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STG 132: Busting Some Common Myths About Teaching Guitar – Part 1

 

complete guitar player

There are lots of common myths about teaching guitar lessons floating around out there. They sound logical, so most people who’ve never experienced anything different just accept them at face value and operate their teaching studios accordingly. The problem is that when you operate based on wrong information, the results you produce are usually messed up, too, and your business is never as successful as you want it to be. In fact, some of these common myths can actually wreck your teaching studio if you base your decisions off of them!

This episode is part 1 in a three-part series on the common myths many guitar teachers tend to believe. In part 1 I’ll cover things like effective planning, being more selective with the students you teach, dealing with rejection and difficult students, how to compete with the latest technology for learning guitar and whether or not the general interest in guitar lessons is waning. Whether you’re new to teaching guitar or you’ve been at it for a while, do yourself a favor and listen to this series…the truth can set you free!

Items Mentioned In This Episode

Article – “Is It Still Possible To Make A Full-Time Living Teaching Private Guitar Lessons?”

Podcast Transcript

Now, there are a lot of myths floating around out there about teaching guitar lessons. They sound logical, so most people who’ve never experienced anything different just accept them at face value and operate their teaching studio accordingly. The problem is that when you operate based on the wrong information, the results your produce are usually going to be messed up too and your business is never as successful as you want it to be. In fact, some of these common myths can actually wreck your teaching studio if you base your decisions off of them.

So, this episode is part one in a three-part series on the common myths many guitar teachers tend to believe. In part one, I’m going to cover things like effective planning, being more selective with the students you teach, dealing with rejection and difficult students, how to compete with the latest technology for learning guitar, and whether or not the general interest in guitar lessons is starting to wane. Whether you’re new to teaching guitar or you’ve been at this for a while, do yourself a favor and listen to this series, all three parts of it, because the truth can set you free.

This podcast is sponsored by Music Teacher’s Helper – the best way to manage your private music lesson studio. Music Teacher’s Helper is online scheduling and billing software that you can access from your computer, your laptop, your tablet, and your smartphone that saves you hours every month, enables you to generate reports for taxes, and ensures that you never lose track of a payment. Once you add a student, which is super easy, you can choose to automatically send them custom invoices that can be paid with a credit card even if you make that an option. Automatically email lesson reminders to your students, send them late payment notifications, and copies of their lesson notes. You can use the free easy-to-build website templates to help market your studio online, and so much more.

There are actually so many cool features in Music Teacher’s Helper that I don’t have time to get into all of them right now, but the thing I like best about Music Teacher’s Helper is how it makes your teaching studio run almost on autopilot. Students can book lessons and they can request reschedules of their lessons through the tool. They can login with their own account and they access important information, like lesson assignments and progress reports, and they can log their practice times, and do that at any time of the day or night. So, whether you have five or 50 students, Music Teacher’s Helper works for music teaching studios of all sizes. I originally discovered the software and started using it myself several years ago, and I highly recommend giving Music Teacher’s Helper a spin so you can see for yourself how useful it is.

They offer a 30-day no-risk trial, where you can test it out to discover how much time you’ll be saving. If you use this special address that I’m about to give you to sign up, StartTeachingGuitar.com/MTH, then you’re going to save 20 percent off of your first month if you choose to continue after the free trial. So let’s jump into today’s topic now, Busting Some Common Myths About Teaching Guitar Pt. I.

If you’re new to teaching guitar lessons or maybe you’ve even been teaching for a while, you might have some inaccurate assumptions about what it means to be a guitar teacher. It could be a lot of different things. There’s a lot of information floating around out there that we tend to believe and take at face value that’s not necessarily true. A lot of these common myths are floating around out there, and a lot of teachers consciously or maybe subconsciously buy into them and believe them and act on them unfortunately. Sometimes you can make decisions based on these inaccurate beliefs, and then the results from that can mess up your business and keep you from making progress with your teaching studio.

So, you’ve probably seen that popular TV show, Myth Busters. Well, this episode is part of a three-part series, and I’m going to be busting five myths in part one here today about being a guitar teacher so that you can build your business using accurate information so that you can avoid a lot of the common mistakes that teachers tend to make based on the wrong information, and then so that you can be more successful with your teaching studio by not buying into and acting on any of these myths about teaching guitar. So, let’s jump into part one.

