Then I needed work on my pick attack. I think much of the “feel” in guitar music comes from the pick attack, which varies a bit from one guitar player to another, and from one style to another. Pick attack is a very personal part of musicality, but there are certain universal aspects of pick technique that enable good playing … proper pick hold, strong articulation, accurate timing, playing to the song, etc. Again, without the pick technique foundations you will not have control to apply the subtleties that make for true self-expression.

It is also important to understand that no matter how well you have developed your technique, if you do not resonate with what you hear coming from the guitar then you are not going to be able to play with maximum feel. Self-expression is ultimately a sort of dance between you and your guitar, transcending technique. Technique must be something that is done and out of the way, but you also must enjoy and be moved by your guitar’s tone to get the most out of your playing. If you are not sure what your tonal preference is, just listen to your favorite guitarist and start tweaking your tone towards that. Much like overall musicality, tone development is not a once-done event, but rather a process. The sooner you get started the sooner you will find a tone that compels you rather than hinders you, and then you continually tweak from there as your ear and tastes develop.

Now let us consider a more subtle aspect of music that you must be aware of to avoid undue frustrations with your playing. If you want to play with feel, you must play music that you truly feel! As an example, I am never going to play highly expressive solos in certain styles such as progressive metal, jazz, or bluegrass flatpicking, because I do not really resonate with these styles. This is not because I have any contempt for them or those who play them, but they do not move me as do Blues and Classic Rock. This does not mean that I can not play anything at all over these styles, but my best playing will always happen when I am playing along with Blues or Classic Rock or their close cousins. So if for instance you are attending my group classes, you may not really resonate with all of the variety of songs I use for these since I need to appeal to the tastes and abilities of a broad audience. So, if you find that your solos are coming out somewhat lifeless in these situations, realize that this does not mean you are failing at guitar. Always strive to improve your overall skills of course, and recognize that sometimes being a musician means playing what suits others rather than just yourself. At the same time, recognize that you are never going to be able to get into the “zone” while playing music that does not really stir you up inside. That is perfectly normal, even for pros. (If you take a moment to think about it you will notice that most highly regarded guitarists are known for excellence in only one very narrow range of style.)

Likewise, when playing open jams, playing with a friend, or being put on the spot by someone who knows you are taking lessons asking you play for them, realize that you are not going to do your best playing in these situations, so don’t judge your skills by how you perform under these conditions. Open jams are notorious for including musicians who are not well developed enough to keep good time. You can not feel the music when one or more instruments of the rhythm section is out of time, and you can not resolve phrases properly when a chord change you are expecting is early, late, or just wrong. When you get put on the spot with no warm up you are not going to be able to play as well as after you have had thirty minutes or an hour of playing behind you. The best thing to do with these types of situations is to avoid them. If you wish to play open jams then just play rhythm as best you can and see if the general level of musicianship is going to allow for good soloing with feel, before attempting to cut loose with your best chops. If someone pulls out a guitar from a closet and asks you to show them what you’ve got, tell them you are going to show them some Hendrix first and then smash the guitar over their head. If you are attempting to play in a band and the group is not in good time with one another (i.e., “tight), then do not expect your best playing to happen with this group unless and until they get it together.

Finally, we need to strike a balance between technique development and making music. In answer to a question like “how much technique development do I need to invest my limited time in”, I respond, “rough rule of thumb for a hobbyist, about 20% more than you need to play the music you want to play”. For instance, if you wish to play Blues and Classic Rock, then you do not need to invest a lot of time in cultivating sweep arpeggios to 1000 notes per minute, but you should work on speeding up pentatonic scales and licks to 20% past the speed that you will use them in live playing. This gives you a buffer to offset stage fright, distracting anomalies in the rhythm section, etc, such that you have more than enough control to listen well and play with feel at the speeds you really need, even under these imperfect conditions.

So … if you have been thinking that “feel is more important than technique”, try doing some spirited sport driving with the tires removed from your wheels. After you get out of the hospital then get back to metronome practice, and lot’s of it. 😉

Copyright © 2005 Palmetto Music Institute. All Rights Reserved.

 

3 Answers for Overwhelm

By Chad Crawford, PMI Guitar Instructor

If you are new to guitar, or especially if you have been playing for a while then you may already be acquainted with the vaguely uncomfortable feeling that there is a long road ahead and you are not sure you can see the destination. If you have attempted any kind of lesson program you have surely observed that there does not seem to be any one clear thing or few things that you can do to get the results you seek. Maybe you have sensed that there are a LOT of things you need to accomplish. If you are currently involved in a program of instruction, you may have a pile of those things on your desk right now.

As with other impediments to eventual success with music, this feeling is quite normal. Once you get deep enough into this to realize how much is involved with fluent guitar playing, it is easy to become awed by the amount of information to learn and tasks to work through. You may then conclude something like this … “I am not able to do this”, or “I could possibly do this, but I do not have the time”. Then the next logical step is, of course … giving up.

So let’s consider how we get stuck in this trap and then how we can avoid it, or work around it. The first thing we need to know about overwhelm is this – it is a state of mind, not an objective reality. Particularly, it is a feeling … a feeling that we are not up to the job ahead of us. It is also a false feeling. Unfortunately, there is enough of reality inspiring this feeling that it may be difficult to see the falsehood in it. Let’s put on our reality glasses and take another look at this self-defeating false feeling of doom.

1. Know The Facts: The first thing we need to do is address the truth – that learning to play an instrument well is a big task. Although I am a proponent of “positive thinking” to a reasonable extent, a positive attitude does not change the immediate reality of things. We can sit all day and think positive thoughts about being a great musician. Other than a fleeting feeling of self-satisfaction, this will accomplish nothing unless we allow this positive framework to motivate sustained action toward a specific goal. A positive outlook combined with focused action will indeed yield impressive results, possibly far beyond what we would have thought ahead of time. So, let’s start by rejecting the sense of doom and replacing it with a positive outlook that we are indeed potentially capable musicians. Let us also combine that mental framework with the willingness to do some work toward our goals.

