Music to Your Home is lucky to be able to work with musicians from around the world, and Alejandro M. comes to us with words of wisdom from Argentina. Currently he’s a professional guitar player and teacher living the dream and gigging all over NYC.
Picking the right guitar for a beginner student may be the deciding factor that helps a budding musician make it through the first few months of learning. Some guitars are cumbersome to play and others are either too heavy or look horrible. A new student should feel comfortable and love the look of their first instrument. We have found that if a student likes their new instrument they are more motivated to practice and will become better players in a shorter time.
We asked two of our expert teachers what guitars they choose for themselves and their students. Here’s what they had to say:
For a student model, I recommend the Yamaha Pacifica bundle. Its a great guitar and comes with lots of fun accessories and is well priced. Kids need to love their guitar because when they do, it helps encourage them to practice. Electric guitars are the better choice for beginning guitar players because they are easier to play, there are more styles of music that can be applied to them, and they inspire the student to practice.
For other choices or if the student wants more, I’m partial to Les Paul body style instruments. There are many out there and they are more playable, meaning they fit your body better and afford more progress when learning. My Burr Johnson Model guitar (made by Hagstrom) is based on the Les Paul/336 body style and is a dream to play. The Epiphone Les Paul is also good.
For Jazz and Blues, another great choice is the Gibson 335/347/336 models. They are a larger body size and have “F” hole designs. They are semi hollow body guitars and get a very nice round full sound.
1993 USA Epiphone Riviera – This guitar was built in Nashville as part of a limited USA-made edition of 250 Rivieras and 250 Sheratons in 1993. The production was made very carefully, paying much attention to the Epiphone legacy including the original ‘mini-humbucker’ pickups. This guitar was advertised by Lenny Kravitz when it was first released and also regularly played by – me. 😉
Nashguitar T-Model – The T-model is basically Nashguitar’s version of the Fender Telecaster. I don’t know much detail about it but when I compared an original early 1960s Fender Telecaster to this one I was amazed how much better this one sounded. Brilliant manufacturing and amazing, bright, and powerful Telecaster sound!
Fender Jazzmaster – It seems like there is a revival of this guitar going on for a while now and it’s legitimate: it’s a very versatile guitar with its unique, vast combination possibilities of its single coil pickups and its tone knobs. Just listen to Wilco’s Nels Cline!
Gibson SG – This is AC/DC’s signature sound with its thick and dirty sound – but also the sound of early Cream during Eric Clapton’s very creative musical period. Now combine a normal set of strings on one fretboard with a set of 12-strings on another and you’ll have the famous Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page double neck guitar!
At this point I would have to mention the Fender Stratocaster or the Gibson Les Paul, but those need no description as any serious or beginning guitar lover already knows. There are also some rare but possible-to-find great vintage hollow bodies out there from companies like Gretsch, Epiphone, Guild etc. that sound amazing and are also affordable. Keep an open eye to those ones if you enter a guitar shop if you like some beautiful vintage guitar sounds!
All images courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The guitar comes in three types, classical with nylon strings, acoustic with steel strings and electric with steel strings and pickups to electrify the sound. Within that, there are literally thousands of options of styles and colors. And they come in all shapes and sizes. From Jimmy Page’s double neck, Jerry Garcia’s Tiger, BB King’s beloved Lucille and Willie Nelson’s Trigger, there are plenty of guitars out there to satisfy your musical appetite.
But what about that six year old who’s thinking about starting lessons? I don’t think you’re running out to buy The Flying V just yet. So where do you start? Let the pros at Music to Your Home be your guide. Our first piece of advice is don’t go out and buy the most expensive guitar on the rack. It’s not necessary at this point. As the student progresses, you’ll know when it’s time to make a bigger investment, but for now you can get a decent set up for under $200.00.
For beginners there are generally three sizes of guitars to choose from, full size, ¾ size, and half size. Here’s a breakdown but remember, the only true way to get the right fit is to head to a store and try one in person.
The half size guitar is great for kids ages 3-6. The ¾ should work well for 6-10 year olds. Finally, the full size should cover you after that, but be aware that there are variations of regular size guitars, so once again, hold one and see how it feels!
Now that you have an idea of size, let’s discuss string type. Nylon strings are much easier to push down on and softer on little fingers and many of our teachers would suggest starting on those. If steel strings are preferred, go for it, but know that it will take a while to build up the calluses that all guitar players eventually develop.
Is your child a lefty? There are a couple of lefty guitars out there, however, like baseball mitts, the choices are much fewer. You can also learn to play right handed, or string a righty guitar upside down. Many lefties simply adapt, and learn to play righty.
Don’t forget the accessories too – stand, tuner, case, picks, and an amp for your little shredder if needed.
Whatever guitar your child ends up with, our instructors can teach them how to tune it, care for it and hopefully, one day, play your favorite song on it!
Image courtesy of Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Playing the guitar should be fun right? If you’re the type of person we like to call a “strummer” and you’re not looking to rip a technical solo, then this list of songs is perfect for you. Most of these tunes use only 4 or 5 chords and are great for singing along to. This list is sure to impress your guests at your next BBQ.
