Based in central New Jersey, I offer complete setups and adjustments to keep your guitars playing to their full potential. Setups start at $65 plus strings, and most often your guitar will be ready in three or four business days. Other work, such as pickup installation, fret dressing, etc. is reasonably charged by the hour plus parts.

I also offer guitar instruction for ages 10 and up. Contact me at 732-606-7868 or via email to johnsguitarstudio at icloud.com.

Visit the guitar gallery showcasing my clients by clicking here or the tab at the upper right of your browser window.


Giving a Gift Guitar 2016: Caveat Emptor

Surprising your musician with a guitar for the holidays is a wonderful gesture, but it can backfire if you get taken!

Writer Damien Fanelli and guitarist Kennth Russell explain how to spot fake Les Paul and Stratocaster guitars at guitarplayer.com:

How to Spot a Fake Les Paul

How to Spot a Fake Stratocaster

As always, shop carefully–even in the big box stores–and bring an experienced musician or guitar tech with you if possible.

It’s Guitar Cabaret Night: An Evening of Music in Tribute to Our Veterans

Please join us for an evening of great music at Guitar Cabaret Night: An Evening of Music in Tribute to Our Veterans. We’re saluting our veteran on Saturday, August 13,  from 7 to 11 pm at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, 491 Middlesex Avenue Metuchen, NJ 08840.

Featuring the best of local and regional music groups, Guitar Cabaret Night will include performances from military veterans who have graduated from the 10-week Guitars for Vets educational program with Chapter #74.

In case you didn’t already know, Guitars For Vets (http://guitarsforvets.org), is a national 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide a guitar instruction program and the proven healing power of music to veterans struggling with physical injuries, PTSD, and other emotional distress. Every vet who completes the 10-week course is awarded a free Yamaha acoustic guitar and accessories, and invited to continue playing guitar with the chapter. Chapters operate primarily through the Department of Veterans Affairs facilities. Chapter #74 is based at the VA New Jersey Health Care System in East Orange.

Among the bands scheduled to perform are the East Orange Chapter Vets/Grads and Students, The Shanakee Project, the Bryan Hansen Band, folk guitarist Bill Strecker, So It Goes, Heart & Soul, the Lee Caplan Trio, jazz guitarist Alejandro Ataucusi, and guitar duo Carol & John. There will also be a raffle of autographed guitars, along with a 50/50  to benefit the Metuchen Borough Improvement League.

Suggested donation at the door is $10. Active duty military, vets, and performing bands will be admitted free.

More information is available by visiting Chapter #74’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/G4VEastOrange/

Winter Guitar Care: When Low Humidity Attacks Frets

I was going to blog this week about winter guitar care and low humidity, but when master guitar craftsman Roger Sadowsky posted about low humidity affecting fretted instruments on social media, I asked him if I may quote his post. Roger graciously granted permission, and it appears below.

In the unlikely case you didn’t know, Roger crafts magnificent instruments with a client list on his Web site that’s a guitarist’s who’s who: Jim Hall, John Abercrombie, Pat Metheny, Lee Ritenour, Chuck Loeb and bass players Marcus Miller, Will Lee, Rickey Minor, Michael Rhodes, Verdine White and Jason Newsted.


Roger Sadowsky (photo: sadowsky.com)

Roger knows what counts: complete customer satisfaction when playing one of his instruments and he takes a personal interest from concept to delivery. That’s rare in an era of overseas guitar manufacturing and big box stores.

A quick sidebar: when I got to meet the late Jim Hall, one of my guitar inspirations, he was playing a gig at the Rose Room at JALC with Bill Charlap. Mr. Hall played a beautiful Sadowsky arch top.


Low Humidity Fret Ends (Roger’s Facebook posting, 27 January 2016)

When a fretted instrument goes through its first prolonged exposure to dry conditions (low humidity), it is common for the fingerboard to shrink, resulting in the fret ends protruding from the edge of the fingerboard. Other than living in a very dry climate, the primary cause of this is low humidity due to central heating.

