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Latest Activity: Feb 17, 2015

Discussion Forum

Getting new students? 3 Replies

Started by James Kuhnel. Last reply by GuitarMC Jun 13, 2013.

Teaching Males vs. Females 6 Replies

Started by GuitarMC. Last reply by GuitarMC Jun 13, 2013.

Any tips for teaching C9, Cadd9, C2, Cadd2, Csus2 16 Replies

Started by Donna Zitzelberger. Last reply by GuitarMC Jan 23, 2013.

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Comment by Donna Zitzelberger on April 20, 2011 at 10:08am

Hi Terry,


I taught my first student for free and it was a disaster.  Canceling lessons on a whim, not practicing, etc.  Seems if they are paying nothing, they don't appreciate it or don't care.  In addition, it seemed to send a message that I didn't feel confident enough in what I was doing to get paid for it.  I'd like to suggest that you maybe give a few more lessons for free to this student, but then tell them you are going to have to start charging.   Check out your area for what the fees are and set yourself accordingly.  You could always start at the lower end of the fee scale if you feel you should.  Another idea is to do a trade.  Perhaps the student or the student's parents have a skill that you need.  For example, one of my student's dads is a contractor, so we do a trade.  He has put a new window in my house and is fixing my front door.  I just keep a running tab on her lesson account and pick projects accordingly.  It works out really well.  


Comment by Terry Angelli on April 3, 2011 at 4:21pm


You are right, this should have been a discussion. It got out of hand as more and more posts came in. I'll be more attentive in the future. I will be sure to check your recommendation ASAP.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'm a quite a way from actually quitting the day job but have taken on a student for free so I can learn the ropes. I'd like to get this off the ground as a part time thing and then goodbye day job.

And I will let you all know how I'm making out with the dreaded THEORY! As soon as I receive my books and start to study.

Thanks again to all who offered advice and ideas!

Comment by Donna Zitzelberger on April 3, 2011 at 2:08pm

Hi Terry,


Next time, start a discussion.  I never saw your post on the comment wall. :( 


I love "Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" - really straight forward and easy to understand.


Also - check out Music Principles for the Skeptical Guitarist volume one - the big picture by Bruce Emery.  It's a great overall introduction to music theory through the use of the guitar.

For many years, I gave a guest lecture at USC guitar department regarding teaching children guitar.  My first line is: " When you are teaching guitar, you are a teacher first and a guitarist second."   You already know how to teach and that is the most important part.  Get the students up and running on what you know and while that is going on fill in your guitar/theory skills.  However, I recommend you always be honest with your students about your limits and network with other instructors if a student outgrows you.


All the best!!



Comment by Andy Tulenko on April 3, 2011 at 1:52pm
Keep us posted on how you do, and how you get along with the theory.
Comment by Terry Angelli on April 3, 2011 at 11:14am

I guess your correct and I probably know more theory than I realize. I've ordered the "Idiots Giude to Music Theory" along with the suggested book from Diedre.

I can use a few of those "A-HA! moments" since I'm undertaking the proposition of becoming a guitar teacher!
"So, tackle the theory.  Its not going to be as hard as you think." I hope so because honestly I've never been very good at taking the written word and translating it to the guitar.


Thanks for the tip on the book "Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" by Ed Roseman. I promptly went to Amazon and ordered a copy so if I don't like it your to blame!    ;-)
Comment by Deidre McCalla on April 2, 2011 at 3:51pm
A few weeks ago I started a discussion thread about teaching theory and someone highly recommended "Edly's Music Theory for Practical People" by Ed Roseman. Turns out Ed surfs this forum from time to time and he graciously offered to send me an extra copy of the book he had laying around as it was slightly damaged and unsellable. I can see why this book was praised here so highly and I do intend to use it with my students. I even learned a thing or two - or three! Definitely take a look at this book if you need to bone up yourself or want a gentle yet complete way of introducing music theory to your students.
Comment by Andy Tulenko on April 2, 2011 at 3:07pm


You said, "But if they want to learn how to make chords, how they relate to each other in progressions and some scales while making a few dollars I can handle that."

Well my friend, that is theory.  Like I said, I'm sure you will be amazed by how much you actually know about it.  Just by playing for so long you have to learn some things like chord and key theory or you simply won't be much of a player.


Go to your local bookstore and get a copy of the Idiots Giude to Music Theory.  It has 80% of what you need to know and is put together in a way that makes it easy to understand.


The main problem most people have with learning theory is that until you get to a certain point, it makes little sense.  You have to realize that it is highly inter-related and until you begin understanding the various relationships, its going to be somewhat confusing.  Once you get past that point, it's mostly downhill.  Practice is incredibly important because as you practice you will have those "A-HA!" moments where you suddenly discover how two pieces of theory meet on the fretboard.  Those are the magic moments that make great musicians.


So, tackle the theory.  Its not going to be as hard as you think.


Comment by Terry Angelli on April 2, 2011 at 11:14am
M. Jackson & M. DeLalla, thank you both for you lengthy replies to my post.

I do agree that theory is important. However the lack of it never stopped me from learning chords, progressions, scales, etc.. I am of the school of thought that music was being made long before someone decided to write it down on paper. Do I think I need theory or I wish I could read sheet music? You bet.

Having started to do some homework I agree with M. DeLalla that theory should be a part of learning guitar. At this point I'm inclined to think that it can be rolled into the overall lessons rather than "today we will learn theory" lessons. When I took the few guitar and bass lessons that I did as a kid, it wasn't a fun learning experience. Both instructors started off with "this is the "C" scale, go home and practice it." Man I just wanted to play, not learn all the formalities and as a result I quit.

