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Are you losing guitar students on a regular basis, but you don’t really know why? There’s a good chance you might be doing something to drive your students away!
In this episode, I’ll get into 7 different ways guitar teachers can unknowingly make their students want to leave, and what you can do to keep it from happening to you. Since we’re hitting a milestone here with episode #50, I also have a special surprise bonus for STG All-Access members at the end of this episode…so if you’re a member, be sure to listen all the way to the very end!
To call in with a question, a comment or to leave feedback for the show, call the Listener Feedback Hotline at (719) 428-5480 and leave a message! I just might include your recorded message in a future episode.
Alright, this is a very special episode of the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve hit a milestone here. This is Episode #50. You know, I was thinking about playing, you know, some marching band music or something cool. You know, fireworks going off, or some kind of goofy sound effect. Eh, I figured I’m not going to bother you with all of that bull, but you know, it is something worth celebrating. Not very many podcasts get up to episode #50, so I’m really proud of all the work that we’ve done on this podcast over the last couple years.
So, it’s an honor for me to share Episode 50 with you today. And to celebrate, we’re going to talk about everybody’s favorite subject, and that is student retention. Student retention. It’s not the kind of thing that people jump up and down and want to talk about all the time, but it’s one of the things that can really make a big difference in your business if you pay attention to it. So, what I’m going to get into in the episode today is not necessarily how to keep your students from quitting. It’s more I have a list of seven different things that a lot of guitar teachers do, that I’ve done in the past, and a lot of us do that can drive our students away.
A lot of times we’re doing these things and we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. So, I want to hopefully burst that bubble of mystique and explain these seven things, and hopefully you can get some inventory going of your own teaching skills and your own presentation and your own teaching business. And if any one of these things is causing you to lose students, then you can become aware of it and then hopefully stop doing it. So, let’s just jump right in. We’ve got a lot to talk about in this episode, but like I mentioned, it’s really easy, as a guitar teacher, to get what some people might call tunnel vision. You know, tunnel vision is when all you see is what’s right in front of you eyes, what you’re focused on, and everything in peripheral kind of just disappears.
And it’s easy to get that way because you teach so many lessons to so many different people that it’s easy to lose perspective a little bit on your teaching business, on how you’re dealing with your students as an individual, and all of those different things. And you kind of tend, after you’ve been teaching for a while, to forget what it’s like to be a guitar student yourself. Most guitar teachers don’t take lessons, you know, which I think is a tragedy, but all we do is teach and we don’t sit in the student’s seat very often, so we lose the perspective of what it’s like to be a guitar student. And when that happens, you stop seeing your lessons through your student’s eye and then you get that tunnel vision thing that starts to happen.
And when that happens, it’s easy to become blind to some pretty obvious things that can make your students have a bad experience with their lessons with you. So, I’m going to try to expose those things to you. And most guitar students I’ve found, in my experience, don’t complain too much. You know, they don’t tell me whenever I’m doing something that’s driving them crazy or that’s making them feel bad, or causing problems. They don’t tell me about it. They’ll just leave. They’ll come up with some other kind of reason and just leave. And maybe it’s because they just don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they won’t say anything, or maybe it’s their personality. Maybe they’re just not confrontational.
But for whatever reason, they don’t bring it to your attention that you’re doing something wrong in your relationship with them. So, they just find some excuse for quitting. You know, usually something lame or the best excuse they can come up with just to kind of get out of the situation and avoid awkward confrontation, and then they leave, and then you never know the real reason why. If you’ve been teaching for any length of time, you can probably relate to that, but a lot of times they don’t complain. They just leave.
Now, of course, you always have some students that do complain. We’re all blessed with a few of those that do tell us exactly how they’re feeling, maybe more often than they should. But in my experience, most of the time, students like that just tend to disappear into the forest and they never give you the valuable feedback that you could use to actually improve the way that you teach guitar lessons. So, what we’re going to talk about now – I’m going to give you seven common student killers is what I like to call them, and these are just seven things that you may or may not be doing that may or may not be driving guitar students away from your teaching business.
