How to Select a Guitar Teacher
By Jim Thomas

Whether positive or negative, our experiences with music education affect us for the rest of our lives. Seek out the most positive experiences possible. Exploring our potential skills, abilities and interest is one of the most worthy pursuits we can ever make. Personal growth, learning who we are, developing new skills, and achieving what we thought was impossible are some of the most enriching and rewarding experiences in life.

Private music lessons are generally a one to one experience and usually entail an extended relationship with a teacher over long periods of time. Selecting the right teacher will have far-reaching positive consequences in your life and/or your child’s life. Seek out a teacher who understands this.

  • What would it be like to work with a teacher who had the skills, enthusiasm and encouragement to help you achieve your musical goals?
  • How would achieving your musical goals change your life?

Find a teacher who adapts their teaching style to your learning style.

Look for a teacher who can present material from many points of view. We all learn and assimilate new information and distinctions differently. Seek a teacher who can adapt to your learning style as opposed to you having to adapt to his or her teaching style or preference. A teacher who really appreciates, understands and respects our differences will be much more effective, patient and encouraging. A flexible and adaptable teacher will be able to teach in a way that accommodates the specific needs of each student. When your guitar lessons are presented in a way you understand, the learning process is exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding. Ask a potential teacher what his or her teaching style is.

  • Wouldn’t you rather work with a teacher who presents material in a way you can clearly understand and enjoy?
  • How much faster could you learn with a teacher who is effective, patient and encouraging?

Find a teacher who is effective in many musical styles.

Initially you may not be sure what you want to learn. A teacher who is competent in many musical styles can help guide you as you explore the possibilities. Avoid teachers who can only teach what they themselves are currently learning or playing in a band. At first it may seem great if you are interested in the same kind of music but after a while your musical exposure becomes limited. Over time your musical interest can change and having a teacher who can adapt is a huge asset. Ultimately your interests will expand as you develop your skills. Success creates interest in other areas. Ask a potential teacher what musical styles they are competent in.

  • What would it be like to discover that your musical instrument was capable of styles of music you haven’t imagined and your teacher was able to play examples and explain the differences?
  • How much greater would your guitar lessons be with a teacher who could guide you and move with you as your musical interests change and evolve?

Select a full-time professional music teacher.

A full-time professional music teacher has a higher likelihood of being dedicated to his or her craft. You may even find semi-professional teachers with similar dedication. Overall, look for a teacher who clearly loves what they do. Avoid teachers who are seeking supplemental income between gigs.

  • What is the value of working with a teacher who clearly loves what they are doing and who's enthusiasm helps focus your interest?
  • How enjoyable would it be for you to learn from someone who obviously enjoys teaching?

Select a teacher whose focus is on the students.

Look for a teacher who accepts personally responsibility for his or her life and encourages you to do the same. A demanding teacher may have unreasonable expectations or discourage you from developing your own musical tastes. They may claim that you represent them in public performances and that your playing and practice habits reflect poorly on them. Teachers who believe their students represent them will most likely be controlling and demanding. Their focus will be on what they want, and in a convoluted way might believe it is best for you. This is an unhealthy and co-dependent perspective. In other words, they are focused on their needs as opposed to the needs and desires of the student. A potential teacher with an inflated ego will generally be self-focused. A teacher only represents himself as you only represent yourself. No one can be responsible for the behavior and beliefs of others.

  • How much easier would it be to learn from a teacher who was dedicated to the art of teaching in a holistic and non-threatening way?
  • How much freedom in learning would you experience with a teacher who completely accepted you for who you are along with your particular learning style and skills?

Select a teacher who asks a lot of questions and encourages you to do the same.

Questions cause us to think and entertain new possibilities, which in turn encourages growth and continual learning. Questions show we are exploring our world and seeking to understand how things work.

  • What if you were encouraged to ask questions about anything that comes up during a lesson?
  • What if you felt completely comfortable asking your teacher any question without feeling like they would judge you or think you were foolish?

Find someone who can teach all ages and skill Levels.

These issues are relevant to students of all ages and skill levels. Find out what ages and skill levels a teacher is comfortable working with in order to confirm a good student/teacher match.

When you choose to work with a good teacher, the learning process is exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding. When a teacher is able to meet you right where you are, learning is no longer perceived as work or drudgery.

Do not just price shop.

Avoid teachers who charge “lowball” lesson fees, offer free guitars to use with your lessons, or use other gimmicks to get people through the door. As with shopping for anything else, you tend to get what you pay for. Price shopping can be a great disservice to you or your child. Ask yourself a simple question, “Do I want to place my learning and educational experiences in the hands of the cheapest teacher I can find”? More effective, organized and experienced teachers tend to charge more, but provide greater value. It’s hard to place a price tag on something that has the potential to change your life.

  • What is the real value of working with a teacher who is effective, organized, experienced and student focused?
  • What is the true cost of dealing with a teacher who does not have the awareness or experience to accommodate your specific musical needs, interest and desires?

January 18, 2010

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