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  1. #1

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    How many of you are making a living teaching guitar part time or full time?

    I suspect that to get a job in the public school system you need a teacher certificate or other formal validation. I don't have that qualification. Looking for work after sixty is no piece of cake. But I think I can teach students to play guitar from either a classical or other style perspective. But can one make a modest living teaching students privately?

    The other 'skill' that I have developed is creating transcriptions with notation software. If there were a demand for one off transcriptions for a reasonable price, that would be an ideal job. But I don't sense there is much demand for those skills.

    Of course, given that I am a doctor, one might question why, after all the pain and sweat expended to get a medical degree, anyone would look for gainful employment in another field. The smart ass answer would be to ask almost any practicing physician today. But I don't really want to practice medicine in today's toxic hamster wheel medical environment. And a medical degree is really good only for practicing medicine. Not much else.
    Last edited by targuit; 05-13-2016 at 09:07 AM.

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  3. #2

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    I do. I teach music privately l, though, my day job as a high school teacher is in drawing/painting, for which I have certification.

    One can most definitely make a modest living just from teaching private lessons, but you work pretty hard, if you're any good at it.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  4. #3

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    Interesting, Jeff. What kind of guitar students do you encounter these days? Adolescents or young adults? Are they learning classical guitar or popular music? Do you offer half hour or hourly lessons once a week?

  5. #4

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    I do a bit of teaching, all jazz students.

    I used to do a lot more. I'm thinking of going back to teaching general guitar because TBH I need some more hours...

    You can definitely make a living out of teaching, Jay. Your classical background will help.

  6. #5

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    It's all over the map, which makes it fun.

    I do not teach classical--I refer any students interested in that to another local teacher. In the 12 years I've been doing it...I've referred 2 students

    My students range from age 8 to age 80. Really. Everything from modern rock/pop to death metal, old and new country, and 2 beginning jazz students.

    But this is the south side of Chicago. Not exactly classical music central

    I do half hour or hour lessons, depending on what the student wants to do. For adults, I prefer one hour, and maybe not every week, maybe every other. Kids need a schedule and consistency, half hour or hour every week. A half hour is a long time, if you do it right and pre-plan.

    I'm only carrying about 12 students right now, down from about 25 a few years ago. My choice though, I got little kids, I want to be at home more, and I do have a day job. I've moved all my teaching to a small studio just southwest of Chicago city proper, but I have traveled to homes in the past. That pays more, but it can be a pain. I don't charge as much as some folks in the area do, and I split with the studio, but for a part time job, it's not half bad (we can talk off line if you want to talk actual $) I work with two other teachers who teach out of multiple studios, and they can definitely make a modest living at it--although both gig as well to supplement their income.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  7. #6

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    Thanks for the feedback and info, Jeff. Are your students of varied ages more interested in learning specific song repertoires or developing their skills in general? I'm wondering if some want to learn specific song transcriptions.

    Btw, at least I imagine there is some entertainment market for music in a major city like Chicago. In truth I would rather play music than teach, but the paucity of venues and gigs is a major obstacle.

    I'm thinking of asking if there is any demand at repertory theatre companies, but I suspect the jobs are few in that area as well.
    Last edited by targuit; 05-13-2016 at 09:39 AM.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    Thanks for the feedback and info, Jeff. Are your students of varied ages more interested in learning specific song repertoires or developing their skills in general? I'm wondering if some want to learn specific song transcriptions.

    Yes, people want to learn songs, and many (especially teenage boys, for whatever reason) like to do it EXACTLY by the "book."

    My rule is, if you're an adult and you're in it for fun, we do what you want to learn.

    If somebody else is paying for the lesson, or you have real goals, we split the time between what I think you need to know and what you want to know.

    I do a lot of picking things up by ear for students, and teaching them how to do that for themselves. That's my personal angle. I tell my students their ear is their best asset.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  9. #8

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    Cool. Do you use much tech stuff in your teaching like videos or recorded lessons? I often wonder how people doing those Skype style things do, though clearly it is different if you are a teacher with a resume like Rich Severson.

  10. #9

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    I tried a Skype lesson last year. Wasn't for me. The technology just ain't good enough yet, IMHO.

    I'm pretty old school. Pencil and paper for the most part, but I'll often record short videos for my students and send them to students so they can have a visual reminder of stuff they might be having trouble with.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    How many of you are making a living teaching guitar part time or full time?

