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Places to learn the guitar in New York City

By Alexis, published on 29/05/2017 Blog > Music > Guitar > Where to learn the guitar in New York?

In New York, a world capital of Arts and Culture, you can find the highest quality training in whatever musical instrument you’d like to play.

This definitely applies to the guitar: between the various conservatories and music schools, cultural and community centers, and master classes and workshops at diverse and varied institutions, you have a vast range of opportunities and resources at your fingertips in New York City to learn to play. And let’s not forget the many options for home-based private guitar lessons in all five boroughs!

Whether you’re an amateur, a beginner who is looking to learn just about everything, or an established musician, the city of New York offers numerous solutions for acquiring general guitar training or for learning a particular style (such as blues, rock, funk, and country). Remember, this is the city of both Lincoln Center and the jazzy Village Vanguard!

Depending on your budget, schedule, and expectations, there is sure to be a place that corresponds to your guitar playing needs – whatever your musical style may be.

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Community centers for learning to play the guitar in New York

Most neighborhoods in New York have a community center where you’ll be able to practice your hobbies and passion for music (including the guitar).

In these convivial spaces, numerous art and leisure workshops are offered at reasonable costs, giving everyone a chance to access culture and music.

These community centers often provide music classes, solfège (music education) and guitar lessons for all ages.

The main NYC community centers are:

  • Third Street Music School Settlement (235 East 11th St., New York, NY 10003 / 212-777-3240) offers private lessons and classes to children (age 3 and up) and adults in music and dance. Historically, it was a community settlement house that provided social services to the immigrant population, its mission since has been to enrich the art curriculum in public schools on the Lower East Side. Third Street’s Guitar Department offers individual, partner and beginner group classes in many styles (classical, electric and electric bass guitar, blues, flamenco, folk, jazz and rock) for students of all ages and levels. Students may opt for Suzuki approach-based lessons which pair individual instruction with a weekly repertoire class that immerses the student in the world of music with a group of their peers, or a traditionally taught class. In addition to lessons, students may benefit from classes such as jazz theory and improvisation, and performance opportunities. In addition to guitar and other instruments, students can specialize in voice, music theory and composition or sound recording. They also have the option of joining small (rock, jazz, instrumental and chamber music) or large ensembles (choirs, bands and orchestras). Lastly, Third Street has a range of community initiatives, most recently New Horizons Band and the chorus program for adults.

Perfect your guitar skills at the Third Street Music School Settlement. Perfect your guitar skills at the Third Street Music School Settlement.

  • Bloomingdale School of Music (323 West 108th St., New York, NY 10025 / 212-663-6021): located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Bloomingdale hosts over 600 students and families each week, participating in classes, taking private lessons on over 20 different instruments and attending their series of free “Concerts in the Community” throughout the year. Guided by a mission to provide high-quality music education to all who seek it, BSM not only offers group music classes and private instruction but also a wide range of early childhood classes, classes in public schools and Internet-based educational programs. Whether you are interested in guitar lessons or piano lessons, instruction for children or adults, classical, rock or jazz, a rigorous course of study or a more flexible approach, there is a place for you.
  • Turtle Bay Music School (224 East 52nd St., New York, NY 10002 / 212-753-8811): offers classes for all ages and skill levels, focusing on each student’s individual needs. As a nonprofit organization with a strong financial aid program, free public concerts and community programs in public schools and senior centers, TBMS works to increase access to music education, appreciation and performance. Music instruction is offered in over 20 instruments and voice, in all music genres. In addition to the 50 free performances it gives annually, community efforts include its Saturday Music Project, Public School Partnerships and Creative Aging.
  • Church Street School for Music and Art (74 Warren St., New York, NY 10007 / 212-571-7290) is the only not-for-profit community school for the arts in Lower Manhattan (Tribeca), where students of all ages share art and music experiences together. In addition to instrumental music lessons for adults, Church Street School offers private and group instrument lessons for children, as well as a guitar class for ages 7 and up! Other than music, there are a range of activities and events to take part in, enriching and building this local community of budding artists!

