Los Angeles is an incredibly musical city – which makes sense given its reputation for drama and performance – attested to by the numerous music concerts held throughout the year.
Whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced guitarist or even a professional musician, L.A., a West Coast haven for the arts, is teeming with places to learn or simply play your guitar.
Whatever your age, your music level, or your plans to learn the guitar, there is definitely a place in Los Angeles that corresponds to your needs.
Obviously, our first reflex is to play alone in the comfort of home or with friends. But don’t shy away from the many different organizations and resources that are becoming more and more accessible today.
Why not start with the Internet and its rich choice of online classes, tutorials, and videos made by amateurs and professionals? Whether your thing is the classical guitar, electric guitar, folk guitar or even the 12-string guitar (impressive), you’ll find a range of options for guitar instruction that are tailor-made for you.
However, not everyone is endowed with the capacity to teach themselves, to train himself or herself on guitar basics; some will need to look for external organizations to supervise learning, that offer courses following a specific methodology and instructors who can guide, advice, and orient.
Guitar lessons are an excellent solution for discovering the guitar as well as for developing your playing skills and interacting with other musicians.
In order to choose the best guitar instruction option, ask yourself what your reasons are for learning such an instrument: is it for pleasure? Do you want to become a professional musician? Are you looking to play a particular genre such as blues, rock, funk, or country music?
Whatever your decision, whatever your choice, there are 4 solutions for taking yourself to the next level in your guitar practice: conservatories, community and cultural centers, music schools and private guitar teachers who offer classes at home.
As one of the major U.S. cities, L.A. boasts some of the best options of what guitar instruction has to offer, whether you are looking to start playing the classical guitar, folk guitar or electric guitar, among others.
All higher education conservatories will offer classical guitar classes, and 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.
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.
One of the most prestigious conservatories in Los Angeles is the Los Angeles College of Music (LACM) with its highly-reputed guitar degree program that offers both Associate of Arts and Bachelor of Music diplomas: located in Pasadena at 300 S. Fair Oaks Avenue (Pasadena, 91105), it is close to the city’s music industry district making it particularly strong for the industry aspect of music education. In addition, it proposes training that combines the mastery of harmony, reading, rhythm playing, soloing, and accompaniment skill, along with providing students access to a wide range of stylistic vocabulary.
According to department head Molly Miller, “LACM’s thorough guitar program focuses on the fundamentals and real-world skills, preparing our students to leave as working and successful contemporary guitarists.”
And don’t forget the equally renowned Musicians Institute College of Contemporary Music. Guitar and Bass Guitar features in its performance program; or you can study “guitar craft” in its entertainment industry program. This offers, according to its website, a “unique combination of contemporary music performance and rigorous education in traditional music disciplines. The intensive program emphasizes the development of stylistic depth, creative maturity and professional competence in preparing students to enter the contemporary music industry.”
Here are a few more to look into:
- Cornel School of Contemporary Music at Shepherd University – 3200 N San Fernando Rd., Los Angeles, CA 90065
- University of California-Los Angeles Herb Alpert School of Music – 445 Charles E Young Drive East, 2520 Schoenberg Music Building, Los Angeles, CA 90095
- University of Southern California Thornton School of Music – Los Angeles, CA 90089
Other higher education conservatories elsewhere in California include:
- Azusa Pacific University’s School of Music – 901 E. Alosta Ave., Azusa, CA 91702
- Biola University Conservatory of Music – 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada, CA 90639
- California Baptist University Shelby and Ferne School of Music – 8432 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, CA 92504
- California Institute of the Arts Herb Alpert School of Music – 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, CA 91355
- California State University – Long Beach Bob Cole Conservatory of Music – 1250 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840
- Chapman University Conservatory of Music – One University Drive, Orange, CA, 92866
- San Francisco Conservatory of Music – 50 Oak St., San Francisco, CA 94102
- University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music – 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA 95211
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.
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 destined for a music career should take at least 4 hours of guitar instruction 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.
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).
There are obviously public music schools but private ones increasingly appear to deliver an unparalleled music training.
Of course, some schools are excellent while others are more 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 learning wants and needs (ex: learning the guitar for left-handed players).
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.
- Cornerstone Music Conservatory (12121 West Pico Blvd. #205, Los Angeles, CA 90064 / 310-820-1620): offering private guitar lessons along with orchestral instruction for a range of ages, from toddlers to college prep.
- Pasadena Conservatory of Music (located in Pasadena) for all ages (100 N Hill Ave. #105, Pasadena, CA 91106 / 626-683-3355): an independent, nonprofit, nationally-accredited community school dedicated to teaching both traditional and contemporary music to both children and adults.
- The Music Academy at the Colburn School is a unique pre-college program designed to prepare young artists for careers. And it also offers instruction for adults, at both intermediate and advanced levels! The music academy provides conservatory-level musical training, including private instruction, master classes and numerous performance opportunities. Guitar study is offered in a variety of styles: classical, jazz, folk, pop and rock. Individual instruction is arranged with the instructor for students ages 6 and up.
Although not geared specifically for guitar training, some other interesting music establishments to be aware of are the L.A. Music Academy, home of the L.A. String Programme Outreach; Glendale Arts; Center for the Art of Performance (UCLA); The Music Center; and the Recording Arts Center in San Diego.
Community and Cultural Centers
The community fiber is particularly rich in Los Angeles and 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 bypass 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.
