CGC Member Guide

Getting started

If you are a new member at CGC Academy (no matter your previous background with the guitar), we recommend that you first work through the Member Orientation Course and then start with the Fundamentals course, specifically the first three lessons: the sitting position, right-hand position, and left-hand position.

There are several reasons for this, even if you already have extensive background with classical guitar. It helps you get acquainted with Simon’s teaching style and, more importantly, his approach to technique. Especially if you already have experience with classical guitar, you may find some things differ in Simon’s approach. And because these technical lessons are so foundational to everything that follows, it’s important to get acquainted with them here.

However, your background will determine where you go from there.

Go here to start the Member Orientation Course

Go here to start the Fundamentals Course

The entire curriculum is found on the Grades page here

Complete Beginners: Where to start

If you are brand new to music or even just to classical guitar, we would recommend going through the whole Fundamentals course and then continuing with Grade 1 afterwards.

The structure and approach of the curriculum will get you off to a good start and prepare you with all the foundational elements you need to continue through the curriculum with success. One of the biggest obstacles to progress is taking on material that is too difficult for you. So staying on the structured pathway we’ve laid out will ensure that you are always working with material that is right for you. Each lesson builds off the previous one and so the step between one and the next is incremental. This approach ensures you’re always moving forward with challenges along the way, but we won’t throw anything at you you’re not ready for yet.

Transitioning from other styles of guitar to classical

If you are transitioning from another style of guitar to classical we again would recommend beginning with the Fundamentals course, and you may also want to continue with Grade 1 to focus on learning to read music.

Those who have experience with other styles of guitar may find left-hand technique easier to manage than right-hand. This will especially be true of those who are used to playing with a pick. Going through the beginner lessons on right hand technique will give you a solid base to build from and will be more manageable than beginning with material that may be closer to your playing level (especially in terms of the left hand), but will demand more from your right hand as well.

Moreover, if you primarily learned to read songs with TAB in other guitar styles, you may want to continue on from the technique lessons in the Fundamentals with the Grade 1 Cornerstone Method. This will give you a sure footing to learn to read standard notation and later to sight read music as well. . We highly encourage you to learn to read standard notation, which is so important for learning repertoire on classical guitar. All of the tools you need to learn notation are here in the Academy’s graded curriculum.

Coming back to the guitar after a long break

If you are returning to the classical guitar after a long break, we would encourage you to begin with the first three technique lessons in the Fundamentals course.

We realize this may sound repetitive at this point, but it really is best to begin with the technique lessons from the Fundamentals course. It will take time to regain things you once learned and your life experience in the interim may transform the way you learn now compared to then. So starting out fresh will be the best approach. You may find that some elements come back more quickly than others so you can skim certain lessons you know are review and really focus on the things that need rehabilitating to get you back to where you once were. From there you can keep moving forward through the lessons in order.

Experienced players

If you already have experience playing classical guitar, once again we recommend starting with the technique lessons from the Fundamentals, but from there you will need an assessment to find the right starting place for you.

If you already have some experience with classical guitar, we would still recommend beginning with those three technique lessons from the Fundamentals course: sitting position, right-hand position, left-hand position. Much of the rest of the course, however, is likely review for you and it would be okay to skip the other lessons – though make sure you do the stretching lesson with Evita!

From there you have several ways forward. First, you could use the repertoire and practice routines in each unit to self-assess how comfortable you are with the material in a given unit. Because the practice routines sum up all the material from a given unit, and the repertoire goes hand in hand with the practice routines, playing through the practice routines and repertoire will tell you if there are any things that need work in that unit. If you feel comfortable playing through the practice routines and repertoire in one unit, you are well set up to move to the next one. You can work through each unit in turn until you get to one that is not as comfortable and provides you with a challenge. That’s usually a good place to settle in and work through the lessons in linear order.

Secondly, you can always put a video in the Forum and request feedback on your playing, including a request for which grade you would best fit in. And you can tag either Dave or Niki to make sure your request gets the Team’s attention. To tag Dave, type @cgc-dave anywhere in the text box of a post at the Forum; and to tag Niki, type @niki. If you’re not comfortable posting in the Forum, please email Dave at [email protected]

When to move on

When you reach the end of a lesson, you may begin the next lesson as soon as you are comfortable, though comfort levels will differ for each person. 

Mindset for Progress

There are three basic approaches you can take to your progress. First, you can have a forward-looking mindset and move from one lesson to the next essentially as soon as you complete it. With this approach you aren’t concerned about getting things perfect, just digesting the information and moving on. The downside is you may be missing things moving forward too quickly.

Another is perfectionism. In this approach you stick with that one thing (a lesson, repertoire piece, or even just one exercise) until you can play it perfectly at a specific tempo. Of course, how each person defines “perfectly” may differ widely. The downside here is that you get stuck in place, never believing you’ve reached “good enough.”

