1- What is a perfect age to start playing guitar?
2- What types/styles of guitar lessons do we offer?
3- What type/style of guitar is the best one to start with?
4- Which of the guitar types is easiest/most difficult to play?
5- Should I learn tab or proper music notation?
6- Is the Classical Guitar strictly for playing classical music?
7- What distinguishes the Classical Guitar technique?
8- What if the student and teacher's personalities don't mesh well or the student is dissatisfied?
9- How long will it take a student to be able to play?
10- How long a guitar lesson should a student sign up for?
11- Fingers or plectrum/pick playing style; which is the best one?
12- What kind of Guitar Method Books and other guitar equipment should a student purchase?
13- How much should a student practice?
14- Which guitar should a student buy?
A student should be six years of age or older to have private lessons. Playing the guitar requires a fair amount of fingertip pressure when pressing the strings. Children younger than six generally have smaller hands and will likely find playing to be uncomfortable or even painful to their fingers.
We offer three different types of guitar lessons:
> Classical Guitar/nylon-string
> Acoustic Guitar/steel-string
> Electric Guitar
A student who wants to learn to play the Classical Guitar needs a different instrument than one who wants to learn to play on a standard Acoustic Guitar. While they may appear somewhat alike, they are fretted in very different ways.
If your child or you are unsure about the guitar to select, a Coppell Conservatory teacher can help you reach a decision. It also helps to listen to a variety of guitar recordings showcasing the different styles such as rock, country, jazz, blues, folk, or classical guitar.
This is the most important question for every beginner. The guitar is such a versatile instrument that there are many different styles and methods of playing it. Classical, folk, rock, flamenco, and blues are just some of the classifications of guitar music that require very different methods, styles, skills, and even instruments. Most guitarists specialize in just one or two of these areas. (click here to read about the different types of guitar)
On the other hand, it's very useful to learn the basics of all the styles. It's a good idea to know how to read common notation (including classical guitar fingerings) and tablature notation, as well as chord charts, regardless of what style of guitar you normally play. If you can play a solo line, classical and jazz scales, as well as chord strumming and picking, this will make you a much more versatile instrumentalist.
The difficulty involved in playing either type of guitar depends entirely on how far the student wants to go with the instrument. It is comparatively easy to play simple chords or melodies using either guitar, but several years of serious study are required to become an accomplished guitarist using either one.
Proper music notation as we know it today is the result of several thousand years of attempts to place music on paper. Tab or tablature, while still used in historic reprints of music for the lute, etc., does not offer the best set of tools for conveying music. The great majority of music offered the classical guitarist is provided in formal music notation, i.e. notes on staves.
Learning proper musical notation is the recommended procedure for anyone wishing to play anything beyond the simplest of folk songs. At Coppell Conservatory, we teach our students to be literate, i.e., in addition to the Technique (how to play the guitar), we also cover theory, notes, notations, rhythm, counting, etc. In addition, we offer a Musicianship for Strings to all guitar students who wish to advance as fast and as far as they can.
Several guitar note spellers are also available; these workbooks will assist you or your child in learning to read music and each note’s place on the guitar. (Note: Classical guitar music is written on only the treble or upper staff, and is pitched an octave off the written notation.)
The expression “Classical Guitar” does not imply that the instrument is just for classical music. It is applied to the instrument itself because it has its origins in the first rank of instruments and not from any specific association with a particular type of music; in other words it is a classic.
A classical guitarist plays by plucking the strings with his right hand fingers and thumb; strumming is a special effect, and no pick is ever used. There are other recommendations on the general posture of the body and guitar for classical guitarists that distinguish the technique from others.
The length of a private lesson depends of each student’s guitar playing experience, age, and practicing ability during the lesson. We recommend setting up an evaluation appointment to determine the optimum lesson length. There is no cost for this.
Typically, we suggest a half-an-hour private lesson for young beginners. As they progress, at the advice of the teacher, they can advance to a 45-minute session. For older or intermediate guitar students, a 45-minute lesson is recommended. A lesson will cover not only the technical and theoretical aspects of guitar playing, but also a repertoire improvement. For guitarists who play at the advanced level, a 60-minute lesson would be ideal.
A student should first decide what type of guitar to use. Typically, a common way to play an Electric Guitar is the pick style. However, some of the Electric Guitar techniques require a minimum understanding of the finger ability to play. A 50/50 approach (mixing) is useful for Acoustic Guitar technique. A finger style is the only one used for the Classical Guitar.
We encourage students to schedule an evaluation appointment with one of our instructor who would offer recommendations regarding what equipment and/or materials to buy or rent. Coppell Conservatory provides the necessary books as a courtesy, so that the student will not have to locate them at a bookstore.
If a student prefers to use an old book, which he/she has from prior guitar lessons, we recommend showing it to the instructor so that he may be able to determine the best way to develop the student’s further skills.
Generally, a beginner should practice 20 to 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. For young students, practicing is much more effective if a parent supervises the session. The instructor usually assigns beginners a requisite number of repetitions instead of a designated amount of time. We have found this to be more effective with younger children; they tend to respond better to repetition.
With advanced or older students we recommend that they practice as much as they can. It is important to practice correctly and not just play. While playing is fun, a student will progress faster and ultimately will enjoy it more, sooner.
It’s important to note that:
> The learning process should not be rushed; it takes time to experience the thrill of truly learning how to play an instrument.
> As with any worthwhile accomplishment, learning to play the guitar requires dedication, time, and effort.
> Students should give themselves time to “grow” to the guitar; this is a gradual process. Students, who try to speed the process by attempting to learn the difficult parts of technique without properly gradually developing, will find learning the guitar an arduous task, and will soon dislike it.
> The most productive and positive effort is the one put toward establishing good practice habits and applying them regularly.
> The speed of a student's progress depends, to a great extent, on the amount of daily practice. It takes time to develop the mind and muscles for playing this responsive instrument effectively. So, please be patient.
> Student should derive pleasure out of knowing that they have studied and practiced well, and are becoming acquainted with one of the most beautiful and personal of instruments.
For the beginner we suggest arranging an appointment with one of our guitar instructors in order to best assess the appropriate size, type, and style of playing.
If the student already has a guitar (any type), it will be good to bring it, so a teacher can inspect it and determine whether it is appropriate for the lessons or a new one should be purchased.
If you are not unsure or have doubts about whether you or your child will want to pursue further guitar lessons and do not wish to spend the money to buy a new guitar, Coppell Conservatory has a limited number of Classical guitars for rent; please contact our office for details on the rental contract.
We recommend against the purchase of a guitar that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars. On the other hand, cheap guitars are just that. In general, the guitar should be solid with no loose parts inside; shaking the guitar gently will give you an indication.
Do not buy a steel string guitar and replace the strings with nylon ones. There are two main reasons: Classical guitars are less rigid than steel strung ones, allowing the strings to increase the vibration of the wood and thus produce better sound quality; and steel string guitars tend to have necks which vary in width.
After some months or years of practice, the particular tonality of a guitar will become important so a student may want to spend more money to buy one that best suits him/her. It is important for the student to take an experienced person with him/her when shopping for a new instrument; a teacher or a friend who has been playing guitar for several years. Instructors can also direct the student to the best guitar shops where they can find the best prices, or put them in touch with other students who may be willing to sell their guitars because they are upgrading to a more advanced instrument. (click here to read about the different types of guitar)