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.
This interview is with Liam Cain, a full-time guitar teacher from Welwyn Garden City, near London, England. You can find out more by visiting his website at my-guitar-lessons.yolasite.com.
Guitar Teacher Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?
I live in Welwyn Garden City, which is around 30 a thirty minute drive from London, England.
I started playing the guitar just before my 15th birthday (28 years ago) and was introduced to it by a family friend. He loved showing people stuff and owned a 1967 Epiphone Texan – which is the first guitar I got to play! He was a finger-style player, and the first song I learned was Paul Simon’s version of Angie. We went around to his house for a visit and he was playing a song that I thought was great and I wanted to learn. So my second song was Sultans of Swing!
I always played the guitar for fun because I was not encouraged to see it as a career. I was also good at sport which eventually led me into coaching track and field. I did this for 15 years and after the Olympics in 2008 some of the athletes I coached were to be funded by the governing body. As their coach, I was asked how I was going to challenge myself and develop my performance. They talked about comfort zones, etc! I had just picked up a guitar magazine for the first time in years (to read while waiting for the meeting) and had just seen adverts for studying guitar at college. So, in this interview, I said I would try this – a little off the cuff really as I was not expecting the question! They made me follow up the process, so I contacted the college, I had an audition and was offered a place on the degree programme for the following fall – which I wasn’t planning! I am a great believer in things happening for a reason, so I decided to go to University. I am now in my final year of my performance degree programme. I have made lots of friends at college, have received great tuition, and have improved my playing and sight reading skills to a professional level – and changed my life!
Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?
I started last year teaching some family members and friends for free. This allowed me to practice transferring my coaching skills in track and field to teaching the guitar. From this I developed ideas and monitored what seemed to work and which ways were less successful. In August this year I decided to go full time with my teaching, to add to the revenue from gigging. I started the website and coming up to 3 months in, I have 11 students. The youngest student is 16 and the eldest is 66 years of age. Currently I do one to one lessons but I have a vision of doing group lessons based on a blues class, rock and jazz classes. I am still unsure how to develop this at the moment, so am researching how to make this part of my business grow.
What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?
Preparation! I spent time practicing my teaching on willing victims! I also used a camcorder to view my teaching style to ensure that I was giving out positive body signals, communicating effectively and enthusing the student. This process helped me to evaluate the content and delivery of my lessons. I made many mistakes and it was best to do this on someone who was not paying.
What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?
The website has been my primary source of attracting customers. This has multiplied over the last month as I have developed my skills in search engine stuff! I am now ranked first in ‘guitar lessons in welwyn garden city’ – but that has taken me three months to achieve – though I am sure it can be done faster if you have that kind of knowledge already.
What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?
Preparation! I spent time thinking about differentiation and came up with two unique selling points. The first is based around how I teach the guitar. I do not use method books and teach people tunes that they want to play – not what I already know! That challenges me and helps to maintain motivation for both student and teacher.
My second unique selling point is that every 5th lesson is free! This was devised to reward loyalty and aid retention. This idea came from observing other business practice in my area (like Donnie mentions in his podcasts about learning from his son’s Karate instructor). I get my car cleaned once a week and every 5th car wash is free! I have had my car cleaned by them for the last 3 years and do not want to change!
What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?
If I am fortunate enough to wake up, then I am motivated to have a great day and play my guitar. I guess, if I don’t wake up, then things aren’t going so well!
What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?
Preparation! Practice your teaching skills like you practice your playing. Think about what you will deliver to the customer and how you will make enough difference to their playing and lives so that they want to continue investing in you!
Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?
Help them develop all of their sensory skills. You might teach them to use their visual skills by showing them chord diagrams and how to form chords visually. They develop their aural skills as they generally have a sense of it not sounding right! The link is to develop the sense of touch. We often describe famous players as having a great ‘feel’…so are you teaching the student to ‘feel’ the guitar? A way to do this is to have them close their eyes and allow them to experience how much pressure is required (for them) to make a chord ring sweetly and be aware of the ‘death grip’!
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!