Find Out How You Can Become A Guitar Teacher

by Tom Hess

When thinking about getting started teaching guitar, do you feel any of these things?

  1. You want to start teaching guitar lessons but aren’t sure exactly what to do or how to do things.
  2. You aren’t always sure how to teach, demonstrate or explain things in ways that all guitar students will understand and be able to learn from.
  3. You get nervous when thinking about what will happen if your guitar students simply won’t ‘get it’ no matter how many times you try to show them how to play or understand something on the guitar.
  4. You aren’t sure how to determine if you are doing a good job as a guitar teacher or not.

If you can identify with the points above, you are not alone. It is very common for almost all beginning guitar teachers to have the same concerns as you. In fact, even long time guitar teachers will run into these problems if they have not made the effort to locate someone who has already been highly successful as a guitar teacher (and can show them what they are doing wrong). In most cases, these people will teach guitar for years without ever truly making significant improvement in their guitar teaching skills. Here are 11 common guitar teaching mistakes that less experienced teachers make. If you can stay away from these, you will be well on your way to becoming a highly successful guitar teacher.

Mistake #1: Not focusing on the student’s goals for guitar.
A lot of guitar teachers make the mistake of teaching guitar lessons in a totally improvised manner when it comes to the content of each lesson. Teachers like this do not take the time to plan out what they will be teaching or why they are teaching it to their students. Often they will simply decide the day’s topic based on whatever the student brings up in the first few minutes of the lesson. This can cause many problems because such teaching approach as a whole lacks any direction, and the student’s goals as a guitar player are not likely to be achieved.

On the other hand, some guitar teachers will essentially ‘over plan’ their guitar lessons. These people will start with an idea of how they think they should teach guitar lessons, and will continue teaching that way to all of their students. This approach will fail also because it does not treat each individual guitar student as a unique person with unique needs. Not everyone learns the same way, so teaching guitar to students without being flexible with your overall guitar teaching style will not bring good results.

Mistake #2: Misunderstanding how to teach what a student ‘wants’ versus what he/she ‘needs’.

Most teachers approach guitar teaching from these perspectives separately:

  1. Focusing on what a guitar student WANTS.
  2. Focusing on what a guitar student NEEDS.

The mistake in this is that guitar teachers are stuck on one extreme, while neglecting the other. If you teach guitar using the first approach (teaching only what the student wants), you will soon find that this approach doesn’t work. Many guitar teachers understand that what a student says he ‘wants’ is not always the same as what he needs. That said, it is much better to teach a guitar student what they ‘need’ than what they ‘want’. However, in order to truly help your guitar students improve, you must balance out both approaches.

The greatest guitar teaching approach is to focus on the students’ goals, while also showing him/her that what they ‘need’ is the same as what they ‘want’. You must consistently keep track of their goals, and then show them what they must do to achieve those goals (while also explaining how these things work together). By doing this, you will help your guitar students gain motivation because they understand that they will be enjoying themselves throughout the learning process. This will help your students stay on track and reach their goals.
Mistake #3: Not helping your guitar students apply new guitar ideas.
One of the easiest ways to find out if a guitar teacher is doing a good job teaching is to look at his/her students. For the most part, you will see that people have guitar students that have learned a decent amount of ‘stuff’ on guitar. Unfortunately, after a closer look you will notice that these students do not actually know how to use any of this information to make great music on guitar. This is the result of a very common misunderstanding that guitar teachers make.

Most guitar teachers put an unnecessary amount of energy into showing their students new things to play on guitar. It is much more important that your guitar students understand the ways to apply what they know. This prevents a situation where your students, having already learned a lot about music and guitar, struggle to use their skills in actual music.

Remember, you don’t always have to teach something new to your guitar students each lesson. It is critically important to train them to actually use the things they already know.

Mistake #4: Not understanding how to work around or fix a guitar student’s playing mistakes.

