Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Learning Resources and Materials

Beginning guitar lessons for the first time can be an intimidating process. Sometimes the first, few lessons don't go as well as you would have hoped. Don't give up! In order to give you the best possible odds of success, I have done quite a bit of research on a handful of products that are pretty much essential for any beginner guitar student.

For my own students, I require them to purchase two items after their second lesson: a spiral-bound staff paper notebook and a metronome. I have also put together a Lessons Resource Kit, which students can purchase from me for $32. The Kit includes my hands-down, favorite staff paper notebook, metronome, and string winder. This takes the guess work out of having to buy these things on your own, not really knowing what you're looking for.

Here are my top product picks for students, including the items in my Lessons Resource Kit (items with a *):

Best Metronome: Korg MA-30*
Volume adjustment, subdivisions, two tones, tap tempo, and reference pitches that you can tune to. For the functionality, reliability, and price, this guy is hard to beat.

Best Staff Paper: Standard Wirebound Manuscript Paper (Green Cover)*
http://www.halleonard.com/product/ viewproduct.do?itemid=210005&lid=0&menuid= 718&subsiteid=68&
Simple, easy to write on, good spacing between lines and staves, a good number of pages and durable. A good balance between price and quality.

Best String Winder: Dunlop Pegwinder 100*
http://www.jimdunlop.com/ product/dunlop- stringwinder
Again, simple steals the show. Over the years, I have seen all sorts of complicated devices that claim to improve the process of putting new strings on a guitar. The reality? It's a cumbersome task no matter what winding device you use. In my experience, bigger is not better - but far worse, in fact. I go with this trusty, little tool - one of the originals that Dunlop has been selling for at least 20 years.

Best Capo Ever: SHUBB Deluxe Capo
It's pricey, but I have yet to find a capo that works better. The biggest complaint with capos is that they change the tuning of the strings, making them slightly sharper than the open position notes. This capo can be adjusted to fit the exact thickness of any neck, at any position.

Best Value Capo: Kyser Quick-Change Capo
Easy to use. A no-frills design.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings: Martin SP 80/20 Series
I used to use Elixir's coated strings, but I always hated the way the coating shredded off of the strings where the pick hits them, right around the sound hole. I switched over to these strings about three years ago and never looked back.

Best Electric Guitar Strings: D'Addario XL Nickel Round Wounds
This is the only string I have played on that can handle a two-step string bend (ala Stevie Ray Vaughan). Every other string that I have used has broken under this very high tension. I have been using these puppies ever since I got my first electric.

Best Guitar Cable: Monster Cable's Monster Rock Series
Performers and studio musicians have to be very careful about which cables they choose to use in professional applications. Using a sub-par cable could result in unwanted radio/wireless signal interference. Ever hear a radio station through your amp when your guitar is plugged in? Try upgrading your cables. Best of all, Monster Cable has a *lifetime* warranty. They'll replace any cable, given that it hasn't been abused. A decent alternative would be Monster Cable's S100 series, but beware, I have had interference problems with these lesser-quality cables.

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