Myth #1

The first myth that I want to bust in this episode is the belief that whatever you need to know you can figure out as you go. Now, doesn’t that sound awesome? Doesn’t that sound just like so cool and daring, and – I don’t know – kind of romantic I guess in a weird way? Whatever you need to know you can figure out as you go; that kind of plays into the whole idea to me of the self-taught guitarist. You know, someone like Eddie Van Halen or whatever that never really studied formal guitar, but all of a sudden turned out to be an amazing virtuoso guitar player or whatever, and whatever he needed to know he figured it out along the way.

You know, there are exceptions. There are probably a few people that just had like a golden road paved before them when they started teaching guitar lessons and everything worked out right, everything went perfect, and they didn’t know a whole lot when they got started, but they picked it up quick. Whatever they need to know they figured it out as they went, but I’m going to tell you 99 times out of 100 that doesn’t happen. It’s not about just jumping into starting a teaching studio kind of haphazardly. There are some planning and things that need to be involved.

Some things, yes, you are going to keep learning. You are going to keep learning. You are going to keep figuring things out as you go, but you can’t have that as a foundation of your business. So, there’s this quote that you might have heard. I’ve used it before. It’s out there a lot, and it’s simply three words: ready, fire, aim as opposed to ready, aim, fire. When you’re holding a firearm, a gun, ready, so you get it ready. Aim, you point at the thing that you want to hit. And then fire, you pull the trigger. But what a lot of people do is they do ready, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire, aim, fire, keep aiming, keep firing until they hit whatever it is that they want to hit, and that’s a great way to pull yourself out of things like procrastination and patterns of inaction.

A lot of times you just spend so much time on the ready and aim part that you never execute with your teaching studio. You never try that new program or you never reach out and open up that new location, or you never get started teaching people at all. Get that first student. So, sometimes yeah, you’ve got to ready, fire, aim, but if you make this the way that you operate all the time, it can mess things up. Sometimes you do need to aim before you fire, particularly if you actually want to hit something intentionally. You definitely need to aim before you fire. You know, if you don’t aim before you fire, you never know what you’re going to hit. You could hit an innocent bystander or something.

So, I mean this is an analogy, but in your business too yes, you’ve got to get started. Yes, you’ve got to take action. Yes, you could keep learning as you go. But before you jump into starting a new teaching studio or implementing some kind of big change, you have to start with a solid plan. Yes, you can keep learning as you go. You don’t need to know everything upfront, but you’ve got to make sure that you are ready. And the best way to do that when you’re starting a business is to put together a simple business plan. I mean that’s like a dirty word to a lot of people that are just kind of free styling, trying to be a business owner, trying to open up a guitar teaching studio.

It’s like business plan. You know, they picture this hundred-page thing full of charts and spreadsheets, and math calculations and paragraphs of information about this and that. Well, it doesn’t have to be that complicated, but let me tell you. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to have a plan. If you want to hit something, you’ve got to get ready, you’ve got to aim, and then you’ve got to fire, in that order. So, put together a simple business plan. It doesn’t have to be a hundred pages. It could be five pages, or you could even break it down to one page, but that business plan should explain exactly how you’re going to make money, exactly how you’re going to get students, and exactly how you’re going to pay your bills.

If you don’t figure that out, especially those three critical areas; there are others too, but those are the three big ones. How are you going to make money? How are you going to get students? How are you going to pay your bills? If you don’t figure that out, then there’s a very low probability that your business is going to be successful. So, here’s a good word of wisdom, a good tip, a good piece of advice for you to take with you. Never start a business without proving that it will be viable first. It’s so easy to start a business today. All you’ve got to do is put out an ad on Craigslist and, you know, then you can start teaching guitar. You know, you can throw an ad in the newspaper. You can post something on social media and say, “Hey, I’m looking for guitar students.” I see that all the time on Twitter.

