Have you ever wanted to learn the guitar?
I connected with Campfire Guitar late last year through Twitter on the back of some tweets I had written about guitar-playing in general. I had recently started playing my dad’s guitars after getting back into music, and was tweeting about the pleasant pain in the ends of my fingers from practising. My tweets were on the ‘guitar hashtag’, i.e. #guitar, and Campfire found me through that.
Since then, I have enjoyed getting to know one of their founders, lovely Roxy. Roxy was keen for a UK-based reviewer to take a look at their products and services for review, and after finding out more about their company, I was totally stoked to do so.
So what are they all about? Well, in brief, they’re a one-stop shop for people who would love nothing more than to be able to pick up a guitar and play their favourite songs. Through three super-simple online lessons via video, they claim to be able to teach the most musically inept to play the guitar. Pretty bold! Not only that, they also offer an entry-level acoustic guitar, already strung, complete with a guitar tuner and Campfire branded plectrum. Amazing!
But back to the musically inept. I happen to be married to such a person (sorry, Ian). Although he denies it, he is tone-deaf, struggles to understand musical concepts and actually said to me that he would not be able to learn to play the guitar because he has no musical ability. Perfect. So after receiving our bodacious Campfire acoustic guitar (review coming soon!), Ian was all set to begin his lessons. He sat down one evening after work, logged into the members area of their website and pressed play on the first of the three lessons.
Hosted by (the handsome-yet-approachable) Josh, the first video is a mere 13-minutes long. Josh is armed with his Campfire acoustic and takes you through the basic theory you need to begin playing. In short, he tells you about the notes of each string, what the frets are and what they’re for. He explains the difference between a note and a chord and demonstrates. Josh tells you how to hold the guitar and how to hold your pick. It is all incredibly logical and concise, and all the info he covers is crucially important to know before you start.
Roxy explained that she didn’t want to complicate the lessons with masses of musical theory that you really don’t need, which she found put a lot of people off when they began conventional lessons. I think Campfire have got this spot on – there is the bare minimum of theory before you actually get started learning to play in lessons two and three. The second and third lessons get you started on chords, and then focus on how to improve and grow your technique. Chords are essential to being able to strum out the songs you love (hopefully with your friends singing along while you play). Most popular songs are made up of a small handful of basic chords, and he is absolutely right when he says that knowing basic chords will unlock the key to being able to play all (or most) of your favourite songs.
The idea of the video lessons is that they are snappy, easy to follow and you can pause them and go back if you want something repeated. You pay for them once, and then you have unlimited access to them until you’re happy that you’ve learnt everything you need to know.From my research on the cost of guitar lessons, it is apparent that an average amount would be in the region of £20 per hour, although this can vary and is easily more. For a one-off payment of £32 (an approximation, as the pricing is in USD) you get all the lessons you need to get you proficiently strumming your six-string. You can refer to your lessons over and over again until you’ve nailed it.If you’re worried about putting guitar-teachers out of business, then don’t be. These lessons really just give you the absolute basics to play a guitar. They don’t teach you any complicated techniques such as finger-picking, or how to play a classical guitar. You can go on to learn those techniques with a guitar teacher once you’ve nailed the basics and have the itch to take your playing further. Actually, I think many guitar teachers would thank Campfire for this, as teaching someone from scratch can be terribly frustrating.
You may also be wondering what the difference between Campfire lessons and free YouTube tutorials are. Well, if you watch one of the thousands of YouTube tutorials, it becomes really easy to get distracted and not actually learn a thing. The guitarists on YouTube tend to be phenomenally good, and I know that I find myself just clicking from one tutorial to the next in total awe at them showing off their soloing skills.Josh is not at Steve Vai-level of guitarmanship. He is an average player and does nothing distracting in his lessons. He doesn’t show off, he doesn’t make you feel inadequate. He acknowledges that practice makes perfect, and gives you his own tale of his guitar-learning days. He feels approachable, and his level of playing feels attainable.
