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Attitude is Everything When Teaching Guitar

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

When Mike first began to take lessons, he never practiced at home. He would arrive on time to his lesson but he often forgot his notes, or his picks, and on one occasion even his guitar. He wanted to learn but he sabotaged himself by not doing the required work and his playing suffered. It’s difficult to teach someone who doesn't want to practice or forgets materials but
guitar teachers face these problems on a daily basis with students. Over the course of several months I was patient with Mike and reminded him of the need to practice. With time, he found his way on the instrument and improved. Losing your cool with a student who isn’t practicing won’t work you need that patience to give them the space to learn which can take time depending upon the student. A younger student might have other issues on their mind such as school while an older student might be focused on work.

My Guitar

My Guitar
Credit: Lisa Usher

Young Dakota used to struggle through even simple songs. She would get frustrated and make even more mistakes. “Relax, I said. “Take your time and play it again, only slower.”
“I can’t do it, she said.”
I pointed to the fretboard where her fingers should be. “Yes, you can.” Despite the fact that her playing at the time wasn’t very good, I worked with her in a positive professional manner. Students learn at different speeds and some need more help than others even with simple material. Give them encouragement and push them to get better. Being a positive influence on your students can go a long way towards their success.

Not every guitar player can make a great teacher. You must be dedicated to your instrument and be willing to work hard so others can be successful. When you first start out you may receive low wages and not many hours due to lack of students. You might need to juggle other musical obligations along with your teaching duties. The stress of making lesson plans, learning new songs, and seeing that each student is improving can weigh you down. Teaching the guitar can become a burden on you emotionally if you are not prepared for the incredible challenge that awaits you as a musical educator.

You might be a hot shot guitar player, know all the songs, have extensive music theory background, and think you could teach anyone. While great musical skills are an essential part of teaching the instrument you must possess a skill that is even more powerful. As a guitar teacher you must have incredible patience. Imagine you are teaching a student a simple song but they are just not getting it. The student is making all the wrong moves despite your numerous attempts to correct them. You need the ability to take a step back and guide the student slowly bar by bar through the song until it is mastered. Getting angry will only discourage your student to make more mistakes and pull them away from your teaching. Situations like this one can occur multiple times over the course of a single teaching day. You need to keep a level head, get a grip on your frustration, and teach with patience.

Become a great guitar teacher by being a positive influence on your student not a negative one. No student wants a teacher who tells them that they can’t do something.When I first began taking lessons I heard plenty of “you can’t play this,” from my teacher. This sort of negative attitude is the last thing you want to give a student. Replace those negative words with
positive ones. For example, you might say “practice hard and soon you will be able to play that song.” Show confidence in your students no matter what their individual abilities. When they do something right let them know and when they get it wrong give them that same encouragement to get better. Approach each student with that same winning attitude because if your confidence shines through your students will have something powerful to push them forward in their studies with you.

As a guitar teacher you need to possess the ability to deal with different personalities. Different students can bring new challenges for you. For example, you might have a young student who can’t sit still or a teenager who is shy and withdrawn. You may need to alter your teaching style for each student. For example, for a shy student you might need to be extra positive with them and give them that confidence to get better. Older mature students may want to learn more about theory and the mechanics of guitar playing and not just the latest radio hit. For each student focus your teaching style on their individual needs and let your patience come into play.

Guitar teachers need to be flexible in their teaching and accept all forms of music. If you just want to teach blues be sure you advertise that. You will be faced with songs you absolutely hate as a player yourself but you still need to teach them. Never put down a student or reflect negatively on their tastes in music. We all like different forms of music and as a teacher your job is to teach guitar and not be a music critic. If you open yourself up to new forms of music you will grow as a player and as a teacher. Have your students write down their favorite songs and take it upon yourself to teach them what they want to learn not what you think they should learn. Teachers in music schools may need to follow a strict curriculum so
this technique might not apply. In general you should be flexible as a teacher towards all forms of music. A teenager doesn't want to learn Mary Had a Little Lamb when they are into Green Day.

Teaching music can be fun but it’s also serious business. As a musical educator you must be certain that your students are actually learning. Stress the importance of regular practice and give them homework to accomplish. There is only so much you can do in a short period of time and much of the learning is up to the student. If you have younger students, make sure their
parents know how they are doing because this shows that you care about their child’s progress. Don’t become lazy towards your students you still need to be a teacher. Offer rewards such as picks or other small items to the ones that practice often as incentives to keep up the work.

As a guitar teacher for over fifteen years it has been my attitude towards my students and not my skills that has helped me succeed. Students come back to me because I help them learn the instrument with patience and remain positive no matter where they are as a player. Don’t judge your students, teach them and let them find their way on the guitar. Reward their efforts
and bring out the musician locked inside each one of them.



Apr 11, 2013 1:01pm
Loved this! As someone who is trying to learn how to play the guitar, I sure wish I had an instructor with your dedication and passion! Your article should be mandatory reading for instructors everywhere!
Apr 19, 2013 6:53am
Keeping a positive attitude is so important. I am a new violin teacher, and many of your tips apply to any type of teaching. Thanks for the info!
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