Teaching Advice

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
Well guys, I've been playing for almost two years now, and I've really enjoyed it. I've had my gorgeous Gretsch for just over a year, and I'm enjoying myself immensely. I've reached some level of competency, definitely an intermediate player, knowing all my chords, playing decent lead, knowing how to jam, Travis pick, improvise, and hold my own in general. I know my Angus, I know my Jimi, I know my Eddie, I know my Mother Maybelle and my Slash. Enough so that I'm considered mildly impressive by my guitar-playing friends. But I've run into a new challenge:
One of my friends, a wonderful conservatory-level cellist, wants me to teach her guitar. I agreed, but I'll be totally honest with you: I have no clue how to teach. I'll hazard a guess a few of you have taught before, and I seek advice from you as a fellow player on how to teach a new one. I didn't have a teacher, I taught myself, so I don't have an example to follow. If you have taught (in some form) could you please send some desperately needed advice?
 

NJDevil

Country Gent
Jul 9, 2014
1,464
Commack, NY
Well......One obstacle out of the way is that your friend is a musician. I would first ask her what she is looking to do with the guitar. Some questions to ask first.......What music do you like? Does this music have an influence on why you like to learn guitar?

Tell her the difference b'ween lead and rhythm guitarists and what acoustic brings vs. electric.

More questions: If electric lead playing, what do you want to communicate through the texture of individual notes? Do you want to play the songs you like? What would you like to see yourself doing with the guitar next year and then in 5?

I would teach her regardless of what she wants, the baseline needed is to learn chords and how they are the ingredients for the melody and the importance and definition of the root note. Then start out by learning chords. G, A, D, E, and C are great foundations. Stress the importance of her finding comfortable position of holding the neck.....holding in a way the best helps the fingers do what she would like them to do.

Of course with the above learning of chords, tell her that the other hand is the leader for timing, teach basic strumming patterns with just a thumb and also a pick. Help her find the importance of comfort with a pick and that her comfort level may change in time and there is no right or wrong.

Help making feel that the beginning of the journey is fun.

Of course this is just one piece of input and I know others may have a different approach but I think my narrative above reflects some good points to include in teaching her.
 

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
Well......One obstacle out of the way is that your friend is a musician. I would first ask her what she is looking to do with the guitar. Some questions to ask first.......What music do you like? Does this music have an influence on why you like to learn guitar?

Tell her the difference b'ween lead and rhythm guitarists and what acoustic brings vs. electric.

More questions: If electric lead playing, what do you want to communicate through the texture of individual notes? Do you want to play the songs you like? What would you like to see yourself doing with the guitar next year and then in 5?

I would teach her regardless of what she wants, the baseline needed is to learn chords and how they are the ingredients for the melody and the importance and definition of the root note. Then start out by learning chords. G, A, D, E, and C are great foundations. Stress the importance of her finding comfortable position of holding the neck.....holding in a way the best helps the fingers do what she would like them to do.

Of course with the above learning of chords, tell her that the other hand is the leader for timing, teach basic strumming patterns with just a thumb and also a pick. Help her find the importance of comfort with a pick and that her comfort level may change in time and there is no right or wrong.

Help making feel that the beginning of the journey is fun.

Of course this is just one piece of input and I know others may have a different approach but I think my narrative above reflects some good points to include in teaching her.

That is actually outstanding advice, thank you. I'm gonna be using that.
 

wabash slim

I Bleed Orange
Feb 10, 2010
17,601
lafayette in
Can you read music? If your friend is a trained cellist, she can. That may, or may not, be an issue.
Cello isn't all that far off from a guitar, say, compared to a horn or keyboard. Main difference is that you're not likely to be playing chords all that much on a cello, but more single note things. The group The Dead South uses a cello instead of a bass, and it works quite well. She already is well acquainted with music, and, adapting to guitar won't be all that hard. Show her chords, and she'll likely take it from there.
 

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
Can you read music? If your friend is a trained cellist, she can. That may, or may not, be an issue.
Cello isn't all that far off from a guitar, say, compared to a horn or keyboard. Main difference is that you're not likely to be playing chords all that much on a cello, but more single note things. The group The Dead South uses a cello instead of a bass, and it works quite well. She already is well acquainted with music, and, adapting to guitar won't be all that hard. Show her chords, and she'll likely take it from there.
You're probably right. We can both read music, but to be totally honest tablature for guitars is a whole lot more convenient.
 

loudnlousy

Gretschified
Oct 18, 2015
12,349
Germany
I used to teach guitar for several years but I would not consider myself to be a certified teacher.

It was a nice little hobby which created a little side-income and not done professionally (and my students knew that. Usually they saw me at local concerts of my band and asked me to show them some stuff. So they did not expect that Chet-stuff but the (simple) good old Rock, Blues and Pop.)

So I am not sure whether I am qualified to give you advice or better keep my mouth shut. Anyway...
This is the way I did it:

Before I agreed on teaching somebody I asked what stuff he or she really wants to learn.
So I could tell whether I was able to get him/her there or not.
If it was something beyond my skills and knowledge I declined politely.
If I felt that this lessons were driven by mom an dad an the student would rather play soccer than guitar I declined politely.
If there was not a basic sympathy between us I declined politely.

