15 Guitar Teaching Mistakes You Must Avoid

by Tom Hess

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Want to become a better guitar teacher fast?
Then here is a secret few guiatr teachers know:
It's not enough to only learn "what to do" to teach guitar better.
It's just as important to also learn what NOT to do when you teach guitar.
Here is why: 
It takes a (relatively) long time to learn the right things to do to teach guitar well. 
But it's much faster to learn (and to stop doing) what doesn't work when it comes to teaching guitar.
(i.e. things average guitar teachers do that keep their students frustrated and making little, if any, progress).
On the other hand...

When you avoid common guitar teaching mistakes, your students become better guitarists faster.

And they also stay with you longer.

So, starting today...

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about teaching
Guitar Teaching Test
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By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Avoid these 15 guitar teaching mistakes with your guitar students:

Guitar Teaching Mistake #1: Overloading Your Guitar Students With New Information

Don’t teach your guitar students brand new concepts every week. Too much new content makes your students frustrated and more likely to quit.

Question: “What if my students want me to teach them a lot of information? Isn’t it my job to teach my students what they want to learn?”

Answer: No. Your job is to help your students become good guitar players as quickly as possible.

Teaching new content (information) is only 1 part of what it takes to become a good guitar player. This is the only part that average guitar teachers focus on.

Great guitar teachers combine teaching with training their guitar students to review, apply and master old materials. This accelerates your students progress, minimizes overwhelm and accelerates their progress (more on this below).

Watch this guitar teaching video to learn how to help your guitar students apply & master the information you are teaching them:


Guitar Teaching Mistake #2: Not Tracking Your Guitar Students’ Progress

Tracking your guitar students’ progress helps them (and you) in 4 ways:

  1. Your guitar students see undeniable proof that they are improving. This motivates them to practice guitar more (and that makes them progress even faster).
  2. Your students see proof that you are a good guitar teacher who cares about their musical growth. This motivates them to keep studying with you and helps you earn more money teaching guitar.
  3. Your guitar students see that you care about their progress. This makes them even more committed to learning from you and more willing to do what you are teaching them to do (and that helps them improve faster).
  4. You see better what your students need to learn to reach their goals. This makes your job a lot easier.
Guitar Teaching Mistake #3: Teaching All Guitar Students In The Same Way

Don’t use cookie-cutter guitar method books or courses with your students (unless they are total beginners). No guitar teaching method works equally well for everyone. Design personalized strategies to fit the unique challenges, goals and learning styles of your students.

Note: it’s ok to teach students in exactly the same way if they are total beginners. Beginner students all start from exactly the same point (zero knowledge & skills). Beginner students benefit from learning the same skills in the same order and the same way.

When your students are past the beginner level, their needs become more specialized. At that point, you need unique strategies to help each student reach his/her specific goals.

Want to improve your guitar teaching skills and help your students improve faster? Take this free guitar teaching test to learn how to become the #1 guitar teacher in your area.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #4: Not Motivating Your Guitar Students To Practice

It’s critical to motivate your guitar students to enjoy practicing. If your students don’t practice, they won’t make progress. This reflects poorly on you.

How to inspire your guitar students to practice

Tip: some of your students won’t practice no matter what you do to help them enjoy practicing. Those students simply don’t want to improve their guitar playing bad enough.

These students also set a very bad example for everyone else who studies with you (and makes you look bad as a teacher).

You (and they) are better off when you fire those students from your schedule to make room for those students who are highly committed.

Question: “I'm afraid to fire my guitar students! Isn’t it better to keep those students around as long as they continue to pay me?”

Answer: No. You are not helping those people by continuing to keep them as students. Also, you make a lot more money (and attract more students) by having high standards than you do by having a schedule full of mediocre students. You also feel a lot better about yourself as a guitar teacher when you work with motivated students compared to students who don’t truly want to learn.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #5: Not Training Your Guitar Students To Practice

Don’t assume that your guitar students will practice correctly on their own. Most won’t, unless you:

  1. Watch them practice guitar right in front of you (during their guitar lessons) and correct their mistakes.
  2. Train them how to think while practicing to solve their guitar playing problems.

Training your guitar students to practice makes them better guitar players a lot faster.

This video shows how to teach your guitar students to practice:


Guitar Teaching Mistake #6: Teaching All Your Students To Read Music

Don't teach your guitar students to read music, unless this skill is truly necessary for their long-term goals and they are at an intermediate level (or higher).

Teaching your students to read music too early (or without considering their goals) makes them bored, frustrated and more likely to quit lessons.

