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How to Prepare for Your First Guitar Lesson: The 4 Steps You Need to Succeed.
So, you've decided to learn an instrument? Well, pat yourself on the back for making a decision that has the potential to bring you many years of enjoyment. Learning to play a musical instrument is a big undertaking, but the reward for the challenges you can, and will, overcome is great! Over the course of this article I will show you the steps to take before walking into your first guitar lesson.
Step 1. Equipment
Before you start lessons you need to obtain an instrument in suitable condition. You can either purchase one (new or used), or rent one from a local music store. Although you may feel inclined to spend $1000 on your first instrument, I would advise getting something more economical and upgrading in the future. The reason for this is simple; there are many guitars out there that excel in different styles of music. Purchasing a professional quality instrument should be thoroughly researched, making sure that your investment will fit your stylistic needs. A reasonably priced starter guitar will suffice until you feel that you are ready for an upgrade. This will also be less of a financial burden should you choose to quit playing (something that hopefully never happens).
When purchasing an instrument, the first question you should ask yourself should be; What kind of music do I want to play? The answer to this will help you on your purchase. If you prefer country, bluegrass, or folk you may want to invest in an acoustic guitar. Conversely, if you prefer rock'n'roll, jazz, blues, or metal you would be better off purchasing an electric guitar. If you end up with an electric instrument, you will also need an amplifier. I personally recommend Line 6 Spider amps as an economical beginning amplifier. They have loads of effects, distortions, and versatile tone possibilities.
While shopping for your guitar you should invest in several other accessories that you are going to need. Among these are guitar picks, a tuner, 1/4 inch cable(s) (in case you purchase an electric guitar), and a metronome.
Guitar picks come in many shapes, sizes, thickness, and texture. I recommend buying several different types to see which you prefer. I always suggest that my students purchase .73mm Dunlop Tortex picks. In my 10+ years of playing I've found that these work well for most styles of music.
A quality guitar tuner is a great investment. Your teacher will most likely suggest that you tune your guitar before playing every time. In the past few years I've seen a surge in the popularity of clip on tuners, most notably Snark brand tuners. They are accurate, well lit for tuning in low light environments, and inexpensive.
1/4in cables are necessary for connecting electric guitars to amplifiers. Purchasing quality instrument cables is beneficial. Several brands, such as Monster or Planet Waves, offer lifetime replacement warranties on their cables in the event that the product shorts out. In my opinion, spend the extra ten bucks and get something that's going to last you for a while. If you plan on using multiple guitar pedals for distortion or other effects you will need to buy short length patch cables.
Metronomes are a must if you wish to expedite your learning process. The purpose of a metronome is to provide the musician with a steady pulse to practice with. The benefit of this is that the metronome doesn't change; it is ALWAYS right and will let you know when you are WRONG! They allow you to effectively slow something difficult down to a manageable tempo (the speed of the music) and work your way up to the actual tempo. There are many metronomes out there, but I wouldn't go crazy choosing one. Don't spend more than $20. Personally, I downloaded a metronome onto my smartphone that handles all of my practicing needs.
Where to shop?
All of this gear is readily available in music stores and online retailers such as www.amazon.com, www.guitarcenter.com, and www.musiciansfriend.com.
Avoid purchasing method books before you consult your teacher. Many teachers have certain books that they love, and books that they despise. Before investing, see what they approve of.
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Step 2. Ask Yourself These Questions
On the first lesson I ALWAYS ask my students a few questions. These questions are primarily for me to get to know my student and what kind of music they enjoy. Oddly enough, many of them have a difficult time answering even the easiest questions. Below is a list of questions that I ask every new student. Ask yourself these questions and write your responses down. Take this to your first lesson and wow your instructor with your knowledge and your expectations.
- Have you ever played an instrument before? How long?
- Can you read music?
- What are a few of your favorite bands? Why do you enjoy their music?
- Who are several of your favorite guitar players? What is it that you like about their playing?
- How long do you think you should practice each day to make good progress on the instrument?
- Why do you want to learn to play?
I know these seem like easy things to answer, but when put on the spot you may find yourself struggling to divulge enough information to your instructor. Being prepared to answer such questions will give your teacher a head start on getting you on the right path to playing guitar in the styles that you enjoy.
Step 3. Choose an Instructor
Choosing a guitar teacher that fits your needs is paramount if you are concerned with your potential for success. Think of it as choosing a college. A sane person wouldn't seek a nursing degree at a school that doesn't offer one. There is certain to be multiple teachers in your area, so do a little research before committing to the first one you come by. If you are planning to take lessons at a music store, call or email them and ask about their different teachers. Ask them what their qualifications are, what kind of music they play, or which teacher they recommend to fit your personal goals as a musician. If, for instance, you want to learn how to play jazz guitar, it would be daft to take lessons from a teacher with no music education and who's primary focus is shred metal. In contrast, it would be acceptable to learn folk music from a teacher who was taught in a less academic manner. In my experience, it is the students that share a similar interest in music to my own that succeed.
Step 4. Get your mind right
As I previously stated, learning an instrument is a big undertaking. It is not something that you are going to get right away. What's important is that you have a willingness to learn, and the motivation to do what it takes to succeed. There will be frustrations at times, but it is nothing that you can not overcome with the right mindset. Understand that YOU WILL HAVE TO PRACTICE to get better. As a teacher, there are few things more frustrating than having a student with loads of potential, but no work ethic. If you are monetarily investing to learn the skill, be prepared to invest your time into perfecting it!
Hopefully this article will help get you started on your musical journey. I'd like to leave you with some of Beethoven's most famous words, "Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." In choosing to acquire this skill, you are stepping into a world of expression that many people can not even dream of.
Happy picking friends,