Then we decided whether to learn by ear, by TAB or by sheet music. (Usually we begun learning by ear and then using some TAB. Especially for making some notes to remember chords.)

First I taught them to tune the guitar. At that point you can easily see whether someone has at least a "musical ear" which I consider the most basic skill to have to begin learning an instrument.

Then we decided on a first step. E.g.: What basic riff would be cool to learn first? What would make you proud if you could play it to to your friends?

And off we go.

After the usual "Smoke-on-the-water-light-version riff" is done you know how fast your student is learning and how much enthusiasm is behind his woodshedding. So you can adapt to that and work on the next step.

After having taught two or three easy classic licks that the students asked me for I would show them the mighty power-chord. So they have a very simple tool to work on nearly every pop- or rock-song.
Usually this is a eureka-moment for most of them.

Then they usually asked me for some cool chords that I would show them.

I very rarely taught playing scales. My personal opinion is that practising scales will help your muscle memory and speed but not your creativity.
So when it comes to playing little solos I usually advised them to whistle their idea on a tape-recorder (today you would use a cellphone). Then we would find out how to transfere it to the instrument, together.

Usually I would show them how to use up- and downstrokes, bending, doublestops, playing harmonics, maybe some tapping and using the tremolobar.
The point is to keep them busy with stuff that they really like to know (and doing it in baby-steps). Don`t make it boring.
Don`t let them go home without a little appetizer: And this is what we are going to try out next time!

I always advised them to use a metronome and to record everything what they are playing.
My other standard-advice was to look for a musician-friend who is a beginner, too. Be it a bassist, a keyboarder or a drummer.

That way of teaching was working quite good (and was enjoyable) for me and -obviously- for my students, too.
There are some of them that I still meet at concerts being it mine or theirs.

But that is just one way to do it. I believe that there are many others that may work even better.
 
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GlenP

Country Gent
Jul 23, 2019
2,364
WA
I would suggest looking through the various method books and pick a series of them to use for lesson plans, then maybe add particular songs in addition to that per their interest. Guitar Center has a set of MelBay type books, then you have a set of lessons to start with and refer to, but can add other material also, the books just give you a general starting point.
 

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
I would suggest looking through the various method books and pick a series of them to use for lesson plans, then maybe add particular songs in addition to that per their interest. Guitar Center has a set of MelBay type books, then you have a set of lessons to start with and refer to, but can add other material also, the books just give you a general starting point.
Excellent idea
 

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
Knowing how to play and knowing how to teach are two different skills. I would advise you to realistically assess your abilities in each discipline before proceeding.
Yeah, my teaching skills are mildly competent towards beginners. I've taught kids how to play banjo at summer camps, and this is just an informal thing, more of two musically inclined types trading off some skills. I know my chords, I know enough theory from playing piano, and she most likely knows more than me to be completely honest.
 

Runamok

Country Gent
Hehe nah I look like a bum next to her. A cello is tuned to fifths, starting at C
Are you teaching her acoustic or electric?
Could start with an open tuning.

I had a longer post, but thought it was pretentious of me, so clipped it.

Just give her some quick turn around gratification stuff like single string melodies or power chord shuffles, a few cowboy chord I-IV-V chord progressions to learn & you’ll buy some time to think how to proceed next!
 

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
Are you teaching her acoustic or electric?
Could start with an open tuning.

I had a longer post, but thought it was pretentious of me, so clipped it.

Just give her some quick turn around gratification stuff like single string melodies or power chord shuffles, a few cowboy chord I-IV-V chord progressions to learn & you’ll buy some time to think how to proceed next!
Acoustic, that's what she has. You've underlined my basic thoughts, but I'm going to have to get a quick look at her musical tastes outside of classical in order to help her further. I'm also planning on teaching the basic minor pentatonic, major, and blues scales to get her started. Since she's a classical musician, after a certain point I think she may appreciate a guide to the "listen, adapt, assimilate" approach us blues-based music lovers enjoy oh so much.
 

Runamok

Country Gent
Acoustic, that's what she has. You've underlined my basic thoughts, but I'm going to have to get a quick look at her musical tastes outside of classical in order to help her further. I'm also planning on teaching the basic minor pentatonic, major, and blues scales to get her started. Since she's a classical musician, after a certain point I think she may appreciate a guide to the "listen, adapt, assimilate" approach us blues-based music lovers enjoy oh so much.
You cannot go wrong with something she can replicate until next lesson.

But if she has a guitar already — does that mean she is not a rank beginner?
You may not need to teach her too many cowboy chords.

Whenever I have learned something adjacent to something I know well,
for me at least — going the usual plodding route can be irritating. Wing it. You’ll do fine.
 

Duo Slinger

Country Gent
Sep 11, 2020
1,173
California, USA
You cannot go wrong with something she can replicate until next lesson.

But if she has a guitar already — does that mean she is not a rank beginner?
You may not need to teach her too many cowboy chords.

Whenever I have learned something adjacent to something I know well,
for me at least — going the usual plodding route can be irritating. Wing it. You’ll do fine.
She has a guitar, but she's never used it.
Also, your confidence in me means a lot. Thanks, dude.
 


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