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As a private music teacher and tutor, James works individually with each guitar learner and improver. First and foremost, to foster a love of music, the student chooses the style that he or she wishes to learn. Next, the lessons establish a pace that allows him or her to acquire and develop new skills while enjoying the music. Personalised online video feedback is available for students who do not have time to attend lessons regularly. Using helpful and detailed video recordings, each student can practise and refine his or her skills at a time and in a place that best suits them.
Although James is primarily a classical guitarist, he also teaches multiple styles such as rock, blues and folk across acoustic and electric guitar. Whether students’ lessons are for individual and primarily for musical enjoyment, or in a group class for grades and theory, James is committed to musical research as well as staying up to date with teaching techniques and learning methods, to help students to improve their ability and gain more from music. For further details call James on 085 2425615 or click here.
This first guitar lesson is aimed at someone who may be nervous about their first lesson and who has no experience whatsoever with a guitar and/or music.
The purpose of this lesson is to take a number of planned steps for the student to make contact with the instrument and to familiarise themselves with the basics so they will lose any apprehension they may have about beginning to learn guitar.
This lesson is very relaxed and fun. Overall, it is a great introduction to the guitar. The items discussed below may or may not all happen in the first lesson, it completely depends on the student and their goals.
Firstly, you’ll sit in a comfortable position. Feet flat on the floor. Arms and shoulders relaxed. Sitting upright. Then we will introduce the guitar. We will test some various ways of sitting and holding the guitar until you feel comfortable.
As you are sitting comfortably with the guitar I will ask you the question “How many strings do you see on the guitar?” (The answer is 6).
I will ask you then to play each string individually and listen carefully to their sound. This will then be followed by the question “Which string sounds the lowest in pitch?” (Answer is the low E string, the thickest string that is closer to the ceiling)
Next, you will be given the names of each string, which is made easier to remember with a memory aid. For example, going from low E string ( the thickest string) to the high E string (the thinnest string) the strings are labelled as follows: E A D G B E.
The memory aid for this is either:
Eddy Ate Dynamite Good-Bye Eddie
Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears.
This will also be printed off for you to take home.
On the top side of the neck of the guitar, we have the fretboard. This is the whole section between the body of the guitar and the headstock. On the fretboard, there are a series of metal strips on it. These strips are called Frets. When you press a string down just behind the fret and into the fretboard, the pitch of the string becomes higher. These frets are also numbered. The “1st Fret” is the first metal strip you will see closest to the headstock. The next metal strip is called “2nd Fret“, the third metal strip is called “3rd fret“, etc. All guitars can be different but there are symbols, usually dots, used to mark certain frets to make them easier to identify. Most commonly the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th frets are marked with a single dot, and the 12th fret is usually marked with two dots.
At this point in the lesson, I would ask you to choose any string you like and make it sound. You can use any finger on your right hand or a guitar pick to do this. Listen to the sound.
Next, using the same string, press the index finger of your left hand down behind the first fret. Again, use the right hand to make it sound. “Is this note higher or lower?” (The answer is higher)
After this, I will call out random frets for us to find together. This will help us become comfortable locating each fret.
The fingers of the left hand also use a numbered system. The Index finger is 1, the middle finger is 2, the ring finger is 3, the pinky finger is 4. Understandably, this can become confusing for beginners as it can be confusing to distinguish between fret numbers and finger numbers. Because of this, for the first few lessons, I may refer to the fingers as index or middle etc rather than using the numbers so the student is not overwhelmed.
The best tip I can give, for a guitarist of any level, is to press the string down using the very tip of the finger. This allows more security in the left hand, more pressure without strain, and helps to prevent the fingers from touching other strings.
When pressing the string down, apply pressure right behind the fret, as close as you can without muting the string. This area right behind the fret requires the least amount of pressure. Doing this will allow you to produce a clearer note, with less buzzing and less tension.
This section of the lesson covers the basics of how we can communicate verbally to each other on where to place certain fingers, on particular frets and strings. So far we have covered fret and string names. For the first few lessons, I keep the left-hand finger names as index, middle, ring, and pinky.
What will happen here is I will say a particular combination of string, fret and finger names and you just take your time and figure it out. For example, I might say “D string, 2nd Fret, Middle Finger”. To help you with this, I will slowly call out our memory aid “Elephants And Donkeys…” and point at each string as we go through it. Once we land on “Donkeys (D string), I will count from fret one to fret two with you. Once we are happy with having both the correct string and fret, you will add the selected finger (middle finger) down behind fret two. You can use any finger on the right hand to play that note.
This will be repeated a number of times until you are more comfortable navigating the fretboard
Using the idea above in Navigating The Fretboard, I will again call out a combination of strings, fret, and fingers. This time, we only need one open string and one fret on one string. This will be a great starting point, as it allows us to introduce some very simple movements, one rhythm and a backing track to play with. Straight away, you will have accomplished something very important in your first lesson. This opens up options for the next step.
After being shown how to play your first melody, it allows us to begin talking about practicing. The word “practice” always has bad connotations, because of this, I make it a point to show approaches to practicing what you wish to improve on. Once you see how simple and effective practicing can be, you will be motivated to do it. 5-10 minutes a day is more than enough for a beginner.
