Helping Your Students Set Musical Goals


Start Teaching GuitarThe whole process of improving on the guitar is driven by setting and reaching musical goals.

Setting goals really is the key to success, not just with the guitar, but in every area of life. It’s almost impossible to master something as complicated and vast as the guitar without setting some clear goals that you want to shoot for. You may not hit every single one 100% of the time, but you’ll be a lot closer to where you want to be than if you had no goals at all.

Use this worksheet to help your students identify and write down their musical goals. If it works for you, feel free to print as many copies as you need to for the future (this is true for all the lesson handouts on this site).

You want to help your students set very SPECIFIC goals. In other words, saying “I want to be a really good guitar player” won’t cut it. They need to describe exactly what kind of success they want to see, decide the date they want to see this accomplished by, and be as specific and descriptive as possible. This is where most people fail when they start setting goals…they get lazy and don’t put in the time and effort to really think it through. Your students are creating a road map for the future as they write these goals down…help them to think hard, and make sure they’re describing the future they really want, in as much detail as they can come up with.

They need to update these goals pretty frequently…their focus on the guitar may change after a while. That’s totally OK. Just make sure to review the goals with them often, and set new ones to make sure they keep moving forward and keep learning the things that matter to them.

Also, make sure you get them to actually write the date on the goal sheet, so they can look back and see their progress in achieving these musical goals. You also need to help them set some deadlines for achieving the goals. These goals are really like appointments with destiny, so make sure they pencil in the date they want to see them accomplished by.

Then, if your students are feeling really brave and confident, try to get them to share their goals with some of their friends. There’s something magical that happens when you share them with other people…you release them out into the world and you have some accountability to help you keep working toward them.

Finally, they need to look at their goals every day. I’d recommend having them keep the worksheet in a place where they can look at it when they wake up every morning and before they go to bed every night. They should read them out loud, and believe that they’re really going to happen…if your students do this, and they really believe it, they probably will happen!

To get your students started setting musical goals, begin by having them answer the following questions on a scratch sheet of paper for now. You can also add other questions to this list if you need to:

“What do I want to get out of playing the guitar?”
“If I could do anything I wanted on the guitar (and I had the skills to pull it off), what would I do?”
“What kind of places do I want to be performing at in 6 months? 3 years? 5 years?”
“Do I want to travel around the world to perform? Or stay in my home town?”
“To what specific places do I want to travel when I play?”
“Do I want to perform my own original songs or cover songs written by other people?”
“Do I want to be paid as a musician, or just do it for the enjoyment of playing?”
“If I want to get paid to play, do I want to do this full-time or only part-time while I pursue something else?”
“What size audiences do I want to be performing for in 6 months? 3 years? 5 years?”
“How fast do I want to be able to play scales, licks and solos?”
“What specific techniques do I want to be able to perform on the guitar?”
“By what date do I want to be able to perform them?”
“What songs do I want to be able to play note-for-note on the guitar?”
“What honors and awards do I want to receive for my guitar playing?”
“How do I want to share my skill and knowledge with younger, up and coming guitar players?”

Once you they have all that raw information, they should start thinking about what it will take to get them to each one of those things. The big goals will now start to have lots of smaller goals leading up to them. Have them work backwards from the end result they want to see, and write down all the smaller goals they’ll have to reach before they can see the bigger goals come to pass.

Once all that work is done, they’ll have a pretty clear picture of where they want to go with the guitar. Now they’re ready to fill out the musical goals worksheet…just organize the goals by priority (how important they are to the student) and by how long they think it’ll take them to achieve them (short, medium or long-term). Write them in on the worksheet, then have them review their goals daily, like I mentioned before.

You might still be skeptical at this point…wondering why your students should spend time thinking all this through, and then writing it down and looking at it every day. The answer is simple: If you aim for nothing, you’re guaranteed to hit it every time. But if you know what you’re aiming at, you have a greater chance of actually hitting it when you pull the trigger.

Use this process of goal setting to help your students create their future as a guitar player…then all you have to do is work your way through the process with them, one goal at a time.

Do you have any personal experience with musical goals, and how they made you a better player or teacher? Leave a comment below to tell me about it.

Click here download the PDF lesson handout mentioned
in this article (“Musical Goals Worksheet”)

Image: Keattikorn /

Helping Your Students Set Musical Goals was last modified: November 14th, 2012 by Donnie Schexnayder