FAQs

Myth Busting

Have you heard conflicting information regarding learning guitar? Perhaps someone’s put doubt into your mind about whether you’ll be able to achieve your dreams?

Here are my top Ten Guitar Myths,  find out why there’s nothing to stop you from becoming the guitar player YOU want to be.

If you have a burning desire achieve your dream of playing guitar, nothing should stop you. But if you haven’t made the necessary steps towards reaching your goals it’s likely that you’re suffering at the hands of one of these ten common myths of music:

1. I’m just not musical
2. I don’t have the time
3. One on One Lessons are best
4. You’ll make slower progress in a group
5. I’ve got no rhythm
6.. It’s too late for me, you need to start when you’re seven
7. I’m tone deaf
8. I can’t read music
9. You need to learn boring technical stuff to be any good
10. Guitars are expensive

1. I’m just not musical (I had piano lessons when I was a kid and couldn’t do it)

This has made it to the top spot because it is one of the most common and most damaging myths that I regularly hear as a professional guitar teacher. But allow me to let you in on a little secret: I also had piano lessons as a child and got nowhere fast. By the time I was 14 I’d also had saxophone lessons, with limited success. So by this time I also started to think that I was somehow “un-musical”. But now, with many years of musical enjoyment behind me, as well as a Diploma and Degree in music, I’m glad I didn’t give in to this dangerous myth. With the benefit of hindsight I can see the reasons I did not take to music at an earlier age. For me, it was a combination of elements but you may have your own set of reasons for not continuing. Perhaps you had an un-inspiring teacher? Perhaps your teacher did not know how to get the best out of a diverse range of students? Maybe they were teaching you music that you had no interest in? Or, with all the distractions of childhood, you were not yet mature enough to appreciate the value of music? Maybe you were not encouraged to practice regularly? Or you had no support from your peer group? The list could go on. But whatever your reasons, don’t let your childhood experiences colour your current opinions of music lessons. Just because you were unsuccessful in the past, it does not mean that you have an inability to learn an instrument. It’s far more likely that you have just not had the right guidance to unlock your inner musician. I have successfully taught many people (like Mindy here) who had the obligatory failed piano lessons in their youth and are living proof that this needn’t stop you from reaching your goals on the guitar.

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2. I don’t have the time

According to a study by Ofcom, British adults watch an average of 3.8 hours of television per day. That’s over 25 hours per week! Relaxing as it may be to slump in front of the television after a hard days work, you could also argue that it is the “opium of the masses”. Although television can be a useful tool for unwinding, you may also agree that much of what we watch does nothing for us. It doesn’t achieve anything and gets us nowhere. If you’re brave enough to admit that you indulge in an “average” amount of sofatime, you have also just identified many hours worth of potential time in which you could achieve something fulfilling and worthwhile that has the potential to change the quality of your life immeasurably. Just check out what some of my adult students have to say here.

However, perhaps you already have many important commitments as well as family time which demands your attention, leaving little time for even your favourite TV shows. If this is the case, you will already know the importance of time management and if you are truly dedicated to achieving your dreams on the guitar, you will already be thinking of how to maximise your schedule in order to make the necessary progress. You will also appreciate how every moment spent learning your instrument is an important investment which will pay you back with enjoyment and personal satisfaction over many years to come.

It is also important to realise that when it comes to progress on your instrument, the old adage of “quality not quantity” really does count. Effective, daily practice of 20 mins which has been structured by an experienced teacher is far more effective than several hours of unstructured practice once a week. For more information, check out this article by my teaching mentor and virtuoso guitarist, Tom Hess.

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3. One on One Lessons are best AND…

4. You’ll make slower progress in a group

I’ve put these two together because they are two sides of the same coin. Together, they hold some very common and potentially damaging misconceptions about learning an instrument. It is often wrongly assumed that 1 on 1 lessons are the “best” way to learn an instrument and that group lessons are somehow a “watered down” version of this. This is not the case for a number of reasons. It should be understood that 1 on 1 lessons are indeed a very good method of learning but this does not mean they are better and that group lessons have many benefits that private lessons just cannot replicate.

Private 1 on 1 lessons can be very useful if you have very specific musical requirements: perhaps there is a particular technique, style, piece of music or item of theory that you need some extra guidance on. However, group lessons are an extremely powerful tool to learn guitar because music is very much like a language in that it is also a method of communication between human beings. If you are learning a language, the best way to learn is by total immersion in that language and culture. By visiting that country and speaking to as many different people as possible you will learn on a deeper level and far more quickly. Similarly, if you are learning an instrument, it is within your best interest to play with as many different musicians, both at your own or differing levels, as possible. If you are lucky enough to begin your musical journey in a group, you will never feel daunted by playing with others. Your appreciation of rhythm will be learnt on a deeper level. You are also likely to learn a lot from your peers who will ask questions that you might not have considered and you will also feel empowered by a community of like-minded people. You will also learn how players of differing levels can communicate musically and that this is a very useful skill to master.

