• Beginner Guitar Lessons Beginner Guitar Lessons Our main goal is to create a safe and positive environment full of positive support. We focus on celebrating the student's achievements every step of the way and together we enjoy their introduction to the basics. No pressure!
  • Intermediate Guitar Lessons Intermediate Guitar Lessons Together we develop the student's understanding of their instrument by exploring Music Theory and Musical Literacy (reading and writing music). We use many colorful handouts, interactive software and musical examples to help students truly understand these fundamental concepts.
  • Advanced Guitar Lessons Advanced Guitar Lessons With strong technique in the hands and a mind that can fully conceptualize how music works, advanced students can focus on developing their abilities to both write and perform music with expressive confidence.
  • Bass Classes All Levels Bass Classes All Levels We offer the same levels for bass as we do guitar: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. As with our other classes we tailor your program to your goals and current mastery of the bass.

How Your Environment Can Affect Your Guitar Lessons

Most of you already know that we recently relocated Gables Guitar Studio to a new home. This past weekend, as we were moving in the last of the studio gear and getting settled in, I started to get a sense of the lesson environment coming together in the new space.

I think anyone would agree that we carried over the same professional music studio vibe we’ve always had. I mean the place is very clean, quiet, uncluttered. And we still have Paola’s art collection and rock posters on the walls to keep it from feeling too serious or uptight. But the new lesson space is also different in a lot of ways. The dimensions of the lesson room are different. The acoustics are different. The lighting is different. The furniture is laid out differently.

It’s not bad, in fact overall I like the new place better than our original location for many reasons. But it got me thinking about all the different places I’ve taught guitar over the years and how all these different lesson environments seemed to contribute to outcomes with different students.

The earliest guitar lessons I remember were in the back rooms of music shops. It must have been about 1993. To call these places ‘rooms’ is pretty generous. They were basically closets with two folding chairs facing each other set about 3 feet apart. Most had a dusty boombox with a tape deck. I remember how messy these rooms were. Older kids would smoke cigarettes in there and write graffiti on the walls. The teachers would tack up 8×11″ posters torn out of Guitar World Magazine. The posters always featured the pantheon of major shredders: Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, or George Lynch. The corners were always full of crumpled up notes and bits of hand-copied sheet music, and of course picks of every shape, size, and color; left behind by so many students.

It’s hard to say what effect the music shop had on my actual lessons. It’s easy to romanticize those dusty, poorly ventilated spaces 20 years later, but the truth is it was pretty uncomfortable and chaotic. I was lucky in that my first teachers were all great. I learned a lot while I was there, but what I didn’t learn was how to really practice effectively.

Fast forward 10 years. Now it’s 2005: same town (Davie, FL), different music shop, and now I’m the teacher. The lesson rooms were still small and crammed in one next to the other. You could sill hear everything going on in the rooms on either side of you. At least, by this time, smoking in these little rooms was not allowed! Each of these lessons rooms featured a desktop computer. I and the other guitar instructors were told to base all of our lessons around this new software that was basically like a bunch of powerpoint slides on rock guitar techniques. All of my students at the time were young kids and they were bored to death by the software. I stopped using it after the first week and started making up lessons based on how I learned and what the kids wanted to learn. Computers and other tech can be a great tool to help the learning process. It was around this time that I started using GuitarPro software to properly type, edit and and print the lesson material I had design. But it can also be a huge distraction. I remember a lot of young kids just wanted to watch music videos on this new thing called YouTube.

Skip ahead about 5 years I moved to Coral Gables and started teaching on my own. For the first few years I traveled to students’ homes. I remember the very first student’s house I set foot in. He was an older guy who it turns out had no proper chairs in his entire house. All he had to sit on was this weird designer sofa that you would sort of sink into. I had tried to bring everything I thought I needed: music stand, blank sheet music, print-outs for material I thought we’d cover. But I hadn’t thought of chairs. That lesson and every lessons afterward we had to play standing up in his living room.

After that I traveled to many other students’ homes. Some environments were comfortable and quiet. Others were a total nightmare. And you can imagine that the students’ progress on the instrument was heavily correlated with how well their home environment worked as a music studio. The ones who really couldn’t get it together got less out of each lesson and practiced less in between lessons. They became frustrated often and suffered a higher drop-out rate.

