Here is where I'll try to give answers to any
questions that come up often from people about my music
lessons and anything connected with them. If you have
any that are not addressed here or elsewhere on the
site, feel free to email or call
me with them, and I will add them to this list in
case others may have the same questions in the future. NOTE:
most references herein to local music stores
are intended for people living in the metro Atlanta,
That's okay- you don't have to. I start every student
out with "the basics"- what I feel every musician should
know about music in general and their instrument in
particular. I assume no prior knowledge, even if you
have had lessons before (see "I took
lessons before..." and "I have taken
music lessons from another teacher already...").
Once we're past the basics, there is an endless list of
intermediate to advanced topics we could discuss, and by
then you'll be a different player. At that point I
become less your teacher and more your coach, helping
you to sharpen and build on your skills. Some students
at that point just know the next song they want to
learn, and that's just fine.
Trust me, once you start gaining a little bit of skill and confidence as a result of your lessons, you'll start to see that the choices for where you can take that skill are endless. At that point it gets easier to see which are the paths you'd most like to follow, because you'll follow your own curiosity and interests. One person might lean toward soloing and improvisation, another might realize fingerpicking is where their interest lies, or even songwriting, or playing jazz or blues. And if you really don't know at that point, I can take you to the next logical step too. Think of it like driving- you have to learn to drive first, then you get comfortable with it, then you use it for practical purposes, and then one day you might take out a map for a road trip and say "where do I want to go?" So think of me as your driving instructor!
In any case, we'll be learning one song and step at a time, so by the time you figure out any specific goals, you'll already have something to show for your time. Although I can help you reach your goals if you have any specific ones, you can feel confident I know where to take you when you show up to the lessons with your instrument and an open mind.
Even if you have taken lessons before, I start at
square one and never assume any prior knowledge on your
part. This way you'll get a good review of the things
you might have learned before (even if it was decades
ago- it all goes in there somewhere!), and we will fill
in any gray areas you might have missed. You may find
that you pick up on it quicker the second time around!
In any case, I review often, and don't like to go on to
the next concept until I'm sure you've pretty much got
the one before it.
Absolutely. All I ask is that you tell me your specific
goals and intentions from the beginning so I know how to
plan ahead and approach coaching you through it. If
you're a self-motivated musician, you probably have
somewhat of a game plan of your own already, and I can
work with that. I will usually examine your playing
style to see if there are any deficiencies or bad habits
that are keeping you from reaching any goals you have
tried to reach but have had trouble with, and coach you
through eliminating the obstacles in your way. Not only
have I taught students who have come to me for a
particular topic or to get them past a plateau, but I
have also had students take with me until they achieved
a personal goal, then took a break, and then called me
months later when they had another goal they couldn't
achieve on their own.
I can also teach you any new subject you are interested in teaching yourself but haven't been able to figure out which point to start at. There is a wealth of information out there for the self-taught student, but there is also loads of information that you don't really need to know, and sifting through all this information to reach a specific goal can be very frustrating and time consuming. As I tell my students, you basically hire me to get you to your goals on the fast track and cut through all the unnecessary information you don't really need, and point you straight at the destination you're trying to reach.
I can also help any self-taught student create an overall plan if they find they have reached a plateau or feel as if they're making no more forward movement. In this case I can provide game plans, help them develop a better and more productive practice regimen, show them how to use skill-intensive tools (such as a metronome or phrase looper), and provide exercises specifically designed to get them closer to their goals in less time.
Sure! When you pay me for lessons, you are paying for
two things: the time slot and for music lessons.
Although I can teach "guitar lessons" or "voice
lessons", I think of them all as music lessons in
general, and what you want to learn in that time is up
to you. If you have a specific combination of skills you
want to achieve (such as singing and playing an
instrument), we can custom design the lessons to your
We can also change instruments to keep things interesting or try out others to see if you pick up on one more easily than another before you decide on what path you should take in the long term. If you want to learn piano for a while, and then guitar for a while, I'm fine with that- you can hire me to be your personal musical tour guide and get you musically where you want to be. You can even change instruments or styles from week to week. For example, some of my guitar students love rock and country, so I might teach them rock technique for a while, then acoustic skills next. Or we can switch to another instrument as a fun break from your main instrument now and then.
It obviously goes without saying that the longer time you spend on one instrument, the better you will be at that instrument or specific skill, so you don't want to spread yourself too thin. However, learning another instrument in moderation can actually make you a much more well-rounded musician, and can even make you better at your main instrument! For example, a guitarist learning piano can learn more about chord construction and orchestration. A vocal student learning an instrument can learn about precise scale proportions to help them sing more accurately, or to accompany themselves with an instrument (click here for more about voice). A piano player learning bass guitar can learn more about chord roots and more tricks for their left hand to play. I can personally vouch for this- how do you think I got to the point where I could play and teach so many instruments? So feel free to bring up your interest to me in another instrument or skill- we can make time for it!
