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A question for the guitar teachers at GN


(@fleaaaaaa)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 680
Topic starter  

Have you ever:

Had training for teaching guitar? I know there is training available - if so is it worth it?

Have you ever read a book on teaching guitar? - If so which book(s)?

together we stand, divided we fall..........


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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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For teaching guitar? No, no training - just 34+ years of learning on the job. For teaching music? Yes, as a music education undergrad. That gave me some general background in pedagogy that I've been able to apply when evaluating method books, understanding different learning styles, developing curricula and lesson plans etc.

Over the years I've read dozens of books and hundreds of journal articles on how to teach music (I'm a member of several organizations like NAfME - the National Association for Music Education - and most have one or more publications). A few have been specific to guitar. Most are simple common sense. Journal articles for teaching guitar tend to be geared to general music teachers who need an introduction to the instrument. What's actually more useful as a teacher are articles about general music teaching methods - like solfege singing - that give different approaches to getting an idea across. These help you understand different presentation methods, and with a bit of work they can be applied to guitar.

One of the problems of teaching guitar is that guitar is still new - the modern classical guitar is just over 150 years old, and the steel string version is about 100. Other instruments have been around much longer, and have much deeper resources (one book still in print for teaching violin was written by Mozart's father!). Deep thinking about teaching methods are only beginning to be applied to the guitar. When I was in school in the 70s, only two colleges allowed a steel string guitar major - and one of them (Berklee) hadn't been accredited yet!

So the best books on teaching guitar probably haven't been written yet.

Anyway, guitar specific teaching books that I've read:

"Fifty Lesson Plans for Teaching Guitar" by Nick Minion (e-book). Lots of typos, but I bought this one probably 6-7 years ago; they may have been fixed. Some inconsistencies as far as what order to present skills. Overall, this would be useful to a new teacher - especially if they put the effort into using these plans as a model for developing their own, setting objectives for the lesson and creating a rational sequence of steps for presentation. It's a decent amount of material for the money.

"How to Make a Living Teaching Guitar" by Guy Lee. This is short (under 100 pages) and mostly common sense stuff. I didn't think it was worth the price, but If you have zero experience teaching it might be helpful. It's pretty clear that Guy's experience is his only qualification, and that he's a bit limited in the styles he teaches - I disagree with some of the things he says, based on my own experience (both in some of his advice on teaching and on running a teaching business).

I did just see on a quick Amazon search that several new books on teaching guitar have come out in the past couple of years. I've just ordered a few of them, and I'll review them after I've read them.

You don't say why you're interested in teaching. If you want to give some lessons to a friend, books like those will get you started. But if you're going to go into teaching as a business, I'd read one or two books on teaching guitar, one or two on starting and running a business, and at least three or four on marketing. You can improve your skills as a teacher as you go (I know I have, and hope I continue to), but if you're not any good at marketing, you'll struggle - no matter how good a teacher you are. The best marketing books I've read are "Guerilla Marketing" by Jay Conrad Levinson and "Promoting Your Teaching Studio" by Philip Johnston (somewhat dated - I'd ignore his advice on things like Yellow Pages advertising - but overall, excellent)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@alangreen)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5367
 

I read "Teaching Musical Instruments" or something like that, published by Oxford Uni, and I can't remember the author's name except that most of the time she was talking about previous books she and other people had written and her book contained zero useful info about teaching anything except how NOT to teach a first clarinet lesson.

I'd spent 30 years working in Banking, including 20+ in Investment Banking, a lot of which required me to train lawyers to write legalese for contract documents. When JPMorgan and UBS (consecutive employers) were offshoring their basic derivatives work to Mumbai and Hyderabad, guess who wrote the training course they went through?

So, specifically for teaching guitar - No.

I have a Grade 8 at classical guitar, a BA(Hons) in Humanities with a Music specialism - although that was more musicology than music - and I'm a qualified Banker (ACIB), so I know how to learn; but training for teaching music? Nope.

I'm not sure who learned more in that first 15 minutes on that first morning at my first school; me or Eddie.

The good news is that you develop an at least partially effective way of teaching pretty damn quick. It's that or die, mate.

What really worries me is that there's no proper training available for teaching one-to-one instrument lessons and even less for Wider Opps/ Group sessions. I can probably tell you in general terms how to deliver a lesson, but if you're teaching Japanese Noh Flute and want to know the oral mnemonics then you're on your own. The entire syllabus which my students study is down to me; how it's delivered is entirely down to me too. All the Schools I teach in showed me where to find the coffee, checked that I had Criminal Records/ List 99 Clearance to work unsupervised with children and vulnerable adults and basically assumed I knew what the heck I was doing.

And left me to it.

And that was it.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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(@fleaaaaaa)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 680
Topic starter  

Hey Alan and Noteboat!

Well obviously I know you but you don't know me.... let me introduce myself... I am Adam - taught guitar already for almost ten years with various stops and starts so never got a hugely developed business. Anyway the thing that made me go "hmmm" was I got an email from Tom Hess (he was trying to sell his course on guitar teaching - how to be a guitar teacher - quite expensive) and he said "most guitar teachers have never even read a book on teaching guitar or even on teaching in general" and I felt well I have done okay so far without that but he is dead accurate that I never had either. So I wanted to ask. I saw some books on amazon..... was thinking sometime in the future I might get one.

together we stand, divided we fall..........


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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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Hi Adam - I'm Tom :)

I've met Tom Hess. Good guy, and a good player. I've also corresponded with him about his teacher course - but our thoughts on how we approach business seemed so similar that I didn't think I'd get that much from it. But... I'm pretty good at business, and at thinking outside the box. Not a lot of people are. I can think of worse ways to spend your money - he seems to know what he's doing.

