Those Who Can Do, Teach

Teaching private guitar lessons is a great way to earn money as a professional musician. Hey, you've got to pay the bills somehow while you're waiting for that big break! If you're getting tired of playing cover tunes and breathing second-hand smoke in insignificant bars, teaching might just be for you. Even an unknown player can earn from $20-50 an hour at home in his spare time. It's a decision that lots of us make. It doesn't diminish your artistic integrity. You'll merely be joining the likes of Joe Satriani, Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, and Andres Segovia, all of whom are legendary instructors.

The Teaching Environment

You can get started teaching virtually anywhere. The most important thing is that the area stays clean and free of distractions, especially noise. Remember, you'll likely be teaching kids. If their parents are tripping over pizza boxes and beer cans in your studio you won't have many repeat customers. Having the right gear also helps. A guitar, chairs, a music stand, amps, blank paper, and a boom-box will do for
a start. Organize a corner of the room where the gear stays set up all the time.

If you plan to be competitive, a private studio with a separate entrance and some elbow-room is great. Fill it up with as much awesome gear as possible! A modest recording studio helps. A file cabinet full of reference sheets and a music library will also help. You should also host a free annual recital. These types of things impress clients and keep them coming back.

Getting Students

Guitar teachers are a dime a dozen as compared to piano or voice teachers. This makes it a lot harder for us to get students. During the first few years of your teaching you may well be frustrated by a lack of students. Don't get discouraged. It's normal. The first step is to advertise. Use a local newspaper that's widely read. Internet listings are also great, and they're usually free. Your ads may not generate any calls for weeks or months but keep them in anyway. They're building name recognition. People will call eventually. Be sure to mention any accomplishments that set you apart from the crowd. Put up fliers. Spread the word at gigs and among friends and relatives. Music stores that don't offer instruction often have free listings for teachers.

Private schools employ outside guitar instructors. Watch for openings at area schools. Contact the administration and offer to give a free demonstration. If you're a hit, you may end up with a steady source of students for years to come! Above all, be creative when seeking clients. Take advantage of any opportunities that arise.

The Psychology Of Teaching

Being a good teacher means forgetting your ego and devoting yourself to the goals of your students. Never steer students towards your personal style if they are naturally more excited by a different kind of music. This will only create tension. You're not in this to champion your favorite musical genre. You're in it to have fun, make money, and do a great job!

It's good to expose students to diverse musical styles. As a student matures his tastes may begin to parallel your own. But don't count on it. Everybody can't like everything. You will have to be good at whatever the student likes. This will cause the student to take you seriously, and become more interested in the styles you like.

The Skills You Need

It helps to have a solid knowledge of music theory, sight reading, ear-training, and improvisation. You must be able to present your lessons in a logical sequence, so that everything makes sense. You should also be able to figure out tunes quickly by ear because students often bring in tapes of songs that they want to learn. Be ready to answer tons of guitar related questions. Know about musical forms such as the many variations of blues progressions, jazz and pop progressions, Spanish guitar, and at least a handful of current radio hits. I could go on and on, but if you're thinking about becoming a teacher hopefully you already know most of this stuff. Honestly, most of your students will be beginners and you will be teaching them rudiments that barely scratch the surface of your knowledge.

In conclusion, a good teacher never thinks that he knows it all. He always keeps learning from himself, his environment, and most of all from his students. Teaching is a great way to make a steady living as a guitarist. You will meet a steady stream of diverse musicians. Some of them will make you feel warm and fuzzy, while others will make you want to smash your guitar. Teaching can be a rewarding and heartwarming experience at best and a depressing burnout at worst. Realistically, it's usually some of both. Good luck!

Tobias Hurwitz is a guitarist, instructor, writer and performer from Baltimore, Maryland who never stops learning and sharing his knowledge with others.

His CD is entitled "Painted Sky", which features offers a combination of funk, heavy rock, jazz and blues on nine instrumental tracks and one vocal number.

Tobias Hurwitz