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  1. #1

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    Hey guys/gals,

    I've been pondering for the last few months about trying to start teaching guitar. I've been playing for several years now, but I have no formal education in music. I guess I just thought that instantly disqualified me .

    But my aunt was in town this weekend and stayed at my house for a couple nights and she teaches piano, but doesn't know squat about guitar, but wants to learn. I was showing her a few things and found myself really feeling like I knew what I was talking about.

    For instance, she was elated that I taught her how to play an open Em chord. She thought that was pretty cool. I'm no stranger to teaching because I used to be a flight instructor. I also would like to post lessons online some day too, but wouldn't really feel good about that until I had one-on-one experience first.

    I guess my question is, how do you get started teaching guitar? I'm very confident that I know enough to teach beginners, iffy on intermediate students though.

    Also, you guys that teach...are any of you doing it full time? $50/hr isn't too shabby. Any thoughts, suggestions?

    Thanks

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    Howard Roberts said you everything you learn you should teach someone. That if you can explain it to someone else that mean you understand it. Of course he said some aren't ready yet to go and charge people, so find someone you can explain this too so you can talk it through.

    I think you will find the typical students don't want to learn the theory and such, they want to learn how to play some tunes and popular licks and satisfied with that. Then the shredders who only want to know how to play faster no matter how many mistakes they make as long as they are fast mistake. So key to teaching is having a lot of patience, you can try to guide them, but a lot have their minds made up on what they want to learn and nothing else. But you do get some students who really want to learn they practice and ask questions, those make it worth it.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  4. #3

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    Hey Brandon, I've been teaching full time for about ten years.

    I have a lot of opinions about teaching and have made a lot of mistakes over the years, with the occasional good decision.

    Teaching beginners isn't easy. You have a very high responsibility to:

    -Teach them appropriate posture, positioning etc.

    -Keep their enthusiasm up and make yourself (and the process of learning music) relatable and accessible

    -Get them started on the right foot and not give them misinformation

    -Give age-appropriate instruction

    I have high standards for teaching beginners. I believe that a lot of people give up on a musical instrument because of lousy instruction - instruction that doesn't follow one or more of the guidelines above. A little part of me breaks when somebody tells me they took guitar for a bit but had a lousy teacher who did x, y, or z. I think, man, if they had had a good teacher than music might have become a positive part of their lives. Instead they had somebody who turned them off of the process entirely.

    There are about a billion things you can do to become a better teacher.

    First, I think it's essential to be as knowledgeable as you can about the fundamentals...positioning, posture, ear training, key signatures, fretboard knowledge etc. If you have no formal musical education than you are at an extreme disadvantage in this regard, but there are ways to get the knowledge without getting a degree.

    Second, there's all the psychology, knowing the student, knowing how to motivate, how to relate, pacing the lessons, pacing long term goals, etc, a lot of stuff.

    I think the typical problem with guitar teachers is they think they know enough about music/guitar to teach, but they don't, and they wind up spreading the same misinformation and sharing terrible techniques with their students, and getting paid for it. On the other side of the spectrum you get some really knowledgable musicians and great players who just don't care about the process of teaching and helping another individual grow, so they show up and take the check but aren't really doing the job. They have the knowledge but don't know anything about pacing long term goals, keeping the student motivated, relating to the student, etc.

    What I would suggest you do is dive into teaching, be open about your credentials, be very comfortable answering many questions with things like "I don't know" or "my best guess is." When a student asks you a question and you aren't 100% sure of the answer, go home and do some research and you'll be both a better teacher and a better musician for it.

    You have to be humble about your limitations but unfortunately the only way to be a better teacher is to teach.

    DO NOT think that you have all the answers, understand that the answers keep on changing the more you learn as a student yourself. My approach to teaching beginners is constantly evolving.

    I also think $50/hr for a teacher that hasn't taught before and has only been playing guitar for a few years is way too expensive. If your aim is just to be a "hey I'll show you some chords and some songs" kind of teacher and you admit to not having much of an education or any experience teaching guitar then you'll hook up with folks who just want to throw down a few bucks and learn some chords, nothing wrong with that as long as everybody is being honest about what's what.

    Anyway, sorry, I could ramble on about all of this for a while, maybe I'll add more thoughts later.

    If you have more specific questions I'd be happy to try to answer them.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  5. #4

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    Every once in a while I have someone ask me for lessons. Even some folks that can already get around pretty well on the fretboard playing jazz standards. It's kind of flattering and surprising.

