How I got more guitar students!
Updated: Jun 15
Losing students to YouTube? Is there less money coming in? What about young students from 5 years of age? Do you not want to teach them? They are eager to learn and their parents willing to pay for tuition. You've taught young kids before but it was too hard! Years ago this was me too. This is how I went from very low student numbers to having more than I could cope with.
I taught guitar at a very prestigious school and refused to teach anyone under nine years of age. Till then, kids have poor fine motor and cognitive skills. One day my music director asked that I teach a few six-year old’s. I’d said 'no' and had done many times before and often told parents to call me back in a couple of years when their kid has grown up a bit. But, this time there was no getting out of it…the parents had them enrolled and paid already. I asked the Director, ‘what could I teach them that I haven’t tried already’? I have dozens of beginner guitar books and none worked very well. She said, ‘It doesn’t matter, just teach them something’
Knowing that the Suzuki Method teaches kids from as young as three, I knew that it can’t be impossible. I borrowed some violin books from a friend and modified them for guitar. This was ok, the kids I was asked to teach did alright but I knew this wasn’t the answer. What I eventually ended up with was a radical departure from anything that’s on the market yet the answer was so simple. I was astounded that no-one had thought of this approach before.
It was about this time that my marriage failed, I walked away with my car, guitar and very little money in the bank. I was lucky enough that a friend let me stay at his place in the country for a year. While this was happening, I was noticing that I was losing my older students to youtube and other free online lessons. If I was to try and rebuild my life, I had to work hard and I had to work with the younger kids.
I remembered when my own daughter was first beginning school and the Principal was telling us the way they were going to teach kids to read words. He said that even though they couldn’t read a word, they would recognise it because the teachers would associate that word with an object. Kids might see the Golden Arches and recognise the word underneath said, McDonalds. I also remembered seeing a video about an orchestra of ukuleles. None of the musicians was reading music. I thought ‘How on earth do they know what to play?’ I guess they must just be copying or imitating the conductor in some way. Then I had this epiphany that would change my world forever. I would use this same method to get kids to read music and because kids are visual learners, they would imitate me, their teacher playing the notes on the guitar.
I knew I was on to something. While I was trialing, testing and developing my method my enrollments for young kids kept building. The kids were making real progress and loving it. I remember thinking ‘Why have guitar teachers always been teaching the same way and why hadn’t anyone thought of teaching this way before? the solution is so obvious and so easy to use’. Kids that may have left after just a couple of weeks were now staying on as long term students. I had so many students wanting to learn that I thought ‘Maybe I could teach them all at once’. School teachers do it, fitness and swim trainers do it and so could I! My plan was to make a guitar club for kids and use my method which I called Copy, Play and Learn Guitar. Kids could learn guitar and make new friends. The big plus of teaching in groups was that I could charge parents a lower hourly rate and that got even more people interested. Incidentally, I could pay myself a higher rate. Everybody wins!
These days I work because I want to. I have paid off most of my housing loan and make a a good living from being a guitar teacher and focus on the positives in my life. I enjoy helping my daughter with her own music career and even get among the action in the surf as an old gromm!
Using modern child friendly teaching techniques with age appropriate and exciting songs, this a great place for for kids to start learning to play guitar and reading music. To assist the beginner learn to play guitar and read music confidently, this series of lessons makes use of a child's natural learning instincts. Children are visual learners and will naturally imitate the actions of a parent or teacher in the early stages of their learning journey, that's why this series involves the teacher playing short phrases and the student imitates them. The pieces use visually logical and easily memorable finger patterns. A story, woven into the pieces, evolves as the student progresses.