Tag Archives: portland music lessons

How To Buy a Guitar For Your Child

Buying A Kid A Guitar

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• Recommended Music Stores and Shops in Portland Oregon: Where musicians in the know buy their instruments, get them repaired, and have them customized

When it’s time to go guitar shopping for a child, parents are often confused about what to buy. This is a guide for how to save money and make sure that your child enjoys his or her time on the guitar.

I recommend printing this list and bringing it to the store with you. If you can’t buy a guitar before your lesson, it doesn’t matter, because I have a ton of awesome guitars that you are welcome to use! 

If you’re in Portland Oregon, I recommend buying at:

  • Trade Up Music, located at SE Division and SE 47th in SE Portland. Tell them Amanda of Whirling Squirrel sent you! 503.236.8800
  • Old Town Music on SE 11th. Talk to Hank. 503.295.6808
  • Showcase Music and Sound at SE 34th and Hawthorne 503.231.7027

Purchasing Options: Ages 3-6

  • Buy the child a small, very inexpensive acoustic guitar, ukulele, or other instrument of deadly unintonated cacophony, and let them pound away at it, making noise. If you’re in Portland Oregon, I recommend signing the child up for Music Together: inexpensive group kids’ music classes at Community Music Center on SE Francis and 33rd in Portland Oregon. I wouldn’t spend time on private lessons until the age of 6. Joy in music is important. Do not expect much of the kid with practice at this time.

Purchasing Options: Ages 6-10

New/Used Small “Child’s Size” Acoustic Guitar: Inexpensive $100-$200, expensive $500-$5,000+

  • PROS: Cheap, easy to buy, no hassle in the store, so things “seem” okay at first purchase.
  • CONS: Much, much harder to play. Much less cool sounds. Kids tend to give up more easily when their instrument is an inexpensive acoustic guitar. You’ll end up replacing it anyway down the road. Kids will be very impressed by my electric guitars and their weird sounds. Inexpensive acoustic guitars are just about the most physically difficult situation a beginner could be placed in.

New Small “Child’s Size” Electric Guitar and Amp Package: $100-$200

  • PROS: Super easy to play! Inexpensive. The electric guitar can make weird sounds, and kids love cacophony.
  • CONS:  He/she will outgrow it. I do not generally recommend child size electric guitars. They have loads and loads of problems, including staying in tune. However, if price is a serious issue, take this option. Just remember that these packages are often new, and the guitar and amp that you just bought for $200 decrease in resale value by about $125 or more as soon as you leave the store. If you went to Guitar Center to buy this package, the price you’ll pay for these packages also goes to corporations that don’t support local musicians. You’ll also get terrible customer service, and chances are, that Guitar Center deal you got doesn’t include the guitar being intonated, so it won’t play in tune, so you’ll need to take it to another repair shop and spend more money and time.

RECOMMENDED: Used Regular Size Electric Guitar and Amp Package: $150-$250 on up

  • PROS: Super easy to play! Inexpensive. The electric guitar can make weird sounds, and kids love cacophony. The child will never outgrow it. It will not have intonation “tuning” issues like the smaller guitars do. The resale value will be great, because you bought used.
  • CONS:  You’ll spend $50-$100 more at the beginning. The child may simply be too small for the guitar (but this usually changes in about 2 months). Thankfully, Trade Up Music has a great refund policy and you can get another instrument at Trade Up for the same value within 1 week.


Once you buy the guitar, you’ll need to know a good “luthier.” A luthier is someone who repairs and/or builds instruments. You’ll need to bring in your guitar to a luthier about once every three months for “intonation” and “adjustments” to keep the truss rod in shape. YOUR GUITAR WON’T PLAY IN TUNE UNLESS YOU TAKE IT TO A LUTHIER EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. I recommend:

  • 12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont, since 1979. 503.231.1912. I used to work at the 12th Fret for many years. They are fantastic people and luthiers, nationally renowned experts. >>website

  • Ryan Lynn’s EastSide Guitar Repair at 34th and Hawthorne. I have known Ryan for 10 years or more when he was the master luthier at Trade Up. Ryan runs a great shop and he’s a good guy. >>website
-Amanda Machina
503 577 2311 cell

Music Teachers

I get a the occasional email or phone call from other music teachers, requesting information on how to teach music and run a music lesson business.