    I give them a few names of pros that teach well, teachers that I've taken lessons from. I'd feel funny teaching them when I know others that could do a better job.


    It just seems wrong to me to accept any kind of job that you are not qualified for. I see this a lot with guitar instruction. I suppose it's okay if, as Jake says, everyone is open and understands ones ability and qualifications going in. But, some can overestimate their knowledge and abilities.


    I don't need the money from teaching as I have a full time job. That undoubtably affects my reluctance to teach. I seem to like starting study groups though, where we can all learn together.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post

    It just seems wrong to me to accept any kind of job that you are not qualified for. I see this a lot with guitar instruction. I suppose it's okay if, as Jake says, everyone is open and understands ones ability and qualifications going in.
    I agree with the principle, but what are the qualifications to teach beginner guitar? A degree in music (or even in education) seems like overkill, but at the same time somebody with zero experience will suck at it. I think there isn't really much of a solution to the problem except for those determined to become good teachers to just have a go at it. I started teaching having had some haphazard education with music, no education about learning styles or child psych or anything, and I've just kept trying to get better at it, and I've gotten more education along the way.

    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    But, some can overestimate their knowledge and abilities.
    Sad and true. I think seeking criticism and continuing their own education is somewhat of an answer to this. People who refuse to be criticized and who think they are more or less done learning are people I don't want to be involved with on any level.

    To be clear, I totally agree with what you're saying, I just don't think there's much of a tangible solution regarding guitar teachers. It is truly buyer beware like in many other professions, personal training comes to mind. I used to research weight training and nutrition pretty obsessively. I came to realize that what many personal trainers do is make their client run around doing a bunch of inane crap, and then charge $100/hr for it. A lot of personal trainers don't even understand basic some key elements of basic human physiology. You can even get certain certifications and be pretty ignorant to some basic stuff. So right there is an example of credential or qualification but it may not have bearing on quality of the service.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  7. #6

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    As Jake said, teaching beginners is not that easy. I think a lot of guys who are intermediate players think they can teach beginners because they can easily play music that you might expect a beginner to be learning.

    But a good teacher, in my opinion, has the knowledge of what information and technique a player will need to know in order to become an advanced player. Until you are an advanced player, you really do not know fully what a player needs to do to become an advanced player and those things are better learned up front rather than fixed later. It would be like building a house for the first time. Until you've built a whole house from basement to chimney, you really don't have an appreciation of the importance of many of the first steps - which steps are most important and why.

    The roof stays up because the foundation was constructed properly.

  8. #7

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    Well if you're a former flight instructor and you have an interest in jazz, you're most likely ready IMO.

    I've been teaching guitar for 21 years, and am at the point now where most cats who walk in the door I can handle it well - if someone wants something specific that is outside of my skill set (like flamenco, or open tuning slide) I just refer them on - no problem. So if you get caught out, just admit it's not your bag and refer to someone else - after all guitar is such a stylistically diverse instrument you can't have everything down cold before you start out as a professional teacher.

    The biggest problem is guys who can play/kinda play but are bad teachers/communicators. That's where the damage is done - with your flight background that most definitely shoudn't be an issue.

    For beginner to intermediate (which is the bulk of private teaching) you've got to know: open chords, barre chords, strumming patterns, intermediate level sight reading, tab, modes, rock and blues improv - but not really much more than that. Teaching that sort of stuff while studying jazz on the side - no shame in that, so go for it & good luck!

  9. #8

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    Teaching is a skill like anything else. The more you do it, the better you will get at it.

    I've been teaching a long time now. When I started, I felt the same way, despite the fact that I have a musical education. But I grew into the role. At the risk of sounding conceited, I'd say I feel I do a pretty good job.

    If you are honest with yourself and honest with your students, you can't help but have a positive influence. Teachers find students and students find teachers. It doesn't always jell, but that's OK, too. Accept new students with the intention of doing your best for them. Let students go with a smile and a word of encouragement.

    So, I think if YOU believe you have something to offer, then go for it. You'll know soon enough if teaching is your thing.

  10. #9

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    I have a BA in music paedagogy, but truth be told it's really nothing else than a piece of paper to brag about. I had already been teaching friends to play for free(little advice here and there), and had been taking on students for pay for a few years before going into academia. All music paedagogy is, is really a bunch of captain obvious observations that anyone can do for themselves as they learn through trial and error. That's speaking of the mainstream curriculum in school. That being said, once you start specializing things get really interesting. Hal Galper is a perfect example because he gives practical strategies to mastering specific areas in music that not only is beneficial to someone teaching himself, but also to someone teaching others.

