Questions to Ask A Guitar Teacher
If you think you’ve found a guitar teacher that might be a good fit for you, before you sign up and hand your money over, it’s a good idea to ask them a few questions (either by phone or email).
Here are some of the most important questions to ask:
- What do you know about [bands you listen to]?
- How do you work on improving yourself as a teacher?
- What type of students
aren’ta good fit for your teaching style?
I’ll go through each of the above questions so you know why it’s important to ask, and how to determine if the guitar teacher is giving you a good answer or not.
With these questions, you’ll be able to decide whether the guitar teacher is right for you or not.
The reason I recommend asking these questions is because they’re questions most teachers aren’t prepared for. Guitar teachers are used to being asked about their experience or qualifications, so they’re prepared answers to those questions. You’re not going to get good answers from those questions because they know what they should tell you.
Most guitar teachers aren’t prepared for the questions covered in this article, so if you use them you’ll get a better idea whether they’re actually good teachers or not.
What do you know about [bands and guitarists you listen to]?
This is one of the most important questions to ask. Find out what the teacher knows about the bands and music you want to learn.
This question is a good way to check whether the teacher actually knows how to teach the music you want to learn or whether they’re just pretending that they know.
This is important to know because you don’t want to learn from a teacher who doesn’t have a solid understanding of the music you want to learn. A classical guitar teacher who has no interest in rock music won’t give you good rock lessons. They might say they can teach any style, but they’ll never be as good as a teacher who actually listens to and enjoys rock music.
If you mention a band, the teacher should be able to easily tell you who the guitarist(s) are, mention some songs (not just the well-known hits), talk about the type of techniques you’ll need to learn, etc.
For example, if you want to learn Metallica songs, here is an example of a good response from the teacher:
There’s a lot to learn from Metallica’s music. James Hetfield is a great riff-writer and you’ll develop some great picking control by learning his riffs. Once you learn how to play a gallop rhythm, I think you’ll enjoy playing a lot of his riffs. Kirk Hammett’s solos might sound too hard to learn if you’re just starting out, but once you learn something called the Pentatonic scale, you’ll see that a lot of his solos follow some simple patterns.
Are you interested in learning their more progressive songs like on Master of Puppets or …and
Justicfor All ?,or are you more interested in their more straight-forward rock songs like the ones off of the black album?
The above response shows that the teacher actually knows a bit about the band. That’s a sign that the teacher is already familiar with Metallica’s songs and knows what you need to learn to be able to play their music. You’re likely to get good quality lessons from this teacher because the teacher will know what techniques and songs to teach you as you progress.
Here is an example of a bad response from the teacher:
I love Enter Sandman! Great song and the solo is fun to play. I’m more of an AC DC guy myself, but I can easily teach you any Metallica songs you want to learn.
A teacher who gives this type of response probably doesn’t know anything about the band or music. Even if the teacher has the skills to be able to play that stuff, it’s not a good sign. If you wanted to learn Metallica songs, would you want to learn from somebody who only knows about their most famous songs? Or would you want to learn from a die-hard Metallica fan?
Find a teacher who listens to and is passionate about the music you want to learn. Not only will you enjoy learning from a teacher who listens to the same music as you do, but their in-depth understanding of the music will help you learn faster.
How do you work on improving yourself as a guitar teacher?
This is a hard question for many guitar teachers to answer because many guitar teachers don’t even think about their own teaching skills. Many guitar teachers only think about their own guitar skills. Ask this question to a few teachers and you’ll probably be shocked
Asking this question is a good way to check how much the teacher thinks about their own teaching abilities and how much they understand about what it means to be a good teacher.
This is an important question to ask because teaching skills are more important than guitar skills. An amazing guitarist can still be a bad teacher, but a great teacher will always be a great teacher regardless of their guitar skills.
Guitar teachers who recognize that it’s their teaching skills that matter most will spend time and effort trying to improve their teaching abilities. They might do this by regularly reading teaching books, taking courses/workshops on teaching, reading studies from academic sources, or they may even study teaching formally.
If a teacher doesn’t recognize that their teaching skills are important, they will probably talk about how they practice their guitar skills or they will talk about how great their students are. This is a red flag as it means the teacher doesn’t understand what it means to be a good teacher.
Here is a good example of a teacher answering this question:
I know my teaching abilities are important, so I regularly read books on teaching methods and strategies. I also read books on the learning process and how we learn so I can make sure I teach in a way that fits with how students learn.
