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Want to learn the guitar in Nashville? Here’s useful list of the city’s music conservatories, schools, and cultural centers for doing just that!  

By Alexis, published on 29/05/2017 Blog > Music > Guitar > All you need to know to play guitar in Nashville

The guitar has a special place in city of Nashville. Nicknamed “Music City,” Nashville was a thriving center for country music, and continues to be a major voice in this and other musical genres.

Once there, you’ll be able to visit the Johnny Cash Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Studio B, Grand Ole Opry, and enjoy live music every night throughout the city, especially on the Honky Tonk Highway! (and if you travel to nearby Memphis, why not take a tour of the iconic Gibson Factory (145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103 / 901-544-7998)?

Places to play guitar in Nashville. Image: Visual Hunt Places to play guitar in Nashville. Image: Visual Hunt

And don’t forget about Music Row, which is an area just south of Downtown Nashville, that is home to hundreds of businesses related to the country music, gospel music and contemporary Christian music industries.

So for those who wish to learn how to play guitar in Nashville, whatever your level or age, there is undoubtedly an organization to facilitate this.

The right choice – between a music school, community center, conservatory or private lessons – will depend on your budget, schedule, and where you live.

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What are your aims for learning to play the guitar?

But before choosing the direction you’d like to take, first ask yourself why you want to learn the guitar: is it to become a professional? Well, if so, the conservatory is definitely the right place.

Is it to learn the guitar basics to play well and accompany other musicians? Music schools would be a good solution, which offer performance-driven ensemble experience in addition to lessons.

Why do you want to learn the guitar? Photo: Visual Hunt Why do you want to learn the guitar? Photo: Visual Hunt

But you may also decide to learn the guitar to play when in the company of friends, or in bars and concerts. You might then want to take private lessons with an independent instructor who will often come all the way to your house, or go to a music center that offers various resources to respond to your needs.

Prices will vary according to the type of guitar course you decide upon.

Conservatories in Nashville

All higher education conservatories will offer classical guitar classes but some of them also propose instruction for jazz guitar, folk guitar or guitar accompaniment. These latter classes, as they are rare, are much more in demand.

Today, conservatories are far removed from their previous elitist, traditional and formal image: in fact many establishments developed their guitar courses in an attempt to teach music in a more entertaining, engaging and spontaneous manner as, let’s face it, playing an instrument like the guitar should be fun.

Nonetheless, a certain level of discipline is still required.

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).

If you’re one of those people who want to know everything there is to possibly know about your instrument, who are disciplined and ready to stick to the guitar for several years, the conservatory is the place for you.

Here are two of the most prestigious higher education music conservatories in Nashville:

  • Belmont University – 1900 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212 / 615-460-6000. As a comprehensive School of Music, Belmont offers nine areas of undergraduate music study leading to the Bachelor of Music degree (many majors including classical performance, music education and commercial music). Graduate study is also offered in five areas leading to the Master of Music. It notably boasts a well-known guitar ensemble, which provides an exciting environment for guitar majors, minors, and elective students to improve sight-reading skills and refine classical/fingerstyle guitar techniques while earning ensemble credit. Each semester students perform professional duo, trio, quartet and guitar orchestra arrangements and compositions. Repertoire ranges from the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern periods focusing on music by a wide variety of guitar composers from around the world. Guitarist and composer John Pell has been on the faculty of Belmont University since 1978 serving as the Coordinator of Guitar Studies. He is a member of the Belmont Camerata and the Belmont Faculty Jazz Ensemble.
  • The Blair School of Music at the prestigious Vanderbilt University – 2400 Blakemore Ave., Nashville, TN 37212 / 615-322-7651. You can study guitar in its strings and harp department, in the company of the chamber music, composition and theory, folk, jazz, keyboard, music education, voice, woodwinds and brass and percussion students. This school offers an extremely high quality of music education.

Play in a college guitar ensemble! Photo: Visual Hunt Play in a college guitar ensemble! Photo: Visual Hunt

We highly recommend that you also look into the music departments in the following higher education institutions in Nashville:

  • Fisk University
  • Lipscomb University
  • Tennessee State University
  • Trevecca Nazarene University
  • Welch College

Other higher education institutions with good music departments elsewhere in Tennessee include:

  • Sewanee University of the South – Sewanee, TN
  • University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music – Memphis, TN
  • Visible Music College – Memphis, TN
  • University of Tennessee – Knoxville, TN
  • University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, TN
  • University of Tennessee – Martin, TN
  • Austin Peay State University – Clarksville, TN
  • Bethel University – McKenzie, TN
  • Tennessee Wesleyan University – Athens, TN
  • Bryan College – Dayton, TN
  • Carson-Newman College – Jefferson City, TN
  • Cumberland Universoty – Lebanon, TN
  • East Tennessee State University – Johnson City, TN
  • King College – Bristol, TN
  • Freed-Hardeman University – Henderson, TN
  • Lane College – Jackson, TN
  • Le Moyne-Owen College – Memphis, TN
  • Lee University – Cleveland, TN
  • Lincoln Memorial University – Harrogate, TN
  • Martin Methodist College – Pulaski, TN
  • Maryville College – Maryville, TN
  • Middle Tennessee State University – Murfreesboro, TN
  • Milligan College – Milligan College, TN
  • Rhodes College – Memphis, TN

Music Schools in Nashville for learning the guitar

Music schools are open to everyone, children, adolescents, adults, whether you’re an absolute beginner or a more advanced (even professional) guitarist.