You can’t fix it if you don’t know that it’s a problem, so just going to go over these, and these are things that a lot of guitar teachers do that drive students away. These are very common things. And none of these things, you’re going to notice as we get into them, are things that are the student’s fault. Every single one of these things comes back onto you as the teacher. Now, there are things that students can do to screw things up and mess up the teaching relationship too, but that’s a topic for another podcast. This is about you as a teacher. These are things that all come back on you. So, are you guilty of any of these seven things? That’s what you need to ask yourself. So, take inventory, kind of look at yourself, and take stock as we go through them, but here are the seven things that you might be doing to drive your guitar students away.
1) Making Things Too Hard and Not Fun Enough
Okay, number one. The first thing you might be doing that could be driving your guitar students away is you might be making things too hard and not fun enough for them. You might be making it too hard and not fun enough. It’s easy, especially if you’re really serious about playing the guitar and teaching the guitar and you’re not a naturally humorous person or fun-loving person by nature. You know, it’s easy to forget that lessons are supposed to be fun. People don’t take guitar lessons because they want to go to a musical boot camp. They don’t want to go sit down with you for an hour every week and have you be like a drill sergeant that just keeps driving them on, driving them on, and tearing them down and building them back up the way you want, and all of that kind of stuff, like the army experience or whatever.
That’s really not why 99 percent of the students that are going to come into your studio want to take lessons. Most of them don’t want to become rock stars, per se. I’m not saying that they would pass up the opportunity if it came along, but that’s not really what motivates a lot of them. Most of them aren’t going to want to become full-time musicians. You know? Most of them are not going to want to go on to enroll in a music college or University program and study music as a vocation. There’s going to be a percentage, a small percentage of them that may want to do that, but the vast majority of the students out there don’t want to take lessons. It’s not like a trade school that they’re going to. They’re not taking lessons because this is what they want to do with the rest of their lives. They do it because they want a fun, fulfilling, and rewarding experience.
So, maybe they’re doing it just for personal development reasons, where they just want to become a better person. They want to learn new skills. They want to develop their potential as a person, or maybe they have a really stressful job, if it’s an adult, and they just need some kind of diversion. Some kind of distraction from all of that stress, where they could do something that they love, where they can sit down once a week and just forget about all the pressures at work and just pour themselves into their guitar and engage in guitar with you. Maybe that’s what their motivation is, or maybe they’re just looking for something fun to do as a hobby. It could be as simple as that.
I mean there are a lot of different reasons why your students could be wanting to take lessons in the first place. It’s up to you to find out what those reasons are, but they do it because they want some kind of cool experience, and they want it to be fun. So, as a teacher, if you take things too seriously and you push your students too hard, or maybe you make the lessons too challenging for them. You try to get them to do too many things that are too difficult too fast. When those things start to happen, it stops being fun. And when it stops being fun, then students tend to lose their motivation and they want to stop doing it. I mean because thing about it. What do we do as human beings? We’re wired to pursue things that bring us pleasure and we’re wired to avoid things that bring us pain. So, if your lessons are painful to them – mentally painful, emotionally painful, maybe physically painful because of some of the things you’re trying to teach them to do – then it stops being fun and their human nature says, “Hey, if this is painful, I want to avoid it.” And really what it does is it creates frustration, it kills their motivation, and it just flat makes them want to quit.
So, if you kind of fall under this category, where you tend to make things too hard for your students and not fun enough, maybe you have this high ideal of what you think guitar lessons should be like and it’s your way or the highway, then my advice to you is to try to lighten up a little bit. Tell some jokes once in a while in your guitar lessons and clown around a little bit with them. And you know, play dumb things on the guitar. Do something to kind of break that tension and make it more fun and enjoyable for them. You know? And make sure that how you run the lessons really does reflect what your students expect and what they’re looking for. Okay, don’t be the theory Nazi or the practice Nazi all the time. Don’t be the drill sergeant all the time.
I mean yeah, you want to help them get results. Yeah, you want to make sure that they’re learning and growing and becoming complete musicians and well-rounded musicians, and all of that stuff. Yes. Yes. Yes. I’m not saying to water your lessons down and make it so that it’s just not doing anything good for them as a musician. I’m not telling you to do that. I’m just saying mix in a little bit of fun. Lighten up a little bit. Maybe ease back a little bit on how much your pushing them to do things, and you might be surprised at what that does for your student retention rate. Okay, that’s just a common problem I’ve seen. And just to say this for the record, I’ve been guilty of all seven of these things at one time or another, so this is the voice of experience talking here. So, that’s the first one: making things too hard not fun enough.
