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Why So Many ‘Conventional’ Guitar Teaching Ideas Don’t Work

Tom HessAs a guitar teacher, you have great potential to succeed and make a very good living. However, the truth is most people do ‘not’ become successful with their guitar teaching businesses and end up working other non-musical jobs. Here are some shocking facts about most teachers that you might not know:

1. The majority of guitar teachers do not make enough money to make ends meet.

2. Most of these same guitar teachers have never helped any students to become GREAT guitar players.

3. Guitar teachers frequently report working excessive hours while making little pay.

With this in mind, consider the difference between the above group of unsuccessful guitar teachers and the very small group of highly successful guitar teachers (making up the top 1%). These successful guitar teachers:

1. Take home a total of $100k or more each year from guitar teaching alone.

2. Have strategic systems in place to quickly transform their students into great guitar players.

3. Are highly motivated and have plenty of extra time, energy and resources to invest into the improvement of their guitar teaching businesses.

4. Commonly do not work full time hours each week (they work much less).

At first, most people are shocked to hear about the above points. As someone who has trained countless people to develop successful guitar teaching businesses (by joining the elite top 1% club), I know all of these things to be true.

Additionally, the majority of guitar teachers out there do not fail because they are necessarily ‘bad’ at teaching guitar. Instead, they fail because they believe in the ‘common knowledge’ they have heard being perpetuated by other unsuccessful guitar teachers. These approaches seem rational at first glance, but in fact are highly damaging for your guitar teaching business in many ways.

Here are seven commonly accepted guitar teaching approaches that guarantee failure:

1. Charging Less For Lessons In Attempt To Gain More Students

Many guitar teachers think that charging less money for lessons is a great way to attract many new guitar students. They think that guitar students will rush to sign up for lessons because the other competitors in their local area are too expensive for them. You might think that this would help you stand out from the competition in a positive way. However, in reality it is totally the opposite. Here’s why charging cheap rates will lead you to failure:

  • By charging much less for your lessons, you are giving the ‘wrong’ signal to serious prospective guitar students. The truth is, many students will see that you are very cheap and assume that it is because you are not very good or are new to teaching guitar. In response, these (serious) students will ignore you and look for a different teacher who can get them the results they want in less time (even if that teacher is more expensive ‘per lesson’). Fact is, most people believe in the old saying “you get what you pay for”.
  • When you start teaching guitar while charging very cheap rates, your students will see this and think that all guitar teachers are the same (except for the price they charge for lessons). This (of course) is totally false. However, you must take this into consideration when determining your lesson rates. If you charge cheap rates from the beginning, it will only be more difficult to raise them in the future after you have conditioned your students to think that all teachers are the same.
  • When you gain new guitar students who were only looking for the ‘cheapest’ teacher, they will take lessons with you much less seriously. You will quickly find that these types of students do not practice or put out much effort because they do not feel like they are getting much value in return (based on how much they are spending). The more a student has to spend for lessons, the more seriously they will take it.

All of these issues will combine together to weigh you down and keep you from ever making good money teaching guitar.

To keep these things from ruining your guitar teaching business, charge at least the average lesson cost in your local area (regardless of your current teaching experience). Next, work on becoming a great teacher and turning your students into highly skilled guitar players. Once you can successfully do this, you can easily justify charging much more than your competitors. Learn how to become the most successful guitar teacher in your area by working with a mentor to become a better guitar teacher.

2. ‘Only’ Focusing On Attracting New Guitar Students

When you first begin teaching guitar, you obviously need to find new students. With this in mind, it is easy for most guitar teachers to ‘only’ think about attracting new students while ignoring all other aspects of their guitar teaching business. This approach will present you with these problems:

  • Since you do not have a solid strategy for ‘keeping’ your students, you must invest countless hours into your promotional efforts due to the fact that the new students you gain only replace the ones you lost.
  • You will only make slow progress at best to build your guitar teaching business (even if you get more new students than you lose current ones). However, you can achieve much faster growth by working in several different areas simultaneously, such as: student retention, student referrals and converting potential students into actual students.

Following this approach WILL prevent you from making a lot of money through guitar teaching (especially during difficult economic times)

Fortunately, you can avoid these problems by making an effort to consistently improve in ALL areas of your guitar teaching business. By doing this, your business will improve exponentially and the amount of effort needed for major growth with decrease over time.

3. Letting Your Guitar Students Tell You What They Need To Learn

Most guitar teachers make the mistake of assuming that it is up to the student to tell the teacher what they need to learn each lesson. This assumption is totally wrong and makes no sense at all. Your guitar students (for the most part) have absolutely no idea what they need to learn in order to reach their musical goals. If they did know, why would they come to you for guitar lessons? …They wouldn’t of course. YOU must decide what your students need to learn in order to achieve their musical goals. To do this you must perform two simple steps: First, learn their long terms goals. Second, design a specific strategy for them based around these goals while also helping them to understand how what you will teach them IS in their best interest.

If you continually allow your students to tell you what they need to learn, they will NOT make any significant progress. The most they can achieve with this approach is a decent understanding of various isolated ideas… but they will not become ‘great musicians’. In fact, this approach will cause many of your guitar students to leave when they are unsatisfied with the lack of results they are getting.

In addition, not being able to effectively get results for your students will affect your reputation in a very negative way. Once you develop a bad reputation as a guitar teacher in your area, you will essentially be left with two options: Quit teaching guitar or find a new location to teach in.

