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How To Succeed At Teaching Guitar By Showing Your Students How To Practice

How To Succeed At Teaching Guitar By Showing Your Students How To Practice

by Tom Hess

One of the biggest challenges you can face when teaching guitar is teaching students who never seem to make any progress. Some guitar teachers would simply assume that the student is ‘slow’ or simply doesn’t ‘get it’. However, if you make this same assumption, you will never get great results for your students nor build a highly successful guitar teaching business.

The truth is, the majority of students learning guitar do not have very good playing skills, and will never improve them while taking guitar lessons with most guitar instructors. There is a wide range of reasons for why this occurs, however you can avoid this problem for YOUR guitar students by teaching them the one thing most teachers do not: ‘how to practice guitar’.

You can be a great teacher at everything else in your guitar lessons, but until your students fully understand how to properly practice guitar they will never really be able to reach high levels in their guitar playing. In fact, they could stay with you for years at a time and never make any real progress. It is for this reason that you MUST show your guitar students how to practice and take this subject very seriously.

Once you can effectively train your students to practice guitar you will enable them to play guitar in the way that they always wanted. On top of that, you will create a name for yourself in your local community and build a great reputation (helping you to quickly build your guitar teaching business).

Now, before I reveal the most effective ways for teaching your students to practice guitar, it is crucial that you assess your own guitar teaching skills. Assess your current ability to get results with your guitar teaching methods by taking this test on how to teach guitar students to practice.

Why Guitar Students Have No Clue About How To Practice

Reason 1: Almost all guitar teachers spend the majority of their time teaching various new techniques, licks or other ideas while spending little or no time actually showing their guitar students how to practice. In general, guitar teachers are under the assumption that they need to constantly show their students new things each lesson. They treat guitar practice as something that is not really worthy of discussion and usually just assume that the student will simply ‘know’ how to do this on their own.

Reason 2: Some guitar instructors do put ‘some’ effort to show their students how to practice guitar, but this effort comes in the form of a very short instruction (that the student quickly forgets). Take the following for example: While showing students how to play clean and articulated arpeggios, it is common for the student to struggle to separate one note from the other without ringing together. In many cases, the guitar teacher will advise the student to make sure not to allow the different notes to ring at the same time when they practice on their own in between lessons. They may even demonstrate how this is done a few times before the lesson is over. Unfortunately, this does not truly help the guitar student in a way that ‘sticks’ and the student ends up committing the same mistakes over again during the following entire week of practicing. When the next lesson comes, the problem is still there – but why? Why is it that many guitar students continue making the same mistakes while practicing even after being told/shown otherwise? Here are the reasons:

a) The student has already forgotten the main cause of the problem and continued to unknowingly play while making the same mistake over and over.
b) Some students will ‘think’ that they understood what you were explaining, but really did not understand. This results in them spending the whole week practicing incorrectly.
c) Occasionally, your guitar student will remember what causes the mistake but will forget how to correct it.

Because of these things, you will need to waste time going over what the student was supposed to have learned the previous week once again. This guitar teaching method totally fails for the following reasons:

1. The student doesn’t have enough time to truly absorb the process for practicing guitar effectively.
2. During the lesson, your students might think they know what needs to get done to practice effectively, but when they get home and pick up their guitar; they practice incorrectly or forget.
3. You never check to assure that your guitar students are practicing properly because you have never actually observed the way that they practice. Watching your students ‘practice’ is different than just listening to them play. When you hear them play, you hear the ‘end result’, but you don’t actually see the process they used in order to produce it.

Reason 3: In most cases, guitar teachers give their students very generalized practice advice as it applies to ‘anything’ on guitar. On the other hand, expert guitar teachers show their students many specific strategies for guitar practice based upon the students’ musical goals AND the specific challenges they are facing in their playing. This helps the student to make improvements and advance his/her guitar playing more easily than the student who only received ‘general’ advice on how to practice guitar.

Here Are The Solutions That You Must Use

Now that you have better comprehension of why it is essential to show your guitar students HOW to practice and you have seen how traditional guitar teaching approaches fail, here are some solutions you can use to avoid the mistakes discussed above:

Solution Number 1. When you teach your guitar students something new, spend a significant amount of time (about a quarter of the lesson) showing them how to practice it. Do not show them a ton of new stuff without helping them learn how to actually practice it.

Solution Number 2. Don’t make the same mistake that so many mediocre guitar teachers make by repeatedly asking your students to ‘play’ something several times so that you can observe what they are doing and ‘make corrections’. Truly successful guitar teachers have their students show them how they PRACTICED the material from the previous week so that they can see the root cause of any playing issues. Next, the guitar teacher will show the student in real time (as they are practicing) what needs to be fixed. This way the student gets the experience of correcting the mistake for himself/herself. When your guitar students can correct their own mistakes, they will quickly begin to make progress in their playing.

Solution Number 3. Don’t give in whenever one of your guitar students tries to blow off the guitar practice section of their lesson. In many cases, students will tell you that they “Got it” when in fact, they really might not “Get it”. Remember, it is absolutely crucial for them to learn how to practice guitar correctly in order to get results. In situations when you can sense that your student is trying to rush through practice in order to learn something “new”, remind them that they will get better at a much faster pace once they can practice guitar effectively.

Solution Number 4. Don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions for your students. You are the expert for guitar, so naturally you will understand exactly why something doesn’t sound right, or what needs to be done in order to fix this or that issue. However, your students are NOT  experts. You must show them precisely what to look and listen for when they practice guitar so that they do not forget. Additionally, write all of this information down for them so that when they get home they can easily identify all important steps and instructions.

Solution Number 5. You must both SHOW your guitar students how to practice and WATCH them do it in front of you. Don’t make the mistake of expecting them to remember how to practice based on your words alone. Some guitar teachers feel uncomfortable with spending so much time having their students practice during the lesson rather than learn ‘new things’. If you have the same mindset, think about this: In the end, your guitar students really only want a great result from you when they come to you for lessons. Understanding how to properly practice guitar is a crucial part of getting great results and advancing on guitar. If the student goes home and practices improperly, then they essentially will have wasted an entire week’s worth of time, energy and money. This will only frustrate them as they make little to no progress only to repeat the same cycle again next week when they come back to relearn what they were supposed to learn last week. This is why you must make it your number one purpose to get your guitar students to practice properly and get the result they came to you for.

Now that you have read the information in this article, here is what you should do next:

1. Measure your current guitar teaching effectiveness using this test about how to teach guitar students to practice.
2. Make it a priority for all of your guitar students to fully understand why knowing how to practice guitar effectively will get them the results they desire (in much less time).
3. Actively use the information in this article to teach your guitar students. Don’t just acknowledge the ideas, USE them! :)

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar teacher, composer and the guitarist of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He also trains guitar teachers how to develop their guitar teaching instruction methods. Get guitar teacher ideas, guitar teacher skills tests and free guitar teaching resources on his instruction website.

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