How To Teach Absolute Beginners


Start Teaching GuitarWhen you’re working with someone who is brand new to the guitar, it’s important to help them get some results pretty quickly. Lots of beginners will quit because they think it’s too hard, unless you help them find some small “wins” along the way early on in the process.

I typically start with asking the student some questions to try and find out what motivates them. I do this before we ever even start doing lessons…questions like:

  • Who’s your favorite band/artist?
  • What are some of your favorite songs?
  • Who’s your favorite guitar player?
  • Why do you want to learn guitar?
  • What kind of things do you want to be able to do?
  • Where do you want to be with your music in 5 years?
  • Etc.

This is good information for a teacher. It tells you your student’s definition of RESULTS. Your job is to take their dream and make it a reality. So, start off with concepts that are technically easy.

Usually, single note versions of their favorite songs is where I begin. Here’s a perfect example. My 8-year old son wanted me to teach him how to play guitar, and he thinks “Smoke On The Water” is the coolest song ever (yeah, I know…he has a lot to learn!). I started him out with that song, just playing a single note version of the main riff…basically what the bass player would be doing. It was challenging enough for him, and also easy enough for him to feel like he was accomplishing something. Because I approached it that way, he still “likes” playing guitar and has good feelings about it. Of course, he’s no Ritchie Blackmore yet, but he’s one step further along on the journey to get there and still walking down that path…and that’s what it’s all about.

So make sure you don’t try to make your students “drink from the fire hose”…slow things down and take baby steps with them. You want them to stick around for a long time, right? Control the flow of information for your students and make sure you aren’t presenting too much at once, especially early on in their musical development.

If you try to build in at least one or two “wins” for your students in each and every lesson, they’ll feel a lot better about playing and will want to stick with it.  You really need to understand the power you bring to your students…if you help them reach their musical goals it actually changes them for the rest of their lives! To me, that’s one of the coolest things about teaching guitar.

Do you have any ideas or questions about working with beginning guitar students? Post a comment and tell me about it!


How To Teach Absolute Beginners was last modified: November 14th, 2012 by Donnie Schexnayder