    I suspect that to get a job in the public school system you need a teacher certificate or other formal validation. I don't have that qualification. Looking for work after sixty is no piece of cake. But I think I can teach students to play guitar from either a classical or other style perspective. But can one make a modest living teaching students privately?

    The other 'skill' that I have developed is creating transcriptions with notation software. If there were a demand for one off transcriptions for a reasonable price, that would be an ideal job. But I don't sense there is much demand for those skills.

    Of course, given that I am a doctor, one might question why, after all the pain and sweat expended to get a medical degree, anyone would look for gainful employment in another field. The smart ass answer would be to ask almost any practicing physician today. But I don't really want to practice medicine in today's toxic hamster wheel medical environment. And a medical degree is really good only for practicing medicine. Not much else.
    What you'd call a modest living, is of course, very subjective. It can be great supplemental income, but once you get past a certain number of students, it's real work. Most of the guys who teach really high-volume, teach mostly what they want to teach to students and supplement with student "requests" for tunes or whatever.

    "What do you want to work on this week?" just isn't scalable or sustainable at large numbers. It's mindnumbing, and you can't teach if you're driven crazy by the process. If you're going to stick it out teaching, you generally have to come to terms with who you are as a teacher. Understand the kind of things that you actually WANT to teach, teach those things, and refer students to other teachers for things outside of your niche. Have the same kind of standards for expectations regarding practice etc.

    It's helpful to be able to cover different styles to a degree, but you can't do everything. You burn out and hurt your reputation as a teacher by teaching things which aren't your strengths.

    I know that's not exactly what you're asking about, but all of the philosophical BS , like being comfortable with yourself as a teacher and who you are/what you expect and not being butt hurt when people don't practice or whatever is all VERY much related to any idea of teaching at any real volume.

  12. #11

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    Years ago I took lessons from Tim Quinn who is a member here. I also took lessons from Peter Sklaroff, another member here. Both of these guys gave a lot of value at their lessons. What struck me was how well they integrated technology, how organized and efficient they were with their instructions. Really running the lessons like a business, very professional.

    Check out their websites:

    Finest Guitar Lessons in San Diego | Quinnguitar.com

    Pete Sklaroff - UK based Jazz Rock Guitarist/Teacher/Composer
    Last edited by fep; 05-13-2016 at 03:06 PM.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    Years ago I took lessons from Tim Quinn who is a member here. I also took lessons from Peter Sklaroff, another member here. Both of these guys gave a lot of value at their lessons. What struck me was how well they integrated technology, how organized and efficient they were with their instructions. Really running the lessons like a business, very professional.

    Check out their websites:

    Finest Guitar Lessons in San Diego | Quinnguitar.com

    Pete Sklaroff - UK based Jazz Rock Guitarist/Teacher/Composer
    Thanks Frank,

    I just wanted to thank you for your very kind words above and I remember our lessons well. :-)

    Btw - I now have a dedicated teaching website here: www.online-guitar-lessons.org

    Thanks again and my very best wishes to you,

    Pete

  14. #13

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    I've been teaching full time as my sole source of income for about fourteen years.

    The income questions are somewhat mathematical, right?

    So you can run possible numbers for yourself in a spreadsheet:

    How much each student is paying you per class.

    How long each lesson is.

    How many students you have at once.

    How many hours you have available to teach. (Also consider the hours for prep time)

    How often the student comes.

    How many lessons per year for each student.

    How long the student stays with you.

    How quickly you can acquire new students.

    I've found that a lot of teaching, especially beginners, has very very little to do with how much musical knowledge or skill I have.

  15. #14

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    I'm a part time teacher, mostly guitar, but I have a few kids rock band classes, where I pretty much have to play and arrange for every instrument.

    It's only 2 days a week now, but I used to teach a lot more, but the gigs I started getting kind of pushed it out.

    I only work for schools, because I enjoy any scheduling and payment issue is taken care of, even though I make less than if I did private on my own.

    I use Sibelius a lot in this work, and try to accomodate any student in their requests. I only have one student who's really into jazz, and he's around 70 years old. The rest mostly kids, teenagers, they like pop, hip hop... some rock, if Im lucky.

    I don't think I'm a good teacher, I don't enjoy teaching basics, and that's what I have to do most of the time. The other day a kid with attitude asked me to teach him a Justin Bebier song, and I kinda let him know what I think about that, hahaha. I hardly win any love from some of those kids, i tell ya!