And you might get some responses. You start teaching. You start collecting money, but that’s cool if all you want to do is just teach a few lessons here and there and make some extra cash. But if you want to get serious about this, if you want to be successful, if you want your business to last and you want it to grow from level to level to level and become something that can provide for your family for the rest of your life, then you need to start out with a plan. If you don’t, anything beyond starting out with a plan and proving that your business is going to be viable first, anything less than that is not a business. It’s a hobby. Even if you get paid a little bit of money, it’s a hobby that brings in extra cash until you put together a plan.

So, for those of you listening to this that have believed that myth that says whatever you need to know you can figure it out as you go, there is an element of truth in that, like there is to every myth, but honestly if you want to be successful as a guitar teacher for the long-term, you need to put together a plan so that you can get ready, so that you can aim, and that you can fire and you can be successful. So, that’s the first myth I want to bust. Don’t jump into this ignorantly or haphazardly. Put together a plan first.

Myth #2

Here’s the next myth, and this is one that’s kind of a pet peeve of mine, but I can totally understand why people buy into it. Myth number two is you can and should teach everybody. I’ve done entire podcast episodes about this topic, but so many people don’t understand that you have to be selective in the students that you teach. You can and should teach everybody is the mindset. You know, it seems like common sense. Hey, somebody comes to my studio. They want to give me their money. I should take it.

But too many teachers out there operate out of a mindset of scarcity and the belief that there are not enough students to go around. That’s kind of the root of this. You can and should teach everybody. Well, I’m going to tell you that that is a myth. You should not. You can’t teach everybody and you should not try to teach everybody. There are plenty of students out there, and you will be better served in the long run if you are selective about who you take into your studio today, even when you’re first getting started, even when your studio is small and you’re just looking for any student you can find to help you increase your income.

If you will be selective and you’ll be careful about the students that you accept, there are a lot of benefits to that. Before I get into that, I’m getting ahead of myself. A lot of teachers make this mistake. They accept any student who walks in the door, even if it would be a terrible fit. A lot of students are a terrible fit for your teaching studio. They don’t show up. When they do, they don’t show up on time. They don’t pay. And when they do, they don’t pay on time. They don’t practice. They don’t work. They don’t put in effort. All of those things add up to a recipe for disaster and huge headaches for you as a guitar teacher, and nothing good comes out of that for your teaching studio, for your business, or for you or for the student.

I’m of the opinion that you should only be teaching the kind of students that allow you to do your best work. Now, think about that for a minute. You should only be teaching the kinds of students that let you do your best work. Whenever you’re doing your best work, when you’re in the zone, when you are at your absolute, one hundred percent best as a teacher and a business owner, you get more fulfillments and more satisfaction out of what you’re doing with your life, which is hugely important. You get more referrals because you’re doing such a knockout job with the students that you have. They can’t help but go out and tell everybody that they know about what’s happening, what you’re doing for them, and it just organically generates all of these extra word-of-mouth referrals. When you’re doing your best work, you become remarkable.

You give your students better results, they learn and they grow, and they just expand their musical ability so quickly when you’re doing your best work, when you’re working with someone that you have a perfect connection with. And if you put all of that together, you have a more successful business overall, just by choosing the people that you work with. Working with poor quality students that are a bad fit just to get a little bit of extra money today can really wreck your business in a lot of ways. One of the obvious ways is that when you deal with someone that you don’t want to teach, but you’ve got to sit in front of them every week, you’ve got to track their payments down, you’ve got to track their appointments down, you’ve got to track their practice and assignment stuff down, and you’re always trying to get them to do what they need to do to be successful, the first thing that’s going to happen is your motivation is going to get damaged.

You are going to start to dread sitting down to teach lessons to these people, and then pretty much, after a while, you’re going to start to dread teaching guitar at all and you’re going to try to find something else to do. Whenever you work with students like that, your good reputation in the community doesn’t grow, so that word of mouth thing, you know, that works in your favor doesn’t happen if you work with students that are a bad fit, hardly at all. And if it does, you’re just going to get more students like them and it’s going to make the problem worse.

Another thing that’s kind of sad and insidious is that mediocrity starts to creep into your business. It starts to infiltrate your guitar lessons and you start to kind of develop this mindset, if you’re not careful, that if my students don’t care, why should I care. If they don’t want to put in the work, why should I put in the work? And you might not be saying that out loud or thinking that directly, but a lot of times it happens, all because you work with the wrong people. And then eventually, like I said before, you start to hate teaching guitar. You’re like: “Why did I ever want to do this? Why am I wasting my time with people that don’t appreciate what I’m trying to do? And you know, it’s not working out. I’m going to find something else to do.”

