Ten Characteristics to Look For in a Private Guitar Instructor


Welcome back! This week’s blog addresses some of things to consider when searching for a private guitar teacher. I’ve had many questions over the years from both students and parents about the kinds of things to look for when trying to select a private guitar instructor. So, to make your selection a bit easier I’ve come up with a list of ten characteristics you should look for when selecting a guitar teacher. Enjoy!

1)   High expectations:

Your instructor should expect the best from you. An instructor that has high expectations of your performance will help you realize your musical potential. Otherwise, your instructor is taking your (or your parent’s) hard earned money every week … while your musical skills flatline.

2)   Punctuality/Consistency:

Not only should you expect your teacher to be on time, but he/she also needs to try to keep a regular lesson schedule. I‘ve heard many stories from students who have teachers that constantly cancel lessons due to one reason or another. If a set lesson time has been negotiated, then you should expect them to stick to it. 

3)   Focus:  

An effective teacher should focus on your needs rather than on themselves during a lesson. There is nothing more boring than watching a teacher practice in front of you. A focus on the content of the lesson without straying off course from the task or subject of the lesson can help to provide a better learning experience for you. 

4)   Diagnostic/prescriptive ability:

Good teachers are able to tell you what needs to be improved and will tell you how to correct the problem or issue. It is important that your teacher understands what issues you’re facing as an aspiring guitarist and how to help you get past those potential roadblocks that keep you from improving.

5)   Playing ability:

Great teachers need to be able to adequately demonstrate the musical task at hand. This can be accomplished either through modeling the task or presenting an appropriate example.

6)   Honesty:

You need an instructor who’s not afraid to tell you how you’re doing in an honest way. Nobody needs a “yes man” as a teacher. If what you play is not up to snuff, it’s important they let you know. It’s just as important they let you know what does sound good. Too many teachers are quick to point out performance deficiencies, but have a hard time giving appropriate –– and specific –– positive feedback about what you’re doing correctly. I believe that if a student is told what they’re doing correctly there’s a greater chance that they’ll continue to repeat the task in the same way.

7)   Knowledge:

It’s essential to get answers to burning musical questions from your instructor. This means they must possess enough musical knowledge to either answer your questions correctly or enough knowledge of the resources to point you in the right direction. This also means they should understand the limitations of their own knowledge. Nobody likes to be misinformed or led on a wild goose chase based on erroneous information.

8)   Flexibility:

Not everyone learns in the same way.  Flexible teachers make changes to teaching strategies and methods to allow for individual differences in student learning style. It is important that your instructor recognizes whether or not their approach is working for you.

9)   Open-mindedness:

An instructor with an open mind allows for students to go where they need to go artistically. Open-minded teachers are unprejudiced when it comes to artistic interests.  Learning is sometimes about trying things out and finding what works for you. An effective teacher allows for this kind of student growth throughout the course of instruction.

10)  Respect:

One of the most important characteristics of a good teacher is respect. It’s important to feel as though your instructor respects you as a student as well as a person. This helps build trust between teacher and student. This can go a long way toward helping you achieve your musical goals.

Of course, this is by no means a definitive list of characteristics to look for in a private instructor.  What would you add to this list?