Finally, you can take a balanced approach between these two extremes. This is what we recommend with your progress at CGC Academy. While it’s good to push yourself to improve, perfectionism can be a recipe for getting stuck in place. And while moving forward as soon as you complete a lesson does help you feel like you’re making progress, sometimes it’s better to stick with material longer to dig deeper. So we recommend moving on from one lesson to the next only once you reach a level of comfort with the material before moving on. So what counts as “comfortable”?

While this will differ for each person, for us that means you understand the notes, rhythms, and musical concepts and can play them on the instrument at a moderate tempo.

So when should you move on?

This is not an easy question to answer. Every person will have a different background, different practice habits and structures, different learning styles, and different amounts of time they can put in. And all of these things plus other factors can affect your progress. So we need some general principles to start with.

It takes time

Learning a musical instrument is not something you can do in a few weeks, or even a few months. It takes time. How much time? Really, it takes a lifetime. But instead of thinking about how much time it takes to learn an instrument, think instead about how much time you are given. Music is a gift and we have a whole life to learn from it, engage with it, and allow it to enrich our lives. So slow down and take it one step at a time.


Nonetheless, there are moments along the learning process where we can tick off tasks once we reach a certain proficiency with them. Among these tasks would be: correct notes and rhythms; understanding musical concepts and being able to translate those to the instrument; flow and fluency; and achieving a moderate tempo.

Correct Notes and Rhythms

As you work through each lesson, practice routine, solo and duo repertoire piece, and so on in the Academy’s units, it’s important that you are able to play all of the notes and rhythms from those exercises and pieces correctly. We can test our proficiency in this area by listening to audio backing tracks and performance videos in the lessons as benchmarks.

This is usually the first thing we shoot for and can often be the sole measure we use for when we are ready to move on. And, yes, it is important. But it is only a first step.


One thing you’ll notice at the Academy is how early we introduce musical ideas into your technique practice. We do not separate these elements here — we want you to be thinking musically from step one. So in addition to getting the notes and rhythms correct, it is also important that you understand the musical concepts from a given lesson, exercise, or repertoire piece and that you can translate those to the instrument capably. This might mean playing the correct dynamics as written in the score, or simply incorporating color and articulation into your playing.

There is a subjective element to this of course and you can always reach another musical level. At this point we simply want you to be able to (a) understand the musical concepts and (b) be able to translate those to the instrument, that is, to be able to play them.


Another important element is that you are able to play the correct notes and rhythms with the notated musical elements with flow. That is, we want you to be able to play the exercise, routine, or repertoire piece confidently and without hesitation. Sometimes we build in hesitations in places where we need more time to get our fingers where they need to go or where we simply perceive difficulty. It can be an automatic subconscious thing — it’s something our brains build in to protect us from the pain and discomfort we experience when we make mistakes. However, music is something that exists in time and it is important to be able to play comfortably and confidently in time without hesitating.


Especially when it comes to repertoire pieces, there is a range of acceptable tempos. A “moderate” tempo is somewhere within that range. Too slow of a tempo, for instance, can make achieving flow in the music difficult, while too fast can make it feel rushed and out of control. So “moderate” tempo will always depend on context and differs for each piece of music.

When we put all of those elements together, you should feel confident to move on once you have learned the notes, rhythms, and musical ideas correctly and can play those on the instrument at a moderate tempo with flow.


One thing to keep in mind is that the lessons in a unit give you all of the elements of technique and musicality and notation you’ll encounter in both the practice routine and in the repertoire from that unit. That makes the Practice Routines and repertoire pieces excellent benchmarks for knowing when it’s okay to move on to the next unit. If you can play them comfortably then you are good to move on.

How long to complete lessons

We generally recommend allowing 6-18 months to make it through one grade.

We realize this is a big span of time, but everyone is different and the time it takes you will depend on your learning style, the quality of your practice, discipline, and other factors, as well as your goals. So be flexible and allow the journey to take as long as it takes. You can certainly push to accomplish certain goals in a fixed amount of time, but plan on allowing more time than you at first estimate.

Common Questions

How long does it take to complete all 8 grades? 

While the early grades will take less time to complete, you will notice your progress begin to slow as you approach more advanced material. This is normal. In fact, we recommend taking more time on the more advanced material (especially Grades 5-8) to really digest all of the different elements. Having said that, we have had members complete all 8 grades in roughly five to six years’ time.

Gear for getting started

All you need to get started at CGC Academy is a guitar and a device with Internet access, but you may want to consider other equipment and gear that can enhance your experience.

In general we recommend beginning with a classical (or nylon-string) guitar and a device that has Internet access for working through the lessons. Some other things to consider purchasing would be:

  • A footstool or guitar support (either a footstool or another support)
  • A tuner, which usually attaches to your instrument, or a tuning app on your phone
  • A metronome — again, a free metronome app on your phone will work just fine for this
  • A music stand
  • A change of strings. We recommend beginning with D’Addario Pro Arte Normal Tension (EJ45) strings. Generally we recommend changing strings every couple months or so; more frequently if you notice your strings losing intonation and getting discolored.

Simon’s gear:

Dave’s gear:

Common Questions

Can I use my phone to access lessons and use the Academy’s materials?