They normally offer theoretical music education classes in addition to private or group lessons and opportunities for playing in an ensemble.

Guitar lessons can start early! Guitar lessons can start early!

Learn the guitar with passionate and professional musicians.

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 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 learning wants and needs (ex: learning the guitar for left-handed players).

High-quality classes and instruction

In every music school in Nashville, classes are given by certified, experienced and passionate guitarists who are looking to transmit a quality and rigorous education, while making sure that learning is fun!

To get you started, here are but a few choices of all that Nashville has to offer:

  • The Nashville Music Academy (2716 Westwood Dr., Nashville, TN 37204 / 615-521-1937) offers music instruction for any age, level and instrument; as well as music programs for individuals with special needs. Their guitar instruction (for acoustic guitar, electric guitar and bass) covers a range of genres and topics, including classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock, contemporary, flat-picking, folk and theory. The staff have a combined 120 years of teaching experience, each with at least a BA in their instrument of performance. Upon special request in-home and Skype lessons are available, although most take place in the studio.
  • the School of Rock (3201 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212 / 615-730-5306) is a summer camp for you younger players out there! This could be the perfect fun summer supplement to a year of private lessons.
  • W.O. Smith Music School (1125 8th Ave. S, Nashville, TN / 615-255-8355): created by the revered and talented Tennessee musician William Oscar Smith, this institution was offers group classes, private lessons, ensembles, and a summer camp. Guitar and bass lessons are provided in addition to many other instruments, for students between the ages of 9 and 18.

Nashville, which is such an important city in terms of the music industry, is also home to several institutions that provide instruction in other areas that could supplement your guitar training. Check out these two that we found for you

  • SAE Institute (7 Music Circle North, Nashville, TN 37203 / 615-244-5848) is located in the heart of Music Row, the epicenter of Music City and provides a dynamic education in audio technology and music business.
  • You may also want to check out Recording Connection (call 800-755-7597 to find the best location for you): which offers courses in music business and audio engineering, among others.

The Music City Center, which is located close to many of Nashville music industry businesses. Photo: Visual Hunt The Music City Center is located close to many of Nashville music industry businesses. Photo: Visual Hunt

Nashville community centers and other places for learning and playing the guitar

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!

Numerous workshops propose certainly a less academic instruction than in a music school or in conservatories, less disciplined training but that is closer to the dreams, needs and tastes of amateur guitarists, children, adolescents or adults.

Whether you wish to play afro-cuban rhythms, rock, classical or folk music, or if you just want to play along on songs, there are a range of places where you can discover music and the world of guitars.

Don’t hesitate to go to your local community center or library to get the contact details of the various and most active cultural centers and associations.

The young guitarists of Music Makes Us hard at work! The young guitarists of Music Makes Us hard at work!

  • Music Makes Us (2400 Fairfax Ave., Nashville, TN 37212 / 615-298-8456): is a leading voice in public music education in Nashville. It partners with Metro Nashville Public Schools, Mayor Megan Barry and the Nashville music community to provide support for music in schools, from kindergarten to 12th grade. For middle school and high school levels, music is an elective and course selection may include general music, chorus, orchestra, band, and courses in guitar, mariachi, rock, country/bluegrass, songwriting, hip hop, and music business, world percussion, music theory and much more depending on the school.
  • Nashville Guitar Society (1319 Adams St., Nashville, TN 37208) is a nonprofit organization that brings together classical and guitar-related events and classes

You also have the option of going to one of the cafés-bars that feature nightly open-mic sessions so you can test your skill of improvisation: an excellent solution for getting over your fears, meeting other musicians and improving your guitar playing.

Guitar classes in Nashville with private instructors 

To learn the guitar, develop a particular musical style (blues, jazz, rock, funk, improvisation) or to master techniques such as fingerpicking with a seasoned professional in a customized method, private lessons are a fantastic alternative.

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.

A private instructor will give you a customized lesson! Photo: Visual Hunt A private instructor will give you a customized lesson! Photo: Visual Hunt

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!

A customized and challenging method for learning the guitar in Nashville

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 Nashville 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?

Your local guitar store or repair shop is a great place to ask for the best guitar instructors in town. They may even provide lessons themselves! Photo: Visual Hunt Your local guitar store or repair shop is a great place to ask for the best guitar instructors in town. They may even provide lessons themselves! Photo: Visual Hunt

We recommend popping into the Nashville Guitar Company (Inglewood, TN / call 615-557-4394 for the address) to get information on the best teachers, and maybe purchase a new guitar? Located in a Nashville suburb, you’ll find a group of really interested and knowledgeable guitar professionals.

