Santa Fe Guitar Academy

F. A. Q.

Frequently Asked Questions


1. Do you teach beginners?

YES! I'm often surprised that some people assume I only work with advanced students.  Beginner guitar lessons give me great satisfaction, helping new players start right, move along faster and avoid the pitfalls that get new players stuck after a while. I find it invigorating to work with people who are discovering their music-making because there is a freshness to their attitude toward their playing.

2. How long does it take to learn to play?

Six months is a good benchmark.  People learn and develop musically at very different rates, but if you play a little and review each lesson's material at home, you should be able to enjoy playing some simple songs by then.  It can be faster if you work a little more at home. It can take a little longer too, since the beginning is the hardest part for some students, including some that turn out to be the best players.

3. What are the guitar lessons like?

Beginner students can expect to work on chords, simple songs and melodies, sight reading, and theory. As soon you have some basic skills, we choose a style to focus on for a while. It is important to balance musicianship and fun, so we make sure that each lesson challenges you with a new technical or theory concept, but always ends with something fun such as your favorite riff or song. We use a variety of guitar method books and lesson materials, and I encourage students to share their favorite music with me so we can plan future lessons. Although I am comfortable teaching a variety of styles, we focus on one at a time. I keep advanced students challenged and motivated with increasing attention to detail, and by exploring different areas according to their interests.


4. What instrument should I get?

For a beginner, I would recommend a classical (nylon-string) guitar, because it is usually easier on the fingertips. It is important that it be size-appropriate for younger players: for kids up to 4' 5", a "half size" guitar is best, and slightly taller kids will do well with a "three quarters" size. Small guitars can be very comfortable for adults as well! If you are not a beginner, the choice of instrument depends on the style of music you prefer: either a classical, a steel-string acoustic, or an electric guitar is fine if they are appropriate to the style you are working on. Don't shy away from used instruments if they are in good shape, and remember the better the guitar, the more it will hold its value over time. 


5. What are your qualifications?

I have conservatory and college degrees from Brazil, graduate degrees in Performance and Music Theory from the University of Arizona, home of the internationally renowned Bolton Institute of Guitar Studies, and years of training with some of Brazil's top classical and jazz guitarists. I believe a teacher must keep learning, so to this day I seek coaching opportunities with some of the best guitarists in the world, such as David Russell and Odair Assad. I have decades of teaching and touring experience: before focusing on the Santa Fe Guitar Academy, I taught for decades in various schools, from elementary public schools to graduate music school, and private conservatories; for thirty years, I have performed professionally as a classical player, in varied bands, accompanying singers, playing for dancers and theater groups, and as a studio session player.  Although I keep the atmosphere of our lessons relaxed and stress free, my students, when they have set their minds to it, have won many competitions, and have gone on to study with audition-based scholarships at some of the top music schools in the country, such as Oberlin Conservatory and Berklee School of Music. Some students have gone on to become successful professional musicians in their own right, others have enjoyed playing for their own satisfaction for a long time. Although I prepare lesson plans with great pedagogical care, the actual lessons are conducted in a light and friendly way, because I know good music students have to be patient, so the teacher has to model that behavior. Above all, I enjoy teaching, and I hope it shows.

You can find out more about my background and my performing calendar at


6. Do I have to learn by ear, chord charts, tabs, or standard notation (notes)?

Different guitar styles use different notation. You can get great tabs of rock solos, chord charts for playing and singing, and standard notation is used in classical and jazz. I knew a young student who learned everything by ear so easily that any reading method just slowed him down! My approach is to focus during the lessons on the notation method that is most useful at first, depending on the style. Eventually, learning standard notation will help you study theory, communicate with other musicians, and organize your thoughts when you are composing or making an arrangement, so I encourage people to learn it at some point.


7. What will I learn in your music lessons?

I make it a priority to get to know you and to become familiar with your personal musical interests and goals. 

I do not treat every student the same in terms of what and how I teach. 
A six-year-old having their first lesson will have very different needs than a fifty-seven-year-old taking up guitar for the second time after having had lessons as a child. 
While it is very important that classical and jazz students learn to read music early on, song writers will start by using chord symbols, and rock players will use tablature.The main reason to choose the Santa Fe Guitar Academy as your music lesson provider is that we are sensitive to the fact that every guitar student is an individual. 
When you enroll here for lessons, I will work with you to make a plan that will fit your needs and musical preferences. Before the first guitar lesson we will talk about your favorite types of music, and set goals to help accomplish whatever musical aspirations you have for yourself or your child.


