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.

Pausing Subscriptions

We do not have any way to pause subscriptions – this is a limitation of our software – but we may still be able to help out.

If you would like to take a break from the Academy in the middle of your subscription or have any other special circumstances that require you to place your subscription on hold please reach out to us by email to discuss: [email protected]


If you have an account issue please reach out to us by email, use the Contact form on the Contact page, or give us a phone call.

Please email [email protected] for any account issues you encounter. Alternatively on the Contact page you can fill out a contact form to reach us by email or to call us by phone: Contact


You can create a profile with a picture, a banner photo for your profile page, and other info like what guitar you play, your location, etc.

Your profile page will be public to other members of the Forum. However, you can customize what others see on your page as well. While your name can be seen by everyone, you can choose who sees your location or what guitar you play, etc., and you can also choose not to enter that information if you like.

To upload a profile picture, click on your name in the upper right corner of any Academy page, then click on “Change Profile Photo.” Please be sure the image is no larger than 500x500px. You can use an image resizing site to help ensure your image is the correct size.

Common Questions

Can I change my username?
Usernames (your “@” name) cannot be changed. However, you can change how your name is displayed in the Forum when you make comments on others’ posts or share anything in the Forum.

CGC Forum

The CGC Forum is the social hub where you can interact with other members as well as members of The CGC Team, ask questions, post videos, and get feedback.

Code of Conduct

At the Academy we do our best to keep all aspects of the site, including the Forum, focused on learning. For that reason we have a code of conduct to ensure safety and comfort of all our members. 

Please go here to read our Code of Conduct in full before participating in the Forum:

CGC Academy Code of Conduct

While our community is on the whole extraordinarily kind and encouraging, we have put this policy in place to help set clear expectations but also to make it clear when we may need to take action and how we will do so.

Common Questions

Can I expect to find religious or political discussion in the Forum? 

No, we do our best to moderate conversation to keep it clear from controversial topics such as religion and politics. We do our best to keep all conversations focused on learning classical guitar, which is why we are all here! We are also lucky enough to have a community that requires very little such moderation at all.

How to create a topic

You can create topics in any Forum to begin a discussion, ask questions, or post videos to share with the Team or fellow members.

How to Post a New Topic in the Forum

  1. Go to the Forum and select which Forum category you’d like to post to.
  2. Click on that category to open up a list of topics started by other members.
  3. Scroll all the way to the bottom and you’ll see a place where you can “Create New Topic in _______ [for example, Introduce Yourself].”
  4. After you’ve typed up your topic in the big text box, tick the “Notify me of follow-up replies by email” if you’d like to get an email (the one associated with your CGC account) every time someone responds to that topic. If not, just leave that blank.
  5. Click Submit. That’s it!

How to add images

In order to post an image to your post the image will first need to be uploaded to a website that hosts images.

How to Post Images in the Forum

  1. If you’d like to add an image to one of your posts/topics at the site then the image will need to have a URL address. In short, you cannot simply upload an image from your computer or device — you’ll need to upload it to a website where it will be hosted. Some popular free-to-use image-hosting sites are or
  2. After your image has a URL address you will need to copy a direct link to the image location.
  3. Then head back to the site, locate where you’d like to post your topic, and then click on the “img” button in the toolbar above the text box. Here’s a screenshot of where to find it:
  4. Paste the link you copied above and that’s it!

Check out this helpful guide and thread specifically using as well.

How to create a video

You can place the URL of any video in the text box of a topic or comment in the Forum and it will automatically show up as a video embed window.

How to Create a Video in the Forum

To create a video in the Forum, you will need to first put your video on a video hosting site like YouTube. If you have a Google account you already have a YouTube account. All you have to do is go to YouTube and click “Sign in.” You can set your video to “unlisted” in the privacy settings to ensure that only those who have the link can see and comment on the video. After you have uploaded your video, all you  have to do is click “Share” and copy the URL of the video. You can then paste the URL for the video in any Forum text box at the Academy and it will automatically embed the video in your post.

