Whether you are a full-time guitar player looking for a side hustle or simply passionate about helping other guitar players along in their journeys, teaching guitar is one of the most fulfilling things (in my opinion!) you can do! My students have truly become my friends and teaching has made me learn so many things on guitar I would have otherwise never thought about. When I first started this blog, it was actually because I wanted to be a guitar teacher, and teaching is how I got my start as a guitar player in different bands. Now I’m not teaching as many lessons in person because I have been busier with playing/ making online courses, but I plan to get back into it when things settle down a bit.
I got into teaching after a girl who goes to my church asked if I would give her acoustic lessons. At the time, I was not doing anything related to the music industry and was SO nervous! I kept picturing a moment when she would ask me a question and my mind would go blank and she would storm out of the lesson saying, “DO YOU EVEN PLAY GUITAR!!!” Thankfully, that didn’t happen (yay! My soul is not crushed!) and it actually taught me a lot about how people learn.
Before we start, here are some pros and cons of teaching
1. You get to make new awesome friends and help them with guitar!
This is the biggest pro for me. There is no better feeling than when your students take what you worked on and get real life results. When someone comes back and tells you they played amazingly well at a show, played in front of friends for the first time, or got a new technique down that they’d formerly struggled with, it’s such a win!
2. You will learn a TON
Immediately upon teaching, I realized how many techniques I hadn’t considered doing differently! Having students ask challenging questions really got me thinking about how to play better. In the beginning of teaching, Google was my BFF and I found that having to learn things for my students made me learn a lot too.
3. Obviously, you’ll make money!
I didn’t charge very much in the beginning because I wasn’t very confident in my teaching skills, but once I started seeing students actually improve, I started charging more and it was an awesome supplement to my normal income!
1. Some students will not practice
This is the MOST frustrating! I had to sort of learn to let go of this though, and just do my part to work with them and practice during the lesson. Looking back, I think there are probably some things I could have done that would have helped people with different learning styles stay motivated, but it's important to remember that choosing to learn or practice is ultimately up to your students"
2. Lesson planning can take a lot of time
There are times when a student will send you something they want to learn and it stumps ya! This can also be a pro because yay learning, but sometimes I would spend a lot longer than the actual lesson beforehand planning everything out.
3. It’s not scalable
When you are teaching, it’s always X amount of your time = X much money. If you want to make a business out of it, keep in mind that anytime you go on vacation, are busy, or are sick, you won’t be able to still make money like other business types. This is obviously different if you decide to make an online course, but that’s a whole other can of worms!
Ok so if you have thought through the above and decided you want to give it a try, here’s how I recommend setting up your business!
Setting up your biz
Here’s the more practical side to becoming a guitar teacher.
I think it’s really great to write down your vision for why you are starting to do this; what age range/ style of student you would most like to attract, how much time you want to commit to this, and if you want to use any books/ supplies etc. If you are not a very plan-y person, this isn’t a must, but it really helped me when I decided to make a blog/ do marketing because I had a good idea of the exact type of student I wanted to teach!
I put all of my finances in a Google Doc and just update it at the end of every month. I was an entrepreneurship major in college, so this is my own simplified version! I also use Expensify to store all my receipts (just in case I ever get audited for taxes!). I take out 25% for taxes and 25% for emergency savings (this part isn’t a must!). I also have a separate bank account for all of my music finances because I feel like that makes everything clean and easy when you are trying to figure out money stuff. I use Venmo, Cash App, or take cash to accept payments from students. These apps are also nice because you can charge someone if they accidentally forget to pay you! :D
If you want my spreadsheet template I use for tracking all of this, you can download it here!
Okaaay now that all the boring stuff is over… moving on!
C. Lesson resources
You will need a place to store all your lesson resources like chord charts, tabs, notes, videos etc. I use Trello for all my lessons!
I make each student his or her own board (and always a fun background bc #inspo) and for each lesson a make a new “card.” I have attached all the documents they need in this card so it’s all nicely organized if they ever need to look back at anything. I was using Google Drive but I quickly ran out of space and it also felt really disorganized.
I send all videos (I just make them on my phone) to their emails through Mail Drop and just let them know they expire after 30 days (so get practicin’).
I also give my students these chord charts when they start with me! I made them so they’d look pretty, clean, and are organized. I honestly couldn’t find anything online that I loved and that felt comprehensive and clean so that’s why I made them! They also give students room to learn on their own and to use them as a resource to keep learning! You can download them here if you want to use them for your students or for your own personal use!
How students learn
Now we are really digging into it! I have read a lot of books on how adults learn and am actually in the process of re-doing my courses to make them more helpful. Here are my top tips for you to keep in mind!
1. Make it immediately applicable
People have a really hard time remembering conceptual things on guitar that don’t immediately apply (I am definitely this way!). On guitar, the easiest way to teach so your students can immediately apply what they’ve learned is by using songs. If they have an upcoming opportunity, even better! You can really drive into helping them feel really prepared for a real life opportunity that will be happening. When someone sees an immediate benefit that applies to their life, they are way more likely to stick with guitar!
2. Create a community
When students see other students in the same learning stage as they are, it can be really encouraging! For this reason, I LOVE group lessons! I have heard a lot of comments about group lessons not being as good because you don’t get the individual attention from a teacher. But in most cases, I think playing alongside other people and getting comfortable messing up in front of other people teaches students a lot about playing out/ with a band! Watching other people in your same stage of learning can help you take away little things that others are doing right and copy them. PLUS I used to serve margaritas and a snack (usually healthy cookies lol!) at my group lessons which made everything more fun!
3. You are the guide!
When I first started teaching, I would try to teach students anything they wanted to learn if they told me they wanted to learn it. However, after teaching for a bit, I realized that when you don’t know a lot about guitar, it’s easy to think certain things will make you way better at playing when in reality, you need to master something else first. For example, if a student wants to learn the modes on guitar so they can be better at soloing, but I see that their bends are a little pitchy, I might try to convince my student that working on bends may be more beneficial!
4. Be hands-on
Students get a lot more when they are going through a lick/song/technique with you, rather than you doing all the examples and telling them to go home and practice. I think it’s actually a lot better to have one small achievable goal of the lesson so it’s clear what they need to work on, and spend the lesson time doing different things with them to master that in the lesson.
Here are some of the things I have done in my most successful lessons!
This sounds so weird, but I promise it works! Have your student practice playing a song/solo standing up while you are sitting down and filming them (I just set up a tripod!). This is a great way to put some of the performance pressure on (in a safe and encouraging environment obvi!) and will help your student feel more confident playing on stage.
Master a certain artist’s technique
Learn a few licks/ techniques or an awesome guitarist and find a good example of a song that includes a few of them.
I have noticed that a lot of students will know scales and techniques conceptually, but need a chance to jam and feel safe messing up in real life. This can help them feel more confident soloing on the spots and give them experience thinking creatively on the spot. So just choose a key, and maybe a scale (or whatever you are teaching) and jam away!
If your student wants to do studio work or perform in more professional settings (or a lot of churches), playing with them to a click can be really helpful. Sometimes playing to a click can honestly feel a bit boring a home, so having someone to practice with them can be a good way to build this skill.
Overall, if you were to just give students really practical things to practice and did those things along with them, they would start seeing changes and improvements in their playing! If you are feeling scared at all or thinking you aren’t good enough to be a teacher, just know you are already ready! Sometimes having a teacher who has recently been in your shoes can be even more helpful. If you have a willingness to learn things for your students, I know you are going to be an amazing teacher and will make a huge impact in your students’ lives!
Thank you tons for reading and I would love to hear your comments or anything that’s helped you with teaching below! You are gonna kill it!