2. Formulate a Properly Balanced Perspective: Second, let’s narrow down our goals to something realistic. Let us not go to either extreme. One extreme might be what I call the “moon child”. In other words, shooting for the moon. Example, “I’m 38 years old, know three chords, work sixty hours a week, have a wife and three kids, and I want to play like Eddie Van Halen within 6 months of dusting off my old high school guitar”. Here is another example that I see routinely in my pre-enrollment consultations, “I want to be able to play expertly in any style from classical to progressive rock and everything in between” (have you ever taken note that well known accomplished guitarists only play in one very narrow range of style?) The other extreme might be, “Since I can’t play like Eric Clapton my playing is worthless”. Really? Try telling that to B.B. King – one of the most acclaimed guitarists who has ever lived, who made a long, lucrative career and legacy out of simple repetitive blues licks.

So let’s face some facts – some goals are completely off the chart unrealistic, and some goals are simply not appropriate for some persons. On the other hand some folks go to the other extreme and assume that ANY goal is beyond their reach. Here is the balance of truth in the middle of the extremes – there is plenty of fun to be had with guitar at skill levels within the reach of the average person. If you set a goal that is out of proportion to the amount of time you can and will invest into guitar, this is a set-up from day one for overwhelm. If you give in to overwhelm at the slightest appearance of difficulty, you are robbing yourself and others of the great satisfaction to yourself and others that comes from you expressing yourself well with an instrument. Let’s avoid both extremes. Balance is the key.

3. Set Effective Goals: So what is a realistic goal? That is of course going to vary greatly from person to person according to any number of factors. We can look here at some of the common factors. It is very important to pick a range of style to focus on. For instance, classical guitar is a very different approach to guitar than rock. It is unlikely that anyone, and particularly a hobbyist, is going to achieve great things in both of these styles. Even professional musicians tend to focus on one style. So pick the one you like most – the one that has the most songs that you enjoy hearing. In doing so you have eliminated a great deal of material that you need to bother with learning.

Now let’s narrow it down some more. For instance, within the Blues style, we have a number of even more specific styles …. Delta Blues (acoustic slide), Chicago Blues (low gain electric guitar), Texas Blues (medium gain electric guitar with a rock flavor). If you want to play Texas Blues, you do not need to master alternate tunings for acoustic slide guitar. So you see, when you narrow down your goal, you eliminate a LOT of material that you would be wasting time to pursue. This does not mean you are permanently eliminating the possibility of playing songs from any other style. Contrarily, learning to play well in one style will undoubtedly leave you potentially much more capable to approach other styles with better results, especially closely related styles such as Blues and Rock.

Ok, so we have narrowed things down to where we can see some outer limits to what we have to accomplish to reach our goal. There is still a lot left to do. So how do we look at all this and avoid a sense of doom? Very simple. There is an old adage I am fond of repeating to my clients: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Rather than look at a whole body of knowledge and tasks with awe and overwhelm, we break the project into parts that we can manage and set up a plan to start building up fluency in each of a number of targeted areas.

If you have been at this for a while you have probably accumulated a lot of material and it becomes practically impossible to study all of it routinely. So what do you do? You have to look at your short term goals and see what material will help you reach those goals. If you have material that is not pertinent to your short term goals, set it aside for now and focus on things that are directly relevant to the closest goals. For instance, if your near-term goal is the ability to play pop rock solos, you do not need to practice exotic scales and diminished arpeggios. Focus on pentatonic scales, embellishments, and phrasing. The more advanced materials can wait until you have mastered the basic stuff to an extent that you can yield more practice time to exploring new ideas.

Essentially, the problem of overwhelm yields to these things: positive attitude combined with positive action, goal-oriented organization, and targeted elimination of non-essentials. Push aside incapacitating thoughts. Replace them with enthusiastic action. Organize your practice time and materials around your near-term goals. Eliminate (for now) those things that do not contribute to these goals.
Finally, as with all things guitar, practice well and often!

 

Copyright © 2005 Palmetto Music Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Demystifying Guitar Amplifiers

Guitar amplifiers come in many brands, shapes, sizes, power levels, and with varying features. If you are new to guitar or even somewhat experienced, you may be overwhelmed by all the options. Here I will seek to organize your choices into categories that you can understand, so you can zero in on just the right amplifier for your needs.

 

We will start with a bit of general knowledge of guitar amplification. The wonderful sound that comes out of your amplifier begins with a tiny electromagnetic impulse in your guitar’s pick up coil(s). This tiny, constantly varying impulse imposes an electronic signal at the guitar’s output port which travels along the cord into your amplifier. The amplifier receives this signal and sends it through several stages of amplification to produce a signal powerful enough to drive your speaker(s).

The amplifier will typically consist of two overall stages of amplification: pre-amp, and power amp. The pre-amp stage is the one that receives the input from your guitar and processes it into a larger signal with tone alterations for presentation to the power amp stage. The pre-amp is where the amplifier allows you to alter specific tonal features such as bass, mid range, and treble, as well as apply built-in effects such as distortion (a.k.a. gain) and reverb.

The job of the power amp stage is to pick up the output signal from the pre-amp and magnify it up to a power level sufficient to drive your speakers via an output transformer. The purpose of the output transformer is to match the electromagnetic characteristics (impedance) of your amplifier’s power stage to the electromagnetic characteristics of your speaker(s), so that the amplifier will couple the maximum amount of available power to the speakers.

On some more elaborate amplifiers you may be able to pick off the signal at various stages of amplification for additional processing and/or routing. Many amplifiers have an effects loop which will allow you to insert patch cords that will route the signal to an external effects processor and then back into your amp. Some amps also have a patch port between the pre-amp stage and the power amp stage that allows you to completely separate the two stages. This would allow you for instance to use the pre-amp stage from one amp to provide a signal to the power stage of another amp.

Combo vs. Head/Cabinet

Guitar amps come in two basic physical configurations: combo and head/cabinet. A combo (short for combination) amp has the electronic circuitry and the speaker(s) all in one convenient box. Alternatively, you may wish to keep your amplifier itself separate from the speakers so that you have tonal options by matching up different amplifiers and speakers. In this case you would want the amplifier in a box by itself. We call these amp-only boxes amplifier heads, or head for short. So we attach the head via a speaker cable to a separate box that has only a speaker or multiple speakers. This is why many amp heads have several speaker output ports, so that you can use the head to drive speaker cabinets of varying impedance.