Wish You Were Here- Pink Floyd
This is one of my favorite songs to play especially on acoustic guitar. It has a very simple intro that can be learned by ear or the tabs can be found here http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/p/pink_floyd/wish_you_were_here_ver5_tab.htm . The rest of song uses C, D Am, G and Em. It’s a great song that everyone will like hearing, or you can just rock out alone in your bedroom…
Free Fallin’- Tom Petty
This is such an iconic rock song. Practically everybody knows it. To play it in the same key as Tom Petty, put a capo on the 3rd fret and play D, A, G and you’ve got it. The entire song is basically just 3 chords! Singing it like Tom is another challenge and we’ll save that tip for another blog.
Redemption Song- Bob Marley
This is an extremely powerful song. It has a short and simple intro that can be found here: http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/bob_marley/redemption_song_tab.htm The chords are crafted in such a way to create an emotional atmosphere for anyone listening. The best part is any beginner can master this one. It’s also another great song to sing along to without worrying about complicated chord changes.
Strong Enough – Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow is an incredible composer. This song uses a few basic chords. The verse and Chorus is D, G, Bm and A with a bridge using Em, Bm C and A. Not really a lot but another easy and fun song to play. If you’re not a girl, go find one to sing this with and you’ll be in business.
Here is a song that is known internationally. Everyone has their opinions about Oasis but no matter what they are, there is no disputing the popularity of this song. The acoustic guitar strumming the intro is so recognizable but easy to play. Throw a capo on the 2nd fret and play Em, G, D, and A and that’s basically it. The chorus uses C, D and Em. There are some extensions to these chords, but for a beginner the basic forms will work nicely. This is a song that everyone will love to sing along to.
The school year and little league are coming to an end and our recitals are almost all finished. Once the summer is here we often get asked the question: Should my child take a break from their lessons? The answer is simple. NO!
Learning an instrument and learning to read music are both skills that require constant practice and guidance until a certain level of comfort and expertise is achieved. We totally understand that some children go away to sleep away camp over the summer and can’t take music lessons. In that case we suggest that the students bring their instruments with them to practice periodically so they don’t lose the skills they have already learned. Most camps have pianos so children can usually sneak away and practice a few minutes whenever they can. The longer they’re away from the routine of practicing and reading music the longer it takes to get back the skills they already learned. Playing an instrument is not like riding a bike…
The good thing about the summer is that there’s more free time because school is out. Not to mention a nice activity to escape the heat! We’ve also found over the years that summer is a good time to begin learning an instrument when the pressures of school and excess homework are not prevalent. We do have many students who go to day camps but fitting in a weekly piano lesson can still be a fun way of having a creative and mind stimulating experience. Our teachers are generally more flexible and can fit lessons in between trips or whenever our clients are available.
So our suggestion is to take advantage of any free time you have this summer and enjoy learning an instrument!
The Upper East Side is a great place to hang out on an Indian Summer day. Quiet streets, lots of bars and restaurants, Central Park and Museum Mile? With so much to do between guitar lessons, it’s nice to find a quiet cafe to sit in. And while nothing beats pure practice, sometimes reading a book on guitar theory can help you better understand the science of music as well as re-motivate you to get back to playing. Try a cup of coffee from any of these five best Upper East Side cafes before your next strum.
Also known as Downtown Uptown, this coffee shop has a great bean source and friendly baristas that serve tasty sandwiches. Their book-laden shelves and plush old-school furniture offer a great ambience during a round of macchiato and chocolate fondue, or while you sip a beer or glass of wine in the evening and classic guitar solos play on the speakers.
DTUT is located at 1744 2nd Ave between 90th and 91st Streets.
Known for their strong cold brews, Birch on the Upper East Side is a great place to drop in for a quick cup on your way to work or before your next guitar lesson. A few sips of this iced coffee and you will be cruising up and down the fretboard. They’re open every day from 7am to 8pm. You can also find Birch on the Upper West Side, in Flatiron, and on 7th Ave, off 14th Street.
Birch is located at 134 1/2 E62nd st.
East Harlem Cafe
Technically it’s not the Upper East Side, but we felt like this local hot spot deserves a mention. Their coffee, pastries and sandwiches are some of the best in the area, and the work vibe attracts a lot of young people. Bring Fretboard Logic and buckle down for an hour with a hot cup of joe and a red velvet cupcake!
East Harlem Cafe is at 1651 Lexington Ave., at the corner of 104th.
Corrado Bread and Pastry
Corrado is a great place for a respite after a long day of practicing guitar. Their pastries are world-class, perfect accompaniments to a delicious macchiato. Right near Hunter College, this cafe also attracts a very international clientele. Of course, they have baguette sandwiches and a variety of non-caffeinated drinks too.
Corrado is at 960 Lexington Ave. on the corner of 71st St.
This cafe is definitely on this list for tea. With a wide variety of loose leaf green and black teas, that’s not to say that their coffee is anything less than amazing. You can buy any one of their many coffees by the pound and take it home to keep you company during your next round of guitar-picking blues.