So, most of that stuff could be avoided if you just choose more carefully who it is that you’re going to teach. So, I’m kind of beating this to death, but hopefully you’re understanding where I’m coming from and you realize that what people say that you can and should teach everybody is just a myth. It’s not true. You really do need to be selective. You need to put together a process when you’re doing your marketing that lets you screen out the crappy students. Not to offend anybody. I know that some people are better students than others. But you want to weed out people that are going to have a problem paying you and people that are going to have a problem with their time management. You want to screen out people that don’t really want to be there and don’t really need to be there, and then only work with people who meet your standards.

If you just make that commitment to yourself, identify who you want to work with, and then make a commitment that says okay, if anybody doesn’t meet this standard, I’m going to refer them to someone else, it’s going to pay off in spades in the long-term. Your business is going to be a lot more successful six months and a year and five years from now. It may take you a little more time at the beginning to get momentum rolling and to build your business, but if you are very careful about who you accept over time it’s going to pay big dividends for you. So that’s myth number two busted.

Myth #3

Your students will always like you. Whenever I got into teaching, I always tried to stack the deck in my favor and work with people that I knew would be easy to work with and would be nice to me, would like me, and would do what I say when I was a younger person, you know, and I learned pretty fast that your students aren’t always going to agree with you. They’re not always going to affirm you and they’re not always going to listen to you and follow your instructions.

People are people. You know, that’s just how it is. If you go into teaching knowing that it’s not always going to be a bed of roses, you know, I just talked a minute ago about bad students. Well, even if you have the best quality students that are a perfect fit for you, some days they’re going to challenge you. Some days they’re going to make you rethink some of the things that you’re doing, and that’s not always a bad thing. But if you go into it knowing that there are going to be days when things are difficult, whenever you’re not going to be able to solve a problem, when you’re going to have communication problems, those happen between the best of people.

You can prepare yourself for those days when it might not be the best. And luckily, if you work with the right people, those days tend to be few and far between. But yeah, it’s kind of crazy when you think about this because a lot of people subconsciously think: “Oh, all of my students are always going to like me.” Well, we all want to have a good relationship with our students. It’s very important, but sometimes you can’t be a teacher and a friend at the same time, just like you can’t be a parent and a buddy to your kids at the same time all the time. Sometimes you just have to put your foot down and lay down the law, and things like that.

But some guitar teachers – I know this is true because I used to be one of these kinds of people. I’d done a lot of work on myself to try to overcome it, but some guitar teachers are approval addicts. Like I said, I was an approval addict. I always could not handle rejection from people when I was a younger man. I could not handle it when I felt someone was displeased with me or didn’t like me or didn’t think I was doing a good job, which led me to being a perfectionist and to filtering out people that I thought would threaten my false sense of self-esteem. As a guitar teacher, it’s easy to do that, but it’s not cool. Some teachers are approval addicts. They can’t handle it when a student is displeased with them, because what happens if you operate that way, number one, you’re never going to be happy until you kind of go in and fix that deep issue that’s causing you to seek that approval from everyone around you.

I know from experience. When teachers feel like that, they are super cautious about everything that they do. They don’t take risks, and then they tend to give their students anything that they want. So, it’s almost like every student who walks in the door, they get to write their own lesson policies whenever they become a student, or they get to write their own curriculum. It’s like yeah, whatever you want to do, we’ll do it. You know, you want to change that. Oh, sure, we’ll change it. Yeah, you don’t want to pay me this week. Oh, that’s fine. You could pay me next week, and then it turns into the week after that and, you know, the guitar teacher becomes like a doormat. Not cool.

If you need approval from everyone that you come into contact with, you’re probably not going to make a very effective guitar teacher, or maybe you will, but you won’t stay in business if you don’t have clear policies and know how to enforce them. You know, boundaries and consequences are so important in every relationship to make it structured and to make it something that’s beneficial for everybody involved.