    It's just the same as with playing music, the more you do it the more you learn. That being said I do believe someone wanting to teach should have a firm grasp of proper technique. He should be versed in a variety of picking techniques, strumming and fingerstyle as well as have the basic knowledge of a variety of styles as well as one or two areas of specialization.

    I believe in specialization and teaching in that area of knowledge because this ensures you give the students the most value for the money. I had a guitar teacher in school who was a very well rounded musician. He had a degree in classical guitar, but he played a plethora of styles including jazz and folk music. He did teach jazz well, but what I really learned from him was how to teach myself effectively any style of music. That's what teaching is all about! The teacher is not supposed to play the guitar for the student and then somehow the knowledge is magically transfered. A lot of people want a silver bullet. That one magical book or method that just by reading it somehow magically provides them with the skills to play at a high level without them having to spend time on the instrument. NOT SO! Hard work is the way, but finding a learning strategy that is effective can get you there as quickly as possible.

    Those are the most important observations i have made as a teacher and a player. This is an area that particularly interests me, but I've already clogged the thread with a wall of text so I'll let the discussion develop and eventually chime in if necessary

  11. #10

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    Other points for consideration after reading the above, TLDR is understandable:

    As early as I can, I emphasize using the ear.

    With children I always start them reading music as early as I can.

    Where we go from there can really vary, but I try to emphasize that internet tabs are the devil.

    I make exceptions for this. For example, if a student comes to me and says on the first lesson "I just want to be able to play songs from chord charts and books," that kind of thing, then they are being open about their goals and as long as they are willing to put in some practice time I figure we can work together.

    -

    I won't say there is a correct way to position the left hand an an incorrect way, but there are a variety of effective and efficient left hand approaches but the most widely used 'approaches' in rock, folk, and blues are often extremely limiting and at worst can contribute to cramping or RSI. If you are teaching a beginner how to play guitar, you have a responsibility to ingrain good habits regarding posture and positioning. I'm embarrassed to say that not only was I playing for a long time without awareness of this stuff, I was teaching too. Now it is a focal point of many of my lessons. I used to think I knew about the right way to hold the guitar and position the hands, now I realize I did not!

    I see many of my young students struggle with certain passages simply because they are positioning their left hand in a comfortable yet extremely inefficient way. When I take time with them to fix these problems, their ability to play is greatly improved.

    -

    Consider that it's the teachers job to strategize and structure the best way to teach musical fundamentals. As everybody is agreeing on, knowing something isn't the same as being able to effectively teach it. You could be a whiz at chord scale theory and playing over difficult changes but not have a good method for teaching students about key signatures or even a method to allow them to understand what a major scale actually is.

    This is something that has to be developed even if you're a gifted teacher...there needs to be an actual method for transmitting this information, knowing where to start, how to pace it, what homework to give, etc.

    There are a lot of subtle nuances that are difficult for beginners to get and they may need help. For example, stopping excess string noise when playing with distortion. Left hand muting so they can strum power chords with good time and dynamic without accidentally hitting open strings. And oh boy, teaching barre chords is a chore! Everyone complains and struggles, there's a lot of workshopping that has to happen.

    Because the other thing is that while in theory you could tell a student "just practice this for 30 minutes a day for the next four months" and that would solve the technical problem, the odds are that they are not going to do that. So you have to change things up to keep their interest, give them new challenges, focus on different details.

    -

    As guitarists who are studying/playing jazz, we all invest a lot towards our guitar playing. Most students are not like this, it can be hard enough to get them to just spend a few minutes a day with it. It took me years of teaching to get this. I was always so frustrated at students for not practicing and then I realized, hey, this is my passion, it's not theirs. They have other stuff going on in their lives, music is just an activity. 99% of the time the student has no interest in achieving some monstrous level of musical skill, they just want to play a bit and enjoy the process.

    So expectations have to be reasonable. I tell everybody to try to get a little bit of structured time on the guitar every day, you miss a day here and there, no big deal, and make sure to spend time doing things that are fun, things outside of the assignments. I have a loose rule of thumb that if somebody isn't getting at least 3x a week on the guitar, the lessons might not be a good use of their time or my money.

    But that's my own personal call with where I'm at at this point in my career. Some folks are happy to give somebody 'music hour' totally irrelevant to any idea of musical progress, and I have no problem with that if everybody is honest about it, it's just not something I personally like to get paid to do.

