One Thing That Will Set Your Guitar Teaching Apart From Your Competition

boy with classical Spanish guitarScenario. A good student seemingly out of nowhere, announces they will no longer be attending your lessons. When you enquire as to why they reply, “Money is a bit tight at the moment” or “I have a lot going on and don’t have the time right now”.  Another student is not practicing. You ask them ‘what’s wrong’ and they reply, “My schedule is quite busy and it’s difficult to find the time to practice”.  


Most guitar teachers I speak to have experienced the above examples. Teachers will make comments like, “Those students weren’t serious so there was nothing I could do” or “I did my best with them but ultimately it’s up to the student”. I do understand how guitar teachers feel. It can feel like you did everything possible. I remember thinking much the same thing. I would say it wasn’t until about 10 years of teaching full time that the penny dropped. I am sure I must have read about it but it just didn’t click until a certain point in my career. This may even happen to you now. You might listen or read what I am about to say but it still might not click but it’s the one thing that will distinguish you from most teachers so read it several times if need be. Here goes.


It relates to student confidence. Time and money are rarely the real reasons behind why students quit guitar. It almost always comes back to confidence and hope, which for our purposes are really the same thing. For a student to be confident in their ability to learn guitar they must see a future where they have achieved their guitar goals. If they for a minute, believe it’s hopeless and they are wasting their time they will be looking for any excuse to quit.


You see we humans are always looking to the future and weighting up whether our current actions are going to pay off in the future. A person with a job is wondering whether or not they will get a promotion or whether they should look for a different job. A student is wondering whether they should study hard or whether it’s not worth the effort and should switch careers. Hope is what keeps us focused and hope, is what will keep your students turning up to lessons each week and practicing daily.


Success on guitar more than anything else requires persistence. It will take time to learn and do the necessary practice to be a competent guitar player. In my early years teaching I knew my first priority was to prevent students quitting too soon and to somehow teach them to be persistent. I can’t make a student a great guitar player in 3 weeks but I can help them to persist. The key to persistence was for students to see their potential future. If students could see a future where they were playing their favourite songs with relative ease they were more likely to stay the course. 


Those early frustrating years. I remember as a teen in my first few years constantly questioning whether or not I was wasting my time trying to learn guitar. I came close many time to quitting but there was this turning point. A point at which I felt I had invested too much time to quit now. I was able to compare my progress to beginner students I knew and realised how far I had come. This kept me going but the real turning point was when I signed up for guitar lessons. My teacher filled me with hope and my confidence soared. It was this experience that really transformed me and eventually my playing. 


So how do you build hope in your students? Knowing the answer to this question will almost magically make all the other problems disappear, and here is how simple it is. You must make confidence building a part of your lessons. This requires you to be helping students to see a vision of the future. Assure them that if they follow your instructions and practice daily they will reach their future self in no time. The other part of the equation is to be constantly reminding them of how far they have come. “Jack do you remember when the F chord seemed impossible? Look where you are now.”


You must also hold this future vision for your students. When you believe in them they will naturally start to believe more in themselves. Avoid using statements like “Mary your practice this week is disappointing” because this only diminishes their hope of a positive future. Instead say “What happened this week Mary? Do you realise how much potential you have? I know you will be a great guitar player if you put in the practice so talk to me”.


The idea is to get them talking to help them overcome the real reason why they didn’t practice and the real reason is a lack of motivation. They weren’t motivation because they just don’t have a clear positive vision of their future guitar self. If you, as their teacher can develop this image through your weekly lessons their motivation to practice will naturally rise as a consequence. So your job more than anything, is creating a vision for your students to aspire to. Each week when they leave your lesson that vision should be crystal clear. When they return the next week the vision will usually be foggy so, you need to make it clear once again. Week by week that clear vision will become more permanent. 


You have more influence then you realise but you need to be proactive. Don’t wait for problems to occur. By actively building confidence in your students around learning guitar you reduce the chances of them deciding to quit.
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