How to Teach Guitar Lessons for Beginners

Andy | October 22, 2015 | 6 Comments

Thomas FosterIf you have a passion for the guitar, chances are you enjoy sharing your knowledge.

This could be something you are doing as a source of income, or are thinking about doing to make money or as a way of enriching your own children’s lives. In any case, knowing the basics of how to teach guitar will help you achieve your goal.

The Challenges of Preparing Guitar Lessons for Beginners

Teaching beginning students can seem challenging. Often, even using a beginning guitar method book can be frustrating for some students with no experience in playing music. The reason for this is that beginning pop/rock guitar methods often start out with skills, such as playing full chords or scales, which may be too complex for some students to process without being provided with a bit of context first.

‘Often, even using a beginning guitar method book can be frustrating … engage your beginning students by matching specific skillsets to individual ability level.’

When students work on material which is too high for their ability level (even if the skill is pretty basic), they will build in faulty technique and arrhythmic tendencies. These habits will affect the student’s potential for mastery of the instrument as well as the amount of enjoyment they will experience in succeeding in every step of the learning process. In this article series, I would like to provide you with a blueprint that will help you engage your beginning students by matching specific skillsets to individual ability level.

How to Teach Guitar

Students of any level remain motivated and engaged in the process of learning only if they are met within their zone of proximal development. This means that new concepts presented should be challenging enough to hold a student’s interest yet easy enough for the student to accomplish and feel success within a relatively short amount of time. In order to meet each student within this zone, the teacher needs to use an effective sequence for presenting core skills.

Let’s begin developing our blueprint by defining basic skills that a beginning student should be able to demonstrate within three months. We’ll target students in the age range for traditional lessons. There are specific approaches to use with younger learners (from age 4 to 7ish) which we will explore in an upcoming article.

‘Think about what … you will teach. What strumming patterns? … What chords will you introduce first?’

Before reviewing the following basic-skills chart, make a list of specific skills that you feel a beginning student should have developed within three months. Examples of beginning skillsets are holding or positioning the guitar properly, demonstrating efficient left-hand and right-hand function, and being able to play basic chords and scales.

Think about what chords you will teach. What strumming patterns? Also, start thinking about the sequence of presenting the concepts. What chords will you introduce first? What strumming patterns will you introduce first?

Feel free to review any method books you are familiar with. Method books can be a great resource when designing instruction, especially for more advanced students. However, many methods for beginning students have radically different approaches and almost universally do not contain enough supplementary exercises to ensure competence with each new skill.

The following chart lists skills which, by the end of twelve weeks of instruction (I think many would agree), most students should understand and be able to demonstrate:

Beginning Skills/Goals: The First Three Months

Goals for Guitar Lessons for Beginners

The targeted beginning skills/goals listed in the chart will become a point of departure for developing your beginning lesson curriculum. Next, we have to complete a task analysis of each skillset. Subskills or a task analysis for a skill, such as efficient left-hand function, would include proper wrist alignment, position of the elbow, firm tip-joints, enough flexion in the left hand so playing is on fingertips, positions of the thumb behind the neck for differing situations, thumb pressure, and proper fretting position.

In part two of this series, we will take a look at the task analysis for the basic-skills chart and develop a game plan for the first month of guitar lessons for beginning students.

About the Author

An instructor with FretboardZen and long-time student of the world-renowned classical guitar teacher Aaron Shearer, Thomas Foster is currently completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music.

Category: Guitar Theory

Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces. After completion of my piano lesson.Thanks for sharing this.
    Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.
    Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.

    But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.

  2. As a lot more people explored other ways of working
    through the comfort of their residence, internet business seems a
    good choice for most. In this informative article I want to mention something that has personally brought a lot
    of cash into my pocket on the years. You have the option to pay a content
    development company or perhaps a ghost writer to write down articles
    to suit your needs, but when you go searching for write the articles yourself you will possess the rewards to create a more personalized content and in addition, you usually do
    not have to spend any money.

  3. Looking for a job with good salary seems to be a hard task nowadays.
    Anyone can compose and come up with any topic, from hobbies to political vies.
    Would your hard work throw open a whole new perspective or
    would it just invoke a ‘what’s new’ response.

  4. The phone is integrated with 8-GB and 16-GB of memory space and
    expandable Micro – SD memory option that supports approximately 32GB memory.
    An eyewitness account through the Independent’s Andrew Buncombe, who was simply shot
    while taking refuge with 1,500 ‘red shirt’ protesters in a temple – a supposed safety – received jibes to inside the pay of Thaksin. Just finished watching Dabangg, Abhinav Kashyap’s sterling debut performance.

  5. ” These are the reasons why it really is impossible to become great leader rather than be compensated in equal value for that value that you just give. If it’s going down, or they decide not to connect to your content for reasons unknown, you have trouble. The most successful industry coaches and mentors in leadership training and marketing teach this golden nugget: People buy you first.

  6. Tom Yoder says:

    This is a nicely detailed article. I think it’s a good approach. Too many guitar lessons are haphazard and don’t pay enough attention to detail. New teachers would benefit from a solid foundation of the process of teaching such as this.

Leave a Reply