Primeau Guitar Studio New Student Guide
My teaching goal is to turn you into a life-long guitar player whether this is your first time touching any instrument or you have been playing for years. I want playing the guitar, whether in your bedroom or for an audience, to become an enjoyable and meaningful part of your life. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you it’s going to be fun ALL THE TIME as all learning and growth requires some blood, sweat and tears. However, I promise to make it as worthwhile as possible.
How To Get The Most Out This Experience
I appreciate that you are choosing to put your time and hard-earned money towards learning the guitar. Therefore, I want to make sure you aren’t wasting anything. The truth is that to progress on the guitar, you need to put in 80%+ of the effort. No method will work if you don’t put in the energy necessary for it to be successful. That doesn’t mean you have to spend painful hours a day running your fingers to the bone. You can grow quickly with a little organization, scheduling and strategy. With that in mind, I have laid out this guide to help you along the way.
Binder: In order to get the most out your learning experience, it pays to be organized. The first thing you need to do for these lessons is purchase a three-ring binder. They are available at the Walgreen’s and H-E-B near my house. By keeping all of your materials well-organized, it will be that much easier for you to practice. Notice I said a three-ring binder, NOT a folder. With a binder, you won’t have to rifle through a bunch of loose papers to find the one you need. It’ll all be in the same place each time. In the front, I will give you a page to write your weekly assignments. We’ll spend the end of each session writing down what you need to work on that week and hole-punching all your materials. You will be expected to bring your music binder with you to each class so that your materials are readily available.
Creating A Practice Space: Along with keeping your music organized, it helps to have a specific space set up in your house for you to keep and play your guitar. I strongly suggest investing in a guitar stand. When you get home from your lesson, rather than keeping your guitar in its case, take it out and place it in its stand. Having your guitar out and ready to play at all times will make it that much easier to practice. The less steps between you and practice the better.
Another item to include in your practice space is a music stand. I recommend a sturdy one that won’t collapse or drop the music at any given moment. Just as with your guitar, place your music binder on the stand when you get home. That way you won’t have to locate it when it comes time to practice.
Facing your music stand and next to your guitar stand, place a sturdy chair. I recommend a simple wooden chair or a metal folding chair. By using a less comfortable chair, you will be less tempted to slouch and lose focus while practicing.
With these three simple items you will have laid the groundwork for a good practice space and, therefore, good practice sessions. You now have a dedicated area of your home or apartment for learning your instrument and a physical reminder of your dedication towards learning guitar.
Here are a few other accessories that can help to make your practice time more efficient:
- An Electronic Tuner: Guitar strings naturally go out of tune over time as their tension increases or decreases due to humidity, barometric pressure and temperature. As such, it is essential that you tune your guitar each time to you play it. A simple electronic tuner purchased from a guitar store or a free tuning app on your phone can make this task much quicker. It will give you an accurate reading of each string’s pitch and tell you if it is sharp or flat relative to its intended pitch.
- A Metronome: A metronome is a simple time-keeping tool that produces a click at a steady pace of your setting. This can be especially helpful when working on strum patterns or scale exercises. It can also be used to work a song up to speed
3. Slow-Down Software: Any software that slows down the speed of a recording without changing its pitch is especially valuable. When learning a piece for the first time, it’s best to do so at a slower tempo and work up to full speed. I personally use The Amazing Slow Downer, which costs $45 for PC and $15 dollars as an app for phone or tablets. If you use it on a smart phone or tablet, you should have speakers into which you can plug it.
Lessons: Different Strokes for Different Folks
At Primeau Guitar Studio, we don’t believe in a “one-size fits all” approach to learning. Depending on your level of advancement, goals, areas of interest, availability to/attitude towards practice and lesson length, each student’s pedagogy will be different. Over time, I will hone a lesson pace and structure to fit your needs. The more input you can give me on what it is you want to improve, the better I can do that.
These are the only students with whom I do have a series of items through which we will initially progress until I feel you have mastered the fundamentals. Depending on whether you play acoustic or electric, I will likely take you through a series of tunes which I have found to properly teach the necessary basics. Once I feel you have reached a decent level of competency, then we will discuss options for how to progress.
If you have some previous guitar experience, we will need to get a proper assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses. This may take several lessons before I have a strong picture of where your abilities lie. Please understand that my role as a teacher is to improve your weaknesses before accentuating your strengths. The most efficient road to musical success is by confronting and improving the areas which are lacking. That said, I am committed to helping you study the style and pursue the musical direction you wish to endeavor.
Learning an instrument is akin to starting an exercise regimen; your success or failure is very much dependent on your ability to create and maintain effective habits. This can be a huge sticking point. I accept that for the vast majority of my students playing guitar is not the most important thing in their life and other activities take greater priority. However, I often get asked how much and how often one should practice, so I am going to take the time to lay out a few strategies that I have found to be effective for my students. Super teacher Rob Hampton estimates most his students only practice twice per week for an hour each and I anticipate that many of my students are no different. However, in my experience, the student’s who progress most and have the most fun all seem to practice about a half-hour per day. Choose whichever method you think will work best for you or come up with your own. The important part is to have a strategy. The only unacceptable method is to decide your are not going to practice at all. When you decide that the only time you are going to play is during your lesson, I am effectively learning the guitar for you. I already know how to play the guitar; I don’t want to learn again.