If teaching guitar to students were as easy as plugging in the right answer to an equation, there would be little work for guitar teachers to do. In reality, your guitar students are ‘human’ and cannot be programmed so easily. While teaching guitar lessons, you will encounter times when your guitar students are distracted, disinterested, or are simply in the mood to play something different. In addition, some students don’t always want to play everything to perfection. The mistake that teachers make is to “let it slide” too much. In other words, they allow bad habits to build up for the sake of not being too strict. Many times this results not only in sloppy guitar playing, but could also possibly lead to injury!

On the other hand, some teachers are overly strict with their guitar students while fixing bad habits. Unfortunately, this can be a problem as well because most guitar players are not willing to take constant corrections on every little detail. As a result, such guitar teachers cause their students to feel discouraged or unmotivated since they are not getting the chance to enjoy playing and learning guitar.

The most successful guitar teachers have the ability to merge ideas together. It should be your goal to fix all of your students’ bad habits as time goes on. To do this you must prioritize the more urgent ones that need to be taken care of first. The most important problems to fix are the ones that can lead to any kind of physical injury. After this, focus on your guitar student’s picking hand (Often guitar players zone out on their picking hand in everyday playing situations, and will be oblivious to any bad habits).
Mistake #5: Not expecting your guitar students to give their best effort (or at least try).
You will have some guitar students who will give you 110% when it comes to practicing at home and putting out consistent effort to become a better guitarist. However, the majority of your guitar students will not give you nearly as much effort. The reason this happens so often with most guitar teachers is because the teacher does not set any kind of standard for effort on the student’s part. Because of this, the student does not have a clear idea of how much practice and effort is required in order to be able to play guitar how they want. The greatest guitar instructors will let their students know that they expect a certain amount of effort, and will help the student to understand why this works to benefit them. In addition, it is important not to have the same expectations for every one of your students. Remember that each student has his or her own unique needs as a guitar player.

Mistake #6: Teaching too many new ideas in each guitar lesson.

It is very common for guitar teachers to feel as if they must always be ‘teaching new things’. In reality, this causes your students to feel overwhelmed. The reason for this is that they are taking in a bunch of new material, but not actually learning how to APPLY it! So what are the main reasons that guitar teachers feel they must constantly teach new things to their students?

Reason 1 – They feel uncomfortable giving guitar instruction and focuses on demonstrating new ideas each lesson in order to compensate for their lack of teaching skills.

Reason 2 – They try to copy other local guitar instructors because they think it will help them become more successful.

Reason 3 – The teacher wants to please students who express that they are ready to ‘move on’. Truth is, even when a student says this, nine times out of ten…they are not ready!

The greatest teaching approach is one that helps your guitar students to effectively learn how to apply what you show them. The key is to train your new students to use what they learn, so that they do not become overwhelmed with excess ‘facts’ that they can’t really use.

Mistake #7: Not knowing what to do when your guitar students don’t understand after you’ve explained something several times.
Less experienced guitar teachers typically do not know how to explain new concepts to students in more than one way. These teachers will run into additional problems as well because they are more prone to using their own style of learning to teach their students. This only leads to more problems in communication.

The greatest guitar teachers seek to find out the best way to communicate with their students by understanding HOW they learn. Some students learn well by seeing you play on guitar (visual), some by listening to you play (audio), and some by picking up the guitar and playing it for themselves (kinesthetic/touch). In order to best take advantage of each of your students’ unique learning styles, learn to use clear metaphors, analogies, charts, graphs, and hands on exercises.
Over time you will make improvements in this aspect of your guitar teaching. To learn to do this more quickly, study with someone who can train you to teach guitar more effectively.

Mistake #8: Not knowing that your guitar students don’t always need you to be a ‘teacher’.

The majority of guitar teachers out there only think of themselves as teachers. This means that they are locked in a mindset of merely explaining and reviewing materials with their students (much like a school teacher). Although you are thought of by prospective students as a guitar teacher, you will need to do more than simply ‘teach’ your students.

