“The hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is!”
– Eddie Van Halen
Take a moment to think about your personal guitar heroes. Who are the guitarists who keep you coming back again and again to your favorite albums or your most treasured songs? Who inspires you year after year to hit the woodshed and practice your ass off?
For some of you, it may be the gods of classic rock like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, or Eric Clapton. At the same time, others may find inspiration from the virtuosic guitarists of the ’80s like Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, or Joe Satriani.
Whoever it may be, I can guarantee you one thing: your guitar heroes were remarkable in the way they approached their guitar playing. At some point in their artistic development, they made the hard choice to be unique, to do things differently, to challenge the status quo.
It’s why you love your guitar heroes, and it’s why your students will love you too if you choose to be remarkable in your guitar teaching business.
Generic Guitar Teacher Vs. Remarkable Guitar Teacher
If you read my previous blog post, Generic Teacher vs. Remarkable Guitar Teacher, then you’ll know a generic guitar teacher teaches in all the usual ways. The generic guitar teacher takes requests from his students. The generic guitar teacher teaches the same classic guitar riffs everyone else does. And the generic guitar teacher uses all the same drab tools everyone else does.
In short, the generic guitar teacher fails to stand out in any meaningful way.
On the other hand, the remarkable guitar teacher—like every guitar hero—is someone who does something so far forward, so vastly different, her teaching style has a name unto itself.
On that account, here are three simple tips to help you make the leap from generic guitar teacher to remarkable guitar teacher:
Don’t Do What Everyone Else Does
B.B. King had a killer vibrato. Eddie Van Halen is the master of two-hand tapping. B.B. never tried to play like Eddie, and Eddie sure as hell never tried to sound like B.B. Why would they? Both were masters and creators of their own musical worlds, and you could be too in your guitar teaching business when you embrace your natural gifts and exaggerate them.
Maybe your chops are limited, but you’re great at writing riffs! Perfect! Be the guy or gal who helps his/her students write their own riffs. Then go one step further: teach your students how to arrange them using popular musical forms. Finally, teach them about recording.
And voila! You just made the leap from generic guitar teaching to remarkable guitar teaching!
Don’t Be for Everyone
No one should want to play in a top 40 cover band, and no one want should want to be for everyone! Instead, exaggerate your natural gifts and musical tastes and be for those people.
When it comes to business or art, being for everyone is being for no one.
Don’t Ask Your Students What They Want to Do
Never ask your students the following question, “So, what would you like to learn today?”
You’re the professional guitar teacher, not your guitar students because they don’t have the experience or the expertise to know which exercise, song, or musical concept most appropriate to their current knowledge and skill level that will help them reach their musical goals as fast possible.
If they did, they probably wouldn’t need you to teach them to play the guitar in the first place.
Instead, have a plan or a system in place that reflects your expertise, personality, and musical tastes while helping your students reach their goals as efficiently and as fun as possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brian Parham is the founder of the Rock Dojo in Portland, Oregon, where he teaches hundreds of kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years-old to play, perform, and compose their own original music on the guitar in after-school group guitar lessons. He’s also the author of three guitar method books including Guitar for Kids: Rock Dojo The Complete Belt System.