Starting levels are a way to give you a better idea as to which lessons will be best for you, and hopefully will eliminate misconceptions as to the ease or difficulty of a given lesson. Please be aware, though, that there may be different perceptions as to what is "easy," "challenging," "intermediate," etc. depending on your individual attributes, so these definitions should be taken with some flexibility. (You may consider yourself a pretty hot player compared to the kid down the street, but what about next to Dr. John or Tony Rice?) In addition, some parts of a lesson may be at one level, while other parts may be at another. These notes are simply to try to guide you and help you choose the lesson that's right for you.
The levels are...
1.) Novice: No prior experience on your instrument is necessary. The instructor starts with the assumption that this is your very first lesson.
2.) Near-Beginner: Instructor assumes that you have not been playing very long, but know the basics. The material is still at a very easy level, but certain elementary things are not explained.
3.) Early Intermediate: You have been playing a while and can play some songs and/or instrumentals without too much difficulty. Now you want to move into specific styles, develop your repertoire and increase your technique. The instructor still covers the material in detail, but there are more challenges.
4.) Intermediate: You have a good technique and a working knowledge of your instrument, but want to break out of patterns and get "unstuck" in order to move on to more advanced material. Downloads at this level should push you into new areas, develop confidence and a deeper musical understanding so you can start to improvise.
5.) Advanced Intermediate: The instructor does not provide as much detail, and works on material that will bring you to an advanced or professional level. As in all our lessons, important musical concepts are covered, and more stimulating and demanding material is provided for anyone looking for a real challenge.
All.) No specific level can be attributed to this lesson, so it is suitable for anyone who wants to give it a try.
Some additional advice
It is sometimes better to work with a lesson that is slightly more advanced than your current level, to challenge and push you into areas that you may not have gone otherwise. On the other hand, for some people "back to basics" may be the best way to go. A beginning lesson will show you things that you may have missed along the way, especially if you are self-taught. You may be a very proficient player in one style (flatpick guitar, for instance) but want to get into a technique that you have never played before (such as fingerpicking). Even though you are not a beginner, you may have to go back to the basic lesson in order to develop your new style correctly. You must choose for yourself which direction would be best for you. Keep in mind that a solid foundation will lead to a much more satisfying future.
You may find your lesson difficult at first, but you'll eventually get it. It just takes work, determination and practice. You may not be able to play like your instructor (remember that he or she has been playing professionally for many years), but you'll derive great satisfaction from the progress you make. Don't expect too much from yourself or you'll get frustrated and want to give up. Revel in the small steps that you achieve from day to day and week to week, and one day you'll discover that you've made a giant leap "overnight."
Here's an inspirational quote from one of the most popular instructors of Homespun Music Instruction:
"Developing independent thumb and finger movement was unbelievably hard for me because it seemed so alien, but it just happened when I learned "Sally, Where'd You Get Your Liquor From," literally one measure at a time, and I really thought out what I was doing. When I would get two or three measures together I would work on them until I could do it properly....It wasn't easy, but one day I could do it." (Jorma Kaukonen - Acoustic Guitar Magazine Nov. 1995)