To become a great guitar teacher, you will need to learn what the difference is between ‘teaching’ your guitar students and ‘training’ your guitar students. The reality is that the majority of people will need to be trained about as much or more than they need to be taught. What you need to do is invest more time into helping your guitar students PLAY things on guitar, rather than just teaching them new ideas or going over old ideas with review. Take your students through this one step at a time. Don’t let them know the order of the steps, or that you are even taking them through these steps. At some point they will probably tell you that they ‘already understand’ what you are teaching. However, most of the people who say this do not understand! So by teaching guitar in this manner you will save a lot of time for you and your students by training them properly from the beginning. Do this at all times.

Mistake #9: Not keeping track of how long people remain as your guitar students.
One of the biggest misunderstandings that guitar teachers have is thinking that the number of guitar students they have relates to how successful they are in their guitar teaching business. In reality, this is not a very good way to gauge your success as a guitar teacher. Which teacher do you think is having more success: A guitar teacher who has merely taught 50 students in one year (but currently only teaches 15), or a guitar teacher who has taught 50 students in a year (and has kept all 50)? After making this comparison, it should be clear that focusing to retain your guitar students is a crucial part to the success of your guitar teaching business. If you can only get your students to come back to take lessons for a couple of months at a time, you have a lot of work to do. In order to become highly successful as a guitar teacher you should have students staying with you for years at a time.
That being said, you will not keep every single guitar student for years at a time. This is because different students may have different goals that can be reached in a shorter amount of time. You must always work hard to help your students achieve their goals as quickly, and effectively as possible. However, some goals may be more vague and require more time for the student to find out what he or she really wants. In order to keep more of your students for a longer period of time, seek to understand the reasons why past students have stopped taking lessons with you. Additionally, ask your current long time guitar students why they enjoy taking lessons with you. Monitor these statistics on a consistent basis so that you can continually improve your guitar teaching methods.

Mistake #10: Not knowing a good way to judge how well you are doing as a guitar teacher.

Many new guitar teachers are unsure of whether or not they are actually any good at teaching guitar. These people typically do not have any dependable way of measuring their teaching skills or success. Here are the 3 main causes of this:

  1. Less experienced guitar teachers often make comparisons with themselves to other local guitar teachers (who likely aren’t very successful either). They are judging their own skills as a teacher based on the merely mediocre teaching of the other guitar instructors who surround them.
  2. Teaching guitar generally is not up to par with other music instruction. Now you understand why classical piano teachers will normally retain students for years, while many guitar instructors struggle to keep students for more than a few months.

Most guitar teachers never actually make the effort to find training to improve their guitar teaching skills. In general, they will ask other (amateur) teachers what to do, or will simply attempt to emulate the actions of others. If these things do not work, they will resort to giving guitar lessons to their students in a ‘hit or miss’ manner. Unfortunately, this tends to make guitar lessons like an ‘experiment’ for your guitar students. There are always times when you will be learning from your mistakes; however it is best to understand how to avoid them from the beginning.
Mistake #11: Not taking full responsibility for the quality of your guitar instruction.
When you teach guitar, your students are paying you with their money, time, and effort. It is important to work as hard as you can to reward them with the best guitar instruction possible. Fact is, most guitar teachers DO NOT put much effort at all to improve the quality of their guitar lessons, or work to help their guitar students achieve their goals faster. These types of teachers merely teach guitar to ‘get by’. Why should a guitar student ever spend their hard earned money for guitar lessons when their teacher isn’t actively working to bring them the best instruction possible? You don’t have to be an incredible guitar teacher before you ever get started teaching (of course); however, if you want to be able to provide the very best guitar teaching for your students, you will benefit immensely by getting trained, coached, and mentored to become the best guitar teacher you can be.

All of the most successful guitar teachers started off in the spot you are in right now. The vast majority of these teachers made it by finding a mentor who could show them what it takes to overcome any obstacles in their way. These types of teachers are the ones who take consistent action to help their students achieve their goals. These teachers mostly have filled schedules (and waiting lists) full of guitar students, a big name in their city, and live a great life doing what they love every day… You have the EXACT same potential to make choices that will greatly benefit you in your business! Get started right now on building your guitar teaching success with this free mini course that will help you to greatly improve your guitar teaching.