Finally, when I started Gables Guitar Studio in 2013, I got to see what a real professional studio environment could do for guitar students. Learning to play guitar in a proper music studio environment affords the student many important advantages. At Gables Guitar we have just one lesson room and it is truly a room – not a closet. I sit students down in front of a big wall mirror so that they can see what they look like playing in order to eliminate numerous bad habits associated with bad playing posture. We have proper guitar stool, foot stools, music stand, and many other accessories on hand for when we need them. We have access to my library of guitar books covering virtually every style of music. You never know where a lesson might lead so it’s good to have access to as many lesson resources as possible at all times. Most importantly, I can ensure that the place is clean, quiet and comfortable so that the students can maximize their concentration on the lesson material.

I appreciate the huge difference the studio environment makes in both children and adult students; especially beginners who need to learn what an effective practice environment looks like. I mean we’re not as strict as a conservatory. A lot of kids just want to play Green Day or the Black Keys. But even simple rock songs require very solid techniques. When they come into the studio they are automatically prepared to take their lessons more seriously.

The more distractions we can remove the more students can focus on the lesson and absorb the material. Then when they go home they know exactly the kind of environment they need to try an replicate during their practice time. It only takes a simple shift in intention to go from a disorganized struggle to a focused, methodical type of personal training. But I think most students need to see the inside of a real studio in order for all this to really sink in. I know i did!

I’m so glad that I am able to offer my students this kind of musical environment to work on building their guitar skills. I certainly helps maximize my ability as an instructor. I think in this new space we have even better control over the environment. It is really great to kind of start again in this new space knowing all the things that I have learned about building a guitar studio. This new place is a bit like Gables Guitar Studio 2.0. For those of you that have been with me for some time, I think that you’ll find the new space is a little bit better suited to the way we do things.

If you haven’t been a part of Gables Guitar Studio but are thinking about trying lessons, I look forward to showing you all that our new studio has to offer.

Tuning Your Guitar : A Closer Look

First I should say that this blog post is NOT going to be a basic tutorial on guitar tuning. There are hundreds of websites out there that can show you how to tune your guitar strings to EADGBE. What I want to do today is address some of the finer points involved in tuning the guitar.

Nearly all of my students, somewhere between a year to year-and-half into their guitar lessons, start to report having a certain difficulty with tuning their guitar. It isn’t that their guitars are suddenly not staying in tune or that their electronic tuners need calibration. What is happening is that after about a year of playing, their ears begin to really notice (and are bothered by) slightly out of tune harmonies.

The complaint is always that the student is fingering something very simple, usually an open C or open E chord, and the chord just sounds sour or “off”. And when they play it for me, it certainly is. I used to try and get students to correct this problem much earlier in the learning process. But there is just so much to grasp in the first year of lessons, and let’s face it you are going to sound bad in the beginning for a variety of reasons. Fine tuning your guitar isn’t going to make a difference until your ears are capable of understanding what you are hearing; which is precisely when you will begin to notice this problem.

I first encountered this problem years ago. I found it particularly baffling that I could tune my guitar’s open strings using an electronic tuner, play and open E chord that sounded perfect, but then my open C sounded way out. Specifically the problem with the C chord was beats in the perfect fourth interval between the 3rd string G and 2nd string C. I tried tuning the 3rd string upward to eliminate the beats (which make the C chord sound perfect) only to find that the problem of beats had now shifted to the open E chord: between the 3rd string G# and second string B (what should be a minor third harmony).

I found out much later on that this problem has to do with the difference between the something called “just intonation” and the system of “equal temperament” which western music has adopted in order to make fixed pitch instruments (including the fretted guitar) equally playable in all 12 keys.

The issues arising from equal tempered tuning and its effect on intervals and key centers is fascinating but a bit to DEEP for me to get into right now. If you really want to understand how equal tempered tuning effects the intervals of the guitar you should start reading up on the overtone series and the history of equal tempered tuning. Be patient as this subject is very hard to understand. It took me a few years even to begin to wrap my brain around it. If you have specific questions on this subject, send them to me in an email and I’ll do my best to explain. Or, if you’re already one of my students, just bring it up in your next guitar class.

