Because of the quantity of emails I get coming through I thought I'd get some of the most common questions out of the way in this FAQ page :)
Stuff about Justin
How many years have you been playing guitar?
I began playing when I was around 6 years old on a ukulele, but I was eager to get playing guitar as soon as possible, always getting excited when I saw someone playing guitar or there was one shown on television. At my primary school children had to prove their musical ability by learning recorder, so I spent a summer holiday working through the recorder book the school provided, and when the next year started (aged 9) I was allowed to start learning to play the guitar.
My first teacher taught us basic chords and notes, but never played more than what we were due to study, so I spent the next summer holidays practicing all day every day with the idea that if I practiced a lot I would get better than the teacher! I learnt many songs and started to learn to use my ears to work out pop and blues songs off the radio and LP records.
The teacher was impressed with how much I had learned, but he always knew a lot more than I did. It inspired me to practice even harder. I started a band with a drummer that year and we did our first gig at the end of primary school leaving party.
When did you start teaching guitar?
I started teaching when I was 12 years old. I didn't know a lot, but I found I could explain things easy to other local kids (and some adults too!). I didn't charge very much, but it gave me a little money that I could spend on getting my own private lessons!
This continued while I was at high school and when I reached college (aged 16) I started teaching at a private music school, The Hobart College of Music, teaching 2 evenings a week.
When I finished college I was accepted to The Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music to study classical guitar. At that point I started teaching at Elizabeth College (where I has been a student the year before).
Where is Tasmania and what is it like?
Tasmania is an island off the south east coast of Australia. I was born in the UK but my family moved there when I was less than a year old. It is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, with 20% of the island being a World Heritage Listed area. I must admit that I did not appreciate it's natural beauty until I had moved to the UK, growing up I felt stuck in a small town with not much future as a musician.
I try and make it home every couple of years. I nearly always go camping at my favourite place in the world called Wineglass Bay on the East coast. Last trip there I befriended a wild wallaby that came to see me e. I hope one day to be able to afford to have a place there, but as an ambitious musician, it is better to live in the big smoke of London.
Why and when did you move to London?
I moved to London in 1996 after receiving a grant from Arts Tasmania, who paid me to come to London to study. I chose to study at The Guitar Institute (now called the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, ICMP) where I was awarded the "Student of the year" award. I started teaching there 2 years after finishing my studies, and although I don't have time to teach there regularly any longer, I am a visiting faculty member and go in and teach masterclasses.
I found the move scary and exciting and it took quite a while for me to make new friends and get settled, but after my year was up I decided that I would stay a bit longer and try my luck in the UK music scene.
When did you start justinguitar.com?
I first registered the name in July 2003, I was learning how to build web sites so I could make them for bands I was playing with, and decided to make a teaching site to advertise myself as a private tutor. When I noticed that there were nearly 100 people a day using the site I got quite excited by the idea and started adding more and more content.
But that said, the site did not start to see large numbers of visitors until 2006/7 when the internet really became something everyone was using and visitors went from 100's a day to 1000's!!
Why did you make justinguitar.com free?
When I first started doing the free lessons I got a lot of thank you emails from people that wanted to learn to play guitar but could not afford lessons. I thought it was a great way to give something back for all the joy that music has given me, so I decided to run it as a free site.
I get emails every day from people across the world that appreciate the free lessons and that inspires me to keep it free. I really feels great to be able to help so many people share the beauty of music.
How many unique visitors just justinguitar.com get a day?
As of May 2013, the site is getting well over 25,000 unique visitors a day (up to 40,000!!). The majority come from the US and the UK, but also significant numbers from Australia, Canada, Germany and Spain. According to my google statistics there are less than 10 countries in the world where I have had no visitors!
The site is being translated into twelve languages and numbers are growing in the countries where I have translations done, so I expect that it will continue to spread further around the globe as the translations continue. The translators are all volunteers that do the work as a way of thanking me for the site, which I think is super cool, and I greatly appreciate all their hard work.
The site is ranked well inside the top 35,000 web sites globally at Alexa.
How many lessons are on the site?
At last count it is over 700 lessons. Most lessons contain 10 minute videos (although there are some shorter videos and some much longer, the longest is 46 minutes!).
How many views have you had on YouTube?
I have two channels on Youtube, one for lessons and one for songs. The combined views for both channels is well over 166,000,000 - yep... 166 Million!! wow... that really spins my head! ;) (statistic of combined YouTube channels at at May 2014).
When did you start selling products?
As much as I would like to have been able to keep everything for free, I realised that by earning some money from the site I could take more time away from paid work and spend more time on the site. So in 2007 I started selling some DVD's and books from the site, as well as accepting donations.
We are trying out a new system, where we give away the content, but them also sell the same video's as DVD's, in the hope that if someone likes the course, they will want to support the site by buying the DVD's and supporting more free lessons (for those that can't afford it) and so far it is working ok.
Do many people make donations?
I live in the hope that enough people will make donations that I can afford to stop selling products and give everything away. But at the moment only about 0.02% of visitors make a donation. I am very grateful to the many that understand the concept... but if every user gave me just $1 a month, I would make more than half a million dollars a month and could make the site amazing for that - employ tutors and video editors and a web site development team... oh the carrot of temptation.
What live experience have you had?
I was playing in many different bands from an early age in many styles, rock metal bands, blues bands, funk and jazz bands. A few years after my move to the UK I joinedThe Counterfeit Stones (a Rolling Stones tribute band) with whom I played over a thousand gigs across the UK and Europe over 6 years. In 2005 I joined Katie Melua's live band and toured with her extensively for 3 years and played some amazing concerts including Live Earth and many major TV and radio appearances. (more on the about Justin page). I made a page of video's with a bunch of live performances with various bands too!
Do you play other instruments?
Guitar is my first instrument, but I also sing, play harmonica and lap steel guitar. On the song I Turn To Tell Her (from my album Small Town Eyes ) I play Wurlitzer electric piano, there's no guitar on the track!
My favourite instrument though, is a song. I love playing songs more than guitar. Guitar is just a tool to help me play and write songs. It is writing and performing my own material that satisfies me the most. These days I do very little "practice" because I spend all my time writing and recording.
Thanks for reading and take care, J