    So I try to get to know each student and I try to think a lot about how he is going to work with the guitar in between lessons, I try to be respectful of his learning style and personality and not just force the same thing on everybody.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    With children I always start them reading music as early as I can.

    Where we go from there can really vary, but I try to emphasize that internet tabs are the devil.
    I agree with your post 100%, but I should comment that on the Telecaster forum (TDPRI), I suspect most members can't read music, or can only read a bit.

  13. #12

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    I'm not familiar with the Tele forum...for lack of a gentler way to put this...what's your point?

  14. #13

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    Great insights, Jake

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    I'm not familiar with the Tele forum...for lack of a gentler way to put this...what's your point?
    There are a lot of guitar players out there who don't read music and don't want to learn how to, either. Would you being willing to teach someone like that?

  16. #15

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    My situation is not exactly the same as I'm a classical player and teacher, but certainly, all my students learn to read from day one. No exceptions. That's even true for those beginners who come to me knowing nothing of classical guitar or music in general.

    I put myself out as a classical guy. There's no mistaking who and what I am when people contact me. Ninety percent understand what that means and there are no issues. I take great pains to explain things to the student before we meet. I always make sure they know they need a classical guitar to study that style of music, too. But I still get the occasional kid who shows up with an acoustic or even a Strat.

    I just calmly forge ahead. (Mel Bay) Usually, such students don't last more than a month, but once in a while, they can surprise! It's always nice when that happens.

    I know I could hang on to those guys if I gave them some tabs of the latest hit or whatever, but it's just not in me to do that. There are plenty of guitarists who will, and I give them some phone numbers if that's what they want.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyLoveHandles View Post
    There are a lot of guitar players out there who don't read music and don't want to learn how to, either. Would you being willing to teach someone like that?
    Ah, Father Love Handles, read carefully:

    With children I always start them reading music as early as I can.

    Where we go from there can really vary, but I try to emphasize that internet tabs are the devil.

    If children are starting from the start and are going to have a parent on their ass to practice, I make them try to read. If it's a real struggle for them and/or they just don't have the aptitude to progress much with it, I go really slow and in some rare cases just ditch reading entirely. Or sometimes they progress to a point where I see the effort required to get good at reading just isn't a good use of energy for the kid relative to his strengths and/or goals.

    For adults who come to me either as beginners or are further along, we discuss goals and sometimes reading needs to be there to achieve the goal and sometimes it does not.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  18. #17

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    Ah, I see. Like I said, I agree with your approach. I'm surprised at the number of people on the Tele forum who think that knowing how to read music, or knowing the rudiments of theory, will somehow rob them of all their mojo.

  19. #18

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    Furtom's post reminds me of another consideration, something I've learned along the way:

    Electric and flat top teachers do not have to be TAB/riff teachers! I make all my students work so that they can eventually eventually figure things out by ear and know what key they're in, know what to do with their hands to get the right sound and overcome technical challenges, and usually this is in direct relevance to rock/folk/blues music, or their own original music. (And it puts them in a good position to start with jazz if they ever choose to do so.)

    One thing I absolutely hate about this profession is that I know when I tell people I'm a guitar teacher some of them think I just hang out with kids and show them rock riffs. It's an ego thing I know, I'll get over it, but the fact is that I've put in an enormous amount of time and effort to both being the best musician I can be, and figuring out ways to help my students be solid, well rounded musicians, not just guitarists who can bang out a few songs with bad time. I haven't been just 'hanging out and jamming' for the past ten years, and that's why I've had students that have stuck with me for, in some cases, seven years.

    So I think there's this myth that if you want to hold on to students you gotta just show them songs. It's just not true across the board, depends on the person. I've had many students who previously studied with another teacher say things like "hey, I'm actually learning something now! My other teacher just showed me where to put my fingers!"

    I think one of the greatest things a guitar teacher can do for his students is allow them to see the big picture...that if you develop abilities and understanding, you can teach yourself anything you want, either by listening to it or by nabbing the sheet music. And to show them that this process is exciting, it's fun, and it gives them musical power and independence, which is really a lot more gratifying than knowing eight Jack Johnson songs.