There are two ways to treat this situation. The first is to bring your instrument to a competent technician to have the fret ends filed flush with the fingerboard. If this is done during a period of maximum dryness, the problem should never occur again. The second approach is to keep your instrument well humidified. My personal recommendation is to get a room humidifier for your bedroom and keep your instrument there during the winter. Buy a good hygrometer and keep the humidity between 30-45% during the winter.

Remember that wood absorbs (expands) and releases moisture (shrinks), depending on the humidity level. This is normal and is not considered a defect in any way.

Sound advice. Thank you again, Roger.

Cancer Benefit Open Mic in Metuchen, NJ, Fri. Jan. 29

Please join a who’s who of local musicians at a special session of the Metuchen Open Mic in helping Jim and Betty Babjak defeat cancer Friday, Jan. 29. The benefit starts at 6 pm at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse, 491 Middlesex Avenue, Metuchen, NJ. Suggested donation is $5 at the door, and all proceeds go to the Babjak family.

Besides Smithereens cofounder Jim Babjak’s autographed Stratocaster, among the many goodies in this Friday night’s cancer benefit silent auction are a CD collection from a variety of participating artists, including The Perfect Alibi Jazz Ensemble and three guitar setups from the Studio.

Vocalist/guiarist Carol Baldessari and I will be playing a few standards, too. Come on out!

Join Me in Supporting Guitars For Vets

I’m honored to teach guitar for the north Jersey chapter of Guitars4Vets, a nonprofit organization working to restore hope to our veterans afflicted with PTSD through the healing powiuer of music. In this program vets are given 10 weeks of free beginning guitar instruction and upon “graduation” are awarded a brand-new Yamaha acoustic guitar. Please visit their Web site to learn more and how you may help those who served rediscover their joy through learning the guitar.

Finding a Guitar Teacher

Your shopping safari for a gift guitar was successful, and your gift guitar recipient is serious about beginning lessons. But there can be seemingly endless choices between commercial music schools, private instructors in your town, teachers in music stores, and online. So how do you find the right teacher?

  1.  Use Word of Mouth
    Guitar teachers usually build their businesses through referrals, and good teachers are often in demand. Music teachers in your local school district may be just what you’re looking for. Some teach on the side or can make a referral. Kids may find a good teacher through their friends who may already be studying with one. Public (and often, private) school teachers can have an advantage because of their credentials, the least of which is State teaching certification. The music outlet that sold you the guitar may also offer lessons. One-stop shopping can be a powerful incentive. Guitar teachers employed by music stores also have the experience and education to deliver guitar instruction. But be prepared to pony up for prepaid lessons by the month or similar arrangement. On the other hand, you may save some money in the long run.
    Private study with a local independent instructor/musician
     has advantages. Like many of their colleagues in the music stores, independent instructors usually have a degree from a university music program or from an institution like the Berklee College of Music, The Juilliard School, The New School, or another renowned conservatory. My first jazz instructor was a summa cum laude graduate of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, with an diverse and profound knowledge of music from which I benefit today. A bonus is that in this harsh economy your tuition dollars stay in the community instead of funneling into a big corporation.
    Recreation or community programs in your municipality may also provide a good start to the guitar. Instructors–such as yours truly here in central New Jersey–offer affordable workshops each spring and fall. Workshops can help teach children collaboration, good socialization skills, and discovering the joys of making music with others, to say nothing of making new friends. Even The Beatles started somewhere!

    A word about online learning:  like it or not, YouTube videos, lessons over the Internet (e.g. via Skype), DVDs, or other non-traditional instruction have changed music education, indeed, the very business framework of music. What may help one guitar student learn may not work for another. Some students risk becoming “parrots”–that is, mimicking what they see on the screen but without understanding of what and why they’re playing it. Emulating a favorite star musician or band can be instructive and inspiring, and thus isn’t necessarily bad. However, learning the actual music and guitar playing techniques offer personal growth and development that can be a source of personal satisfaction, far beyond simple monkey-see, monkey-do.

