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Can I Teach Guitar?

By Jamie Andreas

There are many people asking this question. There are many people feeling a need to teach other people how to do this thing we all do, and to play this instrument we all love. They are perhaps asking this question for different reasons; some may be looking for fulfillment, some may be looking for a job, and hopefully many are doing both.

And very likely, the person asking this question is feeling some degree of doubt about their ability to teach, doubt about either their guitar knowledge, or their teaching skills.

Well, the first thing to be clear about is that neither of these doubtful things need be, or should be, the object of our first concern. You will never know what your teaching skills are until you begin to teach. And as far as guitar knowledge goes, the only requirement for teaching someone anything is this: you must know at least one thing the person you are teaching doesn’t! Teach them that, and then do your best to keep at least one step ahead of them so you can keep on teaching them! If you know more than one thing the other person doesn’t, you are already ahead of the game!

There is only one thing that will determine whether you can successfully teach the guitar, and that is your deeply felt enthusiasm for causing another person to be able to play the guitar. That is it. If you have that, you will do everything else right as you go along, or quickly find out how to do so. If you do not have a deeply felt enthusiasm for causing another person to be able to play the guitar, then it doesn’t matter what else you have, you won’t be able to teach.

So please, if you are asking yourself this question “can I teach the guitar”, find the answer to this one first “how does it feel to teach someone?” “How do I feel when someone really “gets it”, and learns to play?” “How do I feel when someone doesn’t?”

And of course the all important question: what do you do when someone doesn’t get it?

If you find the right answers to those questions, you will find the answers to all the rest.

To tell you the truth, I wish that everyone who studies my methods would begin to teach, the sooner the better ( I will only request a 24 hour waiting period after beginning to play!) And why is this? It is because teaching is simply an extension of our own learning process. It is because teaching is the most powerful way of learning. Being a teacher is the other side of being a student.

Teaching should be a natural process. It is a natural process of sharing the passion of your own process of learning with another person. The desire to share what you are learning with someone else is as natural as the desire to tell someone a good joke you just heard. The sharing intensifies the experiencing of what is shared. And so it is in teaching. There is simply no better way to learn something than to teach it.

While it is not true that every player needs to be, or can be, a teacher, it is true that every teacher needs to be, and should be, a player. And it doesn’t matter what level of player, you can teach guitar no matter what level of player you are.

You can be a new player, and be a great teacher. You can be a longtime player and be a lousy teacher. A new player can also, in essence, be a great player, no matter how little “knowledge” they have of playing, and a longtime player can, in essence, be a lousy player, no matter how much knowledge they have. That is because the essence of being a player is the joy of the person playing. Being a guitar player is not simply the ability to “produce” music on the guitar, any more than the ability to run around and swing on monkey bars is the essence of a child at play in the playground. It is the feeling with which the activity is engaged that make it play, not the activity itself.

I was a great player the first time I picked up a guitar, because the joy I found in playing was overwhelming. Even though I was picking out, by ear, a single note melody to one of my favorite Johnny Cash songs, it was an experience I will never forget; hearing those sounds I loved coming through my fingers. It is essentially the same feeling I have now when I play a Bach fugue.

Likewise, I was a great teacher as soon as I started teaching, because the emotional experience of enabling another person to play the guitar moved me in my deepest places. This does not mean that there was not world of things to learn about playing and teaching. I would build those structures as time went by. It simply means I had the proper ground to build them upon.

If someone with this joy of playing also has a great enthusiasm for sharing that joy with others, they are perfectly disposed to become great teachers. Their enthusiasm for sharing that joy, and spreading the joy of playing music by planting it in other people, will lead them to pull out of themselves resources they already possess, and then, lead them to develop, and seek out more.

A player who can access their inner joy through playing does not worry about being a great player, they do not doubt themselves; they are too busy playing. And a teacher who feels a deep enthusiasm for enabling others to play does not worry about teaching, or doubt themselves as teachers. This does not mean they are not on the lookout for weaknesses and ways to improve. It simply means that dealing with weaknesses and ways to improve is part of the joyful process.

And so, the question is not can you teach the guitar, of course you can! The question is will you teach the guitar. Will you feel the joyful process when you sit down with another human being and you are both holding guitars? It will have very much to do with the joy you feel when you sit by yourself with a guitar in your lap.

Teachers of the guitar have never had it better, and I say that for two reasons: 1) the technologies for playing, recording, and studying music are breathtaking (especially to those of us who remember the days of slowing down vinyl and using “drum drop” backgrounds), and 2) The Principles makes the actual technical process of teaching the guitar a systematic, scientific, and flawless process for anyone who uses them in teaching. If you use The Principles in teaching, you will have the means to be as effective in teaching as it is possible to be.

It is because so many players using The Principles have seen their power to create results that they have become interested in checking out the possibility of teaching. As they begin to see the immediate improvement in their playing, and the continuation of that improvement, they realize “this business of learning the guitar, if rightly understood, and rightly performed, can be done successfully by anyone”. And they are right, it can, especially anyone who uses The Principles.

In the few short years that The Principles have been around, we have been excited and honored to see a number of people decide to take up teaching, using The Principles and its methods (as well as “The Path”), as the foundation of their approach. They are adapting my methods, and creating new ones, and finding themselves with many reasons to be supremely confident in their ability to really “do it”, really make other people able to play.

Of course, they are also finding that teaching is nothing but an extension of their own passion and process of learning, because that is what true teaching is. There is no such thing as a good teacher who is not a good student. Any good teacher sees teaching as a part of their own growth as students of their subject, and I know that this is true of the teachers we presently have.

And the best teachers see it as something much more as well. The best teachers see the process of teaching as what it really “wants to be” in its highest spiritual sense: a relationship based on love, love and the highest good will; love of music, love of guitar, and mutual love and appreciation for each other on the part of the student and the teacher.

To be able to give another person something so precious as artistic fulfillment in the form of playing the guitar, especially if it is felt to be so precious by that person, and perhaps has eluded them for years, is tremendously fulfilling. Once you feel that, you will know whether you are a teacher or not!

Principled Teachers like Drew and Donna, both of whom report their teaching experiences in our forum “Using The Principles In Teaching” have felt this may times. Anyone wishing to begin teaching can do nothing better than to study their reports, and emulate the sincerity and intensity of their teaching.

Some teachers spend their whole career teaching one style, or staying at one level of teaching, and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you are always honest about what you do, and never try to serve your purposes instead of the students. If you know that the purposes of a student would be better served by another teacher, you must direct them to that teacher.

Some teachers teach only strumming and singing, often in continuing education type settings, and that is a wonderful way for new players to discover the guitar. Many people who are thinking of teaching can start this way, rather than thinking they need to become masters of the guitar before they ever show someone their first chord!

And so, if you are asking yourself “Can I teach the guitar?”, think it over in terms of what I have said here. After that, if you feel you would like to make a beginning, do so.

Find an interested person, (it could be a family member, neighbor, etc.), and begin teaching them on an informal basis, for no money. You will discover what you need to know about yourself as a teacher of guitar. When you have proven to yourself that you have the ability to get results with students, begin to charge for your work.

Study The Principles, and study the lesson plans and approaches on our site. Teach to the end of your knowledge and understanding, and then work to go beyond.

Copyright 2003 by Jamie Andreas. All Rights Reserved.
Published by teoria.com

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