2) Making Things Too Easy and Not Challenging Enough
Okay, number two. The second thing you might be doing to drive your students away is actually the polar opposite of what I just talked about. Maybe you’re making things too easy and not challenging enough for your students. Maybe it’s so easy and it’s not enough of a challenge that it’s not doing it for them either. So, this is the other side of the spectrum. You can make things so easy and light that your students don’t feel like they’re learning anything. They don’t feel like they’re accomplishing anything. You know, maybe they’ve been coming to lessons with you for six months and they’re not really that much better on the guitar than they were before they started.
You know, that’s not a good thing, because then people are going to start to look at what they’re accomplishing, and then it’s like: “Wow, okay. I’m not getting my monies worth here,” and that could make them want to leave. So, because you may not be getting good feedback from your students, a lot of times they’re just going to smile during the guitar lessons and act like everything is fine, but deep inside they really could be kind of bored, or maybe they’re stuck in a rut, or maybe they’ve plateaued and they’re just really not getting a lot out of the lessons. And they won’t come right out and tell you that, because that’s not what most students do. They don’t want to offend you. They don’t want to be a jerk or whatever, but maybe they’re really bored. Maybe they’re having problems.
And if they are, you need to really get in front of that and change it, or you’re going to lose them. You know, or maybe you could just be missing the mark and maybe you’re teaching them things that they just aren’t interested in. You know, maybe their mindset is way over here in one area and you’re just trying to teach them something way out of left-field that they’re not even interested in at all, and then that could make them want to leave too. So, if they feel like that too much or if they feel like that too often, then that’s usually going to make them want to quit. I mean and think about that. Wouldn’t you do the same thing?
If you were taking lessons from someone, just put yourself in the student’s chair for a second here. Every customer wants to feel like they’re getting a good value for their money. Your students and, if they’re younger kids, they’re parents especially are no different. And you wouldn’t sit there and keep paying someone week after week to take guitar lessons if they weren’t giving you a good value for the money, if they weren’t giving you what you really needed, and if it wasn’t working and you weren’t making progress on the guitar. So, the same thing applies to them, They’re not going to stay and keep paying you to do that either.
So, the right balance is somewhere between number one and number two. So, number one was making things too hard. Number two is making things too easy or being off focus and off target with them. So, the right balance is kind of somewhere in the middle. So, you want to keep your lessons fun, yet engaging at the same time. You want to make what you’re teaching them attainable so that they’re not getting discouraged, but still challenging enough at the same time so it feels like they’re accomplishing something and getting a reward for their efforts. So, make sure. The way you do that is you make sure you understand why each student wants to learn the guitar in the first place.
I keep harping on this, but you’ve got to figure this out. You’ve got to ask them. You’ve got to talk to them. Find out why they’re sitting in that student’s chair, and then make sure that what you do with them gives them what they’re looking for. Okay, once you know their goals and you know their expectations, then you can adapt the pace and the direction of your lessons to help them reach those things. But unless you focus on their goals and their expectations, then they’re not going to stick with you long-term. Nine times out of ten they won’t. So, that’s number two: making it too easy.
3) Making Them “Drink From the Firehose”
Number three. The third thing that you may or may not be doing to drive students away is a big one, and that’s making them drink out of the fire hose. The proverbial old fire hose, I’ve been watching a lot of episodes of The Three Stooges lately. I don’t know if any of you guys or ladies out there, listening, enjoy watching The Three Stooges or if you enjoy them as much as I do. Three Stooges are one of the funniest things I think I’ve ever seen, probably because I grew up watching them on TV as a kid, and I could just sit there and watch episode after episode and laugh my behind off for two hours or whatever. But that’s one of the things they did a lot as one of their gags; is they would turn on a fire hose and like just put in somebody’s face. You know, and there’s one guy; it blows his toupee off and it knocks them down, and the water is like blowing people all over the place. It’s really hilarious.
