Q: What should I be looking for when
choosing a guitar tutor?
A: Understandably the first question I am often asked
is 'How much do you charge?' Although whether you can afford lessons it is
obviously a factor, if you get
poor quality lessons - at whatever price - at best you will be wasting your
money and, in the worst case, could end up establishing bad habits which can be
very difficult to rectify later on. For example poor hand position and
posture can end up causing permanent damage to the tendons and ligaments in the
hand and back pain. Sadly, anyone can advertise as a guitar tutor,
with very little experience - I have often been faced with problems caused by
poor teaching and struggled to put them right. In this case, 'value for
money' is misplaced. So what should you ask? Establish whether the
tutor has any formal qualifications - this is not essential as some very good
tutors learned at a time before qualifications were readily available (exams for
Rock, Acoustic and Jazz players are a recent development) - however, they are a good indication of a teacher's
insight. If a potential teacher doesn't have qualifications then
look for a great deal of experience of both playing and teaching
at a professional level.
You could also ask which exams the tutor enters pupils for, and what success
they gain. Be wary of people who claim to teach only beginners or lower grades
- if they have not reached a high standard themselves they may not fully
understand what they are teaching and pass on bad habits which only become
obvious at more advanced levels.
Q: How much do you charge?
My current rates are £18 (grades 1-5) and £19 (grades 6-8 and above) for an
hour lesson. Half hour lessons are £10. (Group tuition and workshops
fees are open to negotiation depending on class sizes, travel costs and
other specific requirements)
Q: Where do you give your lessons? A: I
have a large music room /office on the ground floor of my own house set
aside specifically for teaching individual students and small groups.
Q: What measures do you take to ensure the
safety of children and young people?
have a fully up to date Enhanced Criminal Record Certificate which I am pleased
to show to anyone on demand. I require the presence of a responsible adult carer
at all times whilst I am teaching children under the age of sixteen, and welcome
family members or friends to sit in
on lessons regardless of the student's age. I also have, as a member of the
Musicians Union, a Public Liability Certificate of Insurance.
Q: Do you come out to peoples houses
for individual lessons. I did used to do this when I was first trying to
establish myself as a tutor and before I had a suitable room to use as a studio.
I found, however that the formal setting of a properly designated work space was
much more conducive to study. It is also important for me to have all of my
teaching materials, resources and equipment on hand.. It would also add
considerably to the cost of lessons as I would have to charge for my extra
travel time and expenses.
Q: What type of guitar should I buy, and how
much should I spend?
is a difficult question to give a straight forward answer to and you may be best
e-mailing or phoning me to discuss your individual needs. As a general rule you
should choose the type of guitar that is played by the guitarist whose music
inspires you most. Acoustic guitars are ideal for playing on your own whilst
electric guitars are more commonly associated with playing in a band- although
there are all sorts of backing tracks on CD's and computer programs available which approximate the
experience of playing with other musicians.
You can pay as little as a few pounds and up
to ten thousand pounds or more for a guitar. Beginners should not fall into the
trap of buying the cheapest possible guitar as they are often easily
discouraged by an instrument which is difficult to play and sounds awful. You
should budget for a minimum of about £60-£80 for a new, full size acoustic or
electric guitar. Three quarter sized guitars suitable for younger children with
smaller hands cost a little less. Electric guitarists will need an amplifier
(and guitar lead) which will cost a minimum of around £50. I would not
recommend you buy a second hand instrument without independent, expert advice
and would advise some caution when buying a new one.
My advice to more experienced players with a
commitment to continue playing for the rest of your life is to buy the most
expensive instrument of your choice that you can possibly afford- but take your
time before you make your decision, do your homework and play plenty of different
Q: How Long will it take me to learn?
one is different. Younger children often spend a year or more at a very basic
level and then quickly accelerate their rate of learning month on month.
Teenagers and younger adults often find learning easy from the very start but
find it more difficult to remain focused and consistent. Adults have often
learnt the value of perseverance and consistent effort but have to juggle their
own interests with family and work commitments. It must also be remembered that
different people have different objectives. Learning to accompany simple songs
will obviously take less time and effort than learning to become a virtuoso
electric guitarist or a solo acoustic or classical player. Ultimately it is
impossible to generalise, which is why individual tuition is by far the best- if
not the only way to learn a musical instrument.
Q: What age do you recommend that children should start
I have found that around the age of eight is a good age
to start as children have developed the necessary coordination and
concentration. Before this age I would suggest group music making as an
Q: Am I to old to learn?
A: No. Older people get a great deal of satisfaction
from learning to play guitar. They usually bring with them attitudes to learning
and an appreciation of the subject that reflects the depth of their own life
experience, and in some areas gives them distinct advantages over younger
Q: What are the pros and cons of taking graded
exams and diplomas?
wishing to study music at college or university will require good passes at
grades 6, 7 and 8. Diplomas are important for aspiring teachers and classical
performers. Formal qualifications are not essential to aspiring Rock, Jazz, and
acoustic performers where it is a musicians experience, reputation, connections
and sheer good luck which are more likely to secure work. There is obviously no
compelling need for amateur musicians to go to the trouble and expense of taking
these quite challenging exams. However there are clear advantages in being
examined by a professional, objective external examiner. It gives the student
(and where appropriate- parents) a clear indicator of progress- and that I am
doing my job properly! Many people progress faster when working towards clear
goals and deadlines. Exams also give students invaluable experience in
performing under pressure and when done properly help to build confidence.
Successful entrants earn an internationally recognised, properly accredited qualification- and a nice
certificate for the wall!
On the other hand many people find the
syllabus too restrictive or that it doesn't reflect their interests or
aspirations. Others are ideologically opposed to equating music as an art with
formal exams, or have had enough of exams to last a lifetime. I see it as a part
of my job to help students reach the right decision for themselves, and then to
provide proper guidance whatever decision they reach.
Q: What sort of problems do students
The same problems that have been identified by all teachers
in all subject in all times. The first and most debilitating is when a student
is insincerity. I am sometimes faced for example
with insecure people who just want to show off, or people who want all of
the rewards of becoming good players without making any real effort.
Following behind insincerity in close second
place are people come to lessons with unfounded assumptions about the manner in
which they will learn. This includes those who book me for lessons and then try
to dictate to me how I should go about teaching them, and those who have
unrealistic ideas about how quickly or (equally as destructive) how slowly they
imagine they are able to progress.
Successful students invariably find within
themselves the qualities of openness, flexibility, humility, sincerity,
patience- ask any teacher!
you ever get impatient teaching the same thing to beginners over and over, or
with people who are slow to pick up new skills?
Honestly! I am lucky enough to find what I do to intensely rewarding.
Beginners demand just as much ingenuity and effort to teach as more advanced
students. People who are finding something difficult to learn- at whatever
level- engage all of my interest and call upon all of my experience and problem
solving skills. Throughout all the years I have been teaching I have never come
across two people who I have taught in the same way. I also regard it (with very
few exceptions) as a privilege to have got to know the many talented,
interesting and delightful people who have
chosen me as their teacher.