Assuming that most of you are NOT interested in going deep into equal temperament, and would just like to fix the problem and have your chords sounding nice an pretty. You are in luck. There is a very practical solution to this problem. There are actually several, but I’ll just tell you the one that I use most often.

I just explain to you how I tune my guitar and then you can try it and see if it helps you.

1.) Tune all open strings by one of the normal methods. Tuning the open strings to EADGBE using an electronic tuner is the fastest. You can also tune the open strings by ear to their corresponding piano keys, or use a pitch fork or whatever.

2.) Strings 6, 5, and 4 (E-A-D) are fine so long as you really tune them right using the traditional methods. So these do not need any additional adjustment.

2.) We will make fine adjustments to strings 3, 2, and 1 (if needed) using by fretting an open D5 chord. The open D5 is made by playing the 4th string D (open), 3rd String A (2nd fret), 2nd string D (3rd fret) and 1st string A (5th fret). Low to high the notes of this chord are D-A-D-A. Check the first D against the first A (a 5th interval) then the first A against the second D (a fourth) then the A against the second A (an octave). Basically I check all the intervals against each other and balance out any beat frequencies or inconsistencies. Usually this only requires a slight adjustment of the 3rd string to get all 4 stings resonating with perfect clarity. Whatever you do don’t adjust the open 4th string. That should be the the reference for the other 3 fretted strings.

After you’ve do this fine tuning carefully, go back and try the open E and open C chords. You should find that both sound great. In truth their upper intervals are slightly degraded and if you listen real close you might here a very slow *wow* in the C chord, but it is certainly not enough to sour the harmony.

I also use this method to check my guitar in between songs during a performance if I think the 3rd or 2nd strings may have slipped out of tune due to bending, temperature change or some other fluke. In truth it is probably impossible to keep your guitar in tune 100% of the time. But if you master little tuning tricks like these you can identify tuning problems and resolve them immediately; and as a result you guitar will always sound great!

The Importance of Active Listening In 2015

One really important part of becoming a good musician is listening to music. While this may seem very obvious, what many musicians don’t realize is that not all kinds of listening are equal. The better you develop your listening skills the more you will appreciate, understand and ultimately absorb musical ideas which can further your own playing ability as well as your musical creativity.

I think my listening skills were at their best when I was a teenager. I used to just sit in a room for hours, staring at the ceiling, listening to CDs or records or (gasp) FM radio. I wasn’t also browsing the internet (there was no such thing). I wasn’t looking at my phone (it was attached to the wall in my parent’s kitchen). I’m not trying to come off like some old grouch who thinks “those were the days”. But I am saying that I recognize how easy it is to become accustomed to browsing several different kinds of media simultaneously. It takes a little extra focus and commitment now to say, “OK. I’m just going to sit here and really listen to this album.”

What I used to do as a teenager (really getting deep into a song or album) is what I now have seen others refer to as ACTIVE LISTENING. Basically when you are actively listening, you devote your full attention to what you are hearing. Since you aren’t looking at any visual stimuli, you may naturally visualize what the lyrics are about, or maybe you visualize the artists playing their instruments. Particularly with instrumental music the music may evoke all sorts of day dreams straight from your own imagination.

The main thing is that when you are actively listening your mind remains actively engaged in the music 100%. You don’t start thinking about your bills, or that you need to reply to some email, or anything like that. I think this maybe the reason why I can never get back to height of my teenage listening skills. Adults simply face so many more mental distractions. I got worries now, man!

When I think about all the ways in which listening to music has changed over the last few decades, I wonder if today’s teenagers are having a more passive listening experience. For one thing there is more music. So much more music, and it is everywhere. When I was young good music was scarce. So much so that we referred to it as “underground” music. You had to dig it up. Then, even if you found it, you also had to buy it. So even when I was lucky enough to find a store that carried cool albums I could only afford maybe one new album every month. In those days it was you and 12 tracks for like 30 days. So even if they weren’t that good you’d actively listen to ALL of them many times over.