But did you ever stop and think that you might be doing the same thing to your guitar students? You know, I’m not saying you’re pulling out the physical fire hose and turning it on in their face, but this is a common problem that a lot of guitar teachers have and a lot of times they don’t even realize it. You know, because you want to over-deliver, because you want to provide more value for the money, there’s a temptation there to increase the amount of content that you present in your lessons. So, instead of teaching one or two new musical concepts in a single lesson, maybe because you want to give them more than what they’re paying for, which is a good thing, but you know, just a little bit misdirected in this case. Instead of just teaching them one or two concepts, maybe you teach three or four concepts in the same lesson.
So, for example, maybe you’re introducing bar chords to a student. And you know, maybe, in your mind, you’re thinking: “Okay, if we can hurry up and get through these bar chords, we can get on to some cooler stuff.” So, in the same lesson there, you give them the E-type bar chords and the A-type bar chords, all in one lesson. Okay, that will overwhelm just about anybody. And here’s another example. Maybe you’re presenting triads to your students in a lesson. And instead of just giving them one shape of the triad and helping them drill on that and learn it really well, you give them all of the inversions of a set of triads, all in the same lesson, so you give them all three shapes at once for a given set of three strings. And you know, in my experience, that’s too much for one lesson.
So, here’s another example. Maybe you’re introducing the major scale to a student in the guitar lesson. And instead of giving them just the root pattern or whatever, the main pattern, you give them all seven patterns at once and say, “Okay, go practice all seven of these.” Well, to me, that’s too much information and that can overwhelm someone really easily. So, notice that your motives are probably good in doing this. You’re really trying to help them. You’re excited about sharing information with them, but you just open the fire hose and you just throw more at them than they can absorb at one time, and that just kills their motivation.
You really do mean well and, you know, it might feel like you’re really helping that student, but what you’re really doing is overwhelming them. You can totally have too much of a good thing. Rain is good. It makes the grass grow and it makes flowers and gardens grow, but too much rain and you have a flood, which is not good. Cake is good, but too much cake at one sitting gives you a stomachache. Wine is good, but too much wine at one time gets you drunk. Exercise is good, but too much exercise at one time exhausts you. I’m sure you’re following with me here. That’s the same thing with the guitar. Too much information at once makes your students feel like a failure because it’s like they can’t keep up. And you’re the teacher. You know what you’re doing, so they assume, and what happens? Well, it must be my fault, as a student. So, they feel defeated because they can’t track with you. They can’t follow and keep up with everything that you’re throwing their way, and that drains their motivation, and then it makes them feel like quitting.
So, let me just tell you. As a guitar teacher myself, I know what it feels like to be sitting in a private lesson and, you know, you’ve already gone through your lesson plan that you’ve figured out ahead of time for the student, and then you look at the clock and it’s like: “Oh crap, I have 20 minutes left. What am I going to do for 20 minutes? I’m at the end of my lesson plan.” And you’re thinking: “Okay, now what?” And you feel the pressure to deliver the rest of the lesson. You can’t just stop and say, “Okay, that’s all I’ve got for you. Let’s quit early.” I mean they’re paying you for that time, so you have to come up with something to do for the rest of the lesson. And that’s where the temptation comes in to say, “Oh, okay. Well, I showed you these bar chords. Let me show you these other ones that are based on the open A chord,” and that’s when you open the fire hose because you don’t know what else to do.
So, here’s a tip for you. Instead of showing them something new in a situation like that, go back and drill them on something that they already know, but that they haven’t quite mastered yet. One of the biggest ways you can help your students is to practice with them inside of the guitar lesson. Drill them on things. Have them play things for you and give them feedback on it. I mean there are a number of different things you could do in a guitar lesson that don’t require you introducing new concepts and material. So, my suggestion is, in all of your lesson honestly, introduce one or two new things, but then spend the rest of the time just going over, drilling, integrating, helping them to master those things and the things that you’ve taught them before.
So, you’re acting as a coach in that situation and not just a teacher. You’re not just presenting information. You’re actually coaching them and helping them become a better guitar player. And if you can do that, that’s going to add a lot more value to the lessons and also help your students make real progress on the guitar too. Okay, so that’s number three: making them drink out of the fire hose.