M. Jackson you have a similar situation to mine. Personally I'm not hesitant about stepping into those waters.  As I see it now, before I get my own theory training, if I started teaching I would inform the prospect that if they want formal training I am not their guy. But if they want to learn how to make chords, how they relate to each other in progressions and some scales while making a few dollars I can handle that.

And your point "if I am sitting here wishing I could play easily by sight, why should I teach someone else who someday will be wishing the same thing?" is well taken. Again, if they want the formal training I'm not that teacher, at least not yet.

Now as far as getting and keeping students excited is something I have no problem doing. As I mentioned in my original post I am currently a full time instructor at a private trade school. My class size is 15 mostly younger (avg. age is 22) students and keeping them interested in HVAC/R for 5.5 hours a day, five days a week is a challenge I rise to every day!

I've been fortunate in that I've received "proper" training at work and I guess I'm a natural when it comes to teaching. I used to have my own videography business and I trained several second camera operators to shoot video with me. I received a number of compliments on how well I had shown them how to use the camera, set up angles and shot composition, etc.. Combine that with my other jobs in my career where often I was asked or had to provide instruction to other HVAC/R tech's and I've wound up with a skill that I don't have to work hard at! Now I just have to cross that over to teaching guitar.

So you are correct M. Jackson, you can have all of the sheepskins in the world and NOT be a teacher. At this point in my life I feel that I am a good teacher.

"I also think it's to their credit that the teachers at this group did not chastise you or otherwise discourage you from teaching. That says a lot about their character." I couldn't agree more! When I got no reply from my initial post I thought that perhaps they couldn't be bothered with someone like me. Obviously I was dead wrong.

Now as for "developing a course and testing it out on someone before going public?" I've already taken on a student who I will be teaching for free. He is a self taught player so it will be interesting to see what, if any, bad habits he has developed and how I can straighten them out along with him learning his instrument as best I can show him. This will allow me to develop a curriculum, forms, interview questions, tracking progress, and on and on so I'll be prepared when I hang out my shingle and start looking to get paid for my efforts.

Lastly, I came across a site that was very helpful and I've purchased "How To Make A Living Teaching Guitar" which is sold on the site.

Nick Minnion is the guru here and he has a load of free information on his site. He also offers a book called "Fifty Flexible Lesson Plans for teaching guitar" that I'm considering buying as well.

Thank you one and all for the great information and help!
Comment by Michael DeLalla on April 1, 2011 at 11:49am

I'm alive and well too--sometimes too busy to check in, and the notices I get via email don't usually give enough information to nudge me--maybe there's a setting I can change to fix that.

I'll just say that I believe Theory is important. Yes, you can learn to do some things without it, but like anything else the deeper you understand what it is you are doing the more fulfilling it will be. When students come to me, I let them know that Theory will be part of the instruction. If they just want to learn imitative licks and chord progressions they don't need to be coming to me. I can say with some certainty that ALL of my students have found Theory instruction beneficial. And I'm closing in on 30 years of teaching.

I realize not everyone rolls this way--it's a large universe, with many kinds of students and, thankfully, many kinds of teachers to accommodate them. But for those of you looking to add some Theory knowledge base to your skill set, check out this website for the basics: . Then, incorporate the afore-mentioned site by Chris Davis, as he applies it to the fretboard. I also teach Theory from a fretboard, not keyboard perspective--when visiting Guitarville, do as the Guitarists...

Comment by Michael S. Jackson on April 1, 2011 at 9:18am

Terry -

I read your original post and didn't reply because I am in the same situation and I wanted to hear what the others had to say. I have taught banjo but that's another animal. The reason I am hesitant about teaching guitar (even though I've been playing for 45 years) is because of my lack of formal music training. By that I am not referring to the college courses I took in classical music but rather music theory.

I can read music, I know the timing, and I play classical solely from standard notation. But I will probably never be good enough to play completely by sight, up to speed. Rather, I spend time each day learning, sometimes measure-by-measure, the pieces I commit to memory.

I also play blues, country, R&R and anything I can get my hands on.

I found a place that has a good basic course and completed it a couple of months ago. Please look up Christopher Davis (maybe Chris Davis). He's a classical guitarist who not only offers this course (Music Theory 101) and others (learning the fretboard, etc.). He will be offering a more advanced course soon.

What I like about this one is it actually makes sense. It's not something you can download and learn later, though you can download the lessons and exercises - just not the videos he sometimes uses to explain things. You'll see what I mean. You also have contact with him and he's very good at answering your questions and you can see all the other students' questions and responses. Cost is $25 which gives you access to the fretboard study, etc.

Even if you don't get his course, I highly recommend his blog. It's free and there is a lot of information there, including extensive posts on practice which you will need as a teacher.

The reason I didn't want to teach at this point is because if I am sitting here wishing I could play easily by sight, why should I teach someone else who someday will be wishing the same thing?

Andy and Joseph make some very good points. First, let them know you won't be teaching any theory right up front and let them make that decision. Second, getting the student motivated and keeping them excited about playing are paramount. I don't care if you hold a PhD from a prestigious music school, if you can't read your student, make them so excited about guitar that they just can't keep their hands off it, and if you don't help them through the plateaus and other dangers, if you don't make them think for themselves, you're not a teacher. I know this from personal experience (as I've written about at the group before).

So maybe, like you, I can teach. I have taught many classes in other areas as well and I know for sure I will keep my students' interests in the forefront.

If I do, I will stress the importance - especially to the younger students - to learn music theory as it will benefit them. I advise you to do the same should you teach. You can refer them to other teachers who teach that.

I also think it's to their credit that the teachers at this group did not chastise you or otherwise discourage you from teaching. That says a lot about their chracter.

Like you, I would appreciate thoughts on this. I also wonder about developing a course and testing it out on someone before going public?

To close an already too long post, I just want to say one last thing: There is a difference between being an instructor and in being a teacher.

Thanks, all.


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