For some tips on getting the most out of your video and audio, see Dave’s guide to recording:

CGC Guide to Recording

Common Questions

Do I have to have YouTube?

You do need to use a video hosting service such as YouTube. Other options would be Vimeo, Dailymotion, and Wistia. YouTube is convenient because if you have a google account you already have a YouTube account. All you have to do is login to YouTube with your google account and you can begin uploading. All videos can be set to “unlisted” privacy to ensure only those who have the link can view it and comment on it.

Can I just use my phone? 

Yes! Learn more at the link below. ANCHOR LINK TO TECH GEAR BELOW

Do I need a separate microphone? 

No, but it can improve the quality of the audio greatly. Learn more at the link below. ANCHOR LINK TO TECH GEAR BELOW

Progress Journals

The Progress Journal gives you a space to set goals, reflect on your achievements and challenges, post updates, and receive encouragement from your peers.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Set goals: short term (1 week) medium term (1 month) long term (six months) and stretch (five years)

Set dates for these goals.

  1. Give yourself a short assessment of strengths and weaknesses. State what you would like to improve and how you are going to go about doing it.
  2. Post a video of your playing right now. This is not to impress, or to show what you are capable of, it is a marker in the ground that you can use for your own point of reference. Everyone shares the feeling of trepidation when it comes to recording and posting videos, but remember that we are all on the same team here and we want to see you improve. So take a risk and get the first recording done. It gets easier over time.

You can request feedback from the CGC Team by tagging Dave and/or Niki for feedback. To tag Niki, please type @niki anywhere in your post. To tag Dave, please type @cgc-dave anywhere in your post. Please limit feedback requests to videos under 2 minutes if possible.

The Cornerstone Method

The Cornerstone Method for Classical Guitar provides a clear and structured path to learn music notation, sight reading, fingering principles, technique, musicianship, and theory.

The curriculum at Classical Guitar Corner Academy is divided into eight grades that span beginner materials to advanced repertoire and techniques. Grades are further divided into units of study and those units are broken into individual lessons.

Lessons are progressive and should be studied in the order provided. Each exercise has been carefully designed to develop new concepts that are introduced at the outset of the lesson.

CGC Grades

The Grades provide you with a structured path to guide your learning and progress on classical guitar.

Classical Guitar Corner Academy has an extensive curriculum that covers the rather complex world of classical guitar education. With hundreds of concepts and skills to work on, it is important to stay focused and structured with your study. The grades will help you practice and result in a steady path of progress.

The grades have arranged all of the material at Classical Guitar Corner Academy into a step-by-step roadmap. Replete with technique, theory, musicianship, repertoire, sight reading, and notation, these courses are powerful learning tools.

To provide motivation and goal setting while undertaking these grades, you can choose to submit exams in the form of performances and self-assessments. In return for your efforts you will receive personalized feedback and advice on your playing along with the sense of accomplishment for reaching your musical goals. LEARN MORE ABOUT EXAMS ANCHOR POINT TO EXAMS HERE

CGC Units

Each Grade has 2-3 units of lessons to break up the large amount of material into smaller chunks to keep you focused and motivated. 

The Units have a predictable structure so you always know what to expect. Each unit of lessons begins with a lesson called “Know the Score” that introduces you to all of the elements of notation you’ll encounter in the lessons. The lessons themselves will organize topics ranging from technique and musicianship to solo and duo repertoire into a structured pathway. At the end of each unit are lessons on Scales and Arpeggios and a Practice Routine.

Common Questions

I’m an Annual member but when I try to access a lesson it says I need to be a member to access the materials — what gives?

Please be sure to click the “Take This Course” button at the top of the lesson list in each unit. If you try to click a lesson in a given unit or course before you have clicked that button you may receive that error message.

If you still have issues accessing any lessons, please email Support at [email protected]

CGC Lessons

Each lesson in the Units has a video lesson and accompanying exercises, score examples, and worksheet downloads, where relevant. 

