Teaching Guitar Lessons: How To Get Started Teaching Guitar Right Away
by Tom Hess
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Thinking it's time to get started teaching guitar students, but you feel some or all of these things?
- You want to get started teaching guitar lessons but aren't sure exactly what to do or how to do things.
- You aren't always sure how to go about teaching guitar by demonstrating or explaining things in ways that all guitar students will understand and be able to learn from.
- You get nervous when thinking about what will happen if your guitar students simply won't 'get it' no matter how many times you try to show them how to play or understand something on the guitar.
- You aren't sure how to determine if you are doing a good job as a guitar teacher or not.
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Here the 11 mistakes that inexperienced teachers make while teaching guitar lessons:
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #1: Having no real plan to get started teaching guitar students how to reach their specific goals. Many inexperienced guitar teachers are reactive and deal with their guitar students on a lesson-by-lesson basis. In other words, they decide in the beginning of each lesson what to they'll be teaching guitar lessons on that day. The problem here is the teacher is simply 'reacting' to whatever the student asks for or is struggling with right now and loses sight of the longer-term goals their guitar students want and need to reach.
Others who get started teaching guitar lessons are more proactive (which is better than being reactive) but their mistake is planning out too much in the beginning without having enough time to see and understand what specific challenges and problems their student will have during the learning process over the next several weeks/months. They develop a 'method' too early and follow it without flexibility to the unique and real life challenges each student will endure along the way.
Teaching guitar is about balancing the two extremes and being effective at teaching guitar students to learn faster and overcome their limitations.
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #2: Thinking that there are basically two things that a teacher can teach each student:
- What guitar students want to learn.
- What guitar students need to learn.
The best guitar teachers are goal-orientated teachers and invest time in teaching guitar students that what they need to learn IS what they also want to learn. They do this mainly by revisiting the discussion with the student about his/her stated goals and then demonstrating what the student needs to learn to reach those goals (and that those things are totally congruent with their desire to do just that). This usually helps most guitar students to realize that they do in fact want to stay focused on the things that will help them reach their goals and understand that the process of doing so should be and will be enjoyable even if the work ahead to be done is challenging. Once such a conversation between student and teacher takes place, it is much easier to keep the student focused and therefore, goals are typically reached faster.
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #3: You can spot someone who is not very good at teaching guitar lessons by simply looking at his guitar students. What you find are guitar students who have learned a good deal of 'things' but still can't really play well, improvise well, write songs well, nor phrase well. The mistake that many, many (including many experienced teachers teaching guitar) make is that they fail to invest enough time teaching guitar students how to 'apply' what they know.
Guitar teachers typically spend far too much time on 'teaching new things' instead of helping their students apply (use) the things they have been learning. The result is guitar students who have learned much, but can do little.
Don't be in a hurry to get started teaching guitar lessons on new things. It's your job to make sure students can use what they have paid you to learn.
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #4: Not knowing when to deal with avoiding or breaking guitar students' bad habits. In a perfect world, guitar students would be like computers. You would simply program them to do everything correctly the first time. The problem is we are teaching guitar lessons to human beings who sometimes get bored, frustrated, become distracted and simply just want to play something right now before making everything perfect. Some guitar teachers don't spend enough time making sure guitar students do things right (or at least in ways that won't seriously hinder their ability to play well in the future). Sometimes guitar students develop hand injuries or other physical problems because the teacher simply didn't know or care to avoid or resolve serious bad habits before they caused damage.
Other ineffective approaches to teaching guitar lessons use the exact opposite approach and are overwhelmingly strict with their guitar students in order to prevent any chance of a student developing a bad habit. The problem with this approach is very few guitar students have enough fortitude and desire to withstand constant corrections before they get enjoyment from playing guitar or learning.
The best guitar teachers find balance. Although eventually all bad habits should be avoided or overcome, you should prioritize the habits to deal with first. The most critical ones are those related to health (for example to correct a hand position problem that may cause a hand injury / carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.). The next priority is the picking hand (because this is the hand that will run on auto-pilot 99.9% of the time in real life guitar playing and your student will more likely be unaware of bad habits in that hand).
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #5: Failing to establish high but realistic expectations while teaching guitar students. Some guitar students will always try their best and practice hard, but most won't. Why do most school kids not get the best grades in school? Answer: because their parents typically don't set the expectations high enough, thus the student performs well enough to meet the lower (but acceptable) expectations that their parents set. Most teachers don't clearly communicate high but reasonable expectations to students while teaching guitar lessons.
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Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #6: Teaching guitar lessons with too much new stuff. Most teachers feel they need to always be 'teaching guitar techniques, licks, lessons etc. that are new'. This causes more problems than it solves for your students. As mentioned above, teaching guitar students means seeing that they need to learn how to apply what they know. So why do so many guitar teachers feel the need to constantly teach new stuff? Three reasons:
- They feel insecure as a guitar teacher so they deal with this by reaching for new content to cover up the fact they don't really know what they are doing.