Java Girl is located at 348 E66th St., between 1st and 2nd Aves.
When I was a kid I took lessons in NYC. I learned all the basics and I wasn’t half bad. I would play for my parents, who would watch me move from the songs I was learning to a freestyle, bow-rubbing frenzy. Honestly I didn’t practice enough, but I did get used to my violin for about twenty minutes a day.
I liked violin well enough, and my violin lesson instructor was very skilled. She knew how to get me excited about going home to practice, but something was off. I didn’t love playing violin.
By the end of the year I told her I wanted to switch instruments, to something louder and more vivacious. I wanted a brass or a woodwind instrument. I decided on clarinet. My teacher protested, saying that if I quit now for another instrument I’d never come back. She gave me an old LP that describes the tragedy of a young girl switching instruments for louder better, more interesting instruments. The girl moved through the entire orchestra, only to give up entirely on playing music.
Sure enough, the wet reeds and the honky blow of clarinet disappointed me too. By the end of the following year I had dropped it too. It wasn’t until years later that I picked music back up. I realized that what I had really wanted the entire time was to play guitar. I took guitar lessons and found that because I was able to play songs I recognized that weren’t just nursery rhyme songs like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ I could get excited about practicing every day.
Seven years later I still take guitar lessons in NYC. I only wished I had started playing guitar when I was younger by being honest with myself, and thinking more about what kind of music I liked, rather than the kind of music I was supposed to play.
Violin wasn’t right for me, but that’s not to say that it isn’t right for others. Playing Bach or Vivaldi on violin requires more skill than strumming three chords on guitar, and for that reason, I imagine it to be much more rewarding. The advice I want to give is: Be honest with yourself when deciding what instrument you want to play. You’re going to have to stick with it for a while.
Whether you’re starting NYC guitar lessons or you’ve been taking them for a while, you may be thinking about getting a new guitar. A few weeks back we guided you through the best options for electric guitars, but if you want to stay traditional, you have two main choices.
Classical vs. Acoustic
Classical guitars are the original guitars. Their necks are thicker, they use thicker nylon strings, the neck meets the body at the 12th fret (so fewer chances for solos), and their bodies are slightly smaller. Acoustic guitars have thinner, steel strings, the neck meets the body at the 14th fret, and their bodies can be much larger for a bigger, more resonant sound.
Typically classical guitars are used to play classical music, while acoustic guitars are better for folk songs, rock, and blues. Classical guitars can be cheaper than acoustic, so in a sense they can be good if you haven’t yet taken NYC guitar lessons and you don’t know if guitar is something you want to stick with for a long time.
Fingerpicking has a lot of styles, though it’s traditionally associated with classical guitar, since in the days of yore, plectrums, or picks, didn’t exist. In most fingerpicking scores, the finger is indicated by letters that refer to the Spanish word for finger, p being thumb, i for index, m middle, a for ring, and c or e is pinky. Traditional classical styles include: i-m-i-m-im; i-m-a-i-m-a; p-a-m-i-p-a-m-i.
North American fingerpicking styles typically use the thumb to play the three bass strings and the other fingers to play the higher strings. The result is a bluesy sound that has its roots in African-American blues players trying to imitate the ragtime sound popular at the end of the 19th century. Today, it’s almost a standard style for acoustic guitar fingerpicking.
Ultimately, the kind of guitar you choose will impact how the kind of music you play. Having taken NYC guitar lessons in the past will definitely help you if you’re looking to buy your first guitar or your second!
The best and hardest-to-stomach teaching you will learn from guitar lessons is that practice is the best way to get good at guitar. But while scales and chords are all well and good, we wondered if there were any quick guitar hacks to make you a better player, or at least impress your teacher during your next guitar lesson.
Here’s a video that shows some cool tricks, like tuning your guitar to an open chord, and sharpening picks on a rug.
If you feel like some of those tips were above your head, keep reading. The best thing to do to start your practice routine is to start with scales. By getting them out of the way first, you can reward yourself by playing a song after. It’s crucial to play with a beat, even when you’re picking scales. Make sure to alternate the direction of your pluck. Plucking down makes a different sound from plucking up, and if you only pluck in one direction, you will have trouble going the other way in the future.
Getting Guitar Fundamentals Right
Perhaps the most important scale to practice for your guitar lessons is the pentatonic. Once you learn that, you can isolate pieces of it to solo. Try to learn it in different keys, and move it up and down the fretboard to familiarize yourself with the different sounds you can make.
When learning songs, play the recorded version of the song you’re learnign while you strum to listen to how it’s played. You may hear certain melodies you hadn’t before. Also check to see if there are video performances on Youtube of that song. Watching how your favorite guitar player can help you learn certain tricks.
It may be tempting to speed through a new chord progression or scale while you learn it, but it’s much more effective to slow down and make sure you nail what’s giving you trouble. If you still have difficulty, ask your teacher for extra tips at your next guitar lesson.