How I Went from Zero to Enrolling 3,000 Students in Just 2 Years
- 1The South Pole Tragedy. A true story about two men who took different approaches to reaching the South Pole but who had very different outcomes. One was a success while the other a tragedy. Business success largely depends on the path you choose.
- 210X Your Guitar Teaching Business. There are a handful of extremely successful guitar teachers in any city, (let’s call them 10x guitar teachers) and then there are the rest. Top performing guitar teachers prepare by gathering as much knowledge and information as possible usually from people who already possess the knowledge they require. They don’t rely on luck.
- 3Do you build your own guitars?. Very few guitarists actually build their own guitars. Did you ever wonder why? The answer is obvious. Why spend hundreds of hours learning how to design and build a guitar when what you actually want to do is play. Same applies to teaching guitar.
- 4Why we should always be learning. By learning I don’t mean learning how to be a better guitarist as that's a given. I mean learning to become a better teacher and entrepreneur. No matter what profession you choose these days, constantly updating and improving your skills are part of the package. A doctor, dentist, mechanic, pilot, lawyer, accountant etc who is not regularly updating their skills will soon fall behind and the same applies to guitar teachers.
- 5The critical importance of structure. As a musician you know all too well the importance of structure. Structure helps the listener make sense of music. Your teaching should be structured in a way that it makes sense to your students and your business should be structured so it’s profitable. Having a method of teaching is not just good for your teaching but good for your business.
- 6The role of networking in business. The old saying of 'its not what you know but who you know' has several meanings. Firstly it suggests that if we have friends in the right places we can get ahead in life. It also means that knowing people is more important than knowledge because when we know people we are able to source the answers we seek when we need them. Any way you look at it networking is important to success.
- 7You must learn marketing. The first step to starting your teaching business is to have a website but not just any old website. Your website needs to be attracting the right visitors and turning them into student enquiries. Most websites are not design to be effective. They are often quite the opposite.
“My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” - Abraham Lincoln
What is your biggest challenge with guitar teaching? Is it getting students to practice or turn up to lessons each week with the same enthusiasm they display for video games? Is it coming up with new lesson plans week after week? Is it preventing students from quitting in those early months when the initial excitement wears off? Is it convincing parents to help their children at home with the challenges they face? Is it knowing where and how to find more students to replace those who quit? Knowing the answers to these common challenges is the key to success as a guitar teacher. My aim in this book is to share with you the solutions I discovered on my professional guitar teaching journey which began over 30 years ago in 1984.
Why I wrote this book
My aim with this book was to share the ideas behind my own success of how I went from broke (in debt) to owning five guitar schools, employing 20 teachers and turning over $1 million in student fees all within 2 years. While this may seem like an impressive result I am not saying it to brag. In fact, quite the opposite. I started teaching guitar in 1984. 18 years later I found myself in $80,000 debt and so broke that I had to get government assistant and go back to living in a share house. It turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. It was only after I lost everything and went back to the simple life that I managed to find the mental space I need to reflect on where I had gone so terribly wrong. With time on my hands I was able to look back at all the lessons I had learned. I spent 2 years studying, researching and planning before I decided to go back into business. I was absolutely determined to get it right this time around and the planning paid off.
The facts please
I am not in the business of giving advice purely based on opinions or bias. We all do it and I will on occasion give personal opinions but for the most part the information I share is based on either well researched personal experience or research I have come across generally published in notable books by credible authors. I make a serious effort to provide facts based on as much data as I can possibly gather. So if you are at all looking for answers to any of the above I encourage you to read this book from start to finish. I promise you it will be worth the time invested if teaching music (especially guitar) is your thing. What I discovered through a combination of years of experience and some luck was a formula for success that can be replicated by almost anyone. Not just guitar teachers but any teacher. Especially those just starting out.
I was born in 1966. My parents were young (mother aged 20 and father aged 23) when I was born so they were right into the 60’s music scene at the time. My father didn’t like TV and there was of course no Internet which meant the record player was really our main source of entertainment. My father was always buying the latest rock n roll records from The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, The Who, Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and so on. I would literally wear out the records because I couldn’t get enough. I was addicted to music. It was my greatest pleasure in life.
As a teen I started learning the drums and later guitar. I was very fortunate as I now realise because both my first drum teacher and first guitar teacher were amazing. They were truly gifted teachers who inspired me to go on and teach. Looking back I can see they had the rare and special qualities very few teachers possess. I also had a few exceptional school teachers but music being my passion I guess my music lessons had a greater impact.
I first began teaching while still in school after my school music teacher asked me to take over the lunch time guitar group class. There were usually 5 to 10 students who would come together once a week to learn guitar and I would show them whatever I knew based on my 2 years of self teaching and 2 months of lessons with my teacher. It wasn’t much but it was good experience and I was naive enough to be unaware of my limitations on guitar and teaching. Ignorance is bliss as they say. I wasn’t being paid so it was okay. It was really just about sharing my own passion for guitar with others more so than teaching.
In my last year of school I began to take on the occasional student for money. At first it felt strange and awkward because I was happy to do it for free but my first student offered to pay me. I don’t recall exactly what was said but I just remember accepting and my guitar teaching career had begun. At the time I was gigging several nights a week and I was not seriously considering teaching guitar as a career. It was simply to earn a few extra dollars on the side.
Fast forward two years and I found myself living in a shared apartment with approximately 30 students turning up every week. I was working a full time job in retail while playing gigs on the weekends. It was a crazy schedule and I knew something would have to give. I ended up quitting my full time job and getting a part time retail job (weekends in the day), teaching during the week and gigs whenever possible. Oh and I was also studying audio engineering. It soon became apparent that my apartment was getting too busy so I moved my teaching to a commercial office down the road. I included a small shop selling music books and accessories and two teaching rooms. I hired a second guitar teacher and a keyboard teacher. I later sold the business, traveled to the USA and Mexico for a year and returned to start a new business.
In 1993 I opened a brand new music school called BMP Music which I later renamed ‘Learn2Play Music’ in Caringbah, Sydney Australia. The music school is still thriving as of this writing. I operated the school until 2003 at which point I sold it and again took a break but this time for two years. Although the school was a success in itself I ran into cash flow problems and realised it was not ideally what I was wanting. I wanted to get back to my main passion which was teaching guitar so I embarked on a brand new project.
In 2005 I launched a new guitar school in Sydney Australia called G4 GUITAR. I had no money and only a credit card with about $5000 in credit. Failure was not an option yet I was very confident my new school would work but it didn’t turn out quite like I expected. My initial hope was just 20 students. To my surprise I hit that number much sooner than expected. Just a 6 weeks after opening I had reach 20 students and proceeded to set a new ambitious target of 50 students. Within a few months I calculated that 100 students in groups would be my target which would put me on a good income allowing me to balance my teaching with having ‘a life’. By that point in my career I had spent close to 20 years running music schools working up to 80 hours a week at times. This time was going to be different. My limit was 20 hours a week of teaching and it had to be in groups.
So what happened next? The whole thing exploded. 3127 enquiries in approximately 2 years. It was actually overwhelming. At one point we were getting 10 enquiries a day and it blew away all my original expectations. In hindsight it now makes sense and could have been predicted. It was not a matter of luck or timing although there may have been some of that but it was the result of my years of experimenting and testing every aspect of the guitar teaching business. I had also been an avid reader of teaching, coaching and business books for many years. I had also been attending business seminars presented by some of the best coaches in the world. I do not mean to brag but I was probably more prepared than anyone in terms of opening a successful guitar school. As far as I know no one had grown their guitar school as quickly as I did in 2005 to 2007.
So now I am going to share with you some of the most powerful ideas I can think of that helped me to go from zero to over 3000 students. Hopefully by the end of this book you’ll understand how I went from broke in 2005 to operating a world wide guitar school franchise today.
Chapter 1...The South Pole Tragedy
“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Benjamin Franklin
In 1911 Norwegian Roald Amundsen led a team to be the first to reach the South Pole, but his team were not the only ones trying to attempt this perilous journey. There was a second team led by Robert Scott (British) who unfortunately reached the South Pole some 33 days after Amundsen’s team after numerous set backs, but the worst was yet to come. Scott and his four man team all died in the bitter cold. In the book ‘Great by Choice’ by Jim Collins (which I recommend reading) the author examines what he calls 10x companies. The 10x companies were so named because they out performed the industry average share price by at least a factor of ten.
Collins compares the 10x companies against average performers in their industries over the same time period. Collins uses the South Pole expeditions to explain his main point, that is, that two companies facing the same market conditions can have very different outcomes. The same conditions at the South Pole were faced by both teams yet Amundsen reach the South Pole 33 days earlier and even managed to return precisely on schedule without incident. Scott’s team on the other hand had a very different and tragic result. In Scott’s journal he blamed the situation on a stream of bad luck, but was his fate really decided by bad luck alone?
Luck favours the prepared
Scott went into the expedition unprepared and untrained for potential problems. Scott was planning on everything going well whereas Amundsen was expecting, preparing and training for the worst. Amundsen for example went and spent time with Eskimos who knew how to survive in the cold extremes. Scott did no such thing. For Scott when worst case scenarios appeared he was angry and frustrated and had no plan B. The point that Jim Collins is making is that businesses (10x companies) that out perform their industry are just better prepared. They are ready for bad luck while taking advantage of any good luck that comes their way.
10x companies learn from experts in their industry and gather as much data as possible before launching into risky ventures. Amundsen did this by spending time with Eskimos. 10x companies expect things to go wrong and thats why they train and prepare almost to the point of obsession. Scott was expecting everything to go right whereas Amundsen allowed for almost every possible situation. So here are some questions for you. Are you prepared and ready to risk going into business? Have you thought and prepared for every situation? Do you have a business plan and if so what happens if the plan fails? Do you have a Plan B and a Plan C? You can’t prepare for every possible situation but you can certainly prepare for many. Just reading this book will put you way ahead of the game compared to most guitar teachers. This book is not the be all and end all but you are definitely on the right path.