4) Playing Your Guitar Too Much
Number four. The fourth thing that you may or may not be doing that could be driving your students away is playing your guitar too much. Playing your guitar too much. This is a bad habit that’s easy to fall into, I mean, man, we just love playing the guitar so much. It’s so much fun. I love to play the guitar. I mean if I could, I would play it all the time. You know? And you’ve got to remember though that this is a guitar lesson that you’re sitting down with this person. It’s not a paid performance. They’re not paying you to sit there and listen to you play for half-hour or an hour. They’re paying you to teach them. So, it’s good to demonstrate something on the guitar, but if you spend the whole lesson time just noodling around on your guitar and playing stuff, then you’re wasting that student’s time and money.
So, just remember. This is a good thing to remember anytime you’re doing anything in business. It’s not about you. It’s really not about you. I mean you’re in business to make a profit, but when you’re sitting there, delivering the service of your guitar lessons, during that lesson time it is really not about you. It needs to be all about that student. So, just a friendly reminder here. You’re getting paid to teach, not to play, so make sure that you keep the focus on the student and not on your own playing. Okay, a lot of times we do this because we feel like we need some kind of musical outlet or something, but if you need an outlet to express yourself musically, then you need to start a band or join a band.
Don’t use your guitar lesson times to show off everything that you know or to stroke your own ego. And this is something I’ve said time and time again. You can have a successful business or you can get your ego stroked by your customers, but you can’t have both at the same time. If you want a successful business, then you have to be unselfish. And if you want to get your ego stroked, then you might get that out of a guitar lesson, but the students aren’t going to stick around and then you won’t have a successful business. So, honestly, just take my word for it. You might not realize this. You might be an amazing player and you might think, in your mind, “Wow, they just love to hear me play,” but it gets old after a while.
I’m just telling you, as a friend here. When a student doesn’t feel like they’re getting results from your lessons, they’re going to leave. Okay, so if you’re spending all your time playing, you’re not giving them results. And this should be common sense, but a lot of teachers just don’t get it for whatever reason. A lot of teachers I know have this problem and a lot of people I’ve taken lessons from have this problem too, in the past. So, I don’t think I have to say too much more about this one. Just be careful that you’re not playing too much. If the shoe fits, wear it. You know who you are, so take that for what it’s worth.
5) Talking Too Much
Number five. The fifth thing that you may or may not be doing that could be driving your students away is talking too much. Now, this is a similar problem to the one I just explained about playing the guitar too much, except that instead of playing, you just can’t stop talking during the lessons. And all of us are different. We all have different personalities. We all have different communication styles. Some teachers are more verbal and conversational than other teachers. But if you’re one of those people that just loves to talk, don’t use that as an excuse to spend 90 percent of your lesson times talking.
Rambling on about your musical experiences, going on and on about your gear, and talking about all these other things that don’t relate to the material being covered and what the student needs gets old after a while. Again, this is not about you. It’s not about everything that you have to say. It’s about the results that the student wants to get. So, don’t use your lesson times as a way to validate yourself, or to feel like you’re being heard, or to express your opinions all the time. If you need someone to talk to, then go hang out with your friends. If you’re married, go talk to your spouse. Lesson times are not for that.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t talk and you shouldn’t be jovial and you shouldn’t be friendly and have some banter before and after and during the lessons. That’s all fine if it gets you closer to the end goal of helping your student, but sometimes talking too much, as a guitar teacher, is a way to compensate for feeling awkward or feeling nervous. This is something that I used to have a problem with when I was working with new students that I hadn’t worked with before. You know, the first two or three lessons, before I really get to know them, I would tend to over-talk, just because I wanted to make sure that I was communicating things well and I didn’t know if they were really getting it. You know, I didn’t have a rapport built with that person, so that would be the tendency that I would have, and then I had to be really careful and to dial that back.
So, the way that you fix it is you just try to be aware of it. And if it feels like you’re talking too much, then chances are you are. You know, just a little observation there. You should not be doing all the talking in your guitar lessons. If you dominate the lesson times with too much talking, then your students are going to pick up on that and they’re going to find someone to study with who knows how to listen better. So, that’s just a tip for you. Number five: talking too much.
