If you thought about starting to teach guitar, you have probably felt apprehensions about getting started such as these:

•You don’t really know what you must do (and avoid doing) in order to successfully teach guitar as a career.
•You do not have highly effective teaching systems in place that will make it easy to get results for your students.
•You get nervous thinking about possible situations when you might be unsure about how to explain something to your guitar students.
•You aren't sure if you are ready to begin teaching guitar “now”.

If you can identify with the points above, you are not alone. It is very common for almost all beginning guitar teachers to have the same concerns as you. In fact, even long time guitar teachers will run into these problems if they have not made the effort to locate someone who has already been highly successful as a guitar teacher (and can show them what they are doing wrong). In most cases, these people will teach guitar for years without ever truly making significant improvement in their guitar teaching skills.
Here are 11 common guitar teaching mistakes that less experienced teachers make. If you can stay away from these, you will be well on your way to becoming a highly successful guitar teacher.

Mistake #1: Not focusing on the student’s goals for guitar.

A lot of guitar teachers make the mistake of teaching guitar lessons in a totally improvised manner when it comes to the content of each lesson. Teachers like this do not take the time to plan out what they will be teaching or why they are teaching it to their students. Often they will simply decide the day’s topic based on whatever the student brings up in the first few minutes of the lesson. This can cause many problems because such teaching approach as a whole lacks any direction, and the student’s goals as a guitar player are not likely to be achieved.

Some guitar teachers try doing the opposite. This means that they plan out everything from the start. This is a problem, because if you plan everything out before getting actual experience with teaching guitar, you will be more likely to miss out on subtle problems that arise from the unique needs of your guitar students.

The most effective guitar teaching approach will use a balance of both of these extremes, and as a result will help your guitar students progress much faster.

Mistake #2: Not working to combine a student’s ‘wants’ with his or her ‘needs’.

Most teachers approach guitar teaching from these perspectives separately:

1.Focusing on what a guitar student WANTS.
2.Focusing on what a guitar student NEEDS.

The mistake in this is that guitar teachers are stuck on one extreme, while neglecting the other. If you teach guitar using the first approach (teaching only what the student wants), you will soon find that this approach doesn’t work. Many guitar teachers understand that what a student says he ‘wants’ is not always the same as what he needs. That said, it is much better to teach a guitar student what they ‘need’ than what they ‘want’. However, in order to truly help your guitar students improve, you must balance out both approaches.

The greatest guitar teaching approach is to focus on the students’ goals, while also showing him/her that what they ‘need’ is the same as what they ‘want’. You must consistently keep track of their goals, and then show them what they must do to achieve those goals (while also explaining how these things work together). By doing this, you will help your guitar students gain motivation because they understand that they will be enjoying themselves throughout the learning process. This will help your students stay on track and reach their goals.

Mistake #3: Not helping your guitar students apply new guitar ideas.

It is easy to tell which guitar teachers are highly successful, and which are not highly successful. How? By looking at the students they teach. For many guitar teachers, it is common that their students have learned a lot of information, but can’t actually play guitar well, create nice guitar solos, make songs, or express themselves with music. One of the biggest errors that guitar teachers commit is not showing their students how to APPLY the things they learn.

It is very common to see a guitar teacher who spends a lot of time showing new things to students rather than helping them to apply what they have already learned. In the end, this produces guitar students who can tell you about a bunch of guitar stuff, but in reality can’t do very much with this information.

Sometimes you will get students who ask you to show them new things on guitar. However, do not feel rushed to be continuously providing new information for them. It is best to make sure that they know how to apply what they have already learned, so that they can use it in real music.

Mistake #4: Being either too ‘easy going’ or too ‘strict’ with your guitar students.

Your guitar students all have different levels of experience playing the guitar, specific learning styles, and unique musical goals. On top of that, your students all have varying levels of confidence and emotional needs. Some guitar teachers do not put enough effort into teaching their students how to play things correctly from the beginning because they want to avoid ‘pushing’ the student too hard. This ends up being a mistake in the long run as it causes problems to reappear for the student over time (because they were not dealt with properly to begin with).

