guitar lessons

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs

What instrument should I begin with?

We think it is best that students start on the instrument or voice that creates the music they like best. If you can't decide, just think about some of the albums and music you really like and what's going on in them. Who do you think has the coolest part? Which instrument are you drawn to? Another possible consideration is any physical or mental handicap you might have, which comes up occasionally with students.

We teach all students to play and sing with correct technique, regardless of the kind of music or instrument they're doing, so their future ability and musicianship is not limited by any particular instrument choice. That also covers learning a certain instrument because "you're supposed to" or "it’s good for you.” Go for what you love.

Piano and guitar are the only fully "self-contained" instruments we teach, meaning they are capable of hours and hours of music without any other instrument or singing (harp is an example of one we don't teach yet). If a student is neutral on what kind of music they like, or just uncertain, we recommend starting on acoustic guitar (steel strings, wooden, hollow body) because you can play almost all types of music on the acoustic, and you can move easily from the acoustic to another type of guitar if you want to switch later. In any case, we teach all kinds of guitar very well.

We really do believe you can succeed in pretty much whatever you choose here, so ignore the people who told you that you couldn't sing or that such-and-such instrument is really hard. Both in lesson setup (over the phone) and in actual lessons, we will work with you to give you suggestions and advise any serious problems that might come up at first or in the future, regardless of your instrument choice. This includes suggesting you switch to something else, but that is scarcely ever necessary with competent instruction and consistent practice.

What instrument should my child begin with?

Usually 4 to 6 is too young for guitar lessons. Piano or voice is usually a better choice at that age. While guitar is easier for slightly older students, the complexity of putting your second finger on the third fret of the fourth string can be overwhelming for the youngest students. There are a few 6-year-olds who can manage that, and your child might be one of them. However, that's not typical. As we mentioned above, non-string band and orchestral instruments normally start at 10 or 11 due to the size of the instrument and player. Voice students can start at any age, but all students must be mentally old enough to focus on a topic for 30 minutes-the length of lessons and daily practice.

What size guitar should I get for my child?

Ages 7 to 9 typically require a 1/2 or 3/4 size guitar. Several companies make a good-quality small guitar-emphasis here is on "good quality." We know it's tempting to buy a $50 guitar for a small child just starting out, but it usually makes it impossible for him/her to succeed because bad sound and high string action result from poor quality guitars. 10-years-old and up typically are old enough for a full size guitar. While a full size guitar will be large to most 10-year-olds, they'll be able to get used to the size and grow into it.

Kids must be comfortable with their instruments so there are no barriers to practicing at home. Our program provides a range of options to adjust student's guitars to make their playability match the student's skill, size, and age, including changing strings, changing tunings, removing strings, using capos-all as needed to help the student.

Can I start piano lessons with just a cheap keyboard?

Absolutely. What's best for all pianists (or keyboard players) is to play and practice on the traditional acoustic piano. If you don't have that, an 88 key fully piano-weighted keyboard is recommended. The resistance of the heavier key action develops finger muscles, and thus technique. However, we have many students who are playing on 61 key, un-weighted keyboards to start, which cost between $100 and $500.

We understand what it's like to just want to get started without an instrument that costs as much per month as your car payment. An un-weighted keyboard will work for 1 to 2 years. However, we recommend moving to the better keyboard as soon as possible. If you're shooting for greatness or begin to get serious with your piano playing, switch to the acoustic piano or the weighted 88 key keyboard ASAP. Keep in mind that if you take lessons on an electronic keyboard, you must get a sustain pedal or it'll mess up your technique, although they don’t cost much.

How long will it take for me to learn to play well?

While we can't predict results in students, most of our students feel they are making music within 2 to 6 months. Most students are pleased with their progress, and as a studio we are focused on moving all students forward. 99.99% of students can learn to play as well as they want at Promethean if they practice and follow our methods.

Progress is the combination of practice time, natural ability, and efficient learning techniques. How long it takes to reach "good" is dependent upon those three elements and your definition of “playing well.” Students should plan on taking lessons for at least six months, although most students will see significant progress long before that. However, keep in mind that many professional musicians take lessons until the day they die.

How much do I need to practice?

Your desired progress, goals, and natural abilities or obstacles are all factors in determining practice requirements. Unless you already play, you're going to have to practice at least two hours a week to make headway on an instrument or voice. We recommend all students practice at least 45 minutes a day, 6 days a week, but when each student begins lessons we get them to commit to one of 5 practice levels, ranging from 0 practice a week to 15 hours or more a week.

Most of our students are either practice level 2 (30 to 45 minutes a day) or level 3 (45 to 60 minutes a day). However, some of our students practice level 5 (15 hours a week)! If you're asking our opinion, practice at least 45 minutes a day, but we'll accommodate whatever you decide, while encouraging you to do what it takes for you to achieve your musical goals.

Should I take group or private lessons?

