Texas is home to some of our most treasured and talented guitarists and performers. Do the names Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin mean anything to you?
Of all the cities in the great southern state of Texas, Austin has a particularly special place for music makers and guitarists. While its most well-known musical styles are varieties of country and blues, it has also been celebrated for its folk, bluegrass, tejano, zydeco, new wave, punk and indie music scenes. And don’t forget that the city supports the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the Austin Civic Orchestra and the Austin Opera!
Most importantly, it has gained a reputation as a place where struggling musicians, of all genres, could launch their career in front of receptive audiences. Will you be next?
Are you a beginner guitarist or an advanced guitar player living in Austin and looking to improve your guitar playing?
The guitar is a musical instrument that brings together many generations and musical tastes: whether you’re 6 or 66, it’s absolutely possible to learn the guitar, you just need a bit of motivation (and a certain finger dexterity!) to play your choice of rock, blues, jazz, classical, funk or folk music.
Have you noticed the 10-foot guitars standing on the sides of the city’s streets? In 2006, Gibson Guitar brought Guitar Town to Austin, placing 35 of these giant guitars around the city. Here’s one at City Hall. Image: Visual Hunt
Learning the guitar brings many benefits: physiologically, it helps you relax, improve the flexibility of your hands, wrists, shoulders, and arms, and psychologically, you’ll increase your attention span and enrich your musical appreciation.
But when you live in Austin and its outskirts, where can one learn the guitar? Is it mandatory to go to a music school? Is knowing solfège absolutely necessary?
Read on to discover the answers to many of these questions and much more. It won’t be long before you are strumming like lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen or playing solos like Jimmy Page!
Street Bands Entertaining in Austin, Texas, 2012. Photo: Visual Hunt
Those who wish to become professional guitar players in Austin or play on stage with the greats; and those who are looking to start guitar lessons and widen their knowledge of other musical instruments all while acquiring an excellent, professional musical education, should definitely consider the conservatory for their guitar classes.
For those interested in specializing in guitar for higher education, there are a range of options available. This offers a higher level of guitar playing with a disciplined methodology. In addition to music instruction, most conservatories also propose a dance and performance arts curriculum.
It can be difficult and competitive to get accepted into these institutions, but that shouldn’t stop you from dreaming and applying yourself! In addition to the playing requirements, you should do your research in advance to know what you’ll need in order to apply (all the necessary documents and deadlines).
Among the most prestigious is the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music (2406 Robert Dedman Dr., Stop E3100, Austin, TX 78712 / 512-471-7764), which offers a range of ensemble and performance opportunities and a world-class music education.
It’s possible to apply oneself on the guitar from a very young age. We advise introducing the guitar to children between the ages of 4 and 6, while proper lessons in playing should take place from the age of 6 or 7.
Guitar lessons can start early!
Music schools come in a range of levels and qualities. For those looking to master the guitar to go on to higher education studies and professionalism, a lot of preparation and training is required.
With that said, every student must take at least 4 hours of guitar lessons per week that might be divided as such:
To apply yourself on the guitar, you should practice your instrument while acquiring a solid base in music theory and education (such as solfège). And music schools can be the perfect places for doing that, at any age.
For children, adolescents and adults alike, training is interdisciplinary and you’ll surely find what you are looking for in your guitar instruction. You could also supplement your training with a singing lesson (singing and playing the guitar at the same time => refer to our article).
Of course, some schools are excellent while others are mediocre. So before deciding, we recommend that you do a bit of research on each one to learn about their fees, the content of the curriculum, and to see if you can meet one or two of the guitar teachers.
So visit the schools in person, speak with their directors, and don’t hesitate to ask for guitar instructors’ references!
Plus, it’s often possible to sit in on a guitar course to get a better idea of what it’s like. Remember that everyone has specific specific learning wants and needs (ex: learning the guitar for left-handed players).
The performers’ view at the Moody Theatre, Austin Texas. Photo: Visual Hunt
To find the music school suited to your needs and budget, at the right location and teaching quality, here’s a small taste of establishments that are accessible to everyone:
It’s very possible that you’ll find a community or cultural center that corresponds to your needs for guitar practice, whether you’re an absolute beginner or a more seasoned musician.
Cultural centers and associations are perfect for those who want to play the guitar quickly and who perhaps want to avoid that difficult solfège training!
Here are two that we think you should check out!:
Guitar instructors are passionate professionals who work according to a training method with the aim of providing the highest quality courses. But you must be careful when choosing your music teacher, as really anyone can profess to be an accredited teaching musician, regardless of training or background.
So we strongly recommend that you meet your prospective instructor’s other students, discover his or her learning method, ask whether he or she specializes in acoustic guitar or electric guitar, and listen to him or her play in order to form your own opinion. Don’t hesitate to lead a little inquiry to discover if your instructor has won any awards or given concerts, and learn about his or her music career.
We recommend that a private instructor has a conservatory education as well as teacher training and performance experience: the ability to teach guitar does not “teach” itself, it requires a lot of effort and numerous personal qualities. Remember that all of these factors will determine the various price of your private lessons.
Next, you’ll need to meet your potential guitar instructor: training on an instrument like the guitar is also a question of feeling and chemistry between instructor and student. In fact, we recommend that you meet several guitar instructors to compare their methods and vision of teaching.
The city of Austin is teeming with talented individuals who offer guitar and solfège instruction, who will teach you how to improve, learn to play a chord or arpeggio, develop a certain technique and discover another music style (blues, rock, classic, flamenco, reggae, funk, pop, country, etc.) Why not go to your local music shop or consult the ads in your library or community center to get some contact details?
Or better still, find yourself a Superprof!
Congress, Ave, Austin, Texas. Image: Visual Hunt
Remember that key to any music education – guitar included – is what you do outside of the classroom. Practicing is the only way you’ll improve your guitar playing. Furthermore, make sure to listen to as much music as you can to become acquainted with the trends and talents in contemporary and historic music.
And Austinites have a range of options to choose from. The greatest concentration of music venues in Austin are located around 6th Street, the Warehouse District, Downtown, Central East Austin, South Congress, the Red River District, the University of Texas, South Lamar, and South Austin.
The White Horse (500 Comal St.) draws tattooed rockabillies and hipsters in rocker jeans, and features some of the best new country talent every night of the week, as well as Conjunto shows that draw Tejano crowds. If you are after jazz, the Elephant Room (315 Congress Ave.) beckons audiences into its cozy basement space. Some of Austin’s venues have been key locations in the history of country music, including Hole in the Wall (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Shawn Colvin, Nanci Griffith and Lucinda Williams have all performed there) and the Continental Club (1313A S Congress Ave.), which has boasted some of the finest country and swing bands in the city.
So get out your new guitar, metronome and capo…! You’ll be playing lead guitar or solos like Stevie Ray in no time.
Don’t mess with Austin guitarists! Image: Visual Hunt