What Size Guitar Do I Need?

I often get asked by new students and their parents, “What size guitar should I buy?” This is a great question. Although a highly motivated student will still succeed despite a guitar that is slightly too big/small, learning on a guitar that is the correct size will accelerate development by making the guitar easier to hold. A 6-year-old playing a full size acoustic guitar can look like they are wrestling and large animal and struggle to keep the guitar still while they play. This can lead to student frustration, slower development and poor technique.

The most important measurements to consider when choosing the size of your guitar are the height of the player and the scale length of the guitar which is the distance from the nut to the bridge (the length of the part of the string that vibrates). Guitar scale length ranges from about 19″ (1/4 size guitar) to about 25.5″ (full size guitar). Below is a table below to help you determine the correct size for you or your student. If the student is between sizes and still growing, choosing the larger guitar so the student can grow into it is a good idea.

Height of Player                Approximate Scale Length

3’3″ to 3’9″                          19″ (1/4-Size)

3’10” to 4’5″                        20.5″ (1/2-Size)

4’6″ to 4’11”                        22.75″ (3/4-Size)

5′ or taller                           25.5″ (4/4-Size)

Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin

Classic Rock Instrumental PlaylistThe lyrics of Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin conjure up imagery of a ship full of cold-weather Vikings rowing across the sea in search of fields of green… which seems very appropriate for this winter and the so- called “polar vortex” we have been experiencing for months. Not only that, but Immigrant Song is just plain awesome, and I doubt I could have designed a better string-skipping exercise for guitar if I tried.

I have included a transcription of the guitar part as well a couple guitar karaoke tracks so you can practice playing along. One is about 3/4 speed so you can build up speed before playing along with full speed. Finally, there is a third one with me playing along so you can hear what it sounds like.

Immigrant Song (Sheet Music)

Immigrant Song (Guitar Karaoke)

Immigrant Song 3/4 Speed (Guitar Karaoke)

Immigrant Song with Dan playing along

Music Lessons Qualify for Minnesota K-12 Education Tax Subtraction/Credit

Ornament-Money-Origami-GuitarThis is probably the most boring topic I have written about here, but it’s certainly of interest to you if you have paid for music lessons (or other educational expenses) for a K-12 child in Minnesota in 2013. Did you know that there is both a K-12 Education Tax Subtraction as well as a K-12 Education Tax Credit? Here is a link to all the details. Below is are some bullet points that relate to guitar lessons at Dan’s Guitar Studio:

Minnesota has two programs: K-12 Education Tax Subtraction & K-12 Education Tax Credit. Both programs can lower your taxes and may increase your refund.

You must have documentation of your expenses. (Students at Dan’s Guitar Studio have been provided with their 2013 transaction history)

You can’t use the same expense for both the subtraction and the credit.

Everyone who purchased music lessons for their K-12 child qualifies for the subtraction.

The subtraction will reduce your tax liability by 5.35-9.85% of the music lessons expense, depending on your 2013 MN tax bracket. For example, if you are married filing jointly and made $35,481-$140,960 (7.05% MN income tax rate) in 2013, and paid $1000 for music lessons in 2013, your tax liability would be reduced by $70.50 ($1000 x .0705). This is assuming you have not already maxed out your K-12 education subtraction with expenses such as school supplies, transportation, etc. See limits below.

For the credit, you must meet certain income and filing requirements and the amount of the credit will vary depending on other tax credits you may have claimed.

To be eligible, your child must have been in grades K-12 during the year and must have attended public or private school.

Instructor must be qualified. (Dan qualifies by having a B.A. in Music)

Education expense must be claimed for the year that it was paid for.

The subtraction limit is $1625/child for K-6 children, $2500/child for 7-12 children.

If you qualify for the credit, it is to your advantage to take the maximum credit allowed before taking the subtraction.

You may have to refer to the program details or a tax professional for further information pertaining to your specific situation.

Awesome Guitar Fretboard Theory Book

Music theory is the study of the logic behind music. Fretboard harmony is music theory as it applies to the guitar. At some point in every guitarist’s journey there comes a time when learning songs by other people is no longer enough. That’s why every aspiring guitarist should eventually acquire some understanding of fretboard harmony to further their guitar skills. Understanding the fretboard and music theory opens up a whole new world to the guitar player by revealing the logic behind music. It enables one to better improvise and compose music as well as better understand why their favorite songs sound so good.

