Posts Tagged ‘practicing guitar’

After learning your basic chords, what’s next?

February 27, 2017

After learning your basic chords, what’s next? This is a common question that I get when teaching adult students who are self taught or have taken lessons for a few months. In this video, I describe a technique called travis picking and how it can be used to create more interesting arrangements with the basic chords you already know.



I hope you enjoy this instructional video. If you want to learn more about our program, visit and, and contact us if you’d like to sign up for in-person lessons!

The Importance of Musical Lessons

August 1, 2011

By Mike Furry, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry

There are a lot of intriguing studies that show that music training has a significant impact on the development of the brain. Many scholars are becoming more convinced that music lessons are an effective way to stimulate development and cognitive reasoning. Below are some of the most compelling reasons why music lessons are beneficial.

1. Learning The Language

Learning to read music is like learning another language. You have to understand, translate, and respond. Playing an instrument requires the operation of complex physical and mental procedures. These procedures enable the instrumentalist to aurally present the music notation through finger coordination and recognition of symbols.

2. More developed Motor Skills and Brain Connections

Musically trained children show better finger coordination and faster recognition than the non-musicians. According to a study performed by Winner and Schlaug, brain scans of musically trained children show more defined brain connections than those who have not received any music training.

3. Better Overall Performance at School

The recent study of the College Board, the institution that oversees the Scholastic Assessment Test, or SAT, showed that students who are regularly taking music lessons scored, on average, 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 39 points higher on the math portion than non-musician students.

We’ve heard it a lot of times – children’s brains are like sponges. They have the ability to learn a lot more than adults can. Why not start early and give your child a head start in life? There are many theories that are the subject of dispute among educators but there is one thing everyone agrees on – music lessons are beneficial for your children.

Essentials for Guitarists

October 24, 2010

By Mike Furry, Guitar and Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry, Guitar and Bass Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Mike Furry

As a guitar instructor in Boulder, one of the most common questions I’m asked during a music lesson is “how do I learn this song?” As I answer my students’ question, I find that the most essential elements needed, in order to learn any composition, are often overlooked by students.

When a student comes to me wanting to learn The Beatles, I always ask them “what does it mean to truly learn the song?” The most common answer I get is “to know the chords.” Knowing the harmony is one of the essential elements to memorizing any composition but there are several other fundamental techniques that will help a student on their journey to committing the song to memory.

Rhythm is the name of the game. Without rhythm there can be no music (in the traditional sense). Rhythm is usually the first obstacle I encounter when teaching students a new song. Students often want to learn the notes before they learn the rhythm and I believe it should be the other way. If someone can sing the rhythm to a melody then they are more than half way to learning how to play it on guitar.

Listen to the recording! This seems like an obvious statement but time and again students are not spending enough time listening to the recording. The more you hear the song, the more the song is committed to your long-term memory. The key is to listen to the song so many times that the student can:

  1. Play along with the recording
  2. Perform the song in its entirety.

Practice every day! It makes sense to think practicing for two hours once a week is better than 10 minutes everyday but it is not. It is more efficient to practice for five minutes everyday than two hours once a week because there has to be consistency. The more consistent the practice routine, the more advanced the student.

“Nothing in life is hard, it’s just unfamiliar.”

– Rodney Booth

Working With Others – Some “Do”s and “Don’t”s about making music in a group

May 23, 2010

By Daniel Ondaro, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Daniel Ondaro, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Daniel Ondaro

Lately I’ve been wondering how great bands work and why so many bands at all levels break up, get in fights, or in many ways are dysfunctional and unhealthy. There are typical problems that many bands go through despite their level of fame and success. Even the Beatles for example, one of the biggest bands in history, couldn’t keep it together. In fact one could probably say that the bigger a band gets the more there is at stake and that the stress level and tension between members can elevate much more easily. Many of the problems within groups may fundamentally be because of personality differences between members. Aside though from the personal issues between each member of the band, it is misunderstandings about each player’s role within the group and miscommunications about each players intention for the music that contribute to the demise of a band.

Behind each band is a shared idea and goal for which each player is contributing in order to create an interesting and effective group sound. If it’s a corporate wedding band, then each member will focus his or her energy on playing corporate wedding music. If it’s a Mariachi band then each member will play Mariachi music. As a band develops and its style becomes more refined, each member of the band begins to play a more specialized and specific role. That’s why, depending on the significance of the role, certain players become more and more valuable within the group. However, unlike a product or parts on a machine where if a simple or valuable part goes you can replace it with another exactly like it, if any member of the band leaves the whole chemistry of the band is affected and needs to be reworked even after that member is replaced. Bands therefore always have to be flexible and open to whatever changes may occur without losing sight of the fundamental element of the band, which should always be centered on the music and each players emotional and technical contribution to it. Even for bands that stay together, if either of those elements, the emotional and technical, are lacking from any member of the group then the band is in danger of creating a poor performance or possibly facing conflict because of dissatisfaction between members. It is therefore essential for every member to have an understanding about the overall intention of the band, and what each player is expected to contribute with his or her unique technical and emotional capabilities.