Contrast this with today’s listening environment. It is ceaseless avalanche of digitized musical masterpieces. In one way this is everything music lovers always wanted. But while the musical abundance is suddenly infinite, our time to listen and enjoy it is more scarce than ever. Naturally this results in a situation where we spend maybe 30 seconds skimming and browsing through an artists ENTIRE LIFE’s WORK, passively waiting for something to jump out and grab our attention. If nothing does, we declare this artist a dud. We then take 1 more second to form a lasting opinion about how we don’t like that artist and proceed to click on the next one. At this rate you can form such superficial opinions about the entire genres of music is a single afternoon. This is passive listening at its worst.

Even when it’s not quite that superficial, I have made it a point to try to spend time with albums or artists’ catalogues the way I used to when I was younger. There is no substitute for listening to a track dozens of times. It is very surprising what you might hear the 12th time that you didn’t hear the first 11 times.

Last thing I’ll say on this topic right now is that NONE of my all-time-favorite records jumped out and grabbed me when I first heard them. In fact the experience was quite the opposite. Almost all my favorite records were ones that I initially found to be confusing, disappointing, obnoxious, boring, or scary. Then as I got to know those records, I was forced to grow and understand them. It is very important to remember that some of there very best music out there is meant not to please you, but to change you. So either chose to go deep, or browse at your own risk.

Gables Guitar Journal #005

SATURDAY

Saturday mornings are always a good time to get some serious hours in the studio. I got in early (for the weekend), grabbed my Telecaster and dove into my electric guitar technical routine:

[7:30-10:30am] : Electric Guitar : (with Drum Machine @ 88bpm)
– Left Hand Solo Exercises – (1/4 – 1/8) [15 min]
– Right Hand Solo Exercises (1/4 – T/16) [15 min]
– Chromatic Exercises – (1/8 to 1/16) [30 min]
– Diatonic/Modal Scales – (1/8 to 1/16) [15 min]
– Chord Bouncing (V7-I progressions 12 keys) [15 min]
– Legado Scales – (1/8 to T/16) [15 min]
– Arpeggios (up to 2 Octaves) – 1/8 to T/16 [15 min]
– Improvisation in A Major [1 hour]

I slowed the tempo of the drum machine to 88bpm so I could really get inside the sextuplet (aka T/16) rhythms. For the past few weeks I have been practicing this routine at 100bpm, and while I can hit the sextuplets at that tempo, it’s a bit manic and I can tell that there is muscle tension building up in both of my hands at that speed after about 1 measure of straight sextuplets. While the sextuplets were still difficult at 88bpm, it seems most of the difficulty was in my LEFT hand and the timing of my RIGHT feels very relaxed and controlled.

To improve the response of my LEFT hand I devised some chromatic sextuplet exercises. I’ll write them up in guitar pro later today. The gist is that you start with just 4 adjacent chromatic tones (one position on one string) and you play 7 sextuplet starting on one beat and ending on the onset of the next beat. Then you let that second beat be a quarter note. So it basically alternates 6-sextuplets and 1 quater note

One measure of this rhythm would count something like:

||: ONE-&-uh-2-&-uh-TWO THREE-&-uh-2-&-uh-FOUR ||

Then you run this pattern different ways in that one position starting on different fingers. I found it made sense to first work on patterns going in EITHER ascending OR descending chromatic directions, and then try bidirectional patterns.

As you can see, this simple concept for an exercise immediately yields dozens of technically interesting permutations, all of which need a bit of attention in order to fully prepare the LEFT hand fingers for sextuplets.

After working these 4-finger chromatic exercises for about 15 min, I moved on to diatonic scales and found that I could breeze through the generally 3-notes-per-string diatonic scales even at the densely packed sextuplet rhythm. There is certainly something to be said for pushing yourself into areas that feel too difficult at first. If nothing else it makes all the skills one notch below feel like a walk in the park!!

I was so excited by this new high-speed freedom that I barely managed to get in 15 minutes of the remaining skills (Chords, Arpeggios and Legato Scales) before testing out these new skills via an hour long improvisation over a A – Asus4 Chord vamp.

