By: Josh Jewsbury
In this article, Kent guitar tutor Josh Jewsbury shares his opinions about how coaching skills from other areas are transferable to guitar teaching.
After spending the ’70s working in studios and touring with bands, I decided I was never going to be rich or famous, and it was time to move on to new and fresh challenges.
I returned to college to study electronics and I simultaneously took up a new hobby of water skiing; though I didn’t know it at the time, this turned out to be a real blessing.
I passed my exams as a British Waterski Federation Coach and went on to teach waterskiing up to national competition standard.
I also became a training officer for an electronics company, who over the next ten years sent me to seminars and lectures to further my coaching skills.
Everything I learned has been put to good use over the last seven years since I started teaching guitar full-time in my studio on a one-to-one basis and holding group lessons in schools.
My coaching and training experience taught me how to approach different personalities and deal with challenges head on.
You may find you need to as well, for who knows just who is coming through that door next for guitar lessons.
RGT Guitar Teaching Examples
Here are a couple of scenarios that have happened to me since I began teaching guitar, and in both cases I applied a little psychological trickery gained from my non-guitar coaching experience to deal with them.
RGT Guitar Teaching Case Study 1
What do you do with a nine year old girl who hasn’t practised her scales from last week, and is now saying “I think I wanna go home”?
With this girl, I might suggest that “OK we can end the lesson early but first let’s just have one go at playing the scale together.”
I would accompany her at a slow tempo and play it through once, maybe twice if it looks like she is rallying round.
I would then heap praise on her even if she didn’t do too well, and tell her if she still wanted to end the lesson we could.
Chances are she will have changed her mind and stay, having realised you are not going to be angry with her, and yes she did manage to play through the scale with your help. You may even find the remainder of the lesson goes very well indeed.
RGT Guitar Teaching Case Study 2
What do you do with the born-again rocker who thinks he knows it all, and is telling you that what you’re playing is wrong as his friend showed him a different way, and his friend is a really good guitarist?
With the born again rocker, I’d suggest we play the song together, the way his friend showed him and the way I know.
What I would try to do is play something impressive that in reality is only just a little beyond his current abilities, and then show him how easy it was so that he may learn it too, after all it’s what he is there for.
You may find you have regained his respect, seeing as you didn’t actually say you were right and he was wrong, and he will feel he has achieved something from the lesson that he may well go home and show his friend anyway.
Both these are true stories with happy endings: the young girl became one of my most long-term students and progressed to playing fairly advanced jazz tunes by the time she was eleven, having gotten bored with ‘pop songs’. And the born again rocker went on to encourage his friend to take lessons with me as well!
In both cases, I needed to show them that I was in control of the lesson, but never show that I was annoyed with them in order to diffuse the situation and move forward in a positive and mutually beneficial manner.
Think Back To Your Learning Days
In a nutshell, if you’re serious about teaching well, it’s not enough to be a good guitarist. Who knows – maybe it is even a hindrance.
I have played guitar for over forty years, and often need to remind myself what it was like to learn the chord the student is currently struggling with.
Put yourself in their shoes occasionally, and try to see things from a student perspective.
Constantly question your delivery and ask yourself “What does the student want from this, and how can I get the message across in a way they understand easily.”
Your playing ability should be backed up not only by subject knowledge and resource availability, but also mentoring skills, presentation skills, and an effective practical approach to teaching groups and individuals.
A dash of good humour wouldn’t go a miss either.
How do you deal with similar situations in your RGT guitar teaching? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.