You Should Try Teaching Guitar Too

DADGAD guitar tuning

…. But Ashley, are you serious? Me, teach?! No – Never.


Ok. I get it; you don’t where to start, how to explain concepts, plus patience, well that generally found in ….. Well, other people!


You might not be able to read music, let alone write it. And finding students – sounds confusing?!


You probably have another 100 questions run around your head.



While, I ’m not going try to address your questions or problems. I will, however, talk you through what to teach in broad terms, give you some tips on how to teach and help you to get over your mental block. But first….



Why teaching

If we leave the money to one side (although teaching is very lucrative), the main case for teaching guitar is that you learn so much yourself.


One of the hardest things for anyone is to play in front of one person. Try it, you’ll agree! It’s completely different to playing a gig in front of 100 or so people. It’s far harder as that person’s full concentration is on you – it’s scary! However, for me, I’m doing it all the time within lesson and my confidence has grown. The lasting result is that I’ve played better at gigs because of it.



Another challenge I’m up against with students is holding the tempo and keeping the groove going. It’s a real skill to be able to play in time with someone else whilst having a good sense of personal time and making it sound GREAT! Teaching forces you to play a chord pattern and hold the tempo over a long period of time – especially, if the student is learning how to solo.



Major challenges

One of the major challenges I face in every lesson is be able to explain to the guitar student, complex musical concepts, in the simplest way possible. It could take me a few attempts to explain the ideas fully and I might have to re-think how I explain on the spot and teach the student the concept in three different ways before he/she get it. Not only is this a challenge for me but it helps to solidify my own knowledge and tests my understanding of the material.


With all that said, my biggest test is pace. I have to be continually sensing the speed at which the student is understanding and processing the material. Is she tired after a long day and thus I need to take my time to explain or to show her what I’m playing?


Maybe I need instead I need to slow down and only try to get through half of what I planning. It could it be he’s had a great day and we can go faster than usually while ramping up how challenging the material is? Do we need to slow down this lesson and get a four bar phrase 100% nailed and iron out all the mistakes?



What to teach

Start with what you know. If you know a few basic open guitar chords and the Minor Pentatonic scale – start teaching a friend that. You’ll grow in self confidence, improve your guitar playing and teaching abilities.


You will need to learn some more complex chords and the CAGED system – which is basically how you can use the 5 open chords across the whole neck. You’ll also want to learn some scales (you only need four scales – Major, Harmonic Minor, Minor Pentatonic and Chromatic).


Over time you will want to develop your ear and become proficient at working out songs, even if it’s just being able to find the key and write out the chord pattern. This does mean you’ll have to learn to read and write music. A good local piano teacher can help you along the way to achieve this goal.


Being able to write out songs will do wonders for your own playing (and your bank balance as you’ll never need to buy another song book!) and will also enable you to write up songs that your students want to learn.



Teaching tips

I’m going to be brief here and give you some general pointers, in no particular order.


First – When you’re teaching you need to focus 100% on the student. I’ve heard horror stories of teachers checking their email in the lesson or taking a personal call in the middle of the lesson. Not only is this rude, it’s disrespectful to the student. If you want a student to return, focus all you’ve got on the time you have with them.


Second – The real secret to being good at anything in life is be prepared! It really is that simple. Even if you just have 5 minutes, use that time to think about what you covered in the last lesson and what you will cover in this lesson.


Third – If you’re going to cover a song/basic chords/scale with a few students, make it into a worksheet. Not only does that make you look more professional, it will cut down the time that you spend in lesson writing things out.


Fourth – Be set up and ready for student if they are coming to you at least 10 minutes before the lesson starts. Use this 10 minutes to warm up, tune your guitar and to clear your head.


If you’re going to them, make sure you arrive a few minutes early, so you can start dead on time. If you’re 5 minutes late starting one lesson, it’s likely that you’ll be late for the rest and end up working an extra 30 minutes (for free – no less), all because of one small hiccup.


Fifth – If you’re teaching from home or a fixed location, it’s a good idea to schedule students 10-15 minutes apart. This way if you over run, by a few minutes, you’ll be ok and won’t feel rushed. If you run to time, it means you have time to grab a drink and use the toilet.


Six – If you teaching from home, always offer the student a glass of water. Why? It is medically proven that we concentrate better when hydrated and water is the best liquid to use to quickly hydrate your body and mind.



Mental Brick Wall

Henry Ford is wide quoted as saying – ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t youre right.’


He’s right, if you don’t believe me, every time you say “I can’t do blank”, give it a go. I bet you will find out that if you try hard, then you can. The mind is great at creating brick walls which hold us back from our full potential. Luckily, these walls are not as solid as we believe and can be smashed through and fears overcome!


The best way to start teaching guitar is to actually start! Find a friend or two to start with and built from there. This could be your route out of the 9 to 5 job. Wouldn’t you like to earning a living doing what you love?



For a more complete guide to starting your own teaching business, buy my book: Earn A Living Teaching Guitar.


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