Absolutely not- I have taught adults as old as 75! You
can definitely learn to play or sing no matter how old
you are, but the method of my teaching is different,
just like the method you learn with in your adult years
is not the same as when you were younger. There is a
catch, however: when we're young, we have lots of free
time but not as much focus as when we're older. When
we're older, we have learned how to focus well, but
usually have no free time left! So when I teach adults,
I adjust to the fact that they have a life outside of
music lessons (wife/ husband/ boy/girl-friend, kids,
full-time job, mortage, car payment, etc.) and are most
likely there for fun personal reasons unless they
specify otherwise. Therefore, I don't put pressure on
any student to "produce product" unless they request a
definite game plan or homework to focus them on their
goals, and I keep the emphasis on fun and personal
rewards. See "What
is your policy on practice?".
I like kids, and have taught many throughout my
teaching career. However, I have found over time that I
just do not have the specific skillset that is required
to teach children effectively. I have been teaching long
enough to know my strengths and weaknesses, and it has
taken a long time for me to realize this is one of my
weak spots. Teaching kids takes a completely different
mindset than I have. Showing them new concepts and
skills through games, fun challenges, and homework takes
a specialized list of skills (not to mention unique
talent!) that I feel is better left to other teachers. I
have found that around the age of 10 is when most
children start becoming more independent and goal
oriented, and know more what they want. I definitely
like to keep the emphasis on fun in my lessons, but my
specialties lie with teenagers, young adults, and adults
who naturally respond better to a more focused, "brass
tacks", practical approach to learning their instrument.
The difference, I've found, is with the student knowing what they like. First, (for my teaching style) a student must know what songs and artists he or she likes. Some people have trouble listing off their favorite artists, bands, or musical genres when put on the spot, but find with a little thought that this list can be quite extensive. In my teaching style the use of songs and styles as goals is very important because it is a built-in, self-rewarding process when a student achieves those goals. But if a student has no idea what songs or musical styles they like, there are no goals or material I can work with and hold forward as a goal. If you're not sure if your son or daughter fits this criteria, give me a call or email and I'd be happy to discuss it with you and give you any recommendations I feel would work best for him or her. Also, feel free to contact me if you are looking for a teacher who is more skilled and trained at teaching younger children, and I can personally recommend some teachers I know and can vouch for in the area.
I have taught several students who have used learning
the guitar as the "product", topic, or goal in their
high school senior project. Some students have just used
the general skill of learning to play as their product,
while others have learned a specific song or style, or
even created a historic retrospective of playing styles.
I can help narrow down a practical and reachable goal or
subject for the student's project, and develop a game
plan for those goals. Different schools have different
requirements, so I am familiar with the processes of
signing and filling out progress reports, taking
pictures with the student inside our teaching area for
proof of attendance, and writing letters if needed to
the student's "project managers" or teachers for a
variety of reasons. I have even had a few students
continue with lessons long after their project is
finished because they liked the feeling of achieving
If you have any questions about your senior project and if you think this might be a good goal for you, contact me and I'd be happy to answer your questions or help you come up with a focus or project we can work toward in the lessons. Also, keep in mind I offer a free 30 minute trial lesson to anyone who asks- we could use this time for a consultation about your goals, and to see if you think this is a good idea for a project.
I have no problem teaching a left-handed player with a
left-handed guitar. In fact, "lefties" are actually easier
for me to teach as a right-handed teacher. The reason is
that when I teach a right-handed student, we face each
other, and our guitar necks are pointing in opposite
directions, so there is a reverse mirror image of the
actions I make that they have to mimic on their
instrument. But when I teach a lefty (with a left-handed
guitar), there is a perfect mirror image look to our
guitar necks, and it is a little easier for the student
to visualize what they need to do by watching my hands.
So my teaching you is not a problem. That being said,
the focus here should be on you as a lefty. So there are
several pros and cons to consider for yourself if you
purchase a "left handed" guitar:
If you are a self-motivated player, you have to be a
little obsessed with your instrument to make it work for
you. In other words, you have to push through all the
obstacles and difficulties that get in your way (not
knowing where to start, picking up bad habits, finding a
zillion different viewpoints on the same subject, etc.)
with sheer stubbornness, willpower, and determination.
It will be a longer journey, but if you're focused, you
can get there. My selling point is basically that I can
get you there on the "fast track"- I can skip past all
the stuff you don't need to know that would waste your
time and help you get straight to your goals, while
teaching you all the important information you do need
to know that you may or may not stumble upon on your
own. Think of it this way- if you want to get in shape
you can buy weights, hit the gym, and push yourself to
exercise through sheer will, but a personal trainer will
push you harder than you ever will on your own, get you
to your goals faster, and encourage you along the way
more effectively than you can alone, all because they
are trained to do so.
