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Thinking of becoming a guitar teacher?

If you have been thinking about boosting your income with guitar teaching but don’t know where to start, this blog is for you! Teaching guitar is great for me because it allows me to support composing and performing my own music.  It's also very easy to upscale when you need a bit of extra cash or downscale when you have a tour or a composition deadline. l_guitar-lessonI’ve been teaching guitar for 20 years and I love it! In fact I was 15 and had only been playing guitar a few weeks when I gave my first guitar lesson. The student was my friend Chris Walton. I just was so excited about guitar that I wanted to pass on what I knew. Since then I have taught guitar in prisons, schools, privately at home, on skype and in masterclasses in Europe and the Far East. I decided to write this blog because a few of my friends are wanting to teach and asked me for advice on where to start. 1: How can I get students? I don’t know where to start. Being a guitar teacher starts with your first student. Start with people who you know already. Make a list of everybody you know who has young kids. (Why young kids and not adults? I’ll get to that in a second). Approach them and ask them if they’d like a free no obligation introductory lesson, and/or do they know somebody with kids who want guitar lessons. Get some simple business cards made with Vistaprint that they can hand out. The key to getting students is to get them through the door. I have found that most students that try a free lesson keep coming back. Also, offer just one or two nights, (for me it was Monday and Tuesday) You want to concentrate all your students into the same evenings so you can be more professional. There is nothing worse than having students slotted all over the week making it more likely for you to forget an appointment. 2: How do I grow my student numbers? Again, start with who you know. Even if you only have two students, offer them, say 50% off or a month free for every referral that they make that leads to a long term student. Word of mouth is king. If you do a great job, the parents of your students will be your greatest advertisers, if you do a bad job… well you get the idea. Another great route is to use Facebook. The Facebook demographic is mostly 30-40 year olds. i.e. people with kids. Just get in touch with all your friends on there and tell them that you have started teaching guitar. No need for a hard sell, just make people aware of what you are doing. Once you have exhausted all the leads from point 1 above then you are ready to create a website. More on that further down. 3: What if I’m not good enough? Don’t I need a music degree or Grade 8? Both those things are going to help you as a teacher but they are not necessary. Why? Well most of the people I teach are beginners to about Grade 5 standard. I do teach students that are Grade 8 and University level but they really are a minority. Why? Its the law of averages, lots of people start guitar but statistically fewer of them reach Grade 8. 4: Yeah I can play guitar but I don’t have the confidence to teach. Answer: Practise. Its true that being a great guitar player doesn’t mean you will be a great teacher. Teaching takes practise just like playing guitar. Even after 20 years of teaching I’m still learning new teaching skills. If you are not confident, the best thing is to offer to teach a friend. I recommend that you charge a nominal fee to make sure your time is valued. Set a regular time each week and get practising. As soon as you have been teaching them for a month or two, start looking for more students. 5: What about advertising with specialist teacher sites, signing up with people who promise to get you students etc? I will say this categorically – They are a waste of time and money. In most cases they aren’t doing anything that you can’t do yourself and in some cases they’re just using YOU to promote their own teaching business. 6: Ok, so how DO I advertise? Like it or not, Google is THE way really. Set up a Google Places page, with your Youtube Channel and relevant details, BUT before you start paying for Google adwords, do a search for every free listing site in your local area. Advertise your skills on them. If you don’t have a website yet, list your Google places URL. All these free ads bump up your placing in Google searches. I’ve heard that Gumtree is good too, but I’ve never tried it myself. 7: Why do I need a website? Before you go on Google adwords. Get a website done. To really grow a business you need a good website. A good website inspires confidence that you are serious about what you do. Unlike social media sites, you have full control over what is on it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Websites can be created easily using WordPress. Its a bit like Microsoft word for websites. If you don’t want the complication of registering a domain, get a website designer to do the initial setup and then maintain it yourself. My website was set up by www.maft.co.uk and I do the maintenance myself. Get in touch with him! Ok now you have a website, you are ready to go on Google Adwords. Create an account and set a small budget and run the advert for a couple of months. Google actually call you to talk you through the process… easy! I’ve found it to be a really effective way of advertising. As soon as I’ve topped up my students I pause the ad campaign again. 8: What website name? Try to get your local town/area/village into the title. This will help people find you on Google. For example: Bradford Guitar lessons… or similar. 9: What technology do I need? A Roland Microcube is great for teaching and I use my laptop extensively as well. Guitar Pro is a must, as the tabs tend to be more accurate and you can use them as ready made backing tracks. Riffstation has become essential for me for slowing tracks down for students. A printer is useful too. Just get a black and white one, it’ll be cheaper to run. Dropbox or Copy.com are really useful for putting music tracks, tabs and notes in a folder for your students. RSK05120910. Should I teach guitar grade exams? Teaching grade exams has pros and cons. I teach both RGT and Rockschool Grades. (Note that RGT requires you to pay a yearly subscription to register your students for exams) I think that RGT are harder, but more useful for real world musicianship (more improvising and chart reading). I use RGT with students who show a bit more flair. Rockschool grades are easier but they are (slightly) better organised and their website is easier to use too. I use Rockschool for students who like playing pieces note for note and don’t like improvising. In fact, Rockschool offers students the option of not doing scales or sightreading…they can just play 5 pieces. If I’m honest, this annoys me a bit but I’ll cover that in the Cons part. Both boards could do a lot better to treat students and teachers like customers rather than cash generating inconveniences…but I digress..ha ha. Pro’s: The advantages in teaching grades are huge. It means you don’t have to spend hours prepping lessons because the syllabus is all laid out for you. The exams are progressive which means you can retain students for a long time as they progress through each grade (Although I tend to go up in twos, 1 3 5 6 8) The feeling of achievement for students is great and parents feel like they are getting value for money because the grades are recognised qualifications. Cons: Grades work great for younger kids but not for adults (Unless they are an advanced player who wants to get their Grade 8 done for teaching purposes). Although the pieces are modern and the students can even play well known hits from the classic rock repertoire, the truth is that a student could learn how to play the pieces note for note and not really be able to do anything else. The grades don’t really develop the skills they need to learn a song by ear, jam with friends or create their own music. Of course, its down to you as the teacher to broaden your students horizons, but you get what I’m saying. Rockschool go one step further, instead of learning 3 pieces and doing sight-reading and scales etc you can just learn 5 pieces. This means that potentially students might be able to play the pieces and NOTHING else. Not great really! (My only caveat is that for Grade 8 I always do 5 pieces cos the aural is just not real world at all. i.e. its impossible and useless!) One final con is that the books and exams are expensive. Parents will be paying for them of course but its something to bear in mind. PS… Another question I get a lot: "Do I need to sightread to be able to teach the grades?" In short, No. Being able to read rhythms is really going to help you but I don’t think sightreading is essential. Having said this, I have found that my sight-reading has improved through teaching the grades, as I can never remember the pieces ha ha! Final Thoughts Don’t wait till you are good enough, have enough time or the perfect situation – just do it! Teaching is rewarding and a great source of regular income. Not only that, playing guitar is more popular than ever. It's a growth industry!! Check this blog out too. http://davebrons.com/10-survival-tools-for-serious-guitarists/ All the best, Dave Written by Dave Brons 2015
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