    A lot of my method for absolute beginners is having them figure out some specific nursery rhymes on a single string major scale...then they transpose those melodies to different open position fingerings, and the whole time I am constantly emphasizing that the skill we're building is to be able to hear something and know what the notes are (relative to "do" from solfege.) Usually people get excited about this challenge...they are actually doing something!
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  20. #19

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    Sorry for the post vomit, hopefully there's something useful in there for Brandon or anybody curious about starting teaching. I constantly have to think about all of this in order to keep clients and keep them progressing as best as I/they can, so I've developed a lot of opinions along the way.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  21. #20

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    Don't see any vomit here!

    I couldn't agree more with everything you say.
    - Tom

  22. #21

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    I've been trying to be more concise lately, it's difficult
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    I've been trying to be more concise lately, it's difficult

    Preach brother, preach!

    I left my day gig and moving and hoping to get back into teaching again so you posts have lots of cool insights, so keep them coming.
    No, I'm not going to give you the answer to your question. I don't want to deny you the pleasure you'll receive when you figure it out yourself. -- Bill Evans talking to his brother.

  24. #23

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    Wow! This thread took off!

    Thanks everyone, and especially you Jake for the awesome advice and encouragement. I've gotten a lot out of this discussion and believe that I am going to give guitar instruction a go. My plan is to talk to a guy at my church who runs a local music shop. I'd like to see if he can get me pointed in the right direction as far as potential students.

    I do understand the high responsibility in teaching complete beginners, and I can certainly see how each student's goals will vary and you must adjust the instruction accordingly. I couldn't charge $50 off the bat in good conscience, but I could maybe see something like 1st lesson free, then each $25 or 30 afterwards to get me started. Sound reasonable??

    I like AmundLauritzen's comment about how true teaching isn't really showing how to do something, it's showing someone how to learn to do something effectively and efficiently that they want to do.

    So Jake, one more question. Let's say I mostly find guys who want to come in and learn how to play a few tunes on the weekend at parties, learn a few chords and so on. I'd be able to handle those guys easily I believe.

    BUT let's say I get a kid that comes in with no experience, but wants to be the next Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix (basically, he really wants to be a musician), what does your curriculum look like? I know there are tons of method books out there, but what's your strategy for approaching these kinds of students who REALLY want to learn? What are the very first things you have them doing? Do you have a cirriculum that you use? Can you point me to any good sites or products that focus on how to become a great guitar instructor?

    BTW, I'll throw in that I do have formal education in "education" when I earned my degree in professional aviation. Flight instructor training requires you to learn a lot about the education process. I enjoyed flight instructing and I can see myself passionately enjoying teaching people to play guitar too!
    "Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself." Miles Davis

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonB View Post

    I do understand the high responsibility in teaching complete beginners, and I can certainly see how each student's goals will vary and you must adjust the instruction accordingly. I couldn't charge $50 off the bat in good conscience, but I could maybe see something like 1st lesson free, then each $25 or 30 afterwards to get me started. Sound reasonable??
    It depends a lot on your location (where are you?) I would investigate what others are charging and what their credentials are and what their promo materials look like.

    Keep in mind rates are pretty different for in home lessons vs lessons in a studio, because the student should charge more for the convenience and travel time of in home lessons. There's also the issue of teaching for an established organization, like a school or music shop, or just doing it independently.

    For me I've learned how to give very efficient half hour lessons to children, and adults are often 45m. Only a few of my students actually take hour long lessons at this point, and they are all adults. I used to give all hour lessons, now I think that's a little silly.

    That might just be a personal thing...there are a few factors that encourage me to give shorter lessons:

    -Economy of scale...I can charge more per minute for shorter lessons. Stated conversely, I charge students less per minute to commit to longer lessons. My situation is usually that I either have a waiting list or I just have a few spots to fill, so financially it's more important to me to be making more $/minute rather than having more time filled up with lessons.

    -In terms of the quality of the lesson one of my weaknesses as a teacher is that I can often go too fast or give the student too much at a time. Keeping the lesson shorter keeps me in check and forces me to focus on what's important for progress, giving them the good stuff to work on over the week. When somebody wants to pay for an hour long lesson, however, they do get the luxury of more time spent going over the materials, a more relaxed pace, and just generally more of my attention.

    -I've observed that a lot of clients/students don't really care about the exact length of the lesson as long as they're getting what they want out of the process. I mean, a great half hour lesson is obviously better than a crappy hour long lesson. I know some other (less experienced) teachers in my area probably charge per hour what I charge per half hour, but from the client's perspective, they get to pay the exact same amount and get a much higher quality service. The client probably is thinking about how much of their paycheck per month is going to guitar lessons and what they are getting out of those lessons, not necessarily how much $ they are paying per minute. For me, the benefit is obvious.