As far as costs go, everything is relative. A few years before I opened my school I was teaching at a music store and the owner tried a direct mail ad. I asked him how it went, and he said it went ok. I asked if he would do it again, and he said probably not. Why? Because it was "too expensive" I asked how many students he got from it - and he didn't know.

To my way of thinking, a $1000 advertising method that gets you 50 students is a lot cheaper than a $100 method that gets you two. Don't confuse "I can't afford it" (a perfectly valid reason for not doing something) with "it costs too much" (what you need to know is: in relation to what?)

I'm all for doing things in the least expensive way that gets results. I'm not a fan of sacrificing results for saving money - you might be giving up more than you save. (This is not intended to be a plug for Tom's methods, since I have no personal knowledge of them - it's just that you can be penny wise and pound foolish if you focus solely on the cost of something)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@derek-wilkerson)
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Joined: 11 years ago
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as far as being a teacher, you've either got it, or you dont. look at your high school teachers. there are good ones and bad ones yet they all went to school to learn how to teach.

bassist for the crux
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 Cat
(@cat)
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Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1225
 

Hey Alan and Noteboat!

and he said "most guitar teachers have never even read a book on teaching guitar or even on teaching in general"

In the Real Estate business this is called "puffery". The operative word of escape is "most"...which certainly excludes Alan and Note. People do this, pushing all sorts of carts down the business aisle of life. Oh, well...

Cat

"Feel what you play...play what you feel!"


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(@noteboat)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Ok, the books I ordered arrived today. I just finished going through "Teaching Guitar" by Jody Fisher, part of the National Guitar Workshop curriculum.

It looks at personal skills - how to dress, don't swear, etc. All common sense. Types of teaching - one on one or classroom. Teaching environments - at a school, your home, a college, a music store, and by phone (?) I've done all of them except by phone (although I have taught by mailed recordings and video). Again, all common sense. It talks about creating a syllabus, which is important if you do classes or teach in a university or other structured school setting. Good information, but very basic.

It talks about what you'll need (all pretty obvious). Attracting and keeping students - on all of four pages, two of which are mostly examples of keeping records of what you've taught (which very few teachers do, in my experience), bookkeeping, promotion, other sources of income. All important, but all given pretty short shrift. Two pages on attracting students? Four hundred wouldn't be enough! You aren't a teacher if you don't have students!

A few pages on how to approach different students - children, teenagers, adults. Some tips on how to teach how to practice, with eight bullet points, two of which conflict each other. (I give students a 'how to practice' guide that's got about five times as many tips in four pages). Two thirds of a page on diagnosing problems - not terribly helpful (check left hand position. check right hand position, etc.)

At that point, about halfway through the book, it starts talking about what to teach. How to hold the guitar, left hand position, right hand position, music notation, tab, etc. This takes three pages.

From that point on, it's about teaching specific styles: folk, blues, rock, and jazz. Each is given just a cursory overview. The entire book is 96 pages, of which 6 are front matter, table of contents, about the author, and a pitch for the National Guitar Workshop.

Some years back I thought I should write a book about how to teach guitar. But when my outline passed 500 items, I realized it's an impossible task - every student is different in their strengths, weaknesses, natural abiliti9es, physical challenges, and musical interests. Although there are lessons I've taught literally thousands of times (here's how you play barre chords, etc.), no two have been exactly alike. There's no way you can pack any sort of nuance into the business of teaching into 90 pages.

At an $18 sticker price, this is less than I spent on Guy Lee's book and it does a better job overall. But if you think you can read the book and be a good teacher, it's not going to happen. At best it exposes some things to consider.

The best way to learn to teach is by doing it, IMO. In the beginning you might not be good at it. But if it's what you want to do, you'll get better. You'll learn from odd sources - some of the things that shape my teaching I learned from a hand surgeon who didn't play guitar, but helped me understand some of the anatomical challenges to what we do. I learned more about teaching improvisation from a bassist than I did from any guitarist; bottom end listeners hear the progression differently. I learned more about the structure and interpretation of pieces from a piano teacher I had than from any guitar teacher. I've learned more about the teaching business from bankers and restauranteurs than from teachers; watch people do what they are really good at doing - and passing on to others - and study them. Question things. Break them down and reassemble them in different ways. Study guitarists and ask yourself what advantage they gain from what they do - and what do they give up in exchange?

Always be learning. Two weeks ago I wrote an arrangement of a piece that I couldn't play - I spent five hours practicing it until I could make one fingering change I wrote. It was two more hours before I could do it consistently. When you do that, realize that's how a beginner feels when they confront an F chord for the first time. It's your job to guide them, cajole them, inspire them, and excite them.

I'll get to the other books as soon as I can, but from what I've seen over the years, learning how to teach isn't in a book. It's in you if you're meant to teach... and figuring out how to bring that out is what makes it worthwhile.

One last tip for today: one of the best sources I've had for learning to teach well are the bad teachers I had. When you run into a frustragint learning experience, figure out why it didn't work, and don't do that!

Ok, one more thing in retrospect: in education classes in college, we learned about different learning styles. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic. Read up on them and understand them. People can't express how they learn best - they've never thought about it. You have to sense when something isn't working and try another tack. Understanding how people learn is key to teaching effectively.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@s1120)
Prominent Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 849
 

Note,

I think we all learned more from your few posts then we would have from 30-40 books!!! Im not a teacher, but that was some good info there!!!!

Paul B


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