- X minutes per day
X can be whatever amount your current level of development dictates necessary. For total beginners, I wouldn’t shoot for more than 15-20 minutes. More advanced students may wish to spend an hour or more per day on practice. When approaching practice in this way, it is important to efficiently divide that time. Beginners might spend 15 minutes on the song we are working on this week and five minutes reviewing an older tune (side note: regular review is important). Advanced students might spend a third of their time on technical exercises, a third on scales and a third on improvising (replace any of those subjects with whatever we might be learning). One of the best ways to track this method of practice is to print out a monthly calendar, place it in your music binder and place an X on each day you complete your practice session. Shoot to get 5 or more Xs per week.
2. 5 minutes per day
This is for students who are having trouble making the time to practice. Aim to get the guitar in your hand for five easy minutes each day. It’s best if you do this at the same time every day and earlier rather than later. The sooner you accomplish something each day, the less likely you are to get distract by all your other obligations (For instance, I meditate for ten minutes everyday after breakfast). My hope is that by just getting in five minutes per day, you will learn to make the guitar part of your daily routine, enjoy it and be comfortable putting in more time. Again, the best way to track this method is with the calendar method and attempting to get five or more sessions per week.
3. X times per exercise/song
Sometimes in music, I think we concentrate on how many seconds click away as we are practicing rather than what we are actually accomplishing. I’ve had hours of practice where I got nothing done and five minutes sessions where I was so focused I felt like my abilities doubled. Instead worrying about how much time you spend on your weekly assignments, set a goal for how many times you will play each exercise or song. That doesn’t mean you should rush through it in order to get it done. Take your time and try to do it as well as you can each time. If it’s a song, I advise you to play through 3-5 times per session. A shorter exercise can be done more, up to 10-20 times each.
4. Home Office Practice
Many of my students are fortunate enough to be able to work from home. Let’s be honest, you don’t spend all eight hours working each day. You zone out from time to time. Here is where you can steal some practice. Keep your guitar on a stand in your home office. Once or more per day, instead of checking Facebook or Twitter, pick up your guitar run through the things we worked on this week. Many of my students use this method to great success.
How to Practice:
Believe it or not, practicing your guitar is not as simple just picking up your instrument and playing it. If you want to be efficient with your learning experience, it’s important to always have an agenda when you sit down to practice. The majority of your practice time should be spent on the topics, tunes or exercises which we covered in our lesson that week. We will discuss a few different methods of practicing including using a metronome and playing to a recording. Once you feel you have exhausted those or the time you allotted to them is up, you can move on to older tunes or exercises in order to review old material and repertoire. Finally, at the end of each session, you should spend some time just playing for the sheer enjoyment of it. Jam. Mess around. Write a song. See what you can create.
MINIMUM STANDARD OF PERFORMANCE:
YOU SHOULD ARRIVE AT EACH LESSON ABLE TO PLAY THE MATERIAL WE COVERED THE WEEK PREVIOUS AT LEAST AS WELL AS WHEN YOU LEFT THE LAST LESSON. REPEATED FAILURE TO DO SO WILL RESULT IN THE TERMINATION OF OUR LESSONS.
I don’t mind teaching a student something twice because they had a really tough week or they just couldn’t get it. But I can not stand to teach something a third or fifth time because the student refuses to practice.
Lessons will take place at my home studio at 6000 Laird. Because the studio is in my home, students should only enter after knocking and being allowed inside. If you happen to arrive early for your lesson, please wait until your scheduled lesson time before knocking on the door. The waiting room is for parents to use while their children are learning. Students must provide their own instrument. If you are dropping your child off for a lesson, please arrive promptly at the end of their lesson to pick them up.
Tuition is due at the final lesson of each calendar month for the upcoming month. If at that time, you know you will not be able to attend a lesson in the next month, inform me and its cost will be deducted from the tuition. Payment can be made via cash, check, credit card, or PayPal. Credit card and PayPal carry a 3% fee. All Payments are non-refundable except in the case of a cancellation on behalf of the teacher.
In the event that the student cannot make a lesson, the student/parent must book a make-up lesson online six hours previous to their currently scheduled lesson. If a student does not/cannot book a make-up lesson, cancels outright or fails to book the make-up lesson six hours in advance, the fee for the missed lesson will be forfeited. A lesson may only be re-scheduled once and must be scheduled for a slot within two weeks of the missed lesson. If a student cannot make their make-up lesson for any reason, the lesson will be forfeited. Lesson fees can not be “pushed back” to the following the month and a regularly scheduled lesson may not be skipped in favor of a make-up.
If you refer a new student to me, and they who sign up for at least a month worth of lessons, I will deduct half of their first month’s tuition from your next month’s tuition.
Please only contact me via text message or phone to cancel your lesson or inform me you are running late. Since I often receive these messages while I am teaching a lesson or away from my studio, please understand that I will often not respond to cancellation messages. Please just assume I received them. All other inquiries and communications including questions about material, song requests, cute videos of your children playing guitar, etc. should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. I get a ton of e-mails from my students, so if the e-mail requires a response, I will respond at my earliest convenience, which may be a few days. If the e-mail does not need a response or can be left until the next lesson, I will address it at your next scheduled lesson.
Well, there you have it. Everything you need to know to get the most out of your lessons. If you have questions, please ask now so you will have all the information you need going forward. Once again, I appreciate the privilege of being your teacher and look forward to working with
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