Is Mario Hidalgo the Right Stringed Instrument Teacher for You?
Get to know Mario better with this in-depth, informative interview.
Q: Hi Mario! Can you start by telling me for how long have you been
playing and teaching banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin and ukulele?
A: I have been playing stringed instruments for 40 years.
Q: For any student looking to find a music instructor, what do you feel
you bring to the table that distinguishes you from other stringed instrument teachers?
A: I love teaching stringed instruments like the guitar and banjo.
I have the patience and the passion for helping students develop the skills
necessary to play and enjoy the style of music they choose.
During my 27 years of teaching, I have developed a methodology of instruction
that adapts to a student's needs in a fun yet productive environment.
I teach concepts that are used in most areas of popular music and I adapt
them to the specific style of music the student wishes to follow.
From classic rock groups like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Santana,
James Taylor, Paul Simon, Niel Young, to many newer Alternative and punk
bands; or from Classical pieces by Bach, Fernando Sor, Francisco Tarrega to
soft Brazilian jazz, the specialization of style inspires the student to
Four primary skills that I
address during the lessons are: standard notation and theory, ear training,
specialized technical development on the style we choose, and interpretation
for advanced students. I also bring perseverance to the table.
I never give up trying to help a student learn to play their instrument.
Many times a student will wish to play a song that is not available in sheet
music and so they will bring a recorded version of the piece to me and I
transcribe for them by ear. This allows them access to almost any type of music as
long as we have a recording of it.
Q: Tell us the some of the common reasons you hear students stating for wanting to
take stringed instrument lessons.
A: Younger students typically want to start playing the guitar or
other stringed instruments because they want to have fun playing their
favorite music. Some have specific goals of playing in a band or on
a worship team at their Church. There are also some that take up a stringed
instrument like guitar or banjo to develop their fine muscle movements and
improve cognitive skills like memory.
Q: What are the most common challenges you've observed beginners facing
in learning to play instruments like the guitar, bass, banjo, mandolin or ukulele?
A: Most students need help developing a study skill program that relates
to the style of music they wish to follow. Finding the most beneficial
practice tempo is also a very common challenge for students, as well as evaluating
their own progress.
Q: What is your approach to helping students overcome these challenges?
How can you help them?
A: I teach students how to understand the different components of their
technique, like chord building and shifting, playing scales,
finger picking and I show specific exercises that clearly help them improve each one. We
also work on breaking the music down into small logical practice segments
that are easier to master than playing the entire piece straight through.
My students learn to read and count accurately so that they will always know where
they are in the music. This skill helps them minimize mistakes and find their
optimum practice speed.
Q: How much time should a beginning student be ready to devote to
practicing on a weekly basis, if they want to make good progress?
A: I recommend that students spend 15-20 minutes 5-6 days of week for the
first 2 weeks and then start increasing the practice time by 10 minute
intervals weekly until you are able to practice 30-45 minutes daily.
Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching guitar and other stringed instruments to adults?
A: I enjoy helping adults achieve musical goals on their instrument that
go beyond their expectations. It is great to see adults learn to play music they never
thought they could and fulfill a dream they may have had as children.
Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching music to children?
A: I love watching the children's faces light up with a sense of
accomplishment when they are able to play their music fast enough to
recognize the song.
Q: For parents, how long, on average, should they expect their child to
need to take music lessons before they can play their first simple tune?
A: I usually have my beginning students playing their first easy song within the first 2 weeks of taking lessons with me.
Q: How will intermediate or advanced students benefit from coming to you
for further instruction? How can you improve their musical abilities and
satisfaction in playing the music they love?
A: Intermediate and advanced students typically have specific styles of
music they would like to improve. Through my 27 years of teaching I've developed
programs of study for each style of music that help students set specific goals and
set up a program of study that will help them achieve them. I focus a lot on
performance practice that lead serious students to higher, professional levels
of proficiency on the instrument. I also do a lot of ear training with students
and transcribe songs for them that are out of print or unavailable.
Q: What local opportunities are there for your students to play their
instruments in a performance setting?
A: We offer recitals for students who wish to participate several time a year here at Music Teachers on Main.
The local schools have Jazz and concert bands that students who attend can join.
There quite a few night clubs and restaurants that offer live music and open mic
opportunities in Alhambra, Altadena and Pasadena.
Q: To take our last question a step further, are there any local musical
venues where you have performed, or any local orchestras/groups with whom you
A: I have played at Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm,
Magic Mountain, the L.A. County Fair, and numerous county fairs in California.