  2. Talk with the Teacher

Spend a few minutes getting to know the teacher. Asking instructors about how they feel about teaching can be a good barometer of how they work with students. While by no means the last word, here’s mine:

Facilitate an engaging environment in which students feel safe taking risks in their learning, and where it’s okay to say “I don’t know”–but it’s not okay is to ignore it or shove it under the rug.

It can also pay to ask about how they give a lesson, whether they teach supportively and are sensitive to possible learning disabilities or cultural differences. If a teacher is certified by your state and attended a college or conservatory, you’re in pretty safe territory. Some teachers gained their music backgrounds and educations though hard work, formal study with an alternate music program (e.g. Berkee Online), and practical experience. The key is whether teachers know their stuff and can communicate it clearly, concisely, and correctly to help the student retain material. Case in point: did you ever have a teacher, say in college, who was a leader in her discipline but couldn’t get the material across at all? You may remember being frustrated and in all likelihood didn’t get much from that class.

Ask for a brief professional autobiography and where the teacher has worked. If s/he has successfully is teaching a larger number of students, that’s a good sign. That the teacher can read music comfortably is important, too. Many teachers are superb musicians but they may not be adept in reading notes.

What teaching materials does s/he use? Many guitar teachers use the Mel Bay, Hal Leonard, Berklee, or Jamie Aebersold workbook series, to name just a few. Some musicians develop their own material. In addition, find out what styles of music s/he teaches. As students progress they might want to focus on blues, metal, classic rock, classical, or jazz. An excellent rock ‘n’ roll teacher may not know classical guitar techniques.

Ask about lesson scheduling. A good guitar teacher will have a nearly full schedule. It will pay for you to have several days and times your student could be available for a weekly lesson. Mondays can be tricky because many holidays are observed on that day. While you’re at it, ask about the teacher’s rescheduling policy in case of illness or other obligations, such as religious observances.

Effective teachers adjust to each student’s learning needs, keep accurate records, and track each student’s progress. It’s okay to stay in touch with the instructor to see how the student is doing. Even a very brief verbal report at the end of each lesson can be helpful.

How about payment? Guitar teachers are professionals who provide a service, and most independent instructors charge a fair and competitive tuition. This may also depend upon where the teacher works. Some music shops require a monthly prepaid agreement about which the teachers have no say.

Likewise, some private guitar teachers offer prepaid monthly plans, and community education programs require payment up front for the entire session. Those are all the more reasons to be sure your student is serious about learning the guitar.  If a private teacher wants a significant number of lessons paid in advance, ask if you could pay for the first few lessons and see how the student does. Some private teachers I know invoice their students at the end of each month, while I prefer students pay by the lesson.

Major music stores usually accept all major credit cards and personal checks for lessons. However, some private music schools hire teachers as independent contractors and they may handle payments. While that’s a common and perfectly legitimate practice, it’s also another good reason to ask about payment policies ahead of time.

Most private guitar teachers like cash (who doesn’t?), but more and more (like me) adopted technology like the Square Register card reader to accept payment by credit and debit cards right on our iPhones. And the new EMV credit cards offer security as good as it can get, to date. Personal checks work for us too, but like any other business some of us have policies covering returned checks.

3. Talk with the Student 

Your student’s success also relies on how s/he feels about guitar study, once it really begins (“Wow, it really isn’t like ‘Guitar Hero’!”). It bears repeating that you would be wise to be sure your student is serious about learning the guitar before you invest in the instrument (see A Guitar Gift-Giving Guide) and lessons. Many music fundamentals such as scales or arpeggios will sooner or later appear to be boring, especially younger students but without them, proficiency in playing the guitar will be impossible.

Social maturity plays a role in student feedback but by the same token,  you’ll be able to see whether a student is benefiting from guitar study with a specific instructor. Even just asking, “how’s it going?” can go a long way. If things appear to be going rough, work with the teacher to see what can be done to help the student. By collaborating and supporting a guitar student, s/he can be guided on track to developing good musicianship and to reap the benefits of playing the guitar.

© 2015 John’s Guitar Studio