The most popular head/cabinet arrangement you should understand is the half-stack. The half stack is a head sitting on top of a large speaker cabinet with typically four speakers, usually 12 inch diameter speakers. The name half stack is a derivative of the stack, an amp with one head sitting atop two speaker cabinets with four speakers each. Hence the name stack – it is literally a stack of big boxes. A stack is a big, heavy, and loud amplifier arrangement that is only needed for the largest of venues, either a large arena or outdoors. A half stack, while still bulky and loud, is more manageable and thus is suitable for a wider variety of venues.

The combo amp may contain one speaker of sizes from 4 inch up to 12 inch. Some combos contain two twelve inch speakers, and some contain four ten inch speakers. More speakers means more power, and also more bass response. My rule of thumb … for good tone I recommend if the combo amp has only one speaker to stick with amps that have a 12 inch speaker, with the exception for the combos with four 10 inch speakers such as the Fender Super Reverb.

Take note of this: you do not need a half stack to achieve high volume levels. A good quality combo with two 12 inch speakers will produce volumes comparable to a half stack of similar power. For large live venues the sound that the audience hears is coming through the much louder P.A. system anyway, via a microphone on the guitar amp speaker. I have played outdoor venues with a combo with only one 12 inch speaker miced to the PA, and it sounds plenty loud. The reason I need a half stack for some situations is mostly so I can hear my guitar on stage over the drums, plus I prefer the more robust bass response of a 4×12 cabinet. In one instance I attended a jam session with my 80 watt combo with one twelve inch speaker along with another guitarist with a 50 watt Marshall half stack. Although he had more bass response with his 4×12 speaker cabinet I had no problem matching the Marshall’s volume with my little 1×12 combo, with volume to spare.

Tube vs. Solid State

Guitar amplifiers come in two primary electronic platforms: tube and solid state. You need not be an electronics guru to understand the critical difference: sound quality. Solid state amps use modern electronic transistors to amplify your guitar signal, while tube amps use the older vacuum tubes for signal magnification. Solid state amps are typically very rugged and reliable, and they are usually less expensive than a tube amp with comparable power and features. Tube amps are relatively fragile, expensive, and require more maintenance. So why do the majority of accomplished guitarists prefer tube amps? It is because of the additional characteristics that tubes add to the signal, which produces a certain quality of sound (tone) that guitarists prefer. Tubes add harmonics and compression in a way that solid state amps thus far have not been able to match, so guitarists stick with the traditional and outdated technology because the sound results produced by tubes is more attractive than the price and reliability advantages of the solid state amps.

It is important to note here that you need not purchase an expensive tube amp for practicing in your bedroom at low volumes. The advantages of a tube sound do not really show themselves at very low volumes, so there is no sense in spending the money and dealing with the maintenance hassles on a tube amp unless you are going to play with a group and in an environment that allows you to turn up. Solid state amps can produce very good clean tones and decent distortion tones, so they are fine for learning guitar,  routine practice, and playing small low-volume venues with cleaner guitar tones (although I prefer a tube amp for any kind of live performance).

Fender vs. Marshall Tone

There are two basic guitar amplifier architectures on the market, both based on amps designed around specific power stage tubes. One is the Fender sound which is a clean tone based on the 6L6 tube. The Fender amps are coveted for pristine clean tones at higher volumes (a.k.a headroom – the amount of volume an amp can produce before distorting). The Fender sound is great for Blues, Jazz, and Country styles. The Marshall amps are based on the EL34 tube which produces a desirable distortion or break-up at moderate volume levels. This makes them desirable for any kind of guitar music that features distortion, such as rock or metal. Since most guitarists use additional effects pedals to add various effects, there is some overlap between these tones. Most tube amps on the market today are some kind of imitation or derivative of the Fender or Marshall amps. Another popular tone is the EL84 tube tone associated with the classic VOX amps and often used on lower power tube amps. The EL84 tone has a sharp bright treble response and less bass response than the physically larger 6L6 and EL34 tubes.

If you want to know whether your amp is a Fender or Marshall type of amp, just check the power tubes. However, every amp consists of many components and built-in tone coloring characteristics, so you will not be able to know for sure what an amp sounds like without actually playing through it. There are many good quality amps on the market today besides Fender and Marshall. Let your ears be the judge. I prefer the tone of a Marshall, although I have heard great sounding tones coming from many other amps.

Amp Simulators

Modern computer technology has brought us guitarists the ability to include computers in our arsenal of music making tools. Popular simulators such as Guitar Port, Amplitube, and Guitar Rig allow us to plug our guitar into our computers via an interface box and play through the computer. This is a great tool for practicing, as the simulation software will allow us to mimic a wide variety of tones from different iconic amplifiers and effects, all with just a few clicks of a mouse. For practicing guitar and learning about various amps and effects, this is the best thing that has happened to guitarist in decades. These simulators, in conjunction with other computer programs, also allow for pro-quality recording of your playing right in your bedroom, at volumes that will not disturb your neighbors or even the people in the next room.  Assuming you already have a computer, these simulators are not nearly as expensive as a real guitar amp of good quality, so I highly recommend a simulator program for those new to electric guitar. After spending some time with a simulator you will have a better idea of the tone variation among the popular amps, so you will have a better sense of what you are looking for when you go to invest in a real amp.

Miscellaneous Considerations …

Guitar amps often have multiple channels to allow you varying tonal options from the same amp, from pristine clean to raucous distortion. In addition, each of these channels will usually have separate volume controls and maybe even separate input (gain) and output volume controls. Finally there will be one master volume control that controls the final output volume of the amp regardless of which channel you select. It is important to understand that there is a significant difference in volume from your guitar when you are playing rhythm versus solo. The multiple channels allow you to change for instance from a clean or slightly distorted tone for chords, to the richer harmonic content and increased sustain of distortion for playing individual notes of a solo. You will lose a significant amount of volume from the guitar when you change from playing chords to playing individual notes, such that if you set your amp up during sound check to match the band volume when you are playing chords, when you go to play solo at the same volume you will be drowned by the band. So you must set the volume on your solo channel significantly higher than that of your rhythm channel.