The video lessons have close-up shots of each hand (where relevant) and score examples on screen. Just like the tabs in your Internet browser window, some lessons have multiple videos that may use tabs. Be sure to click on each tab to view all of the videos in a lesson!

Under each lesson is a space where you can “Take Notes” to jot down ideas, important concepts, and to be sure you don’t forget anything you learned. All of your notes for each lesson can be found on your Dashboard and in the My Notes page.

Once you have completed a lesson, you can use the “Mark Complete” button to mark the lesson complete and track your progress. The next time you visit the Academy, you can start where you last left off by clicking the “Resume Last Lesson” button on the Dashboard.

Common Questions

Can I download the video lessons or the audio backing tracks to use offline?

While all course materials are provided for you in PDF downloads directly below each lesson, the lessons themselves (the videos and audio backing tracks) may not be downloaded. You will always need an Internet connection to access the lessons.


Feedback can be found in a variety of ways inside the Academy: Progress Journals updates; Coaching Calls; Member Challenges; Performance Seminars; Exams; Forum questions; and lesson comments.

CGC Events

CGC Academy has a number of events both virtual and in-person, where you can interact with teachers, fellow musicians, and guest performers.

To participate in Live Sessions you will need to download software from Zoom. It is a small program, very similar to Skype and can be used on desktop, mobile, and tablet.

Download for Mac: Download Zoom for Mac

Download for Windows: Download Zoom for Windows

Use this Link to access all Live Sessions:

Please note most live sessions will be recorded and re-played for other members on the site. If you are not comfortable with having your image on the recording, please either make sure you turn off your camera or you can decide not to participate.

There may be select events that are not recorded (like our Holiday Hangouts or other such sessions) but all Open Mics, Live Performance Seminars, and Workshops are recorded and hosted in the Forum. Go here to access all replays and to learn about upcoming live sessions:

Live Member Events


Grade Exam Submissions provide you with motivation and a goal to work toward within each grade.

Grade Exams take place twice throughout the year: once in the Spring (March) and again in the Fall (September). Exams require a set number of repertoire pieces and carefully chosen technical exercises along with a written self-assessment of your progress. Exams can either be recorded on video or taken live over Zoom.

You may only submit twice in a year. However, you do not have to pass an exam to start another grade. If you feel like you’re ready to move forward before you have passed an exam, you may do so. We do ask that you only submit one grade at a time, but you may skip a grade at your own discretion.

Progress through the grades should take time. You can expect to make it through one grade in around 6-18 months. It will be a different amount of time for each person and for each grade. You’ll likely find that your progress will slow as you progress through each grade and you will need to take more time the further advanced your playing gets. So it would not be realistic to expect to make it through, say, Grades 5 and 6 in one year. We really do encourage taking more time for each grade — there’s really no downside to that extra time working on materials in one grade.

Common Questions

Are exams required? 

No, exams are not at all required. You may move through the curriculum at your own pace and from one grade to the next when you feel like you are ready. However, the exams do give you some feedback and guidance from a teacher when you are unsure or need it.

Can I submit more than one exam at a time? 

We would ask that you only submit one exam at a time. If you make it through two grades in the time between grading submissions we recommend selecting the grade you feel most comfortable with. But it is okay to skip a grade if you feel you’re ready to move on.

Do the exams cost anything extra? 

No, exams are free with Annual and Annual Premium memberships. Please note we do not offer Exams for Quarterly members at this time. You can upgrade from a Quarterly to an Annual membership here: Upgrade

Member Challenges

A month-long event inside the CGC Academy that gets everyone working together on the same topic.

The Member Challenges at CGC Academy are month-long community events that focus on one theme to help you focus on and achieve short-term goals. We hold a challenge every season and the topic for each challenge will be different for each season. The beginning of each year always kicks off the Member Challenges with a focus on technique, but topics range from scales to duets to metronome practice and much more!