So, the thing that helped me is when I finally realized that if somebody doesn’t like me, it’s not personal. I mean if they have a problem with something I’m trying to teach them or they don’t like the way I run my business, or there’s something about me that they just don’t connect with, it’s not personal. You know, your lessons don’t define you as a person. The number of students you have doesn’t define you. Your monthly and annual income as a teacher doesn’t define you as a person. You are not the way you teach. The way you teach doesn’t make you who you are. Your identity as a human being doesn’t change just because you’re having conflict with a student or with someone else that you’re working with.

It’s not personal. Once I learned that there’s difference between the way that I interact with people and my identity as a human being, as a person, my value and worth as a person, those are two separate things, then my life got a lot easier and I was able to start doing a lot more cool and exciting things because I wasn’t afraid to take risks. If something didn’t work out, it didn’t crush me at the core of who I am and shake my entire sense of being. It was just a setback or it was just something that I could learn from, to do better the next time, but it doesn’t change who I am. So, like I said, if you want to be successful, you really need to implement some good policies in your studio and you need to enforce them.

Your students may not always like it. They may not agree with you one hundred percent, but that structure that you provide in the way that you build your business is going to make them feel safe and it’s going to give them a good environment to learn the guitar in so that you can, again, do your best work. If you’re constantly making exceptions for people, if you’re constantly bending over and giving people whatever they want, then it’s going to be really difficult for you to have confidence in what you’re doing, for you to be comfortable with what you’re doing as a guitar teacher, and people are just not going to respect you. They’re going to walk all over you. It’s not a good situation to be in. So, have good boundaries. Have good consequences. And when there’s a legitimate reason to make an exception, that’s fine; do it. But in general, as a rule, always enforce your lesson policies no matter what your students think about it. So that’s a myth there that’s busted. Your students will always like you. They won’t. Everything is not always going to be a bed of roses.

Myth #4

I’ve got two more myths for you. Myth number four: technology will put you out of a job. That’s a myth. A lot of guitar teachers out there, a lot of people email me. Several people have emailed me lately about new technology developments and they’re like: “Donnie, what do you think about this?” And I’m like: “It’s awesome.” You know, you don’t have to be threatened by technology. There are lots of new guitar teaching technology things coming out these days. Software. A couple years ago, Rocksmith came out, and before that it was Rock Band and Guitar Hero. You know, I remember when those came out. People were like: “Oh, is this going to be the end of guitar lessons, because people can just learn on their video games.”

It’s like what? No, it’s not going to be the end of guitar lessons. It’s just a cool way to get involved with the guitar. They just came out this week. Apple came out. It’s not an Apple product, but they’re going to be selling it. It’s called Jam Stick. It’s a little, short guitar-like thing with real strings that plugs into your iPhone or your iPad, and it’s like a controller for guitar software. And you can record using that. You can play along with songs, and there’s even lessons that’ll show you on the screen where to put your fingers and kind of teach you some of the basics about playing guitar.

And you know, I was asked, “What do you think about that,” and you know what. I think it’s freaking awesome. I think I want to buy one myself. For one, it’ll be a perfect travel guitar. You know, it’ll fit in a backpack and you can take it with you places and have something to use to practice certain things and to record with, and stuff like that. So, it’s awesome. I think I want one. Is it going to replace the need for a guitar teacher? Absolutely not. You know, and then ten years ago they started coming out with websites, like JamPlay.com and GuitarTricks.com, and sites that have all this video recorded lesson content that you can access for a monthly fee and get all this cool stuff under different topics and genres of music and things.

I have a JamPlay.com membership. I love it. I go through every time I start to get stale in something. I want to learn something new on the guitar. I’ll go out in there and start working through one of their video lessons, and learn something new or brush up on something that I need improvement on. So, you know, the sites are great, you know, but I still take lessons sometimes. I still teach people that are members of GuitarTricks and sites like that. You know, so it’s real easy to feel like these technology breakthroughs are your competition. You know, some people are like: “Oh, the writing is on the wall. It’s only a matter of time before nobody is going to need a local guitar teacher anymore.”