All studios make more money per hour for group lessons (because there are multiple students in the lesson), so there is always an incentive for studios to push groups (frequently hidden as "semi-private" lessons). That said, we recommend private lessons for almost all students because we think that they produce the most progress. In general, we really think group lessons only work for a few months, when all the participants are brand new.

Within 2 to 4 months, individual tastes and abilities develop, so each person really needs private lessons to go at their pace (slow or fast) and play their own music. That's why we make each group class only last 3 months and only let a student take group lessons for a year maximum. Group lessons can only hit the average of the class, and the non-average are hurt. Don't misunderstand-we make our group classes as effective as humanly possible-but you should only choose them if you can't afford private lessons.

Does it really matter where I take lessons?

It goes without saying that a student’s growth is deeply influenced by his or her teacher. The Bible (yes, the Bible) has a good point related to this in Matthew 10:24, 25a. It says "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher.” To us, the point here is all students need a great teacher because students can only grow to the capacity of their teacher.

Every student needs a teacher that believes in that student's ability to learn and become a good player or singer, famous or not. The teacher should be looking for ways to create measurable progress in lessons, and have the student work on performing enjoyable and challenging music as they develop new and better abilities. Lessons should also encourage you without being just touchy-feely.

Some studios are focused on being "big-time,” a "we'll make you a STAR!" attitude, when almost any professional musician / vocalist will tell you no one can guarantee financial success and stardom in music-there are just too many people out there pursuing fame with only a few positions available. If there really was a studio that could make you famous, there'd be only one-everyone would go there, including most of the other music teachers in the world.

Many private teachers and studios are organized around a talent search mentality in which lessons are more of a culling process, weeding out the "losers" to find the "gifted." Another kind of private teacher asks every lesson "what do you want to do today?" and never challenges students or pulls them beyond themselves, making you wonder if the teacher has any larger vision for the student other than next month's tuition. Some studios and teachers are so warm and fuzzy that while you're feeling great about yourself, you don't notice you haven't actually learned anything in six months. And we could go on and on.

Some studios are focused on teaching without application, so they have a dry, formal approach that limits real-world progress. A private teacher might be focused on playing music you don't necessarily like, so everyone in his or her studio must learn jazz or rock or classical. People need room to grow musically, as well as play music they like. That’s why we believe Promethean instructors are the best teachers in the business-they strike the balance between being encouraging and challenging, between teaching fundamental music theory and getting you to start playing your instrument as soon as possible.

What is the minimum age for lessons?

There is no minimum age for taking lessons at Promethean Studios. Mozart started playing at 3 and wrote piano pieces at 5. No matter the age, a student should be mature enough to focus on a topic for at least 30 minutes. Many 5 year-olds are too young (but not all) and most 8 year olds are old enough (but not all). In any case, when it comes to young students, children will progress better when parents are involved in their process.

The only exception to the minimum age limit is for non-string band and orchestral instruments; in that case, students must be 10 or 11 at least, due to the size of the instruments. If you're having difficulty determining if your child is mature enough for lessons, you can always schedule a consultation or a month of coaching lessons to see how your child does. Regardless of the type of lesson, our teachers evaluate all students in the first few sessions and make any recommendations needed to make lessons successful.

Which piano teaching method do you use?

We use what we call the Promethean method. Our idea is to use smart, knowledgeable teachers to teach students to play their music as directly and thoroughly as possible by using insightful lesson segments centered on music theory, rhythm training / playing, and improvising in order to give students personalized lessons with strong direction. We have our piano students work on targeted, useful exercises and get them to play both rhythm and note pieces. Of course there are many opinions on how to teach and learn piano. We are trying to strike a balance between excellence and fun, so the love of playing animates the learning process.

What we don't want to produce is another 10,000,000 people who took piano for 3 to 10 years as a child and now can't play a note because they were playing music they didn't like, or they didn't feel they were making any progress, or they weren't learning to play the way they heard other people play on albums or the radio. By mixing three approaches, reading by note (the "normal" way), music theory (understanding the fundamental principles of playing music), and playing rhythm piano (typically how contemporary music is played), we're trying hard to make musicians who have fun constantly, see regular progress, can play the songs they have on their iPhone or in their record collection, and are skilled pianists who read well.

I'm just starting, how much money should I spend on my instrument?

As much as you can afford! An experienced professional can take a cruddy instrument and make it sound good (he'll complain about it later, though). However, that’s only for experienced players; poor instruments really harm beginning players. They can't make chords, low notes don't come out, keys stick, and the tone is bad.

Having said that, we understand if you've got a kid who may or may not continue more than 2 months or if you're in the same situation as an adult. You don't want to waste money. Don’t worry-your teacher will tell you up front if your instrument is going to hold you back or will give you recommendations for instrument purchase if you don't have one. All things being equal, buy the Selmer, Steinway, Ramirez, Haynes, Loree', Gibson, Martin, PRS, Warrior, Taylor, Fodera, or Motif. But we understand if you can't just now.