8. How much should I practice at home between guitar lessons?

As much as you feel like! As long as your goals and your effort are in agreement, you will do fine. That means if you practice half an hour a day in the beginning, you will move along faster than if skip a few days. Good focus beats long sessions, and the good information we cover in the lessons will make your practice more effective. I find that the practice strategies I teach - and use - allow me to play better today with two or three hours a day than I did years ago with six or eight, and I have seen proportional results with students working less than an hour a day and moving along nicely. A beginner should plan on practicing about half an hour a day, five days a week, to get started, then grow from there as they decide. Of course, great players usually put in a bit more work, at least during some phases of their studies, but you should always increase your daily practice gradually.


9. What other equipment should I buy?

Not much. A good guitar strap or foot-rest, maybe a clip-on tuner, metronome, and spare strings. You can chose what you need as you go, so no need for a shopping spree to begin with. Get the best instrument you can afford, though.


10. How long does a guitar last?

I have played guitars that were over 150 years old and were in great shape! I have one made in 1988 that is perfectly fine. As long as you do not abuse them, or if they break in an accident, there is no reason they should not last a nice long time. The one exception are what I call "drugstore guitars" that are mass produced with terrible materials and bad craft. Those often need expensive repairs or set-up work right out of the box, often costing more than their price tag. There is one surviving guitar built by Antonio Stradivarius in 1697 that is still in used today!


11. How often should I change strings?

As they wear, strings loose their brilliance of sound, then they become difficult to tune, then they start to feel harder to play, then they break. Since that happens very gradually, sometimes students do not notice the need to change strings until it is a bit late, and are shocked at how nice their guitar sounds and feels with fresh strings. The good news is that good quality strings are not expensive. A good starting point is to start with is about one hundred hours of playing. But I cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands before playing and wiping clean the string when you are done. Playing for ten minutes on brand new strings with hands sticky with donut grease, then leaving them like that overnight, can kill a set of strings right away... 


12. My guitar broke! Can it be repaired?

Most of the time, yes. Dropped instruments can break, wood can dry out and crack, and airlines can be vicious. A good repair technician or a fine luthier can usually fix your instrument in a cost effective way. Fine cosmetic work can be very expensive though, so making the repair look like it never happened might not be a good investment. 


13. What books do you use to teach?

Too many to list, because I try to use different materials according to what each student wants to play. There is so much good material available for every style, and new books and methods come out all the time, I prefer to choose the material after we have met. As far as the songs you will work on, I try to keep that your choice too. In the very beginning, it might be difficult to find a song that is appropriate and that you like, but that phase should not last too long, and we can always play simplified versions first.


14. My kid wants to be a musician. Will they live in my basement until they are forty?

Not unless you want them to! Good musicians do make a good living.  The effort you put into becoming a well trained, well rounded, versatile, and proficient musician is comparable to the training of a doctor or lawyer, and the pay, believe it or not, is comparable too. Of course, someone who takes a few months of biology classes then tries to make a living as a doctor will not be allowed to, but that actually happens with aspiring musicians, who will struggle professionally because of that. If you ask a young lawyer, engineer, doctor, manager, designer, or dentist what their options are, you will hear that their career paths are not easy or guaranteed. We are not talking about superstar pop artists, who make a great living, just as we are not talking about a superstar surgeon or high-power attorney: we are talking about well trained professionals with a strong work ethic. The best thing you can do to help is make sure that they get the best training they can, with or without a degree, the best guitar lessons, and encourage them to practice.


15. How will I know if I have musical talent?

People throw the word "talent" around so much, it means different things to different people. Consistent work with good direction will get you to play. It might come easier for some people in the beginning, but sometimes they struggle later on. Other people have a very hard time early on, then take off. My view of talent is that some musicians reach a higher level than others with similar training and work ethic, but that happens at a very high level of development, beyond what is required to enjoy your own playing or even work as a professional musician.