    Long story short, work on being efficient and great and you can give great, short lessons, charge more per minute, handle more students per week.

    Ok, all that being said, once you have information about what other people are charging, I think there is a continuum of approaches from undercharging to overcharging and you'll have to find where you want to be.

    Charging on the low end, pros:

    -You'll be charging a rate that reflects your experience.

    -Speculation on my part, but, you'll get interest from those that just want some guidance but aren't super serious or committed. they will probably see the experience as something relaxed and loose.

    -You won't have to pretend to be something/somewhere you're not with teaching. I wouldn't go so far as going out of your way to let clients know that you don't have experience teaching guitar or much musical education, but you don't have to blow yourself up either

    Cons:

    -People think that things are worth what they cost. If you undercharge, people will assume that's because your service is of lower quality. At this point, that may be true, but it's something to think about. It may be motivation to not hire you.

    -You make less money.

    -Speculation on my part, but you might wind up with clients that are so uninvested that they don't commit to studying with you for too long, and/or don't take the process too seriously. And they may take you less seriously...been there.

    Charging on the higher end, pros:

    -People think that things are worth what they cost. Charging more sends the message that your service is of high value.

    -People will go into the process with more focus and attention because they recognize they are investing in something and want to get the most out of it.

    -You make more money. But seriously, you have to be careful where you set your rates. Let's say you're deciding between $30 and $40 per lesson. To start you may wind up with three students, so that's a difference of $90 vs $120 a week. If you even have six students a week for thirty weeks out of the year, that's a difference of $5400 vs $7200....$1800 in a year just in the difference of setting the rates. Same exact amount of work. Then imagine the numbers if you have 20 or 30 students a week down the road...

    I believe I used to undercharge, when I started, it took me years to get the self confidence to start asking for what I was worth (I still probably don't charge enough relative to my experience and how hard I work on all this stuff!) I often reflect on the thousands and thousands of dollars I could have made by simply charging an extra $5-$10 each lesson....

    Anyway, cons of charging on the higher end:

    -People will come in with an expectation of quality and may be disappointed, leave, and not refer you...

    -You may get more questions about your background and credentials, questions that might have disappointing answers

    -Might be harder to get away with it without a good website, referrals, etc. The educated consumer who is willing to invest will likely seek out what seems like the best service within their price range. That won't be you.

    -There's obviously an ethical issue to being a novice and charging the same as what somebody with a lot of experience charges

    So those are some variables to mull over. Long story short I'd charge a rate that is confident but not cocky.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  26. #25

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    So Jake, one more question. Let's say I mostly find guys who want to come in and learn how to play a few tunes on the weekend at parties, learn a few chords and so on. I'd be able to handle those guys easily I believe.

    BUT let's say I get a kid that comes in with no experience, but wants to be the next Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix (basically, he really wants to be a musician), what does your curriculum look like?
    I think this issue is extremely different for kids and adults.

    Kids under 14 or so don't come into guitar lessons with goals. Kids aren't forward thinking, they generally don't respect or consider the future, they are very present oriented. If they are thinking about the future, they really can't put together that doing something now will lead to something else a few years down the line.

    So the odds are that you aren't going to get kids that say "I just want to play some songs" nor are you going to get kids that say "I want to be the next Hendrix." Kids will say "I want to learn guitar" and that's about it.

    My advice and personal approach is to treat each kid like a total blank slate. They might just wind up being a strummer, they might quit after three weeks, or they might excel and do amazing things with the instrument. So the process is the same to start, with all kids:

    -Emphasize proper positioning and posture

    -Teach them fundamentals of how to read (mel bay) and just go slow...

    -Get them playing some familiar melodies (first on a single string, then in open position) ideally by understanding solfege and seeing how the single string scales and open string scales connect even though they are physically different on the guitar. Ideally I have them figure out the melodies by ear with a little help, but how difficult this is varies with each kid

    -Eventually get them playing basic chords and doing basic strumming patterns.

    -Once they get all that down it's more like "what do you want to do?" Some kid get into writing, some into reading, some have songs they want to learn or I pick songs fo rthem. Some kids just like novelty so I'll show them blues licks, rock songs, give them different challenges...some kids are into math, that's always fun for me, so we get into more music theory stuff...

    -This part may seem unrelated to your question but you have to constantly be paying attention to their interest level and keep things fun to the degree that you can. If it's not enjoyable at least on some level, they won't do it, and there's no progress without practice. Motivation is the most important variable. If you have a great curriculum but the kid isn't practicing, nothing will happen. If you have a terrible curriculum but a kid is playing two hours a day every day, guess what is going to happen....