Why should I take voice lessons at Promethean Studios?

Mark Black's videos on ExpertVillage, eHow, and YouTube have been viewed over a million times. Beyond that, Mark teaches from his belief that most people can learn to sing well, rather than just using his lesson to look for a few star students to make him famous. While a million people can be wrong, in this case, we're sure they're right-Promethean rocks!

Can I learn to sing, even when everyone tells me I sound horrible?

Odds are definitely in your favor that you can learn to sing, and sing well! Your problem is most likely that you've trained your ear not to listen to your voice, so to speak. The ear is the target for the voice, the only "person" who knows what note you're supposed to be hitting. Singing without really listening is like a blind man trying to drive. With directed practiced over time, most vocalists can overcome this obstacle, but it takes work.

Can Promethean Studios make me a world-class vocalist?

Absolutely. Whatever level you want to achieve with your voice, from “pretty good singer” to world-class vocalist, we can teach you how to get there. However, what we won’t promise you is to make you rich and famous. Despite many claims to the contrary, no teacher, producer, or studio can do that. If you find someone who can do that, please let us know.

What do I need to bring to the first lesson?

Bring your instrument and something to write on and with, except for piano and voice students-just bring the writing material. If you've had lessons or played / sung before, bring as much of your old music and method books as possible so we can see where you are and possibly use some of your old stuff.

What if I don't have my instrument yet?

Usually you don't absolutely have to have your instrument for the first lesson, and we'd love to make recommendations as to what instrument to purchase. You will need your own instrument to practice at home to continue lessons, though-vocalists have a decided advantage here.

Do you provide the materials for lessons?

We provide some materials for students and have students purchase other materials, mostly so that students can play exactly the music they personally love, and we don't violate any copyright laws in the process. We'll give you a list of materials you need to purchase at your first lesson. We can recommend stores in the area where you can purchase any needed materials.

Do you rent instruments?

Yes, we rent some types of instruments.

I'm really into a certain music style. Do you have a teacher for me?

We have many teachers with lots of varied experience and styles. When we set up lessons, we will ask about your age, interests, skill level, and other factors to find the teacher that fits you best. We're also very open to students switching to one of our other teachers if we determine another teacher fits you better. If we don't have anyone who can teach you what you want to learn, we'll be glad to tell you so. But, of course, that's pretty unusual.

Does Promethean teach mostly kids and teens?

While the majority of our students are kids and teens, a large portion of our students are adult musicians. We feel very blessed that our student base is about 40% adult and 60% kids and teenagers, giving us the broadest spectrum of opportunities for teaching excellence.

Do all of your teachers have degrees?

Absolutely not. Some have degrees, some have advanced degrees, but we'd put 15 or 20 years of playing experience against a degree any day of the week. Degreed or not, all of our teachers are great players, skilled at teaching, motivated and trained to make lessons enjoyable and purposeful, able to take students from any level to professional quality. Having a degree doesn't make someone a great musician or a great teacher, as anyone with a degree knows.

Musicians and music teachers without degrees have a long history of excellence. Just ask:

  • Monteverdi
  • Chris Martin
  • Bach
  • Norah Jones
  • Mozart
  • Victor Wooten
  • Beethoven
  • Ray Charles
  • Wagner
  • Gershwin
  • Brahms
  • Stevie Ray
  • Clapton
  • Barbara Streisand
  • Miles Davis
  • Luciano Pavarotti
  • Coltrane
  • John Maher
  • James Taylor
  • George Strait
  • Joe Satriani
  • Nat King Cole
  • Eric Johnson
  • Tony Rice
  • Shania Twain
  • Oscar Peterson
  • Kirk Hammett
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Faith Hill
  • Alan Jackson
  • Ronnie Van Zant,
  • BB King
  • Paul Desmond

...and countless other amazing musicians. It's the quality that counts, not the paper on the wall.

What times are available for lessons?

We are open from 9 am to 10 pm, Monday thru Saturday. To find out currently available lesson times though, you'll have to call and talk to our office because teachers' schedules change frequently, and so do the available times.

Do I have to wait until the first of the month to start?

No, you can start lessons at any time.

Do I have to be in a band to take lessons at Promethean?

Absolutely not. Like recitals, being in a performing group will help you become a good musician. However, it's just highly recommended, not required, and plenty of our students aren't in our bands.

Do I have to take lessons to be in a band at Promethean?

Absolutely not. We offer bands as a very useful service to our students, but we want anyone to be able to be in them. Lots of our band members aren't in lessons.

What the heck does Promethean mean?

It means boldly creative and original. The word comes from Greek mythology-Prometheus was the name of the Titan who brought fire from Olympus down to humanity. His gift became a symbol of human expression, creation, and improvement. As a result, the words “Prometheus” and “promethean” have always been associated with innovation, learning, and technology.

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