A 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.
Susan Palmer teaches jazz, blues, and rock guitar styles in Seattle and via webcam. Since 2006, she has been the guitar instructor at Seattle University. Palmer created and taught, “The Rock Project” at Cornish College of the Arts from 2010-15, and she was music instructor at Seattle Girls School for the 2016-17 school year. Palmer is the author of, The Guitar Lesson Companion Method Book Series which is used by teachers and students in over 10 countries, including faculty at Berklee College of Music. Her extensive collection of lesson videos and jam tracks are available for free on YouTube. Palmer’s current and former students perform regularly throughout the country, including these Seattle venues: The Comet, The High Dive, Skylark, Neumos, The Hard Rock Cafe, Chop Suey, The Tractor Tavern, The Rendezvous, The Sorrento Hotel, The Crocodile, The Mix, Cafe Racer, The Edgewater Hotel, The Sunset, and other private events.