Here’s a taste of community centers targeting children and adolescents:
- Music Unites Guitar Program (847-334-2753): teaches the art of reading music and playing the guitar to high school aged adolescents. The purpose of this program is to enhance students’ understanding of the guitar and musical performance, as well as strengthen self-confidence.
- YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles: offers beginner and intermediate guitar lessons for kids of all ages, to learn basic techniques, read sheet music and grow their artistic abilities. Available at the following branches: East Valley Family YMCA, Gardena-Carson Family YMCA, Hollywood YMCA, Mid Valley Family YMCA, Southeast-Rio Vista YMCA, Torrance-South Bay YMCA, West Valley Family YMCA, and Wilmington YMCA.
- Heart of Los Angeles (2701 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 100, Los Angeles, CA 90057 / 213-389-1148): the music program of HOLA provides youth with introductory to advanced music instruction, rock bands, a choir and weekly drum, piano, guitar and saxophone lessons. Advanced students are helped to prepare audition pieces for acceptance into music festivals and performance arts schools and universities. Annual recitals showcase the talents of HOLA’s young musicians to audiences city-wide.
- Education Through Music (2501 W Burbank Blvd. #301, Burbank, CA 91505 / 818-433-7600) partners with inner-city schools to provide music as a core subject for all children. It believes that every child deserves access to high-quality music education, taught by qualified and well-trained music teachers. Check to see if your child’s school applies!
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.
And there are so many cultural opportunities at your fingertips to take advantage of in Los Angeles. In addition to taking guitar lessons, the best training is getting out there to see (or hear) what is happening in the world of music and performing arts. For instance, downtown Los Angeles boasts the Music Center of Los Angeles County, which holds the new Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum. What better way to spend a weekend in L.A.?
Private Guitar Teachers
When you hear “independent guitar teacher” you’ll immediately think of high-quality private lessons.
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.
Find yourself a Superprof!
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 price range depends on a range of factors, according to this article.
And remember that instructors don’t have paid holidays, and they have to take into account professional fees such as the purchase of music scores and other expensive music equipment, renting 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 L.A. 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?
And here are several that we’ve found to give you a better idea of the range of styles and methods of music teachers:
- Los Angeles Guitar Academy (690 S Marengo Ave., Pasadena, CA 91106 / 323-999-1881) has a range of instructors to teach on its curriculum, which features courses in classical guitar, flamenco guitar, Brazilian guitar, latin and world guitar, rock guitar, gypsy jazz guitar, as well as children’s guitar lessons and customized guitar lessons. Instruction is offered to music enthusiasts, beginners, intermediate and advanced players. All instructors are accomplished concert guitarists who combine their performance experience with valuable teaching skill.
- Hollywood Guitar Ninjas (818-533-8947) offers lessons to adults and children. It’s a 9-level program that teaches students practical training on the guitar. A monthly membership ($115 fee) includes 4, 30-minute private lessons with one of their certified guitar instructors; access to an online practice portal which includes HD lesson videos, music, notes and other learning tools; opportunities to perform at live events; and access to workshops throughout the year.
- Eagle Rock Music Studio (4870 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90041 / 323-309-8467): provides private music lessons and workshop for both children and adults, at beginner and professional levels. Instructors include Dave Cipriani, who has mastered the 20-string Indian slide guitar and Pat O’Brien whose band has performed for 15 years in Arcadia.
- Hollywood Academy of Music (7469 Melrose Ave., Suite 34, Hollywood, CA 90046 / 323-651-2395): provides private guitar lessons and group classes for children as young as 2 as well as adults. They schedule periodic recitals so students can gain playing experience.
L.A. has no shortage of guitar teachers, here are just a handful of a few other options:
- Nomadic Guitar Repairs and Lessons (2575 N San Fernando Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90065 / 562-373-5572).
- Guitar Lessons By Drew (727 W 7th St., Los Angeles, CA 90017 / 213-663-6185)
- Travis Raab Guitar Lessons (6151 Orange St., Los Angeles, CA 90048 / 323-474-2124).
- Zot Zin Guitar Lessons (3163 Weldon Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90065 / 310-902-0993): Instructor Vreny Van Elslande was educated at the Berklee College of Music and over 20 years of teaching experience. He offers instruction in electric guitar, acoustic guitar, music theory, songwriting and more, for adults and children.
- The Lord of the Strings – Guitar/Ukulele Lessons (11650 National Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064 / 213-479-4508).
- Classical Guitar Lessons with James Hunley (5152 W Maplewood Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90004 / 323-447-8517), specialist in classical and Spanish guitar.
- Your Guitar Academy proposes to match you up to your ideal instructor, depending on your location and other guitar needs.
- Simrin Phull (323-698-2715), educated in the Academy of Contemporary Music, (Guildford, UK) is a performance artist who gives private lessons in a range of guitar genres including rock, punk, funk, reggae and jazz.
- Music Teacher LA (310-22-0405) provides quality acoustic and electric Los Angeles guitar lessons for children ages 6.5 and up and adults. Lessons are customized for each student, taking into consideration tastes, styles and levels. Teachers offer lessons on acoustic, electric and bass guitars ranging from 4 to 8 strings. Students learn rhythm, tablature, notation, chords, memorization, sight reading, technique and improvisation. Music theory, composition and music production can also be taught per student request.
As you’d expect from a cultural metropolis like Los Angeles, there are a multitude of places where you can go to practice your guitar in all tranquility, alongside qualified professionals, to either play a solo or in an ensemble, or take part in a training session.