Well, the truth is technology like this does not replace the need for a guitar teacher. Software and video sites are like a gateway drug. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s like a gateway drug that can get people interested and hooked on playing the guitar. It’s like taking the cookie jar and putting it on the bottom shelf, you know, so that people can reach it. And they get in there and then they get hooked, and then all of a sudden there’s all these other cookie jars up on the top shelf, so now they’re motivated to climb up there and reach for them, whereas before it would seem to high, lofty of a goal. It was too intimidating. It seems impossible. Too hard. Too difficult.

But if you can plug your guitar into your Xbox and you can play along with Rocksmith and learn the basics of how to fret notes and how to pick and how to play the parts to songs, and it’s a fun and engaging way to do it, sure, you’re not going to learn everything you need to know about the guitar. Sure, you’re going to make some mistakes that are going to need to be corrected in your form and technique. That’s why guitar teachers exist. But if it wouldn’t be for a game like Rocksmith or product like Jam Stick or video sites like JamPlay and GuitarTricks, where you can learn some basics at your own pace and get interested in the guitar to the point that you want to pursue it further, there would probably be a lot less guitar students out there for us to teach.

Gateway drugs. Think of them as gateway drugs. Ways that people can get interested and hooked on playing the guitar. Then eventually they’re going to need a real teacher to get structure, accountability, feedback, troubleshooting, inspiration, you know, connection with other students and musicians. They’re going to need all of that stuff and you and I are going to be the teachers that they go to, to find it. So, things like this don’t replace guitar teachers, but what you should be doing is you should embrace technology. You should look for ways to incorporate these kinds of things into your studio, but don’t feel threatened by them. Leverage them instead to be more successful.

I’ve always said that putting together like a Rocksmith group class would be something so fun to do, where everyone who has a copy of Rocksmith at home can come into your studio and you can work with everybody on the songs that are in the software so that they could do better, and then go in and do better at the game. You know, and their practice times consist of playing Rocksmith. I’m sure you can do the same kind of thing with Jam Sticks. You could have everybody bring their Jam Stick and their iOS device into a group class, and everyone uses the Jam Stick together. You could do really cool stuff like that. So, leverage technology. Look for ways that you can incorporate it to make yourself more successful, but don’t feel threatened by it. So, that’s myth number four, and it’s busted.

Myth #5

All right, the last one. Myth number five. Kind of ties in a little bit. Myth number five: nobody wants to learn guitar anymore. Some people are starting to believe that. Nobody wants to learn guitar anymore. The truth is people still want to learn guitar. They just don’t want to learn the way that they used to. So, things have changed because of technology, because of different generations of people. A lot of things are changing in society. The way people want to learn guitar has changed a bit too. So, it’s not that nobody wants to learn guitar. It’s just that the ways that they are looking to learn are not always the traditional ways that we have come to know and expect.

So, if you’re a subscriber to the STG Newsletter that I send out every Thursday, I actually wrote about this in the newsletter last week. Bill who’s a guitar teacher, a member of the STG community, sent me a link to a blog post on the Music Composition Blog. And he asked a very important question in that blog: “Is it still possible to make a full-time living teaching private guitar lessons?” So, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes, so you can read it, but the author mentions a noticeable decline in the number of people asking about guitar lessons.

So, in his own teaching studio, he noticed that there were fewer and fewer people inquiring about lessons, so he did some research to see if anybody else was experiencing the same thing. So, he posted to some LinkedIn guitar teacher groups and the responses he got back showed that at least 45 other teachers on those groups had the same experience. And I know several of you listening to this have experienced the same thing. It used to be really easy to get students and you had more students than you could teach. You know, you had a waiting list, but now it’s like you’re getting fewer inquiries. Things aren’t as hot and exciting as they used to be. It seems that there are less people interested.

So, it’s obvious that things are changing in the guitar teaching space, but thing you’ve got to understand is that things always change. Everything happens in cycles. Nothing stays the same forever. So, that’s only a problem though if you don’t change too. Whenever you stay stuck in what was working three or four cycles ago, then you can’t expect to have the same success today that you had back then, because people have changed. The market has changed. You have to change and adapt along with it. So, I think what’s happening here is that music and the lesson market for guitar lessons has changed, but many teachers haven’t adapted to the new changes. They’re still doing things the way that they did 10, 15, or 20 years ago and they’re wondering why it doesn’t work anymore.

