Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need my own guitar?
-Yes. Absolutely. Practicing at home between lessons is the most important part about taking guitar lessons. All the lessons in the world won’t help you much if you never practice. I like to say that my job is not to teach you how to play the guitar, but to teach you how to teach yourself how to play guitar. The time you spend each week in between lessons, fine tuning the techniques and methods I show you, is where the real learning takes place.

Do I need a tuner?

-Yes. $20 will get you a very accurate digital tuner that fits in your guitar case. It is the easiest, quickest and most reliable way to get your guitar into tune every time you pick it up to play. Right now the SNARK tuner is my favorite. I also recommend the Guitar Tuna phone app, which is a good guitar tuner. Guitars and their strings are very sensitive to any temperature, humidity, or air pressure changes. Just transporting it from your house to a lesson is enough to throw it out of tune. Tune your guitar every time you pick it up to play. You need to practice tuning as well as playing.

Should I (or my child) play left-handed or right-handed?

-This is a sure-fire way to get a bunch of guitar teachers into a heated discussion. Personally I feel there are no clear-cut answers to this debate. I generally like a student to go with their gut feeling on this. You can contact me and we can discuss the pros and cons of going lefty or righty at length over the phone.

Should my younger child learn on a smaller guitar?

-Generally, yes. It’s a good idea to take them to the guitar store and have them try sitting with a few different sizes with the salesperson. Having a well-built properly sized guitar is very important for young students. Little hands will have a hard enough time as it is.

I found a small kid sized guitar made in China for $50 at a discount store. Should I buy it?

-No!!! These guitars are garbage and are only fit for firewood. The executives of these companies should be forced to play for their meals for the rest of their lives on these poor excuses for musical instruments. Avoid them like the plague!

Where should I go to buy myself or my child a guitar?

-I don’t recommend the big box, multinational, corporate guitar stores for the inexperienced. While there are certainly honest salespeople at these establishments, you may run into someone who’ll take advantage of a customer's lack of knowledge. Do yourself and your community a favor, shop local! In Seattle go to The Guitar Store, Emerald City Guitars, or American Music. These shops have courteous honest staff and a great selection of guitars for beginners. Craigslist can be hit or miss. Be sure to take someone with guitar experience with you to look at guitars found in the online classifieds. Buying a guitar is like buying a car. Be sure to haggle some. You'll need a tuner, and a case or gig bag, so ask them to throw in the tuner or case, eat the tax, or at the very least give you a guitar strap or some free picks and strings. You can always contact me for advice on shopping for guitars.

How about buying a guitar online?
-I would usually suggest against this. If there are defects or the guitar is damaged in shipping, you'll have to send it back. It's my belief that a guitar is something that you should buy in person. You should however do your research online. Read lots of reviews and learn what a good price is for the models that you are interested in.

What should I look for when buying a guitar?
-When buying your first guitar, you should have a good idea of how much money you want to spend. $100 is as low as you should go. If money is no object, you'll find that after around $2000, you won’t find a whole lot of difference the higher you go. $300 to $500 or so is a good compromise.

For the beginner, a guitar that plays well is more important than one that sounds good. Consistent low “action” (the distance between the strings and the frets) without the strings buzzing is what you are looking for. If the strings are too far from the frets you’ll have a harder time pushing down the notes. If the strings are too close to the frets the notes will have an annoying buzz to them. If you want to get a sense what you should be looking for when it comes to guitar “action,” take a look at a new $2000 model and you’ll see what I mean.

Acoustic or Electric?
-Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Electrics tend to be a little easier to play but require a cable, amplifier, and electricity. Acoustics can be a little harder to play (not much) but can be played anywhere, no amp required. I teach both, and have an amp here at the studio so you don't have to lug yours around.

What about renting a guitar?
-An excellent idea! Most of the above guitar shops have great rental programs. In most cases you can apply several month's worth of rent towards a purchase after you realize that you can't live without the guitar you've been renting!

Besides my guitar, what should I bring to my first lesson?

-Your tuner, a folder to keep your lesson materials in, your tuition (usually $75 for the first 3 lessons) and any guitar books, tabs, or materials you may be currently working from. No need to pick up any books or other guitar literature. I give you all the materials you'll need.

Anything else I should get?
-While at the music shop, be sure to buy 6 or 7 dollars worth of thin and medium picks from at least 8 or 10 different pick makers. This will give you a variety of picks to experiment with and you'll eventually find one you'll really like. Also you will certainly need a capo at some point. I like the Shubb or the Kyser.

How soon will I be able to play songs on the guitar?
-Most people can play a complete song by their 2nd to 4th lesson. Some of it depends on your musical talent but for the most part how hard you work and how much time you put in has a much greater effect. I have helped over a thousand people learn to play the guitar and every single person that has put in enough effort has succeeded.

If you have any other questions, please, please send me a message using the contact form. I will be happy to answer them for you. I look forward to working with you.