By: David Millar
In this article, David Millar provides some advice on how to stay motivated when working as a guitar teacher.
Many people consider having a job as a guitar teacher to be a great way of earning a living – getting to play and talk about the guitar all day, choosing your own working hours and not having a boss to answer to.
These positives are all true, but in honesty it’s also true that if you’re not careful it can feel quite isolated and repetitive.
In addition, you may have issues dealing with unreliable students, awkward parents, or chasing non-payment of lesson fees; problems balancing working unsocial hours with family life and budgeting for irregular income levels over certain months of the year.
So here are a few ideas to help keep you inspired and enjoying one of the best vocations there is.
Enjoyable lessons encourage students to learn.
Keeping lessons an enjoyable experience for your students is one of the first things that will suffer if you become a bit jaded or stale with your teaching.
Most people wish to learn for the sheer enjoyment of making music and if you do not communicate this with your own teaching and playing it will be one of the first things to discourage your students from learning to play.
So always search for ways to keep lessons entertaining and engaging – this will be as rewarding for you as it will be for your students.
Add variety to the repertoire you teach.
Don’t forget the RGT syllabuses provide for a wide range of free choice pieces in both acoustic and rock genres.
So you don’t necessarily have to teach every student at a particular grade to play the same piece in their exam (and end up listening to the same exam piece multiple times every day); exploring a wider range of repertoire will keep you fresh and creative.
Make connections and network with your colleagues.
It is not uncommon to feel isolated when working as a self-employed guitar tutor and sometimes there is a reluctance to make contact with others doing the same occupation for fear of giving away too much of your business information.
However, there are many advantages to creating a network of people who you can discuss and draw ideas from.
The Annual RGT Guitar Teachers Conference provides an ideal opportunity to mix and chat openly with other guitar teachers from across the UK, as well as overseas, and to share experiences and ideas.
Keeping well connected in your local community and in the greater music community of performers, luthiers and retailers is an important aspect of your business.
Also, if you teach a large number of children it is important to have adult interaction in association with your work to keep you a well-rounded individual.
Stay inspired by improving your playing skills.
Attending concerts and professional workshops by other guitar players will inspire you and help with your own development as a player.
Everyone can improve and expand their playing no matter how good they are.
If you get an opportunity to travel overseas to experience this in a different cultural setting it will also add to and broaden your outlook.
How about going for a Flamenco course weekend in Spain or to a Country guitar convention in Nashville, or for something a bit different check out the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain (you might be amazed at the musicianship of some of the top players there).
Stay inspired by playing live.
Playing live is an important part of being able to demonstrate putting what you teach into action.
It’s a sure way of ensuring your chops stay up to scratch and keeps your profile visible. Looking out for performance opportunities for your students will inspire and help them also.
If you get the chance to perform in a school musical or school concert you will greatly raise your credibility in the school both with other teachers and students.
Manage Your Hours Carefully
Be careful not to work an excessive amount of hours.
Make sure to let your hair down and get out and gig whenever you can
The more successful you become as a guitar tutor the greater in demand you will become and the greater the demand will be on your time.
If you are not careful you may end up working an excessive amount of hours, which can easily lead to making you become overtired or in the worst case suffer from ill health.
In other occupations there are restrictions on the number of hours that can be worked over a given period and someone to manage this. When you work freelance it is up to you to manage your own time.
This is particularly important if you balance teaching with performing live and family life.
Working longer hours does not necessarily mean earning more money: if you are in great demand as a teacher you can alter your rates accordingly, or offer shorter or group lessons, to offset working less hours and gain some time off.
Value Your Job
Look beyond just the monetary reward of your work.
Doing a job to earn a living is a necessity for most people, however if the financial reward is your only motivation for working as a music educator you may not be in the most-suited career.
Passing on skills, mentoring and developing students’ abilities, and enriching peoples’ lives through music are all aspects of a bigger picture where you should feel you are adding value with your work. Happy teaching!