Yes, your phone will do just fine in many instances. It can even serve well as a great recording device for recording videos and audio. With that said, you may want a bigger screen or to print off music rather than read sheet music off the phone.

Can I use a steel-string acoustic guitar to work through the lessons at the Academy? 

It is okay to begin with a steel-string, but we recommend transitioning to a classical instrument as soon as it’s possible. You will develop certain habits on the steel-string because of its size, the spacing of the strings, and the string material that will make the transition to a traditional classical guitar more difficult the longer you build up those habits.

To learn more about the differences between classical and acoustic guitars, go here:

Do I have to use the traditional classical sitting position with a guitar support or footstool?

No, it is okay to hold the guitar in non-traditional ways — many classical guitarists opt for different positions. However, do know that the sitting position will affect your left- and right-hand positions and so especially when just starting out we recommend using the traditional position with a support of some kind. You can always make adjustments beginning from there.

It is also okay to use a strap, which can get the instrument in a similar position to the traditional sitting position (whether sitting or standing), but please know it doesn’t provide as much stability.

I’ve never changed classical guitar strings before — how do I do this??

Please see our guide on how to change strings here:

How to change strings on a classical guitar

Is there a difference between string tensions?

There is a difference, but it is not significant. The biggest difference is feel. You will feel less give with the higher tension strings and the extra thickness will mean fretting requires slightly more pressure, whereas lighter tension strings have more give and are easier on the left hand. On the other hand (pardon the pun), the extra diameter in thickness of heavy tension can also make the right hand feel grippier on the string. Higher tension strings may also make it easier to get good vibrato with. But the differences are all slight overall.

Setting Expectations

We will always do our best to reply to your questions, emails, comments, and Forum questions within 24 hours, but we are a small team and sometimes it may take a couple of days longer.

Email Replies

We try to reply to every email and lesson comment within 24 hours when possible. However, you may catch us on our weekends and in those cases it may take up to three days before you receive a reply. If you haven’t received a reply after a few days please reach out to us and let us know at [email protected]

Size of The CGC Team

We have a small team here at CGC, made up of five guitarists from around the world, but only three of which are full-time. Learn more about the team here. LINK TO ANCHOR POINT CGC TEAM BELOW

Common Questions

Who reads my emails?

Our Community Manager, Dave Belcher, manages the Support email account, but Simon also reads and responds to emails in that account.

Are emails auto-generated?

While some emails you receive are automated to save us time and energy, any reply you send will always receive a human reply from someone on the team.

Member Accounts


We have three types of subscriptions at CGC Academy: the Quarterly, Annual, and Annual with Coaching (Premium).

Each subscription differs from the next in terms of access, cost, and billing cycles.

  • The Quarterly subscription ($150/quarter) is intended for those who know they will only be available to use the materials at the Academy for a limited time during the year. Those who travel frequently or who have no Internet access for several months at a time may want to consider the Quarterly. However, the Quarterly subscription does not give you access to Grade Exam Submissions, the Masterclass series of courses, or Coaching Calls. Moreover, the Quarterly costs about $200 more per year. So we really recommend only using the Quarterly for a short term and then consider upgrading to the Annual membership.
    • Do I have to wait until the beginning of the quarter to sign up? No, your 3-month subscription begins the day you sign up, so it is not tied to the traditional quarters of the year.
  • The Annual subscription ($397/year) gives you access to all of the materials and courses at the Academy save for the Coaching Calls. The Annual requires a higher up-front cost but is cheaper than the Quarterly in the longer term. We highly recommend the Annual membership for most members.
  • The Annual with Coaching subscription ($797/year) gives you access to everything in the Annual subscription plus the Coaching Calls. Find out more about the Coaching Calls here. LINK TO ANCHOR BELOW


All subscriptions are billed on an autorenewal basis.

This means your subscription will automatically renew using the payment method you used when you signed up. You can change your payment method at any time by going to Account→Subscriptions→Update. You can cancel the autorenewal at any time and still retain access to your subscription until its expiration date.

Go here to learn how to cancel your subscription.

Cancellations and Refunds

You may cancel your subscription at any time and you will retain access to your subscription until it expires. We have a 30-day money-back guarantee and offer refunds for any reason within the first 30 days after you sign up.


If you need to cancel your subscription for any reason, you can either contact Support at [email protected] or go to Account→Subscriptions→Cancel. If you cancel before your subscription has ended, you will still retain access until the date the subscription expires (and you can also access the date your subscription renews/expires on that same page).

You should receive a notification one month in advance of your subscription’s autorenewal date. If your subscription renews when you had intended to cancel it, please reach out to Support at the above email.


You may request a refund within the first 30 days after you sign up. Please note we do not offer refunds after this period.


You may upgrade your membership at any point during your subscription and we will credit any time you have left on your current subscription toward the upgrade fee. 

If you are a Quarterly member and would like to upgrade to the Annual membership, first login to the Academy and then go here:

For all other upgrades, including to the Coaching Calls, either contact Support at [email protected] or go to Account→Subscriptions→Change Plan.