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Why Teaching Your Guitar Students To Be Creative Is Extremely Important
By Tom Hess - 01/13/2015 - 07:06 PM EST

What is the best way to get tons of new guitar students, make your current students more enthusiastic about learning and make your competition jealous of your success? Answer: being able to turn average students into great musicians. To do this, you MUST teach them to be creative... in fact, this is also a major factor when it comes to making good money as a guitar teacher.

Fortunately, teaching your students to be creative is not as difficult as you might expect. Plus, nearly all of your competitors have no idea how to teach creativity (if they even ever thought to do it). So, as soon as you learn how to teach guitar as effectively as possible (including teaching creativity), you’ll put yourself miles ahead of the competition.

Here are 5 things you have to do in your guitar lessons to quickly transform your students into highly creative musicians:

Bridge The Gap Between Implementation And Mastery

Training your students to implement their guitar skills will go a long way towards making them much better and more creative guitarists …but it’s STILL not sufficient. Why? Because skills and components of musical understanding are NOT used in isolation in actual music. Put simply, your students are only able to truly be creative using a particular skill whenever they can not only use it on it's own, but additionally be able to mix it together with all of their current skills. All extremely advanced guitar players already know and do this naturally every time they practice guitar, but only very best guitar INSTRUCTORS know the crucial significance of helping their students to combine their skills together…and even fewer really do it.

One simple way to get your students to integrate their skills is to have them write a very basic song after learning fundamental chords, barre chords, etc. Rather than “teaching” these things to them and instantly moving to more advanced seventh chords or music theory ideas, STAY on this topic for several lessons and get your students to practice being creative by integrating what they know together in order to make music that (under your direction). This will make it easier for them to remember the ideas, and get them started with being creative whenever you show them something new.

When you begin teaching your guitar students how to integrate their skills together, you will be surprised at how quickly your students will start improving and becoming more creative guitarists. Plus, you’ll notice yourself enjoying the process of teaching your guitar students: both because it is fun to see your students grow and because you won’t have to create so many lesson materials every week.

Start Small…And Display Proof

When you initially get started working together with your students on components of creative guitar playing, and implementing and combining their skills, get ready to start small. Take into account that your students will still be very uncertain about their ability to be creative. For this reason, you must:

1. Supply them with modest assignments to enable them to feel confident regarding their ability to play things in a creative manner.

2. Take care that they feel good about the process you're taking them through . When they notice the growth and musical freedom you are helping them obtain, they'll feel motivated to keep learning.

This tactic is particularly important if you've got students who think that guitar lessons must be focused on learning “new” things at all times. These types of students may (at first) be reluctant to use their lesson time for integrating their skills. Therefore you need to present this shift in your teaching very subtly and help your students see how they are transforming with their own eyes.

Example: one of the easiest (and most effective) things to do when teaching students to use creative lead guitar playing, is focus on making your students create tons of variations out of a short guitar lick. Once you've taught your students how to identify and use many subtle guitar phrasing approaches (for example different types of vibrato, bends, pre-bends, legato, string rakes, double stops, etc.) have them make twenty variations from a three or five note guitar lick. As simple as this might sound, it's highly enjoyable and forces students to think beyond “which” notes to play and concentrating on “HOW to use these notes in a creative manner”.

Keep Your Students From Getting In Their Own Way

Before you "instruct" your students on ANYTHING about musical creativity, know that the larger part of your students will have two major challenges to solve:

1. Many of your students automatically assume that you can’t “learn” creativity. This is entirely mistaken. (I’ve proven this with my own guitar students AND other guitar instructors whom I train to teach guitar have proven this with THEIR students as well).

2. They lack confidence with their capacity to be creative and think they lack natural talent in this area. Truth is, everyone has the potential to be creative – no matter what “natural” talent they possess or don’t possess.

Truth is, your students will often have difficulty being musically creative provided they continue believing in those myths. It’s your job as a teacher to eliminate these destructive, self-defeating beliefs from your students’ mindset and replace them with beliefs that will lead them toward achieving their musical goals and gaining confidence in their abilities. If you don’t do this, your students’ will be unable to become creative due to an innate lack of trust in their own potential (causing them to always sabotage themselves whenever they seem to be making progress).

