When thinking about getting started teaching guitar, can you relate to any of the following?
- You get nervous imagining a situation when your students may ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to.
- You aren’t always sure how to teach guitar effectively to all types of guitar students.
- You have no idea how to measure your progress as a guitar instructor.
- You simply don’t know the steps you must take to get started teaching music.
Every guitar teacher who is just starting out goes through these same thoughts and struggles. This also happens to guitar teachers who have been teaching for a while if they have never taken action to find a mentor to show them where they are going wrong in their guitar teaching methods. Most often, these guitar teachers have been teaching for years using a trial and error approach, or by seeking the advice of other guitar teachers who have only experienced small success.
Here are 11 common guitar teaching mistakes that less experienced teachers make. If you can stay away from these, you will be well on your way to becoming a highly successful guitar teacher.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number One: Not having any kind of strategy for helping your guitar students achieve their goals.
Many guitar teachers merely ‘react’ whenever a student poses a question or expresses interest in learning something new. This means that the guitar teacher does not have any plan for what is to be taught until the day of the lesson (when the student arrives). The mistake here is that the teacher is focusing too much on solving the student’s problem in the present, and in the process the student’s longer term goals and desires become ignored.
On the other hand, some guitar teachers will essentially ‘over plan’ their guitar lessons. These people will start with an idea of how they think they should teach guitar lessons, and will continue teaching that way to all of their students. This approach will fail also because it does not treat each individual guitar student as a unique person with unique needs. Not everyone learns the same way, so teaching guitar to students without being flexible with your overall guitar teaching style will not bring good results.
In order to get the best results for your guitar students you must take a balanced approach between both extremes.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Two: Not working to combine a student’s ‘wants’ with his or her ‘needs’.
The misunderstanding that most guitar instructors have is thinking that that they must either teach ‘only’ the things their students ‘want’ to learn OR force their students to practice only what they ‘need’ to know. By teaching guitar students only what they ‘want’ in the moment, you can expect very little success in your guitar teaching business. Teaching guitar students what they really ‘need’ is a much better approach. However, in order to be an effective guitar teacher, you will need to balance out both approaches. This will help your students to not only enjoy playing guitar in the moment, but also continue to make progress toward reaching their musical goals.
The greatest guitar teaching approach is to focus on the students’ goals, while also showing him/her that what they ‘need’ is the same as what they ‘want’. You must consistently keep track of their goals, and then show them what they must do to achieve those goals (while also explaining how these things work together). By doing this, you will help your guitar students gain motivation because they understand that they will be enjoying themselves throughout the learning process. This will help your students stay on track and reach their goals.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Three: Not helping your guitar students apply new guitar ideas.
One of the easiest ways to find out if a guitar teacher is doing a good job teaching is to look at his/her students. For the most part, you will see that people have guitar students that have learned a decent amount of ‘stuff’ on guitar. Unfortunately, after a closer look you will notice that these students do not actually know how to use any of this information to make great music on guitar. This is the result of a very common misunderstanding that guitar teachers make.
It is very common to see a guitar teacher who spends a lot of time showing new things to students rather than helping them to apply what they have already learned. In the end, this produces guitar students who can tell you about a bunch of guitar stuff, but in reality can’t do very much with this information.
Sometimes you will get students who ask you to show them new things on guitar. However, do not feel rushed to be continuously providing new information for them. It is best to make sure that they know how to apply what they have already learned, so that they can use it in real music.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Four: Not understanding how to work around or fix a guitar student’s playing mistakes.
If teaching guitar to students were as easy as plugging in the right answer to an equation, there would be little work for guitar teachers to do. In reality, your guitar students are ‘human’ and cannot be programmed so easily. While teaching guitar lessons, you will encounter times when your guitar students are distracted, disinterested, or are simply in the mood to play something different. In addition, some students don’t always want to play everything to perfection. The mistake that teachers make is to “let it slide” too much. In other words, they allow bad habits to build up for the sake of not being too strict. Many times this results not only in sloppy guitar playing, but could also possibly lead to injury!
