MICHAEL MURRAYGuitar Teacher and Performer
Where to Look For a Guitar Teacher
There is no concrete answer to where a good guitar teacher can be found but there are places where you are more likely to find a good teacher and places where you are less likely to find a good teacher. As in every type of profession there are exceptions and a good teacher may be found in a poor music school while a top university may have a very poor guitar professor. Nevertheless, it is better to start your search at the place more likely to have a good teacher. At the same time you should not be overimpressed by the place where a teacher is employed and ignore the other criteria for evaluating a teacher.
One of the first things you should do in searching for a music teacher is to call the music department of your local university or college. A university or college usually pays well and requires a higher standard of excellence for someone to be hired. Thus, there is a higher likelihood that they have someone well qualified for the job. While some professors may only be available for the students of that university/college, many also teach privately. If they do not teach privately they or the school administration may be able to refer you to one of their current or former students. Some schools also have affiliated private schools for people who are not studying at that university.
Private Music Schools
Private music schools have a very variable level of quality. Two factors influence the quality of a music school, the salary that the music school pays and the competence of the music school’s directors in selecting teachers. There is often a great difference between the salary that two music schools pay their teachers even if there is little difference between what they charge for lessons. Many schools pay less than 50% of the lesson fee to the teacher and not coincidentally often have trouble hiring and retaining good teachers. Such schools often are located in suburban areas with many families and thus a high demand for music lessons or may be attached to a popular music store and can draw students from their customers. The demand is so high that even if the lessons they offer are poor they can fill their spots. Many students may become unhappy and quit but there are always more to take their place. Other schools/music stores have more concern about their reputation and will pay a much better wage to the teacher. While such schools may be slightly more expensive the difference in lesson fee is usually small compared to the difference in the percentage they are paying the teacher. They are usually able to attract a better level of teacher as long as the director is careful about who he hires. The biggest problem for the perspective student is that the percentage of the fee that the teacher is paid and the competence of the director in hiring teachers is not information that is easy to obtain. Within a certain school there can also be large differences between the teachers they have and also not coincidentally what they are paying various teachers. Always ask about the qualifications of the teacher and do not accept the first teacher they offer you but ask to see the qualifications of all of the teachers. Most schools won’t suggest their best teacher first but rather the teacher with the most vacancies because they want to fill up his schedule. There are usually two reasons for a teacher to have a lot of vacancies, he is new at the school or he is a poor teacher and is not building up a satisfied clientele. If the well qualified teachers do not have any openings it is better to wait until they do rather than take a poorly qualified teacher.
This is the category with the most variety in teacher quality, ranging from people who have no business in calling themselves guitar teachers to top notch professionals. Anyone with a minimal amount of playing ability can call and advertise themselves as a guitar teacher. Thus, the onus is on you to find out the qualifications of the teacher in question. The difference between the private teacher and those in the schools listed above is that no one else, ie. the music director of the school, has examined their credentials. To some extent this is an advantage because many people assume that if a school has approved someone as a teacher, this means they are a good teacher with the required qualifications. This is often not the case so it can be an advantage to be forced to examine their credentials yourself, something that you should do wherever you are considering studying. While there are many poor teachers offering lessons privately it is also possible to find some excellent teachers if you do your research properly. Some teachers may be at the same level as the best university teachers. It is difficult to get a university post and many teachers do not like the drawbacks of working for the university and find that they can earn a similar salary working privately. In finding a private teacher it is often good to search on the internet for the websites of guitar teachers in your area as well as to look on advertising bulletin boards such as craigslist and kijiji.
High School Evening Classes
High school or community centre evening classes are generally the poorest place to find a good teacher and I do not recommend them. They often have poorly qualified teachers many of whom are amateur not professional players. A further drawback is that the lessons are offered as group lessons. Even if the teacher is good he is not able to give you very much individual time or feedback since he has to teach a large class of students. When you are learning an instrument it is important that the teacher can watch closely how you play so that you do not develop bad habits and poor technique. While this is often the cheapest option for taking guitar lessons the cost is usually not that much cheaper especially when one considers that the lessons are not private and the usual poor instruction level at such schools.
A good method for finding a teacher is to ask for recommendations from people who have significantly more expertise in the guitar world than you do. It is the last part of this sentence that is important, many people ask for recommendations from people who are not very knowledgeable about who is a good guitar teacher, ie. the amateur player who lives across the street or their son’s friend who has been taking lessons for a couple of months. Many students find a guitar teacher good because they get along with him not because they are becoming accomplished guitarists. It is much better to search out advanced local players and ask them who they would recommend. Many of these players will teach themselves and if not will usually be happy to recommend someone they consider to be a good teacher, possibly one of their former teachers. A good sign is if you ask several players and the same name is constantly mentioned. An accomplished player will usually have a higher standard of judging teachers than someone who has not played for a significant amount of time. Many cities also have guitar societies (organizations that promote the guitar in the city) and many of these will also recommend teachers when queried.