Learning to prepare
In my case my preparation for the launch of G4 Guitar in 2005 was the 20 years of trial and error combined with some intensive research. In hindsight a good mentor would have saved me many painful lessons. I attribute the success of G4 to persistence not intelligence. Up until about the year 2000 I followed the Scott path and had it been a dangerous life threatening mission I would have almost certainly died.
Thankfully the business of teaching guitar is not dangerous but when you are close to bankruptcy it certainly becomes stressful. At my lowest point I had to terminate approximately 10 employees, severely cutback all expenditure and work like crazy just to pay the rent. I ended up having to sell which still only covered about 50% of my debt. I walked away with no business and a fair amount of debt. I was not going to let that happen again so I became a little obsessive about preparing. I had transformed from Scott to Amundsen. Perhaps Amundsen had also had a bad experience and like me learnt that preparation was vital to success.
I spent two years preparing for G4 Guitar but in reality I had been preparing for 20 years. I looked back at my mistakes and now saw them as valuable lessons. By 2003 I had already placed my head firmly into best selling business and coaching books to improve my business and teaching skills plus I had started attending business seminars to learn from the people who I read about. I was so determined not to fail in business again that I was reading up to 5 books a week and I would reread those books that I resonated with the most. It was this intense study that prepared me for what was to come. In 2005 just before launching my new business with no money (just a credit card) I knew I had done everything possible to ensure the success of G4. The lesson here is preparation. We often hear people saying that you should prepare for the worst but I believe in preparing for the worst and the best. If you only prepare for the worst you won’t be ready for success.
The SMaC Recipe
Here is a paragraph from Douglas Wick's blog on the subject of SMaC (Specific Methodical and Consistent) recipes. "The difference in the 10Xers from the comparison companies is their fanatic discipline. The clarity and specificity of a SMaC recipe helps people keep their bearings and sustain high performance when in extreme conditions. When faced with declining results, 10xers do not assume that their principles and methods have become obsolete. Rather they first consider whether the enterprise has perhaps strayed from its recipe, or has forgone discipline and rigor in adhering to the recipe. If so they see the remedy in reconnecting with the underling insights behind the recipe and reigniting passion for adhering to it. They ask, “Is our recipe no longer working because we’ve lost discipline? Or is it no longer working because our circumstances have fundamentally changed?” The point is this - If things are not going as well as you hoped the first place to check is your SMaC recipe. The odds are you have strayed from your plan.
Practicing what we preach
As guitar teachers it’s way too easy to operate in isolation never receiving critical input from our peers. When you teach guitar from your home or studio there is no one other than your students to assess and appraise your
teaching. Unfortunately they will rarely offer you any constructive feedback. One because that’s not why they are there and two, they are likely not qualified. Almost all guitar teachers follow the same untested methods. I don’t just mean in terms of teaching guitar but also in respect to business but before I go any further let me say “I was no different". I went on for years living in my own world convincing myself I was a good teacher and a somewhat successful entrepreneur when in fact I was seriously failing on both counts. Sure I was making a living but it wasn’t due to my teaching or business skills. It was a combination of sales skills and long hours. In fact I worked 80 hour weeks most of the time. By the hour I would have been better off working in a supermarket.
The problem is most guitar teachers live in denial just like I did. When you talk to them they might say everything is great while they struggle to pay their rent. Some might admits things are tight but it’s because enrolments are down due to the economy, the area they live in, their ex-wife/husband and a thousand other reasons. Any reason that does not point the finger squarely at them. Successful teachers blame no one. They accept full responsibility for their situation. As you read this book keep this in mind and keep telling yourself anything is possible if you want it bad enough.
Why guitar students need YOU
Quite simply the value of a guitar teacher is mostly about critical feedback. A good teacher can literally cut years off the learning process. When I was 13 years old I decided to learn drums. Soon after I enrolled for lessons and within 6 months I had a reasonable grasp of basic beats and rudiments. In other words I was good enough to form my first band and within a few months after that we had our first paying gig. From that point we had a paying gig almost every week. Now around the same time I picked up a guitar for the first time (not counting my 3 week stint at aged 9 years). I did not enrol for lessons and spent over 2 years trying to teach myself. I was improving slowly but not like I did with the drums. At age 17 I enrolled with a guitar teacher. In 6 months my playing had gone from woeful to professional. The difference was simply feedback. Teachers give us real time feedback so as to correct our mistakes early before they become ingrained.
Despite this obvious conclusion I entered teaching and business with the same naivety I had done with guitar years earlier. I preceded to try and teach myself and was not getting the critical feedback I needed to improve as a teacher.
Interestingly enough I had been working in retail sales since I was a child under my parent’s guidance and later for some big name retailers. This experience had turned me into the number one sales person in what was arguably Australia’s largest retailer back in the 1980’s. Think ‘Best Buy’. The reason I held that position was because I had been receiving critical feedback from my peers for over a decade. I had mastered retail sales. It was those skills that set me up for my initial success in business but there was a problem. I was not a skilled teacher and I was terrible at most other important functions of running a business. The reason was I had not had the important critical feedback necessary to understand where I was going wrong.
I was losing students as fast as I was enrolling them. My sales skills were bringing in the students but my lack of teaching skills were causing them to dropout within a matter of months. I did manage to keep some students long term but it was my sales ability that was keeping them coming. I noticed students would lose motivation after only a few months. My own guitar teacher interestingly enough was booked solid every night. So much so that I took a break for a few months while I went travelling and on my return I couldn’t book in again. I was put on a waiting list but no one was cancelling their lessons so even a year later there were still no available times. I knew I must have been doing something wrong with my own teaching.
Although it was’t obvious to me at the time the difference was my teacher was teaching in a music school along side at least 5 other teachers. His mentor was the school owner who was at least 10 years older. He was no doubt giving him critical feedback but there were also the other teachers. Some who had many years of experience. Collectively they were sharing their experience and helping each other to improve. I understood this from my retail experience working in sales teams. Apart from my own teacher I also knew a Suzuki violin teacher who managed to keep most of her students long term. Being part of Suzuki meant she was being trained and mentored as well as being part of a group of like minded teachers. The writing was on the wall.
These findings led me to opening my first music school. I found a commercial location and hired a second guitar teacher, a drum teacher and a keyboard teacher. Now I had a team who could help me to learn how to become a better teacher through critical feedback and that’s when my teaching really began to improve. It was through working with other music teachers that I came to understand what I was doing wrong. For example most guitar teachers operate without a tested plan and have no structure to their lessons. Often one week has no connection to the previous week and there is no clear goal or benchmarks for the student. This tends to equate to no system of tracking a student’s progress. This lack of clarity generally results in confusion followed by the student dropping out.
Then there is the business itself. I will often ask guitar teachers what their business goals are and they either sidestep the question with a reply like “I have never really given it much thought” or they give a vague response like “I don’t want to be rich. Just looking for enough to be comfortable”. In most cases I have to prompt them with a suggested amount and even then most are noncommittal. The problem with this is simple. If you don’t know what your goal is you will have no direction. The analogy that was told to me many years ago is this. Most people play life like a game of football where there are no goal posts. They are just running around in circles with no idea which direction they should be heading.
Why do students quit guitar?
After experiencing several years of frustration watching students quit I reached a point where I just had to do something. It was depressing watching students come and go all the time with very few achieving any real results. It was like watching people’s dreams being systematically destroyed. I came to understand that we all have a system of teaching. The question is what does the system produce? In my case at that time it produced student dropouts. I could take a perfectly good student with lots of potential and within 3 months they were ready to QUIT! Once I understood this I knew I just had to adjust my system to produce students who were successful. As it turned out what was missing was were clear goals and a plan for my students. I then went to work on developing my teaching system and began to see changes almost immediately. At last I had made a break through with my teaching. When I started to see dropouts go down I felt my confidence go up and knew that it was only going to get better.
Finding guitar students
Successful guitar teachers know that 95% of guitar teachers compete for 5% of the potential guitar students while the other 95% of potential students are left to just 5% of the teachers. Confused? Stay with me. The first reason is their approach to marketing. How do most guitar teachers
find students? They put ads on Craigslist or similar directories. They may have a website and try a bunch of SEO (search engine optimisation) tricks to get onto page one of Google. Some try posting here there and everywhere on Facebook and other social media platforms.
What’s the problem with this?
Basically these ads appeal to students who are actively searching for a guitar teacher. What’s wring with that you might say. Well just about every other guitar teacher is advertising in the same places so these searchers are seeing you and a dozen other guitar teachers and music schools but here is the real problem. I approximate that 95% of potential guitar students are not searching for a teacher. This means only 5% of potential guitar students are actively searching for a teacher but as explained they are seeing all the available teachers so they get to choose from a smorgasbord of teachers. If you get picked consider yourself lucky. If there 100 potential students each month in your area only 5 are searching and if there are 10 teachers you can expect 1 call every 2 months or less if your competitors are more attractive.
Where are the 95% of students who don’t search?
Think about how many ads you see on TV or on Facebook or a multitude of other websites. Most people who have a guitar and want to learn are not actively searching for a teacher while at the same time most guitar teachers are not advertising to the 95%. Those few teachers who are advertising and of course know what they are doing are cleaning up. They usually have ZERO competition and through effective ads and targeting they are appealing to the majority market. That is the secret in a nutshell.
How to effectively advertise?
This is of course the next obvious question. Knowing how to advertise and where takes testing and often lots of it. Remember the 95% of not actively searching for a guitar teacher so your ads need to appeal to their curiosity. If you advertise ‘Guitar Lessons’ you might get some response but if your ad is not designed correctly you will be wasting your money. For example let’s compare Facebook with Google Adwords. A Facebook user is not searching for a guitar teacher. They are chatting with friends and catching up on the latest news in most cases. This means with Facebook you need a photo that grabs attention with a headline that gets potential guitar students interested and knowing more about you and your offering. With an Adwords search ad your ad will appear generally at the top or side of a search page. This is a text ad and is usually appearing when people search a chosen keyword. In this case you will want an ad that appeals to the searcher. In this case you will generally appear alongside your competition in the form of organic search listings so it’s important to standout from the crowd some how. Making a too good to refuse offer or giving something away free are examples. The cost of your advertising needs to be kept down to a reasonable cost otherwise you will lose. It is worth noting that you are highly likely to lose money while you test and figure out what works.
