7 Guitar Teaching Questions You Should Never Ask
by Tom Hess
As you go about building your guitar teaching business, you naturally have lots of questions about how to make each area of your teaching more successful. However, without realizing it, most teachers put themselves on the wrong track by seeking answers to the WRONG questions.
As a mentor to hundreds of guitar teachers around the world, I answer a huge number of questions about how to become successful teaching guitar. There are many questions I recognize instantly that are based on incorrect/misleading assumptions and false paradigms. Any possible answer to such questions will only reinforce the misconceptions they are based on and will ultimately lead you to fail in your career as a guitar teacher.
Knowing what these questions are and (more importantly) WHY seeking answers to them is dangerous for your guitar teaching business will help you to avoid the pitfalls most teachers face. Here are 7 examples of such questions that will sabotage your guitar teaching career:
Question 1: How Much Should I Charge For My Guitar Lessons?
Even ‘asking’ this question immediately sets you up for failure as a guitar teacher as it forces you to adopt a mindset of competing with other teachers based on price (or that you need to somehow charge a ‘fair’ amount compared to what everyone else is charging). Even worse, it makes your guitar lessons look like a ‘commodity’ (the same as everybody else’s guitar lessons) rather than push you to become different/better than the competition. When your lessons become a commodity, prospective students have no real incentive to study guitar with you vs. anyone else in your area.
Furthermore, this question assumes that you only have ‘one’ option for offering guitar lessons (one-on-one private lessons), which is FAR from the truth. There exist much better guitar teaching models that allow you to deliver much greater results to your students, help you build a thriving teaching business, and offer ‘multiple’ pricing options to be affordable to all your clients. Learn more about these methods in this video on building your guitar teaching business.
Bottom line, you need to charge based on the unique value ‘you’ provide to your students, rather than what the going rate in your area is or (even worse) trying to be the ‘cheapest’ guitar teacher in town. Nobody else can (or has the right to) decide for you how much value you can provide to the musicians you work with. Instead of seeking an answer to the question above, work hard to learn how to teach guitar more effectively, maximize the results you achieve with your students and price your services accordingly.
Question 2: Where Is The Best Place To Advertise My Guitar Lessons?
This question will kill your chances to build your business to its full potential for the following reasons:
1. There is no such thing as a ‘best’ place to advertise your guitar lessons. There are MANY aspects to marketing your business that can be highly effective and you must learn how to use ALL of them (while maximizing the possible effectiveness of each one). This is what will allow your business to grow at an exponential rate.
2. Focusing all (or most) of your efforts on any single source of getting new guitar students is extremely dangerous and leaves your business highly vulnerable. If anything should happen to upset the effectiveness of the way you currently advertise your guitar lessons, your business will suffer severely because you never took the time to diversify your marketing efforts and make your business less dependent on any ‘one’ source of getting new students.
So instead of looking for the ‘best’ way to advertise your lessons, learn how to build an entire marketing system/strategy that will work for you on autopilot to grow your business faster AND make it more secure. The best way to learn about this is by getting guitar teacher training.
Question 3: How Can I Get More Guitar Students?
Although you certainly DO need to be getting new students all the time, guitar teachers who ask the above question often put ‘all’ of their focus ONLY on attracting more new guitar students when attempting to grow their business.
Fact is, getting more guitar students is only ‘one’ way (out of many) to make more money teaching guitar (and is also the hardest/most time consuming one). There are many other (very simple) ways to increase your guitar teaching income without ‘charging your students more’ for your lessons. I wrote some of these ideas down for you in this free eBook on how to earn more money as a guitar teacher.
Question 4: What Should I Teach My Guitar Students?
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Trying to get an answer to such a question is extremely damaging (to you and to your students) because your students don't come to you so you can teach them ‘stuff’ (new things to know/understand about music and guitar playing). They only come to you to get a ‘result’ (of becoming the guitar player they want to be and/or to solve specific problems in their playing). So everything you teach them should be strategically organized towards helping them reach the result they want to obtain.
Most guitar teachers make the cardinal mistake of throwing musical knowledge ‘at’ students, to make it look like they are doing their job as ‘teachers’. The reality is that getting great results with your students requires you to use a personalized strategy to help each person reach his specific goals.
To do this, you must do 3 things:
1. Shift your focus from looking for ‘things to teach’ your students to looking to help them reach specific goals and overcome problems.
2. Understand how to accurately sift through what your students tell you about their guitar playing challenges and get to the ‘true causes’ of the problems they are having. This is very similar to how a doctor treats patients after hearing the symptoms the patient is reporting.
