It’s Time To Get Serious About Guitar

unnamed-62A big part of my job as a guitar teacher is to evaluate each student’s playing ability and understanding of music on the guitar. When I know where students are and where they want to go, I can create a plan to help them reach their goals. I thought it would be beneficial to create a short quiz to help guitarists see where their strengths and weaknesses are, and I thought I’d start with something fun.

A. How well can you play music from reading standard music notation?

  • What are all the golf clubs doing on the fences?
  • I can play it at home just fine, but not in front of other people.
  • I want to spend my time debating if guitarists should learn to read music.

B. How many chords do you know?

  • I can play some, but I don’t know what 7 means.
  • My hands are too big/small/fat/skinny to play any chords clearly.
  • I have a book of 10,000 guitar chords and I am learning all of them, in order.

C. Do you know and understand music theory?

  • I don’t know where to start, there’s too much information online.
  • I love reading theory books but I haven’t applied any of it to my guitar yet.
  • If I learn too much about music theory, it will inhibit my creativity.

D. What do you know about scales?

  • The modes are all Greek to me.
  • I know the pentatonic and major scales, but all my solos sound the same.
  • I’ve memorized all the patterns, therefore I know everything.

E. How good is your ear?

  • I don’t understand how some musicians can play together without music.
  • Augmented fourth, diminished fifth; they’re the same, right?
  • Everything I play is original and I don’t want to learn from anyone else.

F. How would you describe your guitar playing technique?

  • Is it bad that my thumb comes over the top of the guitar neck?
  • If Jimi Hendrix played with his teeth, that means it’s ok.
  • The faster I play, the better my technique gets.


If the first or second answers to each question resonated with you, you are in good shape to become a great guitar player. You have valid questions and are driven by a curiosity which will make you an excellent guitar student. You might not know everything, you are aware of that, and you are ready to get on a solid track of learning guitar.



I wrote “The Guitar Lesson Companion” Method Books to help students get more out of their guitar lessons and to help teachers save time and be more effective in their studios. These books offer a clear, flexible, and progressive structure with plenty of good sounding exercises, which help students reach their goals faster than ever before. Fellow Guitar Teachers: Let’s meet via Skype / FaceTime to see if this series is right for your students. Visit: The Teachers’ Lounge

 Which book is right for you? What’s your goal?

The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume One

The Guitar Lesson Companion, Volume Two

  • Switch between popular chords fast and clearly
  • Understand college music theory concepts
  • Add new rhythms and grooves
  • Spice up your rhythm guitar with practical triad inversions
  • Get a solid introduction to music theory on guitar
  • Master the chord tones (arpeggios) in all positions, all keys
  • Learn how to read music and develop good technique
  • Use a clear, progressive structure to master the design of the guitar
  • Solo using patterns from the CAGED system (with the jam CD)
  • Play walking bass lines, quartal harmony, altered chords and resolutions
  • Know how to figure out what key a song is in, or write songs in specific keys
  • Train your ears while improvising with 8+ hours of backing tracks

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