The format for the challenges will differ depending on the focus for each particular month, but in general members who participate will be asked to upload weekly update videos on their progress with the challenge topic and Niki and Dave will provide feedback and guidance via comments in the Forum on each member’s videos. The challenges typically launch on the 1st of the month (schedule listed below)

  • January 1: Winter Challenge (Technique)
  • May 1: Spring Challenge
  • August 1: Summer Challenge
  • November 1: Fall Challenge

Common Questions

I’m just a beginner can I participate in the Member Challenges?

Yes, the Member Challenges are for all members, at every level. We intentionally provide materials for the challenges that align with the grades and so it is easy to work on whatever theme we are focusing on for that challenge at whatever grade level you are currently working on in the curriculum.

Performance Seminars

A live zoom session open to all Academy members with four to eight performers that receive direct feedback from a teacher. 

  • The aim of these sessions is to allow people to practice their pieces in a live setting. It is a great way to test out your performance in front of a supportive and like minded group while also getting the adrenaline rush of a live performance!
  • There will be six to eight available performance slots of ten minutes each. Performance slots are on a first come first serve basis and you can sign up in the Live Events Forum
  • If you would like to audit passively you can. You can even turn off your video feed if you wish to relax and just watch.
  • The teacher will offer some feedback to people who play and if time permits we can talk about some related techniques.

Common Questions

Are these sessions only open to advanced performers?

Absolutely not! All are welcome to participate as performers at any grade level, even complete beginners. It is a safe space to perform and get feedback on how you’re doing from a teacher. All are also welcome to sit in and listen and join in for the International Round of Applause.

Open Mics

The Open Mics provide you the opportunity to perform often in a safe environment.

The Open Mics happen every two weeks and everyone is welcome to play something. Unlike the Performance Seminar, there is no feedback offered in these sessions, just the support and encouragement of your community and an International Round of Applause.

To sign up for an Open Mic, go to Forum→Live Member Events and locate the most recent Open Mic posting. We announce Open Mic signups in the Live Member Events Forum and in the weekly Member Newsletter (which goes out on Wednesdays) every two weeks.


From time to time we host workshops with guest artists and members of the CGC Team that gives us the opportunity to workshop ideas either not present in the curriculum or to expand on certain topics. 

We have had wonderful workshops at the Academy ranging from how to practice to how to care for your guitar to early music. Our guests have included Bradford Werner, Dr. Connie Sheu, Ben Verdery, Richard Savino, Chris Mallett, Richard Charlton, and more.

Go here to view our workshops

Summer School

Each summer we host an intensive in-person week-long guitar festival called The CGC Summer School near Boston in the United States. 

This wonderful event provides the opportunity for teacher concerts, ensemble and orchestra playing, open mics, lessons, and socializing.

Go here to learn more about the Summer School


Every October we host an annual workshop with guest artists, concerts, workshops, and open mics called Guitoberfest.

Dubbed “Guitoberfest” by friend of CGC Colin Davin, one of our first guest artists, this event has taken place both in-person in New York City and online. Generally Guitoberfest takes place over the course of two days and it is a great opportunity to meet members of the team, learn from amazing artists, and share some camaraderie with fellow members.

Visit our Guitoberfest Forum to view past replays, get updates, and more

Go here for info on the current Guitoberfest

Regional Workshops

Occasionally we or our members host in-person workshops and similar events where our members can get together to hang out and perhaps play guitar together.

CGC has directly or indirectly hosted several in-person events, including the Virigina meetup, the Southern California meetup, and others in Philadelphia, New York, and Texas. Our most recent event was our NYC Summer Workshop, a two-day event with guest artist Ben Verdery, members of the CGC Team, and 15 musicians from around the country.

CGC Show

The CGC Show is a live show on the CGC YouTube channel where we host interviews and workshops, discuss educational topics, and get the chance to hang out virtually as a community.

CGC Coaching Calls

Coaching calls give you an opportunity to get direct and personal feedback about your playing.

