Q: I'd like my child to learn to play an instrument. At what age should they begin?
A: Many years of experience teaching younger musicians has taught me that you shouldn't begin your child in music unless they have a definite interest in learning to play. Both of my children play guitar but I never "pushed" them to play. In spite of the fact that they were exposed to music at a very young age they didn't approached me until they were in their teens and ready to be taught. Both of them are now accomplished musicians.

There's no set age to start lessons. There are smaller sized acoustic and electric guitars for kid-sized hands that can be traded in later for standard sized instruments as your child progresses and grows in size. What's most important is that your child has a desire to play. If they are big enough to hold an instrument properly, they can begin lessons.

Q: I'm an older adult who loves music but never learned to play an instrument. Can you teach me to play?
A: Absolutely. My kids have a saying that "...a guitar doesn't care who plays it." meaning that no matter what your experience level or ability you can still get some fun and enjoyment out of playing. Not everyone who wants to learn to play is interested in a music career or becoming a guitar prodigy. Some of my students never play for anyone other than themselves. For them, it's a stress-relieving activity and provides them with private personal enjoyment. It's never too late to begin so don't waste another minute.
Q: I tried to learn to play previously, but the instructor said I had to learn to read music in order to play successfully. I later became discouraged at my slow progress and quit. What is your opinion on learning to read music and your approach to teaching?
A: Reading music and playing an instrument are two distinct skills. Learning either one well would challenge anyone let alone learning the two skills simultaneously. We concentrate on teaching you the proper techniques for holding the instrument and learning some basic chords and strumming techniques to get you playing as quickly as possible. I believe that if you ENJOY practicing your instrument that you will do it more frequently and thereby accelerate your progress.

This approach should not in any way appear to diminish the importance of reading standard notation. Learning to read music can open up a whole world of musical styles and techniques that would take an "ear learner" years to duplicate if at all. But as a beginner, learning to read music is NOT a prerequisite to your enjoyment of simply playing your instrument.

Perhaps a more important skill is learning and applying basic music theory and "neck theory" to your study of an instrument. A little bit of theory goes a long way and familiarity with your instrument will pay off later if you decide you'd like to learn standard notation. We strive to give you practical knowledge about your instrument and the music you will be playing, because we believe that if you enjoy your practicing and playing you're more likely to continue and ultimately succeed as a musician no matter what your musical goal may be.

Q: How is your approach to teaching different from other instructors?
A: We believe that in order to learn to play well, you need to play whole songs (not just riffs or "phrases") along with other musicians. There's no substitute for strumming along with a band playing your favorite song to help you develop solid timing and get a "feel" for the music. Since it's not always convenient or even possible to find other musicians to play with when you're practicing, let alone a whole band, we create custom backup music tracks on CD of the songs you want to learn, at a speed that's comfortable and suited to your ability. As your abilities increase we increase the speed of the song gradually to it's standard tempo. This is MUCH more fun and lets you progress at your own pace. If you're also learning to sing or improve your singing ability, you can also use these recorded tracks in the privacy of your own home to hone your vocal skills until you have the confidence to sing in public if that's your goal.
Q: I want to take lessons but I don't have an instrument and don't know what to buy. Can you help me find the right one?
A: Yes we can. If you've decided to take lessons from us and have paid your first month's fees, we will accompany you to any one of our local music retailers, or we'll suggest one if you're not familiar with them.  We'll help you pick out an instrument that you can afford and one that will be easy to play and of suitable quality to assure that you succeed in learning to play. If you're serious about learning to play, you should expect to pay several hundred dollars for a good beginners instrument, including a case and perhaps somewhat less for a used instrument. An accurate statement music retailers are fond of repeating goes "Good instruments are not cheap, and cheap instruments are not good."  If for any reason you later decide that playing is not for you, it will be easier to sell or consign a good instrument and get a reasonable portion of your purchase price back for your efforts.







Bob Buford, Instructor
Summertown Music