Why Great Guitar Teachers Are Rare

Great guitar teacher are rare because of one simple fact. They are deluding themselves. I am sorry if that offends some people but ironically, if you are reading this article you are probably not in this self deluded camp. In most cases guitar teachers just don’t like to admit their failings but the writing is on the wall. To explain let me give you an example of what a typical conversation would look like between myself and an average guitar teacher based on hundreds of conversations.

  • Me: “Do you believe you are succeeding as a guitar teacher?”
  • Teacher: “Absolutely”.
  • Me: “How do you know?”
  • Teacher: “My students tell me.”
  • Me: “How does that equate to success?”
  • Teacher: “Its proof. If students are saying good things about me I must be successful”
  • Me: “But is a student’s willingness to say a few positive words about you really proof of your success? Wouldn’t actual measurable results be a better indicator of success? After all, we wouldn’t call a successful sports coach successful just because a few players say nice things about them. We want to see the team winning games right?”
  • Teacher: “I don’t know about that but my teaching business is a success in my opinion.”

This teacher was typical, believing he was successful but on closer investigation what I generally found was a teacher who was hanging on to a handful of students who saw their teacher as more of a friend than a teacher. These teachers use confirmation bias to validate their beliefs of success. The truth is these teachers are failing on many counts. Their students aren’t practicing and are therefore not realising any real results for their students. Their first and biggest problem is self delusion.

The second big problem

So self delusion is the first big problem as you can see from the example above. This actually creates the second big problem which is an inability to find solutions to the problems they face. After all, why would they look for a solution if they don’t believe they have a problem. The difference I see with successful teachers is they take the opposite view. They don’t view themselves as success stories. They see themselves with many problems to be solved. They are always on a journey to become better. Its their very admission of problems that keeps them looking for solutions.

The third big problem

I believe the best indicator of teacher success is student progress. Student progress therefore needs to be measured. Most guitar teachers have no reliable system of measurement. They will often argue that every student is different and has different goals which may be true but there are skills and reliable milestones every student can be measured by. For example playing a major C scale at a given tempo is a bench mark. Every student needs to know how to play a C scale so it makes for a helpful marker of progress. Very few guitar teachers have any form of measurement so they have no way to truly measure how well they are doing as a teacher.

How to succeed

Most guitar teachers fail because they don’t see the problems which happens because they falsely believe they are succeeding. To succeed your need to reverse this paradigm. See yourself as failing. Not in a pessimistic way but with the aim of seeking out problems. Be honest with yourself and look closely at your students. Make sure you have a system of measurement to gauge the progress of your students. By measuring and looking for problems your teaching will only improve. Success is much more likely.


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