4. Making Changes To Your Guitar Teaching Business Based Only On What Other Local Teachers Are Doing

As a new guitar teacher, you will naturally be inclined to look at what your competitors are doing and try to use this information to build your guitar teaching business. However, as you read earlier in this article, the overwhelming majority of guitar teachers are unsuccessful. With this in mind, it makes no sense for you to try to copy the same things they are doing.

Rather than doing this, you should find a tight group of successful guitar teachers who are willing to share their insights with you. Of course, you will not be able to find such a group in your local area (obviously your competitors are not going to share their ideas with you). To find a network of successful guitar teachers who are willing to discuss their secrets with you, you will need to contact teachers who are ‘not’ living in the same area as you.

The guitar teachers who have joined my online guitar teacher program are all part of a solid network of successful music instructors who have grown highly profitable music instruction businesses all around the world.

5. Not Enforcing Your Lesson Policies

Most guitar teachers who are new have a fear that enforcing their lesson policies will cause them to lose their students. The truth is, this may help you retain a few students for a short period of time, but will be devastating for your guitar teaching business in the long term. Here is why:

A. By not enforcing your lesson policies, you will build up a student base full of non-serious students who will continually frustrate you by being late to lessons, not paying on time and not taking lessons seriously.

B. Once you are teaching mostly non-serious students, you will completely run out of energy to help your good students who really are serious and motivated to get better at guitar.

C. When you allow students to break your lesson policies, you will constantly have to deal with endless requests and complaints rather than actually helping your students become great guitar players. This means your students will not get the results they want, you will earn significantly less income, become frustrated and ultimately join the majority of unsuccessful guitar teachers I mentioned earlier.

Here is how you solve this issue: Remember, YOU are the teacher and YOU understand what is best for your guitar students. Create your lesson policy and expectations based on this understanding and make sure that your students know exactly why this policy will help them become much better players. If they do not comply, do not teach them (that’s right, refuse to work with them).

6. Becoming A Guitar Teacher At A Music Store

It is a very common belief among new guitar teachers that working at a music store is the best choice for making a good living because:

A. They do not have to find students by themselves. The music store does all the work.

B. They feel it is more professional to work from a music store instead of working out of their own home.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is why teaching guitar from a music store will cause you to fail:

  • It is simply not true that music stores will do all of the promotional work for you. In reality, they do not have a strong incentive to get students specifically for ‘you’. Instead, you will still need to attract guitar students on your own.
  • Additionally, you make less money when you work from a music store because you must give a large percentage of your earnings to the owner. This makes it more challenging to earn a good living as a guitar teacher.
  • To make things worse, music stores generally are very strict about the teaching formats they allow. In many cases, you are limited to teaching only private 1 on 1 lessons and not allowed to help your guitar students progress faster using other formats. This makes it harder to get big results for your students.
  • Since you can’t get great results for your students, it will be very difficult to develop the positive reputation needed to grow your guitar teaching business to the next level.

The most successful and highest earning guitar teachers never teach out of music stores. Instead, they run their own business and hire other guitar teachers to work for them. If you want to make a great living teaching guitar, you must treat it like a business and learn all you can in order to improve every aspect of it.

7. Not Marketing Your Guitar Lessons To A Specific Group Of Players

Contrary to popular belief, marketing yourself as a guitar teacher who teaches ‘all styles’ is NOT helpful for your teaching business.

Fact is, marketing yourself as a general guitar teacher will only appeal to students who don’t know what they want to learn. In most cases, these students will not be very serious about learning guitar. As a result, they will frequently not practice, stop taking guitar lessons without warning and will try to find ways around your lesson policies.

The truly great guitar students who are highly motivated, dedicated and loyal will never look for you if you market yourself as ‘teaching to all styles’. Why? Because they are searching for a teacher who is an expert on the specific style they want to learn.

It is crucial to understand that you will not be able to make a living as a guitar teacher if you have a schedule full of casual, non-serious students. These students will only cause you to waste time as you put up with endless lesson cancellations, missing payments and other issues. Even though these problems are only ‘partially’ related to the issue of marketing yourself to ‘all styles’, they are entirely CAUSED by it and will keep you from becoming financially successful as a guitar teacher.

With this in mind, you don’t want to become an expert for a style of music that no guitar student wants to learn. Nevertheless, you will see much more success by marketing yourself as the local ‘blues’ guitar expert (or ‘rock’, ‘metal’, ‘jazz’, etc.) instead of allowing yourself to blend in with your competitors as a teacher to ‘all styles’.

Most importantly, know that you must fill your guitar teaching schedule with the ‘right’ students if you want to make good money as a teacher. These students will quickly progress on guitar, study with you for years and help you expand your business by telling others about their positive experience.

Although this article does not contain every single reason why most guitar teachers fail to become successful, you now know why relying on the conventional guitar teaching ideas of the majority can be very dangerous for your success.

In order to become a highly successful guitar teacher, you will need to find a guitar teaching mentor who can help you avoid the common mistakes made by most teachers. Once you do this, you will quickly become the number one guitar teacher in your local area!


About The Author:
Tom Hess is an electric guitar teacher and the guitar player for the epic metal band Rhapsody Of Fire. He helps many guitar teachers learn to how to make a good living teach guitar. On his website,, you can get additional free tips for guitar teachers, guitar teacher articles, mini courses and guitar teaching skill assessments.

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