I actually just finished reading a book called Make it Stick and have been taking the ideas from the book into my lessons to help students memorize licks faster.
If you get a response anything like the above example, you’ve found a great teacher. If a guitar teacher is passionate enough to read through dry teaching books (believe me, they’re often very dry and dense), that means the teacher cares about their student’s development.
A guitar teacher who actively works on trying to improve their teaching abilities will be a great teacher to stick with.
Here is an example of a bad response from a teacher:
I have 20 years experience and have built my teaching up to a very high level. I’ve taught thousands of students over the years with great results. My students love my lessons and they’ve achieved great things.
This answer completely evades the question. If a teacher talks about past experience or how much their students enjoy their lessons, that’s a bad response. It’s a sign that the teacher doesn’t feel like they need to improve themselves or that they don’t understand that mere experience isn’t enough.
Having 20 years experience doesn’t automatically mean they’re a great teacher. Do they really have 20 years experience? Or do they have 1 year’s experience, repeated 20 times over?
What type of students aren’t a good fit for your teaching style?
This is a trick question to see how honest the teacher is. Every teacher has strengths and weaknesses. Nobody likes to admit any weaknesses, but it’s important to know where your teacher’s weak areas are.
If a teacher says that they can teach anybody and everybody is a good fit, RUN AWAY! That’s a lie and you shouldn’t trust a teacher who thinks they can teach anybody.
For example, I don’t teach classical, jazz, fusion, country, or similar styles because I don’t listen to that music. Students wanting to learn those styles aren’t a good fit for my lessons. I shouldn’t even try to teach students wanting to learn those styles. Yet there are countless teachers who claim they can teach any style to any student. Nobody is an expert in every style, so avoid any teacher who thinks they’re a perfect fit for everybody.
Here is an example of a good response from a teacher:
I teach metal, rock, blues and similar styles, so students who aren’t interested in those styles probably aren’t a good fit for my lessons. For students who want to play in bands, jam along with other guitarists, or write their own music, I’m a good fit. For students who want to study music formally, take exams and get a degree, I’m not a good fit.
I also don’t teach children
becauseI prefer teaching teens and adults.
This is a good response because the teacher is honest. You know immediately from the answer whether the teacher is a good fit for you or not. The teacher is honest enough to point out their weak areas, so you can feel confident that you’ll get honest lessons.
Here is an example of a bad response:
I can teach all styles, across all ability levels. I’ve taught students as young as 6 and as old as 80. Whatever you want to learn, I can help you.
Nobody can teach all styles across all ability levels. Any teacher who says this is lying or is fooling themselves. If a teacher isn’t honest enough to tell you what their weak areas are, don’t take lessons with them.
My Answers to These Questions
If you’re interested in taking lessons with me, I’ll save you the hassle and answer these questions now. Hopefully, my answers give you an idea of whether I’m a good fit for you or not. If you have more questions, contact me here.
What do you know about [bands you listen to]?
You can find out about the music I listen to here. My favorite bands and guitarists include Metallica, Dream Theater, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Symphony X, and similar metal/rock bands.
How do you work on improving yourself as a teacher?
It’s probably no surprise that I do strongly believe that for a teacher, teaching skills are more important than actual guitar skills.
I dedicate time each week to work on my teaching skills and knowledge. I read books on teaching methodologies and psychology to try and improve my understanding of the learning process.
I also train other guitar teachers and coach them on teaching methods. Guitar teachers regularly ask me for advice with their students. This helps add to my experience and knowledge as a teacher.
What type of students aren’t a good fit for your teaching style?
As a guitarist, I enjoy jamming along to the music I listen to, writing my own songs, and jamming with other musicians. If that appeals to you, that’s a sign we might be a good fit. If you also listen to similar music as I do (as mentioned above), that’s also a good sign we’re a good fit.
If you listen to different music or you’re interested in taking exams and studying music formally, then we’re probably not a good fit. I have never been interested in taking exams to ‘assess’ my guitar playing. So if that’s something that you’re interested in, I’m not the right teacher for you.
I’m not a good fit for absolute beginners, because I don’t enjoy teaching the absolute basics to students. I enjoy teaching intermediate students as that’s when the topics start to get interesting. So if you’re brand new to guitar, I’m not the right teacher for you.
I also don’t teach children or young teenagers. I prefer teaching older teens and adults because older students tend to have a different mindset.
If you’re still interested in taking lessons with me, find out how my Skype Guitar Lessons work here.