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by JakeAcci View Post
    I've been teaching full time as my sole source of income for about fourteen years.

    The income questions are somewhat mathematical, right?

    So you can run possible numbers for yourself in a spreadsheet:

    How much each student is paying you per class.

    How long each lesson is.

    How many students you have at once.

    How many hours you have available to teach. (Also consider the hours for prep time)

    How often the student comes.

    How many lessons per year for each student.

    How long the student stays with you.

    How quickly you can acquire new students.

    I've found that a lot of teaching, especially beginners, has very very little to do with how much musical knowledge or skill I have.
    Good stuff. The nonmusical issues are a huge part of it.

    Also, the math won't work right if you don't nail down some pretty solid policies for payment, cancellations etc. My wife is new to the lesson game, and is a little pissed at me right now because all of my students pay before the month begins, and she's having issues with getting people to pay and canceling etc. :-)

    My signed, firm, policy statements make me as much money as extra students would otherwise.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post

    Also, the math won't work right if you don't nail down some pretty solid policies for payment, cancellations etc. My wife is new to the lesson game, and is a little pissed at me right now because all of my students pay before the month begins, and she's having issues with getting people to pay and canceling etc. :-)

    My signed, firm, policy statements make me as much money as extra students would otherwise.
    Yes, absolutely, good points. There need to be systems in place. It can be scary for newer/younger teachers to establish these things as you have to cement in clients' minds that we're not just going to hang out and play some music for cash - these are business transactions.

    I have been lucky in that in all this time, I've had very, very few issues with payment. In fact, I think in these fourteen years the total amount of of fees owed to me that I didn't collect was about $300. The systems and policies help, but personally I've found there is a lot of value in being relationship-oriented. I try to have very good relationships with all my students, students' parents, so there's trust on both sides, and they see how hard I'm working for them and how invested I am in each one of them, and I simply rarely run into problems.

    In fairness, my policies aren't that stringent (at the moment,) but I play the long game and generally keep students for years and years.

    When I started out, an older guy in the music teaching business told me "you gotta watch out for these suburban moms, they'll try to screw ya." Well, that guy wasn't such an easy guy to get along with...I try to be relationship oriented and I haven't had many issues.

  18. #17
    Yeah, I'm pretty similar, I'd say. I've talked to teachers who look at a policy agreement like some kind of legal document or something . Kind of the "don't screw me" attitude.

    What I'm talking about is more like little, incremental details which add up to major residual money/decreased headaches over time.

    * Average monthly payments instead of paying for four-at-a- time or whatever .
    * Prepaying before the month begins .
    * Two week notice for discontinuing lessons.

    Those last two saved me a lot of money and stress when I was desperately trying to keep a fully booked studio. Now I'm more part time. The averaged monthly payment is probably the best one though. Keeps you from being pissed at your Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey for decreasing your paycheck two months in a row.

    For me, like you're saying, it never really has to be enforced or anything, it's just the understanding that I'm taking what we're doing seriously . People take you more seriously when it stated upfront. Doesn't have to be adversarial.

    Sounds like you've got a good gig and you're a really good teacher. congrats.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 05-13-2016 at 05:13 PM.

  19. #18

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    And, if I was teaching, I wouldn't teach a youngster without a parent present. I'd make that a written policy.

    Innocently touching a hand to get it properly positioned on a fretboard could potentially turn into a nightmare.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    And a medical degree is really good only for practicing medicine. Not much else.
    Good for selling medical supplies, treatments, pharmaceuticals?

    Consulting hospitals/doctors on how to navigate through red-tape?

    I would think there would be dozens of these type of jobs/careers.
    B+
    Frank (aka fep)

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    And, if I was teaching, I wouldn't teach a youngster without a parent present. I'd make that a written policy.

    Innocently touching a hand to get it properly positioned on a fretboard could potentially turn into a nightmare.
    In my more than 20 years of private one on one teaching I very rarely have a parent present with a kid, unless it's a first or trial lesson. Sometime if kid is acting up I might call them in, but again, very rarely.

    Unless you a sex offender with a record you shouldn't worry about those things.

  22. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    In my more than 20 years of private one on one teaching I very rarely have a parent present with a kid, unless it's a first or trial lesson. Sometime if kid is acting up I might call them in, but again, very rarely.