 

It is important to note that the amp tone will change drastically as you increase the volume. For instance, at low volumes the bass response will be weak so that you have to turn the amp up to get a balanced sound across the frequency spectrum. The electronic components will affect the tone to different degrees at different power levels. Power tubes deliver a certain coveted distortion that only appears when the tube is pushed to higher power levels. Speakers have a certain inherent stiffness so that they will only yield their best tones when pushed into lively motion to a certain degree (speaker excursion). Altogether, what this means is that the best electric guitar tones often come at the price of higher volumes. It is a never ending quest for guitarists to coax a good tone from our electric guitar amps at lower volumes, especially with distorted tones. It can be done, but it will take some time and effort learning how to tweak your amp.

Any given guitar amp is going to produce a wide variety of tonal qualities based on the options available on the amp, the guitar and effects plugged into the amp, and importantly the playing characteristics of the player playing through the amp. Pros often have their amps modified away from the manufacturer designs. So just because a certain guitarist you enjoy uses a certain kind of amp, that does not necessarily mean you will be able to reproduce their tone easily by purchasing the same amp. Before you rush out and buy the same amp as your guitar hero, be sure you play through a number of amps first. It may be that you will find your preferred tone coming from a box that you wouldn’t have expected.

Keys to Guitar Mastery: Automaticness

Automaticness does not come automatically. Allow me to explain.

Have you ever had the experience of freezing in front of an audience, whether it be one or two friends or an auditorium? Maybe it was a piece that you had practiced diligently for hours and thought you had it sorted out, but when the critical moment came your hands just wouldn’t deliver. If you have been playing guitar for any length of time you have certainly suffered such an embarrassing and frustrating moment. Why does this happen?

Your gut response might be something along the lines of “stage fright”. Is that really the final answer? Let’s consider this scenario … you are thrust on stage in front of ten thousand spectators and asked to simply walk to the other side of the stage. Could you do it? Of course! So what happened to stage fright? Well, if you are not accustomed to withstanding the observation of thousands of people then you may indeed experience a high level of discomfort and even some symptoms of mild illness, such as upset stomach and sweating. However, odds are high that you could get to the other side of the stage without anyone even suspecting that you were the least bit out of sorts.

So you see … when you know how to do a thing so well that you can do it automatically, you will be able to do it well even under duress. Automaticness.

This applies to making music in the same way it applies to walking, and the stages of development are similar. You start by crawling, then by holding onto the couch while you experiment with standing. Next you try a few steps, next thing you know your Mom is yelling at you for running through the house, followed by your Coach yelling at you for not running fast enough or long enough. By that stage the mere act of walking is long since a given.

So how do we develop automaticness in guitar technique? The same way we do with walking. We start with simple chords and pieces of scales and arpeggios and then we progressively work our way up to more complex tasks, with an occasional bloody knee so to speak. For the guitar player this means beginning with simple songs played very slowly and deliberately, and then chords, scales, and arpeggios, all with slow and deliberate repetition of efficient fingerings along with a metronome until they become automatic. That takes more than two weeks or two months. Speed will grow naturally out of good technique perfected at much slower speeds. There is a time and method to develop speed, but it is pointless to do so until achieving a basic level of automaticness in each of these basic skills.

I have observed over and over that when it comes to music many people simply want to go straight to running track without first having held on to the couch to experiment with standing. The results are just as predictable … perpetual bloody knees. I am not able to count the times that I have sighed in amazement as I have asked a student for the hundredth time to SLOW DOWN with a scale exercise and focus on note articulation, only to have them continue hacking away at speeds beyond their capability and thereby  ensuring a reduced rate of progress.  If you are one of my students reading this then you are probably thinking I am talking about you. I may be, but not you specifically … I have hardly seen a guitar player that did not go through this stage, including myself.

It is somewhat analogous to the lifeguard who waits until the drowning swimmer has given up before rendering aid, since it is impossible to help while the panicked swimmer is still flailing about. There is not much I can do with a determined scale hacker until he reaches the point of almost giving up. Then comes that magic moment that I wait for with every student … the moment I finally see him focusing on accurate articulation and timing of each note within a scale. This is when I know I have a winner in the making.

So this is the point. If you want to play guitar well, master the basics to point of automaticness. This is going to involve some focused repetition with a metronome, but it will pay handsome dividends over the long haul when you can change chords in the blink of an eye and rip through scales as easy as breathing. It is worth the short term hassle to gain the long term benefits.

 

Besting the Beast of Boredom

The process of learning to play guitar involves some basic training exercises that are designed to increase knowledge and physical skills in numerous areas. Most of us are impatient to play at the level we envisioned when we started this process. The repetition of basic concepts and physical exercises can be tedious at times, especially when we do not feel we are seeing any measurable results.

This is quite normal. All musicians go through this, and the truth is that it never ends. Once we master some new skill or technique, there is always another one waiting in line to challenge us again. It is critical to learn to maintain your motivation to work through boredom and get on to playing like you want to play.

So let’s consider how boredom develops, and then how you can combat it. Your teacher gives you a new exercise. You begin to practice it. It is exciting at first because it is new and you know it is a direct step toward your goal of fluent playing. But then after a number of repetitions you have it memorized. Eventually you are just going through the motions mindlessly. It becomes less and less interesting and eventually turns into something that feels more like work than entertainment. You may even get to the point that you hate to even think of doing the exercise again and you feel reluctant to even pick up the guitar at all.

This is the critical point where you have to make a decision. You can give in to the beast of boredom and quit, or you can work to find a way around the beast and eventually reach a point where your playing is quite gratifying. It is important to realize this – becoming bored is a natural consequence of the human condition, but staying bored is a choice, and you have the power to choose otherwise.

What to do?

1- Substitution: The first thing you should do is to inform your teacher that you are struggling. It may be that the teacher can substitute some other song or exercise, or work with you on some other area that is more satisfying to you for the time being. However, you should consider input from the teacher before making the final decision on this. It may be that it is best for your long term goals to finish mastering the material you are currently struggling with. Your teacher should be able to offer some kind of explanation as to the value of the material you are working with and this may help you in maintaining your interest in working through it.