There are two principal methods to use in order to change your students’ mindset about this subject . The primary way is to make clear to your students that musical creativity is NOT a strange, mystical power that only a few musicians are born with, while most aren’t. In reality, “musical creativity” is not even one “skill”. It is simply a consequence of having acquired a number of musical skills and combined them together to make creativity achievable (read more about this below). Talking about this will already help your students understand why the thinking above is completely untrue and will make them enthusiastic about their TRUE potential.

The next approach involves not merely “telling”, but truly demonstrating to your students how simple it is to become creative. To do this, you must:

Use A “Teach” Less - “Train” More Approach

A huge mistake that most guitar teachers make (especially those who never learned how to teach guitar as effectively as possible) is “teaching too much” without training their students to use what they learn. This develops out of a false assumption that you must always teach new things in order to be a good guitar teacher. This assumption will lead you to overwhelm your students with new guitar practice exercises every time they see you. If you do this, the following will happen:

1. Your students become overwhelmed (and a lot more likely to quit guitar lessons) due to being overloaded with too much information at once. You’ve probably heard this before: “You’ve given me so much information, I think I need to take a break for a while to catch up.” Yeah... now you know why this happens.

2. Your students don’t really understand how to use most of the things you show them (much less learn how to be creative with them). Although in the moment it feels good to teach new things during each lesson, however, this will leave your students totally powerless to actually use what they learn in any kind of creative manner. Whenever your students “feel” like beginners even though they stopped being beginners years ago (in various areas of their playing), this kills their enthusiasm and it is dangerous for YOUR status as his or her guitar teacher.

3. As their guitar teacher, you end up working way too many extra hours preparing new lesson ideas for your students.

Ultimately, everybody seems to lose with this kinds of teaching approach, and guess what…nearly ALL guitar instructors educate their students in this exact manner (You've now come to understand why the average student does not stick with guitar lessons for more than a few months at most and why most guitar instructors have only so-so students at best).

There’s a solution to this problem that is so obvious that you’ll wonder why you never thought of it...and it is also sure to transform your students into highly creative guitar players. You merely need to stop teaching so much “new information” and start investing more time into training them to implement what you’ve already shown them. Don’t think that your students will understand how to creatively use the concepts you teach them in lessons while playing at home – since the majority of them won't. Instead, these students will merely join the masses of people who “know a lot of things” but don’t know how to use them in any musically significant way. It’s a part of your job as their guitar teacher to keep “teaching” after you’ve shown them something new. You need to show them how to apply what they learn in a variety of musical situations. Do this for as long as needed (even if you have to invest one or more lessons into this).

At this time you might be thinking: “Tom, I do not feel right taking my student’s money for any guitar lesson where I'm not actively showing them something new…I feel like I am cheating my students out of a lesson they're having to pay for.” My response is: your students aren't handing you their money to take “guitar lessons” and “learn information”. They're having to pay you for RESULTS. Your most important task as their teacher is to get them the end results they desire by helping them reach their guitar playing goals. Therefore the only time you're “cheating” your students is when you're not providing them with training they require to get exactly the result they want from their playing.

“Training” is one of the most crucial parts of teaching guitar very effectively and is NOT limited to only teaching creativity. To find out how much you understand about teaching guitar, take this guitar teaching skills test.

Stop Using Outdated And Ineffective Guitar Teaching Methods

In my previous guitar instruction articles I’ve explained why teaching guitar using ONLY a 1 on 1 private format will slow down both your students’ growth and your ability to make good money teaching guitar. (Find out why this is true in this guitar teaching video.). Additionally, 1 on 1 guitar instruction is very limiting when it comes to teaching creativity. Why? Because no matter how good you are as an instructor, your guitar students will only be able to learn from you. The truth is, your students will become more creative much faster and easier by learning with others. Simply being around others not only makes learning more fun, but it also gives your students the ability to learn from one another and feel motivated by each other’s progress.

Does this go against most conventional guitar teaching wisdom? For sure. But as you know now, most traditional guitar teaching ideas are highly ineffective. Once you learn how to teach guitar as effectively as possible, and combine solid teaching skills with very effective guitar teaching formats, your students will begin to make tons of progress and YOU will become the “go-to” guitar teacher in your city.

To get personal training from me about how to grow a flourishing guitar teaching business, read this page on guitar teacher coaching.

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