From my experience it is essential in working with groups to stay humble and cooperative while also being clear about your intentions and needs as an artist and player. If your needs and the overall needs of the group and music are not being meet then the band will suffer. Working in bands as a guitar player, percussionist and vocalist I have found myself in many diverse situations trying to work cooperatively with others. In all of these situations, beyond personal issues, it was miscommunications about the bands intention and the intention of the players that lead to their failure. The successful ones were the groups where we all found a common ground and were satisfied with the group and ourselves. I find it therefore essential to be honest and open with your band mates, instructor, and all of those with whom you try to make music with, about the needs of yourself as an artist and musician and the shared needs of your group in order to create great music with others.

Bass Player Needed!

May 13, 2010
Adam Buer, Bass Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Adam Buer

By Adam Buer, Bass Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

Bass player needed:  the three most common words on music store bulletin board postings.  Very often people are under the assumption that playing bass is much easier than playing guitar.  Afterall, bass players only have to worry about playing one note at a time while guitarist are playing 3-6 note chords.   Just about every band has a bass player so it’s important to address the importance of the instrument.  In larger bands, if one instrument gets lost and stops playing often, no one notices.  If the drummer or the bass player get lost EVERYONE notices.  One professional bass player understood his role perfectly when he told me “Musically speaking, I am the earth…and everything is built on top of what I play.”  Sure, he was a little odd, but I understood what he was saying. It’s easier to sing, play, or dance when the lowest sounding notes are confidently played.  Furthermore, this bass pro was the kind of player who played the same 1 or 2 lines over and over throughout a song.  One of the difficult things about doing these kinds of bass lines is that it has to be perfect every time or listeners will notice a mistake instantly..

Beginning rock and roll guitarists sometimes start by playing simple chord progressions with the root note only and call this the “bass line.”  Once that is mastered, we add the 5th and octave notes to form a power chord.  Therefore, the beginning guitarist is under the impression that bass is easier than guitar because their only playing 1 note instead of 3.  Then, I point out to them that good bass players “connect the dots.”  What I mean by “connecting the dots” is that bass players need to learn how to add notes in between the basic roots of the chords.   For example, if a guitar is playing from a G chord to a C chord, the bass player can see the G and C on the neck as dots that can be connected with an A and a B.  Once their bass teacher helps them with an appropriate rhythm, they can figure out their own bass line with the pattern G, A, B, C.  Rhythm is a very important aspect of writing bass lines because the C must almost always be played at the exact moment the guitar switches to that chord.  Listening to bass lines and learning basic scales and arpeggios with your instructor is the first step in being able to create your own unique bass lines.

Sure bass players aren’t usually as successful as guitarists playing solo, but they are usually more successful than guitarists finding people to play with.  Again, every band needs a bass player and they are  rare in number compared to guitarists.  You don’t necessarily need to choose between bass and guitar either.   Many great bass players I’ve known also dabble with guitar chords.   If you are interested in playing bass I encourage to give it a try.  It has it’s unique challenges, but is well worth the effort.  Bass players are the earth…musically speaking.

Classical Guitar – Guitars Unsung Hero

March 2, 2010

By Daniel Ondaro

Daniel Ondaro

Daniel Ondaro

Classical guitar is truly the unsung hero of guitar styles. While not nearly given as much praise as other styles, it still provides some of the guitars most complex and fascinating music. Tending to be overshadowed by louder, more in your face music, the classical guitar is constantly shrouded in misconceptions and stereotypes in many realms of music and musicians. The style however, moves on. Expanding the techniques and literature of guitar music in many interesting and organic ways through the ingenious work of excellent composers and performers of many different genres. By conducting a brief survey of the classical guitar’s instrumental, literary, and stylistic history one can gain an enhanced perspective on the guitars richest and oldest tradition while dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions commonly held about the style.

For thousands of years humans have been playing lute and other guitar like instruments but it wasn’t until the 15th century that the classical guitar as we know it started to take shape and gain popularity in Europe. Originally brought to Spain by the moors and redeveloped there, the early classical guitar like instruments attracted lots of attention in high courts and among the people. Early forms contained four of five sets of coursed strings (two strings for each pitch, usually in octaves) made from animal intestines. These instruments were much smaller than the modern classical guitar and were less potent in sound. As the centuries passed the instrument was able to grow larger (because of new technology to brace a large body), course strings were eliminated, nylon materials for strings were invented, and six non-coursed strings (three treble and three bass) became the norm.