Well, maybe, you know, there’s just no point in teaching guitar because I can’t get students using my Yellow Pages ad anymore. Marketing isn’t a typical strong point for most music teachers anyway. Almost every music teacher I talk to, probably 99 out of 100 of them, don’t have the knowledge and plans that they need to make their marketing successful. It’s a weak area for a lot of guitar teachers. That’s why I started Start Teaching Guitar, to help with that. But you know, it’s already a weakness and besides that you’re trying to get the same results you got ten years ago, using the same tactics from back then. That’s not going to work today.

You’re going to see a decline in interest. I mean word of mouth is still going to be there, but all of the other stuff is probably going to go away to some degree if you keep doing what you did ten years ago, expecting the same result today. It’s more important than ever to keep your finger on the pulse of what your students need, what they prefer, and for you to do what you can to adapt your studio so that you can stay up with the times. So, a perfect example is what I just talked about with Rocksmith and Jam Stick. So, instead of complaining about it, instead of commiserating the end of guitar lessons as we know it, why not bring those tools into your studio and build a program around them?

Leverage them. Adapt your studio to the changes that are going on around you that fit with teaching guitar, and then you’re going to be able to bring in students and ride those waves of change, where everybody else is going to just be, you know, swamped over by them. So, look for ways that you can elegantly integrate technology into your studio. I just gave you some ideas. There are a lot of other ways. Look for ways to do it. Create opportunities for social connections between your students. It’s another very important thing that’ll add a lot more value to what you do as a guitar teacher. Put together events, where you bring all your students together and give them opportunities to get to know each other.

Do open mic nights. Do jam nights. Do student recitals. Do barbecues. I mean do something so that everybody can come together and get to know each other, and do ice breakers and try to cross-pollinate all of your students with each other. It’s going to create an incredible sense of excitement in this awesome social atmosphere that’s going to make them want to keep learning and growing and bringing their friends. Another thing you could do, well, that you have to do is you have to know where your potential students are in 2014, the year that I’m recording this. You knew where they were in 2004. Where are they today? Your potential students are out there somewhere. Find out where they are, and then make sure that your marketing efforts reach them there.

If they’re not looking at flyers hung up on telephone poles, you know, then don’t put them there. If they’re looking on Facebook, then run your ads on Facebook. Reach your potential students where they are. Figure out where they are. Figure out who they are, figure out where they are, and then make sure your marketing efforts reach them there. Anything less than that is not going to be successful. And then another thing: consider specializing so that you’re not just another guitar teacher. If all you are is somebody that offers guitar lessons, then you are seen pretty quickly as a commodity. You don’t want to be seen as a commodity because people that are looking for a commodity, all they shop for are price. All they’re going to want is the lowest price because it’s not going to make any difference if I study with teacher A or teacher B or teacher Z. So instead, consider specializing on one particular group of people or in a specific genre or a specific area so that there is something about you that is different and unique. Then you won’t be seen as much as a commodity, because they won’t be able to find the same thing from some place else.

But anyway, back to that article. The author of that article summed it up pretty well. He said, “The future isn’t bleak. It’s just different.” And I agree completely. It’s not that there are fewer people who want to learn guitar. The problem is that there are fewer teachers providing lessons in the way that students want to consume them. So, something to think about. I don’t have all the answer. You know, I can’t tell you exactly what to do to get around this. You just have to look at what’s going on in your local market and adapt to it. A big secret to success in any kind of business though is keeping an eye on your market and reinventing yourself in small ways and sometimes even big ways whenever it’s appropriate to do so.

But this comes back to you. You have to be willing to keep learning and growing and to pay attention to what’s going on around you if you want to be successful in any business. Teaching guitar is no exception.

So those are the five myths I wanted to bust in part one. I’m going to do five more next time in part two, and then I’m going to wrap it up with another five in part three. But next time I’m going to cover five more common myths about teaching guitar and why they’re wrong assumptions and what the truth is. So, if you can learn the truth about this whole world of teaching guitar, you can be more effective, you can make fewer mistakes, and you can be a more successful guitar teacher.

Thank You For Listening!

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STG 132: Busting Some Common Myths About Teaching Guitar – Part 1 was last modified: September 11th, 2014 by Donnie Schexnayder

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