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Understanding the most common wants and needs of guitar students

Already in this series on making money teaching guitar, we have looked into identifying your local competitors so you can position yourself best around them, and offer a service unrivalled. We have looked into the tactics you should adopt to enable yourself to establish your brand as the go-to place for guitar lessons in your town or city. As well as this I have shared with you the story of my first guitar student, and the lessons learnt in growing a business from an idea in my head, to a successful Brighton based guitar tuition service.

I hope by this point you have got an idea for how running a successful guitar teaching service is about a multitude of things including; persistence, overcoming obstacles, being a source of authority in your industry, planning, patience and delivering beyond all of your competitors.


Learn how to make money teaching guitar

In this post I want to share with you the common approaches to teaching guitar based on the hundreds of different guitarists that have approached me in the years I have been a guitar tutor.

Understanding the different types of guitarist that will approach you is a great bit knowledge to have, as it allows you to best prepare for when the phone rings or the emails start coming in. If you already have a framework of how to approach the common types of customer then you can easily tailor the ‘model’ to suit the individual.

In recent years I have found out that the different types of customers have goals that can be put into the following categories:

Songwriter Player – performing songwriter and personal enjoyment player

Theory-Led Player – preparation for music school and deeper understanding player

Existing Artist wanting to Learn Guitar – Singer turns guitarist

So lets have a look at how to approach the most common player you may find yourself faced with.

Performing Artist Student

It is becoming more and more common for guitarists to emerge with goals inspired by talent shows such as Xfactor. These students  can often be very driven and get creative with a small piece of knowledge taught to them. Your job as the guitar teacher to this type of player, should be to fully understand the style of music that makes them want to play. Understanding the music that inspires them includes, being able to play the song in its entirety and being able to explain the common chord progressions found in their music. Also, being able to explain the strumming and to be able to teach any additional techniques found in the music, such as hammer-ons and pull-offs, slides, trills – the stylistic traits which make the songwriters’ guitar style.

Inspiring Guitarists Across the Globe

The great thing about this type of student is that you can get really into a player’s style and you will find it very similar to another guitarist you may have been studying for another student. For example if you had been studying John Mayer’s style and you needed to learn to play in the style of BB King, you would soon see the stylistic traits cross over. My main point here, is that you should always use your previous knowledge of a player to make the next project easier.

Simple Songs for Personal Enjoyment 

Many players want to play along to chart music which may or may not include a guitar track on the recording. Teaching players who just want to play songs that are very achievable to learn, are usually a pleasure teach as their expectation is to have fun, and that’s what its all about!

From my experience, these player’s usually have the best results from learning beginner songs, understanding the chords that work together in open position and learning how to incorporate the capo to open up a lifetime of new songs with little effort. You have to gauge how much enjoyment they get out of sticking to the capo system of playing guitar. If you feel they need to break out of the capo system then it is your job to introduce the CAGED system and consider the additional scale knowledge to accompany the new chords.

It is also very important to remember that you want to push the player in the direction you feel is best, but you also have to notice if the player stops having fun when you introduce new content or take them in a different direction.

Theory-Led Player

It is less common to get a student that wishes to solely study theory, but it does happen! More commonly you will find you get a student that wants to understand theory applied to the guitar. This entails teaching a concept and having a long-term plan for your student rather than the more relaxed approach which you can adopt with a player wanting to learn simple songs.

Quite like the two different types of student mentioned above who can be approached in a similar way, theory-led players also have different goals. In my experience, you get players who have recognised that they have ‘blank’ spots in their understanding of the theory behind the guitar, which they want to address before embarking on studying guitar at a music school. I have also seen many players who are just keen on pushing their understanding beyond the restraints of the open chord songwriter style of playing, ‘box-bound’ lead player or trial and error solo approach.

Preparation for music school

Helping a guitarist prepare for an audition for a music school is a great responsibility with the chance for you to make a huge impact on someones playing forever. I have handled many students who’s goal is simply to be best prepared for the big audition day. Luckily I am very equipped with the knowledge they need, as I spent three years at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music and understand exactly what qualities and knowledge music schools are looking out for.

If you have not studied at a music school, do not fear as I have outlined the fundamental requirements below, and I am more than happy to discuss this with you further if you contact me.

– Rhythm ability – player must be able to have a grasp of strumming and be able to follow simple strumming patterns by ear.

– Understand the CAGED concept and be able to play major and minor pentatonic scales with accompanying chords.

– Have a firm grasp on playing in time

– Basic improvisational skills

You need to identify the weaknesses and have a very structured learning plan for this type of students, as they may have a short space of time for intensive study.

Players who strive for a ‘deeper understanding’ of the guitar

I estimate about 20% of my students come to me with a goal to have a deeper understanding of the instrument for their own personal pleasure. These players’ are usually driven by processes and the logical theories underpinning the guitar. I have found that these players are ‘customers’ for life’ as there is always more for them to learn. That being said, you should aim for your students to eventually be able to guide their own learning after you have made a significant impact on them.

Singer turning Guitarist

One of my great experiences as a guitar teacher was learning how to teach someone to play their own songs on the guitar. This may sound strange at first, but the idea here is simple. You may get approached by a performing singer who wants to learn to play the guitar parts for songs that they currently sing and perform. In 2009 I was approached by singer/actress Yana Gupta who wanted to do exactly this before taking on a tour across Asia without her backing band.

This is a particularly exciting direction for a student to take their learning in, as you will have a direct impact and get to see how they flourish as a singer and guitarist.

What are the common types of guitar student you have found? Do your clients fall into any of the categories mentioned in this article?

(Image credit to 401 (k) 2012, Azimo)

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