This is an article written by David Smolover, who is not only the founder of The National Guitar Workshop, but also Workshop Arts Publications, DayJams and WorkshopLive. As you can tell, he is a busy guy and knows a lot about guitar education.
How to Find the Perfect Teacher
Finding the right teacher is the best way to insure success in any endeavor, not just learning to play an instrument. Unfortunately, we have been conditioned by our school systems to accept the teachers they put in front of us. So often when we actually do have a choice like selecting a private teacher, we fall back into the habit of accepting whoever is available.
The first thing to do is truly examine what you want to accomplish. Do you want to play Beatle tunes? Do you want to work on your improvisation skills? Do you want to learn how to read music? WHAT DO YOU WANT? (If you don’t know, well then we have another set of problems that we’ll discuss later.)
Let’s assume for the moment that you do know what you want to accomplish. Then it’s time to locate and interview the teacher. Remember you are the customer. It’s your money and it’s your right to select whomever you want. Steps to take:
1. Referrals are a good place to start. Ask a friend who’s playing you respect and find out where they studied.
2. No friends. Sorry. Go to small live music venues and if you find a player you like ask them: 1) if they teach, or 2) can the recommend a teacher.
3. Too young to go to clubs or too old to stay up that late. OK. Visit the local music store and ask questions about their teachers. If you find a likely candidate, ask to set up an interview. The storeowner may look at you funny, but you’ll survive.
4. No likely candidates at the store. Onward. Call the local college music department. As them who are their most popular faculty members. Then ask if they teach privately. Almost all of them will. Ask for contact info and then set-up the interview.
5. Last resort. Hang out at the local coffee shop and stop everyone caring a guitar. Remember anyone making their living as a guitar teacher gets up at 10:00 and goes for coffee around 11:30. They have very few friends and no social outlets, so they’ll be happy to talk with you.
Remember. Be honest about what you want to learn. Don’t try to please the teacher. It’s their job to please you. Ask them to specifically tell you how their approach will help you accomplish your goal. Ask them about their educational background. How long have they been teaching? Here’s the most important question. Ask them what kind of student do they most enjoy teaching? Does that sound like you? If so, sign-up. If not, keep looking.
If you don’t know what you want to accomplish or if you’ve been playing a long time and you’re not improving, then this is what you have to discuss with the perspective teacher. Honestly describe your playing. Ask to play with the teacher if words fail you. Then say, “OK, how can you help me?” If the answer sounds like good and it’s not a canned response (i.e. All my students ……) then give it a shot.
The most important thing to remember is that it’s your money, but it’s also your responsibility to find the right teacher.