If you want to teach guitar, then it's critically important to know what the most important steps are to becoming the best teacher you can be. Many people who have been teaching guitar for a long time don't know all 5 of the important things you are now going to learn about how to teach guitar.
Like most people, when I started teaching guitar I also didn't know much about how to teach well. I thought, because I was a good guitar player, that I would be able to teach well. That was false. In my first 10 years of teaching I had taught thousands of guitar lessons and thought I was really good. Fact is, like most guitar teachers, I was only mediocre. Over the next 10 years of my teaching, I finally began to learn the most effective ways to consistently help guitar students progress to very high skill levels in shorter periods of time.
Here are 5 things you should know and do when getting started teaching guitar.
1. The first (and most important) step in learning to teach guitar is to 'care' more about guitar students than any other guitar teacher in your area will. This alone makes a huge difference in the results that your students will get from you compared to what they could get from anyone else.
2. Great guitar teachers do not teach guitar. They teach 'people'. What is the difference? If you teach 'guitar', your approach is to think about the technical, musical and philosophical ways of showing someone how to play a guitar. Fact is, your students don't want to learn to play guitar. They want to learn 'how to feel' a certain way when they pick up a guitar and play (or try to play). They not only want to learn how to get these feelings in the future when they can play well, they want to also feel it right now. They want to love the way it 'feels' to enjoy the process of learning. When you really focus on that, then you begin to realize you are not teaching guitar, you are teaching people.
Teaching 'guitar' is more about explaining or demonstrating various aspects of guitar playing, music theory, etc. Teaching 'people' is all about 'solving problems', developing a specific strategic path to the specific goals they have, supporting them and keeping them motivated in the process of their development.
3. Surround yourself with other expert guitar teachers. There are 2 common mistakes most guitar teachers make. Either they don't surround themselves with other guitar teachers at all, or 2. they surround themselves with other guitar teachers who are not true expert teachers who get big results for their students and have very successful guitar teaching businesses. Surround yourself with experienced expert guitar teachers who know how to 'successfully' handle the same situations that you might be struggling with.
4. Learn to balance patience and expectations. Everyone knows that to be a good guitar teacher one must have a lot of patience. What most don't know is how to balance patience with expectations. Your students' learning progress is heavily influenced not only by what you teach them, but on what you expect from them. If you fail to consistently communicate higher expectations for your students, most of them will progress slowly. You need to push them a little with realistic, but high expectations while at the same time being supportive and patient.
5. Don't settle for being 'good enough'. Sadly, many guitar teachers think it is OK to be 'good enough'. Do you want your doctor, accountant, or your auto mechanic to be 'good enough'? Or do you want these people to be the best they can be in order to serve you better? It's unethical to not be as good as you know you can be. I'm not suggesting that you need to have an advanced music degree from a university, nor that you need to be a great guitarist before you can begin teaching guitar. All guitar instructors have to start from 'somewhere', but once you get started teaching, you owe it to your current and future guitar students to constantly be learning how to become a better guitar teacher. Your students expect and deserve this from you, and you deserve it for yourself.
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Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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