5 Guitar Teaching Mistakes To Avoid With Beginner Guitar Students, So They Make Faster Progress And Continue To Study With You For A Long Time

by Tom Hess

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Do your beginner guitar students usually progress slowly?

Do some of your beginner guitar students lose interest in lessons and stop studying with you after less than 1 year?

Is it sometimes difficult for you to keep your guitar students motivated to practice?

If you answered "Yes", you are not alone. Many guitar teachers have these same problems with their beginner guitar students.

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This means there are A LOT of frustrated beginner guitar students in your area right now looking for a great teacher who:

  • Understands their desire to learn guitar and play music,
  • Can relate to their challenges, frustrations and self-doubts,
  • Can make learning guitar easy and fun for them.
Good news is that teaching beginner guitar students is not very hard after you learn 5 guitar teaching mistakes that most teachers make and understand how to avoid them.

When you learn to teach beginners the right way, you will always have a full schedule of guitar students and will make a lot more money with guitar teaching.

Avoid these 5 common mistakes when you teach your beginner guitar students:

Teach Beginner Guitar Students
Guitar Teaching Mistake #1. Using Linear Guitar Teaching Methods With Beginner Guitar Students:

The linear approach to guitar teaching means your beginner guitar students work on one skill at a time and wait until they fully master it before you teach them the next skill. This approach is logical... the problem is that it only works well when you are teaching a linear topic (such as mathematics or science) or if you are programming a computer.

The linear approach doesn’t work well when teaching music to people (especially beginner guitar students). When your students learn one thing at a time, they don’t feel like musicians when they practice guitar. The learning process becomes boring and seems to take forever. Most beginners get discouraged quickly and lose interest in playing guitar before they see real progress (more on this below).

Guitar students improve a much faster when you teach them using the Geometric ApproachTM. With the geometric guitar teaching method, your students improve in several areas of their guitar playing at the same time. Most importantly, they get to feel like real musicians even before their skills reach an advanced level.

This approach is better than the linear method for 2 reasons:

  1. Your beginner guitar students learn what they need to become great musicians a lot faster.

    The faster your guitar students make progress, the better they feel about you - their guitar teacher.
  2. Your beginner students have a lot more fun when they play and practice guitar. They enjoy the process because they learn to make music with their skills before each skill is fully mastered. The more your students enjoy the learning process, the longer they continue to study with you (and pay you for lessons).

Watch this video to understand how the geometric approach works, so you can begin using it with your beginner guitar students right away: 

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Guitar Teaching Mistake #2. Teaching Beginner Guitar Students Music Theory, Ear Training, Finger Independence Exercises And Sight Reading:

When you started playing guitar (as a complete beginner), you probably wanted to have fun, play the music you love and be admired by others, right? Your beginner guitar students are the same way. They take guitar lessons from you to learn guitar faster and have more fun in the process.

Playing finger exercises, learning to read music or studying music theory is the very opposite of fun to most beginners. Worst of all, beginners cannot do anything musical with finger exercises or with sight reading skills.

When your beginner guitar students don’t have fun, they quickly lose interest in taking lessons.

Solution: get your students playing music as soon as possible (ideally right in the first lesson). Show your beginner guitar students that playing guitar is even more fun than they hoped it would be. This makes them excited to continue practicing and take lessons from you.

Note: finger exercises, music theory and ear training ARE very useful for most guitar students to know and practice (especially music theory and ear training), but not when they are beginners.

Question: “But Tom Hess, it feels wrong to not teach music theory or finger exercises to my beginner guitar students! Isn’t guitar teaching about showing them what they need to know to become great guitar players?”

Answer: Your #1 job is to get your beginner guitar students to have fun playing guitar and not give up out of frustration or boredom. If you fail to do this, your students will quit taking lessons (and often quit playing guitar). This is the worst possible outcome for your students and for you.

You can start teaching more challenging skills that require real patience when your students are strong enough mentally to handle them (more on this below).

Note: Of course there are some (rare) beginners who can respond well to learning music theory or lots of finger exercises from the very beginning, but such people are rare. The stronger your students’ mindset is, the better he/she can handle topics that require a lot of perseverance to see results.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #3. Not Helping Beginner Guitar Students Develop Confidence In Their Musical Potential:

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Your beginner guitar students are totally clueless about the process of learning guitar and taking guitar lessons. Most importantly, they are clueless about themselves. They ask themselves questions like:

“Can I actually learn to play guitar well?”

