Frequently Asked Questions

About Me and My Method

Who the heck are you, anyway?

My name is Damon Eckard and I am a guitar teacher. This is my website.

You can learn all about my lessons by clicking through this FAQ page.
You can learn a bit about me by clicking here.

What level of student do you teach?

I teach all levels, but I only take on students who are serious about learning to play.

What's your teaching method all about, then?

My method is all about establishing a solid foundation of the fundamentals of the western musical system, showing you how the guitar works with and relates to that system, and then teaching you to use those paired understandings to artfully create or re-create anything you hear out in the world, in your head, or in your heart.

Is there a type of student that you most enjoy teaching?

My favorite type of student is the one who has goals, does their homework, asks questions, and actively engages in their lessons.

I absolutely love feedback. It helps me teach you better; and, by taking ownership of your experience, you ensure that you're getting the most out of your time & money.
If something about your homework is particularly interesting or challenging to you,
or if there's some other aspect of guitar playing you'd much rather be focusing on,
then by all means please let me know!

Are you sure that you can teach me how to play guitar?

No, and if you encounter a teacher who says otherwise without meeting you first, run.

No one teacher can be all things to all students, and while I aim to keep folks happy, inspired, challenged, and engaged, I know that's not always going to happen.

That's what the introductory lesson is all about. It's important for us to feel that we're a good match and that we'll enjoy working together. If we enjoy each others' company and both feel that my skills and appoach will mesh nicelty with your needs then odds are we'll work really well together.

About My Lessons

How long do your lessons last and what are they like?

Lessons begin on the hour and last for 40 minutes. We'll chat a bit and catch up while we tune up, and then it's straight down to business. I'll start to wrap things up at around 30 to 35 minutes - at which point we'll do a bit of review, clear up any questions you may still have about what we just covered, and come to an agreement about what your homework assignment ought to be.

40 minutes after is when you leave. I spend the last 20 minutes of the hour posting your lesson audio, notes, homework assignment, and anything else necessary to your student page.

Do I need to have my own guitar before I start taking lessons?

Nope. Not for the first lesson, anyway.

I keep an extra one here so you can try before you buy. If you decide to take lessons from me and need a guitar, I'm happy to book a time for us to go guitar shopping.

I have a guitar, but it's old & funky. Should I still bring it with me?


I'll check it out and make sure that it'll work for you. Could be all it needs is some new strings and a little love. If it needs a lot of love, then I'll most likely refer you to one of my guitar techs. If your money would be better spent on buying a new guitar, you can book a time for us to go guitar shopping. Whatever the case, I always keep an extra guitar here for you to use during our first lesson.

Can I take lessons every other week or only when I feel like I need it?

No. Not from me, anyway.

I used to offer lessons both bi-weekly and catch-as-catch-can, but I don't do that anymore. I can't speak for all teachers, but I've found these approaches to be an excercise in frustration for me and a waste of both our time and your money.

Is it better to start with acoustic or electric guitar?

Ah, the eternal question. I'll let Keith speak for me here:

I firmly believe that if you want to be a guitar player, you better start on acoustic and then graduate to electric. Don't think you're going to be Townsend or Hendrix just because you can go wee wah wah, and all
the electronic tricks of the trade. First you've got to know that f*cker.
And you go to bed with it. If there's no babe around, you sleep with it.
She's just the right shape.

- Keith Richards

It's been my experience that players who learn on acoustic transfer more easily and naturally to electric and that the fundamentals of guitar playing tend to sit more solidly in players who started out on acoustic.

In the end, it's all about what you gravitate more strongly towards. What matters most is that you're stoked to pick it up and play!

Any other gear that I might need for class?

Not for the first lesson, no.

Later, you'll find little things like tuners, capos, pics, and cases come in handy. Check out my Guide to Extra Gear to find out more.

Do you have a cancellation policy?

Yes I do.

Click here to read my policies.

Do you offer group lessons?

Yes I do, and at an increasingly discounted per-person rate as compared to my regular,
one-on-one lessons. I can accommodate groups of three in my space here in Emeryville. Click here to hop onto my waiting list for large group lessons.

Do you teach youngsters?

I do, yes - but it's not my usual thing.

It's been my experience that kids (generally speaking) tend to progress less quickly than adults and often require more outside-of-class supervision, structure, and guidance than I'm set up to provide.

It's also important to note that I do not offer a tiered rate for my time and services. My lessons cost the same regardless of skill, ability, maturity, or age - so parents, please be sure that you've considered all this before contacting me about teaching your child. 

How do I book a lesson?

You can do it right here on my website!

Click here to go to my booking page.

About Homework

What sort of support do you offer to your students outside of class?


Every regular student gets their own password-protected Private Student Page
right here on this website. These pages are laid out like blogs. Each lesson is posted as a dated entry and contains the following:

A clear stereo recording of your lesson
I record every lesson that I teach and then embed that lesson's audio at the top of each entry. You can relax and concentrate during each lesson, knowing that you'll never have to worry about forgetting anything we worked on.

