Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing A Guitar Teacher

What you need to know to make sure you get the most effective guitar instructor for you.

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A lot of guitar players choose a guitar teacher without having any experience or knowledge about guitar teachers, or don't know how to determine whether that teacher is a good teacher, whether he or she knows how to teach what, and in what order, and whether that the teacher is actually a good fit for them. Most guitar players base their decision on either price, or skill level, or what style of music the teacher likes or which style they specialize in teaching.

These factors SHOULD be taken into consideration, however they are not at all the deciding factors that you should put your trust into. If you make the wrong decision choosing a guitar teacher, you will unquestionably waste a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of effort. In fact, I spend a lot of my time correcting problems and wrong beliefs that my students have gotten from other guitar teachers in the past.

Here are the biggest problems that a lot of guitar teachers make: 1.The teacher doesn't really CARE about you as a person. Most guitar teachers just ask a few questions like What kind of music do you like, What can you play right now, What song do you want to learn, and then just start teaching without any other information about you. This is a big problem because then they're just teaching on auto-pilot and won't really put all their effort into helping you get the biggest results possible. Be sure your teacher tries to be at least a little more like a friend to you, rather than say Here's some information, kid. Learn it, and go home.

2.The teacher is burned out from too much teaching. This is a big problem, which makes the first issue above even worse. When the teacher doesn't care, it's usually because he or she is burned out. The problem with most teachers is they don't have an effective system to teach a large number of students. I personally know teachers that have over a hundred students, yet still have plenty of time to enjoy their evenings and weekends. Ask your teacher how many hours they teach during the week, and you will know from what they tell you whether they are burned out or not.

3.The teacher doesn't know your short-term and long-term goals. This issue is pretty obvious, because really, how can you learn to play guitar how you want if the teacher doesn't even know what you want from learning and playing guitar? They might teach you all sorts of great stuff, but how do they know whether it's actually relevant to what YOU want to be able to do as a guitar player? The teacher MUST know your goals, and should have effective strategies to help you reach those goals as quickly as possible.

4.The teacher doesn't have a way to track your progress. Yes, progress is usually quite obvious to you, especially in the beginning. However, tracking progress in ALL areas of your guitar playing is important, because sometimes you will make more progress in some areas than others. For example, you might build speed very quickly, but your improvising or songwriting skills may not be getting better at all. Having an effective system to track your progress is going to help find weaknesses in your playing, and/or weaknesses in your practicing habits, and/or weaknesses in the teaching methods.

5.The teacher teaches straight from a book. Okay, I admit that sometimes I teach things out of a book. However, that's by no means the only thing I do, and should definitely not be what your teacher should be doing. Books are fine, but the only thing they offer is information, AND everything is always presented in the exact same order. This is a big problem because no two students are the exact same, so teaching them the same things in the same order may help one, but not the other! The order in which things are taught plays a big part in reaching your goals in the least amount of time! So, it's fine if your teacher pulls things out of a book, but there should be much more than just book-reading going on in your lessons.

6.The teacher keeps teaching you new things, all the time. One of the biggest misconceptions about teachers and teaching is that we are only here to pass along new information to you. That is totally, absolutely wrong, and will in fact hurt your progress more than help you. New information feeds our brains temporarily with cool ideas, but it also poses problems. You may not be ready for the information, and will open up a whole new set of questions and divert you from your path to reaching your goals in the fastest way. You need to take the time to go through a special process to actually be able to use the skills you learn in your guitar playing, your songwriting, your improvisingor you may learn things and even master things without even ever being able to use them! Then you haven't really learned them at all. This concept is illustrated by the quote Knowledge is not power, but rather application of knowledge is power.

7.The tuition for lessons is surprisingly low. Most of the time, when a teacher charges a very small sum for his or her services, it generally means that teacher is inexperienced. Just like with everything else, you get what you pay for. As you can probably tell by now, all teachers are not alike. If your teacher is cheap, then just like fast-food, your lessons will be lacking in substance, flavor, and nutrients. You want to be sure that you're getting the value for your money, but you can tell if you are by being aware of the other problems I have already mentioned. You may spend less money per lesson, but actually in the long-run you would spend MORE money to learn what another teacher who is better can help you learn in less time. Like I said before, I have to fix $10 guitar lessons.

8.The teacher doesn't have testimonials from his or her students. This is low on the list because some teachers don't actually know that this is important. That's okay because you can simply ask the teacher for references of either music stores they've taught in, or their previous or current students to ask whether they are a good teacher. Getting another person's perspective on a teacher's teaching is extremely important!

9.The teacher hasn't written any music. Your teacher doesn't have to be a virtuoso to get you serious results. But they should know how to write music, and if they haven't then there's something amiss. Sure, they can probably give you a few tips, but if you want to be able to write your own music, your teacher needs to know how to do that before they can help you! Try to see if you can find sample music by your teacher, or ask him to play a song they've written for you. Again, they don't have to be the best guitar player in the world (though it helps!) but they should be able to do more than just play cover songs.