Marketing is only the beginning
Finding new students through marketing is important but if you are not keeping those students for extended periods your business is unlikely to grow. You simply can’t afford to be turning over new students every few months. You aim is to keep students for at least one year or more. Your average should be two years per student. So let me share a story with you that may help.
3000 student enquiries in 2 years
I began teaching way back in the 1980’s but let me fast forward to 2005 when I started my G4 GUITAR project as this is when things got exciting. In the first 2 years of G4 I had received over 3000 student enquiries and taken around $1 million in students fees and with an initial marketing investment of around $500 thanks to some available credit left on my MasterCard. In 2003 I had sold my previous music school (Learn2Play Music) and walk away with a rather large debt so it was literally a do or die business launch.
2 years of unemployment
I took two years off living on unemployment benefits. I was suffering from severe tendinitis in my right arm which went all the way from my hand to my neck and into my back. I could not play guitar or even use a computer. The pain was so bad that I often couldn’t sleep so I was usually very tired. I also could not exercise because it would set off the tendinitis resulting in an increase in pain so as a result my muscles wasted. I did experience some depression and there were times when I questioned the point of life. Things then went from bad to worse.
Hospitalised by a minivan
In 2004 I was riding my bike and got hit by a minivan. I was thrown 12 meters through the air landing on my head and back smashing my helmet and leaving me in somewhat of a mess. The impact of the van broke my left ankle plus four ribs and some permanent damage to my lower back. I lost a fair bit of skin off my back just to add to the fun of it all. I spent the next few months in a lot of pain while recovering. It was very difficult because I had to lift myself up onto crutches with my injuries while still suffering from severe tendinitis and wasted muscles. Worst of all I was living in a share house with a guy who played trance music all day and night. Not a single real instrument to be heard and I couldn’t do anything about it. The pain I could tolerate. The music I could not. I was at my lowest point.
Standing at the crossroads
I was now at a crossroads. I could either feel sorry for myself having lost my ability to play guitar, my income, my physical strength and my health or, I could go the opposite way and focus on what I wanted. I had always enjoyed reading inspirational stories of those who overcame adversity so I figured this was my chance to create my own story. I knew I would recover from the car accident injuries but the tendinitis seemed chronic. I really wasn’t confident that I would ever be able to play guitar again because the tendinitis had now been going on for about 4 years and was very serious. I couldn’t even use a computer. It was then that I decided to plan out a new guitar teaching business which would be based on my beliefs and experience. I wanted a guitar school that was something quite different to my previous music schools. Plus it gave me something to focus on while I was recovering.
Lessons from the past
To explain my new business plan I think it helps to understand my previous failings. Like most guitar teachers I started out teaching privately. My family owned retail shops so I grew up working in shops and became an effective salesperson in the process. By age 20 I had joined one of Australia’s largest retailers. I was consistently at top of the sales ladder out selling sales people twice my age and competing against several thousand sales people from around the country. When I began teaching guitar I enrolled almost everyone who inquired about my guitar lessons. Within a short period I had more students than available time slots so I decided to set up a guitar school in a commercial location and hire my first employee. In my first business while still in my early 20’s I hired two guitar teachers, a keyboard teacher and a sales assistant but that’s when my problems began.
No business plan
The teachers I hired were honest, genuine people and all became good friends but there was a problem. They were private teachers. To pay them fairly and keep my lesson prices reasonable was a challenge. At the time it was $20 for a private guitar lesson and paying the teacher anything less than $15 was insulting so I paid them $16 keeping $4 (20%) for myself. The problem was I was doing everything except the actual teaching. I took care of the marketing, sales, bookings, accounts, rescheduling, complaints, maintenance and so on. In addition I had expenses such as rent, electricity, marketing, repairs etc. It soon became apparent that I was working more hours and actually losing money. This problem went on for years and my debts mounted. It was a never ending downward cycle. The more students I enrolled the more I seem to work and the more my debt mounted.
Coming back from broke
By 2005 I was literally broke and had not worked for 2 years. All I had was a credit card with a few thousand dollars of available credit. I decided to rent an empty office in Sydney’s northern suburbs and began advertising for students. Within 2 years later I had opened 5 schools and taken $1 million in student fees. What I achieve was not some stroke of luck but, it was based on 20 years of prior experience teaching guitar and operating music school along with a massive dose of business education. I spent close to $100,000 in various courses, books, seminars etc to learn from some of the world’s best business people, coaches and teachers. I wanted to know everything possible about business, coaching and success. The knowledge and experience all came together in 2005 when I launched G4 Guitar.
The value of training
What made the difference for myself was the business training I received and continue to receive to this day. I spent years trying to run a successful business with zero training and I kept failing. Sure I gain valuable experience but it was slow, painful and very expensive. At the time it never occurred to me that I was uneducated in business. I kept blaming circumstances. “Its the economy” or “There is too much competition” or “The advertising is not working” or my favourite “There just aren’t enough guitar students out there.” These were all just excuses for my lack of education.
Training gave me freedom and wealth
There is this myth that somehow self-teaching is a good thing. Self-teaching is possibly the worst idea ever. Its a classic case of the blind leading the blind. I was uneducated in business yet thought I knew all I needed to know to be a success. When I finally woke up and got the business training I needed the money began to roll in quickly. I felt like I had struck gold. It was an unbelievable feeling after so many years of frustration
Chapter 2...10Xers & Truth Seeking
“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.” Albert Einstein
There are a handful of extremely successful guitar teachers in any city, (let’s call them 10x guitar teachers) and then there are the rest. Top performing guitar teachers are much like Amundsen and 10x companies. They prepare by gathering as much knowledge and information as possible usually from people who already possess the knowledge they require. They don’t rely on luck. They prepare for bad luck and any good luck they get along the way is a bonus.
Planning to fail by failing to plan
Unfortunately mostly what I see are examples of guitar teachers following the path of Scott. Their guitar teaching businesses began more on a whim than a carefully planned and well researched mission. One example is a teacher who I spoke to recently who said he started teaching a few years ago. He was confident and felt that his business was doing well and that he was a good teacher. I asked him how I could help and he replied by saying that he had two main problems. 1. He didn’t seem to be getting many student enquiries and 2. The students he was signing up were dropping out within a few months. I asked about his marketing plan and he replied saying he didn’t have one. I then asked about his business plan and again he said did not have one. I finally asked about his teaching program and once again he said he didn’t have one and just taught students the songs they wanted to learn.
Just to confirm
I said “What you are saying is you have no marketing plan, no business plan and no method or program for teaching guitar?” He replied with “Yes but I am just a small business. Do I really need marketing and business plans and a serious teaching method? After all most of my students just want to play songs.” This teacher may not be facing South Pole extremes but in terms of running a business and teaching guitar his business will die a somewhat similar tragic death. Teachers who do not prepare will be extremely unlikely to succeed. If you are struggling to find enough students or your students are dropping out too soon or perhaps your students just aren’t progressing you are probably in the same boat but the good news is you can turn this around.
How do you know if you are succeeding as a guitar teacher?
In a survey conducted in the UK 93% of drivers felt they were above average. What the study reveals is that most people believe they are better than they actually are in many areas of life. This often leads to blame shifting. In other words we blame other people or outside forces for our failings yet take credit for our success. When we don’t accept responsibility we tend to keep making the same mistakes. For our purposes one of the best ways I found for getting a sense of how good you really are is to measure your actual position in terms of being above or below average as a guitar teacher (which is not to be confused with success as an entrepreneur which I will explain shortly). I use the following; To be above average 80% or more of your students must be with you for at least 1 year and will have done an average of 15 to 30 minutes (depending on age) per day practice. That’s it.
Why at least 1 year?
Because it is unlikely you will enrol a student who exhausts your program and your own level of guitar skill in less than a year. Why am I saying practice rather than results? The are a few reasons. First results will vary from student to student and can be hard to measure where as practice is measurable and shows a student’s commitment to you and your program. Second, practice is a good indicator of whether or not a student will eventually succeed. Generally students with low amounts of practice make slow progress, become frustrated or bored and quit. Students who practice consistently will get there in the end even of their initial progress is slow. Third, student practice is a good measure of teacher influence. The best teachers rarely have issues with their students practicing because their students are loyal and eager to follow their teacher’s instructions.
So how do you rate?
Are 80% of your students still with you after one year? Are your students practicing on a consistent daily basis? Be honest with yourself and make sure you include all those past students who dropped out in the last 12 months. Not just the ones who are enrolled with you now.
Less is more
Many years ago there were two guitarists living in the same city. They both decided to open guitar shops. Joe opened his guitar shop in the south and Mike in the north. Joe set out with idea of catering to every kind of customer. Joe found the cheapest guitars available to stock his shop. He also took customer requests so his shop soon became stocked with all kinds of guitars, amps, drums, keyboards, pianos, woodwind, brass, strings, percussion and a massive range of accessories. Joe eventually found himself with thousands of dollars worth of stock that was not selling and his debts were piling up. Mike on the other hand took a different approach with his business. Mike decided to specialise in quality guitars produced by a handful of reputable companies. Mike would only deal with companies that gave him exclusive rights to sell their guitars in his town to avoid competition.
In the end Joe went broke for two main reasons. 1. Joe bought too much stock, much of which became dated or damaged plus it required a lot of time to track. 2. Joe did not specialise or sell exclusive brands and had lots of competition. This meant competing music stores in town were selling the same products so Joe had to slash his prices to compete. Now Mike sold a lot less items but by specialising he was able to give better service, carry less stock and avoided discounting. Mike’s customers in most cases were very loyal and happy to pay his prices for the great products and service. In the end Mike opened stores in other cities and became very successful.
