Tips on Buying Your First Guitar

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and learn the guitar!  Congratulations!  Perhaps an early daunting prospect in this venture is actually purchasing your very first guitar.  It’s easy to be a little unnerved by the high price tag carried by even seemingly “middle-of-the-road” types of instruments.  Many newcomers to the guitar are not quite reassured they will have the perseverance to stick with the instrument and justify the initial sticker shock of their first guitar.  I have had many beginner guitar students come through my studio for guitar lessons in Surrey and Langley, and I thought I would share a few bits of advice for those looking to purchase their first instrument.

First things first, we have to ensure that the instrument we purchase is playable.  Guitar is a very mechanically challenging instrument, especially when we are getting our start, so we want to make sure the instrument is not going to ‘fight’ us as we train our fingers to create music.  Being at one with your instrument is such a liberating feeling, and becomes very difficult to unlock if we are playing an instrument that is not comfortable to play.  It’s for this reason, that I generally don’t advocate going extremely cheap on your first guitar.  It may be tempting, for example,  to purchase an acoustic guitar for $50 from a department store, but this will not aid our learning process.

I would suggest that a beginner avoid purchasing a used instrument, unless they have a very experienced player who can accompany them to check over the guitar before purchasing.  There are a lot of finer details that we want to ensure are in check when purchasing a used guitar – they are quite temperamental instruments – and these details are going to be very difficult to spot for someone new to the instrument.  If cost is prohibitive or you/your child are not 100% sure guitar is going to be for you, I highly recommend renting your instrument.  For example, Long & McQuade ( has some great monthly rates for very nice instruments available.

Try to shoot for an instrument that is visually appealing to you.  It’s likely that there is an artist that inspired you or your child to learn guitar.  Wouldn’t it be fun to play an instrument that resembled the guitar that this artist plays?  Think of you/your child’s favorite rock, acoustic, blues, or jazz guitarist.  Yes, established artists play high-end instruments, but chances are there is an entry level option with an equivalent visual aesthetic crafted for someone just like you!  A perfect example would be the Squier ‘strat’ or Fender Stratocaster style guitar.  A common beginner package is a complete kit containing an electric guitar, small amplifier, and accessories usually for only a couple hundred dollars!  Brands such as Yamaha have great entry-level models of Acoustic guitars as well.

These are my main thoughts for beginners looking to purchase their first guitar, or purchasing their child’s first guitar.  If we’re able to purchase or rent a guitar that is playable, in great physical condition, affordable, and one that we can get excited to play, we are already on the fast track to success on learning this great instrument!

Visit my home page for more info on guitar lessons in the Surrey and Langley areas.

Practice Routines

One of the most common subjects I’m asked in my Surrey/Langley in-person guitar lessons practise is that of practice routines.  As a recording artist, performer, and teacher, I myself have gone thru many different phases of practice regimes and habits.  Many guitar students want to know how much time they should spend practicing, what they should specifically practice.  With the guitar, and music in general, being such a vast, never-ending pursuit, it can be very easy to become overwhelmed with even the simple notion of developing an effective practice routine.  Truthfully, the process of developing an effective practice routine is an individualized one, and will vary by the student’s age, goals, musical preferences, and lifestyle.  For example, most mature students or students who have families will not have as much time to dedicate to their instrument as a high-school aged student.  Not to worry – the reality is, with a little careful planning and hard work, everyone can make progress on their instrumental goals – even if they are severely limited in time or resources.  Here are some key points to consider regarding practice routines:

  • The first point I wish to make, is that the most important and effective trait in improving as a musician, is a strong desire to play an instrument and a passion for music.  Even if a musician who is learning how to play has a practice routine that is not perfectly constructed, if the desire and passion are present, the player will make progress.  They will likely not progress as quickly as one who possesses the same enthusiasm but has been mentored to craft an effective routine, however.
  • Working with a qualified guitar teacher to outline the scale and scope of you or your child’s musical goals, is instrumental in both their material progress and self-esteem.  A qualified teacher can quickly identify a student’s goals and stylistic preferences, and carefully select the concepts, techniques, and areas of musical knowledge that the student will need to learn to become competent in their preferred style – as opposed to attempting to learn every guitar technique under the sun, and quickly becoming overwhelmed and even discouraged or pessimistic about their own ability .  An excellent quote from the great Greg Howe – “Listen to your favourite guitar players – Pat Metheny, Yngwie Malmsteen or B.B. King, whoever they are – and you’ll notice that they don’t have a lot of stuff that they do. They have a few things that they do but they’ve mastered. Any guitar player is going to always sound much much better if he masters seven or eight concepts, than he will if he has fifty things sort of half-there.”*
  • Make the best of the time and resources that are available to you.  The fact is, a half-hour or even fifteen minutes of effective practice can do a lot for a student’s development.  I have had students who work in very demanding professions, and have less than an hour a week on average to practice.  I have also had very ambitious students who are keen too dedicate hours each day to practicing their craft.  A good routine and evaluation takes each individual student’s goals, musical preferences, and available resources into careful consideration, and sets them on the fast-track to playing the music they want to play.
  • Seek a guitar teacher who can make learning enjoyable.  Although there are certainly quick improvements to be had in learning guitar, especially when first starting guitar lessons, achieving musical goals takes time and it’s very important that the student enjoys the process thoroughly so that they remain motivated.  One of my favorite ways to ensure this remains the case, is provide the student with plenty of real-life musical examples based on styles they personally enjoy (tailored to their skill level) so that even as they make great strides in their playing, they never have to stop playing the music they love for their enjoyment.

I hope these points have started you thinking on how a practice routine might be helpful to you or your child’s musical progress!

