Bill SwickPart of my responsibility as the Guitar Task Force Chair in Clark County is to pay attention to the challenges that guitar teachers are facing. Currently, 60% of our classroom guitar teachers do not play the guitar or did not play the guitar before teaching their first guitar class.

When guitar is not your first instrument, but you have to teach it you need to get a few things right. Here are 5 suggestions for music teachers who teach guitar as a secondary instrument.

1. Slow Down You Teach Too Fast

cannibalization New Guitar Teachers tend to teach materials too fast. Covering the first three strings on a guitar in the first week will leave your students’ heads spinning. Instead, take it down a notch and let the kids soak in the instrument.

Try covering one string per week (6 weeks of lessons and don’t forget re-teaching, modeling and application). You can play songs on each one of these strings and as the weeks go by, the music will become richer.

2. Explore More Materials (Don’t Use Just One Book)

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There are some incredible books out there, but I have not found one that covers everything. Explore numerous titles the same way that it’s done in the Teaching Guitar Workshops. Also, look for songs on your own. Books can only contain so much music and there’s bound to be a great tune that you’re missing.

3. Understand the History of Guitar

vermeer-GuitarPlayerLarge Don’t play Bach the same way you play The Beatles. Having a good understanding of the history of the guitar, the master composers of guitar literature, and an understanding of the historical relevance of the guitar literature will add depth to your class. By knowing more you can help students put the music in context and play with the proper phrasing and articulation.

4. Take Guitar Lessons

I know you’re busy, but taking a few lessons and practicing regularly will help your teaching immeasurably! If you can’t take lessons or don’t want to pay, YouTube has some great videos like this one from Berklee College of Music. Learn to play the instrument, even little by little.

5. Select Music Your Kids Can Play

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When selecting music be sure that it is achievable. Nothing is worse for a student than never being able to get their hands around a song! Whether it’s ensemble music or a few chords, be sure that the skill level of the piece matches the skill level of the student.

It is often difficult to identify these errors unless someone from the outside points them out to you. Have a colleague sit in on your class; if s/he is a dedicated guitar teacher, even better.

Get Guitar in Your School


Attend a Teaching Guitar Workshop and learn how to start or expand a great classroom guitar program. This Professional Development course for school music educators is endorsed by NAfME and backed by the recommendations of thousands of school music educators who have studied with us!

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