    Unless you a sex offender with a record you shouldn't worry about those things.
    Yeah. I've taught a lot of kids. I have an open-door policy, meaning they can be there if they want, or sit right outside the door. They never do, but that's usually enough for them to feel comfortable. I've never had a problem, but I always taught kids at school all day.

    Actually, I won't teach anyone under a certain age without a parent present, simply because really young kids aren't self-motivated or accountable. If they're really young and the parents are insistent that they have lessons, I usually stipulate that I'll do it if the parent comes as well and brings their own instrument. They're just not going to go home and practice on their own. Someone has to actually know what's going on and what the kid is doing. I've had a few takers, and even some successes. One father/son took from me for about 3 years. Never practiced enough. It was their thing they did together though. Go figure....

    Again, it's a niche. Most guitar teachers just can't teach kids that are really young. They'd rather have bamboo shoots under their fingernails etc... It's definitely its own thing. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Yeah. I've taught a lot of kids. I have an open-door policy, meaning they can be there if they want, or sit right outside the door. They never do, but that's usually enough for them to feel comfortable. I've never had a problem, but I always taught kids at school all day.

    Actually, I won't teach anyone under a certain age without a parent present, simply because really young kids aren't self-motivated or accountable. If they're really young and the parents are insistent that they have lessons, I usually stipulate that I'll do it if the parent comes as well and brings their own instrument. They're just not going to go home and practice on their own. Someone has to actually know what's going on and what the kid is doing. I've had a few takers, and even some successes. One father/son took from me for about 3 years. Never practiced enough. It was their thing they did together though. Go figure....

    Again, it's a niche. Most guitar teachers just can't teach kids that are really young. They'd rather have bamboo shoots under their fingernails etc... It's definitely its own thing. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with.
    True, open door policy. If they want to be present, I always welcome them. But they usually don't. I only had one student 4 year old, and my minimum is 5. That kid was already taking piano lessons! His parents were Brazilian and Chinese, he got it good! Obviously talented, but still PIA to teach... whenever there's babysitting involved, I'm suffering.

  24. #23

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    Wow! What great responses from all of you.

    I took classical guitar lessons from the age of around twelve for about four years or so from Hibbard Perry, founder of the original RI Classical Guitar Society (there is apparently a more recent edition that is not related to Mr. Perry as far as I know). Every Saturday for years I attended his studio in a downtown Providence building for lessons. Mr. Perry resembled Andres Segovia - large man with white hair, black horn-rimmed glasses, and thick fingers like sausages. Mr. Perry was accomplished at various styles, but his love was classical guitar. He was serious about the lessons and rarely praised his students. But he inspired you. His conduct was always exemplary. Sometimes the mothers or dad sat in the waiting room, but most of the time my mother just dropped me off and picked me up. Mr. Perry would be a role model for me if I took up teaching.

    Times have changed, of course. And I can imagine that teaching kids under the age of early adolescence could be tedious. Not my ideal student. And I respect the difficulty of teaching guitar. My ideal student would be an intermediate or more advanced guitarist, but one does not have the choice sometimes. Music teachers have my respect.

    For those of you who teach, just a little anecdote. I was fortunate to have a teacher at my school from middle school around sixth grade through tenth named Louis Davis. A black man teaching at a private RI school in the Sixties. Mr. Davis was a lover of all things Italian, having lived and studied in Italy. He was an excellent teacher of our "glee club" or choir, capable of singing all parts from bass to falsetto tenor in his lovely voice. He was a warm, enthusiastic guy who elicited the best from his young students. He was forced to leave his position because of issues regarding his sexual preference. His behavior around me was always exemplary and irreproachable, but it was a different time culturally. When he left, I felt a deep sense of loss. I always wanted to be able to tell him what an inspirational effect he had on my life, but I never had the opportunity. Ironically some ten years ago or so, I happen to read in the paper by chance his obituary. He had been living in Newport, RI all these years. I felt quite sad to think that I might have been able to connect with him before his death, just to say thanks for his work. But it was not to be.

    To be a good teacher is a difficult thing, but the effects on the students can be inspirational. Kudos to all you teachers. You may mean more to your students than you know.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    Good for selling medical supplies, treatments, pharmaceuticals?

    Consulting hospitals/doctors on how to navigate through red-tape?

