Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Frequently Asked Questions for guitar lessons in Hailsham

There’s lots of info here about Sussex Guitar Lessons but if you need any more please get in touch.

What musical styles do you teach?

Sussex Guitar specialises in teaching Acoustic Fingerstyle and Classical guitar styles. Although Classical guitar is a more specific genre, fingerstyle guitar can cover anything from Queen, The Beatles, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, James Taylor, Adele and so on. Fingerstyle guitar draws on a lot of techniques from Classical guitar.

What musical styles don’t you teach?

Electric lead guitar, screaming Death Metal, heavy rock, bass guitar, advanced jazz improvisation or advanced flamenco. However if you do want to learn one of these styles or another style not available at Sussex Guitar, I’d be happy to pass on the details of a reputable teacher who can help you with what you want to learn.

Why do you not teach all styles?

Like most guitarists who have been playing a long time, I’ve dabbled in most genres, played lead guitar in a rock band, tried a bit of bluegrass and so on because most styles of guitar playing share many  common techniques and skills. However, not many guitar teachers can claim to be an expert in all styles (but I take my hat off to those who genuinely can!). In order to offer the best possible service I prefer to specialise in the areas where I have a lifetime of experience.

Do you teach young children?

Not as a general rule  but lessons are available for young people over the age of 12. Acoustic fingerstyle needs lots of practise and that’s not always easy when there are competing school activities. The beginner Classical guitar lessons are more suited for younger children to learn although they often prefer to play more contemporary stuff. There are always exceptions to any rule, so if you feel that your child shows a particular aptitude for the guitar and is extremely motivated please contact me and we can  discuss it further.

DBS/CRB checked?

CRB or DBS approved teacher

Yep. There’s an up-to-date enhanced DBS check certificate (formerly a CRB check) which you can see when you come for a lesson. If you’d like to bring a parent, colleague or friend who can sit in on the lesson that’s absolutely fine. Spare seating is available.

Is there an age limit for learning the guitar?

There is no upper age limit as it is never too late to start! Learning the guitar is a great hobby once you’ve retired.

Can I share a lesson with a friend / sibling / family member?

Well yes, but there are a few things to consider. Students learn at different rates and benefit the most from one to one tuition. Shared lessons work out less expensive but there is a degree of compromise. If students have a similar starting ability, and the same level of enthusiasm then it can work very well – a bit of competition can be very motivating! An hour lesson split whereby each student gets 30 mins one to one tuition, and 30 minutes observation (which, in itself, can be very enlightening) may be worth considering.  I don’t teach more than two people at a time.

Do you teach groups?

No. People learn at different speeds and you’d be working at the pace of the slowest member of the group, which can be very frustrating if you’re not the slowest. There may be  a few group workshops at some point in the future.

Do you teach via Skype?

Not at the moment! Please contact me if you are interested in learning via Skype.

I have an electric guitar – can I use that for acoustic fingerstyle music?

It can be done. The instrument feels very different to hold but the strings and neck are not too dissimilar. The music you’ll learn can be easily played on either an electric or acoustic guitar.  There are amplifiers at the Hailsham studio that you can use to plug in your guitar. The strings on acoustic guitars are usually slightly heavier (wider) compared to electric guitars but the essence of what you’ll learn will be the same. It’s probably better in the long run to get an acoustic guitar but don’t feel the need to rush out to buy one immediately if you already have an electric guitar.

Do I need to buy a guitar before my first lesson?

Not exactly. You can borrow a classical or acoustic guitar while you’re at the studio, but you’ll need something to practise with between lessons. I can help you source a decent guitar in your budget range, or you can have a read of the article on buying a guitar.  Click here.

Stop Press! –  a couple of classical guitars are currently available for hire.

What sort of guitar should I buy?

Many households already have a guitar and there’s a good chance that you’ve already been playing a bit before landing on this site.  Have a look at the “Buying A Guitar” page for more info. There are several  types of guitar

Classical  – these guitars have a wider neck than the others and the top three strings are made of nylon. Many people start learning on a nylon-string guitar because it is a little easier on the fingers.

Acoustic – these guitars have steel strings. The thinnest strings can be quite painful to play at first but your fingertips soon get used to that and the strings no longer feel like cheesewire after a while! The body of the guitar is hollow which helps to produce the sound without the need for an amp. Some acoustic guitars are fitted with a pick-up so that they can be plugged into an amplifier.

Electric – these guitars also have steel strings but the body of the guitar is usually solid.  Without a soundbox the strings aren’t very audible  and so an amplifier is needed to hear the sound at a reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable!) volume.

I’m coming straight from work/college /Tescos – can I borrow an instrument for the lessons?

No problemo. There are some spare classical and acoustic guitars in various sizes at the studio that you are more than welcome to use while you’re here.

Image of a typical digital guitar tuner made by Snark
Snark Guitar Tuner

Do I need to get any other equipment?

A good tuner and a capo are worth buying. There are many to choose from. My personal favourites are the Snark electric tuner and a G7th capo, but there are many different brands on the market which do the same job. Oh, and a spare set of strings!

Oh, and a spare set of strings!

press-on guitar capo from G7th
G7th Capo for Classical Guitar

 Do I have to learn to read music?

