About the Guitar School. The guitar lessons you are learning (or planning to learn) are part of my (Andrey Nosov’s) guitar school. I’m sure you are well aware of what a SCHOOL is? School is a place where you are given basic theoretical and practical knowledge and answers to all your questions, and from where you finally graduate as a prepared performer. My teaching system is like that, which is why it can easily be called a guitar school. But how video resources that teach based on the principle «look and repeat» can call themselves SCHOOLS, if they don’t even explain a thing and just show a few chords with the simplest strumming patterns (out of thousands of others), is totally beyond me. In this manner, a kid who has just learned a few chords and decided to share them with his friends might just as well call his playing skills a school. But this would never occur to him…
Of course, the name is not what matters here. They are free to call themselves whatever they want. The problem is that such video resources seriously cripple a large number of guitarists. You think I am exaggerating? Hardly. If you use resources that don’t provide you with information on the proper sitting position or position of hands, or technical conditions of the instrument, you are doomed to failure. Some people drop out at once because they were not able to do the most elementary and hold down the strings. This often occurs because either the space between the strings and the neck is too large, or the strings are too taut. But they don’t even know about this and consider themselves incapable of playing the guitar. Some people feel this false sense of inability to play the guitar later on, when they grow out of chord accompaniment and try to play guitar solo. Here, the negative result occurs due to the lack of knowledge about sitting position and position of hands – the very basics which no one told them about when they first took up the guitar. This is how most guitarists say goodbye to their dreams to be good performers. Even if you’ve never dreamed of becoming a great performer and just wanted to learn a few chords to sing a song, don’t be so quick to put it aside. There will come a time when the guitar will call to you with an irresistible power, as it has to many others who have touched the guitar at least once in their life. Just think about it and choose an academic training program, regardless of where it’s offered: at a musical school or on my website. On my website, you’ll find everything necessary: chords most favored by beginners, compositions for guitar solo, and many other things related to «guitar playing.» Only in this way will you be able to correctly apply your hands, improve your technical skills, and grow as an artist.
About Choosing a Guitar. Choosing a guitar is an issue of the utmost importance. Do you know how unexperienced people often choose a guitar in a store? They just ask the seller: «Could you strum the strings on this guitar? Now this one. Yeah, this one sounds better (fuller). I’ll take it.» Well, that’s a good approach, but…it’s not enough. You also have to make sure that the guitar is suitable for playing; otherwise, you’ll have a hard time playing it.
I remember once being among some company and was asked to play the guitar, as usual. The guitar was given to me, but it had a large space between the strings and the neck, exceeding all reasonable limits, so I refused to play it because the guitar wasn’t suitable for playing. «Why not?» the host asked, and played a chord on the first three frets. «Why won’t you play in the middle of the neck?» I asked him with a great deal of interest. «No one plays in that part,» he responded. That’s not true, my dear colleagues. Experienced guitarists play not only in the middle part, but also on the frets with higher numerals. Thus, choosing a guitar is an issue of the utmost importance. Information on how to tune the guitar to the required parameters with your own hands, if your guitar is in far from perfect condition, can be found in Lesson 1. There, you might as well learn all parts of the guitar – the terminology which is widely used among guitarists.
About Sitting Position and Position of Hands. Sitting position and position of hands is another issue of great importance. «Aren’t there too many issues of importance?» you might ask. I say no because it couldn’t be otherwise at the beginning of training. My lessons are provided with detailed information on sitting positions with consideration for various guitar sizes and size of performers (including those who are bigger), so there is no need to repeat it here. Except to say that your playing capabilities directly depend on your sitting position. Inappropriate sitting position might lead to the incorrect position of hands, which will further decrease your performing capabilities. And this is not to mention the pain that is «no big deal,» which you will feel in different parts of the body, preventing you from playing as long as required or as you would like. I am telling you, all these issues are of great importance!
About String Tension and Guitar Tuning. What else besides sitting position can affect the position of hands and your performance success? – String tension. Early on in your training, string tension shall be according to the physical capabilities of your left hand, which is responsible for holding down the strings on the neck (if you are a lefty, be glad and don’t even think about turning the guitar neck to the right because in guitar practice, the main burden is borne by the left hand, which in your case is the strongest). Otherwise, you won’t be able to handle the string tension because your hand, first of all, will be under constant tension. Secondly, you will have to apply an inappropriate position of hands to be able to hold down the strings. And… you should also remember that guitar playing is a combination of playing techniques involving a variety of finger movements and constant shifting of your left hand along the neck. How will you make this happen under such tremendous, but unnecessary tension, which you yourself have caused, and with an inappropriate hand position in relation to the neck? My advice is to tune the guitar to the parameters which allow you to comfortably hold down the strings (but not too loose that the strings lose their sound). These parameters are individually adjusted according to your own abilities. Once you get accustomed to these parameters, tighten the strings until you are able to play under standard tuning parameters (detailed information is specified in the lessons).
This advice seems rational. But there is always someone who will object. They usually refer to the following arguments: «It can spoil our ear for music.» «We need to train our fingers.» This makes no sense to me… how can you spoil your ear if sound intervals between open strings and sound intervals of the compositions to be performed do not change? The only thing that changes is key, which has no effect on the recognition of the composition and certainly doesn’t spoil an ear for music (detailed information on key is specified in the lessons).