    With adults and to a lesser extent teenagers I try to establish goals with them from day one so we know what we are trying to achieve with the lessons. Adults can have a variety of goals, but like kids they are generally not that forward thinking. They usually have more short term goals, like playing songs or improving in a certain area. So the curriculum is different depending on their goals.

    For example, if they are really just song-oriented, I don't spend much time on melodic stuff, just get right to what is required for playing chords.

    I've never had a student or absolute beginner come to me with really lofty goals. I think that's part of the nature of being independent and not a name player...I'd speculate that name players or teachers who teach as part of an established school get the students that start with high aspirations, but I bet those students are an extreme minority.

    I just don't think adults ever start guitar lessons hoping to really achieve a lot. Most adult students are in school or have jobs and barely have enough time to practice.

    My answer to your question is that unless a student explicitly states that they ONLY want to get to the point where they can just strum some songs or jam with friends, I treat every student as a blank slate and try to develop good fundamental skills that put them on the path towards being as good as they can possibly get.

    Teenagers are a little in between...they have more of the ability for independent thought so they can talk about their own preferences and goals but they are still young and in some cases have more free time, so I can 'ride' them a bit more about getting some fundamentals down, sometimes things that aren't exactly within their expressed goals but I verbally emphasize to them the importance of the specific skill. With a teenager, they are the student and their parent is the client, and I know their parents are usually happy to see some real education going on...with adults they are both the student and the client, and if we stray from their goals too much they may just leave. (that's speculation on my part)

    As for what that curriculum is specifically, I outlined a bit above (my approach with kids) it's more or less the same with adults.

    I guess I see melodic playing as being this linear path, very roughly (really varies with students)

    single string scales -> melodies within that scale -> open pos scales -> melodies within those -> cage fingerings -> melodies and patterns and improv within those -> pentatonics -> improv within those, and then once you're at that point things are specialized...

    I see chordal playing as this linear path:

    open position double stop etudes -> three note chord etudes -> learning and memorizing G, C, D, Em, Am and getting a clear sound out of each -> switching (Let it Be in key of G, Knockin on Heaven's Door, Here Comes the Sun, etc) -> strumming patterns -> barre chords -> major scale harmony, being able to transpose triadic harmony -> seventh chords -> basic jazz voicings

    I use mel bay for reading which first covers the open position starting on the high E, then B, then G etc, then gradually moves up the neck and gets into reading chords

    I encourage them to try to figure out as much music as they can as often as they can using their ears. A lot of the melodic stuff above, I try to have them figure it out by ear.

    While doing all of the above, many technical challenges come up (picking, fingering, slurs, etc) and I just have to tackle those things one thing at a time. I'm obsessively analytical about those things which has helped in my ability to assess where the problem is for a student and give a practice assignment that addresses those problems. For example, it might be a specific picking maneuver that is tripping them up...I can isolate what exactly it is, give an etude that attacks that challenge, have them work on it for a few weeks and as long as they practice, boom, problem solved. The more I learn about positioning, posture, ergonomics, plectrum techniques, etc, the better I get at this stuff.

    Those are the areas that I focus on. That's enough stuff to keep somebody busy for years and years. If they get through all of that stuff then it just becomes specialized in terms of what they want to do. Like I wrote earlier, some of them get into songwriting, some into rock soloing, some are just into learning a lot of songs. I don't make anybody get to a really high level with anything that they aren't excited about or express an interest in. For example, I think it's dumb to teach everybody how to play great blues rock licks. Some students just don't care about that stuff. I get them to a point of proficiency with the fundamentals (which takes a very long time) and then it can be their choice where they want to take their skills.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  27. #26

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    Supply and demand has a lot to do with it. I'm sure Jake and I are both worth more than we charge per minute, but if the market doesn't support that, we're not going to get it.I don't "undervalue" myself too much, but that calculation doesn't have anything to do with what I think I'm worth, it has to do with what people are willing to pay.I may believe, deep down, I'm worth $200 an hour, but at that rate, I'd guess I'd have two students a week. So charging more does NOT necessarily equate to more money earned. It can be less.You have to find the right number that gets you the most students and the highest rate per lesson. That will vary with location and all the other things Jake mentioned.About half the students who come to me are beginners. The rest range from some experience to years of lessons with someone else. I offer beginners a slightly discounted rate to be more competitive with the craigslist crowd, though I do charge more than they, even with the discount. With experienced players, I'm going on the assumption that then know enough to realize I'm worth more and so they pay a higher rate.No matter what I charge, I'm never going to get rich doing this. You probably won't either, so make sure you enjoy it. Having said all that, I sound like a mercenary, I know, but believe me, I'm not. In fact, I bend my rules much more often than I care to admit. I find it hard to refuse anyone who I believe really wants to learn. I've let myself be talked into situations that were ridiculous, especially in the early days. I have regretted a lot of those, but not because of the money. If I give a student a break and he pays me back by trying his best all the time, I'm usually happier than he is...
    - Tom