Church Street. Check out those fantastic players at Church Street School for Music and Art!

There are other non class-based community playing options in New York:

  • Exapno (33 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217 / 203-464-7516): is a new music community center where musicians come to compose, rehearse and perform for a very low monthly price. This is especially important in a city where renting rehearsal space can be prohibitively expensive and isolating!
  • Goddard Riverside Community Center (593 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY 10024 / 212-873-6600): offers a performing arts program to children and adolescents as well as several options for adults.
  • Whether you live in Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan, Brooklyn or the Bronx, contact your local YMCA to get information on any music instruction they offer. An oldie but a goodie!

You may also want to look into this successful community program:

  • Harmony Program (1700 Broadway, 39th floor, New York, NY 10019 / 646-981-1882) partners with schools and community centers to create intensive after-school programs that teach children to read music, play orchestral instruments, and perform in ensembles.

Conservatories for mastering solfège and guitar in New York

We don’t mean to state the obvious, but the city of New York is well-known for the high quality of its arts and culture teaching opportunities.

Of course, New York boasts several of the most famous higher education conservatories that offer musical education of the highest quality including guitar instruction: Julliard School, Manhattan School of Music (especially known for jazz), and Mannes College (the New School for Music).

It’s incredibly 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).

They are portals into an artistic universe and professional playing; by enrolling in a conservatory, you’ll develop and hone your ability to interpret and play music while becoming an artist in your own right.

For those who desire a higher level of guitar playing with a disciplined methodology, the conservatory is the ideal place. In addition to music instruction, most conservatories also propose a dance and performance arts curriculum.

Here are New York’s most renowned higher education conservatories:

  • Julliard School (30 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023 / 212-799-5000): with a 7.2% acceptance rate, you will have to work you butt off to attend this prestigious Manhattan performing arts institution. In addition to the Bachelor of Music degree, you can attend as a graduate student to earn your Master of Music, Graduate Diploma, Artist Diploma, or Doctor of Musical Arts. Julliard’s guitar department, created and led by renowned guitarist Sharon Isbin, enjoys an outstanding reputation, attracting talented young artists from around the world. In addition to the highest quality one-on-one teaching sessions, students participate in orchestral, chamber music, concerto and solo recitals, jazz and opera experiences.

Lincoln Center is home to New York’s prestigious Julliard School. Image: Visual Hunt Lincoln Center is home to New York’s prestigious Julliard School. Image: Visual Hunt

  • Mannes College, New School for Music (66 West 12th St., New York, NY 10011 / 212-580-0210) offers Bachelor of Music, Bachelor of Science, Undergraduate Diploma, Master of Music and Professional Studies Diploma degrees. For guitar in particular, you’ll be able to select from a range of courses, including guitar duos, guitar ensemble, guitar performance, guitar survey, and sight reading for guitar. There is also a Prep School and a summer program for pre-college players. Located in Greenwich Village, it is an ideal spot for playing as well as attending a range of music gigs and events, especially the school’s specialty: jazz.
  • Manhattan School of Music (120 Claremont Ave., New York, NY 10027 / 212-749-2802): one of the best music conservatories in the country, its programs of study for guitar majors are designed to develop skilled performers who are thoroughly acquainted with the history, literature and pedagogy of the guitar. Majors will demonstrate their advanced musical abilities and knowledge of solo and chamber music repertoire through participation in performance classes and ensembles. In addition to studies with expert faculty, students are provided additional opportunities to play for and observe world-renowned guest artists. Recent master classes in this department have included Pepe Romero, David Russell, Manuel Barrueco, Eduardo Fernandez, Benjamin Verdery and Paul Galbraith.