I’ve received these kinds of calls for years and I’ve finally implemented a solution. Consulting for Music Instructors. Click here to pre-purchase a consultation session. I’ll be contacting you by phone or email to schedule a session, you can also Schedule Online for Free. Students generally visit my studio in inner SE PDX on SE Division and 12th. In addition, I have a recording studio at a separate facility with isolation booths, control bay with window, headphone mixes, and vaulted ceilings, a decent ProTools project studio.

Thanks! -Amanda


Lessons for “ADD” people


ADD people … are they just bored?

I taught a 7 year old the basics of “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead yesterday. After that, another student, age 8, learned about key signatures and inheritance of accidentals in key signatures, and she said “YAYYY!! I get HOMEWORK and I get to fill out 3 key signatures!”  The day before, a teenage kid learned about sampling and beatmaking using Reason (a software program for beginning to intermediate electronic/rap & hip-hop music artists). All three music students chose their own lesson subjects; I had nothing to do with the choice of material covered in the lesson. It amazes me what people want to learn, and the mental connections they make when they are learning what they love.
People, given an opportunity to create, are rarely bored.

People learn best when they are empowered to interpret a lesson, in their own way.

Flow, a state we enter when doing something we love, is essential for mastery of any skill. That’s why my students pick their own material. ADD and ADHD people are often excel at flow; the physical, the unspoken.
Free play. About three years ago, I was given a book by a student, who later became a good friend. The book was called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art.The book completely changed my life, and it completely changed the way I taught music as well. That’s where the name WHIRLING SQUIRREL comes from – I love to jump and play, I think the unexpected is absolutely hilarious, and I can provide a non-rigid framework for people to learn.
I specialize in teaching adults and children complex music theory and difficult mathematical concepts; ADD and ADHD people really “get it.” ADD and ADHD people have exceptional abilities which shine when those abilities are respected, nurtured, and allowed to grow. More linear and logical folks are fun to teach as well – they just have a totally different approach. I have one young student who refuses to play until she learns all about key signatures and theory. She says she loves math, so … cool!


Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art:
Author Web Site

Buy the book on Amazon

Kinesthetic Music Lessons


Last week, one of my new students (a longtime sculptor) said,
“Amanda, when I look at this piece of paper, something weird happens in my brain.”

Interestingly, the student/sculptor was describing the logic behind one of my teaching methods. Sure, I teach a lot of theory; but if you can’t hear and play and use intervals, what’s the point? It’s better to be able to use what you learn in music lessons. It’s better to just do stuff. Free play – playing nonsensical, weird stuff over and over; kinesthetic learning – learning by doing, and being in the moment.


Kinesthesia: the sense of motion.
In using intervals and theory, in soloing, in playing rhythm, in creating or just playing a song, kinesthesia drives us – a sense of our body’s movement. Intervals and chord progressions, are also motion. Good music lessons aren’t just about pieces of paper and going through the motions of some boring scale. It’s much more than that. It’s about learning flow.


Flow: essential for mastery of any skill.

We enter the state of flow when doing something we love. Flow is a balance between challenge and enjoyment.

Flow is more important than details or theory, it is our core essence expressed through music. I do not stop my students while they are playing unnecessarily, and when I do, I congratulate students who keep playing for a few seconds. Flow is powerful, and difficult to interrupt.
Suki: (Aikido/Kendo)
An opening or gap where one is vulnerable to attack or application of a technique, or where one’s technique is otherwise flawed. Suki may be either physical or psychological.


Kinesthetic Learning takes place when the student is allowed to process the information using their own language.
‘That’s why I don’t use a rigid “method.” I like answering questions – especially weird ones. I enjoy that each of my students, is vastly different from the next. Beethoven, Dick Dale, Dr. Dre – All music is theory, and when a student loves a song, they’ll play every day.



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