2 – Alteration: If you have become bored with an exercise or some other aspect of your practice routine, trying altering it in some way. This is particularly important in improvisational soloing. It is very easy and very common to fall into the trap of playing the same note sequences with the same embellishments and the same timing. Straight eight notes is the bane of many aspiring soloists, and it is the easiest trap to fall into since timing choices (or lack thereof) are not as readily apparent as note choices. Try changing the timing of your collection of stock phrases, then work on changing timing mid-phrase, hold one note noticeably longer than the rest, etc. This is much more challenging than playing straight time (same time value for every note) and may seem impossibly difficult at first, but it will certainly shake up the feeling of boredom and will also make you a much better improvisational soloist.

3 – Inspiration: Every aspiring guitarist has a reason (or combination of reasons) that inspires the effort to learn guitar. Often it is a parent or other significant figure who plays an instrument. In many cases it is admiration for some notable professional guitarist, or a particular song or type of music that the student wants to play. Whatever the case may be, it is important to keep that motivational reason in the front of your mind while going through the learning process. Boredom is a feeling – a feeling of restless dissatisfaction. When you are confronted with boredom reflect on the satisfaction you will feel when you reach your goal. Combat the unproductive feeling of boredom by choosing to meet it with one that inspires you to keep working toward your goal.

 

4 – Challenge: Another way to combat boredom is to find a new challenge in whatever you are doing. So you are working on some exercise and you have repeated it enough times that you know every note, every motion, etc., so that it begins to feel uninteresting. So what can you do to change it so that it is challenging again? Look for ways to improve the details of your performance. For instance, you have played through a chord change exercise for what feels like a thousand times and you feel like you are done with it. Is it possible you can improve the speed at which you execute the change from one chord to another? Probably. Are you inadvertently muting any strings while strumming the chords? Probably. Is it possible that a metronome will reveal that you are not keeping good time throughout the progression? Probably. Break out these details and set small goals within the overall exercise, and then challenge yourself to improve in these details. As you focus on these parts within the overall goal you will find satisfaction in challenge and accomplishment. You can not be bored when you are intently focused on solving a problem. In fact, you might just find that your main problem is that you do not have as much time for practice as you would prefer!

Substitutionalteration inspiration … challenge … these four powerful weapons will help you cut the beast of boredom down to a manageable size. Keep these things in mind, and review this article if necessary when you find yourself feeling dreadful of your practice routine. Remember that perseverance is the key to success. It is your choice whether to excel or expire, but with the right tools in your toolbox the road to excellence will be a lot smoother. Choose well!

Is Feel more important than Technique?

If you have been learning guitar for any length of time then you know that unbridled self-expression is a long term project rather than a once-done event. Along the way you may at times find yourself wrestling with a vague sensibility that your playing seems to be technically correct as best you can tell, but yet does not seem to have the lively gut-wrenching feel of your favorite guitarist playing the same thing. Then you may be tempted to think that your technique development endeavors are not getting the job done. If you go online to read some articles about such things, you may stumble across lengthy arguments regarding whether or not technique is more important than feel, whether or not music theory stifles creativity, and so forth. If you are in that stage where you have pretty good technique but do not feel that you are expressing yourself well, you will probably be tempted to align with the “feel/creativity” side of this age old debate, versus the “technique/theory” side.

Let me point out some pertinent issues before addressing the core of the matter: (1) humans (myself included) are lazy and we will latch on to any rationalization we can find to get out of doing some work, such as technique development, and (2) people who do not have a fully developed understanding of a thing often insist on convenient, simple answers to things where such answers do not exist. So it goes with ideas about learning guitar. Aligning with either extreme in the “technique or feel” debate betrays a lack of experience that leads to further lack of understanding and consequent erroneous judgments over the more subtle aspects of musicianship. Asking whether technique is more important than feel is like asking if a tire is more important than the wheel it mounts to. In both cases, neither can do its job without the other such that they are both critical to achieving the desired results.

So here is the core of the matter: Playing with feel is not the opposite of playing with good technique, but is rather the outgrowth of having developed your technique to the point that it is no longer a barrier between you and self-expression.

By way of example, I recall in my youth being moved to the point of tears by certain beloved songs. I had more than enough feel. I was bursting over with it. What I did not have was any idea how to make such sounds come out of my guitar. My lack of knowledge and technique utterly crippled my efforts to pull what I wanted to express out of my guitar. I needed knowledge of what my favorite artists were doing, and the precise finger control and hand coordination to make it happen. Without sufficient mastery of technique, all the feel in the universe is useless in making music.

So I set out on my technique development journey with a scale book, metronome, and various private lessons. Some years later I reached a point where I could rip through scales at speeds I would have never thought possible for myself, but I still could not make my licks sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s level of raw passion roaring from every phrase (or at least not to the level I wanted to … some folks thought my playing was quite good at that point).

The next level for me was working on refinement of my bending and vibrato, particularly the accuracy of the start and stop points of the bending, plus the rate and proportions of the sweep of the bend. Then to nail these down beyond pure technique accuracy, I looked toward my favorite Blues players and mimicked their technique. Bear in mind, if I had not had the experience and results of laying the foundation of accurate and timely bends then I would not have had the ear for what my favorite artists were doing, much less the finger control to reproduce it.

Then I needed work on my pick attack. I think much of the “feel” in guitar music comes from the pick attack, which varies a bit from one guitar player to another, and from one style to another. Pick attack is a very personal part of musicality, but there are certain universal aspects of pick technique that enable good playing … proper pick hold, strong articulation, accurate timing, playing to the song, etc.. Again, without the pick technique foundations you will not have control to apply the subtleties that make for true self-expression.

It is also important to understand that no matter how well you have developed your technique, if you do not resonate with what you hear coming from the guitar then you are not going to be able to play with maximum feel. Self-expression is ultimately a sort of dance between you and your guitar, transcending technique. Technique must be something that is done and out of the way, but you also must enjoy and be moved by your guitar’s tone to get the most out of your playing. If you are not sure what your tonal preference is, just listen to your favorite guitarist and start tweaking your tone towards that. Much like overall musicality, tone development is not a once-done event, but rather a process. The sooner you get started the sooner you will find a tone that compels you rather than hinders you, and then you continually tweak from there as your ear and tastes develop.