On the other hand, some teachers are overly strict with their guitar students while fixing bad habits. Unfortunately, this can be a problem as well because most guitar players are not willing to take constant corrections on every little detail. As a result, such guitar teachers cause their students to feel discouraged or unmotivated since they are not getting the chance to enjoy playing and learning guitar.
To become a successful guitar teacher, you must understand the best approach for helping your students make progress on guitar, while also making sure to keep them motivated based upon their specific needs and interests. Remember, people are not computers that you can simply insert information into. They are ‘human’, and often act more based on how they are feeling emotionally in the moment, rather than from a strict assessment of the information you are teaching. Sometimes your students will become bored, distracted, or unmotivated. It is important to spot this as it is occurring so that you can know the best way to continue on with the guitar lesson.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Five: Not clearly communicating to your guitar students what you expect in terms of practice and effort on their part.
You will have some guitar students who will give you 110% when it comes to practicing at home and putting out consistent effort to become a better guitarist. However, the majority of your guitar students will not give you nearly as much effort. The reason this happens so often with most guitar teachers is because the teacher does not set any kind of standard for effort on the student’s part. Because of this, the student does not have a clear idea of how much practice and effort is required in order to be able to play guitar how they want.
The greatest guitar instructors will let their students know that they expect a certain amount of effort, and will help the student to understand why this works to benefit them. In addition, it is important not to have the same expectations for every one of your students. Remember that each student has his or her own unique needs as a guitar player.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Six: Teaching too many new ideas in each guitar lesson.
A lot of guitar teachers teach way too many new things to their students during their guitar lessons. These teachers feel that they must constantly be giving their students new material to work on for guitar. In reality, this approach is very counterproductive. It is vital that your guitar students learn how to USE what they know on guitar. Here is why many guitar teachers tend to ‘over teach’ their students:
1. The teacher is not sure of how to effectively teach their guitar students so they overcompensate by trying to continually talk about new things.
2. They have seen other guitar teachers who use this approach and think: “If it works for them, it can work for me.”
3. Some students think that constantly learning ‘new things’ on guitar is how they will become good players. Unfortunately, this is not true and leads to interactions between the teacher and student where the student says “I understand” when he doesn’t really understand at all!
To become a great guitar teacher you must understand that it is more effective to help students apply what they already know, rather than overwhelming them with new learning material. In the end, this will help your guitar students learn much faster and more efficiently.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Seven: Not understanding how to approach teaching guitar when a student ‘doesn’t get it’.
New guitar teachers usually struggle when coming up with alternative ways of explaining ideas in a manner that makes sense to any of their students. Additionally, these same guitar teachers will normally try to show their guitar students new guitar concepts by using their own learning style (instead of focusing on ‘the student’s’ learning style).
In order to best help your guitar students, it is necessary to understand if each person learns best by watching you play, by listening to you talk, or by spending more time playing guitar on their own. Once you know this, you can more effectively teach them. The best guitar teachers will create a specific strategy based around each student’s learning style in order to help the student get the most out of each lesson.
After you have taught many guitar students you will get better at identifying individual learning styles. However, if you’d like to quickly learn how to do this, you should seek out the advice of an expert guitar teacher who has already shown many other teachers how to become highly successful.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Eight: Not knowing that your guitar students don’t always need you to be a ‘teacher’.
Although you teach guitar, this does not mean that you must always think from the mindset of a ‘teacher’. The function of a teacher is to simply present and explain new information to a student. However, your guitar students will often need much more than simply someone who tells them how to play the guitar. It will not always be appropriate to teach your students new things, or to simply go over last week’s exercises. Your guitar students need someone who can do much more than this.
