- Written by Jay Skyler
Am I Too Old to Learn Guitar?
This section answers the most frequently asked questions I recieve about taking guitar lessons. Please note, this FAQ does not cover general website questions about gear, music theory, or fretboard diagrams.
You are of course welcome to call me at (415)845-5471 to ask any questions about guitar lessons you might have.
Short answer? No. Its widely accepted among music teachers (including myself) that the guitar and piano are the two hardest instruments to learn. The first reason being that they both require learning chords and scales, unlike say a saxophone, which only plays only single notes.
This is also the reason they are the two dominant instruments in popular music. Any serious singer or songwriter has some skills on on or the other.
The second reason is that everyone knows what they are supposed to sound like! Play an obscure instrument no one has ever heard of and it can take people an entire performance to evaluate whether they are good or not. And novelty usually wins out.
On guitar and piano people decide if you are good or not in seconds! You "got it" or "you don't". And the less overtly "avaunt-guard" the genre, the less forgiving people are in their opinions. Fusion jazz makes little sense to the average listener, if you are capable of playing it fast with decent rhythm, people will assume you are good. Make one out of tune bend in Country & Western music (the supposedly "simplest" genre in popular music) and people will instantly think you suck.
Ask yourself what genres of music get played behind steel cages and you'll get the picture. Fortunately Rock, Blues, Metal, and Folk fall between these extremes.
Piano is much easier than guitar in the beginning, but gets way more difficult in the intermediate stages.
Guitars big challenge is its insanely steep initial learning curve. Most people I've talked to who've tried playing and quit, did so because they couldn't change the chords in time with the music. No books tells you really how exactly to move your hand to change them, (it really is "all in the wrist") and sadly a lot of teachers can't explain it to you.
This includes the guy I first tried taking lessons from at age 12, to whom I am really indebted as a teacher. Despite being able to play fast, he couldn't explain a thing, and figured if he took me through a song in the crappy Mel Bay book, with zero explanation or technical foundation, he had earned his money. The places I felt lost, hopeless, and confused are the first things I was sure to have exact, simple explanations for when I started teaching.
Absolutely. It enables much more rapid progress. It will be taught in easily managed doses as the need for it arises. Always keep in mind it is a means to an end. I can take you from basic songwriting and blues guitar soloing to advanced theory and composition.
You do not need to learn to read standard music notation (i.e. dots on the staff, like piano music). I can teach you if you really want to learn to, but you'll need to tell me.
You will have to learn the notes on the guitar, and the symbols for the various chords.
This isn't that difficult when broken down into stages and combined with other exercises.
Short answer? No. You should start out on whatever type of guitar you really want to play, whether that's an acoustic or electric.
But since this is such a widely held and oft-repeated myth, I've written an entire article on the subject explaining the real origins of this saying (and surprise, its really all about money).
Click here to read it: Your First Guitar: Get The Guitar You Really Want!
Sorry, all lessons are at my downtown studio. I am located here:
143 Turk Street San Francisco CA 94102 United States of America
My primary goal is to teach fundamental musical skills that will last a student a lifetime, and really only a portion of those are guitar specific.
However, it's a whole lot more fun to practice those skills by playing them in a song you've heard, rather than doing, say, random chord drills. You will also retain them longer and pick them up faster.
Once a week is HIGHLY recommended for beginning and intermediate guitar students. If you take them less frequently, fundamentals begin to drift, and you have no one to point it out to you.
Students seeking an accelerated program can come twice a week. This is especially beneficial for electric guitar students who have lead and rhythm to focus on.
Advanced students can take guitar lessons less frequently.
No, I provide the amplifiers. And yes they are tube amps. Currently students play through a vintage 1969 Fender Bassman amp. Its the same model Jimi Hendrix used on Electric Ladyland. You may also use my cables if you pull by the metal plug and not by the cord (which breaks them).
My course is designed for Adult and High School age students. I typically do not accept guitar students under 13 at all, but you are welcome to try and convince me.
Parents: Kids under 10-12 should definitely be taking either singing lessons, or, if you really love them, drum lessons. I don't believe they should be taking guitar or piano lessons until the onset of puberty. Give them a foundation of musical pitch or better yet rhythm. Let them tackle instrumental skill when they are big enough to handle a full size instrument and know what instrument they want to play.
I teach Rock, Blues, Metal, and Singer-Songwriter Style Folk, plus their various sub-genres on both acoustic and electric. These are the genres I like, listen to, and have played in front of many audiences.
I do not teach Classical, Flamenco, or Jazz guitar. I have an extensive knowledge both classical and jazz theory, but I just don't listen to either genre enough to show you the standard songs and maneuvers.
I get asked this in emails quite a bit, but I'm never quite sure exactly what is meant by it in each case. But here's an approximate breakdown of guitar students I've taught privately (excluding music schools I've taught at) in San Francisco:
- Beginner: ~50%
- Intermediate: 40%
- Female: 50%
- Male: 50%
- Electric: 50%
- Acoustic: 30%
- Play one of my guitars at lessons: 20%
- Youngest: 14
- Oldest: 73
- Weekly: 90%
- Bi-Weekly: 5%
- Twice a week 5%
Show up every class.
I will bend over backwards to schedule make up times for times you are forced to cancel. You've probably already paid for the time, Make them up!
More than any other factor:
Attendance = Success!