You might also try Gruhn Guitars (2120 8th Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37204 / 615-256-2033), Carter Vintage Guitars (625 8th Ave. S, Nashville, TN / 615-915-1851) or Guitar Center (721 Thompson Ln., Nashville, TN 37204 / 615-297-7770)

And here are a few private guitar lesson facilities that we’ve found to give you a better idea of the range of styles and methods of music teachers:

  • Green Hills Guitar Studio (4111 Hillsboro Pike #203, Nashville, TN 37215 / 615-397-1565) offers bass guitar, vocal, songwriting and piano lessons, that are customized to the level and age of every student.
  • Derek Williams (contact details on website) is a career guitarist and songwriter who also gives lessons and career mentorship. He holds a BA in classical guitar but is fluent on a range of other instruments, which colors his teaching style, which is performance driven and individualized to fit each student.
  • Jonathon Fletcher Music (144 N. Lowry St., Smyrna, TN 37167 / 615-459-3133): in addition to being a repair shop and summer camps, Fletcher offers lessons for guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, banjo and a range of other instruments (strings, brass and percussion).
  • Cederstone School of Music (1630 Latimer Ln., Hendersonville, TN 37075 / 615-429-6756) provides lessons in solo, rhythm and lead on acoustic and electric guitar, in addition to its other music and instrumental lessons. Students of all ages are welcome.
  • Guitar Lessons with Mike Hutchens (223 Madison St., Nashville, TN 37115 / 615-969-2244) caters to students of all levels, styles and ages for an extremely tailor-made guitar training. Hutchens has 25 years of experience as a professional musician and seeks to foster a warm and friendly learning environment.

Opryland, Nashville: the city that loves the guitar. Photo: Visual Hunt Opryland, Nashville: the city that loves the guitar. Photo: Visual Hunt

  • David Isaacs Guitar Studio (1216 17th Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37212 / 615-483-8170) offers lessons (as well as a range of performance driven, group events and workshops) given by career musician David Isaacs. He provides lessons on guitar of all levels and styles with topics that include instrumental technique, chord vocabulary and harmony, rhythm and groove, practical theory and the Nashville Number System, performance coaching, repertoire development, and more. In addition, you can piano/keyboard lessons on self-accompaniment, harmony and music theory for songwriters, to supplement your guitar instruction.
  • Cotton Music Center (434 Houston St., Suite 131, Nashville, TN 37203 / 615-383-9932) in addition to its being a haven for all things guitar, it employs two talented instructors who offer guitar and mandolin lessons for all levels and ages.
  • Fanny’s House of Music (1101 Holly St., Nashville, TN 37206 / 615-750-5746): reputed shop/repair shop that also offers private and group lessons for guitar, bass, drums, piano, ukulele and violin.
  • East Nashville Guitar Lessons (call 413-219-1442 for information) offers lessons by Chris Frasco, a Berklee College of Music graduate who specializes in an individualized song-based approach that includes exercises and music theory for students of all ages and levels.
  • Treble Makers Guitar Lessons (call 530-318-3065 for more information): gives lessons in music theory, reading and writing music, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, in various styles: rock, jazz, blues, pop, metal, R&B, for all levels and ages.
  • Corner Music (2705 12th Ave., S, Nashville, TN 37204 / 615-297-9559): in addition to repairs, this multi-purpose shop also offers lessons in guitar, banjo, mandolin and ukulele, in various styles (jazz, country, classical, pop, rock and acoustic).

Whatever happens, always look for an instructor who has mastered the type of music you’d like to learn to play: there’s no point going to a classical guitar instructor if your dream is to become a rock star.

To sum up: Nashville is an ideal city for learning the guitar quickly and well

We hope we’ve shown you that Nashville is teeming with possibilities for your guitar playing dreams!

Whatever your individual profile, your expectations, your place of residence, there are a wide range of solutions for playing the guitar: between cultural centers, music schools, conservatories or private instructors, there are many choices.

Remember that a good place to supplement any education is the Internet, where you’ll find countless videos made by amateurs and professionals that explain all sorts of guitar playing techniques, tutorials and tricks. We also recommend watching videos of your favorite guitarists (contemporary and historic) to see how the legends play, and get a sense of all the various individual playing tendencies.

Little Jimmy Dickens at the Grand Ole Opry, where you can still visit today to hear some of the best contemporary country guitarists! Photo: Visual Hunt Little Jimmy Dickens at the Grand Ole Opry, where you can still visit today to hear some of the best contemporary country guitarists! Photo: Visual Hunt

And of course, if you have the chance to watch musicians live, remember that this is key to any music education. In a city like Nashville you are spoiled for choice!

For instance, why not take in a Songwriters-In-The-Round Show, where songwriters play “in the round” as they sit on stage accompanied only by a microphone and guitar. You can find them in small, intimate clubs all over town, including the famous Bluebird Café in Green Hills and downtown’s The Listening Room Café.

Well, what are you waiting for, grab your guitar, metronome and pick and start playing!

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