That being said, there is a wealth of resources thanks to the internet that will help you teach yourself. You can find websites with free tablature, chord diagrams, scales, and theory lessons as a great reference, but these all assume you know how to use them and understand the basics, so you should start by looking for the absolute basics. I recommend starting with YouTube. Try a search using the terms "free lessons [your instrument] absolute beginner". Some are professional, others are very amateur. Some are really good lessons, others are just plain bad. Some are demos that are just examples of a person's teaching style, others are robust lessons that are truly free. There are a few problems with these videos. One is finding the one that suits your thinking style. You may find two different videos that explain the same exact topic- one may make you scratch your head and think "what the heck is he talking about?" while the other might make you say "aha- got it!" So you may have to go through several videos before you find one that works for you. Also, videos cannot correct your mistakes, so you're likely to pick up bad habits along the way without even realizing it. These bad habits can slow you down in the long run, but can fortunately be overcome with a little education and effort.
As far as books go, I personally would not recommend only using books as your first step. In the past, books used to be the best option, but technology has provided us with many more choices. I say go with the videos. Music is a hearing art, and the visual medium is best suited to the skills it takes to learn to play an instrument. After learning from some videos, you can then be better informed about how to approach the books (if you even feel you need to at that point). Some instructional books even come packaged with DVD or CD audio lessons as a supplement to the book, and I can definitely recommend these, as you know they are usually high quality and are designed to be a companion to the book.
For those of you wondering why I'm giving away free info on how to teach yourself on a site that is designed to promote my lesson services, consider the following: Teaching yourself usually brings up more questions sometimes than it answers, so some students find that I can take them to that next level at some point. Also, self-taught students have usually gotten past the initial rough spots on their own so they're usually easier for me to teach in spite of bad habits they may have picked up. And lastly, if a student can teach themselves well on their own power, then lessons can potentially help them after a certain point when they hit any plateaus in their self-development. This was my story- I taught myself for about two years, got frustrated with hitting a brick wall in my learning, and started taking guitar lessons. I made such fast gains at that point that I got hooked and started following it as a career!
I'd say that depends on several factors. Most people
tend to think that because an acoustic guitar has less
knobs, switches, and electronic parts that it is easier
and better to start with, but the opposite is actually
true. Also, most people tend to think that an electric
guitar is naturally louder because they are used to the
image of an electric guitar taking the paint off the
walls with its loudness, but keep in mind that the
volume knob of an amplifier can go the other way too.
Here are some things to consider about acoustic vs.
This is a deep subject that can fill more than a few
pages, but the best thing I can recommend is to have a
guitar player you trust along with you to check out the
instruments you are considering buying. Here are some of
the most important factors and advice to consider:
The concept is pretty cool, but there are several
factors to consider: Electric guitars can barely make
any sound until they are amplified electrically, so they
require an amplifier to begin with. Acoustics,
however, carry their own amplifier with them- the hollow
acoustic chamber of the guitar body. Usually this is
plenty loud enough for any player, as well as anyone
else in the immediate vicinity, to hear the guitar in a
relatively quiet environment. Most acoustic-electrics
have an on-board tuner, built in to the control section,
but you can download a free iPhone or Android app to do
the same thing.
Beyond that, consider that the only practical reason you'd buy an acoustic-electric is to then purchase an additional amplifier for the purpose of playing for small or large crowds or to be able to be heard in a loud band or group onstage. An acoustic-electric is usually a little more expensive since it takes more craftsmanship and time to make, while a simple acoustic (without any electronics or electric output) is usually cheaper. If you buy a straight acoustic guitar, you also have the option of buying an after-market soundhole pickup that slides right into place easily and has a cable leading to whatever amplifier you want to use. So I recommend going with a straight, simple acoustic unless you plan on playing in a praise and worship group at your church, in a band of your own, or performing at coffee shops or other relatively loud or large venues where amplification is a requirement.
The answer to this one is kind of "zen": you have to
find out which instrument you're best for, not which
instrument is best for you. Just because you like the
sound and personality of an instrument doesn't mean you
will pick it up quickly, regardless of your enthusiasm
level for that instrument. So unfortunately, the only
way to find out what instrument is the right one for you
is to try each one for a little while and see which one
you pick up the fastest and easiest. Obviously this is a
simple thing to do if money were not a factor, but most
of us don't have that luxury. The best tactic I can
recommend is to tell friends or family members who own
these instruments about your plans to try them out and
narrow them down, and borrow the instruments until you
see which one is best.
I have become convinced after years of playing that some people are guitar people, others are piano people, others are drum people, and on and on with each instrument. Anybody can pick up something on almost any instrument, but some people are just wired to understand certain instruments over others because of how their head works. Years ago I taught guitar lessons to two girls who were good friends- one scheduled right after the other. One progressed quickly forward while the other seemed to struggle along slowly with small gains. For almost a year it was as if she took a step back for every two she made forward. She loved the guitar and was determined to see it through to make it work, but was also frustrated at seeing her friend make more progress than her, and with less work. One day I said: "let's try something new for fun", and gave her a basic piano lesson. By the end of the lesson she was playing the chords of one of her favorite songs. I I told her: " I have good news and bad news for you. Good news: you're a natural piano player. Bad news: you're not a natural guitar player. You can struggle upstream with your weaknesses, or float downstream with your strengths."