Along with practicing, there is supplementary material that can be introduced at this point. Firstly, you can use your camera on your phone to video me demonstrating and explaining what we are learning. This allows you to review the lesson multiple times at your own leisure.
At this point, we also add in guitar tablature. This is a way of reading music from a page, similar to reading sheet music but with less detail. An example of this can be found in “Example of Music”. You’ll see “Tab” written on the bottom half, the lines with the numbers on them. This is tablature, the above one is an example of sheet music.
I recommend using a combination of both recording and tablature to get the most out of each lesson
Using the same principles found in Navigating The Fretboard, we can construct our first chord together. A chord is just three or more notes played together. Like before, a combination of strings, frets and fingers will be given. Again, will begin with just one finger, except this time we will strum three or more notes using the right hand. For example, I might tell you to place your ring finger, on the high E string, 3rd fret. Once you do this I will tell you to strum only the strings G, B & E together. This is a one-fingered version of G Major.
Another example would be to play a one-fingered C major chord. Using your index finger, place it on the B string, 1st fret. Strum the strings G, B & E together. Although this chord may appear very easy, because we are just using one finger, it usually brings up a very important challenge that every guitarist faces. That is making sure that all strings ring out. The flesh on the inside of the index finger may touch off the high E string, stopping it from ringing out. To ensure this does not happen, make sure you are up on the tips of your fingers, and have each finger curved, as to be out of the path of each string.
This guitar course is designed for all ages and is used in small groups (3-6 students). This fun method is based on grades, which focuses on building a strong and balanced musical foundation that will help them in all styles of music in future years. The essence of this approach is to take important material and present it in a fun and exciting way so that music doesn’t become a chore for the student. By using simple melodies and patterns found in pop and rock, they will develop all the essential skills, Including Aural Training, Sight-Reading, Scale & Chord Knowledge, Rhythm Training, and Composition.
Group classes can be an excellent way to learn guitar. A group can consist of anywhere from three-six students. There are two approaches I use for group classes. The first is to teach everyone the same song. This can be very effective because everyone can help each other inside and outside the class, so if you are finding something difficult to play or remember, you’ll have someone else there to support you. The second approach involves giving out different guitar parts for one song. For example, If we had a group of four, we could give two people the melody line and two people the accompaniment. This is also a great way to do these classes as it adds a level of motivation to learn your parts, as it will be needed to play the song. Overall, group lessons are very fun and an excellent social activity!
Apart from gaining skills directly relating to music, you will also benefit in other aspects of your life. This applies to young and old and should be considered when pursuing a new skill.
Learning the skills required to play an instrument, master a piece, and execute a performance gives each student a sense of pride and achievement which builds confidence. This is of great benefit by itself but is also more valuable when the student realises this is accomplished through consistent work. Then, this can be applied to multiple aspects of their own personal lives.
Stage-fright is something that affects most people, whether it is on an actual stage while performing or in their professional lives when giving a presentation. By learning music effectively and taking the right steps into performance, these skills will alleviate the tensions by showing how the correct preparation will make you feel at ease in pressured environments of any given situation.
Challenges are inevitable in life. From essays for school to personal finance. Improving the power of persistence is invaluable to everyone so they can overcome their own personal obstacles. You attain important skills every time you face the challenge of learning a new piece of music. In the beginning, it may seem too difficult to ever play, but when you are provided with the right strategy and careful work through the hard sections regularly, you will overcome what is perceived as difficult.
Self-discipline can start at a very small level with lessons, such as arriving on time with your notebook and music every week, putting time aside every day to practice and reach each week’s goals, and for larger goals like preparing for an open mic night or a small concert. Achieving the above tasks requires organisational and time management skills. These are necessary skills in every profession and can be implemented weekly through setting small achievable targets and aiming for larger goals.
An important part of playing an instrument is to memorise what it is you are learning. This includes multiple components, such as dynamics, left-hand fingerings, right-hand patterns, the correct notes, the rhythms, etc. Concentrating on these details and repeating them correctly is a great mental exercise. It requires focus, a skill that is needed when playing in a group context, when you need to concentrate on your own part, the conductor and others around you. Also, used in the work environment when you need to pay close attention to a task while others may be talking nearby and distracting you.
Playing in a group context requires great teamwork. In order to have a successful ensemble, everyone must learn their part, be willing to listen to others, and communicate clearly. Everyone has the responsibility to learn their part so they can really enjoy working together to create wonderful music. This is a critical skill in life and is easily introduced in music. Students realise that when they put the work into their part, and listen to others, everything starts to function smoothly.
Having a teacher provide you with constructive criticism is an essential part of becoming a better musician. A good teacher will identify which aspects of your playing need more attention and implement the correct strategies to improve them. This is very helpful criticism, it allows you to grow as a musician while commending your efforts so far. Sometimes, feedback can be less constructive when in the public eye. For instance, they may not enjoy a particular song you performed. This is a great opportunity to handle this criticism with care, and know that everyone has very different opinions about music, so you will learn not to take it personally or to knock you back.
Being open to constructive criticism is important to develop as a student in school, and an employee in the workplace. So, when approached with genuine criticism about your work, you may find it easier to accept receiving it positively through music.