10 Guitar Teaching Mistakes That Hurt Your Income And Limit Your Guitar Students’ Progress
by Tom Hess
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Building a successful guitar teaching business is about knowing 3 things:
- The right steps to take to build your business and teach your guitar students.
- How to take each step in the best, easiest and most effective way possible.
- What order to take the steps in, so you can build your business quickly.
Many guitar teachers take the steps out of order (or take the wrong steps) due to fear, insecurities and procrastination.
Fears lead to strategic mistakes and make it hard to teach your guitar students effectively. These mistakes also limit the amount of money you can earn in your business.
Mistake #1. Waiting Too Long To Start Teaching Guitar
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- A desire to teach and help others.
- A strong ambition to build a successful guitar teaching business.
- Get a mentor (who helps guitar teachers become successful) to coach you on how to build a guitar teaching business.
Want to know if you are truly ready to start teaching guitar? Download this free guitar teaching checklist and see if you can answer “yes” to the questions inside. If you honestly answer “yes” to all the questions, you can begin teaching your first student today :)
Question: “But Tom Hess, doesn't it take a lot more than that to teach guitar well? Don’t I also need guitar teaching skills to be a good guitar teacher?”
Answer: Of course... and there are only 2 ways for you to develop guitar teaching skills:
- START teaching guitar as soon as possible. This give you the hands-on experience you need to become a good guitar teacher.
- Get ongoing guitar teacher training to learn how to teach guitar better. This helps you become a great guitar teacher much more quickly.
Question: “How do I know if my musical skills are good enough to start teaching guitar?”
Answer: Ask an expert guitar teacher to give you objective feedback on your musical skills. Tip: You get more useful feedback if that teacher also coaches other guitar teachers how to teach guitar.
Mistake #2: Being Afraid To Promote Yourself As A Guitar Teacher
Many new guitar teachers think: “I'm not really good enough as a guitar teacher to promote myself heavily. When I get more experience teaching guitar, then I’ll promote myself more.”
This way of thinking is completely upside down and backwards. Here is why:
When are you more likely to get a lot of experience teaching guitar? By teaching 3-4 students? Or by teaching 100 students? The answer is obvious…but the reasons behind the answer are not obvious. Of course you get more experience with 100 students than with 3-4 students….but NOT only because you work with more people.
Here are the real reasons:
- All guitar students are different. They have different goals, challenges, levels of motivation, personalities and backgrounds. The faster you get experience dealing with different types of students, the faster you become a better guitar teacher. Working with the same 3-4 guitar students for too long develops blind spots in your approaches to teaching guitar. These blind spots make you less effective as a teacher.
- Having more students forces you to refine other (administrative) aspects of your guitar teaching business. These elements help you to scale your business, so you can attract more and more students (and teach them all effectively). They include:
- A rock-solid guitar lesson policy
- Systems for enrolling students, processing payments and doing accounting
- Guitar lesson formats that give your students the best results
The faster you build these areas of your business, the more fun teaching guitar becomes for you, the more money you earn and the better you are able to help your guitar students.
Your Action Step: Start promoting your guitar teaching business as soon as you begin teaching. Get as many students as you can as quickly as you can.
Want to learn how to attract (and keep) a lot more guitar students? Study this free guitar teaching guide to learn how to never struggle again to fill your teaching schedule.
Mistake #3. Not Teaching Group Classes
Teaching group classes the right way helps your students become better guitar players compared to private lessons. (This guitar teaching business video explains why.) This also helps you earn a lot more money teaching guitar.
Many guitar teachers are afraid to teach in groups, because:
- They assume that students learn better in private lessons. Wrong! There are many elements of guitar playing your students never learn in 1-1 lessons. Examples include: playing with other musicians, overcoming stage fright and live performing skills. Group lessons also help your students learn from each other and be more motivated to progress faster than their peers. The group format is more dynamic and fun than private lessons. The more fun your students have, the longer they keep taking lessons. The longer they take lessons, the better they become as guitar players (more on this below).
- They don’t know how to teach groups effectively. This problem is very easily overcome by getting guitar teacher training.
- They assume that teaching group lessons is harder than private lessons. Fact is, teaching group lessons is much, much easier than 1-1 lessons (when done the right way). Your workload is greatly reduced and you have more fun with your students. You also have more options for creating activities that speed up your students’ progress. Examples: ensemble classes, live performance classes and guitar practice classes.
- They assume that guitar students want to learn only in private lessons. False. Your guitar students don’t care about your lesson format. They only care about improving their guitar playing and having fun in the process. When you prove to them that your guitar lessons are effective and fun, your students will be eager to study with you in any format.
Your action steps: Enroll your students into group classes immediately and learn how to teach group classes the right way.
Mistake #4: Waiting Too Long To Charge What You Are Worth
Most guitar teachers think: “I’ll start off teaching guitar lessons for free (or charging little money). Then when I get more experience, I’ll charge more.”
This approach sets you up for failure. Here is why:
Low guitar lesson rates make it easy to justify mediocre guitar teaching. Your students don’t expect greatness from you (because they pay you little or nothing for guitar lessons). This removes urgency from you to become the best guitar teacher you can be. The result: Your guitar students miss out on the value you can and should be providing them. You miss out on the money you can and should be earning.
Next, it’s much harder to raise lesson rates on your current students than it is to charge all students what you should be charging. . Put yourself in the mind of your students. If they are used to paying you $70 per month, they will not be happy when you raise the tuition to $170 per month (even if you are worth every penny).
Action Steps For You: Charge more for guitar lessons than other teachers do in your area. Then take massive action to improve your guitar teaching skills quickly. This makes it easy to justify your higher rates (and attracts more serious guitar students to you).