  • Coaching calls are intended to offer members of CGC Academy an opportunity to get direct and personal feedback about their playing. The teachers who run the coaching calls are experienced musicians, familiar with the CGC curriculum, and embody the kind supportive spirit of our Academy.
  • Coaching calls are not intended to be weekly private lessons with regular time slots. Unlike private lessons that have a planned progression of study with preparation by the teacher, the coaching calls are brief but powerful “check-ins” that help you answer questions or guide your work. The curriculum at CGC provides a powerful learning path and the coaching calls offer agile guidance along that path.
  • Each session runs for 15 minutes and each member can have a maximum of 1 session per week.
  • We use Zoom for our calls
  • You are welcome to work on any classical guitar related material in your lesson, regardless of whether it is in the curriculum or not.
  • You are also welcome to send a video link ahead of time so that the teacher has high quality audio and video to reference. The video will be viewed in the 15 minute session.
  • You are welcome to watch other coaching calls but we ask that you mute your audio and turn your video off.
  • Sign ups become available exactly two weeks before each session and are usually in 2 hour blocks (8 consecutive sessions)

Setting expectations

  • Teachers may change week-to-week in different time slots.
  • We hold coaching calls each Saturday except for major public holidays.
  • Teaching slots will be added and or removed to adjust to demand.
  • The pricing of the coaching call program may change in the future.
  • In periods of high demand availability may be limited but you can expect, on average, to find availability open at least every two weeks.
  • Sometimes slots will not be filled in a session. In this case the teacher may take a break or, they may choose to extend someones session if appropriate. If a slot is free it is not possible to drop in and ask to take that spot without having signed up previously.
  • You may only sign up for a total of three (3) coaching calls per calendar month.


  • The coaching calls will be available to current members of CGC Academy and will have quarterly registration in addition to normal membership dues.
  • As of May 2020, the price of the coaching call program will be $100 per quarter.
  • You must maintain an active CGC Academy membership to participate in the coaching call program.
  • The pricing of this program is subject to change in the future.



CGC hosts two amazing podcasts: Simon hosts The CGC Podcast with amazing guest interviews like John Williams and David Russell and in-depth conversations about all things classical guitar; and Roger Ramirez hosts the CGCA Member’s Podcast, which features discussions with members of the CGC Team as well as interviews of fellow members. 

The CGC Podcast began originally as a way for Simon to answer members’ questions. Eventually it grew into the wonderful medium you know today, which consists of interviews with masters such as David Russell, John Williams, and Berta Rojas, along with many educational discussions regarding music, the guitar, and life. A new episode comes out on Sundays every couple of weeks or so. Go here to listen to The CGC Podcast:

The CGC Academy Member’s Podcast is a volunteer effort organized and run by Academy member Roger Ramirez. Roger thought it would provide fellow members with inspiration to hear stories of others who are on the same journey learning classical guitar, and it has been a great success with 75+ episodes to date. A new episode comes out every two weeks on Wednesdays. Go here to listen to The CGC Academy Member’s Podcast:

Community Calendar

The Community Calendar is a space where you can let fellow members know about a concert coming up in your local area or online 

We have created a Community Calendar where you can post about any upcoming events in your area or online. We ask that you please post any such calendar events here and not elsewhere in the Forum:

Read more about our policies on posting in the Forum in our Code of Conduct.

CGC Sheet Music

A collection of PDF downloads of materials and resources ranging from solo and duo repertoire, to exercises and homework, to practice routines and worksheets. 

At CGC we have published no less than four core books that are central to the Academy’s graded curriculum in the last five years. You can purchase spiral-bound copies or full PDF’s of these books at or perfect-bound copies on Amazon.

However, the materials found in each of these books is available to you as part of your membership here at CGC Academy. You will find individual PDF downloads of all solo and duo repertoire sheet music along with any accompanying materials and exercises directly below each relevant lesson (including Practice Routines, homework exercises, worksheets, etc.).

Can I purchase full PDF downloads of the books?
Yes, you will find PDF downloads for purchase of each of the books at either:


I love the CGC Books! How can I help spread the word?

Especially if you purchased your book from Amazon (but even if you didn’t!) we would appreciate a positive review of any of our books at Amazon. Go here to learn how to share a review. LINK TO ANCHOR POINT ON HOW TO HELP CGC BELOW

Can I get the TABs?