These are just some of the reasons why students thrive at music schools which they choose to attend rather than spending years taking only private lessons. It is also an important feature to look out for when choosing an instrumental teacher: if they do not offer group classes perhaps they do not have the confidence or knowledge to conduct them. Click here to find out what my own students have to say about the group lessons they have taken. It is also worth noting that many studies have been undertaken which support the huge benefits of group learning in all subjects and that many of these studies can be found online using search engines.

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5. I’ve got no rhythm

Ok, here’s the thing. Perhaps your rhythm isn’t great right now. Perhaps when you’re dancing you clear the floor….but only because people fear for their safety. Well here’s the good news. Rhythm is not some innate ability like rolling your tongue. It can be taught, practiced and improved. I am extremely keen for my students to have good rhythm (it is after all one of the most important things in music) and have developed many useful exercises that are hugely successful in nurturing rhythmic ability. I have helped lots of people overcome their rhythmic barriers so get in touch to find out how I can help you.

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6. It’s too late for me, you need to start when you’re seven

I have taught many people from teenage years and beyond who are living proof that this myth does not hold water. There is no “rule” for when you should start. (In fact the only prerequisite is that the desire is present.) Sure, if you wanted to become a world class, virtuoso classical musician, it would be very difficult if you hadn’t started early. But the beauty of guitar and popular music in particular is that simplicity rules and it is possible to make satisfying music very quickly, with very little experience. Some of the most exciting music ever made was written with only a handful of chords which can be mastered in a very short period of time. Of course, one of the most satisfying facets of learning an instrument is the potential for continual growth and you will be amazed by the results that you will be able to achieve with continued, dedicated study. There was a poster at my Music School which stated, “Never stop learning” and this is one of the most exciting concepts in learning guitar: that there is an abundance of music to enjoy, the only limitations being your imagination and dedication. Which brings us on to….

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7. I’m tone deaf

If I had a pound for every time I’d heard this one, I’d be very rich indeed. But let’s bust this myth once and for all. If you can tell the difference between a car horn and birdsong, congratulations! You are NOT tone deaf. Human beings are musical by nature. Not only are we unique in the animal kingdom for the complexity of our manipulation of sound (in other words, creating music for pleasure) but each and every one of us can differentiate between thousands of tones. In fact, we rely on this ability every day. With a simple change of inflection in our voice we can alter a simple statement to mean many different things. Lets do a little experiment. Try saying the word “You” using the tone of your voice to convey different things, such as love, aggression, lust, power, sadness and so on. Easy right? You have just harnessed your inner musicality: your ability to express yourself through the use of tonal variations. In other words, you are not tone deaf.

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8. I can’t read music and found it confusing at school.

Reading traditional musical notation can be a very useful skill for some people to acquire (for example, if it is your goal to become a session musician). However, for the majority of us who want to play for our own enjoyment, it is not necessary to become bogged down with this time consuming task. In fact, many of the greatest non-classical guitarists did not rely on sight reading at all. Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Eddie Van Halen and Stevie Ray Vaughan are just a few of the guitar heroes who did not use written notation to create the great music we know and love. In fact, guitarists are lucky enough to have a notation system called Tablature which does not require years to learn, the basics of which can be understood in minutes. Tablature, or Tab as it is known, is widely used in popular music and is a system which I often use to notate music for my students.

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9. You need to learn boring technical stuff to be any good

This is another hangover from those childhood music lessons where your teacher would make you endlessly murder a scale with no real sense of purpose. Luckily, the guitar is a great instrument for making cool sounds with very little technical knowledge. Hundreds of well known songs can be played with just three or four chords and most guitarists rely on just ONE scale to create those cool, wailing solos that you love so much. However, it is important for me to make sure that my students have a thorough grasp of the important technical information so that the instrument is not a barrier for creating the music they want to create. This is why I introduce this information at a stage where the student is receptive to it and, more importantly, my aim is to make it FUN and painless. Therefore, when I introduce a scale for example, I show students the benefits of learning that scale, how best to learn it in an enjoyable way and, most importantly, how to apply it.

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10. Guitars are expensive

Sure, professional standard instruments will require the sale of one or two limbs and perhaps a vital organ or two. But guitarists are lucky in the world of music in that our starter instruments are very good value indeed. For an investment of around £100 you can buy an instrument that is not only very well made but will last you a lifetime. And with parts that can be upgraded over time, that “beginner” guitar could even see you through thousands of professional gigs.

Email me now for my EXCLUSIVE guide to buying your first guitar: sebastian@guitarlessonsnottinghill.co.uk

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What The Students are Saying

I have found Seb to be a great teacher. I would heartily recommend anyone who wants to improve what they do, and expand the range of their playing material, to get in touch

- S. Chera

@guitarlondon

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