A few notes highlighting what we covered in class
Like CliffsNotes for lessons. This helps me as much as you, really. All good teachers use notes to keep track of their students' progress. I share mine with you.

YouTube videos of original reference material
Referring back (and often) to original source material for the song you're working on is one of the best ways to make sure you're learning it correctly.

A synopsis of your homework assignment
You'll never have to worry about what the heck it was you were supposed to work on. Practice shouldn't always be easy, but it should always be stress-free.

And moar lots!
Lyric sheets, chord charts, whiteboard scans, song and album downloads, custom video lessons for when you can't make it to class. You want to learn how to play guitar. I want you to succeed.

What if I didn't have time to practice? Should I still come to class?


There will be days - sometimes even weeks - when you won't have time to practice. It happens to everyone. Don't let it get you down, and don't let it keep you from coming to class. Feeling ashamed or stressed out about not practicing brings on all sorts of mental block, and that's the single biggest reason why folks give up on learning how to play the guitar.

Don't let yourself fall into that trap. If lesson time comes 'round and you haven't even touched your guitar since the last one then take a deep breath, remember that feeling crap about not having practiced is totally not gonna help, let it go, and head on out to class.

Any gear that you recommend for practice at home?

A nice, sturdy guitar stand or wall-mount hanger. It's a lot easier to
get into the habit of playing guitar when it's right there in front of you.

Click here to see which stands and hangers I recommend.

Do I really have to practice?

If you really want to learn to play guitar, yes.

Don't worry, though; I'll never give you more than you can handle, and I'll always do my best to make sure our work is as fun as it is challenging.

About What I Can Teach You

Can you teach me music theory?


Knowing how music works is the best way to understand how to make it yourself.
If you'd like to know more about how popular music works from a music theory standpoint (or if you just really need someone to geek out with about the magical way the National uses relative minors or to get all weepy with over Elliott Smith's eloquent employment of secondary dominants), then seriously, I am your man.

Can you teach me how to play by ear?


Learning how to play a few new songs is one thing. Learning to figure out how to play any song is quite another. Passing on my wealth of information, knowledge, and experience in this regard and with this instrument is my ultimate goal as a guitar teacher. 

In short: If this is what you're looking for then you've come to the right place. It's my aim to be the last person you'll ever need to ask to help you figure out how to play a song. 

Can you teach me how to play rhythm guitar?


Rhythm is the beating heart and soul of the guitar and the bread and butter of every working guitarist, and proper rhythm guitar technique is central to everything we'll work on together.

Can you teach me how to play lead guitar?


Working with students to teach and improve lead guitar technique and ability is an absolute joy for me. If you'd like your lessons with me to include or focus on improving your lead and solo skills then let me know and we'll take it from there.

Can you help me work on my own songs?


I'd be delighted to help you with your own music. If you'd like your lessons with me to include or focus on improving your songwriting skills then let me know and I'll structure your lesson plan accordingly.

Can you teach me how to play black metal on a banjo?


I play lots of different instruments, but I don't feel qualified to teach any other than the guitar. The styles I have the most experience with playing and teaching fall pretty squarely within the realms of folk, country, Americana, flatpicked and fingerstyle blues, classic rock, indie rock, shoegaze, post rock, and punk. If you chime with any/all of the above, or if you'd rather focus a bit more on certain idioms and genres and less on others then let me know and I'll structure your lesson plan accordingly.

My method focuses on the fundamentals of guitar playing as a whole. Once learned, these skills will allow you to approach and eventually master any style of playing you choose to pursue.

Can you just show me how to play a few songs?


If this is all you're looking for from lessons and you aren't at all interested in learning anything more about music or the guitar than this then I'm not the teacher for you.

About How to Get to Your First Lesson

Where are you located?

On Beaudry Street in Emeryville between 55th and Stanford.

Click here (or just look at that map on the right).

Is there parking available?

Yep, lots.

My neighborhood is safe and friendly and the parking is plentiful and free.

What should I do when I get there?

Look for the gate to the right of my building and then look for a small bank of buzzer buttons to the left of the gate. If you have a hard time finding the buzzer then just call or text me at (510) 982-6062.

About Scheduling and Emergencies

I need to cancel or reschedule my intro lesson. What should I do?

Check the confirmation email that you received when you booked your intro lesson and you'll find a link at the bottom that will allow you to change it. Fees for lessons booked through my website are fully refundable, but only if you cancel more than six (6) hours in advance.

I forgot to show up to my intro lesson. What should I do?

Be bummed.

I offer neither refunds or credits for missed lessons. If the lesson you spaced wasn't already paid for (a rare case, but it can happen) then I will require you to pay for the lesson you missed before I'll let you book the next one.



Omg I broke a string. Can you help?


I'll fix you up free of charge if you have your own extras (if you don't then I do, but I'll charge you $10) and I'll show you how to do it yourself so you'll never have to rely on anyone else to change a string for you again.

OMG I broke my guitar! HELP!!

No worries. These things happen. :)

Holler at me and describe the damage and I'll refer you to a shop that'll best address your needs.