3. Learn how to effectively guide your students through the process of reaching their goals.
The best way for you to learn all of the above is by getting expert guitar teacher training.
Question 5: “What Do You Want To Learn Today?” (A Question Many Guitar Teachers Ask Their Students)
This question is also very damaging (to your students’ progress and, ultimately, to your business) for all the same reasons as the question above. In fact, when I advise guitarists on how to choose a guitar teacher, I tell them to NEVER study with teachers who ask them such a question in lessons. Here is why:
1. YOU (the guitar teacher) are the expert - your guitar students are not experts. It is YOUR job to know how to teach your students to reach their goals. By asking the above question to your students, you are essentially asking them to do your job for you (of deciding what will happen in the lesson). This is irresponsible and unethical, to say the least.
2. Your students can of course tell you what they ‘want’ to learn, but since they do not have the experience you do, they have no idea what it is they really ‘should’ be learning to reach their goals. If they did, they would have likely found a way to teach themselves to reach their goals without you. A lot of times the things the students say they want to learn only pull them away from reaching their ultimate goals as musicians.
Instead of unfairly shifting responsibility for what happens in the lessons onto your students, you need to learn how to teach guitar better so that you can help your students reach their goals more effectively.
Question 6: What Should Be My Policy About Make Up Lessons?
Many guitar teachers wonder about this issue and ask (or simply copy) what other guitar teachers in their area are doing to teach make up lessons. Fact is, any advice you may get about ‘how’ to incorporate make ups into your lesson policy will hurt your teaching business. Only the expert guitar teacher trainers (or highly successful guitar teachers) will tell you that you should NOT teach make up lessons at all and your business should have NO cancelation policy of any kind…period. There are dozens of reasons why teaching make up lessons (or having any clause in your policy that allows them) will hurt your business, and here are a few:
1. By working extra (unpaid) hours to teach make up lessons you lose money in 2 ways: first, because you don’t get paid for the extra spot in your schedule taken up by a make up lesson and second, because working extra hours to teach make up lessons leaves you less time in your schedule to grow your business and attract more new guitar students. This puts a cap on how much you can effectively grow your business (in addition to turning your life/schedule into total chaos).
2. Your students will take lessons with you a lot less seriously when they know that they can take advantage of your make up lesson policy any time it’s convenient for them. Such students will not experience any positive pressure to practice and implement the things you teach them in lessons. As a result they will progress much slower (if at all) and will only hurt your reputation as your teaching schedule continues to be filled with mediocre students who never become great guitarists.
The solution is to require your students to pay for every week of the year no matter if they ‘choose’ to show up to the lesson or not (with no possibility of make up lessons). This is what all colleges/universities do - they do not refund parts of tuition payments (or teach dozens of ‘make up lectures’ per week) no matter the reason why some students didn’t attend the lectures. This is the exact policy that ‘successful’ guitar teachers (those who earn 6 figures per year) follow and you should do the same.
Question 7: How Should I Advertise My Guitar Lessons In A Slow Economy?
This question is based on a (totally false) underlying assumption that your advertising/marketing efforts need to be different (and/or more intense) when attracting students in slower/weaker economy than during good economic times. This couldn’t be more wrong. If anyone attempts to answer this question for you by giving you advice on how to market your lessons differently in a slow economy, you know right away that the person you are talking to does not have a thriving business.
The most successful guitar teachers market their guitar lessons at full 100% capacity (and with the same intensity) in any economic climate. Nothing should fundamentally change in your marketing efforts based on what happens in the economy. Instead of seeking an answer to such a meaningless question, you must learn the best ways to grow your business and advertise your lessons in ‘any’ economic conditions and then become relentless in implementing your marketing systems 100% all year around. THIS is the only way to ensure that your business will continue to grow consistently while your competition loses students in droves when the economy shrinks.
As you can see, even the most common sense questions will often steer your business in the wrong direction, simply because the questions themselves are rooted in false assumptions and misunderstandings about what it takes to become a thriving guitar teacher.
To prevent these problems from sabotaging your guitar teaching success, do these 2 things:
1. Study all the resources I have suggested throughout this article to learn more about what it takes to become the dominating guitar teacher in your area.
2. Change your mindset to ask ‘higher quality questions’ in each of the 7 areas discussed throughout this article and implement the steps I suggested to grow your guitar teaching business further.
Doing the above will put you miles ahead of all other teachers in your area and will help you to become enormously successful teaching guitar.
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