Now let us consider a more subtle aspect of music that you must be aware of to avoid undue frustrations with your playing. If you want to play with feel, you must play music that you truly feel! As an example, I am never going to play highly expressive solos in certain styles such as progressive metal, jazz, or bluegrass flatpicking, because I do not really resonate with these styles. This is not because I have any contempt for them or those who play them, but they do not move me as do Blues and Classic Rock. This does not mean that I can not play anything at all over these styles, but my best playing will always happen when I am playing along with Blues or Classic Rock or their close cousins. So if for instance you are attending my group classes, you may not really resonate with all of the variety of songs I use for these since I need to appeal to the tastes and abilities of a broad audience. So, if you find that your solos are coming out somewhat lifeless in these situations, realize that this does not mean you are failing at guitar. Always strive to improve your overall skills of course, and recognize that sometimes being a musician means playing what suits others rather than just yourself. At the same time, recognize that you are never going to be able to get into the “zone” while playing music that does not really stir you up inside. That is perfectly normal, even for pros. (If you take a moment to think about it you will notice that most highly regarded guitarists are known for excellence in only one very narrow range of style.)

Likewise, when playing open jams, playing with a friend, or being put on the spot by someone who knows you are taking lessons asking you play for them, realize that you are not going to do your best playing in these situations, so don’t judge your skills by how you perform under these conditions. Open jams are notorious for including musicians who are not well developed enough to keep good time. You can not feel the music when one or more instruments of the rhythm section is out of time, and you can not resolve phrases properly when a chord change you are expecting is early, late, or just wrong. When you get put on the spot with no warm up you are not going to be able to play as well as after you have had thirty minutes or an hour of playing behind you. The best thing to do with these types of situations is to avoid them. If you wish to play open jams then just play rhythm as best you can and see if the general level of musicianship is going to allow for good soloing with feel, before attempting to cut loose with your best chops. If someone pulls out a guitar from a closet and asks you to show them what you’ve got, tell them you are going to show them some Hendrix first and then smash the guitar over their head. If you are attempting to play in a band and the group is not in good time with one another (i.e., “tight), then do not expect your best playing to happen with this group unless and until they get it together.

Finally, we need to strike a balance between technique development and making music. In answer to a question like “how much technique development do I need to invest my limited time in”, I respond, “rough rule of thumb for a hobbyist, about 20% more than you need to play the music you want to play”. For instance, if you wish to play Blues and Classic Rock, then you do not need to invest a lot of time in cultivating sweep arpeggios to 1000 notes per minute, but you should work on speeding up pentatonic scales and licks to 20% past the speed that you will use them in live playing. This gives you a buffer to offset stage fright, distracting anomalies in the rhythm section, etc, such that you have more than enough control to listen well and play with feel at the speeds you really need, even under these imperfect conditions.

So … if you have been thinking that “feel is more important than technique”, try doing some spirited sport driving with the tires removed from your wheels. After you get out of the hospital get back to metronome practice, and lot’s of it. 😉

 

Overcoming Overwhelm

If you are new to guitar, or especially if you have been playing for a while then you may already be acquainted with the vaguely uncomfortable feeling that there is a long road ahead and you are not sure you can see the destination. If you have attempted any kind of lesson program you have surely observed that there does not seem to be any one clear thing or few things that you can do to get the results you seek. Maybe you have sensed that there are a LOT of things you need to accomplish. If you are currently involved in a program of instruction, you may have a pile of those things on your desk right now.

As with other impediments to eventual success with music, this feeling is quite normal. Once you get deep enough into this to realize how much is involved with fluent guitar playing, it is easy to become awed by the amount of information to learn and tasks to work through. You may then conclude something like this … “I am not able to do this”, or “I could possibly do this, but I do not have the time”. Then the next logical step is, of course ….giving up.

So let’s consider how we get stuck in this trap and then how we can avoid it, or work around it. The first thing we need to know about overwhelm is this – it is a state of mind, not an objective reality. Particularly, it is a feeling … a feeling that we are not up to the job ahead of us. It is also a false feeling. Unfortunately, there is enough of reality inspiring this feeling that it may be difficult to see the falsehood in it. Let’s put on our reality glasses and take another look at this self-defeating false feeling of doom.

The Facts: The first thing we need to do is address the truth – that learning to play an instrument well is a big task. Although I am a proponent of “positive thinking” to a reasonable extent, a positive attitude does not change the immediate reality of things. We can sit all day and think positive thoughts about being a great musician. Other than a fleeting feeling of self-satisfaction, this will accomplish nothing unless we allow this positive framework to motivate sustained action toward a specific goal. A positive outlook combined with focused action will indeed yield impressive results, possibly far beyond what we would have thought ahead of time. So, let’s start by rejecting the sense of doom and replacing it with a positive outlook that we are indeed potentially capable musicians. Let us also combine that mental framework with the willingness to do some work toward our goals.

Properly Balanced Perspective: Second, let’s narrow down our goals to something realistic. Let us not go to either extreme. One extreme might be what I call the “moon child”. In other words, shooting for the moon. Example, “I’m 38 years old, know three chords, work sixty hours a week, have a wife and three kids, and I want to play like Eddie Van Halen within 18 months of dusting off my old high school guitar”. Here is another example that I see routinely in my pre-enrollment interviews, “I want to be able to play expertly in any style from classical to progressive rock and everything in between” (have you ever taken note that well known accomplished guitarists only play in one very narrow range of style?) The other extreme might be, “Since I can’t play like Joe Satriani my playing is worthless”. Really? Try telling that to B.B. King – one of the most acclaimed guitarists who has ever lived, who made a long, lucrative career and legacy out of simple repetitive blues licks.