Gables Guitar Journal #004

Wednesday

[6:30-8:30am] : Classical Guitar :
– Arpeggios [15 min]
– Diatonic Scales w/ alternating rest strokes [15 min]
– Delcamp – Book D01 – Lesson 8 [30 min]
– Recorded Submission Pieces and posted them. [60 min]
Only 2 more lessons to go to complete Delcamp Classical Guitar Level 1

[8:30-11:30am] : Electric Guitar : (with Drum Machine @ 100bpm)
– Left Hand Solo Exercises – (1/4 – T/16) [15 min]
– Right Hand Solo Exercises (1/4 – 1/8) [15 min]
– Chromatic Exercises – (1/8 to 1/16) [15 min]
– Diatonic/Modal Scales – (1/8 to 1/16) [15 min]
– Pentatonic Scales – (1/8 to 1/16) [30 min]
– Legado Scales – (1/8 to T/16) [30 min]
– Blues licks w/ bends and dbl stops [30 min]
– Arpeggios (up to 2 Octaves) – 1/8 to T/16 [30 min]

[1:00-3:00pm] : Surf Guitar :
– I worked on several Surf-Rock songs that I’m going to be performing at the end of May. A lot of these are old classics including:
“Walk Don’t Run”, “Apache”, “Sleepwalk”, “Miserlou, “Wipeout”, “Tequila” and a bunch of other lesser-known tunes.

Gables Guitar Journal Entry #003

TUESDAY
Started the day off bright and early. Well, the sun wasn’t up so maybe not so bight. But it was definitely EARLY.

Got to the studio at 5:30AM and got right down to business:

[5:30-6:30AM] CLASSICAL GUITAR TECHNIQUE :::
– Scales & Arpeggios @ 100bpm (1/8, T/8, 1/16) [30 min]
– Delcamp – Book D01 – Lesson 8 [30 min]

Making noticeable progress in all the Delcamp Lesson 8 pieces. I still have the sheet music out. I find that I need to read the music a bit from time to time, but I mostly have all these pieces memorized. I will record myself playing these tomorrow so I can move on to Lesson 9 by Thursday.

[6:30-8:00AM] ELECTRIC GUITAR TECHNIQUE :::
– Left Hand Alone (Silent Exercises) [15 min]
– Right Hand Alone (Alternate picking) All subdivisions at 100bpm [15 min]
– Chromatic Scale Exercises [15 min]
– Diatonic/Modal Scale Exercises [15 min]
– Legato Scales [15 min]
– Arpeggios [15 min]

[8:00-9:00AM] SOLO JAZZ REPERTOIRE :::
– “Stella by Starlight” Chord-melody
– “Bye Bye Blackbird” Chord-melody
– “Blue Bossa” Chord-melody
– “Killer Joe” Chord-melody
– “Summertime” Chord-melody

The Jazz repertoire is coming along. I need to line up some new pieces for next week. I’m trying to add (at least) one new standard per week until I can do about 50 or so by memory. So far I have only 3 solid ones (killer Joe and Summertime are sort-of incomplete).

[12:00-2:00] Piano Practice :::
– Mozart Piano Sonata K545
– Bach Invention #4 in Dm
– Debussy – Arabesque #1

So all together that’s 3 solid hours of guitar practice followed by 2 hours well-spent at the piano. I also had a piano lesson at from 2:15-3:15 so that’s like another hour of piano. The rest of the in-between time has been spent giving lessons. Not a great practice day, but certainly not bad. Really, I kind of know better than to expect results from marathon sessions. Just got to keep stacking up decent days like today. That is the key to consistent progress.

Gables Guitar Journal Entry #002

#002 MONDAY 04/14/14

Started off the new week right with a solid 5-hour practice session this morning. It definitely pays to get up early.

This morning I woke up at 5am. Every-other-day I do 35 min of cardio on the elliptical before going into the studio. So by the time I sat down with the Cordoba C9 (classical guitar) it was 6:45am.

