Guitar teachers, especially those starting fresh, can find themselves not being fully successful in imparting the lessons to their students. There can be several factors contributing to such a scenario. For instance, you may not be very much confident in your own abilities or you may not have a proper plan about how to proceed with your lessons. Playing guitar is fun but teaching it is a taxing task.
If you have been playing guitar for a while now and plan to give lessons, here are some common mistakes you must avoid to ensure effective delivery of your lessons and success of your students:
- Providing More Information Than What Your Students Can Handle
This is fairly common with any teacher and not just a music or guitar instructor. In fact, this is why teacher get training for teaching their students. Teacher sometimes forget that they too learnt stuff step by step and they cannot transfer all the knowledge they have in a short time.
As a guitar instructor, limit your weekly lessons to just one concept. If needed, extend the learning to the next week as well. It is not necessary that you teach a new thing every week. If the lessons get informational overload then the chances of your student backing off can increase. Train the students until they have learned the trait you are teaching.
- Not Tracking Your Student and Your Own Progress
Your job should not just be to give the lessons and move on. If your student is not learning, your job is not done. To achieve better results, you will need to monitor yours and your student’s progress. Your progress in successfully teaching and your student’s progress in mastering what you taught.
This will help you and your students in numerous ways. Primarily, their confidence will increase when you tell them that they are progressing in an adequate pace. It also helps you estimate how long it can take you to finish teaching the basic or may advance skills to your student. It will help you decide your pace. If your student takes time learning something then you might want to slow things down. You know what is done and what is left.
- Not Having a Plan
Planning is a good part in any course and can save you from hurdles and help achieve a timely progress. This plan is more for your use than for your student’s. However, your student plays a major role in planning. When you set a timeline for how and what you are going to teach, you also need to take into account the learning pace and the goals of your students. Keep updating your plan according to what you find out about your student. In case your student asks you to teach something that was not part of your plan, adjust that. Do not ignore their request as it will affect their dedication and not leave a good impression about you as an instructor.
- Not Enough Emphasis on Practice
Practice makes perfect they say. You must emphasize on practicing the lessons taught. Do not move to a new concept until the student has had ample practice of an ongoing concept or skill. Many guitar teachers are very enthusiastic to teach everything they can to their student. So they jump to newer ideas before practicing the previous skill. The basic guitar playing techniques need to be practiced in particular. A guitar teacher must motivate his or her students to practice regularly.
- Not Communicating Your Expectations to the Student
Teaching is a two way road. Both the teacher and the student have to make serious efforts on their part. As a guitar teacher, you need to clearly communicate your expectations to your student. Let them know, how many hours a week you expect them to practice. Set some goals for them, perhaps a timeline to achieve certain skill set of playing guitars. This will let them know that you are serious in your commitment to make them a good guitar player and that they must do their part to achieve results.
- Asking Beginner Level Students to Read Music
Unless your student is intermediate or advance guitar player, you should avoid asking them to read music. Although it may have long term benefits, going for this kind of learning might bore the student. Moreover, learning guitar is an applied process. They cannot simply learn from a textbook. They will need hand on practice under your supervision. Only this way will they learn and master the basic techniques and advance to a level more appropriate for reading. In fact, when they have practiced some basic techniques the books can actually be quite helpful in pointing out their mistakes.
- Following the Same Method of Teaching with All the Students
This is important especially for a guitar instructor. As mentioned before, each student is unique and their pace might differ from one another. If you just go about using guitar method books and teach everyone in the same way, your lessons will not only be humdrum but unsuccessful as well. You should design your lessons according to the student. You can observe the student in the early weeks of teaching and then alter your plan accordingly and make it suitable for the student. Give them unique challenges and set goals corresponding to their strengths and weaknesses. This is one aspect that if handled right can make you a truly successful instructor.
- Only Teaching What the Student Wants to Learn
Many guitar teachers think that they only have to teach their students what they want to learn and what needs to be taught. The ‘want’ way will find your students not learning enough. Your focus should also include the needs of the student. There has to be a balance of the student’s wants and needs. First off, the student probably will not even know what he needs to learn. So it is your job to see what needs to be taught. That said, the wants of the students are no less. Why? If you do not teach what they want to learn they will be disappointed.