While we do not use TAB here at CGC Academy, we have created a TAB version of our Graded Repertoire book that is available for separate purchase at one of the above links.

There are many reasons we don’t use TAB, but we highly encourage you to learn to read standard notation, which is so important for learning repertoire on classical guitar. The Cornerstone Method will give you the grounding to learn to read music and later to sight read music as well. All of the tools you need to learn notation are here in the Academy’s graded curriculum.

CGC Libraries

We have several libraries where we have organized lessons from the graded curriculum by topic or list.

The Libraries make it convenient to find something quickly you’re looking for. Here are links to each of the libraries:

CGC Courses

A collection of full, standalone courses ranging from technique to theory to reading music, and more. 

We have organized several different standalone courses that you can either work through from beginning to end or find material relevant to your grade level. For instance, you can work through the stretching course with Evita or the Cadences course or the learn how to read music course from beginning to end. These courses offer you a great sense of accomplishment and each course is full of relevant helpful information to help you progress on your classical guitar journey.

Other courses, like the Graded Duets or Scales and Arpeggios, are graded and so some material will not be relevant for your grade level. However, it can still be helpful to have a standalone course on one topic where you can find material you’re looking for at your grade level.

  • Scales and Arpeggios Course: Scales & Arpeggios Course
  • Graded Duets Course: Graded Duets, Grades 1-4
  • Learn how to read music course (cornerstone grade 1)
  • Cadences Course
  • Ornamentation Course
  • CAGED Course (+ James’s Fingerboard Knowledge Workshop)
  • Orientation Course
  • Fundamentals Course
  • Warmups Course
  • Stretching Course with Evita
  • Theory Course

Meet the CGC Team

In addition to Simon Powis, the Founder and Director of Classical Guitar Corner, we have a team of wonderful guitarists and human beings here at CGC.

Meet Simon Powis: Meet Simon

  • Guitar: 2008 Paul Sheridan
  • Strings: D’Addario
  • Support: Ergoplay Tappert

Meet Dave Belcher our Community Manager: Meet Dave

Meet Niki Todesco our Events and Publishing Manager: Meet Niki

Meet James Erickson: James Erickson GuitaristEricksonGuitar.net

  • Guitar: 2015 Steve Porter
  • Strings: D’Addario
  • Support: Ergoplay

Meet Sanja Plohl: Sanja Plohl – Classical guitaristsanjaplohl.com

  • Guitars: Stephan Connor spruce guitar (64cm), Daniele Chiesa cedar guitar (64cm)
  • Strings: 1st: Augustine regals, 2nd-6th Savarez Alliance Cantiga or Cantiga premium, normal tension
  • Support: Ergoplay for practicing and teaching, foot stool for performances

Contacting the CGC Team

You can contact the CGC Team by email any day of the week and by phone Tuesday through Saturday.

Please email [email protected] if you have any questions, need assistance with a site or account issue, or really for anything else. In most situations you can expect to receive a reply by email within 1 day. However, please know if it is our weekend it could be up to three days before you get a response. Alternatively, on the Contact page you can fill out a contact form to reach us by email or to call us by phone. Our hours of operation for phone calls are Tuesday through Friday 9am until 4:30pm NYC time, and Saturdays 7 – 11am NYC time.


The CGC Story

Simon’s first musical experience began at 5 years old playing the Cornet in a marching band. Only a few years later (around age 11 or 12) he asked his father if he could play the guitar. His dad said, “Oh, yeah, there’s one in the cupboard.” And Simon never looked back.

Simon did his guitar studies with Rafaelle Agostino in Sydney, then moved on to the Royal College of Music in London, and later studied with Ben Verdery at Yale. Simon was the first guitarist in a generation to receive a doctorate in music from Yale.

When Simon was still learning as a student at Yale, he began to jot down penny-dropping moments from his studies and then started sharing these in blog articles. Eventually these educational articles grew into Classical Guitar Corner. Initially, the idea was to create a tool for online learning on classical guitar.

