MICHAEL MURRAYGuitar Teacher and Performer
Set Your Priorities
Most people search for a guitar teacher without a clear picture of what it is they are looking for. Are you looking for the best teacher you can find or are other factors more important such as price and convenience? Do you just want to play for fun with little concern about how well you can play or do you want to achieve a degree of proficiency on the instrument?
In my experience most people do have some ambition to at least become competent players. It is to these people that I address this article because if becoming a good player is not a prime concern then it is not all that important who you choose as a guitar teacher. It is easy enough to state that finding a good and knowledgeable teacher is your priority but the search process often does not proceed in a manner that will achieve this. Some of the factors that hinder finding a good teacher are:
Lack of Research
There is no license required for someone to call themselves a guitar teacher. Thus, there are often widely varying degrees of qualification between teachers. Too many students will trust a prospective teacher at his word when he says he is qualified to teach guitar. Many people will assume that if they go to a music school that the school will provide them with someone qualified but that is often not the case. In order to find the best teacher available in your area it is necessary to call several teachers and ask them about their qualifications. The qualifications you should look for will be discussed in a subsequent section.
This is a very common hindrance to finding a good teacher. If you are willing to put time into learning the instrument properly you should be prepared to journey a bit further than your neighbourhood if necessary. Time is a precious commodity but consider how much time you will waste practicing inefficiently if you do not have a good teacher. Driving across the city once a week to study with a good teacher will save you time over studying with a poor teacher in your own neighbourhood. I occasionally get calls from people only interested in a teacher who will come to their house. The amount of time necessary for a teacher to travel to his students houses is significant especially for someone living in a large city like Montreal. Even if I charged the same rate for travel as I did for teaching and could make the same amount of income it would greatly reduce the number of students I could teach. I would much rather teach a larger number of students than be spending half my time driving around Montreal. There are some teachers who are willing to drive to a student’s home but are these the best teachers in your city? While one can not make a blanket statement and say all such teachers are bad, I would have to question why they have to do this as most good teachers who are in a city for a certain length of time can build up a significant clientele teaching from one location. At the very least someone wanting home lessons is greatly reducing the pool of teachers from which to choose from in their city.
The fee that prospective students are expecting/willing to pay varies greatly and is often unrealistically low for someone who is well qualified. There are definitely people willing to teach guitar cheaply but are these well qualified people? Most good teachers have an education comparable to that of a doctor or lawyer and certainly do not command anywhere near the fees of these professions. Unless one is employed by a university or similar institution, guitar teaching is not a profession with a steady, constant income. One can not compare the hourly wage of a guitar teacher to that of someone working a steady 40 hour week with guaranteed pay and overtime if they work longer than the hours paid for. Thus, a good teacher will also demand a fee that corresponds to his qualifications. You can not judge a teacher solely based on his fee but most well qualified teachers will demand more than lesser qualified teachers. If you can not afford the fee of a good teacher see if it is possible to study on a less frequent than weekly basis. It is better to have less frequent lessons with a good teacher than frequent lessons with a bad or mediocre teacher. If that is not possible ask if the teacher has some advanced students who are teaching and may be able to provide you with some of the same information at a lower cost. A good teacher will save you money in the long run even if his fees are higher than those of a less qualified teacher. You will reach your goals faster, will not have years of frustration wondering why you can not play as well as you would like and will not have to spend time and money later fixing bad habits that are hindering your development.