So, regardless of how you find a way to experiment, the only real way to know which one is the best instrument for you is to get each one in your hands and try it out until one works for you more than the other.
"Weighted" keys on an electronic keyboard simulate the
feel of a real piano by putting a slight resistance on
the keys as you push them down. While you might think
this would be a hindrance that makes you work harder, it
actually creates a pleasant leverage to the act of
pushing down on a keyboard key that most experienced
players prefer, and find it gives them a finer level of
control over the volume and attack of how they push
those keys down. However, this is a personal
preference that some experienced players develop
after some time playing. But your main concern right now
is learning the names of the keys, how to play chords,
proper hand position, rhythmic concepts, and a whole
list of other things that have nothing to do with
whether the keys are weighted or not.
So start at the beginning- get a hold of a cheap keyboard, then work your way up someday to a keyboard with weighted keys (or even a real piano) if you find it's something you or your son or daughter get rewards from and will stick with. Nothing is more disappointing and more of a waste of money than buying an expensive keyboard or piano, only to find it was a passing hobby, and to have to sell the keyboard on Craigslist or be left with an expensive piece of decorative piano "furniture". For what it's worth, if someday you find you really do want to buy a real piano after some experience and payoff, you might be surprised to know that you can usually find cheap pianos for sale locally for just those reasons (when someone else made an expensive and hasty investment for their child or themselves and ended up with expensive furniture).
For more perspective on this, see the first four points in the question "What should I look for when I'm buying a guitar?", and the point labelled "Ignore all the technical jargon that experienced guitarists use...", and just replace the points about guitars with keyboards. Also, see my page on piano and what I teach for more points that are good to know.
If you have a particular interest in one instrument, go
ahead and follow your curiosity and desire (If you can't
decide between several instruments, see "I'm
not sure what instrument I should go with!").
However, if your main goal is to just learn more about
notes, chords, melodies, and the like in order to become
a more well rounded drummer who can better understand
and communicate with other musicians, I personally
recommend keyboard as the instrument of
choice for several reasons:
My living situation has changed in such a way that I cannot teach out of my home anymore, and in-store lessons are just not cost-effective for me anymore, besides the fact that I taught at music stores for most of my career. Here are some things you should know about internet video lessons:
NO. You do NOT have to be able to read music to be a
good musician. I hope that clears that up. This is one
of the biggest and most misunderstood myths about being
a musician that people have. In fact, it has become such
a frequently asked question over the years that I made a
Youtube video about it- click here
to check it out. I do not normally offer
reading music to my students in my lessons unless they
specifically request it, and even then I make sure they
are going to be using it often so their time is
not wasted. Music is a hearing art. As such, it
requires several skills- a good ear to identify notes,
chords, and melodies, skill and dexterity at playing
your instrument, knowledge of chord names and shapes,
and at least a basic knowledge of musical structures and
theory to put it all in perspective. Certain instruments
lend themselves to needing the skill of reading music
more than others, but I am limiting this answer to any
fretted instrument, voice, and piano (after a certain
point piano needs some basic reading skill, but you do
not have to wait to acquire that skill before you start
to make music and have fun with it).
The ability to read music is a skill that comes at the bottom of that list of important requirements. Reading music is basically a method of communication and archiving for musicians in the same way that reading the printed word is a method of communication and archiving for our languages. Likewise, you should consider reading music to be like learning a new language. It takes a long time to learn to read and write the printed word. And like learning to speak a new language, it takes a long time to have any level of usable skill at reading music. One can still speak a language without needing to read it. Unlike learning to read a language, however, it is not absolutely necessary in everyday life except in particular circumstances and doesn't hinder you from making good music and enjoying yourself, or even building a great career at it. It all depends on what you want to do with your music. Consider this- as children, we learn to speak long before we learn to read. Language is an art of sound and diction, and the written word is just a way to put those sounds on paper, but doesn't hinder your ability to speak without it.
There are three main categories of musicians in terms of their schooling: those who are classically trained, those who are non-traditionally trained, and those who are a combination of the two. Classically trained musicians are normally trained to read music starting from the first lesson, and are told that they cannot play well until they learn to read music well. This is the predominating viewpoint among average people, because classically trained musicians go out of their way to propagate this view. Classically trained musicians can usually read music very well, but on average have no idea how to improvise, read chord charts, or make music using their ear unless it's written out on paper in music notation. Therefore, the average classically trained musician is usually limited to ONLY being able to read music (and not much else) because anything else is discouraged in the classical tradition. Non-traditionally trained musicians are trained to play music, improvise, and use their ear from the beginning in much the same way we're trained to speak a language first before reading it. After that, reading music, if they care to pursue it, is approached when they are already having fun with making music and playing their instrument. Most non-traditionally trained musicians read chord charts, some form of tablature, or use their ear as an alternative to reading standard notation whenever the written medium is involved.
