Question: I know there are many different aspects to teaching guitar and each contributes to the development of my guitar students’ musical abilities and success in our guitar lessons, but I want to ask you which aspect is the most important for my students to become better players? Is it teaching guitar students what they want to learn or what I want them to know? Or is it my personal relationship with them or how much stuff I give them to practice on guitar? Or is it something else that I’m missing?

Tom Hess's Answer: Developing a personal relationship with your students is great and many students like this, but the long term effect it has on their abilities to learn and play guitar is limited. Giving your students lots of new things to practice each week is one of the worst things you can do as a guitar teacher. For most students, too much content will only overwhelm them and make them feel that they aren't able to 'keep up' with your expectations.

Some teachers focus on teaching students what they 'want' to learn. Others focus only on teaching guitar students what they 'need' to learn. Fact is, both approaches are flawed. There needs to be a balance and more importantly, you need to communicate to students that what they 'need' to learn and what they 'want' to learn 'can be' one and the same as long as both of you are focused on setting and achieving the student's long term goals.

... however, the single best thing you can do for your students is to keep them coming back to you for lessons for very long periods of time. Yes, you also make a lot more money in the process (because you are paid more money over time), but keeping students in lessons longer is more in their best interest than it is yours. Why? Because you can do very little to help them improve their guitar playing unless you are actually teaching them. In addition, students often feel a sense of 'accountability' to learn and practice when they are paying for lessons. When they don't pay for lessons and meet with you each week, the 'pressure' to learn and practice is reduced and therefore they make less progress as a very general rule. In fact, the more money they pay you, the better they will generally become. Why? Because the student knows he/she has a lot invested into lessons and takes them more seriously. I charge $250 an hour for private guitar lessons. I can assure you that NOBODY pays that kind of money until and unless they are very committed to learn and practice guitar. And the result is, all of these students make a LOT of progress in a short period of time. Part of that progress comes because I am an expert experienced guitar teacher, but a big part of their success is a direct results of them taking these lessons extremely seriously and are committed to get as much out of their investment as possible... and they do.

So keep in mind that the longer they have the opportunity to work with you (assuming you are a very good teacher), the greater (and faster) your students will advance, so for this reason keeping your guitar students actively engaged in lessons with you should be a top priority for both you and them.

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