When looking for a guitar teacher you have a number of options.
But how can you tell whether or not you have a teacher that is going to inspire you child to thrive rather than drive them to quit?
The following is a list of things to look for when you think you might have a bad teacher:
You Need A Decoder Ring
Is the teacher giving your child clear instructions?
Or are they just writing an endless list of assignments down in a notebook or, worse yet, writing down nothing at all?
Teachers who lack a clear outline for instruction often end up teaching in an erratic way, quickly switching from one instruction to another. It’s like playing whack-a-mole with everything your child is doing wrong: keep your fingers flat, make sure you are looking at the music, uncross your legs, watch your tempo…the list goes on and on. Dealing with each technical issue in the moment, they drown beginning students in a deluge of negativity.
To avoid this you need to get really clear on what the purpose of each exercise is. If you and your child are not sure, you need to ask, and if the teacher doesn’t have a clear answer, you might have a bad teacher.
Style over substance
When you’re beginning to learn an instrument, you are just trying to figure out how to play the thing.
How do you hold it? Where do your fingers go? How do you play in time?
The foundational skills required to play rock and roll are really no different from the techniques you need to learn to play jazz, bluegrass, country or any other music on the guitar. The one exception would be classical guitar. In the United States, there is a big difference between traditional and classical guitar instruction. The techniques used in classical guitar are quite different from those used by most popular and folk guitarists. Most guitar teachers you encounter at the local music studio or store are not classical teachers.
A style over substance teacher will focus on teaching a specific genre or song your child likes. This is not always a bad thing, but most times, what these teachers are doing is giving your child a handful of tricks at the expense of helping them building fundamental skills. It is great to give children more independence in what they are learning, and to give them the opportunity to learn music that engages them, but if your child can’t play a simple melody all the way through without stopping while their teacher is trying to teach them the latest viral sensation, you might have a bad teacher.
Everything by the Book
Every single lesson, every day, they’re doing just what’s in the book and nothing more or less.
Guitar method books are a good starting point, but most are designed to be used with the guidance of a teacher (Awesome Guitar for Kids being an exception to this). When working from a traditional method, a teacher should be able to provide additional exercises, as well as practice strategies, for the music that the student is learning. If your teacher is telling you which pages to practice in the book, but not how to practice them, or if you notice that your child is advancing a set number of pages in the book every week regardless of performance, you might have a bad teacher.
There’s No Connection
The relationship a student has with a teacher can influence how the student feels about learning. A good teacher can create a warm, safe, environment where risk-taking is encouraged and students are guided through progressive challenges with patience and wisdom. On the hand, some teachers can create a cold environment where students feel they are constantly under pressure to perform up to a certain, impossible standard.
Forming this warm learning environment begins with the teacher really building a good relationship with your child. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Does your teacher have a connection with your child?
Is your child excited to see their teacher?
Does the teacher ask questions to get to know your child better?
High expectations are great, but they can only be achieved when the student trust the teacher. If you’re finding that your child is resisting music lessons and not enjoying going to them you might have a bad teacher.
Life is too short to struggle with a bad guitar teacher. This is supposed to be fun, remember. Take the time to find the right teacher for your child. While you are at it, look into our 15-minute online lessons as well as the Awesome Guitar for Kids. These two alternatives to lessons might be right for you and your child.