I have been trained both classically and non-traditionally, so I have seen both sides of the story. I can read music, but I don't actually use it very often in my career. Due to my training, I have come to the conclusion that reading music is really only necessary in a few circumstances: if a musician is on the career track, if they are part of a professional or large ensemble where sheet music is the standard, or if they want to teach in a school or university where career track musicians are trained. If you are on the career track or are preparing for a college music major, I definitely recommend it. Otherwise, it's just not an important factor.
So the questions you need to ask yourself are- what do I want to do with my instrument? Do I want to do this for a hobby and fun? Do I want to know how to improvise? Neither of these require reading music. Or: am I on the career track? Do I want to play classical music? These require knowing how to read music. In any case I recommend that you take some basic non-traditional lessons first, have fun with it, and then decide later if you want to learn to read music. I can teach you to read music at any point in the lessons whenever you feel you need it. The important question is: do you really need it? Take some lessons, give it some time, and you will find the question will answer itself.
Yes, it is very important to have your own instrument,
or access to using or borrowing one when you are taking
lessons. Although I can offer one of my guitars or other
instruments on a temporary basis during the lesson while
you are waiting for an instrument to arrive on order to
your home or a music store or if it is in the repair
shop, you still need your own instrument for several
So even if you don't own your own instrument yet, do
whatever you can to borrow one from a friend or family
member, or look around for a cheap used one at a pawn
shop or Craigslist. Remember- a bad musician can make an
expensive brand name guitar sound awful, while a skilled
musician can make the cheapest piece of junk instrument
sound amazing. In other words, don't wait until you can
get a Corvette when all you want to do is learn how to
drive! (See "What
should I look for when I'm buying a guitar?" and "I don't
have a real piano in my house."
I can mention some great music colleges, but if you're
really wanting to make music a career, I recommend
considering the musical equivalent of a tech college,
Such as The
Atlanta Institute Of Music. I have yet to need to
show my college diploma in any of the musical jobs I've
had, including teaching at music stores. Therefore, a
university can sometimes slow you down in your music
career with all the extra non-musical classes you have
to take. The only thing people who hire you as a
musician want to know is: "Can you entertain my
customers/ audience" and "Can you teach students well
and bring in customers?" There are exceptions to this,
most notably if you want to teach at an accredited
school or university. But the large majority of jobs you
can get as a musician really just require musical skill
and stage presence. Aside from all that, the real
question you should be asking yourself is "do I really
want a career as a musician?"
Full-time career musician is NOT for everybody. And don't assume just because you really love music, or even love playing it, that it will make an ideal job for you. I love my career as a musician, but I am a rare breed of musician who doesn't mind trading in some of the fun of being a musician for making it a job. Although it is a lot of fun, it's also a drag sometimes to have to do it to pay the rent and support myself. To find out if you should be a career musician, consider the following questions:
If the answer is yes to most of
these, you might be a career musician. If this is the
case, then I recommend doing it right and becoming
trained as a professional by attending some kind of
school, tech college, or university. The sticking point
with many people is performing songs and styles they do
not like and think are dumb or cheesy. A true career
performing musician is willing to play or sing almost
anything it takes to make their career work. Aside from
that, it is an incredible gamble and constant, mostly
unrewarding hard work hoping that you will get enough of
a following to support you with performing only the
music you love to perform, unless you happen to love
performing the kind of music that most average people
will pay to listen to. The problem with that is that
most people who love to perform tend to be way more
picky with their musical preferences than the average
listener. It's almost like career sports- you might love
to play football, but not everybody can be a career
football star, but most anybody can have a good career
as a highschool or little league football coach locally
in their community.
If you only just want to play music for fun and to blow off steam, and prefer to only play the styles of music you want to play, consider just keeping music as an active hobby that you can enjoy on the side- and even make money at- without the constant added pressure of knowing you can't make ends meet if you're not successful at it. There are plenty of non-career musicians who have lots of fun on their free time performing in bands or even solo in coffee shops who have unrelated careers.
To get some real perspective, ask any professional full time performing musicians you can about some of the above questions, and see what their take is on it. You might be surprised at their answers.
The only things I require of my students are the name
of the student, the names of a younger student's parents
or guardians so I can talk with them about scheduling,
payments, their son or daughter's developments, and
related topics, and at least a mobile phone number. A
mobile number is ideal if you can give and receive
texts, as this is the fastest and most convenient way I
communicate with my students about scheduling and
schedule changes, but it is not a requirement. Email is
optional but helps with forwarding links to needed files
I provide for individual students on my webpage, and a
second number (home or work) is ideal as a backup for
last-minute schedule changes. Beyond that I don't need
any more of your personal information than you are
comfortable giving me. See my "Policies"
page for more details about my lesson policies.
