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.
Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been trying to teach yourself for a while, chances are you’ve considered taking one-on-one guitar lessons. If you’ve never actually sat down with a professional guitar instructor, allow me to show you just a few of the advantages formal guitar lessons have to offer.
Advantage #1 : There is a tremendous history of over 200 years of accumulated knowledge about the guitar.
The modern guitar is the product of a rich history that stretches back over 200 years. The collected body of knowledge, technique, and repertoire for guitar is made up of thousands of truly brilliant musical insights. These insights came from an incredible diversity of musical geniuses from different times and places: from the late eighteenth century master and teacher Ferdinand Sor, to modern guitar heroes like Jimi Hendrix. All this knowledge and innovation is great, and has made the guitar the most popular instrument on earth, but it can also be extremely overwhelming to beginning guitar players. Luckily, for as long as guitarists have been inventing new techniques and sounds on the guitar, generations of guitar teachers have agonized over how to breakdown and package all this information to keep beginner students on track.
Advantage #2 : Weekly guitar classes will help you avoid dozens of bad habits.
Anyone who’s ever played guitar knows that even the most basic aspects of guitar technique are not easy at first. Guitar playing requires amounts of strength, flexibility, and precision in the hands that nobody possess initially. What is worse is that in the early stages, technical development is not at all intuitive. Due to the beginner’s lack of muscle development and flexibility, many things that “feel” right can actually lead to bad habits that can severely curtail the proper development. Throughout my years of teaching guitar I’ve seen so many beginners gravitate toward the same common mistakes. In the first few classes a big part of what we do as guitar instructors involves reminding beginners of these bad habits and encouraging them to practice properly so that they can develop the strength and flexibility to truly play the guitar beautifully.
Advantage #3 : Weekly guitar classes help you create a practice routine.
These days there is no shortage of information out there on the internet about how to play the guitar. There are tons of DVDs, YouTube tutorials, interactive software, even video games to try and help you learn to play guitar. All this information is great. It’s very useful stuff and you should try to take advantage of all of it. But you should also know that despite whatever anyone tells you, there is only ONE way to become a guitar player: PRACTICE. How well you play depends entirely on how well you practice. The most valuable thing I can offer beginner guitarists is to teach them how to practice. Later, with more advanced students, we learn how to evolve the practice routine so that it changes as the guitarist’s abilities change and grow. One of the scariest things about learning guitar is that you can waste a lot of time if you are not using effective practice methods. Even if you think you are working hard, you can stagnate indefinitely without an efficient and comprehensive practice plan. Don’t do this. Find a good guitar teacher who can help you set goals and develop a practice routine so that you can meet your goals in a timely fashion.
Another side note to this point is that weekly lessons tend to force people to practice more frequently than they would on their own. When it’s just you on your own, maybe you’ll practice today. Maybe you’ll skip a day, or 2, or 3… Who’s going to care other than you? This is how people tend to drift when they don’t have that weekly appointment reminding them to work hard and get better. Those skipped days turn into skipped weeks or months and pretty soon all momentum is lost. Worst of all you may become further discouraged from starting up again because of these setbacks. By signing up for guitar classes you are making a clear commitment that will go a long way to keeping you from falling off track. You are also specifically enlisting another person (your guitar instructor) to care about and actively monitor your progress. A good guitar instructor should be as invested in your progress as you are.
Advantage #4 : Lessons help you build tools.
The practice routine mentioned above can be considered one essential tool to learning the guitar in a reasonable amount of time. But it isn’t the only one. There are many others. Musical literacy is also a great tool. Strong internal sense of rhythm is another. A good guitar teacher can integrate the development of these important tools right into your weekly guitar classes. Developing the right tools for yourself can really change the whole experience of learning guitar. Without tools you will have to do many times more work for a small fraction of the outcome. WITH the right tools you can achieve amazing things from surprisingly little effort.
Advantage #5 : Lessons show you things you don’t know you need to know.
If the guitar is your first musical instrument, then you are not just learning guitar, you are also learning what it means to be a musician. There are many important concepts that most beginners aren’t aware of. If you are relying only on yourself to direct your musical study, there are things you’ll never teach yourself because you don’t know that they exist. A good guitar instructor will bring these things to your attention right when you need them most. This way you focus on what you need as you need it.
If you are going to learn to play the guitar, you should learn to play the instrument really well. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s quite hard and most of the people who try the guitar quit before they can even play anything. Don’t let this happen to you. The advantages of formal guitar lessons are what makes this seemingly impossible task possible.
Summer is almost here. Can you believe it? School is about to let out. I’m already starting to get calls from parents looking to plan Summer activities for their kids.