*Ketikidi, I. (2011, April 14).  Interview with Greg Howe. Retrieved from

Visit my home page for more info on guitar lessons in the Surrey and Langley areas.

Some Fun Magazine Features

In late 2016, I released a very ambitious, self-titled guitar instrumental album.  Although I teach guitar lessons in Surrey, Langley, and online to students in all styles of contemporary guitar,  this album was a very fun excursion into progressive, experimental art music (a bit of a different approach than popular contemporary music) with many modern touches and advanced technical and harmonic concepts.

I was floored by the response that I got from the album, and thought I would share links to some of the coverage.

Check out an amazing feature of my guitar playing in Gear Gods magazine here:

Two more awesome features from Prog Sphere magazine on my guitar instrumental playing:

And here are several other great reviews of my self-titled debut instrumental album ‘Matt Chanway’ (available on all digital music outlets, iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, Amazon, as well as my bandcamp page).

Music News UK

Metal Assault:

Lords of Dogwood:


Rock Era Magazine

Composing and recording such an ambitious effort definitely elevated my guitar playing and guitar teaching abilities to new heights!  Although the guitar lessons I teach are focused around musicianship (harmony, theory, and technique), for students that are a little more advanced, I do love to teach about recording techniques so they can get their own compositions represented in high-definition.  There is nothing cooler as a guitar teacher than seeing a guitar student take lessons with me, and go on to record their own music professionally.


Visit my home page for more info on guitar lessons in the Surrey and Langley areas.

Benefits of Exams for Guitarists

For a lot of guitarists, taking an exam to evaluate their musical ability can be a daunting prospect.  After all, many of us opted to pick up the guitar strictly for enjoyment, and some may fear that undertaking an exam could seemingly turn a fun pastime and expressive outlet into a chore.  Still others may look at prominent self-taught musicians, and wonder if a graded exam might stifle their creativity or compromise their own artistic individuality.  It is certainly possible to become a great guitar player without partaking in graded exams of any sort, and my students are never obligated to take exams of any sort.  For those who might be on the fence about taking an exam themselves, or having their children enter exams, I thought I would outline some of the real benefits of taking a graded guitar exam through London College of Music:

  1. You can gain an internationally accredited qualification on your instrument.

All London College of Music guitar exams are regulated by an organization called Ofqual (the government department in the UK that monitors qualifications, exams, and tests).  The actual credentials/qualifications are awarded by the University of West London.  These qualifications can actually count as high school credits for students in British Columbia.

2. Clearly identify your current level on guitar.

Many guitarists play music purely for relaxation and fun, and are not interested in evaluating their skill level – there is nothing wrong with this!  For students who are interested in advancing their skills, LCM exams provide a very clear framework to assess where your skills stand currently.

3. Get in the habit of goal-setting.

This is a big incentive for students young and old.  Clear goal-setting is not just a skill that will aid you in your musical development, but throughout life in general!  Learning the exam syllabus from a qualified teacher is an excellent way to get in the habit of setting short-term goals for your guitar playing, and taking an exam annually gives you a clear, timely goal to shoot for each year.

4. Become a versatile musician.

Learning and testing yourself through the LCM exam system is a surefire way to become a well-rounded, versatile guitarist.  You can be sure that passing these exams will leave you with no gaps in your playing!  When preparing for these exams, you’ll be playing songs, reading chord charts, learning music theory, developing your ear, playing solos, developing your own specialist techniques, and much more.

5. Exams are available for all musical styles

Whether you play electric, acoustic, bass, jazz, rock, or classical guitar, there are graded exams available for you to study with the London College of Music syllabus.

So, there you have it.  If you or your child are passionate about developing as a well-rounded musician, studying with a proven syllabus and getting acclimated to an exam situation is a great way to accomplish your goals.  Studying with a qualified teacher is certain to get you reaching said goals in the fastest, most pain-free way.  It’s important to remember along the way though, that music is supposed to be enjoyable, and that while studying a set curriculum is very helpful, many of our cherished performers have proven that it is not essential to captivate audiences and impact our lives.

Visit my home page for more info on guitar lessons in the Surrey and Langley areas.

Two Amazing Businesses Guitarists in Surrey and Langley Need to Check Out!

Whether you’re a new to the guitar entirely, an experienced musician who’s recently moved to the area, or just wanting some great new businesses to check out, it can be a tough decision knowing where to go for your guitar-related needs.  That being said, I wanted to highlight two amazing guitar-based businesses in the Surrey and Langley area that I think all guitarists would enjoy.  I have relied on these businesses for many of my guitar effects, instructional materials, guitar setups, and just good advice for the last several years.  Please note, I am not affiliated with these businesses in any way!

  1. Guitar Effects Canada ( — Located in the heart of downtown Langley, Guitar Effects Canada has an incredible selection of guitar effects, amplifiers, accessories, instructional materials, and more.  The management is not only incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to guitar equipment and hardware, but also have decades of playing experience and extensive musical education – quite a step up from the “big-box” retail music stores.  For any guitar repair needs, they have a certified Fender electric and acoustic technician on staff who can fix quite literally any issues with your guitar that you may need corrected.  Simply put, if you are a guitar player and live in the Langley area, you NEED to check this shop out ASAP!
  2. The Guitar Repair Centre ( — For guitarists residing in the Surrey area who are in need of repairs for guitars or guitar amplifiers, The Guitar Repair Centre is an excellent choice.  They offer excellent quality repairs, very speedy service, and affordable prices.  I have been in jams multiple times with equipment needing fast repairs to be ready for a gig or recording session, and when I lived in the Surrey area, The Guitar Repair Centre came through every time!  Check out their website and make an appointment if you’re in need of  some repair work done!

I hope you enjoy checking out these businesses!


Visit my home page for more info on guitar lessons in the Surrey and Langley areas.