What does this have to do with teaching guitar?
When you first start teaching guitar there is a good chance you will be like Joe trying to please everyone. If you plan on teaching privately I would agree with such a strategy but don’t confuse this with a business. You are really just setting yourself up with a job because you are selling yourself by the hour. If instead you want a successful business you will need to think like Mike by specialising. By specialising I don’t necessarily mean just teaching jazz or blues. By specialising I mean teaching anything that can taught in groups where everyone can learn basically the same thing together. This takes a little explaining but I will explain the merits of group teaching further in the book.
Seek out the truth
Successful guitar teachers try to detach themselves from their distorted self image and focus purely on the facts. Ask yourself the following question. How many of your students stay with you for 1 year or more? Avoid making exceptions. E.g. “I won’t count Mary because she stopped lessons due to her dance practice schedule”. Many of the reasons students give you for stopping lessons are excuses. Generally they don’t want to offend you by saying they were not happy with the lessons or, disappoint you by saying they are just not committed. Students who are onboard with your lessons will shift their schedule somehow to fit in their guitar lessons. When I first launched the G4 Guitar Method I lost just 3% of my new students within the first 6 months and about 10% in the first year. The key is to take responsibility for student drop outs.
Those few teachers who are willing to admit they are to a large degree, responsible can begin to do something about it. They are usually the teachers asking questions and constantly looking to improve. One of the biggest problems I see are teachers who believe they are succeeding despite the facts telling a very different story. Their judgement is bias. They might have a handful of students who are doing well while losing 80% of all new enrolments within the first 12 months. Those teachers who believe they are succeeding also believe they have no reason to ask questions so tend not to learn and are destined to repeat their mistakes. They can’t see that the 80% of students dropping out for whatever reason are a symptom to a deeper problem. The 20% who hang around were likely always going to do well under any teacher. Their success is not the result of the teacher.
Why honesty really is the best policy!
In the early years of my guitar teaching career I was quite confident and felt I rated highly as a guitar teacher but, I was wrong. The reason I believed this was because I had plenty of students but, what I actually was, was a good salesman. Selling and teaching do have some similarities but there are some key differences. The main difference is sales people simply aim to sell a product or service. The teacher on the other hand is more like a coach and has to get results. It’s not just a case of convincing someone to pay for your services. You must deliver. I had been working in sales since I was a child and I sold products someone else had made, so once the sale was done I just handed over the goods. As a guitar teacher I figured all I had to do was convince people to turn up each week and pay me but, that was a very misguided view of teaching. I thought that if students were paying me then I must be a good teacher. I had some suspicions that my teaching needed improvement when it occurred to me that very few of my students were actually making improvements. Sure there were a few but they were motivated and keen to learn and most would have done well with or without my instruction. It was the other 90% who were just turning up rarely practicing that were the problem.
For a while I believed it was their problem saying to myself that it was the responsibility of the student to do the practice. It eventually became apparent that it was affecting both my reputation and confidence as a teacher. The simple truth was I was failing as a teacher. I finally faced up to this fact and took responsibility for my students. I had inadvertently been telling my students that it was okay not to practice. I had not been honest with myself or my students. I said to myself, “Hey Dave, you are failing as a guitar teacher because your students are either giving up before achieving anything resembling guitar proficiency or, they are not practicing therefore not progressing. Blaming your students will not fix the problem.”
Your students want the truth...even when it seems otherwise
Every business promises do deliver something. Buy a computer and you expect a working computer. Go to a concert and you expect to be entertained. Go to a restaurant and you expect a reasonable meal and service. If any of these businesses fail to deliver on their stated or even unstated promises you are unlikely to return. If a business continues to fail to deliver they are unlikely to stay in business very long. Guitar teachers promise to teach guitar. Many teachers believe that what they promise is to show students how to play guitar not for them to learn. They falsely believe its up to the student to learn and their role as a teacher is simply to guide them.
To make matters worse many teachers either imply or explicitly state that their students will be successful as a result of their tuition. Slogans like “Learn with ABC guitar school and play like a pro in 6 months or less.” Teachers need to be straight with students from the very first lesson explaining that practice is a requirement. Too many teachers string along students who don’t practice enough because they don’t want to lose the income that student provides. This is a big and often costly mistake over the long term.
The price of failure
If you fail to produce successful students for any reason you are failing as a teacher end of story. Your current students cause a ripple affect in the local community. If most of your students are failing to reach a level of competency on guitar your reputation will not be a good one. You might think its not your fault because they aren’t practicing but, in these situations it makes no difference to the public at large. You will still be held accountable and as I will explain, rightly so. If your students are failing its because you are failing as a teacher. The best guitar teachers like most teachers start with a small number of students but, their numbers grow quickly as their reputation spreads.
Now you could in theory spend thousands of dollars on marketing your lessons but if you are not producing successful students your marketing will just become a very expensive exercise as you turnover a large number of students. You may even run out of marketing dollars and potential students to market to in your area. This basically explains why most guitar teachers are broke. They are simply not producing enough successful students therefore don’t gain a positive reputation. Ironically they don’t make practice compulsory because they fear losing students and therefore income. I am going to go in to more detail on this subject further in this book but first I want to share you the story of G4 GUITAR.
Time for a break
In 2003 I sold my music school in Sydney, took a break and at the end of 2005 decided to test my new business plan. I had spent several years compiling my years of guitar teaching experience into a method of learning guitar that ticked all the boxes both in terms of teaching and business. I had spent close to 20 years teaching and took a 2 year sabbatical from teaching to study business and plan my new business from the ground up. The first stage was the testing phase where I needed to see what challenges I would come up against.
I had studied under the best teachers I could find from around the world in all fields to help me improve my own teaching, coaching and business skills. I knew that to be truly successful I needed a combination of effective teaching and business strategies that worked in the real world. I developed a method of teaching guitar that also incorporated the elements of business that would make it both a success in terms of student results and the financial bottom line. One without the other was not a real success in my mind.
My new business
I named the G4 GUITAR METHOD. It was simple and easy to remember and originally based on a 4 step program for learning guitar. I began in the suburb of Northbridge, Sydney Australia in late 2005. My approach is what is known as ‘The lean startup’ strategy. The idea was to roll out the method and business but remain flexible making changes and adding what was required based on student feedback and my own assessment of what was needed. This didn’t mean I reacted to every student request. In fact it was the opposite if anything. I was quite clear about what students required to learn guitar. What I was really looking were systems for communicating and improving my delivery of the method.
All up it took about 9 months to enroll 100 students and to get the business right but from there it took off like a rocket. It was nothing short of extraordinary. Over the next 2 years I received over 3000 guitar students enquiries and could not keep up. We went from a non-existent guitar school to the No.1 guitar school in Australia in 2 years. This led me to the idea of expanding nationally and eventually globally. We now have teachers operating around the world. When I had put together my plan for G4 I had not expected such rapid growth. I was hoping for big things but so many students in such a short period was not expected. I later came to understand that it was a combination of factors that caused the business to grow exponentially. I now understand the elements and it’s easily repeatable if the same formula if followed.
Chapter 3...Do you make your own guitars?
“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have laboured hard for.” – Socrates
Very few guitarists actually build their own guitars and my guess is you purchased most if not all your guitars. Did you ever wonder why most guitarists don’t build their own guitars? The simple answer is pretty obvious. Why spend hundreds of hours learning how to design and build a guitar when for a relatively small cost you can buy one off the shelf. Add the fact that the guitars that are produced by reputable manufactures are far superior to anything most first time guitar builders could produce. If your true passion is to play guitar why would waste time building something that is already done at a very reasonable price? It just doesn’t make sense unless you have a passion for designing and building guitars.
So why then do most people build their own businesses? It seems rather strange when you think about it especially given the fact that almost all new start ups will ultimately fail. Even the small percentage that do manage to stay in business only make a small profit. In business purchasing a franchise would be the equivalent to buying a guitar off the shelf yet very few people purchase franchises. A franchise business is almost the opposite in it’s highly unlikely to fail. Perhaps the most famous example of a franchise is McDonalds. When McDonalds open a new restaurant they are immediately busy with customers. The cost of building a new McDonalds store is generally covered within the first year profits. Whether you like McDonalds or not there is no denying their success as a franchise business model.
The truth about small business
There are various reports depending on where you look but most point to around 95% of small businesses failing with the majority of the remaining 5% making little to no profit. It is estimated that less than 1% of all new start up businesses will ever become highly profitable. Small businesses fail because few understand the realities of business until years later. By this time most small business owners have gone broke or are burnt out or become very stressed. You may feel you are the exception but trust me, almost everyone believes they are the exception. It’s better to believe you are the rule and take precautions.
One study conducted on dieters who believed they possessed strong will power revealed that they were the ones most likely to give into temptation. Being honest with yourself means you will be better prepared. For example if you accept now that you are highly likely to fail in business you can start taking steps to understand the most likely reasons you will fail. Try listing at least 10 reasons you are likely to fail. Now you can get educated and learn from those who have come before you.
Of the businesses who do fail the large majority never read a book, never did a course and most never ever ask for help of any kind. Their failure is not the mistakes they make, their failure is getting educated and asking for help. No one I have ever known or read about was born a business genius. They all got educated somehow. Some read books, some found mentors, some were born into business families and learnt from parents, some had successful friends in business but they all shared one thing in common. They all had help. The minute we think we have all the answers is the same minute we are doomed.
A good example among guitar teachers is marketing. Your typical guitar teacher either has no marketing plan and has not seriously researched their plan so ends up wasting a lot of money or time or both. They also tend to lack the necessary sales skills and therefore squander their marketing efforts. Due to their relatively short time in business they also have very little data on students. This includes needs, preferences, buying behaviours, responses to your program and business systems in general. The problem is not that they are missing these important skills but the problem is they are not seeking help.