    I would think there would be dozens of these type of jobs/careers.
    True enough, but getting a job when you are nearly eligible for Medicare is not an easy task. Today I was reviewing an article about what jobs are open to retired docs, apart from continuing to practice office or hospital based medicine, such as a hospitalist or nursing home administrator. Frankly, age is a factor in all of this. In addition, I have 'been there and done that' - today's medical environment is toxic, burnout endemic, and frankly, just not worth it.

    Some of the medicine related jobs I'm considering - consultant for medical records review, expert witness type thing; telemedicine consultant - new thing fraught with malpractice risk and possibly issues with multistate license and liability risk; medical writer and editor, including the creative side such as medical suspense novels. (A sure thing to bank on, right?) All possibilities, but not too tantalizing.

    Music is my other serious avocation besides medicine. At least it is not being destroyed by the government in systematic fashion. Nonetheless, making a living is daunting whether teacher or performing.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    Wow! What great responses from all of you.

    I took classical guitar lessons from the age of around twelve for about four years or so from Hibbard Perry, founder of the original RI Classical Guitar Society (there is apparently a more recent edition that is not related to Mr. Perry as far as I know). Every Saturday for years I attended his studio in a downtown Providence building for lessons. Mr. Perry resembled Andres Segovia - large man with white hair, black horn-rimmed glasses, and thick fingers like sausages. Mr. Perry was accomplished at various styles, but his love was classical guitar. He was serious about the lessons and rarely praised his students. But he inspired you. His conduct was always exemplary. Sometimes the mothers or dad sat in the waiting room, but most of the time my mother just dropped me off and picked me up. Mr. Perry would be a role model for me if I took up teaching.

    Times have changed, of course. And I can imagine that teaching kids under the age of early adolescence could be tedious. Not my ideal student. And I respect the difficulty of teaching guitar. My ideal student would be an intermediate or more advanced guitarist, but one does not have the choice sometimes. Music teachers have my respect.

    For those of you who teach, just a little anecdote. I was fortunate to have a teacher at my school from middle school around sixth grade through tenth named Louis Davis. A black man teaching at a private RI school in the Sixties. Mr. Davis was a lover of all things Italian, having lived and studied in Italy. He was an excellent teacher of our "glee club" or choir, capable of singing all parts from bass to falsetto tenor in his lovely voice. He was a warm, enthusiastic guy who elicited the best from his young students. He was forced to leave his position because of issues regarding his sexual preference. His behavior around me was always exemplary and irreproachable, but it was a different time culturally. When he left, I felt a deep sense of loss. I always wanted to be able to tell him what an inspirational effect he had on my life, but I never had the opportunity. Ironically some ten years ago or so, I happen to read in the paper by chance his obituary. He had been living in Newport, RI all these years. I felt quite sad to think that I might have been able to connect with him before his death, just to say thanks for his work. But it was not to be.

    Thanks! You get it. To be a good teacher is a difficult thing, but the effects on the students can be inspirational. Kudos to all you teachers. You may mean more to your students than you know.
    Thanks! You get it. Teaching is not about getting the ideal student. It's about igniting a fire and helping it burn strong.

    Teaching is a vocation. It's not just to make some money "doing what you like." Anybody who tells you differently shouldn't be teaching.
    Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/jeffreymatz

    "Jazz is like life...it goes on longer than you think, and as soon as you're like 'oh, I get it,' it ends."

    --The Ghost of Duke Ellington

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    How many of you are making a living teaching guitar part time or full time?

    I suspect that to get a job in the public school system you need a teacher certificate or other formal validation. I don't have that qualification. Looking for work after sixty is no piece of cake. But I think I can teach students to play guitar from either a classical or other style perspective. But can one make a modest living teaching students privately?

    The other 'skill' that I have developed is creating transcriptions with notation software. If there were a demand for one off transcriptions for a reasonable price, that would be an ideal job. But I don't sense there is much demand for those skills.

    Of course, given that I am a doctor, one might question why, after all the pain and sweat expended to get a medical degree, anyone would look for gainful employment in another field. The smart ass answer would be to ask almost any practicing physician today. But I don't really want to practice medicine in today's toxic hamster wheel medical environment. And a medical degree is really good only for practicing medicine. Not much else.

    My 2 cents, having done nothing but teach music professionally since I was 17 (and grew up with my father teaching lessons in the living room).