Other higher education institutions in New York also boast rigorous music departments:

  • NYU Steinhardt (35 W. 4th St., Suite 1077, New York, NY 10012 / 212-998-5424): has a well-reputed Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions. It offers B.M., M.A., Ph.D music education majors with a range of program electives including Performance, Music Technology, Composition, Educational Theater, Dance Education, Music Therapy, Music Theater and Classical Voice, Jazz Studies and more. Students can opt to join several ensembles including orchestral, chamber, percussion, new music, jazz, concert band and music ed jazz ensemble and pipes and drums, so a few places where the guitar will fit nicely!
  • Aaron Copland School of Music at City University of New York Queens College (65-30 Kissena Blvd., Queens, NY 11367 / 718-997-3800): not only offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, it also maintains a vital presence in the cultural life of Queens, Long Island and the greater New York City area. Students follow a curriculum designed to develop the interdependent skills of performing, listening to and understanding music. The school also forges strong community links, through public concerts and recitals as well as through collaborations with the public schools, specialized programs for senior citizens, and the Center for Preparatory Studies in Music for elementary and secondary students.
  • Nyack School of Music (2 Washington Street, New York, NY 10004, 212-625-0500 / 1 South Blvd., Nyack, NY, 845-358-1710) offers Associate of Science in Music, Bachelor of Arts in Music, Bachelor of Science in Music in Worship, Bachelor of Music in the following subjects: Composition, Keyboard Instruments, Music Education, Orchestral Instruments and Voice.

We also recommend looking into the well-established music departments at the following colleges and universities:

  • Columbia University (116th and Broadway, New York, NY 10027 / 212-854-1754).
  • Fordham University (Rose Hill Campus, 441 E. Fordham Rd., Bronx, NY 10458 / 718-817-1000).
  • New York University (24 Waverly Place, Room 268, New York, NY 10003 / 212-998-8300).
  • City University of New York: inquire separately at Baruch College, Brooklyn College, City College, College of Staten Island, Hunter College, Lehman College, York College, and the Graduate Center.

Outside of New York City there are other higher education options to keep in mind when choosing a school for guitar instruction:

  • Bard College (30 Campus Rd., Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504 / 845-758-7472).
  • Eastman School of Music (26 Gibbs St., Rochester, NY / 585-274-1000).
  • Syracuse University, Setnor School of Music (202 Crouse College, Syracuse, NY 13244).
  • Sarah Lawrence College (1 Mead Way, Bronxville, NY 10708 / 914-337-0700).

Music schools that teach guitar in New York

As the cultural and artistic center of the U.S., New York is home to numerous high-quality music schools where music lessons are given by instructors of international fame in many cases.

According to your taste (classical music, rock, blues, etc.), your schedule and budget, and whether you hope to become a musician or even a professional or whether you want to learn guitar for pleasure, New York will have at least one music school that corresponds to you.

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! 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 lesson per week that might be divided as such:

  • 1.5 hours of solfège (or music education)
  • Between 30 minutes and 1 hour of guitar practice (either in a private lesson or with another student)
  • 1.5 hours of orchestral practice.

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.

Learn Guitar at the Brooklyn Music School! Learn Guitar at the Brooklyn Music School!

Among the best music schools in New York, you’ll find:

  • 92nd Street Y Guitar Institute (1395 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10128 / 212-415-5580): led by Artistic Director Benjamin Verdery, this renowned education center boasts high-quality private and group instruction for all ages (5 and up). Beginner classes, for instance, are led by a professor from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, and private lessons are conducted by career musicians. Some other perks include: Free High School Guitar Day in the Spring; the ability to perform in Art of the Guitar concerts; and Educational Outreach to New York City public schools.
  • The Williamsburg School of Music (400 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11211 / 718-963-3600) offers private and group classes and ensembles, for a range of levels and all ages. For children there is also Summer Music Camps, Rock Bands and Musical Theatre.
  • New York City Guitar School (251 W 30th St., New York, NY 10001 / 646-485-7244): offering basically every type of guitar instruction for every level in a range of New York City locations (Midtown, Upper East Side, Brooklyn and Queens), you will most certainly find a course that corresponds to your needs at the NYC Guitar School.
  • Guitar Collective (541 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011 / 212-741-0091): part of the larger Collective, which caters to a range of instruments and music education, it offers certificate programs for beginner, intermediate and advanced guitarists (adolescent to adult), that last from 1 week to two years. From private lessons to music ensembles, there are many opportunities for learning and playing music.
  • Astoria Music (34-17 28th Ave., Astoria, NY 11103 / 718-204-0400) offers only private lessons for guitar (as well as bass, violin and piano) for 1.5 hours to all ages. Guitar instruction is given by Mike Forzano who holds a degree in Jazz Performance from SUNY Purchase and who frequently plays in a range of styles throughout New York. Brian Billings holds a Bachelors of Music Performance and a dual Master’s Degree in special and childhood education. He specializes in all forms of guitar, particularly classical, rock and blues. Nick Manioudakis has been a Bouzouki player for over 40 years. He majored in Music at Rutgers University and has extensive performing experience in the United States and Greece.
  • Brooklyn Music School (126 St. Felix St., Brooklyn, NY 11217 / 718-638-5660) offers private lessons and group music classes to a range of levels, from beginner to professional, with a mission to keep music instruction accessible and affordable to many. In addition to rock, jazz, classical, blues folk and bluegrass, the BMS guitar department focus is expanded to include other fretted instruments such as bass, electric bass, mandolin, banjo and ukulele. Lessons are 30 minutes, 45 minutes or 1 hour. Guitar training also adheres to BMS’ performance-based approach to learning, providing students opportunities to perform in annual schedule recitals and other concerts, at venues including Carnegie Hall and NYC Parks. Students are taught proper fretting hand and picking technique; proficient use of chords and scales; note reading on musical staff; music theory; improvisation; music appreciation; and performance/audition preparation. Lastly, BMS organizes Afterschool and Summer Institute programs, musical theater and performance; world percussion center, and Brooklyn opera works!

Private guitar lessons in New York

Lastly, for a final solution to learn how to play guitar in New York, call on a professional to take private lessons.

Guitar classes are accessible to all levels, whether you’re an absolute beginner or a professional hoping to perfect your playing. They are also ideal for learning how to improvise on the guitar, for example.

Start playing guitar lessons early! Start playing guitar lessons early!

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, 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.

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Music is a sharing of values, sensations, and emotions: so it’s crucial that there is a common thread between you two, that your interaction is naturally warm, happy and positive. Only in these conditions can you properly learn the guitar and enjoy doing it!

On average, a private guitar lesson costs between 10 and 30 dollars for 20 to 30 minutes of lesson time (children). For adults, the cost increases to between 20 and 50 dollars by the hour. The cost range depends on a range of factors, according to this article.

They don’t have paid holidays, they have professional fees such as the purchase of music scores and other expensive music equipment, the rent of a studio or paying to travel to give lessons. And of course, he or she must pay to belong to a teaching union or other association, for professional insurance, etc.

The city of New York is teeming with talented individuals who offer guitar and solfège instruction, who will teach you how to improve, 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?

Here’s just one of the many options we’ve found:

Sage Music (44-02 23rd St. #414, Long Island City, NY 11101 / 33 Nassau Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11122): with locations in Long Island City, Queens and Greenpoint, BK, you’ll be taking guitar lessons in the hippest parts of New York! Start practicing those barre chords!

If you don’t want to commit yourself for the long term in a music school or other institution, if you just feel like discovering the guitar and playing from time to time in a workshop or bar, here are just two of the many options for you in New York:

New York Jazz Workshop (149 W 46th St., New York 10036 / 646-245-2800): hear or play amazing guitar solos and riffs!

Bantam Studios (126 St. Felix St., Brooklyn, NY 11217): where you can play guitar while enjoying a drink or two!

Morello: the king of picking and tapping! Image via Visual Hunt. Tom Morello: one of New York’s many famous guitarists. Image via Visual Hunt.

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