Indeed, I’ve watched Ian have a click through some YouTube tutorials to compare with Campfire, and although he sits there in total awe of some incredible riffs a guy/gal has pulled off, he hasn’t learnt a single chord from YouTube.
This leads me right back to Ian reviewing Campfire’s lessons. I’ve been discreetly observing Ian taking his lessons. I have watched a guy who previously had no musical ability or knowledge, morph into someone that can talk to me about notes, chords and actually demonstrate them. He now knows the basic chords, and although his technique is still very amateur, he has a basis to work on. He is at the stage where he’s learning how to transition from one chord to the next. It is slow at first, especially if you don’t dedicate yourself to practising non-stop.
I never thought I would see the day where Ian would be able to tell me the difference between an E-minor and E-major chord.I am truly astonished at how much he has learned through Campfire Guitar lessons. I wish he had more time to practice, as the guitar is a really easy instrument to play at beginner level and he could quickly begin to actually play songs.
One of the things that newbie guitar-players have is sore fingers. There is no avoiding it. Even playing for half an hour for the first time can give you sore fingers. But don’t ever let that deter you. The more you play, the more resistant your fingers get to the pain, and they become more effective at holding those strings down. Unfortunately, Ian suffered a bit with sore fingers, largely because he cut his fingernails so short that his nails were sore on top of the guitar-playing soreness! It is important to keep your fingers short on your left hand (if you’re right-handed) and vice versa.
This leads me onto one of the drawbacks with Campfire. They don’t yet cover left-handers on their lessons or guitars. It is fairly straightforward to adapt the lessons for a left-hander, it is everything on the opposite hands. However, it is not so easy to convert a right-handed guitar to a left-handed one, and this is a shame for any budding lefty guitar-players. This is particularly meaningful for me because I am a left-hander. I would play left-handed guitar if it wasn’t for the fact that I learnt the violin when I was a child. There is no such thing as a left-handed violin, so I had to learn to play in an unnatural right-handed manner. I couldn’t convert back to left-handed when I learnt the guitar, so right-handed playing stuck. I maintain that I would have been better at the guitar had I learnt left-handed! If you are left-handed, I would suggest you contact Campfire and enquire about whether they’ll be bringing a lefty guitar out.
I have a couple of other teeny nitpicks to make at Campfire (sorry Roxy). The first thing is during the first tutorial, Josh refers to the bottom and top E strings as an octave apart. They’re not an octave apart, they’re two octaves apart. Their other founder Danny confirms that he did this deliberately because it was an aspect of the theory that he felt didn’t need to be thoroughly clarified at the time, but acknowledges that he perhaps should have clarified.
The other thing (and I really am nitpicking) is there isn’t an instruction on what to do to change the strings of the guitar (which will inevitably need to be done at some point). My simple solution would be to take your guitar down to your local music shop, and they would be more than happy to help (and to check out your Campfire guitar!).
The bottom line is that I am blown away by this company. I advocate for any type of music to be explored and learned by everyone. It brings so much personal joy and as Josh says, is a great hobby to do. I have grown up surrounded by guitars, and they enriched my life as a child. Music will not only enrich your life, it will also enrich your children’s.If you fancy learning the guitar and have been put off by the cost of lessons, you’re just too shy to learn with a tutor to start with or simply can’t fit lessons in to normal times of the day, then Campfire Guitar is the one for you. If you don’t have a guitar, you can purchase Campfire’s acoustic guitar featured in my pictures (which I’ll be reviewing soon), and you will get the lessons for free.
Campfire have managed to teach my husband the basics of guitar playing, which is nothing short of miraculous.
For more information, visit their website on www.campfireguitarlessons.com.
Please do stay tuned for my review on Campfire’s acoustic guitar, which will be coming very soon on the blog. Don’t forget to please share this post with anyone you know that has expressed interest in learning the guitar.