Questions From Readers
Can Your Recommend any Guitar Instruction Books?
I’m trying to build up my resources of warm up exercises, scales, modes, beginners songs, chord
charts and lead sheets. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for books that are good
resources to teach out of.
Keep up the good work Rob, I really think you inspired my personal
success – after only 6 weeks of working my first ever guitar teaching
job I’ve already had 4 of my 10 students parents call my boss to
comment on the great job I’m doing! So I owe you my thanks.
I teach skills mostly through teaching songs, and then supplementing the
songs with exercises that I make up on the spot. So the huge majority of
written materials I use are chord charts I’ve written out (as you’ve
discovered, most of the songs students request don’t have decent chord
charts available). Also, transcribing the song myself helps me get to know
the song. By the end of the hour-or-so of transcribing, I’m usually ready
to teach it.
Because I mostly teach beginners, I don’t teach a lot of scales, modes, etc.
When I do, I write them out as I teach them, usually in both scale-diagram
and tab formats. Not the most efficient system, but I only do it about
twice a year, and it helps keep my dot-scribbling skills sharp.
Occasionally, I’ll have an adult student who’s hungry to learn more on their
own between lessons, or wants to quit lessons but continue learning. I
recommend anything by Bruce Emery. The books look like they were
photocopied at Kinko’s, but don’t let that fool you. The “Guitar From
Scratch” book is an excellent all-around beginner’s book, and he also has
great music theory books and fingerstyle books. For intermediate or
advanced lead guitarists, I recommend Fretboard Logic. It’s not
entertaining but in provides a solid foundation for learning scales, modes,
arpeggios, the CAGED system, finger exercises, common lead guitar runs, etc.
Finally, Blues You Can Use is an excellent introduction to rhythm and lead
blues music and comes with a CD.
Glad you’re digging the book and the teaching,
Moving from a School to Private Business Gracefully
I’m 20 years old, but already have a year and a half
experience teaching guitar as part of a school, and now I’m the head
of the guitar department. I’ve been feeling strain at the school I teach at for a while. They’re great by letting me teach however I want to, which has led to great
things for my students. However, they restrict performances to their
dates and their venues (which most of the time are just our office
building), and they restrict students to 30 minute lessons, unless
they are in a class, in which case they get an hour. I wish the class was
2 hours and the private lessons were 1. And I wish I could hold a
Coffee Shop Jam.
I’m already booked with the school. We started a waiting list a few
months ago because I already have 36 students between the classes and
private lessons. However, I have lots more time to work. I only
teach about 18 hours a week, which is basically every hour the school
is open during the week, and that’s including my acting and singing
classes. I want to move out of my parents place! I need to make some
more money before that can happen.
I always thought about starting my own guitar teaching business, but
you inspired me to take the leap. What do I do about my current job? I do have a loyal customer base
there, so I feel like I should start getting word out and getting
students there. However, I don’t think I can afford to lose my job
just yet. Do you have any advice?
With much appreciation,
It sounds like you have a good thing going with your school. It’s both a source of income (at least until you get your feet off the ground in
your business) and a community of happy students and an administration who values your work. It sounds
like you’ll want to stop teaching there as soon as you’ve got your own
business running, but you want to make the transition
as graceful as possible so that there are no hard feelings or people left in
I don’t have any answers for you, but here are a couple thoughts: It’s unethical to tell your current students about your new business,
quit teaching at the school, and take your students with you, leaving the
school without a guitar teacher and with many guitar students taking private
lessons with you instead the school’s classes. The school helped you get
those students, so taking them with you, without warning or discussion,
Many business partnerships contain a “non-compete agreement” that prevents
this kind of thing from happening. I’ve never heard of a school having one, but even if yours doesn’t, you should still honor the spirit of this
kind of arrangement.
So how do you do that? I’d say build your business in private.
Don’t tell your current students about it, or the school administration
(don’t be actively deceptive, of course, but don’t advertise it either).
Try to get your first few students through other means. My book will be a good guide.
When you’re ready to make the transition to teaching privately full time,
give your school a couple months (at least) of notice, and discuss with them what arrangement they
would be comfortable with. See what their concerns are. Try to be
flexible. Think of creative ways of giving them what they need while still
being able to quit your job and thrive as a private guitar teacher. It’s the decent thing to do, and who knows how they might help you down the road.
It sounds like you’re so awesome that even if you have to start over, with 0
students in your private business, you’ll do OK. Good luck!
Starting Total Beginners With Melodies and Bass Lines
I am just starting to teach and I have your book. And I wanted to ask a few questions about starting students out with songs on one string instead of chords? I’m mostly asking about teens and adults.
I was thinking about using the bass riff from Summer Nights for a girl student to start with?
How many lessons do you work on melodies before you start on chords? Do you know any more than the ones you list in the book?
“Summer Nights” is a great idea! That sounds like a perfect first melody. You might eliminate the 8th note toward the end of the riff (by getting rid of the last “B” note) at first, and introduce it once she’s got the basic groove down.
How long I stick to melodies depends on their age and ability. I have a 6-year-old who’s been playing for two years and still hasn’t fretted a chord that required more than one finger. But adults, on the other hand, usually learn “Smoke on the Water’s” riff and then move on to chords.
As far as other melodies go—just about any song can be distilled to a bass line played using quarter notes in the key of E on the 6th string (transpose to E so that they can take advantage of the open string for playing over the tonic chord). If they like Green Day, for example, teach them the verse of Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Your criteria for choosing a bass line should be: A simple chord progression, moderate tempo, and sounds decent when played using steady quarter notes.
Hope this helps!