FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

NYC Guitar Lessons by Adam Douglass-2.jpg

How long does it take to learn the guitar?
Everyone learns at different rates, but regardless of your particular speed, it will still take years of dedicated practice to become an accomplished musician. Don’t believe anyone who guarantees that ‘you’ll be playing your first song after your first lesson!’. It is true that there are lots of songs one can learn that use the easy 3 chords people typically learn in their first lesson (E, A, and D; usually ‘3 Little Birds’ by Bob Marley), but it’s not going to sound anything like the original because it’s been heavily simplified for a beginner.
It takes a good solid 3 months of regular, daily practice to be able to execute a beginner level song in a manner that sounds musical. This may not be exactly what you want to hear right now, but I will always be forthright with you in what is best for your musicality. You’re not going to be good at this at first, and it will feel like forever. And that’s ok. Everyone stumbles when they’re first learning an instrument. You should have heard me when I started, not only was my timing terrible but it was also before electronic tuners, so I was both out of time and out of tune!
The single most important thing when you’re learning this instrument is to love the time you spend with it.
If you love doing it, no matter what level the music is happening on, the love will make you want to do it every day.
And if you do it every day, you will get better at it.


What kind of guitar should I buy?
With my background, I encourage my students, beginners too, to purchase electric guitars. Even the ‘acoustic’ jazz that I love to play and listen to has the electric guitar, the ‘acoustic’ refers the the acoustic bass and piano.
Furthermore, if you want to play ‘Blackbird’ or ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on the electric guitar, it will create a reasonable sonic facsimile. I’ve done those tunes on many gigs, on an electric guitar, and no one has ever thrown tomatoes (not for that reason at least!).
On the other hand, if you get really into playing guitar and you want to start learning ‘All Along the Watchtower’ or ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, you just can’t do that on an acoustic guitar. There’s literally not enough notes on an acoustic, the electric guitar has a bigger range.
Noise is a concern living in the thin-walled apartments of New York City, and should the inspiration to practice strike you at 3am, an electric guitar played without an amplifier will be audible to you while you’re playing it but inaudible to your neighbors.
The notion that ‘you should learn on an acoustic and switch to an electric’ is an antiquated and corrupted idea from the 50s when electric guitars were still a new thing and prohibitively expensive. Parents would tell their kids back then that they would learn on an acoustic because an acoustic guitar was about 2.5% of the cost of a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul. Like the game of telephone that shows you how easily a story can change by word of mouth, what was a decision based on economics became a decision based on levels of difficulty. Nowadays, there are electric and acoustic guitars available for almost every budget.
For my students interested in purchasing their first guitar I recommend this package that has everything in it necessary to open the box and start playing:
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/STRATPKLBSB--squier-stratocaster-pack-brown-sunburst
If you just love the sound of the steel string acoustic, I completely understand and respect that. These are great acoustics for the money:  
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FG800--yamaha-fg800-natural
And the nylon string guitar is a wonderful instrument as well, if that’s your style then get one of these:
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/C40--yamaha-c40-natural
 

Should I cut my nails?
Yes! To properly press on the notes of the guitar it is necessary to have short fingernails, and it is probably a good idea to come to your first lesson having recently cut them. Don’t go past the white part of the nail though, and try to cut as straight across the nail as possible. This will help prevent ingrown fingernails, which are a big enemy of guitarists.
 

I heard that it’s going to hurt, is that true?
You will experience a bit of discomfort the first few months that you’re learning, but we will discuss in the lessons how to build a practice routine that will build your calluses as quickly as possible without getting blisters and blood blisters.


Can you learn an instrument as an adult?
Absolutely! Living in New York City, the majority of my students are adults and there is a fairly even distribution of people at different skill levels. Although it may take a bit longer to get to where you’re learning the music you want to learn than a child, keep in mind that the children absorb new things more quickly and kids do tend to have more time on their hands than adults working full-time jobs. That being said, I have curated the musicianship of many adult guitarists who started off never having touched a guitar before they met me, and now learn challenging pieces of music that that they thoroughly enjoy practicing.
 

I never learned how to read music, can I still take lessons?
Many musicians learn how to play their instrument before they are able to read music on it. Most people also learn how to speak their native language before they learn how to read and write it, and music is a very similar thing. When you take your first Spanish and French classes, you first learn the different phonetic pronunciations of the language. I remember in my middle school Spanish class trying to not laugh as the teacher made us roll our ‘r’s for as long as we could, and I’m sure that happens in other foreign language classes with sounds we don’t have in English. It’s ok that you haven’t learned how to read yet, and there will probably be other concepts that we’ll need to tackle in preparation for getting your reading together as well. It’s incredibly rewarding to not have to hear something in order to learn how to play it, so let’s work on it!

My approach is this: I want to help you get better at this instrument. So if you've never learned to read music, if you've learned a bunch of songs but never learned the names of the chords in the songs, or if you just jam to blues backing tracks but you don’t really know much else besides the fact that you’re using the blues scale, then that’s all ok. None of that was time wasted, because it was time spent with your instrument in your hands. Now let’s take the time to make sure you understand why you like to play the things you like to play so much.

Do you offer travel lessons, or will you come to my location?
My primary base of operations is at my studio in Brooklyn, and I do have a lot of students who depend on me being there for their scheduled lessons; however, if traveling to my location is an issue for you I can sometimes travel to the student depending on the circumstances and my availability. If you’d like to schedule a travel lesson, you can do so here, but please note that these lessons are a bit pricier.

Payment and Scheduling: If you’re signing up for the first time, please pay and schedule your lesson through the website. If you prefer to pay in cash for future lessons, I can accommodate that after your first lesson has been pre-paid for online. I can also take most other modern forms of digital payment: Paypal, Venmo, and Chase Quickpay (sorry, no checks or money orders). Because I want to make sure all of my students have access to an accurate schedule of availability, I do have a strict cancellation policy.

Cancellation Policy: Please keep in mind that although I'm incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do and love it passionately, I still have to make a living doing this.
To know in advance you that won't be coming allows me to free up the slot you have booked to teach another lesson. You will be permitted one cancellation per calendar month provided that notice is given before 24 hours of when your lesson is scheduled to occur. In short, you can't cancel within 24 hours of your lesson, otherwise you will be charged.
If you cancel a second lesson, even with 24 hours notice, in the same month as a previous cancellation you will forfeit payment for that lesson.
Failure to appear for a scheduled lesson will result in forfeiture of payment for that lesson.