The 10:1 education gap
The EvE ratio refers to a person’s entertainment budget verses their education budget. It has been said that the average American spends up to 10 times more on entertainment than they do on education. I am sure you already know the average person spends an average of 5 hours a day watching TV plus severals hours spent surfing or chatting on social sites with no educational value. The unfortunate side effect is when people are being entertained in passive ways they also tend to increase other bad habits like eating junk food or smoking not to mention a lack of physical inactivity. Entertainment is a form of instant gratification and it is now known that such behaviour can lead to depression. Entertainment is great and we should all get a healthy dose but your education should not be neglected and it’s where you should invest the largest portion of your budget.
I consider learning guitar education whether or not it’s a career choice because it stimulates the brain. Learning a musical instrument improves many cognitive skills and will make you smarter in many ways. I am sure I don’t have to convince you. When a student or parent says to me that money is tight and they have to cut back on guitar lessons I am disappointed mostly with myself. I realised I failed to demonstrate the true value of learning guitar. I know that when students quit it is rarely about the money. It’s generally a case of priorities and value. I know this because the students who quit are often the same students who were telling me about the latest video game or smart phone they just purchased the week before. A weekly lesson learning almost anything will be of more value long term than almost anything else you spend your money on. Education should be seen as an investment not an expense.
The 80/20 Rule (Pareto principle)
The 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of the results come from only 20% of the efforts. This of course is not an exact science but a general concept. It originated from Vilfredo Pareto an Italian economist who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Pareto originally discovered this by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. The 80/20 rule can be applied to many areas of life. 20% of your clothes get worn 80% of the time. 20% of chords are used in 80% of hit songs. 20% of your guitar practice will result in 80% of your progress.
In the case of your guitar students 20% will account for 80% of total practice done by all your students. You will also find that 20% of your students will end up long term therefore accounting for 80% of your earnings. When you focus on what makes the 20% more successful you can transfer your discoveries across to the 80% to create even more successful students.
I have also applied the 80/20 rule to this book by focusing on the 20% that matters most. Initially I had a long list of points but decided I would narrow it down to the most important and useful. I could have given you 100 great ideas but it made more sense that you focus on just a handle as this is where you will get the greatest return. If I were to ask you to memorise just 3 key areas it would be reasonable for me to expect that you could easily recall them but with every extra item on the list the chances of you remembering are reduced. The 3 letters I want you to memorise are LSN. Now lets gets started.
What is successful guitar teaching?
When I ask most teachers to define successful teaching their answers are usually general statements like “happy students” or “successful students” or “satisfied parents” but what does that mean? Success needs to be measurable otherwise it becomes too easy to delude one’s self. If you climb to the top of Mt Everest then you have successfully climbed the mountain. There is no question of whether or not you were successful.
As a guitar teacher your success is easily measured if the success of your students is measurable. For example if a school science teacher took a group of students who knew nothing about chemistry and taught them for one year that teacher could then sit their students for a standard chemistry exam and their scores will be be a pretty good indicator as to their success. Granted not all things in the real world are equal. Some students might have parents who help them at home or different socio-economic conditions may influence outcomes for certain students but that’s for another book. My point here is you need to be able to measure student progress to measure success.
Some teachers use books or specific songs or exams as measures of success. These are all valid and your first and most important task as a guitar teacher is to ensure you have some way to measure success. I created checklists so students could clearly see the goal at all times and know how well they were progressing. When they completed a checklist both the student and I were able to declare success.
For many guitar teachers being completely honest with students is challenging. Almost all guitar teachers (including myself) have been guilty of dishonesty. I am not talking about breaking laws or outrightly scamming your students. I am referring to what some may consider withholding the truth. We are simply not straight with students about what it takes to learn guitar. We dress it up as easy and fun to keep students coming (paying) each week. I see guitar teacher websites with slogans like ‘Learning guitar is easy when you learn with (fill in the blank)’. We advertise and project such mistruths because we fear that the truth will scare students away and in fact it does scare some students away. The one’s who will generally quit after 3 weeks anyway.
As I mentioned I was also guilty of being dishonest with my students especially in my early years of teaching guitar. Let me give you some examples of the kind of conversations I had with many of my early students:
1.The time required lie: Student: “How long will it take me to learn my favourite songs on guitar?” Me: “It won’t take long at all once we cover a few basics.”
2.The practice lie: Student: “Sorry I didn’t get to practice much this week.” Me: “No problem. Lets have a look at how you went anyway”.
In the first example I was not being upfront with the student about what is involved with learning. An honest answer would go like this: “Guitar is not easy and it will take at least one year if you practice 30 minutes a day to get the basics down.
Will you be able to find 30 mins a day?
In the second example I led the student to believe that ‘not’ practicing was okay. I should have said: “What was the reason you were unable to practice?” Teachers who are completely honest with their students will have far less problems and ironically many less dropouts in the long run. Students are paying you to teach them so this means being completely honest about what is required to be successful.
Chapter 4...Learn & Innovate
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” - Henry Ford.
You must be constantly learning and innovating. I don’t mean learning how to be a better guitarist because I can reasonably assume you do that anyway. In this case I mean learning to become a better teacher, a better entrepreneur and even a better person all round. This should be a never ending process. No matter what profession you chose these days, constantly updating and improving your skills are part of the package. A doctor, dentist, mechanic, pilot, lawyer, accountant etc who is not regularly updating their skills will soon fall behind and the same applies to guitar teachers.
Teachers are a vital part of society. Without teachers progress would soon come to a halt. Teachers in some cultures are considered to be the most valued people in society. In Japanese the word ‘sensei’ means both teacher and master. Throughout history the wise person (the teacher) was always considered the most highly respected of the tribe. As teachers we are promoters of learning. Our message is simple. “Learn and then learn some more.” We believe in the value of learning and we promote the benefits of learning. We might be teaching people how to play guitar but we are in the business of learning. This means we too must be learning. Teachers can’t simply be preaching without practicing. They should set the standard. In this section I want to point out why learning is essential to a teacher’s success and why great teachers walk their talk.
Walk our talk
Anyone who has had at least one good teacher in their life (which is basically all of us) knows the power of a good coach. A good coach is not just someone who teaches us how to play guitar but they remind us of why we play. A good coach helps us to stay focused and keeps our eye on what matters most. The 20% if you like. Everyone is easily distracted and we only really see the situation from a single perspective. A good mentor keeps us focus and gives us an outside perspective. It doesn’t mean you have to follow their advice all the time but it at least gives you a broader view. If you truly want to excel at anything your best strategy is to find a good coach. If you are a teacher but do not have a teacher yourself you need to ask yourself why. In fact as a guitar teacher entrepreneur you need at least three teachers. One for guitar, one for teaching and one for business.
The unqualified opinions of others
We are swayed by the opinions of others everyday whether we realize it or not. Many of those opinions unfortunately come from unqualified people. Well meaning friends and family members may give you advice that makes you question your every decision. Their suggestions will often lead you to make poor decisions. I am always amazed at the amount of business advice I get from people who have never been in business or financial advice from friends who are always crying poor. Advice will come at you whether you like it or not so the challenge is to seek your advice from someone who is qualified. Your brother-in-law the mechanic may be a great guy and a genius when it comes to car repair but his free advice to you on the business of teaching guitar teaching should be accepted with caution.
Teachers believe in the idea of mentoring
As teachers we believe that students will do better with a teacher rather than trying to teach themselves. We all know the value of a good teacher yet many do not practice what they preach. In other words many guitar teachers are self taught teachers, business people and even guitarists. They have no formal training in how to be a great teacher and usually zero training in how to be successful entrepreneurs. I hope you can see the irony here. You are promoting the idea of a teacher to students while not seeking out a teachers for yourself.
I think almost anyone who takes up the guitar does so because they were inspired by a famous guitarist. For me it was guitarits like Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Gilmour, Eddie Van Halen, Joe Walsh, Paul McCartney, Steve Lukather and even some local kids playing guitar in my neighbourhood. Without these guys I doubt I would have played guitar. Teaching guitar was the same. My first teacher was actually a drum teacher Merv Dick. Great guy, great drummer and an outstanding mentor. Merv helped me to stay focused and motivated. Lessons only stopped because Merv went on tour with his band The Deltones which he is still doing at time of writing this book. Merv was a great first musical mentor for me and definitely influenced my teaching. My first guitar teacher Mark Bergman was also an outstanding mentor. Mark took me from self taught hacker to professional in less than a year. Mark seemed genuinely excited about my progress from week to week. Mark was undoubtably the most influential person in my early career as a young guitar player and also inspired me to be a guitar teacher. Mark was a student of the jazz great Ike Isaacs so you can see that Mark also practiced what he preached. Mark even recommended I go to Ike but he unfortunately passed away before I had the opportunity.
You are unlikely to find one mentor for everything. A great guitar mentor may not be the right person to mentor your teaching or business. Seeking out mentors is about finding someone who has reached a level of success in an area that matters to you. When seeking mentors do some research. Who are the people in your chosen field leading the charge? Who are the leaders if you like. Do they offer coaching? If you don’t know where to look start with Google. Get to know the industry and it will soon become obvious who are the people leading. My guess is if you are reading this book you are already gathering information so you are well on your way.
Seek out great teachers
When it comes to teaching don’t limit yourself to learning from other guitar teachers. Look for the best teachers and coaches in any field you can find. If you want to be a great teacher you need to learn from great teachers no matter what the topic. Buy autobiographies on famous sports coaches. Watch movies about great teachers and coaches. Ask your friends if they know any great teachers. Enroll into a local course and learn something completely different just to experience what it’s like. I regularly attend business coaching seminars from some of the best people in the business to improve my business skills but also to learn from experienced coaches. I keep two separate sets of notes. One of the business ideas and one on their actual coaching skills. The best coaches know how to motivate and inspire their students and when you are in a room with a truly great coach you walk out feeling confident that you are a little closer to your goal. Remember one great coach can literally change your life.
