how to teach group guitar lessons

Teaching Group Guitar Lessons

A look at some of the problems, strategies, advantages, and disadvantages of teaching guitar to groups of students

Teaching Guitar to groups of students can be a challenging activity that presents its own problems and opportunities. Experienced guitar teachers come to realise that giving group guitar lessons for kids and older learners alike is  substantially different to the more traditional “one on one” instrumental lesson.

This is not to say that group guitar lessons cannot be successful and rewarding but it is a good idea to consider some of the issues surrounding group guitar teaching before setting out to do so.

Coping with differences in guitar playing ability and potential within a group

One of the basic realities is that the student group will almost inevitably contain a wide variety of guitar players in terms of experience, ability and aspiration. You will also face this diversity with your students when teaching one on one but at the risk of stating the obvious you won’t have to meet them (and therefore cater for them ?) all at the same time.

Differences in terms of age, musical taste, prior experience, technical ability and (lets face it?) potential will mean that each group will present you with a unique set of guitar teaching challenges.

A guitar teacher looking for a stress free and worthwhile teaching experience would do well to have a plan in place that would allow students of mixed ability levels to take something from a lesson.

The secret to not becoming barking mad (and stoney broke?) is in preparation. While a series of guitar lessons designed for an absolute beginner allows for more in the way of student-teacher interraction which allows us to seek out the “weak spots” in a student’s musicianship and to address that during the course of the session we simply do not have that luxury when working with groups of students. By the time we have gone around each of the students in our group conducting an in depth assessment of progress (or not?) since the last session then we will most probably have run out of time to teach and because we have been working with individuals then most of our group will have been doing nothing for most of the time? A way of making sure that all of your students make some progress during the session can be to have them respond to the same source material in different ways

Guitar students working on the same source material at different levels

It is useful when guitar teaching to have a plan that allows a group of students to work on the same basic materials with abilities on different levels.

An idea that can be effective is to play a (looped?) backing track such as the one below consisting of three chords suitable for a beginner guitarist (say A to D to G and a return to A?).

The novices in the group could be encouraged to strum each chord as it changes. A slightly more advanced novice could be helped to strum with a four quaver “down up down up” movement at the start of each bar

A more experienced/capable guitarist yet could be encouraged to use power chords (either a long power chord sounded at the start of each bar or with a straight quaver feel and some palm muting)

Students at the stage where they are ready to work on full bar chords could be required to move around the neck using the relevant chord shapes with a range of strumming patterns and as the “icing on the cake” solos or pre determined single note phrases based around the A pentatonic minor scale” could be introduced to give the whole thing an authentic “rock” flavour.

When this works well (and it does) every guitar player in the group is challenged at the level appropriate to their current ability with the added bonus that no-one is left behind. The other wonderful thing about this approach to group guitar lessons is that it works with almost all of the guitar teacher's backing tracks available from this site You can hear more of them if you follow the link above

There is also an opportunity for the less experienced and capable members of the group to look at the activities and performance of the (slightly) more advanced group members and to be inspired and encouraged by the idea that with a little practice they too can expect to move on to more advanced material?


Teaching Children's Guitar Group Lessons


Teaching guitar to groups of kids can often turn out to be the most enjoyable and financially rewarding element of a guitar teacher's working week

I did not want to teach kids to play guitar! When I started to do so I was already a professional player and teacher and I thought that my calling was to teach intermediate and advanced musicians to get themselves to the point that they could become the players that they wanted to be. The educational equivalent of the icing on the cake if you will. Its not that I thought that teaching kids was beneath me or anything like that its just that I thought that it was not for me. To say now that the most enjoyable and fulfilling part of my teaching week is more often than not the sessions that I spend teaching groups of kids during the first couple of years of their guitar playing journey is one of the most surprising things (to me anyway) about my teaching career.

teaching groups of children to play guitar is the most rewarding part of my job

I did not go looking for work teaching young children to play guitar. I thought that I had more than enough to do teaching "one on one" in high schools and colleges, as well as the students that I saw as part of my private guitar teaching practice. All of this teaching, along with my gigging activities meant that I felt that I was busy enough. I was doing quite nicely until I was "emotionally blackmailed" by a friend (thanks Andy!) to step in for another guitar teacher working in a local school at very short notice The guy who was going to teach there had suddenly decided that the job was not the way he wanted to spend his Thursday mornings and as they already had several small groups of kids signed up and ready to start playing the school had a problem. This emotional blackmail ended up being one of the biggest favours that anyone has ever done me! I am still working there happily over a decade later! Along the way I found out that love teaching younger kids and to be perfectly honest with you I know that if I could only keep one type of teaching on then my work with groups of young children would be very difficult to give up.

One of the main reasons I would hate to abandon this type of teaching is (lets be honest) that in terms of money earned per hour teaching (any kind of) group guitar lessons is difficult to beat. During the lessons I typically teach groups of between four and seven young students for half an hour at a time with the money coming directly from the parents (and not from the school) The "guitar club" is paid for (in advance) at the start of each semester. If you look at what the "going rate" for a group activity is in your part of the world and then multiply it by ten (the average number of students I will see in a one hour time period) Put in crude mathematical terms you can make what would be a reasonable full day's pay for just a couple of hours of (what I laughingly call) work

Sure enough there are challenges and problems involved with teaching kids guitar groups but the secret of a stress free life is in how you prepare If you have a plan and know what you are working towards then the job of teaching groups of kids can sometimes seem to just about do itself.

Teaching groups of kids to play Guitar :The Plan

Luckily the plan (like all the best plans) is simple. Everything you do in the lessons is to work towards the following objectives....

Enable children to learn to form and strum the eight guitar chords that they need to learn first

and........

Have your guitar groups develop the ability to move between those chords in time to music

That is all that you need to be doing. If they get there then you will have enabled your students to turn themselves into guitar players During the early stages of playing guitar kids and adults alike need to be able to form chords and then get better at changing between them It really is that simple

guitar chords and lessons for groups of children

In terms of the material covered teaching groups of children is no different to teaching a single child. Regardless of the circumstances in which they learn they still need to form the same eight shapes (shown above) and to move between them. To get a handle on this material and a tried and tested method you could look at this Overview of how to teach guitar to kids or you could just go to the first of five pages that we have up here looking at a series of lessons for younger children.

There will be more stuff about teaching guitar to groups as this material develops. You can download a free backing track and handouts for this lesson by visiting this link to a page outlining the first eight lessons for a beginner guitarist Use it during the course of your guitar lessons (either with groups of individual students) with our blessing.

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