About The Author: Tom Hess is a professional electric guitar teacher and composer. He also mentors guitar teachers from around the world in his guitar teacher training program. Visit to get free guitar teaching tips and read more articles for guitar teachers.

How To Easily Create Killer Lead Guitar Licks Pt. 2

By Tom Hess

Are you having a hard time coming up with awesome sounding guitar licks? You’re not alone. Many guitar players don’t know how to play great licks, even when they have already developed great technical skills. Why is this? Most guitarists do not take the time to focus on each individual note in order to get as much expression as possible from it. This approach will only lead you to mediocrity as a lead guitar player.
Previously you learned how to improve your lead guitar licks with the exercise in the first entry to this series. After practicing the exercise in that article, you have now seen the BIG difference it makes in your lead guitar phrasing. If you have not already gone through and read the first part of this article series, don’t read the article first – Instead, get started by watching the video below on how to play great lead guitar licks. Once you have done that, use the exercise in the previous article entry to apply the ideas into your guitar playing. Now you are going to learn how to get the most emotion possible out of all remaining notes from your lead guitar licks. Keep in mind that you can use the following guitar phrasing exercise even if you did not read the first half of this article already. However, do not skip watching the video above (this is necessary for understanding the ideas being used).
Lead Guitar Licks Phrasing Exercise (How To Create Tons Of Killer Licks)
Step One: Create a short guitar lick with slow note rhythms. Use a maximum of three or four notes to make your lick. If you play your lick using rhythms that are too fast, you will miss out on the specific nuances that you will notice in the following steps. If you use too many notes, you will become distracted by trying to remember which notes to play and will be unable to pay close attention to the way each note sounds. Once you have made your lead guitar phrase with these things in mind, move on to step two.
Step Two: As you observed by watching the previously mentioned video, the ornamental techniques used to change the lick were:

  • Bending
  • Heavy vibrato
  • Slides

Come up with no less than ten unique variations of your lead guitar phrase by emphasizing ONLY the first note in your lick with any combination of the above three techniques. For the time being, keep the other notes in your phrase exactly the same as when you made it.
Remember: you need to keep all of the pitches in your guitar lick the same (don’t add any new ones at this point) – you are only changing the way you ‘play’ the first note in your phrase. If you are able to record yourself while you are playing, do this and listen back to yourself so you can make subtle improvements to your approach. If you cannot record yourself, still continue through this exercise anyway. As you continue thinking of new variations, you will notice your guitar phrasing skills increasing. This is because you are forcing yourself to think creatively since you cannot change the pitch of the notes in your lick. As a result, your guitar lick will sound infinitely more expressive than the way it sounded when you first began in step one. Also, don’t get caught up on trying to keep track of every single variation you think of (this is not the point of the exercise). Instead, continue working through the process of training yourself to get the most expression possible out of every note you play.   Step Three: Using the same approach from step two, apply the concept to the other notes in your lead guitar phrase (do this one note at a time). As you are thinking of new variations for the notes in between the first and the last, play the other notes either using the original phrasing from step one or any of the new variations you made in step two. The bottom line is you must focus on using all your mental energy on ‘one’ note of the phrase at a time (for this step).   After you are done with this process, you will have come up with ten different ways to change the sound the notes in the guitar lick you created from step one.
Step Four: When you have finished creating variations for each note of your guitar phrase individually, start playing variations of the phrase as a whole. Accomplish this by making combinations of any of the ideas you came up with from the previous steps of this exercise. After taking the time to think of ten or more variations for each note, you should have TONS of ideas to select from. CRUCIAL: you must not add extra notes to your lick in this guitar phrasing exercise… only focus on getting the maximum possible expression from each note in your original phrase. You might be wondering why I did not begin this exercise by telling you to simply do step four after step one. Here is why I did this:   A. Most guitar players tend to only emphasize the first and last notes in their licks while not paying attention to the (also important) notes in the middle. This common mistake leads to weak sounding phrases because the guitar lick ‘as a whole’ lacks expression.   B. Unless you are an advanced guitar player (or have already learned how to improve your guitar phrasing technique from a great teacher) you would probably miss out on the full value of this exercise because you would stop prematurely (after only thinking of a few variations for your lick). It is for this reason that I told you to make at least ten different variations per note in your guitar lick.   What Is The Value Of Using This Lead Guitar Phrasing Exercise?   These are the two main reasons why performing the previous steps are essential for making progress to develop your guitar phrasing skills:   1. You understand precisely how to create an awesome guitar lick from start to finish (without worrying about the specific notes being used).   2. This exercise will keep your guitar licks from becoming overrun with excess notes that do not sound interesting and are merely being used to cover up poor phrasing. By breaking this habit, you will see drastic improvement in all of the lead guitar phrases you play.   Here Is What You Need To Do Next   1. Use the exercise in this article to practice improving your guitar licks on a consistent basis. Repeat this exercise until it becomes second nature to apply the concepts involved for EVERY new guitar lick you play.   2. Watch this video on how to play rock guitar licks and get more ideas for creating cool lead guitar phrases.   3. Create better guitar solos by studying these lead guitar playing resources.   4. Find an expert guitar instructor who can show you the best way to express yourself when you create lead guitar licks. Then work together with that teacher to identify and achieve your highest musical goals.     About The Author: Tom Hess is an online electric guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitarist. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website to receive many free guitar playing resources, mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.