Who were your greatest teachers?
I love asking people this question. It seems everyone has one or two teachers in their lives who play a defining role. Watch their faces light up when they begin to talk about their greatest teachers. You can often see a deep gratitude and affection for their teachers. They know that those teachers genuinely cared about them. These are the people we will never forget. They change our lives for the better. They lift us to new heights and give us the courage to go to places would may never have gone without their encouragement. Seeking out great teachers should be a high priority for anyone but most especially teachers. A great teacher will not only improve your own teaching but they will remind you of why you decided to become a teacher. They will inspire you to continually improve your teaching.
Chapter 5...Structure & Planning
“He who fails to plan is planning to fail.” - Winston Churchill.
The vital ingredient to any successful business is structure. As a musician you know all too well the importance of structure when it comes to song composition. Structure helps the listener make sense of your composition. Your teaching should be structured in a way that it makes sense to your students and your business should be structured so it’s profitable. Having a method of teaching is not just good for your teaching but good for your business.
When guitar teachers improvise their lessons they are taking a big risk while also increasing their actual workload unnecessarily. Learning guitar is not easy and takes a combination of physical effort and psychological discipline. Very few wannabe guitarists ever realise their dream. When they go to a guitar teacher they are hoping the teacher has a plan. When teachers operate without a plan their students are far more likely to give up. The reason is simple. When you embark on a journey without a map you are highly likely to get lost and confused. Even if you do manage to find your way sometimes those with a good map will get there almost 100% of the time in generally in less time.
I have witnessed this many times with guitar teachers. They argue that planning lessons is a waste of time because students are all different. The truth is they are using this to justify their lack of planning or should I say laziness. Their approach is to teach students the songs they know and like not because it’s better but because it seems easier at the time. Their only plan is to fulfil student requests. While a nice idea it is not teaching. It’s often just a form of entertainment.
Something to keep the student amused.
Students naturally want to play their favourite songs and that is always the goal but before that can occur they need to learn how to play the guitar. For example I might decide I want to pilot a plane and fly to Hawaii yet I have no training or ability to fly. Before I take off for Hawaii I need to learn how to fly. Imagine a pilot asking a new trainee at their first flying lesson “So where would you like to fly today?” I am sure the student would be horrified. Guitar teachers do this all the time not even realising it. When you ask students what they want to learn it is often overwhelming. They are beginners and therefore need to start at the beginning. Teaching them songs is inappropriate and will often scare off new students.
More than 90% will quit within 12 months
Most students will quit within the first 6 months. This may initially come as a shock but really should not be too surprising when you compare it to say dieting where 98% of dieters give up within the first year with most returning to their original weight. You can also look at the number of people who start businesses often putting all the savings on the line only to give up within the first few years. Guitar for most is only a hobby so after a few months of lessons if a student decides to give up its no big loss in their mind. They can easily rationalize their decision because unlike dieting or business their health or financial well being are not at risk if they stop guitar. The only real downside is they won’t get to realise their dream of playing guitar.
Why you need a method
I am about to convince you that teaching guitar using a method will not only be the best thing you could likely ever do to improve your teaching but it may actually set your business on a path of explosive growth beyond your wildest expectations. The rapid growth I believe was partly due to the fact that I was using a method. A method of teaching guitar is simply a plan. A method is like a road map. If I want to get somewhere I get a map and follow the directions. I could of course try and get there without a map but the odds are I will get lost or it will take a lot longer. I will take the map every time.
The need for structure
I think any guitarist reading this book knows most guitar teachers tend to improvise their lessons. Sure they might use a method to teach reading but the majority of their lesson time is centred around fulfilling student requests, tabbing out songs and perhaps teaching a few skills and theoretical concepts when required. I am not saying it is wrong by the way. It works very well for certain kinds of students and is appropriate in certain situations. For example the more advanced player who is looking for specific training or needs to learn a certain song for a performance would benefit from this style of tuition. Think of in terms of music. A song usually has a structure. Intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo etc. People are comfortable when the song is familiar and structured and the musicians are also need structure to keep it together but within that structure a certain amount of improvisation is acceptable. But if there is no structure it is almost impossible for anyone to know what is going on. It just becomes a mess. A method brings structure and purpose to your lessons.
I want to give you some analogies that will help you to see why using a method is so important. Analogies help us to compare that which we can understand to a concept that is new or perhaps unclear. When we operate without a method we are literally guessing. We are also much more likely to get off track and end up in the 80%. A method should keep your students firmly planted in the 20% of what matters most. When we use a method we are essentially using a system that has been tested. I am sure your students would rather a tested system than being test dummies in your experiment. You should experiment sometimes to learn but it is usually more advisable to start by learning from other people’s experiments or mistakes.
Learning to juggle
I remember as a child seeing a guy juggle 3 balls. I decided to try it so I found 3 tennis balls and began to throw them repeatedly into the air only to have them fall to the ground every time. I could not figure out how to get the 3 balls cycling through my hands without dropping them. After several days of trying I gave up. It was too hard and perhaps even impossible for me. My problem as it turns out was my method of learning how to juggle or should I say lack of a method. Had I used a method the result would have been very different and here is why. I searched Youtube and found a method for learning how to juggle called ‘How to juggle three balls’. In the video they start with one ball which you and I would be able to do more or less straight away. They then move to two balls and eventually 3 balls. Building up one ball at a time allows me to break down the learning process in a systemised way and also builds confidence. Guitar teachers who improvise their lessons inadvertently give their student three balls and then wonder why those students give up or fail to progress. This commonly occurs when students are ask to learn their favorite songs. The songs are usually too difficult and require several skills to be employed at one time. You might think of ball one as the picking hand, ball two as the fretting hand and ball three as the rhythm.
How I learnt to play drums
When I began learning drums as a child I like anyone was eager to play the beats of my favourite songs. I can remember even as a very young child listening to my Dad’s records tapping along to the beat. At my first drum lesson I had no idea what to expect. My teacher gave me a book (method) full of exercises (no songs) and a pair of drum sticks and away we went. For the next 6 months I learnt nothing but exercises and a few basic rock beats. The exercises were mostly progressive so once I was able to successfully play an exercise I would moved to the next one. I do recall wanting to learn songs but I certainly wasn’t considering changing teachers for one simple reason. I was progressing. I could feel it. Week by week I was improving and my confidence was growing. It was only after about 6 months of skill development that my teacher gave me my first song and the great thing was I was able to play it straight away. I had already developed the skills. The song was ‘Honky tonk woman’ and I still remember how great it felt when I realised I could just do it. My teacher was using a proven method and it had worked. As with the ball juggling the method had taught me one logical step at a time. By the way the only reason I stopped having lessons was because my drum teacher went on tour and the new teacher had no method of teaching. After a few lessons with the new teacher I felt like the lessons were not going anywhere. There was no clear path or direction.
Learning to swim
Let us look at something unrelated to music. Swimming like guitar playing is a skill. If I were a swimming teacher and let my beginner students jump straight in the deep end chances are they would drown and I would very quickly lose my teaching certificate due to unsafe practices. When teaching students to swim we need to begin in the shallow end and start with simple exercises like treading water or holding the edge of the pool while kicking our legs. A qualified swim teacher will take students through a whole series of progressive steps before letting them enter the deep end of the pool. With swimming there are no second chances. What makes guitar teachers more vulnerable to teaching without a method is simply the fact that they can do it without anyone getting hurt. We are unlikely to see a headline about a guitar teacher up on a malpractice charge. Their mistakes and ineffective teaching methods go unchecked.
Teaching songs too early
When a teacher first starts out they are eager to impress their new students. They run with the idea that success in any business is all about creating happy customers. Happiness is important and striving for happy students should be a consideration but not at the cost of success on guitar. When you focus only on satisfying the requests of your students you find yourself in the trap of teaching songs too early. We can be happy in the moment like when we are eating a piece of chocolate cake or we can be happy long term by going for a walk or jog instead. Attempting to teach songs too early can lead students to believe that they should be able to play these songs and when they struggle they will begin to lose motivation.
When we teach songs too early we risk losing students even if they are requesting the songs. Teachers who fall into the trap of teaching songs tend to do so because they have no method. Their strategy is simply to teach songs. Delaying songs until the student is ready is your best strategy. Some teachers also find it difficult to resist student requests for songs. This happens because students lose faith in your method. They see no real connection between what their favourite songs and your method of learning. Keeping students on track requires making a connection between the two. You achieve this by relating the skills in your method to songs they hope to eventually learn. Keep everything relevant when and wherever possible.
The paradox of choice
When I was growing up in the 70’s I owned a few toy cars, a football and a bike. My options for amusement were limited so my choice was pretty easy. The same applied to TV. On one channel there was Bewitched and on the other was Get Smart. My limited choices meant it was easy for me to choose. Today’s kids on the other hand have an almost unlimited choice in many areas of life which may explain why child depression is at an all time high. It's only a guess but perhaps the overwhelming number of choices they have cause them to become anxious. I am not alone in my thinking on this point. See the Randy Cale interview. There was a famous supermarket jam study conducted in the USA where they found that a display of 24 different jams attracted more people compared to a display of only 6 different jams but the smaller display actually sold more jam. What this tells us is people are indeed attracted to the idea of more choice but when it comes to making a decision they are more likely to feel overwhelmed with too much choice and therefore make no decision at all. For more on the Jam Study just follow the link. This is where a method of learning guitar comes in. When you ask students what they want to learn they might give you a list of songs but in reality when it comes to learning those songs they become overwhelmed. A method limits choice which in turn gives your students less to worry about. They are not trying to divide up their limited time on multiple tasks. A method will keep them focused on the 20% that really matters.
