How to Find The Right Guitar Teacher For You
While you can teach yourself guitar using YouTube and websites like this one, an actual teacher giving you one-on-one lessons can make a massive difference to your progress. With a good teacher, you can learn faster, avoid bad habits, learn things you wouldn’t have discovered on your own, and more.
But not all teachers are equal. Some teachers see teaching as just a way to pay their bills. Some teachers have amazing guitar skills but lack good teaching skills. Then there are teachers who understand your needs and know exactly what to do to help you achieve your goals.
Every teacher will try to claim that they offer superior lessons and that they’re the best teacher for you. In this article, I’m going to give you some tips and advice to help you choose the right guitar teacher for your needs.
After you finish this article, you’ll know exactly what to look for and how to find out whether a guitar teacher is right for you or not.
Quick Overview of What to Look For
This article goes into a lot of detail, so if you’re looking for the short version, here are the main points to remember.
Things that are important:
- Has excellent teaching abilities (teaching skills are far more important than guitar skills)
- Has a passion for teaching and regularly studies teaching methods/strategies
- Likes/listens/passionate about the same (or similar) music as you
- Specializes in the music you want to learn
- Experience (to a certain degree)
- A personality that works with you
Things that aren’t important:
- Virtuoso-level technical abilities (teaching skills are far more important than technical skills)
- Music degrees (unless you also want to study music formally)
- Testimonials (a lot of teachers make them up, so you can’t trust any of them)
- Experience (as explained later, not all experience is equal)
If you can find a teacher that meets most of the above points, the chances are you’ll have a good learning experience.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
Every guitar teacher tries to claim that they’ll give you the best lessons. With every teacher trying to claim that they’re the best, it makes it hard to figure out who is actually good and who is just trying to talk themselves up.
Here are a few red flags to watch out for that hint that maybe the teacher isn’t worth it. The more of these red flags you see from one teacher, the more likely you should look somewhere else.
- Claims to be able to teach all styles and all abilities: nobody is an expert in every style of music. Guitar teachers who claim they can teach anything should be avoided. The reason they claim this is that they want to fill their timetable. Don’t take lessons from somebody who says they can teach any style of music. Take lessons from a teacher who specializes in the music you want to learn.
If you injured your knee, would you want to see a general doctor or a knee specialist? You would get far better care with a knee specialist. It’s the same with learning guitar. Take lessons with a specialist.
- Withholding rates and lesson information: some teachers don’t publish their lesson rates on their websites. The reason they do this is that they want you to call them, so they can then try to push you to sign up for lessons. Withholding information is common with teachers who aren’t confident in what they have to offer.
- Requires you to lock into a contract and prepay a lot of lessons: some teachers require you to pay 10+ lessons in advance and don’t offer any refunds if you cancel. Teachers who care about giving a good experience for their students don’t do this.
Teaching Abilities and More Important Than Guitar Abilities
A good teacher can help you achieve your goals in less time, with less hassle, and make the entire learning process more enjoyable. A bad teacher can turn learning guitar into a nightmare.
A bit mistake students sometimes make is that they place too much importance on a guitar teacher’s technical abilities. They see a video of the teacher shredding like crazy, then take that as a sign that they’ll be a great teacher.
A good guitarist doesn’t automatically make a good teacher.
I experienced this first-hand when I took Skype lessons from a high profile guitarist (who will remain nameless). This guitarist has amazing technical skills and has performed with many of my heroes. I was super-excited to be taking some high-level lessons with him. He even produced some great YouTube videos and seemed like a great teacher.
Unfortunately, he was regularly late for our lessons, he started each lesson with zero preparation, and I left each lesson with no clear idea what I should be working on. He didn’t even follow up on what was covered in previous lessons. In short, the lessons were a waste of my time and money.
As a guitar teacher, I was shocked at how poorly he ran his lessons. My point here is that you shouldn’t judge a teacher based on their technical abilities. The high level guitarist I briefly took lessons from might be an awesome player, but he was a terrible teacher.
When you consider a teacher for your lessons, remember that a great guitarist doesn’t mean a great teacher.
Are Degrees Important?
Does your teacher need to have a degree in music to be a good teacher?
The answer depends on your own goals. If you want to study music with the goal of eventually getting your own degree, then it makes sense to take lessons with a teacher who has already gone through that path. Not only will your teacher know exactly what you need to learn to prepare for your exams, but they’ll also know the right advice to give you along the way.
If you’re not interested in taking exams or getting a degree in music, then the answer isn’t as straightforward.
A teacher with a degree is a sign that they have a certain level of knowledge about music. But there are many ways a guitarist can learn those skills and topics. There are countless self-taught guitarists who are more knowledgeable than formally trained guitarists.
The point here is that degrees are only important if they’re important to you. There are plenty of great teachers with degrees and there are plenty of great teachers without degrees.
On the other hand, there are plenty of bad teachers with degrees, so don’t assume having a degree makes a person a good teacher.
One of the most common things you’ll see as you start comparing teachers is that many claim they can teach any style of music to any skill level.
As mentioned earlier, nobody is an expert in every style. Every teacher has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. You want to find a teacher with strengths in the areas you want to focus on.
Find a guitar teacher who listens to similar music as you do. Find out what bands and guitarists they’re into. Don’t let the teacher get away with saying “I listen to everything”. Find out what they know about the music you enjoy. Do they really know a lot about the bands and guitarists you follow? Or are they just saying they like that music to win you over as a student?
The reason this is important is
Find a teacher who is actually interested in the music you want to learn. Not only will you enjoy the lessons more, but the teacher will know exactly what to teach you to really develop in that style.
What to Ask A Potential Guitar Teacher
Once you’ve found a teacher who might be a good fit for you, I recommend asking them a few questions before you sign up. Guitar teachers are prepared against common questions (eg: “what experience do you have?”), so you’re not going to get good answers from asking the same questions everybody else asks.
I’ve written a thorough guide on what questions to ask a teacher, so check it out for advice on what to ask a guitar teacher before signing up for lessons.
If the teacher doesn’t give you good answers to those questions, I recommend looking elsewhere.
Keep the above advice in mind when trying to find a guitar teacher and you’ll have a better chance of picking the right teacher for your needs.
If you’re interested in taking lessons with me, find out about my Skype Guitar Lessons here.