Why classical guitarists must branch out

By Ciaran Elster

There are some weaknesses that can be seen in many classical guitar players, such as a lack of aural awareness, a lack of expressive power, a poor sense of rhythm and an inability to do anything other than what is written on the page. Often, it is these things that separate the good classical guitarists from the mediocre ones, and the solution can actually lie in playing other genres.

None of us have the required amount of time on our hands that we can give the same dedication to every genre that we give to our main speciality. However, a certain amount of time spent practicing other styles of music will not detract from classical playing, but will enable the guitarist to make these all-important changes to his/her musicianship.

A lot of mediocre classical players lack the true aural awareness needed for great performances. Although technically accomplished and proficient in sight-reading, some classical guitarists simply play what is written, note for note, without listening critically to what they are playing. When notated scores are reproduced by an aurally unaware musician, the performance becomes dull and lifeless.

This contrasts with their electric counterparts, who are often (but not always) less accomplished in sight-reading but who tend to think more as they play. A crucial reason for this is that when one plays in a band or group it is necessary to listen to what the other musicians are doing. When you are forced to listen as you play, you become better equipped to listen to yourself and express yourself more passionately. Electric guitarists are used to playing in groups and jamming with other musicians, whereas classical guitarists often miss out on such things, spending all of their time playing solo.

A good sense of rhythm is another quality that is more easily obtained by playing in rock, blues or jazz bands than by playing classical guitar. Of course, rhythm when playing solo can have more rubato and freedom than rhythm controlled by a steady drum beat and bass riff, but such rubato often sounds uncontrolled and gives the impression that it is being implemented by someone who doesn’t know how to use it properly. Keeping to a regular beat (provided by other musicians rather than by a metronome) and improvising on top of it can be of great benefit to a guitarist’s rhythmic awareness.

Classical guitarists tend to be more proficient sight-readers than players in most other genres, but the notation-dependent training we go through can often result in players being unable to deviate from the written score. In general, we can become too preoccupied with producing exact replicas of works, causing every dynamic marking to be followed with precision and leading to an attitude that certain things can only be articulated in one particular way. Here, the nylon-string players would do well to look towards folk music, where harmonic structures for songs usually remain the same but players have more freedom in the choice of fingering patterns and articulation. Also, jazz players can improvise melodies over harmonic structures, something which a classical guitarist is unlikely to do but would benefit greatly from as a musician.