Guitarists are a funny breed! Many have never  read a note of music but go onto become very accomplished at what they do. However, if you are considering  a career in music, or want to take  examinations, then learning to read standard music notation is very beneficial.

Basic music theory is usually taught as a matter of course for those studying Classical Guitar but it is optional for those preferring to learn acoustic fingerstyle guitar.It’s not essential though as a lot of guitar music can be interpreted by tablature or TAB (which is very quick and easy to understand), chord boxes and a good ear. However, a reasonable grasp of standard music notation can be very useful, especially for Classical guitar, so if you’d like to learn it can be incorporated into your lessons.

Do I have to take Music Grades?

Only if you want to! Studying for Grades (or music instrument examinations) can give you a target to aim for. They are available for both acoustic and classical guitar. As  a member of the Registry of Guitar Tutors I can enter you for their exams. The RGT exams are accredited by the London College of Music, the University of West London, and Ofqual and are fully recognised by UCAS.

You don’t have to work through all the grades and a good place to start is at level 4 when you’re ready. The higher grades can gain you points for UCAS so may help with University applications. They’re also required by colleges such as BIMM. But if your University days are behind you then there’s less to be gained by doing exams – unless, of course, you’d like to!

Where are lessons held?

Sussex Guitar is located in North Hailsham about a mile from the town centre. There’s a bus stop right outside the house (No 51 Eastbourne to Heathfield route) and plenty of parking on the drive.

Can you teach at the student’s house?

Not as a general rule. The home studio in Hailsham, East Sussex, is well equipped and all learning materials and resources are close to hand. However, if travelling to the studio is a real issue for you please contact me  and we can discuss various options. I am hoping to introduce Skype lessons shortly for those who cannot get to the studio.

What about students with disabilities?

Lessons are normally held at my home studio in Hailsham. The studio is on the ground floor but the loo is upstairs. If you have difficulties with mobility and are unable to come to the studio, please contact me via email with your details as it may be possible to have a home visit in certain circumstances, or to arrange a Skype lesson.

How long are the lessons?

Most adult lessons are an hour long. It takes a few minutes to settle in, tune the guitar and recap on the previous lesson and so an hour offers the best value for money. However, 45 minute lessons are currently available for those who prefer shorter guitar lessons.

How often do I need lessons?

You can have lessons weekly, fortnightly or on an ad hoc basis – it’s up to you. Most students book weekly lessons so they can guarantee a regular time slot.

How much practice is needed between lessons?

It would be a shame to spend time and money having private tuition without much practice between lessons. The lessons themselves help to guide you on the right track but the speed at which you progress is entirely down to the amount of effort you put in. It is probably more beneficial to do frequent, short “bite-sized” chunks of practice than to do a couple of hours once a week. This allows you to build up strength in your fingers and wrists and avoid injury. About 10-20 minutes a day would be great at first. The lessons are designed to help you to focus on the areas which will speed your progress.

I have small hands – can I learn on a ¾-sized guitar?

Some chords and fingerings require quite a stretch and this can seem tricky for those with small hands. However, these problems can often be overcome on a normal sized guitar.

The distance between frets on a guitar get smaller as you progress up the neck. If you place a capo on the second fret your fingers won’t have to stretch so far and the strings can be  pressed down with less effort, which makes it all a little easier!   As your fingers become more flexible and stronger you’ll be able to take the capo off and play using the whole of the fretboard.  This means that you won’t have to change your guitar as your playing improves!  (I can transpose the audio files on your USB flash drive so that they will sound right if you choose this method to start with).

This isn’t a hard and fast method – if you prefer to learn on a smaller guitar that’s fine!

Can you teach left-handed guitarists?

Yes.  You are better off buying a left-handed guitar rather than re-stringing a right hander. Some left-handers learn in the right-handed position (like the late, but great, Gary Moore) but see what feels best for you. You don’t need a left-handed guitar teacher.

I’d like to learn to sing with my guitar – can you help me with that?

Unfortunately, no – I am rubbish at singing! That’s why there’s a focus on the guitar styles that don’t need a vocalist to sing the melody. You’re very welcome to sing along though!

How do I pay for lessons?

In advance by BACS or PayPal, or cash on the day.

What if I need to cancel or reschedule a lesson?

No worries – simply contact me by email, text  or phone at least 48 hours before our lesson and we’ll rearrange it!

Occasionally, “stuff” happens and you may not be able to give me as much as 48 hours notice. Everyone deserves a little leeway sometimes so I don’t charge for the first missed lesson but will need to charge for a full lesson if less than 48 hours notice is given on more than one occasion in every six months. Most guitar teachers will charge regardless.

How much do lessons cost?

1 hour lesson  (Mon – Fri  9.00am to 5.00pm)  –   £32.00

45 minute lesson (Mon-Fri 9.00am – 5.00pm) – £28.00

45 minute lesson (evenings and weekends) £30.00

1 hour lesson (evenings and weekends) £36.00

What if I don’t have a computer?

Not a problem! All materials will be provided in a form that you can use, with printed music or tab, and audio files on a CD.

You don’t need to be tech-savvy to learn the guitar! I use various software to help teach music theory including Sibelius, Guitar Pro 6,  PowerTabs, and TablEdit, and will happily print out anything for those who aren’t tech-savvy.