Question: Hi Tom Hess, when I am trying to fix a guitar student's problem, what should I focus on first? Should I begin with the biggest cause of a problem, the most fundamental guitar playing issue (for example hand positions), the physical issues or the mental ones?

Tom Hess's Answer: When teaching guitar, the most important thing to always remember is you are not teaching 'music', you are teaching 'people'. As you know, people have emotions, they get frustrated, they sometimes doubt themselves and their musical potential. They beat themselves up inside their own minds when problems seem hard to fix or their guitar playing progress is slow. Because teaching guitar is about teaching 'people' and not really about teaching 'guitar', the top priority needs to be helping your guitar students to overcome the emotional challenges that they have when learning and practicing guitar. This is why helping your students to see some immediate improvement and building confidence in themselves is so critical. This is the foundation that guitar teachers need to establish and then maintain always. Once your students understand they CAN overcome a minor issue with their playing, they are much more willing to believe in themselves (and in you) that they can and will overcome the next (bigger) issue in front of them. This is one of the keys to success as a guitar teacher.

Guitar playing problems usually have 'multiple' contributing factors (causes). These causes typically compound on each other to make the problem hard to overcome. By correcting the 'easiest to solve' cause first, you can quickly reduce the compounding effect that your student has to deal with when trying to correct the overall problem.

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