3 Tips To Get Your Guitar Students Committed To Practice

The surest way to keep your students coming back each week is progress. When a student progresses their confidence builds and they want more and the only way they will progress of course is through practice. This naturally begs the question of how. The following 3 tips will greatly improve the chances of your students becoming long term committed guitar players.

Track their practice and review weekly

In my early years of teaching and managing music schools I noticed a stark difference between most guitar students and the students of a more classical nature like piano and violin. The students seemed more confident, happier and practiced more. At first I put it down to the individual teachers which was definitely a large part of the equation but it seemed odd that guitar teachers were always the ones with the highest student dropout rates. The correlation between low practice and high dropout rates was obvious but it still left me asking why guitar students? What was so different? The answer came when I noticed two teachers in particular (a piano teacher and a violin teacher) who had excellent student retention rates. On top of that the students were almost all committed to practice and rarely missed a lesson.

The difference was practice tracking. These two teachers gave their students practice logs and would check them every week without fail. This habit of routinely checking student logs kept them accountable but more importantly it demonstrated to the student that the teacher actually cared. Compare this to the guitar teachers who would casually say “So how did you go this week?” and the contrast was like night and day. I immediately changed my teaching to include practice logs for my students and while initially a lot of resistance (and even some concerns in my own mind) it soon became apparent how powerful practice logs were in my quest to developing successful guitar students.

Don’t accept excuses

A common trait I came to recognise among great teachers whether they be my own music teachers or school teachers or business coaches or top performance coaches I have read about was the fact that they didn’t accept excuses. The business of guitar teaching can seem highly competitive with half a dozen teachers operating in any given area. This produces teachers who are very eager to please students for fear they will lose them to the competitor down the road. The unfortunate consequence is a teacher who too readily accepts excuses about practice.

Students come to you not just to learn the ‘how to’ of guitar. In fact with the Internet and YouTube these days the ‘how to’ would only account for 20% or less of the value of a real live teacher. The 80% is a combination of motivation and accountability.  Great coaches know their first responsibility is student success and excuses are the enemy of success. Great coaches will not accept the excuses. When your students realise you don’t accept excuses they will stop making them.

Future pacing

Future pacing means to describe the future based on taking a certain path. If you were to walk down path A you will arrive at a certain destination. Path B and you’ll arrive at a different destination. Future pacing with guitar students is about mapping out two possible outcomes. For example “Johnny if you practice these exercises and do them for 30 minutes a day your ability to play this song will result. What I am playing here (demonstrate the end result) will be you in 3 months from now.” Alternatively you could outline the negative scenario of not practicing enough. “Johnny if you only practice for 20 minutes twice a week your progress over the next 6 months will be so slow that you will gradually become frustrated. You won’t think much about it at first but in a few months you’ll start telling yourself that you don’t have the talent for guitar. The truth is you will not have done enough practice to realise any meaningful result.” You could go into great detail if necessary. Future pacing is a very powerful strategy and one that will make a big difference to your students and ultimately your success as a guitar teacher.


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