Praise effort, acknowledge results
The name of the game is results right? Students enroll to learn guitar and the bottom line is they (and you) want results. While this is indeed the goal it should not be the focus of your praise. Whatever you focus on your students will deem as important and therefore do more of. Your focus should be on developing student behaviour that produces results. When teachers focus on results students will see results as a measure of their personal success. This is often what causes students to make comparisons to other students. When we only praise results rather than behaviour we take control away from the student because students can’t actually control results but they can control their behaviour. As a result we erode student confidence. The common mistake is a teacher will say “I want you to be able to play this exercise by next week” and when the student despite their efforts falls short they feel like a failure. Instead if a teacher says “I want you to practice this exercise for 20 minutes a day for the next week” the teacher can praise the student’s effort assess their progress. If the rate of progress is too slow the teacher can look for answers. Perhaps the exercise was misunderstood, too hard or the student exaggerated their practice. Whatever the answer the teacher can address the problem. This is a really important point. Imagine if I said you had to find 10 new students by next week. There is no guarantee despite your best efforts this would happen. Instead if I asked you to spend 2 hours a day marketing you would know with complete confidence you could indeed invest 2 hours a day. You would feel in control. When we praise something that students can consciously do or not do they feel in control. If you practice 30 minutes a day and I say “Wow, that’s great. Keep up the great work” you feel good because you know you had control. You decided to put in the effort.
You can also decide not to put in the effort and when praise is not forthcoming you are under no illusions. You make a direct link between cause and effect. Effort will eventually bring about results provided you have a method that is proven to get results. The method is a critical component because if your student is putting effort into random exercises and songs it is guess work. It is also very unfair on your student. The student is putting in the effort believing their efforts will ultimately produce a result but if you are not using a method there are no guarantees. If you give a student a song that you have not tested you really can’t say how much effort is required to bring about a result. This is especially problematic with beginners who want to learn songs played by experienced guitarists. My first song was ‘Stairway to Heaven’. It was way out of my skill range as a beginner and I persisted on and off for over a year. I eventually concluded I was just not good enough. Only once I discovered a good teacher did I realise that I was simply not ready. I was trying to juggle 3 balls. I almost gave up guitar as a result.
Less means faster progress
The idea of a good method is to focus students on what matters and for beginners what matters are the basic fundamental skills. Focusing your students attention purely on skills they achieve results faster. If you split their attention between skills and favourite songs will require a percentage of their practice time and their favourite songs will inevitably become their first priority. This results in songs becoming 80% of their practice time. As already discussed focusing on songs too early will usually result in students becoming overwhelmed (3 balls) and giving up. A method helps you and your student to stay focused on the skills and not get distracted by songs.
A big problem for guitar teachers
In my early years of teaching guitar I experienced a high number of students dropping out in the first 6 months. Naturally it took a few years to really notice any kind of trend. I recall it was in my third or fourth year that it became obvious. Initially I accepted it as normal. I simply assumed that learning guitar was just one of those instruments that due to its natured meant 90% would never achieve success. On one hand I decided there was nothing I could do to change this situation yet on the other I was not willing to accept that only 10% of my students would last more than a year. When students begin guitar they have high hopes of achieving their dream of becoming an accomplished guitarist. No one takes up guitar with the idea of giving up. What I noticed was the first few weeks for most students was the peak of their enthusiasm for actually learning guitar. It was also easy for me to assume in these few weeks that students were in it for the long term based on their enthusiasm but it proved to be an unreliable indicator. I have operated guitar schools for many years and trained and managed hundreds of guitar teachers. Whenever teachers had new students I would ask each teacher after a new student’s first lesson how the lesson went. New teachers would often respond by saying something like “Great. The student loved the lesson so I think they will be sticking around for a while.” These teachers would be shocked to learn their new enthusiastic students had suddenly stopped turning up for lessons often within only a few weeks or months. Many teachers were left scratching heads trying to understand what went wrong. Departing students might say something like “I am going to take everything you showed me and work on it for a while” or “I am just really busy at the moment” or “My finances are a bit tight so I need to put my lessons on hold.” All these excuses were basically code for “I have lost interest”.
Why students lose interest
The answer is so simple and obvious that it may even seem too simple. I think we all know what it’s like to be searching frantically for something we have lost only to realise it was right in front of us the whole time. This was my experience with student dropouts. For several years I was searching for the answer and there it was. Clear as day. Here is the answer;
1. Students drop out soon after they stop practicing.
2. Students stop practicing because they lose interest.
3. Students lose interest because they fail to get early noticeable results.
4. Early results give students the confidence to continue.
5. Early results must be seen to be believed.
6. To be seen you must have a system of measuring.
You might argue that students shouldn’t expect too much in those first few weeks and months because guitar takes time. This unfortunately doesn’t change how they feel. Early progress even if small builds confidence. All a student really cares about in the early months is that they are progressing. If students do not feel any progress they soon lose interest. Your window of opportunity as a teacher is very small. The first few weeks are when students are most likely to practice and to follow your instructions. If they are not seeing measurable results in those first weeks they will grow restless. In most cases students have paid you up front so when it comes time to paying you again they will be considering their options based on their recent results. At best you have 6 months to prove you can get results. Remember you are responsible for your students getting results. You are the teacher and its your course so they are paying you to get results.
How a method with checklists solves the problem
When you use a method one of two scenarios will occur. Either you student will follow the method or they won’t. If they follow the method and the method is a proven tested method they will get results and will usually be satisfied with their progress. If they don’t follow your method the student will know why they are not getting results and you can be satisfied that you offered them a method of learning. Generally when you enroll students and explain your method clearly students who do not participate in your method are rare. If your students are using the method and doing everything according to the method yet you are still experiencing a high number of dropouts you need to question the method itself and whether or not you are correctly delivering the method. As you can see using a method allows you to narrow down the problem. The method I use took many years to develop and test but it is now at a point where I am confident that when a student does not respond to the method they are either not practicing what is being asked or in some cases they just want to learn songs and no amount of convincing will change their mind. Again this is rare if at time of enrolment the method is explained clearly and expectations are laid out.
Where are all the guitar methods?
There are surprisingly very few recognised accepted methods of learning guitar. Most guitar teachers are either self taught guitarists or were taught by self taught guitarists. Having no formal training means they were unlikely to be exposed to any kind of method even if one existed. Add to this the fact that up until the 1950’s most guitar teachers were classically trained and most methods were classical guitar methods. In fact I would argue that method learning actually went out of fashion. Rock n roll was all about experimenting and breaking away from the previous generation. Rock guitar eventually established itself as a credible style of music and the kids of the 60s onwards were keen to learn. By the 80s virtuoso rock guitar players were appearing but most young players like myself who were just starting out found it all very daunting. We desperately needed guidance and clarity.
Where do you find a method?
You have two options. Firstly you can create your own. This is a huge project and not one I would suggest unless you are prepared to spend at least a few years researching, testing and formulating your method. I recommend you just spend time looking at what methods are already available and then deciding which one feels right for you. For classical and jazz guitarists there are plenty of good choices. For rock and popular styles it can be a little more difficult. I myself was unable to find a method that satisfied my criteria so I created my own. I spent many years developing my method of teaching which I called The G4 GUITAR METHOD. I wanted a method that set clear goals and taught students to focus on the 20%. I wanted a method that focused mostly on skills that could be applied to most styles of guitar playing. I also wanted a method that made it easy for me as a teacher to monitor student progress. No one method was able to do what I required so I was somewhat forced to create my own. If there had of been something available I would not have created my own so you should only create your own method if you feel something is seriously missing from the available options.
“A man's growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
The old saying of 'Its not what you know but who you know' has several meanings. Firstly it suggests that if we have friends in the right places we can get ahead in life. It also means that knowing people is more important than knowledge because when we know people we are able to source the answers we seek when we need them. Any way you look at it networking is important to success. Dictionary.com describes a network as ‘a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.’ We all network whether we realise it or not. Networking is what makes the Internet work, its what keeps our society functioning and its what makes people successful. The ideal network is one where everyone connected to the network can benefit and contribute in some way. Networks usually contain hubs. Hubs are central point meeting points that connect many parts of the network. For example a city railway system is a network. Certain stations will be hubs with the main hub often being called Central station. The most successful guitar teachers are usually the ones with the biggest networks.
You are a hub for your students
If you teach 50 students to play guitar in your area then you are a hub. You are the point where all 50 students are connected. You are also connected to other musicians and most likely to professional musicians. Some of your students may just want to learn guitar for pleasure whereas others may be considering a professional career in music. Chances are you know people who can help them become professional. The more connected you are the more you can do for your students and the more you do for your students the more your reputation will spread. As you can see your value as a teacher in your local community largely depends on your network.
It only takes one student
Every student you teach connects you to a network. If you are a great teacher you only need one student for your reputation to spread. The average child will have a dozen or more friends in the immediate area. Their parents will also be connected to many people in the area. They will also be connected a the local school and perhaps sporting groups. There is also the possibility they have a sibling who again extends their network of friends. If you are a great teacher this one student will be enough to spread your good name. When I was at school there was a local guitar hero. His name was Jim and when he played guitar our jaws just dropped. The question on everyone’s mind was ‘Who is his teacher?’ The best way to spread your reputation is to produce amazing guitar students. Just one student is enough to spread your reputation like wildfire. Now imagine having 10 or more jaw dropping guitar students. As you can see networking is very powerful but you must be producing great guitar players that are remarkable.
If you think you can get away with teaching students who don’t practice therefore don’t progress I advise you to think again because the reputation goes both ways. If your students fail to progress this will reflect back on you. I remember as a teen one of my friends who had a guitar teacher yet failed to improve. My friend even recommended I go to his teacher because he was a great guitar player but subconsciously I knew something was not right. I was not aware of it at the time but I knew my friend had been having lessons for over a year and was still very much a beginner. My instinct told me that his teacher was not producing successful students even if he himself was a great guitar player. Focus on being a great teacher and your reputation will grow organically.
