Below is a list of answers to some of the most frequently-asked questions I receive in regards to lessons. However, if you have any other questions that aren't listed, feel free to get in contact with me and I'll be happy to answer them for you!
What ages do you teach? And what age is good to start for young kids?
I teach just about all ages really, from kids around 6 all the way up through adults. In my experience, I find that a good age for most kids to start is around the age of 7. Depending on the individual, sometimes they can start even earlier than that if they can focus for a 30 minute lesson. Also, for some really young kids, learning how to play the Ukulele can be a great way to get started as well. It's simpler to manage, easy on their fingers, and many of the techniques and concepts carry over to the guitar.
Do you teach full-time or part-time? Do you have another job? And how many students do you regularly teach?
Teaching guitar is a full-time job for me. I teach on average about 60 students a week. When I am not teaching or practicing guitar, I am usually at the gym or studying something having to do with fitness, nutrition and health as that is my second passion next to music and guitar. I am also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach. You can find more about that at: www.mikewardfitness.com.
What days and hours do you normally teach?
I teach 5 days a week, Monday - Friday usually from 3 PM - 9 PM.
Do you teach virtual/online lessons?
I sure do! I teach quite a few students on a regular, weekly basis online using ZOOM. While there are some limitations with virtual/online lessons (namely not being able to play together at the same time due to the inherent latency that comes with using the internet), we can still do most things we would do in person and have very productive lessons for sure!
What kind of music do you listen to and what are some of your favorite artists?
I love listening to and playing a variety of music from various artists but some of my personal favorites include: progressive rock (Dream Theater, Transatlantic), instrumental rock (Joe Satriani, Steve Vai), jazz fusion (Greg Howe, Frank Gambale), jazz (Miles Davis, Grant Green), and blues (Robben Ford, Albert King).
I'm a busy adult that is interested in lessons, but my schedule is highly erratic and I can't commit to the same day and time every week. Can I still take lessons from you?
Yes. I usually have a few students who are like this, or they live further away and can't commit to a particular day and time every week. If you fall into this camp, once registered, you can go and register for individual open times on my website whenever you see a time and day that is convenient for you. Alternatively, you can also contact me directly through e-mail/text to set up a lesson. You won't have a dedicated spot on the weekly teaching schedule, but you'll have the flexibility you desire.
Do you teach bi-monthly lessons? (i.e. 1 hour every other week as opposed to 30 min every week)
No, unfortunately. I've tried this many times in the past and I've found it to be not very practical. First I have to find two students who would like to alternate weeks. That wouldn't be so bad, except that it assumes that everyone's schedule works out perfectly. Unfortunately, there are holidays, events, other things that come up, etc and lessons need to be rescheduled. So when it's all said and done, I might see one of these students once a month sometimes. A student is not going to make good progress that way, no matter what age they are. If you're someone who can't commit to every week, then we can work something out like I explained above. However, I recommend that students come every week if possible. It really is in your best interest!
Will you travel to a student's home for lessons?
No, unfortunately. I am so busy with the students I have at the studio in North Greenbush that I don't have time to travel to other student's homes to give lessons.
Do you offer make-up lessons?
Yes, but on a limited basis. I only offer make-up lessons when another student cancels or I have an opening in my weekly teaching schedule due to not having a student at that particular time. You can check out my lesson policy page for more details. Provided a make-up time is available, rescheduling is easy and can be done through this website using the calendar once a student is logged in or by e-mailing/texting me.
What styles of music are you most proficient in?
Various forms of rock (progressive, metal, alternative, etc.), blues, jazz, pop, and country.
Do you teach group classes or just private lessons?
I occasionally offer group classes, mostly on supplemental, extra topics that we don't always have time for in regular lessons. Some are multi-week such as music theory & ear-training, but there are also a few one-day classes on various topics like effects pedals (history, how they work, what the different ones do, etc.) and guitar maintenance (how to restring your guitar, clean it, etc). Finally, we often run a week-long summer camp or two each year at Rocky's Music Studio where we get kids together of various instruments and focus on learning the history, technique, etc. of a particular style of music whether that be jazz, blues, rock, etc.
