Teaching Guitar Students – Parents Expectations

By: David Millar

David Millar provides some advice on managing parental expectations from their child’s music lessons.

Parents and guardians of students form an essential part of any guitar tutor’s business.

For a guitar teacher to remain successful it is essential to maintain a good rapport with parents and handle any issues that arise in a sensitive and professional manner.

While lessons are first and foremost about guitar students, the majority of students under 18 will have their lessons paid for by a parent or guardian.

Over the course of a year this will add up to a considerable sum, and if you retain the student for several years this could easily amount to several thousand pounds.

As well as providing this financial contribution, parents may also invest a significant amount of time transporting their son or daughter to music lessons outside school hours.

Sometimes issues may arise if the parent’s expectations are not the same as either the students’ or tutors’.


Different Parental Approaches

Be aware of the wide range of different attitudes from parents.

As with students, among parents there will be a great demographic diversity and range of personalities, attitudes and also expectations.

Some may be content and happy that their child is enjoying learning to play a musical instrument; some will have an expectation that grade exams are achieved as quickly as possible; and (more commonly associated with the guitar than say the piano or an orchestral instrument) some parents may expect that after learning the basics their child should be able to pick the rest up themselves, or even just learn from watching free instruction on the internet.

Whatever the parent’s opinion or approach, it is vital that they can perceive value from music lessons with you in order to sustain their custom in the longer term.


Communication With Parents

It is important to maintain regular communication with students’ parents.

Keeping an accessible way of communicating with parents is very important.

You may wish to invite a parent into your teaching studio to have a quick chat at the beginning or a few minutes towards the end of the lesson – although always be careful not to intrude into the next student’s lesson time.

This gives an opportunity to review how the student is doing and what is being covered in the lessons.

Providing a quarterly newssheet is a good way of conveying general information on exam deadlines or performance opportunities etc.

Some schools may require a progress report to be completed at the end of an academic term or academic year, or you may wish to provide one of your own.


Support and Practice

Parents can provide help by supporting the student’s practice at home.

Parents do provide a key role in the support and encouragement of regular practice routines, particularly with younger students.

A practice diary can be useful to help students and parents to plan practice time.

By regularly speaking to the parent you can gain a sense of their involvement with home practice and adapt your approach as necessary.

And of course, some parents might themselves play guitar to a lesser or greater extent, but prefer to have professional tuition for their offspring.

If this is the case, harness their own enthusiasm for the instrument to help encourage their child with their musical studies.


Exams and Expectations

Manage the entry of examinations carefully.

In some cases, an overly keen parent may request that their child enters a grade exam before they are quite ready.

It is important to handle this issue in an assertive but sensitive manner, clearly indicating or demonstrating why the student may not be quite ready, if this is the case.

It is always best to plan well ahead of exam entry deadlines. If you feel a student may not be ready or has lapsed in their preparation, flag this up with their parents well ahead of exam entry dates so it will not be unexpected if you decide that the student should not enter.

Occasionally there will be a conflict of views between a student and their parents, where the student is not at all keen in taking a grade exam yet the parents would like them too.

It is true that grade exams may not be the desired route for every student, but always discuss this in a diplomatic way with both the student and their parents and suggest other alternative opportunities such as an RGT Performance Award – where they can still be professionally assessed and gain a qualification by making an audio or video recording of their playing.

Ensuring that the student is happy and has a desire to continue to enjoy learning to play the guitar will always remain the most important factor in guiding these decisions.

RGT Performance Awards may be a suitable alternative to provide achievement recognition for students less keen on visiting an exam venue to take a Grade exam.



Positive referrals from parents will help you gain business. Parents may be one of your biggest marketing assets.

They are likely to be well connected in the community to other potential students’ parents through school and other networks associated with their children’s activities.

Having positive referrals from satisfied customers is often the best way of attracting new business.

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