So let’s face some facts – some goals are completely off the chart unrealistic, and some goals are simply not appropriate for some persons. On the other hand some folks go to the other extreme and assume that ANY goal is beyond their reach. Here is the balance of truth in the middle of the extremes – there is plenty of fun to be had with guitar at skill levels within the reach of the average person. If you set a goal that is out of proportion to the amount of time you can and will invest into guitar, that is a set up from day one for overwhelm. If you give in to overwhelm at the slightest appearance of difficulty, you are robbing yourself and others of the great satisfaction to yourself and others that comes from you expressing yourself well with an instrument. Let’s avoid both extremes. Balance is the key.

Effective Goals: So what is a realistic goal? That is of course going to vary greatly from person to person according to any number of factors. We can look here at some of the common factors. It is very important to pick a range of style to focus on. For instance, classical guitar is a very different approach to guitar than rock. It is unlikely that anyone, and particularly a hobbyist, is going to achieve great things in both of these styles. Even professional musicians tend to focus on one style. So pick the one you like most – the one that has the most songs that you enjoy hearing. In doing so you have eliminated a great deal of material that you need to bother with learning.

Now let’s narrow it down some more. For instance, within the Blues style, we have a number of even more specific styles …. Delta Blues (acoustic slide), Chicago Blues (low gain electric guitar), Texas Blues (medium gain electric guitar with a rock flavor). If you want to play Texas Blues, you do not need to master alternate tunings for acoustic slide guitar. So you see, when you narrow down your goal, you eliminate a LOT of material that you would be wasting time to pursue. This does not mean you are permanently eliminating the possibility of playing songs from any other style. Contrarily, learning to play well in one style will undoubtedly leave you potentially much more capable to approach other styles with better results, especially closely related styles such as Blues and Rock.

Ok, so we have narrowed things down to where we can see some outer limits to what we have to accomplish to reach our goal. There is still a lot left to do. So how do we look at all this and avoid a sense of doom? Very simple. There is an old adage I am fond of repeating to my clients: How do you eat an Elephant? One bite at a time. Rather than look at a whole body of knowledge and tasks with awe and overwhelm, we break the project into parts that we can manage and set up a plan to start building up fluency in each of a number of targeted areas.

If you have been at this for a while you have probably accumulated a lot of material and it becomes practically impossible to study all of it routinely. So what do you do? You have to look at your short term goals and see what material will help you reach those goals. If you have material that is not pertinent to your short term goals, set it aside for now and focus on things that are directly relevant to the closest goals. For instance, if your near term goal is ability to play pop rock solos, you do not need to practice exotic scales and diminished arpeggios. Focus on pentatonic scales, embellishments, and phrasing. The more advanced materials can wait until you have mastered the basic stuff to an extent that you can yield more practice time to exploring new ideas.

Essentially the problem of overwhelm yields to these things: positive attitude combined with positive action, goal-oriented organization, and targeted elimination of non-essentials. Push aside incapacitating thoughts. Replace them with enthusiastic action. Organize your practice time and materials around your near term goals. Eliminate (for now) those things that do not contribute to these goals.

Finally, as with all things guitar, practice well and often!

 

Finding the Right Guitar Teacher for YOU!

By Chad Crawford, PMI Blues/Classic Rock Guitar Instructor

Imagine this plan for buying car: call the two or three dealerships nearest your house, find the cheapest car available on these lots, and buy that one without  any further consideration.  Does this seem like a good plan to you? I hope not! And yet, this is how many folks approach the search for music instruction. If you are one of these then I hope to persuade you that music instruction, just like cars, comes in many levels of quality, features, and cost. You need to know something of how to find the right teacher for you before you even begin looking for a guitar teacher!

So let’s take another look at the car analogy. How do we know what car to buy? Well first of all, we know that however much it is going to cost this is going to be more than we want to spend, so we may as well put that aside for the moment. We start with what we need in a vehicle. If we need to carry four or five people routinely, we need a large sedan. If we need to carry four or five people AND a bunch of equipment pertaining to extracurricular activities for the kids, we need an SUV. If the need is for general purpose cargo hauling, then of course we need a truck. Towing a boat? We need a big motor. No boat? More concerned with fuel economy? Then a smaller motor is in order. We pick the vehicle FIRST, before even considering where to buy or how much to pay.

Once we know the vehicle we need, we might do a bit of research on the web, ask some friends, etc., to find what brand and type are most reliable. Then we find out the nearest places we can find such a vehicle. Only then do we go looking for an actual example of the vehicle on a lot somewhere … not necessarily only the closest lot to home. Why not the closest lot? Because the closest lot may not have the car that most closely matches all of our goals and preferences, and of course at this point we are looking for a car that we can afford!

So then, the final decision is the result of a balance of multiple considerations. And so it should be with a wise choice pertaining to selecting a good guitar teacher. You are going to spend a year or three or five of your life with your guitar teacher, and hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars. Is it wise to make such a life-impacting decision with no forethought? It is conceivable that one by sheer luck could go the closest music shop, pick the cheapest teacher, and end up with the best possible teacher for them. It is also conceivable to win the lottery. The odds are about the same for both scenarios.
What are the steps for identifying a good guitar teacher?

As a beginner or early intermediate guitarist you may have difficulty discerning if a particular teacher is the right one for you. The right teacher for you may be different at varying stages of your progress. The idea is here is to eliminate the ones you KNOW are not right, and then make an informed guess as to which one will be the most appropriate for your goals and other pertinent considerations. By following the steps below you will greatly increase your odds of correctly identifying the right teacher for you early on, and avoid wasting precious time and money with a poor match.

Step 1. Know the facts: Not all teachers are the same. Some teachers are mediocre, some are great, and most are in between. Not all good players are good teachers. A music degree does not automatically make for a good music teacher. Cost is certainly a factor for all of us in considering any kind of financial investment. However, as with most any other investment, generally you will get what you pay for. If a mediocre teacher charges you half the price of a good teacher, but it takes you four or five times as long to reach your goals, you have come out  behind both financially and in terms of your guitar skills. Likewise, if the closest teacher to your house is not the right teacher for you, the few minutes of driving time you save per trip will be swallowed up in the extra months or possibly years it takes to reach your goals.

