6. How long should I practice?
Well, as long and as often as you can! Always remember that in the purest sense, playing the guitar is a form of exercise and like any exercise, doing a moderate amount on a frequent basis is much more effective than trying to do a lot on an infrequent basis. With adult students I hardly ever see cases of slacking off from practice for no good reason, which can be a problem with younger students. The problem for adults is more a question of available time. None of us have enough of that! If possible, try to set a regular time each day to devote to practice. This will keep it in the forefront of your mind, priority-wise. Although the actual amount of time per practice session will vary, I encourage my students to put in at least a half-hour per day; more is better of course. Some adult students whose schedule allows find that playing for 15 or 20 minutes a couple times a day is much more effective and productive than trying to put in a half hour once a day.
7. Is it OK if I try some songs I find on guitar web sites?
Absolutely! I firmly believe that if a student is playing (just about anything) it can only help their playing overall. Practicing what I give for a weekly lesson is required but hey, there’s no harm in doing exploring! There is an absolute wealth of music out there in cyberspace and from my perspective as a guitar teacher, students who find examples of songs they like and then try to play them actually makes my job easier. This is because trying songs on their own always inspires students to ask important questions about technique and song construction. Just keep in mind that there is wide variation in the accuracy of the music you’ll find online. But we can fix that – ha!
8. I really only like/listen to one kind of music and that’s all I’m interested in playing. How soon can we get into that?
One of the reasons I don’t use any single guitar method is that I try very hard to get my students into the type of music they like as soon as possible. I use pieces of many different established methods because there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” guitar course. However, it’s important to remember that ALL music has some very basic concepts that must be addressed before you can play like your favorite performers, things like keeping a steady beat and hearing what’s right (and wrong) with your playing. The first thing I work on with all my students, regardless of their experience are rhythmic concepts. Without the ability to keep a steady beat, even the simplest songs will not be satisfying. Don’t worry though – I can use just about any type of music to demonstrate these concepts. So we most definitely will use songs you know and like to conquer these things. I carefully plan each and every lesson for every student. I want you to enjoy what you’re practicing. All I ask is that students keep an open mind. In almost every case, students’ tastes in music change as they progress. Discovering new music and artists is one of the joys of playing the guitar.
9. Are there any devices I can use to strengthen my hands when I can’t be playing?
I hear this one more often than you might imagine. Some players have reported success with using a small playground ball known as a “Pinkie.” These small balls are made of a foam rubber type material and are about the size of a tennis ball but have more “give” than one of those, so it’s fairly easy to squeeze and release them. There are also a number of devices marketed for guitarists for strengthening purposes, which have small push pads and springs that offer resistance when pressed down. I’m not sure if they work as I’ve never tried one. The fact is, nothing exactly replicates actually pressing down on the strings so I tell my students that playing is best exercise when you come right down to it. But a Pinkie or one of those exercise contraptions probably can’t hurt, so if you’re inclined to get one and use it while you’re watching TV, go for it.
10. I’ve been playing a while and I can play some songs but I wan to take things to the next level. What’s the best way to do that?
Many answers here, but I think the single best thing you can do to advance is make the effort to play with others. Making your playing match what another player is doing is the best way I know to advance your progress. Forcing yourself to listen to what others are playing while you also listen to your own playing hones your rhythmic sense and awareness of tonality. Plus – and this is the most important thing – it’s fun!! And isn’t that what you were hoping for when you decided to play in the first place?
Peace & good music,