6) Not Asking Enough Questions
Number six. The number sixth thing that you could be doing to drive your students away is not asking enough questions. Not asking question enough. This one is related to the problem of talking too much, kind of, because sometimes lessons, for your student, a lot of times it can feel like they’re being dragged behind a truck. Okay, try to picture that for a minute. Your students can feel swept away by your lesson plans and by your curriculum and by everything that you’re trying to do and all the places you’re trying to take them, and have no control over where they’re going on the guitar or have no feeling of control. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t provide direction. You’re the teacher. That’s what they’re paying you for. You’ve been down this road. You know the way to get where they want to go, but you’ve got to give them some say so in everything and let them feel like they’re a participant here.
So, the way you do that is don’t assume that you know what your students are thinking and feeling. Okay, I can almost do this he said, she said kind of comparison here, but for example, you think you’re teaching this lesson and you’re thinking, in the back of your head, “Wow. Man, this lesson is going so great. Everything is going so great. Man, I’m talking about something that I love to teach and, you know, they’re listening and they’re taking it in, and they’re learning.” That’s what you think. What they think is: “I can’t believe my teacher thinks everything is going great. I hate this. This is not what I want to learn. Where’s the door?”
A lot of times, there’s a huge disconnect in the way you think things are going and the way your student thinks things are going. So, don’t assume that just because you think everything is going great that everything is going great. There’s a good chance it might not be, so don’t assume anything. Instead, ask them. Ask them questions. Asking questions takes the focus off of you and it puts it back on them. You might’ve noticed this, but people love to talk about themselves. All you’ve got to do to get someone feeling really good is to just ask them some questions and get them talking about themselves, about what they care about. That’s a way better approach than just telling them everything that they need to do and everything that you think.
Asking questions makes them feel like you care about them and their goals and their expectations. And that’s so important. So important. What happens is that draws them into this education process of learning the guitar and it makes it a partnership instead of a dictatorship. As a guitar teacher, you’re not the benevolent dictator. It’s a partnership. You are partnering with the student and helping them get where they want to go. And in return, they’re paying you for your time and services. So, assuming that you know what someone is thinking and feeling and wanting – this may not be your motivation, but it’s a bit arrogant in some ways. You know? It just is. It’s like you’re just assuming that it’s all about you.
So, maybe, instead, you need to humble yourself a little bit, if you fall under this category. Maybe you just need to be more aware of this instead a little bit more. You know, maybe it’s not arrogance. Maybe you’re just oblivious to it. You don’t realize that you’re doing it. So, you know, now is a good time to take stock and ask. Anytime things don’t seem to be going right in a guitar lesson, a good thing to do is to stop and then start asking questions. It’s always appropriate to ask questions, but especially if it feels like you kind of hit a wall with this student. If it doesn’t feel like it’s gelling, if they’re not catching on, if things are feeling awkward, then just stop whatever you’re talking about and then ask them some questions. Ask them things like: “Okay, how do you feel about this concept or this technique, or this thing that we’re working on right now? How do you feel about it?” Asking people how they feel is a good question that opens up the door for them to talk.
Okay, another question you could ask them is: “What kind of ways do you think you could use this particular thing in your own playing? How could you use it?” And if they come back and they’re like: “I don’t know,” well, that’s a good indicator that maybe you’re not applying it very effectively. Okay, everything that you teach them ought to have some kind of application in their guitar playing. And if you’re teaching them something that they’re not interested in and never going to use, they have no concept of how they could use it, that’s a good question to ask. A good thing to know. Maybe you need to teach them something else.
Here’s another question. “Can you think of any songs that uses technique that you might want to learn?” You could give them some examples, but say, “Yeah, are there any songs that you’ve heard that use this? And you know, we could start working on those.” You can maybe teach them one of those songs. You know, or here’s a good question too. “How interested are you in this?” You know, another way to phrase that. You wouldn’t actually say it this way, but what you’re thinking is: “Okay, I see your eyeballs rolling back into the back of your head. Are you really interested in this?” Ask them that in a nicer way. How interesting is this to you?
Ask questions. And when you do that, this makes it personal again. It takes the focus off of you and what you’re saying and doing, and it puts it back on them. And like I said, if it’s not about them, then you’re not going to have to worry about them for very much longer because they’re going to leave. It has to be about them.