I have played in state fairs in Arizona, Nevada and locally at the Ice House
in Pasadena and numerous private and corporate parties throughout Southern California.
I have also developed and performed an interactive pre-school music program over
the years and currently perform at the Child Development Center at Occidental College.
Q: Tell us about some of the things your music students have gone on to do
that have made you proud.
A: Some of my students have played at local clubs in Pasadena, Altadena,
and Hollywood at the "House of Blues". I have also had students go on to Berkeley
School of Music and Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
Many of my students become leaders of their music worship teams at their Churches.
There are also some that have gone on to record on independent labels.
Q: When do you know that you've succeeded with a student?
A: Success in music is an ongoing process and I evaluate it in several stages.
I monitor students' progress and help them reach the level of playing their music,
either instrumental or songs, with even tempo so that their movements
become automatic and smooth. They start being able to recognize the music and that
is when it starts becoming more fun for them. Having set this standard of proficiency
we work on duplicating the process with other music and when they are able to do
this numerous times I know we are succeeding to fulfill their musical goals.
Q: When did your interest in music begin?
A: I knew I wanted to be a musician ever since I was 5 years old.
The children would be asked at school what they wanted to be when they grew up and
some would say, a fireman, a doctor, a policeman. I would say,"I want to be singer
and play guitar." I also remember listening to my grandfather playing romantic
pieces on the classical guitar when I was 7 years old and I was mesmerized, inspired
to learn the guitar.
Q: Please tell us about your formal music education and credentials.
A: I started playing guitar at 8 and 1/2 years old. I took several
group lessons in middle school and private lessons in high school but my
formal education I received from Occidental College. I graduated with a B.A.
in Music Performance with an emphasis on classical guitar.
Q: What styles of music you love playing best, on your own time?
A: I enjoy playing classical, blues, classic rock and finger picking styles.
Q: Please share the highlights of your performance/working experience.
A: Following graduation from college I performed with the group "Smokewood"
at numerous venues, including: Magic Mountain, Knott's Berry Farm, the L.A. County Fair,
Nevada State Fair, Hollywood Bowl, Yorba Linda Forum, numerous county fairs in
Northern California, and many corporate parties, conventions, schools and small clubs.
I was also one of the original members of the group "Billy and the Hillbillies"
who still perform at Disneyland. One of my favorite performance mediums is at
pre-schools where I have played for many years. I currently provide an interactive
music program at the Child Development Center at Occidental College.
Q: I understand you're a recording artist, Mario. Can you tell us about that?
A: I have recorded 2 albums with the group "Smokewood", "Classgrass"
and "Classgrass and Country". I am working on a book of solo guitar arrangements
for popular guitar.
Q: How has music enriched your life?
A: Music has always been a part of life. It inspires me, and gives me a
language to communicate to others like no other form of communication.
It has been through music and songs that I've been able to express feelings and
thoughts that reach peoples hearts. The use of musical sounds, poetic quality of
lyrics and interpretation has taught me that how you say or communicate an idea is
sometimes more important than what you say. Music has always been a comfort when
I'm sad and a boost when I'm happy. It is also very rewarding to play classical
pieces knowing that even in a small way my ears and brain are going through
a similar process that the composer did when he composed the piece.
Q: What do you want students to get out of getting to work with you?
A: I hope that students learn how to appreciate and have fun with music and to develop the "learn how to learn" skills that we work on so that they can become independent learners, and enrich their lives by sharing their music with others.
Q: Can you share a free tip that prospective students can benefit from
A: For beginners, try to play a simple melody on one string.
Try to choose a melody that you have clearly memorized in your head and
then try to find the notes on the one string, carefully listening and keeping track
of the distance between the notes on the fretboard. For more advanced students, try
to learn to break music down into short segments that you can master quickly
before going to the next part of the music. Then build the song up step by step
with the segments that you have mastered.
A little something more about Mario Hidalgo, stringed instrument teacher at Music
Teachers on Main:
I have learned that progress in music depends on 3 main points: the talent or skill
that you are born with, the program of study that you are following, and the amount
of time you spend practicing your program of study. The most important points that
will help you progress are your effort and a well designed program of study. I try to help
students achieve their goals by offering a methodical but fun program that will inspire
them to practice.
Contact Mario Hidalgo To Set Up Your First Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Ukulele or Guitar Lesson:
Home: (323) 254-3848, Studios: (626) 282-7605, Cell: (323) 359-6109 or