    #1 - DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE KIDS. I have a 10 year old (multiple young accomplished students, but this is just one example),

    All major and minor open position chords
    Barre chords
    Reading from moto perpetuo (first two pages) in first position
    Knows major and minor pentatonic over the entire neck, competently solo's with both
    Up to 3rd position of the major scale, can use them to solo in ionian, dorian, aolian in each position in any key.
    Understands basic theory (up to diatonic major chord progressions)

    I have year after year of students who play way above their age. This is because I do not baby them. They learn exactly what adults learn. Which brings me to point 2.

    #2 - Design a curriculum, don't get sucked into teaching the kids what they want. You will lose students. Here is the quick version of mine.

    Each student receives a theory book, and a playalong cd. The cd contains band tracks playing songs based around the 12 most used chord progressions.

    Lesson 1 - picking technique and 4 finger exercise. Learn Em and G, learn chromatic scale ascending a single string.

    In the following lessons we learn all the open position chords, and practice them with the CD. At the same time we learn the first position of the major scale. Theory wise we cover intervals, chord construction, and chord progressions. At this point we start using power chords for f#, Bm, etc. as well as a heavy metal tune on the cd.

    At this point we begin reading. Start with the natural scale (c major in open pos). Then we repeat the cd tracks using bar chords, e and a form. Theory wise we are up to diatonic chord progressions in Maj. We begin using min pent, and teaching the basic vocabulary. Kids pick up on this extremely quickly. They can literally start soloing on about the second lesson if taught right.

    Now (6-8 months) students are armed with all the tools they need to actually gain something from learning songs. I have them bring 10-20 songs in to choose from. Make sure to teach the theory to the songs or you are wasting their money. Whats the chord progression, what are the intervals in the main riff.

    From the basic foundation I then teach min pent soloing, then maj pent. I have specific "pathways" I teach rather than the traditional positional teaching. Once they can cover the entire neck with pentatonics, we begin modal improvisation using the 7 position, 3nps method. Mostly focusing in the beginning on ionian, dorian, aeolian.

    From here (couple years) it is student dependent.

    I teach multiple instruments, and have year after year turned out really talented students. I work in a school setting these days, but began by doing the music store gig. Even on other instruments I use a variation of this method. The main thing is don't baby them. In fact, go harder on them then adults (especially in the reading department). For instance, I teach a music theory and improv class, it has both kids, as well as another music teacher (violin player totally new to improv), the kids advance at the same rate as the adults.

    This approach might seem tough, but my students usually stay for years. It's because they see results, precisely because I am tough on them. High expectations deliver high results.


    #3 - Be very strict on lesson, payment, and cancellation policy. I do not offer make up lessons. You are there, or you miss your lesson. If you want to cancel, you must tell me at the beginning of the month. You pay at the start of each month. I set the price according to what the local stores charge, which is a lot.... If you start giving make up lessons, being lenient, parents will take advantage of your kindness.

    #4 - Parents are welcome to sit in, there should be no reason you would't want them. There are ZERO discipline problems in any of my classes, kids know better than to act up. Let one run over you, and you're toast. In fact, when teaching privately, I've told people not to come back, even to get out. I won't waste a parents money. As for the "touch" statement above, thats a load of bulls@t. Touch can be a very useful part of teaching, especially in a field where as a conductor i need to be able to stop a kid from playing the wrong part with a look and a hand gesture. Touch can be used to redirect a childs attention, or just a simple pat on the back. Obviously correcting hand position etc is certainly a requirement.

    I suppose most of the reason i am tough on students, is the best teachers I had, were very tough on students, including my father. You never forgot those lessons, especially the ones that hurt a little (which is why I SMH when I see some people around here turn into crybabies when their feelings get hurt. If you ever studied with an old timer, they were not nice about it, they told you the truth, and as the old saying goes, sometimes the truth hurts).

    Lastly, while I have taught probably around 1500 people of all ages and abilities (and disabilities), I have had a number of good students, but I've only had 1 GREAT STUDENT. He started with me in 4th grade, and starts Berkeley this year. What was the difference between him and everyone else? He played the sh@t out of the guitar. He was the kid who didn't need to be told to practice. He's the type of kid who shows up to a lesson and plays tommy emanuels version of classical gas, without me ever teaching him a note of it. There is nothing you can do as a teacher to impart that type of drive into a student, but consider yourself lucky when you find them.


    p.s. the next useful place to bring the conversation is, "how do you get your foot in the door" at an established place, or how to bring in students on your own.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by vintagelove View Post
    My 2 cents...
    My experiences teaching are very similar to yours and I generally agree with your pedagogy (it's almost uncanny, though there are of course differences.)