10.The teacher is self-taught or hasn't gotten serious training. If your teacher hasn't had a really good teacher to show them not only how to play guitar correctly, but also how to teach, then you may end up with some very serious problems. Like many of the free things you find on the internet, you could learn things that are totally wrong, or at least not very effective. Your teacher doesn't have to have a music degree, but they do need real, professional education from a great guitar teacher. Actually, most teachers never even learn how to teach guitar, so they learn entirely from a long time of personal experience.

Now that you know the top 10 problems with choosing a guitar teacher, you will have a template for which to choose a good teacher that is right for you. Make a list of questions that you can ask your new teacher (or your current teacher) that he would have to answer, and decipher from those answers whether you've got an effective teacher, or one that is not so effective.

Happy Hunting!

Matteo Miller-Nicolato Guitar Lessons in San Diego

13 comments sorted by best / new / date

    maltmn
    fambeu wrote: This is good but these are not always true my teacher doesn't pass all these but he is a great teacher and i only pay 20 for an hour with him but he don't make me learn i just say what i want to learn and he corrects me if im doing it wrong and shows me stuff i can do to further it along(He is a self taught too but i know what he tells me is right i have looked it up and others tell me the same thing)so do not follow this all the way
    Mistake number 11: The teacher lets the student dictate how the lesson is run, what material is learned, and in what order... A teacher sometimes feels like he will lose a student if he doesn't teach them "what they want to learn". But, the student really doesn't KNOW what they need to learn in order to reach their goals. A good teacher will not let a student decide what to learn, but rather explain clearly and demonstrate WHY what they are learning is IMPORTANT, and how it applies directly and/or indirectly to the students current goals and challenges.
    Lord Waltaa
    Alpha_Wolf wrote: I want to count how many times the word "teacher" is used in this.
    54 54 times
    Alpha_Wolf
    Lord Waltaa wrote: Alpha_Wolf wrote: I want to count how many times the word "teacher" is used in this. 54 54 times
    LOL! Nice!
    thetimmster
    Annother problem is that many teachers tend to force their personal style on their students. I've been told that I hold the guitar all wrong, and should change that habit, even though the notes come out clean.
    fambeu
    This is good but these are not always true my teacher doesn't pass all these but he is a great teacher and i only pay 20 for an hour with him but he don't make me learn i just say what i want to learn and he corrects me if im doing it wrong and shows me stuff i can do to further it along(He is a self taught too but i know what he tells me is right i have looked it up and others tell me the same thing)so do not follow this all the way
    maltmn
    cont. Therefore, if the student runs the lesson, he will progress much slower, even though he or she THINKS they are getting what they want out of their lessons. I don't say this to argue or put anybody down, but it's pretty obvious that the TEACHER should be the one who decides how the lessons go, and what the students learn at what time. In college, you can choose a major, but you have to take the right classes in the right order, and the TEACHER dictates how to teach the class, not the other way around! Your teacher should show you how to reach YOUR GOALS, in the fastest and most interesting way for you, but that is different than "teach me this song today". That is the PLAN. The student selects the GOALS. The teacher makes the PLAN.
    maltmn
    thetimmster wrote: Annother problem is that many teachers tend to force their personal style on their students. I've been told that I hold the guitar all wrong, and should change that habit, even though the notes come out clean.
    Some teachers may press their 'style' on their students. However, in the case of actual position of holding the guitar and fretting notes, holding the pick, etc... There are many right ways to do it, but also just as many wrong ways. Unfortunately the wrong ways will lead to minor-severe injuries to your back, arms, wrists, shoulders, fingers, neck, and even jaw. Listen to your teacher, but only if he is a good one.
    godisasniper
    maltmn wrote: thetimmster wrote: Annother problem is that many teachers tend to force their personal style on their students. I've been told that I hold the guitar all wrong, and should change that habit, even though the notes come out clean. Some teachers may press their 'style' on their students. However, in the case of actual position of holding the guitar and fretting notes, holding the pick, etc... There are many right ways to do it, but also just as many wrong ways. Unfortunately the wrong ways will lead to minor-severe injuries to your back, arms, wrists, shoulders, fingers, neck, and even jaw. Listen to your teacher, but only if he is a good one.
    THIS. I'm self taught, and because I held my guitar incorrectly, this summer after a particularly long week of recording sessions for my album, I woke up one morning with severe pain in my left (fretting) hand. I went to my doctor, and ended up having to wear a wrist brace for more than a month, and completely change how I played guitar. I've never had a teacher, but if your teacher tells you to change something about your posture, position, or anything else physically, DO WHAT THEY SAY. If you don't, you run the risk of causing permanent damage to yourself. My doctor told me that if I had just fought through the pain and continued playing like I had, I most likely would have ended up with permanent nerve and muscle damage in that wrist and hand.
    KeepingTabsIO
    Hey this is a great article and really illustrates a great way to help students get more out of their guitar lessons. You should check out the site http://keeping-tabs.io . It's a site I created that allows students to run through practice sessions and track their progress over time. Additionally, our new StudentTrack feature aims to bridge the communication gap between guitar teachers and students and allow constant communication and lesson planning even while students are away from their teachers to help them get better quicker.
    maltmn
    Keeping-tabs.io!! I just discovered that website, but there's one thing missing.. could you make the timer trigger an alarm when its done counting?