I am not suggesting that classical guitar changes from being a precisely notated, predominantly solo genre. However, I do believe that there are some attributes necessary for expressive playing that can be more easily acquired by learning other genres, if not to the same extent. The guitar has a great advantage over many other instruments in that, along with the piano, it is commonly used in a vast range of styles. This is something that the best guitarists, in any genre, will always make use of

Guest writer for


How To Play Kick Ass Guitar Licks Quickly And Easily – Part 1


Wish you could play killer guitar licks every time you pick up your guitar? The truth is many guitar players think that great guitar licks are made by playing specific notes or scales. However, this usually not the case. As you will find out in this article (and video), the key to playing killer guitar phrases is focusing on ‘how’ you play… not necessarily which notes you use.
In a few moments, you will discover just how easy it is to make your own guitar licks sound killer regardless of the notes you are using. On top of that, you will find out how to do this every single time you play guitar.
The first action you need to take (right now) is to watch the short video on this page to see an exact demonstration of the main ideas in this article. By watching the video, you will MASSIVELY increase your ability to absorb the ideas and use them to improve your own guitar playing. Additionally, the video will help you get the most value from the lead guitar phrasing exercise you will find below. Check out the video now, then come back to read the rest of this article.

Now that you have seen the demonstrations in the video, implement the following steps to empower your guitar licks:
Step 1: Think of a lead guitar lick that you can play accurately. The lick you select can be in any style, using any notes. Alternatively, improvise a new (short) guitar lick. Then play through this lick a few times.
Step 2: As you watch the guitar licks video above, you will see how I use slides in several different ways to emphasize the last note in a guitar phrase. Grab a piece of paper and write out a list of descriptions of how to perform all the different variations you observe in the video (use a single sentence or less to describe each one). Writing this down and thinking about it on your own is more valuable than me ‘giving’ you the list of variations to practice because it trains you to actively listen for and pinpoint subtle guitar phrasing ideas on your own. When you describe how each slide variation feels, simply use descriptive words that will help you remember the idea itself (the words themselves are not that important). If you need to, watch the video several times until you have completed your list.
Step 3: To change your lead guitar lick from the first step into a KILLER guitar lick, use the slide variations in your list from the previous step to accent the final note of the phrase. By simply changing the way you play the final note of the lick, you will notice that each new variation sounds MUCH more powerful than the original phrase. Once you have tried all of the different variations from your list (that you saw me do on the video), start coming up with your own unique variations using the same concept. There are countless ways that you can accent a note using this phrasing concept. Be creative and try to come up with at least 5-10 variations. Next, add all of your new ideas to the list you began in step two (with descriptions) and play through them all several times.
Step 4: To expand upon the different variations in your list from the previous step, you will now add even more intensity into your phrase by applying vibrato/bending to the last note after approaching it with a slide. Use the video as a reference for new ideas and write down a short description for each new bend/vibrato variation you see. Then think of your own ideas (just like you did in the previous step). This will give you even more phrasing options to enhance your creative possibilities. Next, play one of the new variations you made and compare it to the guitar lick from the first step in this exercise. You will see a BIG improvement in the overall quality and intensity of the two licks.
Step 5: After you have enhanced a single lead guitar lick using this exercise, repeat the previous steps with several other licks you are familiar with.
After you complete this exercise several times, it will become much easier for you to play great guitar licks with little effort.
Since the final note of a guitar lick is often the one that most people notice, you can quickly improve any of your phrases by focusing your efforts on emphasizing this note. However, you can also use the ideas of this article to improve any other note in your guitar licks. In the second part of this article series, I will discuss how to do this in more detail.
In the meantime, use the information in these free video guitar lessons to learn many new approaches that will improve your lead guitar soloing skills.

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a successful professional guitar player, composer and international guitar teacher. He also helps musicians learn guitar online and reach their guitar playing goals. Visit his rock and metal guitar lessons site to read more articles about guitar playing, plus get free guitar tips and guitar playing resources.

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