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 Paul Andrews from Ashford, Kent in England. You can find out more about Paul and his teaching business by visiting his website at www.paulandrews.info.
Guitar Teacher Interview
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?
I live in Ashford, Kent in England where I have lived most of my life. I started playing guitar when I was 15 after being introduced to guitar-driven bands such as Green Day and Nirvana by my sister’s then boyfriend.
After playing around for a couple of years, I started to get lessons with a local teacher while studying computing at college. Three years later I was studying music production and sitting an audition to become a guitar teacher for a local Yamaha Music School where my guitar teacher at the time worked, but was leaving and named me as a suitable replacement.
One of the first lessons I ever taught was a group lesson of five students. I remember coming home shaking but after a few more lessons I began to really enjoy teaching and immersed myself fully into music education, leaving music production behind.
Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?
I have been teaching guitar now for over seven years. I teach around seventy students a week from three different locations: an all girl’s state school, a private music school (where I started my career) and my private teaching studio. I teach a wide range of students, with the youngest being five and the oldest being seventy. Some are learning for leisure only, while others are planning to study music at University.
I started teaching from my home about three years ago and have built up a full diary of reliable students, so much so that I have recently expanded my business and now have my own teaching studio close to the local town centre. Due to the larger space of my office I am currently putting together a group teaching plan for guitar lessons and music theory, which I hope to roll out early next year.
What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?
The biggest key to my success is always being prepared. I learned this from one of my early guitar teachers, I remember feeling surprised when he pulled songs out of his folder all written out and ready to go. My previous guitar teacher did no preparation and would write out songs in the lesson, usually taking up the whole hour but at the time this seemed normal.
I learnt a lot from that guitar teacher, but most importantly I learned the importance of preparation, as I feel this separates the teachers from the guitar players. In the early days before I had children I spent years writing a scale syllabus, scoring numerous songs and exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced level guitarists and reading every book I could get my hands on about teaching.
What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?
I have found the most effective way of attracting students is via Google. My website went live on a Friday and by Monday I had my first student. I have found the Internet is most people’s first port of call when looking for a guitar teacher and I am always amazed when I see guitar teachers who do not have a web site…long gone are the days where an advert in the phone book was all you needed. A website is a business essential.
What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?
I look after each student and tailor lessons to meet their individual goals. From lesson one I ask a series of question such as:
•What made you want to start playing the guitar?
•What sort of music do you want to play?
•Have you got any favourite guitar players?
These questions help me to establish the student’s goals and set a plan in motion to achieve them. Every few months I check to see that the student is happy with their lessons and check to see if their goals, musical tastes or even favourite bands/songs have changed.
I have also made the decision that I am a guitar teacher first and a performer second, it used to really annoy me when I would get a call from my guitar teacher the day before the lesson cancelling due to a gig or even turning up to his house on one occasion and him forgetting altogether we had a lesson booked!
What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?
I find when things go wrong it is important to remember a mistake is only so if you do not learn from it. One of the things I love about the job and being self employed in general is the freedom to do different projects. A few years ago I wrote a book about teaching rhythm reading to children and a set of CD-ROM’s for guitar scales…both projects fell flat but I learned a lot about business and marketing and will never make the same mistakes again.
What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?
Make sure you are teaching for the right reasons. Teaching because it seems like easy money is not the right reason. I know many skilled guitar players who use teaching to get extra money between gigs and do not commit fully, this results in empty teaching diaries and frustrated students.
If done for the right reasons teaching is rewarding in numerous ways, but most of all earning a living from doing what you love has got to be most people’s dream. I think this quote sums it up nicely:
Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life – Harvey MacKay
Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?
I am always careful not to overload the student, making sure they build their playing slowly without frustration and discouragement. I have found incorporating “The Registry of Guitar Tutors” guitar grades/exams into my lessons provides the student with a clear goal and a recognised qualification when they have passed their exam.
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.
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