During the course of music lessons most students make a
necessary friendly and professional bond with their
teacher, much like one would with a coach that knows
their strengths and weaknesses in their sport or
discipline. To break that bond for some students
sometimes feels awkward. I understand- I have had about
9 different long- term teachers throughout my years of
playing and learning. I used to feel exactly the same
way when I was taking lessons and had to quit, but that
perspective changed completely when I started teaching
students of my own. Over the years I have seen so many
students come and go, some keeping it as a fun side
hobby, some just checking it off a list of things
they've always wanted to do, and some even making
careers out of it, that it is impossible for me to take
it personally when a student quits or takes a long
break. However, I also feel a bond with every student I
teach for any decent length of time, because it's fun
and exciting for me to see them make breakthroughs as
I think the coolest thing an adult student ever said to me when giving me his notice to discontinue lessons was: "Before starting to play, I had decided to take lessons until I felt like I knew enough to continue on my own and be able to teach myself. I had set some goals for myself and you helped me reach all those goals and check my checklist off. Now I feel like I've reached that point where I can teach myself because you taught me everything I needed to know to get there." This really made me feel good, because I felt like I had done my job right and started him down the path to becoming his own musician and teacher, as well as providing a good service as a professional. Those are all the reasons I enjoy teaching!
As I tell my students, I have around a 30 year head start on any beginner, so there will always be new things I can show and teach you. But that doesn't mean you have to stay with me indefinitely! I also recommend any serious student diversify their learning by taking lessons from a variety of different teachers with different styles so they can get different perspectives on their craft. In some situations I have even told some long term students that they were starting to outgrow my teaching, and even encouraged them to take it on their own for a while.
I am happy to refund any fees for lessons not yet taken (as these are services not rendered on my part), or prorate the next month's lessons if your projected last lesson falls short of a full month. All I ask is that you give me as much notice as is practical, so I can alter my teaching style appropriately in the time leading up to the last lesson. There is no point in getting into any long- term projects or challenging songs when I know there is not enough time to finish what we started!
I am confident in my teaching abilities, but I am not
the ideal teacher for absolutely everyone- there is no
such person alive (see "why don't you
teach kids under 10?". That being said, if you are
dissatisfied with my lessons or the way I teach for any
reason after having taken lessons from me, I am happy to
refund any remaining fees for lessons I have not taught
you yet. However, I cannot refund any fees for lessons I
have already taught you. All I ask is that you try to
let me know if you can what you were dissatisfied with
or I could do in the future to prevent any more
potential dissatisfied customers. For more information,
please see my Lesson Policies
This is a difficult question to answer. Everybody learns
at different rates, and it obviously depends on how much
you practice at your instrument on your own time, and if
you've been coming to lessons regularly (consistency is
more important than length or intensity of lessons).
However, all things being equal, and considering the
normal pitfalls that come up, I've found that most average
students can impress friends and family, and start to feel
happy with their development around the neighborhood of three
months. By then most people are playing songs
halfway decently and have something to show off.
Musical skill is something that one gets better and better at over the years, so there is no "finish line". There is, however, a point where one is basically happy and satisfied with their development for the time being. The very nature of learning to play a musical instrument or sing is self-rewarding, and makes you want to push to the next level of skill for the next challenge because the next reward is even better and more reason to be proud. So regardless of one's goals at the beginning of the journey, once those goals are reached, most people find that it's off to the next challenge, and the next challenge after that.
I don't give grades, issue deadlines, or require
homework in my lessons, and don't believe in a
"punishment/ reward" philosophy of teaching. Since most
people come to music lessons for fun and personal reasons,
I don't require a regimen of practice from them and don't
give them a hard time if they didn't get a chance to
practice on their own in the time between lessons. That
being said, I can provide more of a "here's your homework"
approach for anyone who is more task-oriented or for any
parent who wants definite tasks and homework for their son
or daughter. Some people work well with this "brass
tacks", "give me homework" approach, while others work
better with a more organic approach that allows them to
explore on their own.
Most of the time younger children need to have a definite game plan and tasks to focus them, but since learning to play their instrument or sing is self- rewarding, this is a vocation they don't normally need to be pushed too hard at, as some young students will start to play on their own when they start getting some personal payoff from it. Think of it like a baseball or football enthusiast playing their sport with their friends or throwing a ball back and forth with a friend or family. Although this is actually practice and they are increasing their skill while doing it, they usually don't think of it as a chore, but something fun and challenging to do and get better at.
