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Knowing when your student needs to come out of the comfort zone and tackle new things in order to progress.

Growing your student from that initial spark of interest, to a blazing guitarist is the ultimate challenge and sign of success as a guitar tutor. Sometimes as a guitar teacher you are faced with a student who after showing great improvements in the early days, hits a wall and has entered into a comfort zone, and will not tackle new things in order to progress.

“A boy comes to me with a spark of interest, I feed that spark and in becomes a flame, I feed the flame and it becomes a fire, I fed the fire and it becomes a roaring blaze.” – Cus D’Amato

It can be very frustrating to see a promising player ‘hit the wall’, but it is a great challenge to overcome it and introduce them into new and exciting areas that the instrument has to offer.

Growing Your Student’s Success is About Reading Body Language

Here are a few things to bear in mind as you attempt to tackle that stage of a guitar player’s life:

– The balance between having fun, and taking on new challenges where it may initially be a lot of hard work for the student.

– Recognising when your student is not having fun and making the lessons as fun as they were when you started teaching the student.

– Keeping in mind what the particular student wants from the guitar. Not all players want to play to a world-class standard.

The Scenario

So you started teaching your student one year ago, at the time he only knew his open chords but couldn’t comfortably move between them in order to play along to his favourite songs. By three months in you had him moving between the chords so he could play along to some of his favourite acoustic sing-alongs. His feel wasn’t great, but you were working on it. By 6 months in his feel was getting better and you felt pretty happy with the progress he was making. By one year of having lessons every week, missing the odd lesson every couple of months you are thinking “where do I go from here”. This is completely normal and can be handled if you have a plan. When we are teaching a variety of different students on a weekly basis it can be hard to monitor the progress and plan ahead, but it is really important to do this if you want to maintain the integrity you had when you were teaching just a handful of students in the early days of your teaching business.

The Solution

You need to think about the logical next steps and plan accordingly. This means that you need to put in some extra time outside of lessons but the good news is that the planning you do for this one student will be really helpful for another similar student that has this problem in the future. If your student is similar to the one I have mentioned above, could introduce them into new and interesting fills to use between the chord changes or how to use their picking hand fingers to get a variety of sounds for chord-based guitar playing? Could you introduce the idea of playing chords in different areas of the fretboard to get different sounds from the chords themselves? Have you explored the CAGED concept with the student? Does your student have any idea of relating scales to chords? My point is this, it is very easy to give your student just what they want and forget about progressing.

When I first had this experience with one of my students I started to make lesson plans and compiled them in a word document. After doing this for about 6 months I decided to write all of the content into a body of guitar concepts and theory applied directly to the guitar, and that was how my guitar ebooks where made.

This allowed me to dip into my pool of ideas when I felt a student was stagnating.

To level the tables however, I do have to mention the importance of reacting to how your student is feeling about a new direction you are taking your lessons in. If you have experimented with branching out of playing the chord in open position only, and your student is becoming increasingly unproductive and unenthusiastic about your lessons, then you need to make them fun again.

Strike a balance between lessons being easy and fun, and lessons being challenging and progressive. If you understand your student’s goals for the guitar then you can know how far to stretch them.

Have you ever had a student who is stuck in a rut whilst having lessons with you? How did you handle it?

Image credit to public domain photos


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