|Archive: WELCOME TO GUITAR
Written by Robert E. Keller, 1979
Guitar 1, a first semester class in guitar. My name is Mr. Keller. I
started teaching guitar at Patrick Henry [High School - ed.] in
This is a class to
help you learn to play guitar for your own (and possibly other
people's)enjoyment. The enjoyment will come from your working to
learn. It is not a "kick back" or "easy grade"
To succeed in
this class you will need to use the entire class period for careful
practicing of the assigned lessons, either with the other students
or, by yourself when permitted. You will need to concentrate your
attention on what you are practicing. You will also need to practice
daily outside of class. Do these and you will not only learn to play
reasonably well or better, but you will also earn a high school
credit for each semester you take.
The class is ordinarily offered for two
semesters, Guitar 1 during the Fall semester and Guitar 2 during the
Spring semester. There is a way to earn as many as two additional
semesters credit on a semi-independent study basis. See Mr. Keller
if you are interested.
You may take
this class if you are a
total beginner or if you wish to add to your playing skills and
knowledge or improve your present skills. The class is not designed
for the really advanced player. If you already play some guitar and
are looking for a way to get semester credit without doing any work,
you're in the wrong class. Everyone in the class must meet certain
goals in order to pass. Those who have tried in the past to get by
without practicing, even if they already played a lot of guitar,
have failed the class.
Class goals include learning to read
music, play folk strums, folk picks, chords including jazz chords,
barre chords, barre chord progressions, classic guitar, blues,
melody and chords at the same time, etc. There is some flexibility,
especially in Guitar 2, for you, the individual student, to spend
more time in those areas you are interested in.
Each student must
furnish his/her own acoustic (not electric) six string guitar. A
nylon string guitar is preferable for beginners because nylon
strings hurt soft beginning fingers less than steel strings.
While speaking of soft
beginning fingers, I would like to caution beginners to use several
short daily practice sessions - at least at first - rather than one
long session. It will be much easier on your fingers and you'll
learn much faster because you'll be forced to think again at the
start of each new practice period. May I suggest, for example, three
ten minute practice sessions rather than thirty minutes of straight
home practice. Equally important, when playing chords release the
pressure of your left hand fingers on the strings just before you
re-strum the chord. Keep the fingers touching the strings but
release the pressure. If you're not too careful when you're first
starting to play, deep blisters can form that hurt terribly.
In order to hold your
guitar in a position that will allow rapid progress you will need to
either have a guitar strap or a foot stool. Up to this point in time
all of our students have chosen the strap rather than the foot
stool. If your guitar doesn't have an end pin (a button screwed into
the bottom of your guitar for one end of the strap to fasten to) you
can buy one and have it mounted for less than $1.00 at any guitar
store. If you mount the end pin yourself be sure to drill a pilot
hole slightly smaller than the screw before screwing it in. This
will prevent the guitar from cracking. Do not screw the screw down
inexpensive colorful strap can be purchased from any guitar shop for
You are expected to furnish a combination lock in order to lock your
guitar up when storing it during the school day in our classroom.
The large storage cabinets (robe cabinets) on the eastern side of
our classroom have metal loops in their tops with short chains
fastened to them. The widely spaced loops are for guitars in cases,
and the more narrowly spaced loops are for guitars without cases. By
bringing the chain from the loop on each side across the neck of the
guitar or guitar case and locking it, the guitar is safe from being
stolen. Be sure to place the lock so there is no slack in the chain.
That will prevent the guitar from being slipped out from under the
PROTECTING YOUR GUITAR
To protect your
guitar you may want to buy a case for it. Stay away from soft cases.
They don't protect well enough. Using 1979 prices you can probably
buy an inexpensive pressed cardboard case for $15.00 to $20.00. If
your guitar is worth over $100.00 you should consider spending more
to protect it. A case made over a wooden frame will cost $45.00 to
$55.00. Such a case will protect your guitar from moderately heavy
protect your guitar never let it get hot, dry, or wet. For example,
never put the guitar near a floor furnace nor a heat vent. The hot
air will dry out your guitar and make it crack. For the same reason
never put your guitar in the trunk of your car. If you have to store
your guitar in your car put it on the floor of the back seat with
the car windows slightly vented. That's the coolest place in the
protect your guitar you can clean it and help prevent the finish
from cracking by polishing it with GUITAR POLISH and a soft cloth.
You can buy guitar polish at any good music store that sells
guitars. Do not use any other kind of polish on your guitar. Other
waxes and polishes will deaden the tone of your guitar. Guitar
polish is made to clean and nourish the finish of your guitar
without deadening the tone. Do not polish the fingerboard, the
strings, the tuners, nor the inside of the guitar.
BUYING A GUITAR
First study the
picture of a classic guitar on p. 4 of your Shearer "Classic
Guitar Technique" method book. Up on the guitar means higher in
pitch. The thinner strings are higher. Going on any one string from
the sound hole toward the head nut is going higher.
If you are planning to buy a guitar
you might want to put in an ad in our school bullitin or school
newspaper. Sometimes guitars can be gotten cheaply this way.
You may prefer to buy a
guitar new. Prices range from good at some shops to sky-high at
others. It pays to shop around. The best prices I've found so far
are at American Dream in the courtyard at 63rd and El Cajon Blvd.
They stand behind their merchandise too, something all stores don't
Some stores have
a rent-to-own program where the rent you pay for the guitar can be
applied toward the purchase price. Check your telephone directory
yellow pages for guitar shops. The International Guitar Shoppe at
5169 Baltimore Dr., for example, has a rental program that sounds
interesting, though I have not yet tried it. Do shop around. Compare
the prices of the same brand and the same model (inside the sound
hole on a nylon string guitar) at different music stores. You'll see
what I mean about the difference in prices.
When shopping for a guitar brush across
the strings. Do this on a cheap guitar and a more expensive one. The
more expensive guitar will have a deeper (more bottom to it) tone
quality. Some good less expensive guitars have a deeper tone. Go for
the deeper tone. If you don't like the tone of a guitar you'll never
be happy with it.
Next play the harmonics of the guitars you like that are within your
price range. Just barely touch each string exactly above the twelfth
fret (the metal strips set into the finger board). You should get a
high clear tone (the harmonic). The harmonics should be equally laod
or decrease slightly in volume from the lowest string to the
highest. If one harmonic is much louder than the rest do not buy
that guitar. That string will always sound louder than the
Next play the
harmonic on a string then press the string down hard just behind the
twelfth fret. This will give you the octave below the harmonic. Each
should be close to being in tune. If it is only slightly off it can
be adjusted by the store repairman if he is capable.
Next run a slow scale up every string
of the guitar. It doesn't matter that you can't finger the guitar.
Use your middle finger pressing behind each fret all the way up
toward the sound hole. You should never hear a buzz, just clear
tone. If you hear a buzz have the repairman fix it before you take
check the guitar over for good workmanship. The more you're paying
for the guitar, the better the workmanship you should expect.
If it's a very inexpensive guitar it will be made of green (unaged)
wood and in time it will crack. One of mine has cracked in three
places, but the tone is still superb. I still enjoy playing it.