Mistake #5. Procrastinating On Getting Guitar Teacher Training
Many guitar teachers don't get any training on how to teach guitar, because:
- They aren’t aware that guitar teacher training exists.
- They lack ambition to improve their guitar teaching skills.
- They think: “I can’t afford guitar teacher training.” Or “I need to earn more money in my guitar teaching business first before investing in training.”
This mindset is wrong.
Guitar teacher training is an investment in your business, not an expense. It helps you make a lot more money than you ever invest into it. Here is how:
- You learn effective promotional strategies to attract more guitar students.
- Having guitar teacher training gives you a powerful credential that your competitors can’t match (even if they have advanced music degrees). This helps you convert guitar students who contact you into your actual students.
- You can charge more money for your guitar lessons. Your students will gladly pay it, because of the massive value they receive from you.
- You learn how to help your students become great guitarists faster. This builds your reputation in your local area and brings you more students via referrals.
Disclaimer: You may know that I train guitar teachers to teach guitar. So you may think that everything above is only written to attract you to join my guitar teacher training program. If you think this, you are only half right. I do want to help guitar teachers like yourself become successful. But the benefits of guitar teacher training are undeniable whether you work with me or not. :)
Action Step For You: Invest in guitar teacher training to grow your business faster.
Mistake #6. Not Planning For Long-Term Growth
Most guitar teachers have no long-term vision for their business. They only focus on how many new students they want to get in the next 1-2 months.
This incremental thinking works only if you are happy to earn a little bit of money, teach a few guitar students and work a lot more than you have to. Building a serious business (teaching 250 students or more, working part-time) is impossible with this mindset.
Question: “Tom Hess, how can anybody teach 250+ guitar students effectively, especially working part-time?”
Answer: This is impossible if you teach all your guitar students in private lessons. Teaching this many students is very possible with other teaching model(s) that are proven to be better than private lessons.
Build your guitar teaching business with the end in mind. Decide how you want your business to look 3 (or more) years from now.
- How many guitar students do I want to have?
- How much money do I want to earn?
- How will I teach the students I have 3 or more years from now?
- How can I ensure that my guitar students get great results when they study with me?
(Tip: be ambitious when you set your goals. Base your goals on what YOU want…not based on what the average guitar teachers are achieving).
Next, break your big long-term goal down into small actionable steps. Work backwards from where you want to be to where you are now. This tells you what you must do next to get closer to your goal and makes your actions congruent with your desired outcome. Such a process takes out all guesswork from growing your business. It also prevents painting yourself into a corner and burning yourself out.
Mistake #7. Solving Your Guitar Students’ Problems In The Wrong Order
Your guitar students have many problems they must solve to reach their musical goals. The order in which you solve their problems is critically important. Solving your students’ biggest problems first kills their confidence and motivation. The road ahead of them looks long and frustrating. This frustration drives many students to quit lessons.
Solve your students’ easiest problems first. This builds their self-confidence, makes your guitar lessons more fun and builds their trust in you.
This video shows how to solve problems in the right order when teaching sweep picking to your guitar students:
Mistake #8. Waiting Too Long To Teach Your Guitar Students To Apply Their Skills
Most guitar teachers wait until a student has fully mastered a concept or technique in isolation before they train them to apply it. This is a mistake. Your students must learn to use every concept you teach them long before it is mastered. This helps them to:
- Integrate all their skills together a lot faster and make more progress.
- See the big picture behind everything you teach them. This increases their motivation to practice guitar.
- Trust you more as their guitar teacher. This is key to long-term student retention (more on this below).
Question: “But Tom Hess, won’t my guitar students develop bad habits by applying skills before they are mastered?”
Answer: No. Your guitar students will continue to practice their skills in isolation and refine them while training to apply them. Application training doesn't replace perfect isolation practice, it enhances it. This helps your students progress faster.
Mistake #9. Teaching Guitar Using A Linear Approach
Guitar teachers often teach musical (and guitar playing) topics in the wrong order.
- Teaching beginner guitar students to read music. This takes all the fun out of playing guitar for beginner students, makes them frustrated and drives them to quit lessons.
- Teaching students about intervals in music theory before teaching them about chords and scales. Your students can’t apply their knowledge of intervals until they understand the big picture of how chords and scales work. When your students can’t apply music theory, they begin to avoid it and make slower progress as a result.
- Waiting to teach improvising, songwriting or creativity until the student becomes advanced. This causes your guitar students’ skills to be out of balance and makes it hard to apply the skills they’ve learned.
Teaching guitar in a personalized and geometric way solves these problems. “Personalized” refers to a customized lesson strategy you must create for each student. “Geometric” means to help your students develop several musical skills at the same time.
Mistake #10. Not Thinking About Student Retention…Until It’s Too Late
Retention is the amount of time your guitar students stay with you.
Most guitar teachers only think about keeping their students longer when a student is about to quit. Some guitar teachers notice clues that a student is thinking about quitting and try to prevent this from happening.
The best guitar teachers think proactively about retention from the very first interaction with each student. These teachers educate their students on the benefits of continuing lessons for as long as possible. Their guitar lessons are designed with long-term student retention in mind. Long-term retention is a byproduct of:
- Inspiring your students to believe in themselves
- Motivating your guitar students to practice regularly
- Doing your part to help your students reach their goals
- Helping your students set new inspiring goals before older goals are reached
This proactive attitude makes your students better guitarists and helps your business grow faster.
Now that you know more about teaching guitar, your next step is to learn how to fill your teaching schedule and make guitar students excited about studying with you. Download this free guitar teaching eGuide to learn how to attract guitar students like a magnet and become the #1 guitar teacher in your area.
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains guitar teachers from all over the world how to earn 6-figures per year teaching guitar, while working less than 40 hours per week.
Learn proven ways to make money as a guitar teacher.
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