Tip: never teach reading music to complete beginners. Your beginner students first need to learn to play guitar and build confidence in their ability to play a musical instrument.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #7: Not Taking Any Interest In Your Students As Human Beings

As a guitar teacher, you are not teaching music - you are teaching people. Your guitar students need to feel that you understand them and can relate to their frustrations and challenges. When your students feel understood, they are much more motivated to study with you for a long time.

Get to know your guitar students as people. Find out what inspires them to practice guitar and to take lessons with you. Use these insights to tailor the lessons for each student.

Note: Be subtle and tactful when doing this.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #8: Asking Your Guitar Students What They Want To Learn In Every Guitar Lesson

Your guitar students don’t need to study with you to “learn whatever they want” (they can do this on their own for free). They need you to fix their musical problems and help them reach their musical goals.

When you teach with this in mind, you give your students the mindset and skillset to be able to learn and play whatever they want in the future.

Watch this video to learn what it means to solve your guitar students’ problems and how to do it:


Guitar Teaching Mistake #9: Not Teaching Your Guitar Students To Apply What They Know

Your guitar students need training on how to apply everything you teach them to real music. Without this training, most won’t do it on their own and will struggle to become good guitar players.

Find a balance between teaching your guitar students new information and training them to apply and use that information.

Tip: Look for multiple ways that you can teach your student to apply what he knows. If you only give one example, he may get stuck on that one example and not yet really see how to apply the same idea other musical situations.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #10: Not Teaching Your Guitar Students To Integrate Their Skills

Your guitar students also need training on “tying it all together”. You must train them to integrate everything they learn from you with other skills they already have. Integration is key to your students becoming badass guitar players fast.

This concept will be very hard to grasp for most of your students without proper guidance from you. It’s your job to make this process easy for them.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #11: Teaching All Your Guitar Students In Private Lessons Only

Your guitar students will struggle to apply and integrate their skills if they only study with you in private lessons. They miss out on interaction with other musicians and opportunities to play in real-life situations. They also get zero training on overcoming stage fright and making their guitar playing reliable and tight when performing.

Solution: stop teaching all your students one on one. Combine private lessons with group classes and other innovative guitar teaching methods to give your students superior results.

The better your communication skills are, the easier it is help your students to do what is needed to reach their goals fast.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #12: Not Helping Your Guitar Students Achieve Specific Goals

Not all your students will want to be master musicians, but they all want to become better guitar guitarists from studying with you. Find out what exactly they want to achieve on guitar, break down their goal(s) into short-term milestones and walk them through the process of reaching them.

Hint: Communicate to your students how everything you teach them will get them where they want to go. This motivates them to DO what you want them to do and makes them better guitar players faster.

Don't assume that all your students are equally motivated to do the work needed to become better guitar players. Paint a clear vision for them of how awesome it feels to no longer struggle with the problems they currently have in their playing. This is the only way to get your students to do what you tell them to do for as long as it takes to get results.

Watch this video to learn exactly how to do this & help your students become great players:


Guitar Teaching Mistake #13: Teaching Guitar Using A Linear (Step-By-Step) Approach

Your guitar students will reach their goals much faster, if you teach them using a non-linear, geometric guitar teaching approach.

A linear approach means to cover all the details of a particular musical skill before starting to practice (or learn) a new skill.

A non-linear approach means to learn multiple skills simultaneously and improve in several areas at the same time.

Watch this video to learn why step-by-step approach to teaching guitar doesn't work:

Note: your students may not instinctively understand the benefits of learning in a non-linear way. Other students may incorrectly assume that the linear approach is a more effective way to learn. You need to explain to your students how a non-linear approach saves them time and money and makes them better guitar players more quickly.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #14: Teaching Music Theory Incorrectly

Avoid these mistakes when teaching music theory to your guitar students:

  1. Teaching music theory step-by-step (such as starting with intervals and key signatures before teaching your students about chords and scales).
  2. Teaching music theory in isolation, without training your students to apply what they learn.

Here is how to teach music theory the right way:

  1. Show your students clearly why music theory will help them play guitar the way they want.
  2. Teach music theory concepts in the order that fits each of your students’ musical goals.
  3. Train your students how to apply music theory in context.

This video shows how to introduce music theory to your guitar students:


Guitar Teaching Mistake #15: Teaching Guitar Exclusively Through Songs

Teaching songs can be part of what you do in guitar lessons, but teaching songs exclusively will not make your guitar students better musicians.

Focus instead on developing your students’ general guitar playing and musical skills. Use songs as examples of musical concepts you teach, not as a replacement for actual guitar teaching.

You now know what mistakes to avoid when you teach guitar. Your next step to becoming a better guitar teacher is to learn exactly what to do to help your students improve faster than ever before. Take this free guitar teaching test and learn how to become the guitar teacher all students brag about.

Tom HessAbout 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. 

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