  28. #27

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    I am teaching myself all time...........................

  29. #28

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    Interesting considerations furtom, thanks.

    You're right that we have to be sensitive to the market, I sort of took that as a give-in in my comments about rate. When I say I should be charging more or should have been charging more, I meant relative to the market and that people would have paid it without question.

    When you have a full schedule, you can risk losing clients and you're not hungry to simply have a bigger waiting list. Conversely, when you have no students you need the experience and should probably take what you can get...and keep your other job, hah.

    The business perspective is to find the breaking point, find the price that is highest but still allows you to actually have clients. The other perspective is in the name of what's fair, and perhaps thinking about the long term. I may have undercharged back in the day, but I held on to clients for years and years. I don't know if those correlate, just throwin it out there.

    Interesting perspective on charging differently for beginners vs experienced players, I think the ability to do that depends a lot on your credentials as a player, and of course, experience actually teaching more advanced players.
    Oh, hi - if interested, I post a lot of playing/practice clips at www.instagram.com/JakeEstner

  30. #29

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    The main thing that impresses me is that you used to be a flight instructor. I am assuming that you learned some teaching fundamentals. I would rather have a good teacher/mediocre player than the reverse. Check out Mr. Beaumont--sounds like crap but explains things clearly and knows how to prioritize.

    (I joke Mr. B.!)

    But seriously, I can't imagine a better teacher for an intermediate or beginner.

  31. #30

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    Well, I don't mean to be a downer, but it is a far cry from showing someone an open Em chord to being a competent guitar teacher. Maybe if you can play Em in 10 different places on the guitar in tempo then teaching should be an option. Otherwise I'd tread carefully.

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by coolvinny View Post
    Well, I don't mean to be a downer, but it is a far cry from showing someone an open Em chord to being a competent guitar teacher. Maybe if you can play Em in 10 different places on the guitar in tempo then teaching should be an option. Otherwise I'd tread carefully.
    I see your point about professional responsibility, but the thing is I can play Emin inversions all over the neck but it's only 10% of the time (at the most) that I need to do that when teaching non-jazz students. There's plenty of competent guitar teachers out there who do a great job teaching up to intermediate level who have a basic but solid knowledge of fretboard theory.

    In my view, if you've got great communication skills and a talent for teaching then it's fine if you only teach how to strum open chords - some cats are really good at that stuff. There'd be plenty of competent high school teachers who wouldn't be as effective teaching pre-school and vice versa.

  33. #32

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    I have done some teaching in my time and recently someone who lives elsewhere asked me for some lessons. I know some people use skype for such lessons but I've never done that. What's it like to teach that way?
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  34. #33

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    Mark, I took one of the first international jazz guitar lessons via IChat in 2006 with Jimmy Bruno (before Skype even offered video!). I was finishing a Masters degree and my main area of research was available technologies for learning jazz guitar on the Internet. JB was undergoing carpal tunnel surgery at the time and had put a lot of money into his equipment. I saw a message he'd left on a forum asking for people to trial the technology before launching into the setting up of his online school. The quality of the hookup was extraordinary for the period and we played together in real time, albeit with a slight lag at both ends. I also had a couple of sessions with Jonathan Kreisberg in 2010 that were excellent. Most of my own teaching has been face-to-face but I'm now helping out a friend in Thailand with great results.

    The downside of Skype teaching, apart from not sharing the same space is the unpredictable quality of sound/image. Connection speeds, software and hardware are factors here but also the traffic at that particular time. There's also a tendency for the other guitarist's audio signal to become distorted when playing simultaneously. That aside, a big advantage of this method is that the whole session can be recorded. I went back to my video lessons with Jon sometime later to check out concepts that weren't possible to digest fully in real time. Of course, with recorded sessions you can also review your own teaching style. Maybe offer a trial lesson to get accustomed to the process.