So you’re looking to get guitar lessons and you’re wondering where to turn.
Finding a guitar teacher can be stressful because there isn’t much out there on the topic and, quite frankly, there are a lot of guitar teachers that aren’t really interested in investing in the next generation of musicians. What many of them are really after is keeping their business afloat.
I encountered this many years ago in my small hometown in upstate New York. I had been playing guitar for 3 or 4 years and decided that I wanted to take my playing to the next level. There was only one guitar teacher that I knew of so I went and started taking lessons.
This guitar teacher told me that because I was self-taught, I needed to go back to the basics and start over where he starts every student. He has a plan, you see. If I don’t go back to the basics, then I won’t have the foundation that I need to reach higher levels.
I went from practicing the songs that I knew and loved to playing Hot Cross Buns from sheet music!
I went from enjoying the guitar pursuing something I’m passionate about to being consistently frustrated learning something that added little to no value to my skill set.
I was too humble and trusting to see what was really going on. I want to help you to see the dilemma here so that you don’t make the same mistake.
As much as it pains me to admit it, I was simply being taken advantage of. I liked the guitar teacher and all. He is a really nice guy. But his “going back to basics” was actually him trying to get as much money out of me as possible.
This makes the most sense for his business. He didn’t want me to come to four lessons, get the tweaks I need, and then bounce. He wanted to keep me coming back for as long as he could. That way he could get more money out of me and be able to stay open.
I am wording it like I am because being a brick and mortar music shop in a small town is really difficult! Even if you’re a household name in your town, most of the specialized knowledge you possess can be found online for free. The rest can be learned in public school from teachers at no direct cost to the student.
Back in the ’80s, being a guitar teacher was much easier. People lined up out the door in order to learn guitar because their idol was a guitar player in the band _____ (you fill in the blank). There was so much glory in it! Going to lessons brought you one step closer to learning how to solo like INSERT FAMOUS GUITARIST.
Slowly, mainstream music has shifted away from guitars and so learning guitar became a smaller market. Thus, the dilemma. How does a guitar teacher stay afloat? By squeezing as much value from each student as possible.
Now please don’t change your mind about guitar lessons. It isn’t as bad as it sounds. I just don’t want you to walk in blind like I was and risk you ending up wrongly figuring out that guitar isn’t for you because you can’t figure out how to play Twinkle Little Star and tap your left foot to the beat simultaneously.
What guitarist have you ever seen do that anyway?
Here are some things you want to look for in your guitar teacher.
I don’t care what school that player graduated from. If (s)he doesn’t have an ongoing relationship with former students who have done anything remotely great in the music scene, look elsewhere for guitar lessons.
Check the walls. Are there any photos? Awards? Letters of thanks?
How did you hear about this teacher? Try to track down other people who have taken lessons there before risking investing your time and money in something you’ll learn to resent and then quit shortly thereafter.
A legacy is the evidence that the teacher knows what (s)he is talking about. It is a clear indication that you’ll be investing your time and money in something that you’ll learn to enjoy. Your music journey will be full of discovery, not hopeless difficulty.
A Full Schedule
A guitar teacher worth paying for is usually up to their eyeballs in appointments. They may even have a waiting list. I know it is tempting to go with the guy that is more available but, trust me, the wait is worth it.
Learning guitar can become one of the most enjoyable parts of your life. It is a fun hobby to have.
Picture it! You’re sitting around a campfire with your friends and because you took guitar lessons from the busy guy, you learned a hobby that you actually enjoy. Now you can pull out your guitar and fill the night air with INSERT FAVORITE SONG instead of Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Trust me. The last person who was impressed by anyone playing that song was grandparent lying to a six-year old.
A Tribe is a group of people currently following this person. Usually a teacher with a legacy and a busy schedule also has a tribe.
This Tribe consists of current students, fans, and people that go to this teacher for advice.
Sometimes it is easy to find their Tribe because they’ve leveraged Social Media to boost their business but many times, you’ll have to dig for this information.
Here is a good question you can ask…
Do you have any long term students and how long have you been teaching them?
Tip: Note how they speak about their students. If they have a bad attitude toward them, you probably don’t want to learn from this person.
This is a big one. Teaching guitar is an art, not just a science.
A teacher who teaches exclusively from a book that (s)he didn’t write is not original. Proceed with caution!
The reason is that a teacher who hasn’t adapted their approach over their years of experience doesn’t have their finger to the pulse of the needs of their students. If they use a cookie cutter approach to teaching you guitar, then I highly doubt it will be worth your time.
The last thing I want is for you to consider guitar playing a waste of time. It can be so rewarding!
Welcome to the Family!
Usually I would conclude this article by restating what I have already said but instead, I want to welcome you to the family of millions around the world learning guitar. Sure, it’s corny to say it like that but I want you to know that you’re not alone in this journey.
Good luck and keep guitaring!
Thank you for reading!