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How To Succeed At Teaching Guitar By Showing Your Students How To Practice
By Tom Hess - 04/15/2013 - 02:56 PM EDT

Have you ever had a hard time getting your guitar students to make significant progress from one lesson to the next? Almost every guitar teacher faces this problem at one time or another. Fortunately, you can overcome this issue by making one simple adjustment to your guitar teaching approach.

Although there are tons of reasons why most guitarists who take lessons never become great musicians, in the end a lot of your success as a guitar teacher will depend on your ability to effectively teach your students to practice.

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.

By doing this you will not only get better results for your guitar students, but you will simultaneously be setting yourself apart from the majority of mediocre guitar teachers in your local area.

Now, before I reveal the most effective ways for teaching your students to practice guitar, you need to measure your current guitar teaching skills. Fill out your responses on this assessment about how to get guitar students to practice more effectively.

The THREE Major Reasons Why So Many Guitar Students Don’t Know How To Practice

Reason 1: Many guitar teachers give guitar practice advice to their students in a generic, all-encompassing manner. That said, highly trained guitar teachers teach their students a variety of guitar practicing strategies that are specific to their goals and challenges. This helps guitar students of those teachers to make much faster progress than those students who only learn a few general guitar practice principles that they are supposed to apply to everything they learn.

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) If the student even remembers you telling them about the mistake, it is still unlikely that they will remember ‘how’ you told them to practice in order to fix it.

c) Students often assume they understood how to practice something you showed them but will often do it incorrectly at home.

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. You aren’t investing enough time into explaining how to practice guitar so that your guitar students truly understand.

2. During the guitar lesson, your student believes that he/she understands how to practice, but when they are on their own in between lessons they do it wrong or forget what to do.

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 . The great majority of guitar teachers out there use up nearly every moment of each guitar lesson teaching their students new information such as new scales, licks, techniques and so forth. The reason why this happens so much is because most guitar teachers feel obligated to teach new material so that their students don’t feel like they are being “ripped off”. Because guitar teachers are so afraid of this, they overwhelm students with tons of new ideas but only spend a fraction of the time actually showing them how to practice what they learn on guitar.

Here Is What You Should Do

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 One. Use no more than 75% of the guitar lesson time for showing your students something new - reserving the rest of the time to teach them how to practice that idea effectively on guitar. Simply showing them how to practice for one or two minutes will not help.

Solution Two. 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.

Solution Three. 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 Four. Many guitar teachers feel pressured when they are trying to show their guitar students how to practice and the student says something like “Ok I get… can we talk about X already?” Don’t cave in when your guitar students try to take control of the lesson like this. Make sure that your students truly ‘get it’ 100% so that when they get home they don’t realize that they really don’t ‘get it’ and end up practicing wrong. Remind them that by learning how to properly practice guitar they will reach their guitar playing goals much faster.

Solution Five. 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.

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

1. See what you need to learn in order to get guitar students to practice and make fast progress.

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. Don’t ‘wait’ to use what you learned in this article - begin implementing the ideas from above into every guitar lesson that you teach from now on.

Once you have fully integrated the ideas of this article into your guitar teaching approach you will begin seeing progress in your guitar students like you’ve never seen before. On top of that, you will find yourself quickly becoming the most in demand guitar teacher around!


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 improve their guitar teaching methods. Visit his website, tomhess.net to read more articles about guitar teaching, get free guitar teacher skill assessments and guitar teaching tips.


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