“Do I have any potential to become a musician?”

“Do I have any natural talent for guitar? “

“Do I actually need to have natural talent to play guitar?”

“Will I have enough time to practice guitar every day?”

Other students worry that they might be too old, or too young. They worry that maybe their hands are too big, or too small. They don’t know if they really need guitar lessons or if they are better off teaching themselves. They don’t know if they will enjoy practicing guitar or not.

Note: your beginner guitar students won’t always tell you that they have these fears and insecurities… but virtually all beginners have them.

Do your best to remove these self-doubts from your students’ minds as soon as possible.

Show your students that they have as much potential as their favorite guitar players. This helps your students develop self-confidence and persevere through the learning/guitar teaching process. 

Important: Your beginner guitar students need more than simple encouraging words from you. You need to know exactly what to do and what guitar teaching methods to use to show your students that they really can and will learn to play guitar well (under your guidance).

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If you don’t know what to do to teach your students to become great guitar players, get guitar teaching training.

Guitar Teaching Mistake #4. Teaching beginner guitar students using a similar (but more simple) approach to teaching intermediate and advanced guitar students:

Your beginner guitar students have totally different challenges, mindsets and reasons for taking guitar lessons than intermediate or advanced guitar students. They cannot practice guitar with the same intensity and persistence as more advanced guitarists can.

Example: Advanced guitar students are more likely to practice a tedious exercise countless times to improve some aspect of their playing. They are very clear on what they want to achieve & willing to do whatever is needed.

Advanced guitar students already have a lot of self-confidence in their musical potential and can already play lots of things well on guitar. They do not have the same self-doubts that beginner guitarists usually have.

Advanced students also have first-hand proof that practicing tedious exercises makes them better guitar players. Beginner guitarists do not have this proof yet.

Advanced guitar players usually do not require much motivation to practice at home (between lessons). Beginners do.

Advanced guitarists also generally have a stronger mindset (compared to beginner guitar players). This means they are a lot more likely to invest upfront work into something before seeing results.

Most beginners cannot (or will not) fully commit to this style of practicing yet. If you give your beginner guitar students the easier version of exercises and materials your advanced students practice, they are likely to become bored, overwhelmed and not practice what you tell them to do.

Solution: Give your beginner guitar students easy victories. Let them experience some progress in each lesson they have with you. Eventually, they will trust you (and themselves) enough to practice tedious exercises for long periods of time.

This video shows how to create easy victories for your beginner guitar students:

Remember that you are teaching people first, music second. It’s all about your student and his/her mindset.
I go into much more depth about this guitar teaching philosophy inside Elite Guitar Teachers Inner Circle

Guitar Teaching Mistake #5. Using A Trial-And-Error Approach To Guitar Teaching. Here Is Why This Hurts You (And Your Beginner Guitar Students):

If you expect your guitar students to pay you money for lessons, they deserve you to be the best teacher you can possibly be.

When all your guitar teaching experience comes from trial and error, your beginner guitar students become like laboratory rats in an experiment. Of course you can learn some good things from hands-on guitar teaching, but it’s unfair to your students when you learn only in this way.

Teaching your students by trial and error also makes you just like the majority of other guitar teachers in your area. This means 2 things:

  1. The main way you can compete with other guitar teachers is by charging less money for your guitar lessons. This is a lose/lose situation for your beginner guitar students and for you.
  2. You leave yourself vulnerable to an ambitious competitor who has specialized training on how to teach guitar. Such a teacher can move into your area and easily take a lot of students away from you. This makes it hard for you to earn money guitar teaching.

With all of the resources available for guitar teachers today, there is no excuse for you to not be the best guitar teacher you can be. Seek out proven training programs for guitar teachers, acquire guitar teaching resources, or at least read more articles (like this one) on how to become a better guitar teacher.

Now that you know what mistakes to avoid with your beginner guitar students, the next step to becoming a very successful guitar teacher is to test your guitar teaching skills. This tells you exactly what to do to become the kind of guitar teacher every student brags about. Take this guitar teaching quiz to learn how to become a better guitar teacher right now. 

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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