This was back in 2010 and in addition to these articles Simon was writing a set of books on scales, technique, and eventually repertoire in an attic where he rented space. All of this turned into Membership at CGC with a full curriculum of lessons.

Now, all of this was before the existence of CGC Academy. We still had a burgeoning community of members from all over the world at CGC during this time, though the curriculum had a different organizational structure. But a lot of changes happened over the next several years:

  • Dave Belcher started working with Simon in February 2016.
  • “CGC Academy” started in September 2017.
  • We launched the beautiful experiment of the Coaching Calls in February 2018.
  • We launched “CGC 2.0,” with the introduction of the Grades curriculum on September 1, 2018 (and Dave went full time as the new Community Manager at CGC).
  • Nicoletta “Niki” Todesco joined the team in February 2019.
  • James Erickson and Sanja Plohl joined the team in October 2019.
  • Niki went full time as our Events and Publishing Manager in June 2020.

CGC’s Story is still evolving and we’re glad you’re a part of it! You can learn more about Simon’s beginnings with the podcast and CGC in the podcast episode below:

How can I help CGC?

The biggest way you can help CGC is by word of mouth: writing a review of our books on Amazon, sharing posts, podcast episodes, and lessons on social media, and telling your friends and guitar societies about CGC helps us so much. Thank you!

If you would like to write a review of one of our books on Amazon, please follow these instructions.

  1. Go to this link and locate the book you’d like to review:
  2. Click on the number next to the stars just below the title/author.
  3. On the left you’ll see “Write a Customer Review”
  4. You’ll need to sign in to Amazon to submit a review

We highly encourage you to share our Facebook and Instagram posts! You can find our Facebook page here:

And here’s our Insta:

Guitar Gear

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

What is a classical guitar you recommend for beginners? 

We highly recommend Córdoba classical guitars. There is a broad range of models and price ranges, from the C3 up to the C12. All of these feature solid tops and are well-made, consistent instruments with great sound. There are many other brands that are fantastic, but we have had very positive experiences as well as feedback from members who use these instruments.

What is a luthier built classical guitar you would recommend? 

We recommend you ask fellow members in the Forum. You’ll find a wealth of information there, including many first-hand experiences of commissioning an instrument, cost, and who are some great builders. One very popular builder with many Academy members is Marcus Dominelli, a Canadian luthier.

What guitar support do you recommend? 

There is a huge variability in the feel of different supports, so there really is no substitute for experimentation to find what works for you. Simon uses the Ergoplay Tappert and both Dave and Niki use the GuitarLift. However, many members use the Gitano, the Sageworks, and many also use a footstool. There are tradeoffs and benefits with each. Experiment!

Technology Gear

When it comes to technology gear, all you really need is an audio/video device (your phone will work just fine) but you can upgrade audio and video gear for better quality. 

Yes, you can always “upgrade” your gear for better quality, but your phone can do an amazing job all on its own.

If you want to start somewhere, we recommend purchasing an external microphone you can connect to your device (phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer). An external microphone can make a big difference in the audio quality as it separates the audio from your device, which usually cleans up the signal. You might begin with a USB microphone (that attaches to your device with a USB cable) but you’ll get the cleanest sound with a USB interface you plug the microphone into. This is of course more expensive and more moving parts means more possibility for issues! However, the quality of the audio will be much improved.

Another important aspect of video is lighting. The sensors on our phones, webcams, and even larger cameras don’t see well in the dark. So every device will artificially raise the brightness of the image digitally — and this adds noise or grain to the image. A noisy image can make it blurry and colors won’t look quite right. The best solution to this problem is to give the sensor more light! So having some light source shining on you to help raise the exposure will mean the sensor doesn’t have to artificially brighten the image, making it much less noisy. The best light will be window light as it will be soft and pleasing to the eye and it’s plenty bright! The downside is the sun sometimes goes behind clouds and of course it also sets in the evening. Thus, you may want to have some artificial light shining on you for video calls.

Dave’s lights, mics, and cameras:

CGC Guide to Recording