As the instrument evolved so did the literature. As in other classical styles the classical guitars literature can be categorized into different periods of classical music history with each period growing out the old one, while reacting to it in different ways. These musical periods for the guitar include the Renaissance (in which early tab systems evolved and were unique to their European country of origin), Baroque (of which Bach was a large contributor to lute/guitar literature), Classical (a prolific time for guitar literature with works by Giuliani, Sor and others), Romantic, and 20th Century. It is however true that the literary evolution of classical guitar was indeed significantly later for each period compared to other western classical instruments and that as an instrument it enjoyed considerably less popularity in conservatories all over the world.

Many people theorize one of the contributing factors to its lack of popularity in classical circles and subsequent delay of stylistic evolution to be because of the public’s perception of the guitar in general as an instrument only used in folk styles. The more we study the stylistic elements of classical guitar, however, the more we can discover similarities to other classical styles and instruments in the western and world classical realms. Many classical guitarists place a great emphasis on tone, volume, etc. in hopes of achieving all the expressive possibilities capable of the instrument. Therefore much of the student’s time is devoted to practice of foundational and progressive exercises. Many methods have been created to build upon aspects of the classical guitar student’s physical and mental capabilities. Accordingly the student is expected to practice his or her skills for sight-reading, scales, and other elements essential to classical guitar playing in addition to repertoire. The apprentice style pedagogical approach remains at the heart of this tradition and is a fundamental aspect to the student’s progression. In general the stylistic and pedagogical approaches to classical guitar compare to many other styles of classical and non-classical music in that practice is done before hand in order to achieve great expressiveness and virtuosity in performance.

Today the style of classical guitar enjoys considerable popularity and recognition in many of the worlds leading conservatories and music programs. It is also being recognized in the public eye more and more by the incredible work of performers and composers such as Andres Segovia, Christopher Parkening, Joaquín Rodrigo and others. These people have indeed popularized the style of classical guitar in both the classical and popular realms and have helped dispel myths on both sides about the classical guitars capabilities and place within the world of music. Many players however still struggle to find a place in the classical realm and to be recognized by the general public. Because of this the style of classical guitar still remains the unsung hero of guitar music. One finds, however that through the historical and instrumental study of classical guitar one can gain an enriched perspective of the guitars evolution, literature and stylistic qualities as well as a deep interest in its oldest tradition.

Classical Guitar Ideas for the Rocker

December 1, 2009

The Lesson Studio guitar instructor Adam Buer by Adam Buer, Guitar Instructor at The Lesson Studio

There is a reason so many famous rock guitarists had some sort of background in classical guitar. Zappa, Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, and The Doors’ guitarists are just a few examples. I assume many of these players are so musically versatile because they have a variety of general musical skills. Classical guitar methods of teaching offer an organized development of these skills. Take arpeggios for example; practicing the notes of your chords individually with a steady hand position can prepare you for more advanced finger style work. Ever want to think outside the pentatonic scale box? Then consider fingering some of these left hand arpeggio patterns as solo lines to spice up your lead guitar parts. A guitar instructor can help you find a specific fingering that works for you. Or try learning an excerpt of Bach, the Toccata in D minor, for example. Once you’ve mastered this on your electric guitar, try it with your distortion cranked up to 11. Not only will you sound like a fret-board shredder, but you’ll also be playing what some people call Bach Rock.

Classical guitarists also spend a great deal of time thinking about proper hand technique, which is very beneficial to any rock/shredder who plans to put in a lot of hours on their instrument without developing a hand injury. The famous guitar teacher, Aaron Shearer, promoted “proper” technique with his four principles of effective muscle movement. They are: uniform direction of joint movement, muscular alignment, midrange function of joints, and follow through. I would summarize two of these principles with the following activity: let your hands fall loosely at your sides and walk around the room paying no attention to them. Then, stop and notice the relaxed position they are in. They are not in a fist, but they are also not fully extended or flat (midrange function of joints). Also, your wrist is relatively straight (muscular alignment). Maintaining this type of relaxed hand position when you pick up your instrument is key, and with guitar lessons these concepts can be reinforced and refined. The more effective your technique and practice habits, the more you can learn. The more you can learn, the more you can shred, dazzle, inspire, or just have fun.

For more information, or to schedule a lesson with Adam, please visit,  e-mail: or call 303-543-3777.