I don't need to spell out in detail that the more you play, the better you get and the sooner you get there, as this is just pretty much common sense. But it's important to realize that life gets in the way (especially with older students), and if you just don't have the time every week to practice because of your busy schedule, that just proves you have a life (see "Am I too old to learn?"). As far as working on your own, I usually recommend 10-15 minutes of practice at least three to five times a week at first, and then more when your skill starts getting better. Also, I don't recommend expecting too much reward at the very beginning, as there is a period of traveling up the learning curve that you have to be patient with (See "How long will it take me to get good at my instrument?" above). I can outline detailed practice habits in the lessons if needed to the student or for the parents to know that will help the student make the most of their time spent with their instrument. After a certain point, when a student is getting into the intermediate/ advanced stage, I usually outline a more detailed practice regimen to optimize their practice time to make their growing skills pay off even more.
Absolutely! And since I make my own decisions about my
schedule and policies, I can be more flexible with
prorating with none of the added limitations of a
corporate policy preventing me from making these
decisions. Just let me know when you want to start while
we are scheduling, and I can either get you to pay for the
prorated lessons in that month, or just lump the next
month's lessons payment in with the prorated payment. All
I ask is that you pay for any lessons before
beginning lessons or on the same day as the first lesson.s
Unfortunately, I can't hold lesson time slots for anybody
unless they actually pay for the spot. As I outline in "Can I
learn more than one instrument/ topic in your lessons?",
you are paying for my time as well as my skill
when you are taking lessons. Since I am self-employed, my
livelihood depends on optimizing my teaching schedule.
When a student takes a long break (of a month or more),
even if they plan on returning, that's money I could be
earning in that time slot with another potential student.
When I was starting out teaching, I had many students in
the past that asked me to hold their time slot for the
summer, only to have something else come up when the
summer was over that prevented them from continuing
lessons, all while I turned down potential students for
that time slot in the meantime.
Most of the time my schedule is in a state of flux as students come and go, especially at the ends and beginnings of holiday breaks (summer break, Christmas break, etc). So most of the time if you check in a few weeks before you plan on resuming lessons, a time slot may have opened up that was not open when you started your break from lessons. Also, if you can only work with a particular lesson time that is already filled, I can make myself a note on my calendar to let you know as soon as it's opened up again so you can have first dibs on it, and have the right of first refusal should somebody else desire the same spot (in other words, I'd call you in this circumstance to see if you still want it first when it opens up). For more information, please see my "Policies" page.
No, it shouldn't be an issue. Every teacher has their own
teaching style, even though the information we teach is
mostly the same. Like mathematics, there are universal
concepts in music that never really change, but every
teacher takes a slightly different approach to how they
get these concepts across to their students. If you have
taken music instruction with a teacher that you liked and
bonded with, I will do my best to try figure out their
approach and pick up where they left off, especially if
you still have any notes, music, and tabs from your
previous lessons they may have given you. However, be
aware that I can never BE that teacher,
or even a replacement for them, because nobody can. I can
however, be a good successor and take you to the
next logical step. If you took from a previous instructor
and do not really require a style similar to your previous
teacher's, rest assured I can take you to the next step in
your instruction and take you where you want to go.
I have had more than nine different long-term guitar instructors in my life, and every one of them had a unique approach and teaching and playing style that I benefitted from. In fact, it's all these different perspectives from different teachers that I feel contributed to the diversity in my teaching and playing ability. I always advise my students (especially the ones on the "career track") not to make me the only teacher they take lessons from in their life if they intend on making their instrument a big part of their life. The different perspectives and experiences are what make you a more well-rounded player and musician.
Although I am confident in my teaching abilities, I also realize that I have some strengths and weaknesses in my teaching skills (See "Why don't you teach kids under 10?"). I have been both playing and teaching for long enough to know what those strengths and weaknesses are. If you are not sure whether or not I can teach you in a style that complements your previous teacher's style, contact me with any questions, or you can schedule a free trial lesson to see if we can work together well.
You're not alone- just like you can get burned by a bad
mechanic, personal fitness trainer, or plumber, you can
also come across bad music instructors. It's a mostly
unregulated vocation. The problem is that most beginners
don't have a point of reference to draw from for quality
control and therefore do what their teacher says, until
they are several months into lessons and realize they are
making little to no progress, or that the progress is
going in a completely different direction than they wanted
it to. By then some money and time has been wasted, and
that's not a fun realization.
There is an important factor you need to know about when shopping for music instructors- not all of them can teach you every style you want to learn! Something most people do not know when they are shopping around is that some teachers have such specialized skills that they are not even capable of teaching styles outside their specialty. Think of it like this: sometimes you might bring your car to an import repair specialist if you have an unusual car or need, or you can take it to a repair shop that has a sign reading "we repair all makes and models" out front. The import place only has the tools, skills, and knowledge to work on specific models of cars. It's good to get recommendations from others about teachers you plan on hiring. Unfortunately, most teachers are not in a position to give out the personal information of their past and present clients, so "cold call" testimonials are sometimes hard to come by when shopping for teachers.
