Here are some tips for parents to evaluate potential teachers, understand their role in their child’s lessons, and help them find a qualified teacher.
So you have decided to find a qualified guitar instructor for your child. Where to start? Well, some options are to use search engines, phone books, local music stores, and local schools and colleges to find a teacher near you. The challenge, however, is finding someone who is well qualified and enjoys teaching children. How do you know if a teacher is well qualified, you ask? Good question. There is no board of directors for private guitar teachers that specifies a specific education or certification requirement, so you should inquire about the background of your teacher yourself.
Some considerations when selecting a guitar teacher for your child should include the following:
1) How long has the potential teacher been teaching full time? It takes several years and hundreds of students to really learn how to teach effectively, from the formal education of the teacher. A teacher learns the most common problems and their solutions during the first few years of teaching and will generally be a much better teacher at age 3 than when they started.
2) Does the teacher feel that your child should learn to read notes, learn music terms and music theory? They should. I think there is nothing wrong with a teacher showing some things from memory or using alternate notation methods occasionally, such as tablature, to keep the interest of the child, but the focus should be on learning standard notation. There is no replacement for notation when it comes to laying the foundation for a complete musical understanding. The exception would be very young students who are taught the Suzuki method, where the student is taught by rote initially and then the standard musical notion is introduced.
3) Does the teacher’s own experience illustrate that he or she has training in these areas? It is a safe bet that teachers with music degrees specifically in guitar are qualified in this area. It is more difficult to evaluate teachers without a degree in these areas, but this does not disqualify them, just as a degree does not automatically qualify a teacher. Having a degree simply makes it more likely that you will have the knowledge to teach your child effectively. You should ask them about their experience and assess their skills first-hand to see that they are well informed. This can be difficult to assess if you do not have musical training, so be careful as there are many people who promote themselves as guitar teachers who are not very good in these areas. Don’t be fooled by the marketing. Evaluate your resume and experience. For example, a local teacher who plays in the local church worship band may be a good guitarist for that style and a good person, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify him as a guitar teacher for your child. They may know little about music theory, note reading, or other styles of music.
4) Do you want your child to learn classical guitar? If so, then you need a classical guitarist, period. This is a very specific field of study that requires extensive and specific training. Don’t trust someone who says they teach classical guitar and don’t have a classical guitar degree from a reputable institution. Classical guitarists tend to master and teach many popular styles as well, but they are really the only ones to turn to when it comes to learning to play classical guitar.
5) What if I want my child to be a rock / pop guitarist or singer-songwriter? Do you really need to know all of this? Yes, you should still encourage the reading of notes! There is no way it will harm someone’s development. The idea that formal musical training could stifle creative development is something that as a guitarist I’ve heard before, but I think it’s a misguided notion that comes from the guitar being part of our popular culture, often taught by rote and it is aggravated by the existence of talented people. and successful singer-songwriters who have little formal musical education. This can give people the impression that reading notes is simply not necessary. The truth is, reading notes will help your child better facilitate the writing process, but it will also prepare him for a broader musical life that may include teaching, playing in the studio, composing, transcribing, etc. Would the Beatles have been this good without the help of their classically trained songwriter / producer George Martin? I don’t think so and neither does the famous guitarist Jeff Beck. You are paying a lot of money for guitar lessons for your son, so why limit his musical future?
6) Should the teacher perform at a high level? Not necessarily. However, I think they should be able to play at a high level, which is often the case for guitarists who have performing titles. You want to make sure that a teacher has been able to translate their own understanding of the guitar into their performance. However, some people simply enjoy teaching more than acting and therefore have a longer curriculum in teaching than acting. This is a good thing as they can still be very high caliber players who just love to teach. Also, some high-level performers may not be around often enough to consistently teach lessons, which is especially important for children.
7) Is it okay for me to attend the lessons? It should be, and for children’s lessons parents should be encouraged to sit and listen. You will need to monitor your child’s practice at least a little during the week if you want him to progress well. You will need to pay attention to the important reminders your teacher gives you during the lessons so that they can be reinforced during the week. Remember, it is the work that you and your child do during the week that has the greatest impact on your child’s success. If you attend the lessons, be sure to let your teacher do his work and don’t interrupt too much. From time to time, I have had parents who have completely lost patience with their children during the lesson. Although they were only trying to help, they ended up completely ruining the supportive atmosphere of the lesson and consequently the child’s enjoyment. It is quite an uncomfortable situation to be the teacher in that situation, to say the least, and it is counterproductive to your child’s success. A child needs to feel that it is okay to make some mistakes while learning; otherwise, it will give up quickly. So, let your teacher do his work, but heed their advice, and you can even try playing some of the studies so you can help your child at home.
8) Another important point is that you may need to try for a month or so with a teacher to see if they are right for you. Unless the teacher is just terrible, you may not have a good idea of his abilities in a single lesson.
Where to find a teacher who meets these criteria:
While local music stores are often a good place to find a qualified teacher, they are not without their difficulties. Some Advantages: Convenient, as they carry the supplies you’ll need, and they typically have a wide variety of teachers to choose from. Cons: Some teachers may have little to no teaching experience, you will often pay the same fee for any of the teachers regardless of their credentials and experience, stores often have registration / enrollment fees to help pay your bills, Fees can also increase more often so the store can stay in business, they can force you to use substitute teachers if your teacher is sick or out of town, and there is always the possibility that the store will suddenly stop operating and leave you struggling to find a new teacher.
Let’s say you’ve chosen to inquire about guitar lessons at your local music store. You should ask the management / owner about the different backgrounds of the teachers and which teacher does best with the children. Assuming you are comfortable with their suggestion, you may want to wait, if necessary, for an opening with that teacher if your schedule is full rather than starting with someone else. Starting with the wrong teacher can give your child a bad initial impression of the lessons and ruin their enthusiasm for learning to play the instrument forever. As stated, music stores usually have some great teachers, but they also tend to have people with little or no teaching experience. You should keep in mind that their main mission is to keep their studies full so that they can stay in business. They may suggest a teacher who is not as qualified or child-friendly if the most suitable teacher for your child is complete. Remember, it is your child, so it is your choice who teaches you. Don’t lower your standards for convenience.
Private “schools or academies” of music. These are usually just private businesses like music stores and have the same potential pros and cons, except that they generally don’t sell instruments. The term school or academy should not denote more credibility, as they are not a better or worse source for teachers than music stores.
Recommendations from public schools and universities are another good option for finding well-qualified teachers who teach privately.
Phone books and Internet searches, including music teacher databases, can also be good sources for finding local teachers.
Recommendations from friends can also be helpful, but be sure to do your own research on the teacher. It is worth the extra effort.
Take the time to learn who your child’s teacher is, both as a person and as a teacher. Make sure they are qualified, competent, caring, and communicating well. By taking the time to stay involved in your child’s learning, you will be rewarded with a child who will have a strong set of musical skills and a deep appreciation for music for the rest of their lives.