Other guitar teachers will approach teaching from the other side of the spectrum. These teachers will teach their guitar students in a strict manner that fails to address the student’s unique concerns in their own guitar playing or self confidence. This is a big mistake because it disconnects the teacher from the student on an emotional level.

The most successful guitar teachers have the ability to merge ideas together. It should be your goal to fix all of your students’ bad habits as time goes on. To do this you must prioritize the more urgent ones that need to be taken care of first. The most important problems to fix are the ones that can lead to any kind of physical injury. After this, focus on your guitar student’s picking hand (Often guitar players zone out on their picking hand in everyday playing situations, and will be oblivious to any bad habits).

Mistake #5: Not expecting your guitar students to give their best effort (or at least try).

There are some students who will always give a lot of effort to practice and learn, but most will not unless you tell them to. Why does this happen? The answer: Most of your guitar students will be unfamiliar with what it takes to be productive and make progress on guitar. Many of these people also are not totally motivated to practice guitar. This lack of motivation comes from not fully understanding how guitar practice is actually FUN. The reason it should be fun is because it is bringing them closer to reaching their music goals.

The greatest guitar instructors will let their students know that they expect a certain amount of effort, and will help the student to understand why this works to benefit them. In addition, it is important not to have the same expectations for every one of your students. Remember that each student has his or her own unique needs as a guitar player.

Mistake #6: Focusing on teaching too many ideas at once.

A lot of guitar teachers teach way too many new things to their students during their guitar lessons. These teachers feel that they must constantly be giving their students new material to work on for guitar. In reality, this approach is very counterproductive. It is vital that your guitar students learn how to USE what they know on guitar. Here are the reasons why many guitar teachers tend to ‘over teach’ their students:
Reason 1 – They feel uncomfortable giving guitar instruction and focuses on demonstrating new ideas each lesson in order to compensate for their lack of teaching skills.

Reason 2 – They try to copy other local guitar instructors because they think it will help them become more successful.

Reason 3 – The teacher wants to please students who express that they are ready to ‘move on’. Truth is, even when a student says this, nine times out of ten…they are not ready!

The greatest teaching approach is one that helps your guitar students to effectively learn how to apply what you show them. The key is to train your new students to use what they learn, so that they do not become overwhelmed with excess ‘facts’ that they can’t really use.

Mistake #7: Not knowing what to do when your guitar students don’t understand after you’ve explained something several times.

Less experienced guitar teachers typically do not know how to explain new concepts to students in more than one way. These teachers will run into additional problems as well because they are more prone to using their own style of learning to teach their students. This only leads to more problems in communication.

The greatest guitar teachers seek to find out the best way to communicate with their students by understanding HOW they learn. Some students learn well by seeing you play on guitar (visual), some by listening to you play (audio), and some by picking up the guitar and playing it for themselves (kinesthetic/touch). In order to best take advantage of each of your students’ unique learning styles, learn to use clear metaphors, analogies, charts, graphs, and hands on exercises.

Over time you will make improvements in this aspect of your guitar teaching. To learn to do this more quickly, study with someone who can train you to teach guitar more effectively.

Mistake #8: Not knowing that your guitar students don’t always need you to be a ‘teacher’.

The majority of guitar teachers out there only think of themselves as teachers. This means that they are locked in a mindset of merely explaining and reviewing materials with their students (much like a school teacher). Although you are thought of by prospective students as a guitar teacher, you will need to do more than simply ‘teach’ your students.

To become a great guitar teacher, you will need to learn what the difference is between ‘teaching’ your guitar students and ‘training’ your guitar students. The reality is that the majority of people will need to be trained about as much or more than they need to be taught. What you need to do is invest more time into helping your guitar students PLAY things on guitar, rather than just teaching them new ideas or going over old ideas with review. Take your students through this one step at a time. Don’t let them know the order of the steps, or that you are even taking them through these steps. At some point they will probably tell you that they ‘already understand’ what you are teaching. However, most of the people who say this do not understand! So by teaching guitar in this manner you will save a lot of time for you and your students by training them properly from the beginning. Do this at all times.

