Beyond the Skill: Things to Know Before You Start Teaching Others
November 21, 20194 min read
While it can be said that all guitar teachers should be experts, it’s not always true that all experts have what it takes to be good teachers. Like a Hall of Fame Football player who never quite makes it as a coach, there is no guarantee that an expert guitar player will be able to communicate their knowledge clearly to their students. If you are an experienced guitar player thinking about giving lessons, here are four things you should know to help you become the best guitar teacher you can possibly be.
Find Your Focus
Just starting out as a guitar teacher will force you to find your focus as you think about ways to approach the fundamentals of the instrument. Before students can learn more advanced material like playing popular songs and shreddy solos, they first have to master the basic techniques like tuning your guitar, fretting and picking notes, forming chords, strumming and playing scales. The most important thing to remember is that you need to find a balance between introducing the basic material and teaching students the songs and techniques that they want to learn.
A great way to arouse student interest and keep them coming back for lessons is to show them how what they are learning of the basics is used in popular songs. Even in the first lesson, when you teach your students how to pluck open strings, you can show them how to play along with the verse of Nirvana’sSmells Like Teen Spirit, or once you begin teaching double stops, you may want to show your students how to play the main riff to a song likeSmoke on the Water. The point is that your students will have music that they can play along with right away, which is sure to make them want to learn more of the basics.
The point is, focusing on the fundamentals doesn’t have to be boring!
Private or Group Lessons?
Once you’ve begun lesson planning, it will be important to find the right setting for guitar lessons. Many guitar teachers give lessons out of their home, while some musicians choose to give lessons in their rehearsal space. The most important thing to consider when planning lessons is what will be the best setting for your students.
Many guitar teachers rent teaching space from music stores where they cangive lessons in an atmosphere conducive to learning. You may also want to consider teaching classes in groups of students at similar skill levels where they are sure to feel supported and encouraged, and where a healthy air of camaraderie will often accelerate learning. Renting a lesson space in a public building like a music store may also be much more convenient for students (and their parents who are often driving them) to attend lessons regularly.
Keeping in Contact
Today, communications technologies have changed the way people take guitar lessons considerably. Today, with Youtube, face-time chat, andgroup texting services, communications between students and teachers are much different than they used to be. At one time, missing one week of guitar lessons could mean that a student would be out of touch with their teacher for two solid weeks, enough time for a young person to completely lose interest.
Today, modern communications technologies and online resources make it possible to catch up with students through text messages and social media, and even attend online ‘Skype’ lessons. Student resources can also be posted online, at your personal blog, so even when a student loses their lesson materials, they can access them easily online.
In the area of communications, some basic rules should be set up between you and your students to maintain a teacher-student relationship. You should always agree to reply to student messages promptly and students should also return the favor, especially if the messages contain information about upcoming events, scheduling conflicts and so forth.
Remember What It's Like to Be a Student
Before you became the guitar player you are today, you were once a novice who didn't know your B string from an A string and had trouble holding down a basic C chord. Though it may be hard to remember how that felt, it is important to make an effort to understand where your students are in terms of their musical knowledge and experience level. Being mindful of their problems and struggles will make your lessons more accessible to your students, and it will have you looking for ways that you can explain things to them more clearly. Let your students know that learning an instrument takes time, but by putting in consistent effort they can make progress and eventually reach their guitar playing goals.
Most of all, it is important to remember that people don’t always share the same vision or what makes the guitar great. While many of us were inspired by Eddie Van Halen and had goals like learning Eruption and mastering all of the songs on Fair Warning, others may think that learning a mean slide guitar solo or playing their favorite Eagles song is as far as they want to take it.
The best teachers build their lesson plans around their students’ goals, supporting them in their struggles and sharing in their successes. When you show your students that you care about them and their successes, you give them serious means to excel at and love playing the guitar. See how we share our passion for music with you, so you can share it with the world.