- They copy the approach others use for teaching guitar lessons…you know, the other guitar teachers whom also are not highly successful.
- Some of their guitar students demand it. Problem is, these students typically say things like "I got that"… when in fact they didn't 'get it' at all!
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #7: Not knowing how to deal with a student who doesn't "get" something you are teaching. Most inexperienced teachers have a hard time explaining the same concept in many different ways so that it can be understood by any student. In addition, teachers who struggle teaching guitar students often try to teach in their own learning style (as a visual or auditory learner for example).
The best teachers dig deeper to determine if the student they are teaching guitar lessons to is a visual learner, auditory learner or kinesthetic (tactile) learner - then they get started teaching guitar to that student based on the student's learning style. Good teachers develop analogies, examples, metaphors, visual aids, hands-on-experiences and a range of other things that might be necessary to help the student to understand and retain what is begin taught.
Although experience will help you to improve in this area, a faster approach is to get coaching on teaching guitar lessons from a master guitar teacher who can help you.
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #8: Not understanding that your students do not always need to be taught. Just because your title is guitar teacher does not mean that your role should always be that of a teacher. Most guitar teachers see themselves as merely teachers - one who presents and explains new information to a student. The problem is teaching guitar students new things all the time or constantly reviewing old materials isn't enough. They need more than that…much more.
The very best guitar teachers fully understand the differences between teaching guitar students and training them. Most guitar students need to be trained just as much (or more) as they need to be taught. Focus less on teaching guitar lessons by covering new concepts or reviewing old ones and more on training your students to actually do things. Take them through the process step by step. Don't tell them the steps, don't even show them, instead, walk through the actual steps with them. Many of your students will think this is unnecessary and that they 'got it'. Truth is, most 'don't get it' and you will save a lot of time for both of you (and their money) by training them correctly the first time…every time.
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #9: Not monitoring your retention rate. Some guitar teachers measure their success by counting how many students they have. The number of students you are teaching guitar to is not an accurate measurement of your success (I have several hundred guitar students, but that fact alone does not entitle me to claim that I'm a successful/good guitar teacher). There are other (more important) factors. One of those factors is your retention rate (i.e. how long you keep teaching guitar students). If you are only keeping your guitar students for several months, then you have a lot of improving to do. When you have students who have studied with you over several years, then teaching guitar lessons is going well for you in some way or another.
Of course not every student needs to study for years, some have specific goals they want to achieve and good teachers can help them achieve those goals in only a matter of weeks or months. Successfully reaching goals is the holy grail of defining true success; however, sometimes it isn't as easy to measure this when those goals are very long-term and more general. Pay attention to your retention rates and then find out from those who are quitting why they left…equally as important - ask your students who have stayed with you for long periods of time why they are happy with how you're teaching guitar lessons.
Get Started Teaching Guitar Lessons By Avoiding Mistake #10: Not having any good way to evaluate your skills with teaching guitar effectively. Most inexperienced guitar teachers simply don't have a good way to know if they are doing a good job. The problem exists for three main reasons:
- The other teachers who they typically compare themselves to are only average or mediocre guitar instructors. So the standard they compare themselves to is just not high enough since the average guitar teacher is really not all that good.
- Electric guitar teaching in general lags far behind the teaching of many other instruments (now you know why the average piano teacher keeps many students coming back for years while guitar teachers keep their students on average a little less than 1 year).
- The vast majority of guitar teachers never seek any real training on how to become a guitar teacher. At best, the average guitar instructor asks other (mediocre / unqualified) teachers about teaching guitar lessons or they just copy what they think those other teachers do (which is also not good). At worst, teachers simply get started teaching guitar using the 'trial and error' approach. Certainly we all learn from our experiences, however, it's much better if we avoid making the next mistake below.
Although you do not need to be an expert guitar teacher before you get started teaching guitar lessons, you owe it to yourself and to each of your students to get the right training, coaching and mentoring to become the guitar teacher that you could and should be. Your goal isn't to be 'the best', just to be 'your best'. As you get started teaching guitar lessons, you should constantly strive to be your best.
The very best guitar teachers are experts, but none of them started out that way. Very few of them got there by trial and error and certainly NONE of them got there by copying what all the average guitar teachers did…nor by taking their mediocre advice. In one way or another, they likely sought training for teaching guitar students, they took their responsibilities as guitar teachers seriously and they took action consistently to improve…and guess what, they rose to the top, earn big bucks, are stars in their local community (in big demand), are fulfilled, have a great life, and never looked back. That could be you…That should be you! Get my totally free 7-day mini course on how to be an excellent guitar teacher.
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