You don’t want your guitar students to treat your lessons like they treat any other class in school.
Why? Because music is supposed to be fun, and your students aren’t going to stick with it if it isn’t.
This doesn’t mean that your students won’t come and go. Inevitably, they will hit certain milestones in their progression as an instrumentalist, and they’ll step away for a while to absorb everything they’ve learned to that point. That’s the best case scenario. Worst case scenario, they’ll quit halfway and blame you for everything that went wrong.
Beyond student retention, you also need to be thinking about encouraging your students to become lifetime learners.
You need to instill a passion for music in your students. If they don’t care, they won’t practice, and they won’t get better.
But as they say, you can’t give what you don’t have, so you have to remember that passion begins with you.
Here are several ways to make guitar lessons fun as a music tutor.
Set Goals With Your Students
Do your students know what they would like to accomplish?
Some will come to you with a very good sense of what they one day hope to be able to do. Others won’t have any goals at all.
Either way, it’s important to take your time in discussing objectives with your students. This gives them the sense that you care about their progress, and that you’re there to help them improve.
If possible, create a basic timeline for how long it will take to reach certain goals, and an outline of the items they’ll need to learn in order to reach each.
It doesn’t matter if you copy these study items over from your own curriculum (if you don’t have one, I would advise making your own – use this one as an example). What matters is that the student feels heard, and that you provide them with a process they can follow along with to get to where they want to go.
If your student has clear goals, even if they don’t reach them within the timeframe you set for them, they’ll almost certainly come closer to hitting them than if you had never helped them to think about it at all.
Tailor Guitar Lessons To Your Students
Although it might seem tedious, it can be helpful to customize guitar lessons based on the needs and goals of your students.
Many teachers are quite rigid with their curriculums. And while systems can work well – in some cases very well – guitar is one of the few instruments where it’s virtually impossible to master every skill, every style, and every approach.
In other words, a one-size-fits-all approach can be harmful to the overall learning process. You can take a basic framework and tweak it as you go, but I would advise against getting all of your students to follow a boring method book.
Many of your students – especially the young ones – would much prefer playing the latest Greed Day or Nickelback than learning where E, F and G exist on a staff. This should also help with keeping them in lessons for longer.
Encourage Your Students To Find Songs They Enjoy & Teach Them Those Songs
As with goal-setting, some of your students will have already identified songs they like, while others haven’t given it any thought.
But a surefire way to keep your students engaged is by teaching them music they know and like. And the odds of them not being familiar with top 40 tunes (at least a few of them) is pretty slim unless they’re really young or they’ve been living under a rock.
You might have to jog their memory a little. You can ask them whether or not they’ve heard something on the radio that they liked, if they heard a song at the mall, or if they’ve been watching any videos on YouTube. Keep in mind that almost all forms of media incorporate music in some way. For instance, I’ve taught the “Angry Video Game Nerd” theme to some students in the past.
It is immensely gratifying to be able to play songs you know and like – even if you later discover that they are incredibly easy to play. This is one of the main reasons I got into guitar, though my reasons for sticking with it are considerably different.
Quiz Your Students & Play Learning Games With Them
Are your students absorbing anything you’re teaching them? If they’re enthusiastic about learning guitar, then you probably answered “yes”. Otherwise, you probably answered “no”.
Don’t worry too much about your success rate, because some of your students will never take to guitar the way you did. Everybody’s experience is a little different, and all you can do to encourage ongoing learning is to be a great example.
But it’s good to quiz your students from time to time. Ask them things like, “what chord is this?”, “when you play two notes at once, what is it called?”, “what notes are in a C major scale?”, and so on. If you want to, you can also prepare quiz sheets.
But again, you don’t want your lessons to feel too much like school. Depending on the age and interest level of your students, you can take advantage of flashcards, smartphone or tablet apps, videos and DVDs, and so on.
You can also invent your own “games”. Keep in mind that these don’t actually have to be “games” in the traditional sense. For instance, you could play the first note in a scale, have the student play the next note in the scale, and go back and forth until you land on the last note of the scale. Then you can do it backwards too.
What’s fun for one student might not be fun for another. Some students like exploring theory and how it connects to music they like, while others just want to learn songs and could care less about what key signature they’re playing in.
From a classical perspective, many teachers would likely object, but if you want to keep things fun for your students and encourage them to keep on learning, then you should spend more time doing what they want to do rather than what you think they should do.