As someone who came to his knowledge of the fretboard in a very round-about way, let me assure you that a lot of time can be saved with a more structured approach. This is the book that I recommend to my students who are ready to go beyond learning songs and venture out into the world of scales, chords, freboard patterns, harmony and intervals.

Guitar Fretboard Workbook by Barrett Tagliarino is a great resource because it is not just a book but a workbook with exercises and fretboard maps for you to fill in to reinforce what you have learned. It has a very structured, building-block approach that starts with the most basic topics such as “root-shapes” and slowly builds on what you know until the fretboard is no longer a mystery but web of relationships that make sense. I wish I had this book when I was first learning.

Dan’s Guitar Studio Jam Party in December

The word “recital” has terrible connotations doesn’t it? High pressure for the performers, but cold, robotic and boring for the audience. That’s why in December, Dan’s Guitar Studio will be hosting its first JAM PARTY! – a time where all students and their friends/family are invited to Keys 4/4 Kids to perform (if your a student) as well as hear other students perform in a laid back, fun, supportive environment.

I’ve been helping students pick out songs that they would like to share at the Jam Party. I’ve also been making jam tracks for the songs that they select so they have some accompaniment while they perform. Here is a sample jam track for “Last Nite” by the Strokes that one of my pupils will be rocking out to.

I am encouraging all my students to attend because it is a great chance to get some performing experience and connect with other guitarists and hear what they have been working on – not to mention eat holiday snacks and refreshments. It should be a fun evening!

I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll (Intro) Sheet Music/TAB

“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts is great beginner guitar riff that I have worked on with a few students. I like to give beginning guitar players simple, bite size, easily recognizable riffs such as this one, Smoke on the Water and 12 Bar Blues in addition to chords because these riffs offer more immediate gratification to the beginner while chords can often take at least a few weeks of hard practicing before they become fluent. The intro to “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” is a small step up in difficulty from 12 Bar Blues and Smoke on Water because it combines power chords, bends, and some single note runs toward the end, but with a little practice anyone can be rocking this one in no time.


A lot of people don’t realize that Joan Jett’s 1981 hit version of this song was not the original which was recorded in 1975 by a band called Arrows. I highly recommend playing along with these tracks when you practice because it’s fun and helps with rhythm. Playing along with Weird Al Yankovic’s parody,  “I Love Rocky Road” is also fun.

Oye Como Va by Carlos Santana

Oye Como Va Guitar Sheet Music/TAB

I have enjoyed working on Oye Como Va by Carlos Santana with a couple of my students. The chords are very easy and can be strummed with a pick or plucked with your fingers. The challenging part is the rhythm which is very syncopated (accenting down and upbeats in an unexpected way). I recommend this piece for any beginner/intermediate player looking to improve their rhythm skills.

I know there is more to the song than I have notated in this PDF (above), but this is a great start without getting into the subtleties of Santana’s complete guitar solos. This version includes the vocal melody as well a short but sweet guitar solo that Santana plays at the beginning of the track. If any of my students are interested in the sheet music for the complete song, let me know!

Jane Says by Jane’s Addiction

Jane Says Sheet Music/TAB

A student recently asked me to teach them this. “Jane Says” by Jane’s Addiction is an insanely catchy song with a cool guitar riff that is essentially just two chords (G and A) with a couple pull-offs to decorate the A chord.

Learning this song offers the chance to practice a couple of useful ways of playing G and A chords. Notice that the 5th-string is muted by your ring finger while playing the G-chord which frees up the index finger and allows it to more fluently transition to the A-chord which is played with only your index finger by laying it across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings and the 2nd fret. This allows your ring finger to easily reach the 4th fret for the pull-offs during the A-Chord. The chorus uses a similar index finger barre covering the 2nd and 3rd strings during the Gsus2add#11 (a fancy name for a simple modification of a G chord). Arrows are included in the sheet music to indicate the strumming pattern I recommend.