One of the driving principles behind Start Teaching Guitar is that we can all learn from each other. This “Guitar Teacher Interview” series is a chance for us to hear from other guitar teachers around the world and hopefully get some ideas for our own teaching businesses.
Today we have an interview with Anthony Pell, a guitar teacher from Melbourne, Australia. Anthony is doing lots of things right in his teaching business: taking advantage of search engine traffic to attract new students, using well-established certification programs to help his students reach their goals on the guitar and finding creative ways to help them practice more effectively. Check out his website at melbourneguitarlessons.com for more about Anthony and his teaching business.
Guitar Teacher Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?
I’m in Melbourne, Australia which is a fairly large city of about 3-4 million people. I had piano lessons as a kid which then led to guitar and joining rock bands in high school.
I studied music and sound engineering at University back in the mid 1990’s. This led to working as a sound engineer mixing for bands live and in the studio for several years but the work was never consistent enough to make a living from so I ended up working in a range of other jobs including a corporate AV company, retail and web design.
During all of this time I studied music and played guitar and bass in a range of bands from original to cover bands. My current music projects are a jazz/funk/soul band “Trumpet” (www.trumpetjazzband.com.au) where I play bass guitar and double bass and an acoustic covers duo “Deuawd” (www.acousticcoversduo.com.au) where I play guitar and sing.
Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?
In regards to teaching I started teaching bass guitar about 3 years ago which I quickly expanded to guitar as the demand for guitar teachers was much greater.
I teach 25-30 students from the ages of 7 to 60 which includes beginners to some more advanced students particularly in bass guitar. About 25% are bass students and 75% are guitar. At this stage it is a large part-time steadily growing income.
Mostly I teach individual students but do teach some pairs. I am too limited in space to teach groups in my home studio but may consider the feasibility of teaching groups at another location in the future.
For students that are more advanced I offer to prepare and enroll them for AMEB (Australian Music Examinations Board) CPM (Contemporary Popular Music) exams. These CPM exams focus on non-classical styles of music including pop, rock, blues, funk and jazz while still ensuring that students have technical, music reading and aural skills.
What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?
I always try to go out of my way to help students get engaged in playing by transcribing music they like. Also mixing up the “boring” but necessary parts of learning the guitar (e.g. scales and reading) with the fun elements like learning a cool riff or song they like, while where possible, relating to how this works with the technical elements of music. I also create backing tracks for songs that people like to play along to and create slow and then full speed versions to practice with.
What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?
My main sources of new enquiries come from online searches as my domain name helps my site to rank for “Melbourne Guitar Lessons”. On top of this I am always adding new content and information to the site including articles and video lessons.
Testimonials on the site help enormously too, as they give you more credibility over another competing site that doesn’t have many or only 1 or 2 testimonials. I also have a FaceBook and Twitter page which I update every few days with guitar and music tips to show that my site is current and being updated.
Plus I also offer the 1st lesson free, which works quite well. I find that this helps to get new students in the door and signing up to more lessons.
What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?
Goal setting helps when people are showing signs of giving up such as not practicing or cancelling lessons at the last minute. I also incorporate this with a practice schedule – outlining how to break up a 30 minute practice schedule for students – which helps to maintain their focus.
What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?
Whenever a student drops out or doesn’t practice there’s always more who do their homework and show great improvements. You can see how happy they are when you remind them how they could barely play when they started lessons and how they can play XYZ song now. Also when students do well at their exams it’s extremely satisfying.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work getting your teaching materials and marketing organized. Plus take the time for extra music theory study and practice required to know and play styles of music or techniques you may not have played much before from finger picking to sweep picking or improvising over jazz changes. The more knowledge and techniques you know about the better all rounded player and teacher you will be.
Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?
Get them to slow down and play the part slow and right – not fast and wrong! Even pulling a riff or section into smaller segments and working on each bit can be a big help in getting a part down.
Well, that’s it for today’s Guitar Teacher Interview. If you’d like to be considered for a future interview, enter your name and email address below to join the Start Teaching Guitar community. I send out occasional interview requests to this mailing list.
If you have any questions, comments or feedback please leave a reply below!