learning guitarIf you have an interest in learning how to play guitar, there are a number of different ways you can get started. In this post we’ll talk about the pros and cons of some of the most popular paths to learning guitar, and how to know which one is right for you.

Ready? Let’s dive right in.

Self-Study

Probably the most common way most people start to learn guitar is through self study. They hear a song on the radio or from their favorite band and decide that they want to learn how to play it.

They find a guitar, and lookup a few chords online, or buy a chord book, and start trying to learn the song. If that’s the approach you want to take, I recommend watching this video for a beginners 101 type lesson:

This is great, and I highly encourage anyone who is interested in guitar to start playing by whatever means possible, but I also want to point out that self-study is usually not the best option, and has the highest failure rate (that is, the percentage of people who quit playing) of all of the possible guitar-learning options.

That’s because unless you’ve already studied another instrument, you’re unlikely to know many of the fundamentals of music that you need to learn to play. These aren’t difficult to learn, necessarily, but you do need to be guided through them.

Which leads us into the other options…

Online Courses

A better approach to self-study is to take an online course. This approach has the advantage of being a very affordable option (many programs start for only $20-50 a month), and it gives you access to the experience and guidance of professional teachers.

Some programs, like guitartricks.com, will give you access to a variety of different teachers, all for the same monthly subscription price. That gives you the advantage of learning from a lot of different experts, rather than just one.

Read a complete GuitarTricks.com review here.

Private Teacher

Finally, the best option is usually to hire a private teacher. With this approach, you’ll get personal guidance as you learn to play the instrument. A good teacher will not only provide the information and guidance you need to follow a clear path to practicing guitar, but will also be able to provide personalized input to help you through any problems you have.

Getting over some of the common beginner obstacles, like chord fingerings, understanding how to read a tab, and basic strumming techniques, goes a long way to helping you improve faster than you could on your own, even if you follow along with an online course.

The downside, of course, is that taking private lessons is the most expensive of the three options listed here. Individual lessons can range from $50-120 per hour, depending on your location and the teacher’s experience.

f you ask me, though, the investment is well worth it! Read more about why you should hire a private teacher from the Yale School of Music.

solsticeTo kick off our new blog, and in honor of the festival’s December event calendar, I thought it would be interesting to write a bit about the history of music during Winter festivals.

Many people know that the selection of late December as a date of celebration of Jesus’ birth was originally done to coincide with existing pagan winter celebrations.

Many pagan traditions common to Western Europe and the Middle East already had existing festivals that stretched throughout the end of December and into the New Year, though of course their calendar was based on the Winter solstice, not on the Gregorian calendar we use today.

Music and dancing were an integral part to every single one of these festivals, and early Christian musical traditions soon grew out of the same festivals.

This expanded slowly and gradually, until the innovation of religious chanting transformed into more complex sacred music in the late Renaissance and early baroque eras. Chants gave way to madrigals, which in turn gave way to oratorios and longer, more complex mass settings.

Our festivals celebrate much of this tradition with the incorporation of prominent December musical settings, from the Bach Christmas Oratorio to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.

Either way, it is clear that the music of the winter period had a clear impact on the festival, and we’re proud to incorporate that heritage into our own modern festivals, albeit in a greatly transformed and modern application.