7) Changing Things Up Too Often
And finally, number seven. The seventh thing that you might be doing to drive your student away is changing things up too often. Making too many changes in your business and in the lessons too often. So, what this is all about is this is messing with your program too much. Changing things too much on people. That can also drive your students away. Well, you might be asking, “Okay, how can that possibly drive them away?” Well, people tend to do better when you have a consistent program and they know what to expect from week to week. So, there’s a difference between having consistency and being boring and predictable.
I’m not saying that they need to know everything that’s going to happen in a guitar lesson before they show up the following week. I’m just saying the basic format and structure and flow of what you do should be constant from week to week. You don’t want your students showing up one week for 30-minute lessons, and then the next week for 60-minute lessons, and then the following week for 45-minute lessons because 60 minutes was too long, but 30 minutes was too short. And you don’t want them to work on electric guitar one week and acoustic guitar the next week, and bass guitar the week after that. You don’t want to keep rearranging your teaching studio and changing everything around. Too much of that throws people off.
Okay, if there’s no predictability at all, then there’s also no feeling of confidence and there’s no feeling of security. So, it’s okay. I definitely want to encourage you to try new things in your teaching business and try it once in a while, but try to keep the experience for your students constant and steady, for them, if you can. So, what that means is you think twice before you change something that’s going to impact their experience with your teaching business. You just want to be really careful when you change things that are going to impact them directly.
So, let me elaborate on that a little bit, You should always be looking for ways to improve what you do, but the thing is don’t change too many things at one time and don’t change them too fast. Don’t always be changing your lesson policies. Don’t always be changing your lesson formats and don’t constantly be making changes to the way that you operate your business. Don’t change the rules on them all the time. And also, one of the reasons I think we do this a lot is because we’re trying to improve our business, And we tend to do this copycat thing. So, that means every time you hear about some cool, new marketing idea or some cool, new curriculum, or this cool, new thing, you run out and you do it and you copycat it, and you try to just bolt it onto your teaching business.
And a lot of times it doesn’t work, and you lose credibility with your students whenever you say, “Oh, okay, I’ve got this cool, new program that will help you memorize all the notes on the fretboard,” and then you try it for three or four weeks, and then you realize it doesn’t work and then you stop doing it. And then your students are like: “Wow, okay. What was up with all of that?” You know, it shakes their confidence. So, take the copycat approach. Instead, be a little more strategic. Try new things, but really think it through and make sure that it’s the right thing for your teaching business. You know, you don’t want to just switch curriculums just because you found out about this new, cool thing on the Internet, for example.
The whole point is you want your students to have confidence in you. You want them to feel confident in their experience and their relationship with you as their teacher. And that comes from creating an environment of professionalism. You want to appear competent, not like you’re grasping at straws, trying to save your teaching business because you’re not making enough money, or trying to grow it desperately so that you can do it full-time, or something like that. You know, you don’t want to give the impression that you’re just trying all of these things, desperately trying to make something work.
Now, again, I’m not saying don’t fix broken things and I’m not saying not to make improvements wherever you can. I encourage you to do those things. I’m just saying be careful of how you implement those changes. Always, always, always consider what impression something that you change is going to make on your students before you pull the trigger, and always communicate it with them really, really well ahead of time. Don’t surprise them with big changes like that. Humans don’t like that kind of stuff. So, keeping their perception and their experience steady and professional builds what we call trust. Trust is key. If you change too much, too fast, too often, then they might start wondering what else is going to change. And once that trust is lost, it’s really hard to get it back and a lot of times they’ll leave. It’s much easier to just go find a different guitar teacher.
So, those are the seven things that you may or may not be doing that could be driving your students away. Now, for STG All-Access members only, I have a special surprise for you to celebrate the 50th episode of the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast. First off, I have three ways to help you get a sanity check and stop these seven things from happening in your teaching business before they become a problem, and then I have a special secret surprise – very cool, awesome thing – that I’m going to tell you about. And if you’re an STG All-Access member, you’re going to hear about that in just a second. And if you aren’t, then I want to encourage you to sign up today.
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