No one has all the answers
No matter how much experience we have we are unlikely to see all sides of a problem. I recently read about how the aviation industry was concerned about the the number of incidents occurring with Asian airlines compared to the rest of the world. Their investigations discovered that there was a cultural issue going on. In Asia the plane’s captain holds a position of high rank. Copilots and navigators were therefore cautious about questioning the captain’s decisions. This created a problem when the captain made a mistake. There were several cited cases where the copilot had pointed out an oversight but the captain had dismissed it. In the case of American pilots copilots were much more likely to push the point without fear of offending their captain. To overcome this problem they made two major changes.
Firstly they reversed roles. Traditionally the captain would fly the plane while the copilot would oversee and carry out instructions according to the captain’s orders. The new change meant the copilot would now fly the plane and the captain would now oversee. This made much more sense because it was easier for the captain to see a potential problem and advise the copilot then the other way around. In effect instead of having one person in control of the decision making now there were two. Secondly they made English compulsory for all pilots and air traffic controllers worldwide. This ensured that air traffic control were able to listen in to conversations at all times. In other words they broadened their network. Now any number of people could listen in and give advice if necessary. A very clever move which has since dramatically decreased the number of air disasters in recent years. Expanding your network especially to qualified people in your industry will increase your chances of success. If you don’t belong to a guitar teacher network I strongly advise you look for one.
The power of one
We often hear stories about great people who single handedly changed the world. Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa to name a few. While they were indeed amazing individuals they did not do it alone. These individuals were in fact great at networking. In each case they were very well connected and had spent years building their personal networks. They had a cause and their networks helped them to spread their message. Their networks just as importantly were a source of reliable information. When we network information flows in two directions helping us to stay informed as well as sharing our own information. Those people who are viewed as influential are really just network hubs. They often rise to fame because they become the connection between those who support the cause and the general public. When you become a hub you become more informed and as you can see from the above examples you soon rise to the top of your chosen field.
Guitar teacher isolation
Guitar teachers as a rule tend to operate in isolation. Most will teach from their own homes and rarely have contact with other guitar teachers. When I started teaching guitar I was exactly the same but it just felt wrong. I knew I was going to grow. I had been working in retail since I was a teen and there were always other sales people and at least one manager and perhaps office staff around. It always felt like a team environment. We were able to share experiences, talk about problems, ask for advice and exchange success stories. I found myself learning very quickly because I was not only receiving valuable training I was able to see other team members in action. As an isolated guitar teacher I did not have this opportunity. I was alone in isolation so there was no one to learn from. I knew I had to change this if I was to improve as a teacher so I came up with a solution. Start a music school. That way I could bring in lots of different teachers and we could all learn from each other. I spent the next 20 years establishing and operating music schools and that interaction with hundreds of great music teachers over the year is what I believe made me a successful teacher.
The Jimi Hendrix experience
Hendrix rose to the top of the electric guitar world for one reason. He was a master at networking. Hendrix spent his early years connecting with every guitarist he could find. He would literally turn up to concerts of other guitar players with his own guitar in hand and go back stage and ask for a lesson. He was shy but not when it came to guitar. Even before Hendrix became famous he had played with Little Richard who was the biggest act going around. Hendrix’s ability to network made him both a great guitar player and a successful one. It was the girl friend of Keith Richards who introduced Hendrix to Chas Chandler who introduced Jimi to Clapton and the British guitar scene. This in turn help Jimi to become popular. Everything about Hendrix’s success revolved around his ability to network. Hendrix was a hub. He was even connected to the jazz scene through Miles Davis. It is doubtful that Hendrix would have been so successful had it just stayed in Seattle and practiced a lot. Without his networking efforts he would not have come in contact with so many great guitar players and he would not have gained the knowledge and connections he needed to succeed.
Social networks like Facebook make it easier than ever to connect with other guitar teachers and students for that matter. We are all busy so you need to make the best use of your time. Again you are looking for the 20%. There is also the issue of location. The people in your networks can now be anywhere. You are not limited to those within traveling distance. I have found Facebook to be a great solution because almost everyone I know is on there. I was easily able to create a network on Facebook for guitar teachers and students. What I like most is that I can come back at anytime and read posts, answer questions or post a new topic. I am able to stay connected to the people who matter and I can work it around my schedule. In the old days organising a meeting amongst guitar teachers was practically impossible. Face to face is of course still the best way to communicate if you can do it but in between social networking is the way to go.
Chapter 7...Let's Talk Marketing
"In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible." - Seth Godin
The first step to starting your teaching business is to have an effective website. There are many options for design and most are ineffective for guitar teachers. This topic is a book in itself so I will not go into here. I strongly recommend that you get someone professional to do your website. When I say professional I mean a professional marketer not website design.
Google is really the only search engine you need to be concerned with. Ensuring your website and therefore your lessons are found online you need to ensure you are well placed on Google. This actually takes a lot of work because what Google looks for are websites that meet a list of over 200 different criteria ranging from the keywords in your website to the quality of your content and even the design of your site. Its complicated and not something the average guitar teacher wants to be spending too much time on. One thing you do want to do though is register yourself on Google Business Map Listings. This will ensure you are found.
At this writing Facebook has over 800 million users most of whom visit the site several times a day. Facebook is the place to be and it's where your potential students will be. Facebook has enormous potential for guitar teachers because you can target to your exact audience. I am going to give you one simple strategy that you can use to attract an audience on Facebook. Make a Facebook page with pics that represent you and the kind of students you are trying to attract. E.g. If you want to work with kids put pics of kids playing guitar. If you want to teach metal put appropriate images on your sites. Next start posting relevant posts to that audience. Now go to Facebook Ads and place an ad with a pic that relates to your audience and then target them. You can choose all kinds of criteria such as age, sex, location, interests. This will allow you to attract your ideal audience.
This refers to capturing potential student emails. Most people need to learn more about you and what you offer. Adding them to your email list will allow you to contact them again and again and to educate them on your products and offerings. The more they learn about you the more likely they are to trust you and eventually sign up for lessons. The Internet does not hold people’s attention for long. In most cases people click away from your page within seconds. Capturing their email with a good offer will ensure you are maximising your website’s traffic. You can use services like Aweber or Mailchimp. Both are good except Mailchimp is free to a certain point so if you just want to test the service this may be the place to start.
Knowledge is soon forgotten if not acted upon. They say we only remember about 10% of what we read. By taking action you are much more likely to remember. As I hope you can see the the 3 keys to teaching guitar Learn, Structure and Network are the 20%. Focusing on these 3 areas will account for about 80% of your success as a teacher. I have included a page with the 3 keys to teaching success so feel free to print and hang it on your wall to remind yourself every day otherwise chances are within a week you will have forgotten them.
If you are serious about starting your own guitar school or are just looking to grow your current guitar teaching business you may you can checkout our G4 GUITAR Teacher Network Membership options. IF you are interested visit our MEMBERSHIP PRICING PAGE.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact David Hart via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author
At age 5 years (1971) I have a vivid memory of my uncle sitting with a guitar playing for my brother and I. My Dad was passionate about rock and blues music so we had heard plenty of guitar but this was the first time I actually saw one being played. Although I showed some interest it wasn’t until a few years later that my parents bought me my first guitar. In those days I would spend hours sitting in my parents car listening to my favourite tapes (Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Ian Hunter to name a few). I chose the car because I could crank up the volume. I was probably about 8 years old when I took my first guitar lesson but my interest in practice only lasted a few weeks. My parents did not play instruments so they really did not know how to encourage me. Fast forward to my first year in high school and music had become my main interest in life. In the first few weeks I had made friends with a guy who told me he played guitar so one afternoon we went to his place where he proudly showed off his Washburn electric and Peavey amp. He plugged in, turn up the volume to ear bleeding and played a few riffs. I don’t even recall what he played but it was probably AC/ DC or Kiss I would say. Then he passed the guitar to me. Naturally I was clueless but eager to try. It was my first real experience with an electric guitar.
For the next year I took drum lessons. The plan was my friend would play guitar and I would be his drummer but there was a problem. As much as I enjoyed drums I kept coming back to guitar. Every time I saw a guitar I just had to pick it up. At age 14 years I bought my own electric guitar and started teaching myself. I really struggled during that time and remember thinking I would never be very good. I was for a time convinced that I just did not have the gift. I concluded that some people had it but most did not. I came very close to giving up on several occasions but then something happened. With drums I at no time try to self teach. My first experience with drums was with a teacher at my lesson. I had managed to become a decent drummer in less than a year. In fact I was playing professional while still only 14 yo. Guitar on the other hand seem to be going no where after 2 years of self teaching. It was obvious. I needed a teacher so I signed up to lessons and bingo. I went from a clumsy hacker to professional in less than one year.
By 17yo I was playing guitar professionally and by 18yo had begun teaching for money. Although I was probably not even thinking about it at the time I am quite sure my confidence to teach was largely as a result of my own guitar teacher. Teaching back then was a part time job which I combined with gigging and a retail sales job. Within a few years my student numbers grew allowing me to earn a good income from teaching and performance. In my early 20’s I started my first music school in Sydney which I later sold. I opened my second music school a few years later which I owned and operated for approximately 10 years selling in 2003. In 2005 I started a brand new project called G4 Guitar and the rest as they say is history.
Stop wasting time
You can spend years like I did trying to teach yourself how to succeed in business (and make no mistake, your guitar teaching is a business) or you can get the training now that you need to succeed. It really is a choice. Even if you do eventually succeed through trial you will have wasted valuable time compared to those who seek out knowledge and training. Now that you have read this book DON’T STOP HERE. This should be the start. Understanding how business works and especially how marketing works will not only help you with teaching guitar but will improve your chances of financial success. Click here to check out our Membership Options and continue your journey.
Firstly to my family for being ever so patient and understanding about my passion for teaching and business. A special thank you to Emma Payne for her many years of dedication and belief in my many crazy ideas. Brendan Morello for his amazing support and help in launching the G4 GUITAR Network. Plus a big thank you to all the G4 GUITAR employees, members and of course our students who make it all possible. Lastly thank you to you the reader.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact David Hart via email at email@example.com