What is totally incomprehensible to me is struggling with high string tension just to train your fingers. This will bring nothing but intense pain and improper positioning of your left hand responsible for holding down the strings on the neck (especially if the space between the strings and the neck is larger than recommended). This has been proven by several generations of beginner guitarists. I wonder how these guitarists who «love to train» would behave if they found themselves at the gym. Would they immediately try to lift a weight that exceeds their physical capabilities, or would they try something a little more within their abilities? This is a rhetorical question… any one of them would certainly start from a weight which is more or less light to them and then try to lift something heavier if necessary (in sport, this method is called weight progression training). There is no better way to develop your muscles. As we know, muscles are involved in guitar playing, too. See the connection? To get accustomed to the standard string tension, you have to train your muscles using the same principle mentioned above: adjust the tension according to your abilities and then gradually tighten the strings. Just follow my advice and you’ll acquire the correct left-hand position, which is necessary for further progress; preserve your left-hand fingers from intense pain, which is inevitable in the early stage of training; and achieve success much earlier than those who don’t want to follow my advice.
About Choosing Strings. Which strings are better to use: metal or synthetic? In the early stage of training, synthetic strings are definitely the best choice because they are softer and more comfortable for the fingers, and allow you to learn the playing techniques related to the extraction of sound with the left hand alone without any difficulties (with little or no involvement of the right hand). Synthetic strings on your guitar sound worse, you say? And why do you need such bright sound in the early stage of learning basic techniques? Technical skills should be at the forefront at this point. You’ll always have a chance to decide what suits you better after learning some skills. Detailed information is specified in the lessons…
About Learning with the Self-Teaching Guide. Is it possible to learn to play the guitar with the self-teaching guide? Yes, if the guide is very informative and you are motivated to learn. Sometimes greater results come while self-studying than while learning with a teacher. After all, you have to attentively read every single line to get to the bottom of everything. As a result, you learn much more quickly.
Another plus of using self-teaching guides like mine is that they usually contain more information in each lesson than any one teacher will ever be able to give you in one lesson. It’s not that he doesn’t know this information. He just physically won’t be able to give you all this information within one lesson. So, read, learn, and don’t worry about missed opportunities to take lessons with private teachers or at a musical institution. A well-organized self-teaching guide will be no less effective. You also have to remember that the learning process usually involves two participants – a teacher and a student, so be critical of not only the authors of training materials, but yourselves, as well.
About Notation. It’s amazing what websites providing services for learning the guitar do to draw in potential students: «Come to our website and we’ll teach you to play the guitar without notation!» Do they think that you don’t need notation – the system of representing music through symbols? Or do they think that you are incapable of understanding it? Or can they not explain how to read sheet music? Or maybe they can’t read it themselves?
There are a lot of questions, but there is only one we need to answer: «What would happen to you if you weren’t be able to read? I’ll tell you what. There would be an information blockade – if not full, then definitely substantial. You would not be able to read neither a text message, nor the menu of your gadget, nor a required book (which literate people could read aloud for you, but do not want to for some reason). Do you see? The same blockade comes upon a performer who is not familiar with notation. But…he doesn’t even know it and, therefore, looks happy. The biggest problem is that this «happy» performer has a hard time learning new compositions and enriching his repertoire. It’s not difficult to guess why. In order to learn a new composition, he needs to see and listen to the way it’s played. If there are no examples – there is nothing new to learn. Notation is another matter. Here, you will find everything necessary to learn a composition, including rhythm, information on playing techniques, and fingering. So, viva notation! And don’t believe those who stick to the opinion that notation is hard to learn. Reading sheet music is no more difficult than reading an ordinary text. You can read, can’t you? Detailed information is specified in the lessons…
About Ways of Extracting Sounds. What is better to start training with: «apoyando» or «tirando»? Beginners often ask this question when they start their training from «tirando» and then discover that «apoyando» provides a louder and more beautiful sound. Don’t take the wrong road, my friends! It’s true that «apoyando» produces a fuller and brighter sound. But…due to the fact that the finger has to rest on the adjacent string at the end of the finger’s movement, this technique is RARELY used in classical guitar. Or, more precisely, «apoyando» is used only for monophonic melodies and passages (including the rapid ones). This technique is not used for anything else because the finger resting on the adjacent string (for the thumb – thinner strings, for other fingers – thicker strings): a) mutes the string and therefore deprives us of polyphony, which is characteristic of guitar solo; b) makes it significantly difficult to extract the sound, especially using the widespread «arpeggio» technique (string picking). The «tirando,» on the contrary, is free of these disadvantages and can be used for everything, including monophonic melodies and virtuosic passages.
If you think that I speak in favor of «tirando» only because I have a personal preference for this technique, you are completely wrong. Each guitar technique is good in its own context. And guitar training is a separate field which requires rational thinking. Rational thinking would say it is not worth starting with something that will might never be used. Your teachers, including me, will surely teach the «apoyando» technique (Lesson 70 in my manual) and many other techniques later. But let’s first cultivate the skills to extract sound with the technique that is used more frequently.
Detailed information on ways of extracting the sound can be found in my (Andrey Nosov’s) guitar lessons, especially in Lesson 1, which is free for viewing.
About Performing the First Composition. The first composition of my (Andrey Nosov’s) guitar school is not difficult to perform. Or, more precisely, it shouldn’t seem difficult after thorough training undergone in Lessons 1-12. But it’s a composition that will give you insight into what guitar is all about. The composition is played by one guitarist in two sound flows (melody accompanied with bass). Then the third flow – middle note – is added, after which it will be exceedingly clear why our instrument is called a little orchestra.
I wish you success in getting to know this wonderful world of GUITAR