You can also try the approach of making your students needs into wants. You can tell them the benefits of the technique or concept they need to master. This way they will start wanting to learn that skill. Identify the needs and wants into goals for your student. Your students will truly enjoy this approach as both you and your students will be striving to achieve their respective goals to their likings.
- Not Emphasizing on Playing Real Music
When you are done with teaching a concept, tell your student to practice a similar existing music. If they will not practice real music, they will never become good guitarists. You can give them songs with a lot of guitar music to practice a concept or better tell them to practice on songs they really like.
- Being Irresponsive to a Student’s Frustrations
Learning a music instrument is not easy for everyone. Some students might struggle more than others. In such a case, it is absolutely important that you show understanding of the emotions and struggles of the student. Remember you are teaching a person not an object. Get to know your student more and find out where they are struggling or why they are struggling. Try giving them a bit of motivational anecdotes before the practice. Let them know that whatever problem they may face, you will be there to guide them until they learn to play the guitar.
- Not Integrating Concepts
Once they have learned a fair amount of concepts and techniques, you must train them to play it all together. Integrating different skills is crucial for them to be professionals. In fact, this will speed up their progress and allow them to start experimenting on their own. But beware; this is one of the difficult parts of learning guitar so you might have to put in extra effort.
- Only Teaching Individually
Your guitar student will find difficulties integrating skills if they have had only learnt and practice privately. Even more important concern in this scenario is their confidence to play. If they have always played in isolation or in front of you, they might lack the confidence to play in front of several people. There will be no interaction with other guitar students and no opportunities to play in real life platforms.
What you can do to tackle this issue is that you can combine private lessons into small groups. If that is not possible then perhaps motivate the student to play with his friends who play guitars or take them to play in front of some people in order to eliminate their stage fright if they have it.
- Mistakes in Teaching Music Theory
There is a lot of room to go wrong in teaching music theory. Some instructors even leave out teaching music theory. It may not seem big but music theory can actually aid your student’s skills. When teaching music theory avoid going in a random pattern. It is good to start with basic concepts and then jump to advance. Do not teach music theory without training.
Some students might show strong disinterest in music theory. Teach them about the benefits of studying theory. Identify what theory lessons are related to the music goals of your students. Train them about applying what they learned from these theoretical concepts.
- Teaching Guitar through Songs Only
Teaching songs is an important part of your guitar lessons but it is not the only way to make your students play guitar. First and foremost, your focus should be on their basic guitar playing skills. Songs should come in the practice phase. Once you have taught a technique, use a song to make your student practice that particular technique again and again. Guitarists will eventually be playing guitars for song so songs are vital for their progress but they should not be the start.
- Going for Quantity over Quality
Big numbers excite everyone and people tend to think that the bigger the number, more the success. In case of guitar teaching, by numbers we mean the number of students. If your perception of being an expert instructor is the number of students you have then you are terribly mistaken. The number of weeks or months a student stays with you can be a much better measure of success for you as a guitar teacher.
One instructor you had 30 students in a year all of them averaging the total time of teaching to 2 months. Another teacher had only 12 students but most of them stayed with him for over 6 months. What does this show? The teacher whose students stayed longer was able to hold them interested for a long time and may have even taught them intermediate and advance level skills. Your focus should be on quality, not quantity. The more students also mean more money which makes it very lucrative but if you think long term, the efficacy of your teaching should be your priority even if it means a lower number of students.
If a lot of students are only taking lessons for a few weeks, it might be time for you to review your teaching methods. You should be able to keep the students interested. Commonly, any of the above discussed mistakes would be resulting in your student’s loss of interest.
Teaching guitar takes effort, patience and passion. It can be quite fun if you try different methods. Your students reflect a lot about you as a guitarist. But just like about everything else in life, it is easy to make mistakes and swerve away from your goals. If you understand in advance what mistakes you may make, it will be easier for you to avoid them in the first place. Keep reviewing your methods and tracking your student’s progress to ensure your lessons are being effective. And remember it never hurts to experiment a bit.