Mistake #9: Not keeping track of how long people remain as your guitar students.

Many guitar instructors figure that the amount of students they are currently teaching is equal to the amount of success in their guitar teaching business. The truth is, the amount of students you teach does not directly relate to your level of success as a guitar teacher (I currently teach 100+ guitar students, but on its own, this fact does not mean that I am a great teacher). In order to properly gauge your success teaching guitar, you must take various other things into account. One of these things is observing how long each of your students stays with you (this is called your ‘retention rate’). If your guitar students only stay with you for a few months, there is a lot of room for improvement. Essentially, your goal should be to keep your guitar students coming back for years.

Keep in mind that not every single one of your students needs to stay with you for years. Some of the students you teach will have specific guitar goals that can be achieved in only weeks or months. Helping your guitar students to become successful at achieving their goals is the true definition of success as a guitar teacher. At times this can be hard to gauge when your student’s goals are less specific or require a very long time to reach. Make sure to observe how long your students are staying with you, why your (past) students have left, and why the ones who are still with you are happy with the way you teach them. In addition, remember to take action with this information and implement changes as needed!

Mistake #10: Not being able to accurately judge the quality of your own guitar teaching.

The majority of guitar teachers have no reliable manner for determining if they are good at teaching guitar. Here are the main reasons why this happens:

1. When guitar teachers try to measure their teaching skills, they most often look at what other guitar teachers are doing in their local area. Unfortunately, this is not a good method of comparison because most teachers are not highly successful. This means that comparing yourself to the guitar teachers around you will generally only provide you with a mediocre standard at best.

2. Generally speaking, electric guitar lessons are not thought of as highly as other music lessons such as piano or voice training. This is why you see (for example) piano instructors who keep their students for several years while guitar teachers have a hard time keeping them for months at a time.

3. There are very few guitar teachers who actually seek out professional training to improve their guitar teaching skills and build their guitar teaching business. Many guitar teachers will ask for advice from other guitar teachers who are also not really successful, but this often leads to few results, since these teachers do not have any proven methods. This leads many guitar teachers down a path of experimenting with various different approaches to teaching guitar. Unfortunately, this puts your guitar students into a frustrating position where they may not get what they are looking for out of guitar lessons with you.

Mistake #11: Not taking full responsibility for the quality of your guitar instruction.

The truth is, most guitar teachers do little to nothing to increase the value they give to their students. Many teachers reach a point when they simply stop trying to improve, and only do what is necessary to ‘get by’. Unfortunately, this can have very negative effects on your guitar students. There is no good reason why a student should pay for lesson when the person teaching them to play guitar does not look for ways to train and improve their guitar teaching skills.

Of course, it is not necessary to be a master at guitar teaching before you even begin, but in order to give your very best to your students (and yourself), it is essential to put in the effort to get trained, coached, and mentored so that you can reach your full potential. Once you have done this, you will be able to know for sure that you are giving your students the absolute best lessons you can give.

All of the most successful guitar teachers started off in the spot you are in right now. The vast majority of these teachers made it by finding a mentor who could show them what it takes to overcome any obstacles in their way. These types of teachers are the ones who take consistent action to help their students achieve their goals. These teachers mostly have filled schedules (and waiting lists) full of guitar students, a big name in their city, and live a great life doing what they love every day… You have the EXACT same potential to make choices that will greatly benefit you in your business! Take action right now to make your career as a guitar teacher more successful with this free 7 day mini course that will help you to how to become an excellent guitar teacher.

Author's Bio: 

Tom Hess is an electric guitar teacher online, recording artist and the guitar player. He trains guitar teachers from around the world on how to build their guitar teaching businesses in his guitar teacher coaching program. Visit his website to receive many free resources for teaching guitar lessons, and to read more articles about teaching guitar.