If you want to truly help your guitar students, you must be able to both ‘teach’ and ‘train’ them. In most cases, they will require more actual training than teaching. This means that you need to put less emphasis on showing them new things to play, and focus more on walking them through the learning process. Make sure to guide them along with encouragement to motivate them as they continue to make progress. Some of your students will feel as if they are ready to move on at times. However, don’t let them move on until YOU know they are ready. If you approach your guitar teaching like this with every student, you will save MASSIVE amounts of time and energy compared to the alternative of merely ‘teaching’ students new things.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Nine: Not paying attention to the length of time that each student comes back to take guitar lessons.
One of the biggest misunderstandings that guitar teachers have is thinking that the number of guitar students they have relates to how successful they are in their guitar teaching business. In reality, this is not a very good way to gauge your success as a guitar teacher. Which teacher do you think is having more success: A guitar teacher who has merely taught 50 students in one year (but currently only teaches 15), or a guitar teacher who has taught 50 students in a year (and has kept all 50)? After making this comparison, it should be clear that focusing to retain your guitar students is a crucial part to the success of your guitar teaching business. If you can only get your students to come back to take lessons for a couple of months at a time, you have a lot of work to do. In order to become highly successful as a guitar teacher you should have students staying with you for years at a time.
That being said, you will not keep every single guitar student for years at a time. This is because different students may have different goals that can be reached in a shorter amount of time. You must always work hard to help your students achieve their goals as quickly, and effectively as possible. However, some goals may be more vague and require more time for the student to find out what he or she really wants. In order to keep more of your students for a longer period of time, seek to understand the reasons why past students have stopped taking lessons with you. Additionally, ask your current long time guitar students why they enjoy taking lessons with you. Monitor these statistics on a consistent basis so that you can continually improve your guitar teaching methods.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Ten: Not knowing a good way to judge how well you are doing as a guitar teacher.
The majority of guitar teachers have no reliable manner for determining if they are good at teaching guitar. Here are the main reasons why this happens:
- Less experienced guitar teachers often make comparisons with themselves to other local guitar teachers (who likely aren’t very successful either). They are judging their own skills as a teacher based on the merely mediocre teaching of the other guitar instructors who surround them.
- Teaching guitar generally is not up to par with other music instruction. Now you understand why classical piano teachers will normally retain students for years, while many guitar instructors struggle to keep students for more than a few months.
- Most guitar teachers never actually make the effort to find training to improve their guitar teaching skills. In general, they will ask other (amateur) teachers what to do, or will simply attempt to emulate the actions of others. If these things do not work, they will resort to giving guitar lessons to their students in a ‘hit or miss’ manner. Unfortunately, this tends to make guitar lessons like an ‘experiment’ for your guitar students. There are always times when you will be learning from your mistakes; however it is best to understand how to avoid them from the beginning.
Guitar Teacher Mistake Number Eleven: Not accepting responsibility for the quality of the guitar lessons you give.
When you teach guitar, your students are paying you with their money, time, and effort. It is important to work as hard as you can to reward them with the best guitar instruction possible. Fact is, most guitar teachers DO NOT put much effort at all to improve the quality of their guitar lessons, or work to help their guitar students achieve their goals faster. These types of teachers merely teach guitar to ‘get by’. Why should a guitar student ever spend their hard earned money for guitar lessons when their teacher isn’t actively working to bring them the best instruction possible? You don’t have to be an incredible guitar teacher before you ever get started teaching (of course); however, if you want to be able to provide the very best guitar teaching for your students, you will benefit immensely by getting trained, coached, and mentored to become the best guitar teacher you can be.
Remember, although there are many great guitar teachers out there, each and every one of those teachers were likely at the same point you are at right now. These great teachers did not become great by merely attempting to copy others or taking the amateur advice of other non successful guitar teachers in their area. Most likely, they made an effort to seek out a way to improve their guitar teaching skills. These guitar teachers consistently provide the highest value for their students. As a result, these people are highly successful at teaching guitar! Do you want to become the most successful guitar teacher in your area, with lots of great students who love taking lessons with you? You have the power to make this into reality… choose to become the best guitar teacher in your local area!