Teaching guitar is a skill like any other. When you practice skills in productive ways you will improve and when you use unproductive methods you will develop bad habits. In this article we will look at three simple ways you can improve as a guitar teacher. Take your time to fully understand each point as each one is incredibly powerful.Use better lesson materials
From your student’s point of view, the quality of the lesson materials you provide reflect the quality of your teaching. Although there’s a lot more to it than the quality of materials your students perceives it to be one of the main points. That means if you use hand written lesson materials and jotted down notes, it doesn’t look good in the student’s eyes. Using informal lesson materials like handwritten notes can actually impact how your student thinks of you as a tutor. It’s therefore important you use high quality materials that look as professional as possible.
The easiest way to improve the quality of your lesson materials is to purchase materials specifically made for tutors. Whether you buy instruction books to give to your students or subscribe to sites that allow you to download specific lesson materials, either way you will be perceived as more professional and your student will respond to your lessons in a more positive way. Professional looking materials plays a big part in being perceived as a professional tutor. If you are just starting out as a guitar tutor, then this is an easy way for your students to think of you as an expert. Handwritten lesson materials cries ‘beginner’.
Expand your guitar knowledge
Even if you think you know quite a lot about techniques and theory, it’s always a good idea to continuously expand your knowledge. It doesn’t matter if you’re only teaching beginners, you should still try to grow as a guitarist yourself because it will become apparent in the quality of your teaching. If your student is just starting to learn the Major scale as an example, you should be light-years ahead of them and fully understand the theory behind all scales as well as modes. Otherwise what will happen if your student asks you a question and you don’t know the answer? You could bluff your way out of it but your credibility will suffer.
Even if you think your level of understanding is more than enough, keep learning. Guitar is a constant learning process and nobody has complete mastery over it completely. Expert guitarists who have been playing for decades still look to learn new things to learn and you should too regardless of our how good you think you are. If you don’t know much about music theory then find a few books about it and start reading. If you more or less understand modes, keep learning about them and learn how they can be used. If there’s a technique you haven’t really tried using before, spend some time practicing it and finding new ways to apply it in your playing.
Every time you take actions to improve your abilities and knowledge, your teaching abilities will improve. Remember this is a constant process so you should always try to increase your abilities and knowledge any way you can.
Learn new styles
To be an effective tutor you need to teach your student what they want to learn. If they want to learn country and western and you have never played that in your life, you’re not going to be very effective as a tutor. Write down the styles you play at the moment and understand, then write down a list of all the styles you don’t play or don’t fully understand. The list of styles you don’t play is a big gaping hole in your teaching ability. If somebody wants to learn a style in that second list you can’t help them (yet). You could bluff your way through it but the student would be better off with somebody else. On the other hand if you spend a little bit of time and effort, you can fill that hole, learn the new styles and give your student the education they are after.
Pick one of the styles you haven’t played before and spend some time learning songs in that style and trying to understand the theory behind the style. What type of chords and scales are used? What techniques? Are there any concepts or principles you could use in your lessons? The more you learn about the new style the more you gain from it. Continue this process with another style. Keep working through your list of styles you don’t know until you feel confident with them.
Some styles you will just have to suck up your ego and do it. If you truly hate style x, just learn it anyway. Because if you get a new student who has been dying to learn style x, it’s not fair for them if you try to tell them ‘style x sucks’ or if you bluff your way through it. The only way you can become a truly effective tutor is to learn the style and teach it properly.
Use teaching aids
The range of teaching resources and tools you have available will partly determine your effectiveness as a guitar tutor. When you have a wide range of different teaching aids, you will be able to explain concepts and principles in different ways. A tutor who doesn’t use any teaching aids will find their students become bored over time. Teaching aids can give your lessons a fresh angle and keep your student interested.
As an example, just think how useful a metronome is as a tutor.
You can use it to:
- help your student play in time
- practice exercises
- explain rhythm
- help your student come up with strumming patterns
- write rhythmic riffs and licks
The list could go on but the point is you could use the same teaching aid in a variety of ways. So using a metronome in your lessons significantly improves the effectiveness of your tuition over time.
As another example, guitar flash cards are extremely effective teaching tools. If you had a pack of guitar flash cards (which are easily found with a quick Google search), you could use them to:
- teach your student chords
- explain chord theory
- come up with chord progressions
- help your student write songs
- help your student write melodies over a chord
- practice changing between different combinations of chords
- play memory games
Again you can see that one simple teaching aid can be used in a variety of ways. One simple pack of guitar flash cards can be used in so many ways and keep your student interested.
The point with these examples is to show you that you can use teaching aids in any way you choose. Teaching aids give you options and help you increase your effectiveness as a tutor. So next time you see anything that can be used in your lessons, get it. The more aids you have available the more options you will have and your students will appreciate the variety of teaching methods you will be able to use.
By following the four simple tips above, you will be able to radically improve your effectiveness as a tutor. By finding better quality resources your students will perceive you to be a better tutor. Every time you expand your guitar knowledge you will be able to explain tricky principles and techniques so much easier. By learning new styles you will be able to teach a wider range of students and you won’t have to worry about students leaving you because you didn’t know a certain style. Finally, every time you acquire a new teaching aid, you improve as a tutor as every tool will give you the ability to teaching in different ways.
Don’t underestimate the power of any of these points. Follow all four tips and you will see huge improvements as a tutor.
Aaron writes lesson materials for guitar tutors to use in their lessons along with how-to business and teaching guides at Live and Teach Guitar, a site dedicated to helping guitar tutors make the most of their tuition business. You can access a wide range of teaching materials at the Live and Teach Guitar website. Visit Live and Teach Guitar at http://www.liveteachguitar.com.
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