Different teachers sometimes put an emphasis on different things they have been taught and that they think are important, and downplay or ignore other factors, sometimes to the benefit and sometimes to the detriment of the student. It all depends on what the student's goals are and if these goals mesh well with the teacher's abilities. Unfortunately, some students have very definite goals that happen to fall outside the scope of that teacher's abilities, but the teacher pushes their own unrelated goals and agendas on the student anyway. For example, if a student wants to learn rock guitar, and their teacher is only classically trained, it will be a hindrance to the student because the teacher has a specialized teaching skill that does not include the style of playing rock, and they will proceed to teach in that style anyway because it's what they have been trained to do ("See "Don't I have to read music to be a good musician?"). The opposite can be true for a student interested in classical style approaching a rock teacher. This is why sometimes one student may speak negatively of the experience they had with a teacher, while another speaks highly of that teacher's excellent skill. They may have just had completely different goals!
Now, don't get me wrong- there are definitely bad teachers out there. You could say this about any vocation. Some students have the bad luck and misfortune of taking lessons with these people. Unfortunately, some of these students also become soured to the whole experience and just prefer to drop the whole idea, figuring they just weren't cut out to play or sing. However, some decide to give it another try and wisely shop around for a teacher with a little more of a skeptical eye and scrutiny to detail. I have had to teach some of these students in the past and repair the bad work done by these bad teachers. So if you have had a bad or unrewarding experience with an instructor after giving it a good try but still are hungry to learn, give it another shot- it might not have been about you! See also: "I'm not sure what instrument I should go with".
All the above are the reasons I offer a free trial lesson to any student who asks- I am confident in my teaching abilities, have been schooled in a wide variety of styles, and believe strongly in shopping around as much as possible before settling on the right instructor. And who knows- we may not even "click" as student and teacher after all (it happens now and then), and I might NOT be the right teacher for you! I am also highly diversified and confident in the range of musical styles and genres I have played and taught over the years. So at the very least, shop around, and don't make me or anyone else the only teacher you try out!
Unfortunately I can't refund lessons already taken, as those are services already rendered. But in a worst case scenario, if you really are truly unhappy with my teaching method and want out, I will gladly refund any money you have already paid me for lessons you have not yet taken in the month. At the very least, please feel free to discuss any problems with me, and I'll do what I can within my ability to accomodate your needs and goals.
If you read "I took music
lessons with another teacher and didn't like it..."
you will know that personal recommendation and
testimonials are very important when it comes to finding a
good music instructor. So if you know someone personally
that you like and trust, it definitely is better than
shopping around and hoping you find the right person.
However, just because someone is an excellent performing
musician doesn't guarantee they are a good instructor, in
the same way that a great basketball player doesn't
necessarily make a great basketball coach. They are two
different vocations that can be joined in a great
performer and teacher, but are more often found
separately. In fact, there are even excellent instructors
that don't really perform! This is a category I would
normally recommend you steer away from, but it is better
at least than its opposite. The notable exception would be
respected and experienced performer/ teachers who cannot
play anymore due to physical limitations such as
arthritis, or even those that prefer not to perform after
an illustrious career in the spotlight that they got tired
So the bottom line is: how good a teacher are they? Do they know how to teach with a game plan? Can they teach different styles? Can they adjust to a student's individual way of thinking and optimize the lessons to their perspective? Do they know how to play on a student's weaknesses as well as their strengths? If you're not sure about the answers to these questions, I recommend shopping around for someone with definite and provable teaching experience. If you can find someone with good teaching and performing skill, then you have found a good combination. This is the combination that I personally offer in my lessons.
Here's another important factor to consider: if they are a close friend or family member, consider the negative consequences and awkwardness that may occur if they turn out to be a really bad teacher! Make sure you have a game plan for backing out if this happens without making them take it personally. For example, tell them you or your child are trying out different teachers for a month or so for each teacher for a school project or internet blog to see what it's like to be a music student and report on it. It's for the above reasons that (contrary to what most people think) most professional performing musicians often take their sons and daughters to a music school or professional music teacher that they trust for their instruction- they know that just because they play and perform doesn't guarantee that they are good teachers themselves!
I certainly can, and I feel I can understand better than
most average teachers how a homeschooled student thinks-
because I was one myself! For several of my grade-school
years my parents decided to teach me at home, and that
experience changed me for the better and gave me a unique
outlook on educational perspectives, auto-didacticism (or
self-teaching), and the strengths and weaknesses of our
public education system. I can often tell within two or
three lessons if a student is (or was) homeschooled,
because homeschooled students usually have an
inquisitiveness, confidence, and love of learning that is
difficult to find taught in most public schools.
If you have a particular perspective or method to homeschooling your son or daughter that you would like me to take into account, I would be glad to try within my abilities and limits to accomodate and incorporate it into my lessons. Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding this topic.