    What do you mean by "I teach in a school setting." Do you teach in a music school?

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep View Post
    And, if I was teaching, I wouldn't teach a youngster without a parent present. I'd make that a written policy.

    Innocently touching a hand to get it properly positioned on a fretboard could potentially turn into a nightmare.
    When I started out I used to really fear this. It has never ever been an issue. Sometimes I touch/reposition, sometimes I don't. It's easy enough not to, usually. I consider various variables, like how good of a relationship I already have with the parents.

    Some kids work much better with parents present but some kids really don't perform well with the parents eyes on them.

  30. #29

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    It's almost unbelievable to hear a medical doctor wanting to be a guitar instructor. I had been doing that for a living for many years. It's incredibly rewarding, on many levels. Of course, it was supplemented by gigging and recording people. But financially, it was a struggle. I've had to be away from teaching now for quite a while (not for lack of effort on my part, but some things have happened...), and I really miss it. I know what not to do, and hopefully will learn from past mistakes if I do get back into it.

    I guess, thinking about it, I can see your point.

    My wife and I are planning to be self-employed, doing a variety of things we both do well that the average can't or won't do. The hardest part is always the business part. Marketing, getting paid, trying to have a life outside of self-employment, etc.

    I've considering getting certified to teach in the schools, having obtained performance degrees, but there are other outlets. Instruction studios have popped up over recent years. You just have to be in the right location. College jobs are hard to come by (and fraught with similar difficulties you may encounter in the medical field, politics, etc.).

    Signing off, before I just start to ramble or rant...

    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    How many of you are making a living teaching guitar part time or full time?

    I suspect that to get a job in the public school system you need a teacher certificate or other formal validation. I don't have that qualification. Looking for work after sixty is no piece of cake. But I think I can teach students to play guitar from either a classical or other style perspective. But can one make a modest living teaching students privately?

    The other 'skill' that I have developed is creating transcriptions with notation software. If there were a demand for one off transcriptions for a reasonable price, that would be an ideal job. But I don't sense there is much demand for those skills.

    Of course, given that I am a doctor, one might question why, after all the pain and sweat expended to get a medical degree, anyone would look for gainful employment in another field. The smart ass answer would be to ask almost any practicing physician today. But I don't really want to practice medicine in today's toxic hamster wheel medical environment. And a medical degree is really good only for practicing medicine. Not much else.

  31. #30

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    I've taught music and the guitar in all types of situations, but the only students I take now are HS Jazz Ensemble students to help out friends of mine who are HS Jazz Ensemble teachers.

    The more affluent families don't let their children study during Standardized Testing time for prospective college students.
    I just got a student back who took a three month vacation from lessons for that reason.
    HS students are weakest in their improvisation abilities; especially the horn players.
    Even if a kid is scheduled for a half hour lesson, I'll work with him for over two hours, until he's able to blow over the changes of the song he's playing in jazz ensemble.

  32. #31
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    Thanks! You get it. Teaching is not about getting the ideal student. It's about igniting a fire and helping it burn strong.

    Teaching is a vocation. It's not just to make some money "doing what you like." Anybody who tells you differently shouldn't be teaching.
    "Don't ​show me the money!"

    PS Thank you for my pension, though.
    Last edited by destinytot; 05-14-2016 at 03:08 AM. Reason: PS

  33. #32

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    I have the opportunity to teach in a school from next term. It will be a group session which starts when school finishes so that parents can pick their children up later.

    I'd welcome any ideas on how to structure this.

    Should I have 2 groups; 1 for complete beginners and another for those who already play a little?

    Also how long should the session be? I'm envisioning one hour sessions or is that too long? The students will be 7 - 12 years in age.

    Another important question is how many students should there be per group?

    I'm looking forward to hearing how you guys do it.

    Currently when I have two young students at once I get one to play the melody to Frere Jacque in the first position (lots of open notes) and I get the other to strum the 4 high strings while fingering the G note on the high E string (ie easy G chord).

    They usually get big smiles when they realise whats happening after all its cool to jam with others.

    I then ask them to swap roles.

    Then I ask them to play the melody on the G string up the neck so that they wont have any fear or mystery of playing higher up the fretboard.

