Guitar Teacher Interview 021 – Joshua C Liston


josh-listonOne 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 Joshua C Liston, a guitar teacher, blogger, podcaster and STG All-Access member from Albury/Wodonga, Australia. To find out more about Joshua and his teaching business, visit his website at




Guitar Teacher Interview

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you live? What’s your background?

Josh Liston here and I live in Albury/Wodonga, Australia (Population 130,000) which is lies half way between Sydney and Melbourne on the famous Murray River. I grew up in an even smaller town 120km East of Albury and started I playing bass and electric guitar at 14. Since then I have been suffering what some might call a guitar-obsessed-seizure, and I still play every day – 17 years later. I have worked as a music teacher, private tutor, been signed to record label, booked international touring bands and even managed to “manage” several of my own bands; all whilst working the proverbial 9 to 5. I currently play for 2 alternative rock bands: A Candela Lie and Bella Maris.

My biggest musical journey, though, began a little over 12 months ago with the release of my music marketing blog and Podcast [DIY MUSIC MOVEMENT]. With a little inspiration from a particular podcast (ok, ok, it was Internet Business Mastery), I launched into an entrepreneurial learning frenzy and the world of music marketing. It’s been a wild year so far, as my own bands and the DIYMM Podcast started to grow more quickly, I once again felt my desire to return to teaching.  And the Start Teaching Guitar Podcast was both the catalyst and remedy for my teaching urges! I have since started to recruit students on both bass and guitar.

In short regardless of where you are in your own musical journey I believe once again that teaching the “right things” to the “right students” is something that can fill a whole lot of gaps in your music life. Whether you need to keep your own chops up, meet more musicians, share techniques, learn about business or a crazy number of other awesome skills, teaching guitar is something your should start. Start today.

Tell us about your guitar teaching business. Are you doing it part-time or full-time? How many students are you currently teaching?

It’s a complementary product to my main music marketing and publishing platform over at DIY Music Movement (dot) com and DIYMM Podcast. I have only just gotten back into teaching but have taught up to 30 students per week in the past, but my goal is to have 20 private students and 2 group-acoustic-classes of 5 to 7 students each.

What’s been the biggest key to success in your teaching business so far?

That’s a simple one really:

And finally, having a platform built online and off where people know and trust me has been key! Whether they have heard my own bands or checked out my blog or podcast, my word of mouth has been powerful from day 1. So build that platform, people, even if you don’t plan on teaching for a while yet. :)

What’s been your most effective way of attracting new students?

Having professionally recorded music out there has been huge, plus live performance videos and pictures have been awesome word-of-mouth builders. In terms of lead generators, the guitar recording blog posts on my website have been working well for online leads. Plus LeadPlayer on all my blog’s videos, as most of the people who follow me online are guitar people – kinda happens when you’re a Prog dude with G.A.S

The biggest surprise in my Lead-Gen system so far though, has been my colored hand flyers. Both via SOCIAL and on paper. The old tricks still work in regional places – I feel all lovers of the guitar also have an appreciation for great design. So get some good looking web banners, Facebook pics, video thumbnails and physical hand flyers.

What’s been your most effective way of keeping your existing students from quitting?

This is something that I’ve yet to experience in my own teaching business, but I know that a keen focus on teaching students how to compose their own musical pieces always kept my attrition down in my previous teaching jobs.

Otherwise my plan is to do this:

  • Teach my students what they want to learn
  • Highly customize each lesson’s materials to suit the student
  • Fit in theory and technique where I can without bogging the lessons down
  • Give the students lots of “gifts” (lesson audios, follow up videos, screencasts, pedal experiment sessions, free guitar set-ups and songwriting sessions)

What helps to keep you motivated to continue when things don’t seem to be going as well as you would like?

Seeing the look on my students faces when they master a new riff, technique or even better – their own compositions – is priceless. I think, as the teacher, you must reach a place in your life where your focus can be completely student-focused or your lessons will always become a drag over time. If you’re teaching just for extra cash, to show off, to feel superior or to dictate styles to your students (aka your customers), you’re dead in the water! I know this because I was once one of those part-time-teachers as Donnie calls them…

What advice would you have for someone who would like to get started teaching guitar lessons for the first time?

At the 30,000ft level I’d say just go out and do it! But from a more practical perspective, I’d take stock of the following:

  • Think about how many people have asked you about your guitar playing, gear, different techniques, songwriting and theoretical knowledge. If you have general guitar questions coming your way now, you might just be in a place to start teaching with an in-built audience.
  • Next, give some thought to your own level of guitar skill, teaching skill and marketing skill. These will determine which students you should go after, how many students you can handle and what type of lead generation system you can build. (I say marketing instead of business skills, as I believe marketing is the key business skill you and you alone must master – everything else can either be learned or outsourced).

To save years of marketing learning I’d just listen to Donnie’s STG All Access episodes 1 to 60. His podcast is powerful and specific to building a teaching business.

Can you share one tip that has worked for you to help your students get better results on the guitar?

I can share two things that I’ve found work well with every beginner>>>intermediate guitar and bass student I’ve taught and they are:

  1. Call-out aloud the name of the chord or note your changing to as you perform your change, for example Am, F, C, G, etc.
  2. When learning more complex rhythm parts, ask your student to play the strumming or rhythm pattern on the guitar or bass as a series of tacets. Basically if your students can’t tacet out the pattern its doubtful they will find much joy in playing the more complex 2 hand riff or passage.



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!


Guitar Teacher Interview 021 – Joshua C Liston was last modified: April 28th, 2014 by Donnie Schexnayder