Do you offer recitals for your students?
At Rocky's we do schedule recitals a few times during year where various individual students on various instruments can perform and show what they have learned. We also offer four quarterly concerts which we call "Mini Jams" where we group students on various instruments together who share similar interests and tastes in music. They pick songs as a group that they want to play just as they would if they were part of a band. Then they learn them with their teachers, rehearse together and get the chance to perform at a local venue in the capital region with professional sound and lighting. It's a blast, and students get great experience performing and learning how to interact with other musicians in a group setting!
Do you teach classical guitar?
No. While I have some experience having studied some classical guitar in the past, I don't feel proficient in it enough to teach it well. However, if you're interested in classical, I can recommend you to a few terrific teachers who specialize in that style.
Do you teach bass guitar?
No. Like classical guitar, I have some experience, but not enough to feel comfortable teaching it. Also, even though bass is similar to guitar in a lot of ways, playing the role of the bass player and thinking like one are very different than the guitar. I think like a guitar player! Again, I can recommend you to some great teachers if you are interested in bass.
Do you teach ukulele? What about other guitar-like instruments like banjo or mandolin?
Yes, I do teach ukulele and usually have a few ukulele students I see every week. On the other hand, I do not teach banjo or mandolin. I would be happy to refer you to someone who does though!
Do you teach your students how to read music?
A controversial topic indeed! My answer: Yes, but it depends on the individual. With older adult students who are simply playing for recreation and don't have much time to practice due to their busy schedules, I don't require it and leave the option up to the student as I don't think it is as important as it is for younger students. I will still encourage it, but if the student has no interest, than that is fine. With younger students and teenagers, I think it is important to learn how to read and so we will spend at least a few minutes of each lesson on it. Many young students could care less about reading when they start and are interested in just playing songs. However, I find as students grow older and mature, they develop a taste for different types of music like jazz for instance. So now, maybe they want to play in jazz band. Well, there are no tabs in jazz band. You must learn to read a chart, otherwise you won't be playing! When the audition comes up, these students find that they are able to pass no problem because they had been working on their reading skills a little bit each week.
Why is learning how to read music on the guitar so important? Can't I just read tabs?
This sort of continues what I said above. Think of music as any other language you speak. How well do you think you would know how to speak that language without reading or writing it in addition to speaking it? They are all important facets of learning a language. Leave one out, and the whole is compromised. In addition, if you ever want to pick up another instrument, it will be a piece of cake for you. Why? Because unlike guitar or bass, there are no tabs for saxophone, piano, etc. Since you will know how to read, it will be as simple as learning the proper fundamentals of the instrument (how to hold your hands, etc.) and then you are off, instead of starting from square one.
It sounds like you are against students reading tab...
Nope, quite the contrary actually! Tab is great and we will use it often in your lessons, especially when learning songs you are interested in! Tab has distinct advantages over standard notation, but it also has some distinct disadvantages (like not showing rhythm) which we will cover in your lessons. However, the goal is to use both the written music and the TAB together to learn in the most efficient way possible.
How would a lesson typically be structured with you?
Usually we will spend the first half of the lesson working on any skills you might be working on (reading, chords, theory, technique, etc.) and then in the second half of the lesson we will work on applying these skills to the music and songs you want to learn how to play. As I stated on the home page, it's about balance: learning new skills that can further you as a player and musician AND playing the music you enjoy.
Can you help my son/daughter with their NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) piece?
Yes, as long as it falls under the jazz solo category for guitar. I have successfully coached students to great scores on Level 6 NYSMMA pieces and I'm very familiar with the process, having been through it many times with students over the years. As I explained above, I don't feel comfortable teaching classical so I wouldn't be as much help with that category and would have to refer you out to another teacher.