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Archive: WELCOME TO GUITAR

Written by Robert E. Keller, 1979

     Welcome to Guitar 1, a first semester class in guitar. My name is Mr. Keller. I started teaching guitar at Patrick Henry [High School - ed.] in 1973.

CLASS DESCRIPTION:

     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" class.
     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.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED:

     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 too tight.
     An inexpensive colorful strap can be purchased from any guitar shop for approximately $5.00.
     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 chain.

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 hits.
     To further 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 car.
     To further 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 do.
     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 others.
     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 the guitar.
     Lastly, 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. Happy hunting.

 
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