Here is a breakdown of how I spent the next 5 hours:

[7:00-8:00am] : Classical Guitar :
– Arpeggios [15 min]
– Diatonic Scales w/ alternating rest strokes [15 min]
– Delcamp – Book D01 – Lesson 8 [30 min]

[8:00-11:00am] : Electric Guitar : (with Drum Machine @ 100bpm)
– Left Hand Solo Exercises – 1/4 Notes [20min]
– Right Hand Solo Exercises – 1/4 to T/16 [20min]
– Chromatic Exercises – 1/8 to 1/16 [20min]
– Diatonic Scales – 1/8 to 1/16 [30min]
– Pentatonic Scales – 1/8 to 1/16 [30min]
– Legado Scales – 1/8 to T/16 [30min]
– Blues licks w/ bends and dbl stops [15min]
– Arpeggios (up to 2 Octaves) – 1/8 to T/16 [15min]

[11:00-12:00] : Free Improvisation
– While working on arpeggios, I stumbled on a chord progression I thought sounded cool:
{ Dmaj7 – Dmaj7/B – Emaj7 – Emaj7/C# }
Kind of reminded me of something Stereolab would do. I recorded it into my loop pedal and improvised melodies over the strange changes for about an hour. Couldn’t really get any diatonic stuff working. I don’t think any one mode can be used over the entire progression, and my awareness (apparently) isn’t sharp enough to switch keys while doing anything I’d qualify as music. So there is something else that needs work:
PLAYING OVER CHANGES (especially uncommon ones).

A major / F# minor pentatonic sounded pretty great though. It sounded particularly good when I put some heavy phaser/reverb on the lead guitar.

I ended the practice session at 12 noon and went to eat lunch. Not sure if I’ll get more practice in today as I’ve got the afternoon full of lessons and a new episode of Game of Thrones in the DVR!

Oh, well. There is always tomorrow. I expect to get in 6 or 7 hours tomorrow as I don’t have to do cardio first in morning. Looking at what I ended up doing today, I should probably prioritize working on Jazz repertoire tomorrow (as I won’t get to it today).

Gables Guitar Journal Entry #001

I’m thinking about doing something different with the Gables Guitar Blog. I thought it might be cool to use the blog as an open guitarist’s journal. I think an on-going chronicle that describes how I work day-to-day might be useful to students and other professional musicians. I also haven’t really seen anything like that elsewhere on the internet, so maybe that can help to make the Gables Guitar blog stand out from the rest.

If you really want to improve your skills as a musician, tips and tricks will only get you so far. You also need to know how to WORK on music in a professional sense: how to set up practice routines, and what CONSISTENCY looks like. It took me a decade to understand the importance of such concepts. The best way for me to share them with you is just to explain a little bit about what I do each day.

So without any further build-up lets get to it! I can’t spend all day writing this blog post. I have only a few hours left to practice!

Here’s what I plan to do today:

SATURDAY [ 10.00am – Noon ] 2hr session

..::: TECHNIQUE :::.. 1hr, 50% of today’s Session Time
1. LEFT HAND ALONE, Posing/Stretching Exercises w/ Drum Machine 100bpm [10 min]
2. RIGHT HAND ALONE, Alt. Picking, 100bpm, ALL Subdivisions (1/4 to T/16) [15 min]
3. CHROMATIC EXERCISES, 100bpm (1/4 to T/16) [5 min]
4. DIATONIC SCALES, 100bpm (1/4 to T/16) [10 min]
5. PENTATONIC SCALES, 100bpm (1/4 to T/16) [10 min]
6. LEAGATO SCALES, 100bpm (1/4 to T/16) [5 min]
7. ARPEGGIOS, 100bpm (1/4 to T/16) [5 min]

..::: READING :::.. 30min, 25% of Session Time
1. Delcamp – Book# D01 – Lesson 8 (Classical Guitar Technique)

..::: REPERTOIRE :::.. 30min, 25% of Session Time
1. “Summertime” a Jazz Chord Melody
sheet music and really nifty analysis available HERE

So that’s it. Just a short 2hour practice today and then I’m off to visit with family. It is the week-end after all. Check back on Monday morning when I’ll have a REAL work day starting at 5 AM!

ALSO: In the interest of saving time and space, I’m using a lot of abbreviations that might not be common or easily understood by novice guitarists. I will go into more details when and if they become relevant to the work. If you are interested in what I’m doing here and have any questions or comments, post them below or send an email to: Brian@BrianHunker.com