16. I've heard that if I learn classical guitar I will be able to play anything. Should I do that even if my musical interest is in a different direction?

That is old nonsense. I think that myth comes from classical players trying to convince students to play music the teacher loves rather than following the student's taste. I cannot imagine even the finest classical player in the world playing the blues like B. B. King overnight, or accompanying flamenco dancers, or playing jazz. I have even heard some players say that, because they can read, they can play anything, as long as they can find the score. Classical training is very strong, but I prefer to help each student create a solid foundation for their playing regardless of the style they play. I also encourage my classical guitar students to broaden their horizons.


17. Do I have to study theory?

Eventually, yes. But it is not necessary right away, and other than the very basics, we describe, teach, and learn music theory very differently depending on what the application is - interpreting a Bach score, writing a solo arrangement of your favorite Beatles tune, improvising on jazz standards, composing your own guitar pieces, and songwriting all benefit from some music theory, but the approach is different. So we see what direction our guitar lessons are going and start with that. 


18. Do you teach or play any other instruments?

I also teach music theory, in either a classical or popular music context, and music business, and I do play a little piano. But as far as instruments go, I only teach guitar. All the different instruments and styles are enough of a challenge for me. However, if you are looking for music lessons in other instruments, give me a call and I can recommend someone very good. I know great professionals who teach singing, drums, percussion, piano, recording engineering, and strings, including standup bass, and even theorbo.


19. Do you teach in any schools?

I currently teach at three schools. The United World College, in Montezuma NM, is an International Baccalaureate program with about two hundred students from about one hundred different countries. They have a good music program offering various instruments, singing, composition, and improvisation. At New Mexico Highlands University, in Las Vegas NM, I offer guitar lessons and a beginning guitar class. They have good scholarship options, and great performance opportunities. I am artist-in-residence at Adams State University, in Alamosa CO. Besides undergraduate work with your choice of focus on Performance, Composition, Music Business, or Music Education, we offer a low-residency Master degree in Music Education.They have a wonderful performance hall, a vibrant music department, a Jeremy Cooper double-top guitar available to all guitar students, and recording and video equipment.


20. What are SKYPE lessons?

SKYPE is a free computer software that allows us to have good quality, free video calls all over the world. 

I started offering guitar lessons through SKYPE so that students who were moving away could continue our work together. Over time, this "virtual studio" has grown to allow me to coach students from anywhere. It is also very convenient when people are traveling and do not want to miss a lesson.

Prices and conditions are the same as regular guitar lessons. I just ask that you email me a copy of the material you are working on so I can use it during the lessons.

The system works very well for guitar lessons, as long as both parties have a reliable internet connection.

You can download SKYPE for free here:

Once you set up, add me to your contact list. My username is robertocapocchi

21. What is the Santa Fe Guitar Academy House Concert Series?

It is an intimate venue where our students, their families, and the Santa Fe community can enjoy guitar performances offered by local professionals and touring artists alike. All proceeds go to the artists, and since seating is very limited, we do not advertise. If you'd like to stay informed about it, just email us and we'll keep you in the loop.



22. What are your policies regarding payments, cancellations, and re-scheduling? 

1) Full month's payment is due on or before the 1st of the month. 

2) We check in on the last lesson of each month to see if we need to re-schedule anything the following month - due to doctor appointments, trips, etc. I find that this check-in takes care of the vast majority of last minute changes, since more often than not, rescheduling requests might be done last minute, but often they are related to appointments made months in advance... If no re-scheduling works for that month, we can carry ONE lesson over to the following month and double up a week. The same thing goes for re-scheduling requests done a week before the lesson, such as letting me know on one lesson, regarding the following week.

3) With re-scheduling requests done with less time, I do my best to accommodate it within a week's time from the original lesson time, but we cannot find an alternate time, we do not carry over that lesson to the next month. 

4) I usually do not re-schedule or make up lessons cancelled with less than a day's notice.

5) I understand that students take time off to travel, mostly during the summer, so, with a week's notice, up to four summer lessons can be left as "rain checks" in those cases.  Those make ups do not expire as long as you are continuously enrolled. This allows you to keep your spot and your preferred time slot.

6) In the rare event that I have to cancel a lesson, we will look for an alternate time that suits you, or you will get a 25% discount the following month.




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