It is very important to remember here that you are looking for a person at this point – not a location or a price. We will come back to cost and location later. Learning an instrument takes a lot of time and money. You do not have time to waste with a mediocre teacher, and if you are like most folks you do not have money to throw away either. If you have to pay more per lesson and/or drive somewhat  farther to get a good teacher who can get you results, do it!

Step 2. Define your goals: You need to know what your end goals are before you go looking for a teacher to help you reach them. The guitar is a very versatile instrument. A classical style guitar is very different from a heavy rock guitar. The physical techniques AND knowledge required to play them well are very different. Just like most other areas of human endeavor, you may have some interest in a wide range of specifics, but you will only be able to excel in ONE of these areas. Identify the style of music that you most enjoy and want to be able to play well. You will need a teacher who knows how to develop the knowledge and physical skills specific to this style.  There is some overlap between styles, such as Blues and Classic Rock. However, if you want to excel at bluegrass flat picking, a heavy rock oriented player/teacher is not going to be your best choice.

You also need to consider how far you want to go with guitar. Hobbyist, pro, or something in between? If your goal is campfire hobbyist with just enough skills to carry simple folk tunes, then the average Joe teacher at the closest shop might work for you. If your goal is at the other end of the spectrum, then you need an experienced teacher with a strong grounding in music theory and performance.

Step 3: Seek out the teachers in your general area that appear to be a match for your goals. This does not need to take six months, but it need not be confined to a day or two either. Yellow pages blurbs often have very little information, often only an address and phone number. You may have to make a number of phone calls, and ask a number of your musically experienced friends who they recommend. Many teachers now have personal web sites that you can examine for clues as to whether they are a match for your goals.

Most importantly, try to get an interview with the teacher before investing in any lessons with them. You can do this by phone, but a face to face interview is best. A personal interview is a chance for you to perceive your potential teacher’s personality and character. In addition to your guitar-specific goals, you will need a teacher who you enjoy, respect, and trust. At first your lessons are going to be exciting and fun, but there WILL come a time when it starts to get challenging. If you do not like your teacher and do not trust his or her competence as a teacher, it is going to be hard for you to stay motivated to keep showing up for lessons when you run into the inevitable frustrations.

Step 4: Interview your prospective teacher.  Now, let me qualify this. There is no need to approach a potential instructor with a cold list of demands. When I say “interview”, I do not mean as if you are questioning a suspect. I simply mean to ask some pertinent questions of your potential teacher within the context of a friendly conversation. Here are the things you want to find out …

What styles do they teach? If circumstance permit, inquire of this before you share what kind of style you are interested in learning. You are looking for someone who plays and teaches in a style that is the same or closely related to the style you want to learn. If the answer is “I teach all styles”, find another teacher. Be careful with this. If you call a music shop or school and ask this question, they may answer, “All styles”. For a shop or school, it may well be that they have multiple teachers who specialize in various styles. In this case, you need to try to get an interview with the teacher who is most specialized in your style.

What kind of person are you dealing with? This is a more subtle criteria without cut & dry identifiers. What you are looking for is a person who is genuinely interested in you as a person and is internally motivated toward helping you reach your goals – a person with a “teacher’s heart”.  To illustrate this kind of instinctive measure, I refer you back to your school teachers and athletic coaches. You probably remember some who you knew really cared about you and your success, and some who didn’t. Which teachers and coaches got the best results from you and for you? If your potential teacher is cold, acts as if you are a bother to their busy schedule, or as if your questions are insulting and irritating, you will know this is a person who does not have a teacher’s heart. Find someone else.

At the risk of being a bit redundant and tedious, let me tell you that I can NOT overemphasize how important this is! You may not care so much about how your teacher feels about your progress and results. But you do want the results. That is what it boils down to for you: one with a teacher’s heart will be passionate about your results. Driven by this passion, they do what it takes to become effective at teaching, and you reap the rewards of this effort. I have had guitar instructors with true teacher’s hearts, and others who were lacking in this vital element of effective teaching. The difference in results is exponential.

Organized, structured program of instruction. Sadly, many guitar teachers have no idea what they are going to teach you until you sit down in front of them every week. You want a teacher who utilizes organized reference material such as a recognized teaching manual, proven method, their own custom course, or a combination of these, as well as a means for tracking your progress.. You do NOT want a teacher who is going to passively let you tell them what to teach you. A teacher like that is only interested in one thing – collecting your tuition for as long as possible. If you knew what you needed to learn and how to learn it, you would not need a teacher. A good teacher will strike a balance between your short term goals and their greater expertise as to what you need to know. You want a teacher who will push you to learn and consistently utilize proper physical technique, help you set up a practice schedule, help you identify & reach short & long term goals, etc.

Considerate of your goals. There are many guitar teachers out there who couldn’t care less about your goals. They just want to want to get paid for playing & talking about themselves and guitar. They are pretty easy to spot … most of the time you spend with them consists of you listening to them play. A potential teacher should in fact ask you some questions … your previous experience, your current skill set, and your goals. The focus of your time with any instructor should be on YOUR SKILLS, not theirs. Of course they will need to demonstrate things for you, but the general focus of your time should be on improving your skills, not showcasing their own.

Trained to teach. Teaching is a complex art form entirely separate from musical expertise. There are some people who are naturally gifted at communications and this lends itself well to teaching. You may be able to find a good guitar teacher who has not had any specific training in teaching. However, your odds of finding a good teacher are higher if you can find someone who has specific training in teaching as well as good musical abilities. Your odds are even better if you can find someone who has specific training in teaching guitar.

Finally … you will want to inquire about costs. Be sure that you find out not only the costs of the lessons, but the costs associated with any books or other required materials, such as a metronome.

Step 5: Weigh your options and make a decision. You now know the locations and prices of a number of teachers who appear to be qualified as a good teacher for you. You will have various impressions of the various teachers and probably have an order of preference as to which ones you would most like to work with. Now it is up to you to balance these preferences against costs, driving time, and how important it is to you to reach your guitar goals compared to other things you could do with your time & money.

Work hard and stick with it until you win. It is worth it. Best wishes for your success!

The author of this article will be very interested in discussing your interest in the guitar during a free no-obligation interview with you. Click HERE to schedule an appointment.

 

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