Teaching Guitar Students Better: How To Fix Bad Habits And Solve Problems Your Students Have

By Tom Hess

How To Keep Your Guitar
Students Taking Lessons
With You For Years
How To Keep Your Guitar Students Taking Lessons With You For Years eGuide

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Your job as a guitar teacher (things you must do for your guitar students) consists of 3 primary roles: 
  1. Inspiring and motivating your guitar students – Teaching guitar students better is often more about inspiring your guitar students than teaching a new scale, chord or song.
  2. Teaching guitar students new things to play / practice – Most guitar teachers understand this basic concept, but don’t know how much new content is too little or too much for each guitar student. 
  3. Helping your guitar students solve their guitar playing / musical challenges – The best way to improve your guitar teaching is to understand exactly how to help any student overcome any problem. 

How To Keep Your Guitar
Students Taking Lessons
With You For Years
How To Keep Your Guitar Students Taking Lessons With You For Years eGuide

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.

Guitar teachers usually struggle the most with the last category (helping their students solve their guitar playing problems). This skill often determines whether your guitar students stay with you for years or quit studying with you and look for a better teacher.

Teaching guitar students to solve problems and bad habits starts with getting clear on the process.

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 1: Identify The True Cause(s) Of Your Guitar Students’ Problem(s).

Remember that symptoms of problems and causes of problems are often totally different things. A misdiagnosed problem can make things worse than doing nothing at all.

How To Solve Guitar Student Problems

Your guitar students need you to look past the symptoms of their problems and identify their true causes. This video shows how identifying the true cause of a guitar technique challenge makes solving it a lot easier:

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 2: Find Proven Solutions To Overcome Your Guitar Students’ Problems.

Don’t rely on trial and error to solve your guitar students’ challenges (as most teachers do). It’s your job to know which solutions work best and to help your students implement them. You must constantly improve your guitar teaching abilities, just like professionals in other industries constantly train to improve their knowledge and skills.

Start teaching guitar students better by:

  • Getting guitar teacher training. There is a difference between copying what other guitar teachers do and actually learning the best ways to teach guitar.
  • Surrounding yourself with truly successful guitar teachers (those who have a lot of great students and earn a lot of money from teaching guitar). Ask them for their advice on your specific guitar teaching challenges. This saves you and your students a lot of time and frustration.

This video shows an effective guitar teaching process that helps your students improve quickly:

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 3: Communicate To Your Guitar Students The Causes Of Their Problems And Your Solutions To Them.

Your guitar students need to understand the causes of their musical frustrations and your solutions to each one. Laying out a logical path for them to follow makes your students more likely to implement what you tell them to do.

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Most guitar teachers do not fully explain the cause of their students’ problems and don’t lay out a logical solution in front of them. They move directly into implementing the solution. This often fails, because:

  • Your students need to believe that your proposed solution(s) will in fact solve their guitar playing problem(s).
  • Your students must understand how your solution eliminates their problem(s) and improves their guitar playing.

Without this understanding, your guitar students won’t be motivated to practice at home and will lack the skills needed to practice correctly. 

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 4: Communicate The Benefits Of Your Solution.

Understanding the logical steps of your solution is not enough. Your guitar students must also feel:

  • The pain of their musical limitations created by their current problem(s).
  • The amazing feelings of overcoming their challenges and playing guitar better than ever (after they implement your solution). 

This dual approach via logic and emotion is a powerful way to inspire your guitar students to implement your solution. 

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 5: Train Your Guitar Students To Implement The Solution.

Don’t simply tell your guitar students what to do – walk them through the process of getting it DONE. The teaching part can usually be done quickly. Training takes the most time. Think of yourself as a sports trainer vs. a school teacher as you train your guitar students to implement your solution to their problem(s).

Best guitar teaching materials

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 6: Keep Your Guitar Students Focused On The Outcome.

Monitor your students’ motivation level and help them keep it high. Remind your guitar students of the benefits they get from implementing your solution. This sustains their enthusiasm all the way through the process.

A mediocre guitar teacher who keeps his guitar students motivated always get bigger results than a great technical teacher who cannot keep students focused on the big picture. The big picture is the outcome your students want. Focusing on the outcome is key to your guitar students’ long-term progress.

Note: Your guitar students typically have multiple problems in their playing. Examples include: inconsistent articulation, weak sense of timing, excess body tension, inefficient hand movement, excess string noise, etc. These problems often have multiple causes. You must decide on the best order for dealing with the cause of your students’ problems. (More on this below.)

Many guitar teachers try to use linear logic to help guitar students break bad habits and overcome challenges. This approach would work well when dealing with machines, but fails when applied to (most) people.

This video explains why linear logic often fails when teaching guitar students and shows a much better approach to use:

The order in which you're teaching guitar students different topics has a huge impact on them. It makes all the difference between your students staying with you for years and them quitting out of frustration.

Teaching Guitar Students Better - Step 7: Celebrate Your Students’ Victories.

Congratulate your guitar students for reaching their goal. This makes them feel proud about their achievement and more motivated to continue doing what you tell them to do.

Avoid overwhelming your guitar students with too many things to do, fix and think about all at once.

Focus on one problem at a time, even if your student has dozens of bad habits that need to be fixed. Solving too many problems at once does more harm than good for most guitar students. It’s easy to make most students feel bad about their guitar playing and their musical potential. This kills their will and motivation to do the work needed to improve.

Question: “But Tom Hess, how can I allow my guitar students to continue playing and practicing guitar incorrectly? Isn’t it wrong to allow guitar students to continue practicing guitar when I see them do a lot of things wrong?”

Answer: Yes and No. Of course you need to solve all of your students’ problems and bad habits…but you must stay focused on the big picture. The big picture is about strengthening your students’ mindset and building their confidence in their musical potential. This foundation helps them persevere all the way through the process of reaching their musical goals.

Warning: Do not make every guitar lesson all about solving problems. You must balance solving problems and undoing bad habits with forward progress in your students’ musical skills. Most guitar students don’t realize that solving problems is moving their playing forward (even after you explain it to them). Give your guitar students other things to do and practice that are fulfilling and keep them inspired.

This guide to teaching guitar students better helps you keep your guitar students motivated to study with you for years.

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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