This Summer, like every Summer, lots of kids will take their first guitar lesson. It is my job as a music teacher to ensure as best I can that everyone enjoys the experience. Simple as that. Music education can and should play an important role in everyone’s life. Not just for those determined few who decide to take up the long hard road that leads to a life as professional musician.
In the first and most important case, amateur musicians are every bit as likely to become true artists as any professional. If you play even one song beautifully, that’s it. You’ve done it. You’re an artist. And you don’t need to devote all of your life to learning to do that. You can learn to play a handful of songs beautifully and have tons of time left to become a world class Doctor, Lawyer, Tattoo Artist, Pizza Chef, Mother, Father or whatever profession/vocation truly means something to you.
Secondly, music education helps deepen a person’s ability to listen to and appreciate music. So even if a student ultimately decides that they aren’t cut out to be a performer, they will still remember what they learned about how music is made. They will be able to listen beyond the bells and whistles of pop-production to hear things like harmonic structures and chord colors. They will be able to make sense of syncopated rhythms. We think that music appreciation is somehow hardwired in our DNA, but it’s not. The ability to feel what the music is trying to express is entirely cultural. The more sophisticated the musical statement, the more understanding is needed on the part of the listener in order to understand and appreciate it.
Particularly if they are exposed to this kind of learning at a young age, they will grow up with the ability to appreciate a wider variety of the music, both new and old, being made all over the world. So this to is a big part of our job as music teachers. We have to make learning music enjoyable, even for non-musicans.
What’s great about one-on-one lessons is that we can kind of go in any direction the student wants to go. You want to learn about the music of the Jonas Brothers? Ok. We can start there. 1-Direction? You got it. All that matters is that the student is engaged and interested in the music. I wasn’t interested in Bach or Sor or Paco de Lucia when I first started either.
So yes, if you are thinking about sending your son or daughter to take guitar lessons this Summer, you should expect to find just this kind of welcoming, student-centered approach at Gables Guitar. I truly believe that enjoyment and validation is the best (and possibly only) way for people to reach their full musical potential, whatever that ultimately is.
We are so excited to announce we have partnered with four amazing businesses in Coral Gables to celebrate Gables Guitar Month! During the month of April, we will give a free half-hour guitar lesson to anyone that shops or dines at the Coral Gables Art Cinema, Chocolate Fashion, Janette & Co. Maracons, or Pummarola Pizzeria. Simply bring your sales receipt from one of these businesses as your proof of purchase. The promotion is limited to one per customer and the redemption of the free private guitar class expires December 31, 2015.
We love to shop local at Gables Guitar Studio! This month, while you support some of the best businesses in Coral Gables you get a free first step towards learning the guitar. Yay for National Guitar Month!
We couldn’t be happier to work with the Gables Cinema, Chocolate Fashion, Janette & Co. Macarons and Pummarola Pizzeria. And here’s why:
Gables Cinema is a non-profit art house that brings really cool independent movies to South Florida. I’ve seen several movies in that theater and it always feels like a unique and personal experience. Also, I have enjoyed the movie every time. I suppose that is due to the fact that the talented team at Gables Cinema hand-picks their programming for the best independent films. The Gables Cinema is located at 260 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL.
Chocolate Fashion is a French bakery and restaurant. We love this place so much they know us by name. I personally recommend their chocolate croissants, blueberry scones, Saturday Brunch chocolate pancakes, lunch sandwiches, palmieres, and coffee. Everything I’ve tried at Chocolate Fashion I have loved. If you have never been here, you should definitely check them out. Chocolate Fashion is located at 248 Andalusia Ave, Coral Gables, FL.
Janette & Co Macarons make the most delicious macarons you have ever tasted in South Florida. They are crunchy and fluffy on the outside with a moist and decadent filling. If you like macarons and haven’t gone to Janette & Co you must drop whatever you are doing and head there right now. If you need another reason to check them out right now, their April macaron flavor of the month is Cookies & Cream. Janette & Co is located at 208 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL.
Pummarola Pizzeria does not kid around with their recipes. Every pizza is made by a Master Pizzaiolo that has been brought over from Naples, Italy. I love their margherita pizza and their tiramisu. If you are big meat eater, their spicy salami pizza is one of their best sellers. The great thing about Pummarola is that you can enjoy their Italian food from the comfort of your home. They deliver to the Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and South Miami areas. Pummarola is located at 141 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables, FL.
When looking for a private guitar instructor make sure to keep a couple of things in mind. Most importantly, pick an instructor that makes you feel comfortable and is also knowledgeable. Staying committed to your classes will be much easier if you have a teacher you get a long with. Read more >>