Question: Hey Tom Hess, thanks for taking my question. I teach some advanced and a few very advanced guitar students. I usually do pretty good with them, although I know I could help them even more if I knew all the things you do. Can you tell me what one thing will likely have the biggest effect on my advanced guitar students? I want to know what they want and need most, although I suspect they often can’t articulate that to me. Here is what I was thinking might be most important – teaching them advanced guitar playing things, advanced musical things (that does not relate directly to guitar), how to use what they already know, how to write their own music.

Tom Hess's Answer: Of course most advanced guitar students want to learn more advanced guitar playing concepts and other musical concepts, and they also want to learn more about how to apply the knowledge and skills they already have. Some of these advanced guitar players want to use their talents in life by becoming professional musicians or teaching guitar themselves. These things are often true for most advanced guitar students... however...

Most advanced guitar students have one thing they want more than anything else and in fact is the primary reason why they seek a guitar teacher (or continue to take lessons with their current guitar teacher). After years of extensive polling, research, testing and working with hundreds of guitar students and mentoring scores of other successful guitar teachers I have found that the number 1 motivating factor for advanced guitar students working with a guitar teacher is to learn how to overcome frustrating problems that they weren't able to resolve effectively or efficiently on their own.

Ok, so we've established what the number 1 need of advanced guitar students is, but how should this influence us as guitar teachers to design our guitar lesson plans and strategies to help these students solve those problems? Well, as you can imagine, the answer to that question is pretty deep with a lot of details. This idea is one of the core concepts I train guitar teachers to do in my program for helping people learn how to teach guitar. To get you started, begin thinking about the core differences between 'teaching' somebody something and 'coaching' them to overcome obstacles and challenges. When you 'teach guitar', the main activity is to present, explain and demonstrate new concepts to your guitar student. When you 'coach' your student, you may not 'teach him/her' anything 'new' or give him/her anything 'new' to practice. Instead, you are there to make sure that what the student is playing / practicing is correct, consistent and efficient. Think about the difference between a school teacher (someone who 'teaches') and a sports coach who 'coaches' athletes. Teaching guitar well is a balance of these two (among other things). Often times teaching advanced students is more coaching based and less teaching based because of the needs that most guitar students have at this level of their musicianship. 


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