When learning to play a musical instrument it's vital to get a good teacher right from the start. In order to teach the guitar correctly the teacher must first be able to play it correctly, & if he's unaware of how to play the instrument correctly he is incapable of teaching others. An unqualified teacher is a classic case of the blind leading the blind, something that is unfortunately very prevalent in the world of guitar tuition. An unqualified teacher can introduce bad habits that leaves the student struggling, frustrated, prone to physical injury (OOS & RSI), & eventually their technique will have to be dismantled & rebuilt again from scratch. Only a teacher with relevant qualifications from a reputable university is guaranteed to have the correct musical knowledge and technique. A performance degree in music means the teacher has been through a thorough examination process, and has attained a certain level of playing skill that is judged by an expert examination panel. A degree in teaching is another qualification that is essential for an instrumental educator, and an understanding of the processes and psychology of teaching and learning, and the interactions between the the teacher and the student have a profound impact on the teacher's ability to deliver a quality music education.
So what are the main qualities to look for in a good guitar teacher?
Qualifications Music Notation, Not TAB Teaching Qualifications & Experience Patience Clarity Likable
A good teacher should have a music degree from a reputable university, & the degree should major in performance for the instrument that they teach. The following shows a list of the main music qualifications common to a university, with 3 years being the absolute minimum study time needed to achieve a Bachelors degree. The list is in descending order with the highest degree being a Doctorate & the lowest being a Bachelors degree.
Doctor of Musical Arts - DMA Master of Music - M.Mus Post Graduate Diploma - PGDipMus Bachelor of Music (Honours) - B.Mus(Hons) Bachelor of Music - B.Mus
It is important to note that the degree should be in GUITAR PERFORMANCE. Some people have a music degree in composition, music theory, or musicology, & try to pass it off as a performance degree. Only if a degree is in guitar performance is it relevant to teaching the guitar. Don't be afraid to ask, a qualified guitar teacher will be more than happy to show off his achievements.
Another thing to be aware of is where the degree was obtained. Some so called 'degrees' can be bought on the internet so it's important to check that both the degree and the university are genuine. Below is a list of university rankings from around the world, if it's not listed then treat it with suspicion:
It is also worth checking who they studied with at university. Not all university lecturers are equal so if their lecturer has a good name as a teacher & performer then it reflects on the quality of their education. Check up on who their teacher was & what his qualifications are also.
Many guitar teachers try to sidestep the issue of a degree by saying they studied somewhere for a year or so. This usually means they failed in their degree and dropped out - avoid them like the plague, there is a reason why they failed. Others say they are qualified because they have their grades from Trinity College or the Royal School of Music. This is great, but unfortunately these qualifications are the bare minimum to gain entrance to university & are insufficient to be a teacher - in essence, they are still students themselves. As an example, I passed my Grade 8 Trinity College London in guitar performance with distinction, yet spent most of my first year at university dismantling & completely rebuilding my playing technique for both hands, the way I held the guitar, and my general posture.
If there is any doubt about somebody's degree the university will be happy to confirm whether it is genuine or not.
Music Notation, Not TAB
Many guitar teachers avoid traditional music notation & teach using a system called TAB, which is short for tablature and shows the guitarist where to put his fingers. The main drawbacks of tablature are that it leaves the student musically illiterate, which will come back to haunt them later on, and it fails to show which fingering to use. In effect, it's no different to a piano teacher painting the piano keys different colours to avoid teaching the student music. If a guitar teacher uses tablature to teach he's shortchanging his students (to put it politely), & it's possible that he can't read music himself. Only in cases of learning difficulty such as dyslexia should TAB be an acceptable teaching tool. If TAB is so good, why don't teachers of all the other stringed instruments (e.g. double bass, cello, viola, violins) use it?
Traditional music notation teaches the student to be musically literate, and lays the foundation for the study of music theory should they wish. Almost all of the orthodox western musical instruments utilise standard music notation, so it's possible for the student to apply this knowledge to other instruments as well as the guitar. In addition to this many students study music at school and the ability to read music is vital as part of their course. Similarly, a university will require a certain level of musical literacy before accepting a student into it's courses. There is good reason as to why music has been the foundation of playing an instrument for centuries.
Teaching Qualifications & Experience
Teaching qualifications and experience have a great bearing on how effective a teacher is. Guitar teachers come across all sorts of recurring problems that need to be overcome, and over time they develop the means, exercises, & techniques needed to overcome these various hurdles. They learn to structure their lessons to achieve goals within set timeframes, & to balance the student's technical development with the pieces they play. Additionally, the teacher also needs to develop ways of dealing with the students successfully, encouraging the students & building their confidence are all part of the package. Only through study, time, & experience can the teacher become proficient in these skills, and a degree in education lays a firm foundation in understanding the students and the methods needed. Although an education degree helps immensely it is essential that the teacher knows how to play the instrument correctly so that the knowledge imparted to the students is valid, and an education degree must be accompanied by a musical performance degree.
The temperament of the guitar teacher is very important. Music teachers that are impatient & lose their temper take all the fun out of learning a musical instrument. Students must enjoy & look forward to their lessons in order to view their instrument in a positive light. A good guitar teacher should be very patient and encouraging with the students, & a student always responds to a helpful, friendly, and patient teacher.
In order for the teacher to get the best from the student the teacher needs to be very clear when explaining concepts, what he expects from the student, & how the student needs to approach his practice for the week. Practice without a goal is an inefficient use of the student's time, and a clear understanding of the task at hand is important if the student is to succeed & return to the next lesson prepared.
Do you like your guitar teacher?
Some people might think this question seems irrelevant, but a student that dislikes their guitar teacher will not enjoy the lessons, and will lack faith in what he has to say. This is particularly true for junior students who need to enjoy their lessons and look forward to them each week. A good guitar teacher should be respected & on friendly terms with the students so that the students willingly respond to what the teacher requires of them, yet still remain clear about his role and responsibilities as the teacher.
When looking for a guitar teacher settle for nothing less than quality. Some guitar teachers have elaborate websites with fancy sales pitches, but have little if any qualifications to back up their wild claims. A high ranking on google only shows that the owner of the website knows how to manipulate himself into first place, but without a quality performance degree & teaching experience this means nothing. Look for someone who knows what they're doing & has a degree to prove it.