    I also play a 'Find the note' game where I play a note on the guitar and they have to play it back. Plus I start singing intervals with them from the first lesson.

    I'd probably do the same in the school and expand upon it.

    Any thoughts on number of groups, time etc would be appreciated.

  34. #33

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    Fascinating responses!

    I suspect that there are so many more options today teaching kids from the CD and the sample common progressions that Vintagelove uses to video and recording of lessons for kids to bring home to use to practice or to creating lessons using Sibelius. I wish some of these things were around when I was learning in the mid-Sixties. I'm kinda 'vintage' myself.

    As I consider various ways to use what I know and can do competently to earn some money before I resign myself to poverty, some of my options include trying to become a medical consultant - expert witness, record review, etc.; or medical writing for magazines or writing creatively (medical suspense novels). None of which sound that feasible to me. Oh, forgot telemedicine - doing consults for patients on relatively common and non-life threatening conditions for Internet companies, which would be great (work from home and the computer) but where the legal liability issues are high and uncharted.

    I also realize that even teaching music is not something that is easy or a situation that will bloom overnight, but at least it is not medicine. I have actually considered trying to fashion a job combining playing music and the old standards and working with elderly in nursing homes and hospices. There is evidence that people with dementia seem to respond to music in a positive way.

    Anyway, the path ahead is unclear but your responses are inspiring.

  35. #34
    destinytot Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    I have actually considered trying to fashion a job combining playing music and the old standards and working with elderly in nursing homes and hospices. There is evidence that people with dementia seem to respond to music in a positive way.
    Just a thought, but how about 'training the trainers'?

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    To be a good teacher is a difficult thing, but the effects on the students can be inspirational. Kudos to all you teachers. You may mean more to your students than you know.
    My first music teacher was in 4th grade. I don't remember that music was mandatory in my (US public) grade school, but it was strongly encouraged. Let's see, 4th grade would have been what- 1968. I wanted to play guitar. I got a cello- closest thing they had. The teacher was an "older guy" named Mr. Teufel (he was probably 25). He tried hard but couldn't quite break through the fact that it wasn't a guitar. Too bad, actually, because cello is a deeply beautiful instrument that can bring me to tears. But that experience- playing in the kid's orchestra, in particular- planted a seed.

    Fast forward to college when I meet people my age who play guitar and buy one for myself, learning things that they showed me. I took formal lessons from a guy named Bill Ebert who did exactly what you all are talking about: lit a fire under me. He introduced me to jazz with a single Gmaj7 chord (me reaction was "ummm.... what was *that*?!?") and 36 years later I am still playing this music. I cannot tell you how much I owe to Bill for the gift of jazz and, so far, well over three decades of meaning and enjoyment. My other guitar teachers have been Jimmy Bruno (online) and Gene Bertoncini (at jazz camps). They enlarged and expanded on the platform Bill helped me build and I owe them, too. I am sure all of us in the forum understand this and have had similar experiences.

    Music changed my life in so many ways. My career is as a licensed psychologist for the past 26 years and I love that work as well. There are interesting similarities (e.g., a need for improvisation that changes moment to moment in response to what the other person is doing; what you think was great someone else thinks is "meh" and vice versa; etc.) but there is an emotional satisfaction from the expressive side of music that is unique.

    There is something else, something heard to define. Learning jazz has made me a better person. I'm not even sure that I could describe exactly how- something about being more open and accepting and responsive to others. In jazz nothing happens the way one thinks it should because there is always something unexpected happening. To play this music well I think one has to become more kind, accepting and giving. I've got a long ways to go, as perhaps do we all. There are plenty of people who will tell you I'm still an ass...

    None of us- or almost none of us- in this music are paragons of virtue and yet somehow making music calls us to better ourselves.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    I have actually considered trying to fashion a job combining playing music and the old standards and working with elderly in nursing homes and hospices. There is evidence that people with dementia seem to respond to music in a positive way.
    That hits home. My role as a psychologist since 1990 has been working in nursing homes; I round at 10 facilities (my clinic has a specialty in this and we have about 25 of us going to about 190 senior care facilities). I cannot tell you how many times I have seen this happen. I have seen rooms full of people with dementia of various types transformed for a little while during musical performances and particularly live performances. They may not know where they are, what day it is, what they had for lunch. But they hear those songs and for a little while they are whole again, dancing with their sweeties.
    Beauty is as close to terror as we can well endure. -Rainer Maria Rilke