5 Qualities of a great guitar teacher

Electric Guitar

Quality #1 – A great guitar teacher really listens to you

You need to study with a guitar teacher who has your best interests at heart.

Your guitar instructor needs to deeply care about you and care about the style of music that you want to play.

You should not study with a guitar teacher who is overly concerned with him or herself and who doesn’t care about you and your needs.

You need someone who is genuinely interested in what you are trying to achieve!

At the end of the day, your teacher should be your guide, your mentor, your friend and he should be there to show you how to play as well as show you how to become a better you.

That is why it’s absolutely vital that you select the right guitar teacher who genuinely cares for you, who mentors you, who nurtures you and he looks after every part of your playing!

Someone who is there for you to help you grow through your guitar journey!

It’s also important that your guitar teacher takes an interest in the style of music that you want to play.

There are a lot of techniques in guitar playing that are universal – meaning that the technical part of playing the instrument (such as picking), is mostly similar whether you play jazz, rock, blues, soul or pop.

Yes, a number of exercises for guitar are suitable for all styles.

So you should learn “great guitar” technique from your guitar teacher regardless of the type of music you are into!

A great guitar coach is always a great listener and although there are certain methodologies, and systems, and ways to do things, it is vital to listen to what YOU want to do!

So for example, if it is your dream to play jazz guitar, your teacher should be a jazz guitar teacher, or he or she should have a good knowledge of jazz guitar and he should listen to what you want to achieve with jazz guitar.

If you dream to play fast bebop, it would be wonderful if your guitar teacher can help you with your technical abilities as well as with other things.

If it is your dream to become a great blues guitarist, your instructor should push you in the right direction towards becoming great at blues.

If metal… same thing here… your teacher should help you become the best metal guitarist that you can possibly become!

There is no point in having a teacher who doesn’t pay any attention to you and only thinks about his or her own methodology.

Of course, as I’ve said before, a great teacher or a great instructor will always have a set way of doing things (esp. the technical approach to guitar), but he or she must listen to you and help you become great in time!

Quality #2 – A great guitar teacher is able to adapt to your unique personality!

teacher helping student
In order for you to know that you’re with someone really special, you need somebody who’s able to adapt to your unique personality.

You need to be able to work with someone that you feel comfortable with and someone that you feel suits what you want to do.

As long as your instructor is very competent, it is always important to remember that you do not need to absolutely adore your teacher, you simply need to feel good about your teacher and you need to feel that the personality works well together.

Of course, you need to select somebody who can teach you properly and who’s an excellent guitar coach to help you go forward.

There’s no point in only selecting a teacher solely based on the fact that you like him or her, they need to produce the goods – know as “excellent guitar education”.

Yes, your guitar teacher should be someone with a “personality-that-works-with-yours” and who you can see yourself working with for a long time to come.

You should remember that if you’re serious about your playing, that you will need to give it at least five to seven years with your teacher to REALLY bear fruit.

You can simply not hope to bear quality fruit in a single lesson or in a single week.

It’s a long journey and it’s a relationship between master and student.

The world of martial arts understands this very well.

A student would commit him or herself under the tutelage of a master instructor for years, and years, and years at a time.

In the west however, we have in some circles unfortunately taken the habit of trying different teachers and just sticking for a little while.

Now that’s fine if you’re not satisfied with the type of lessons that you are receiving.

However, it is unwise to only stick with an instructor for a short period of time.

You need to work with someone for a very long period of time in order to be able to get the best return on your time and effort.

You cannot become great without having a lot of time with your instructor.

The fact that so many people in the west are approaching life in an uncommitted manner is terrible for the economy and we have all heard that the new world powers are moving east… (over time)

Yet, another reason why you should stick to an excellent teacher WITHOUT compromise…

At the same time, it is vital that you select the right instructor as you will need to spend a very long time with the instructor and you’ll probably end up of becoming very good acquaintances and friends with your teacher.

Of course when you study with under your teacher, he should not be your friend, because your teacher should be your teacher and you should be the student.

If the relationship becomes too friend-like, that can also be problematic as you need to keep it professional.

But in a long-term relationship, often times students and teachers could even become friends over a longer time.

So the point is you need to select someone that you feel comfortable with and someone that you feel you can work with and someone that suits your personality, someone that REALLY cares for you and someone that’s got your best interests at heart.

So make sure you select the right mentor and instructor for your guitar future!
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Quality #3 – A great guitar teacher is a full-time, professional and dedicated guitar teacher

Guitar closeup

The last thing you want to do is to study with a guitar performer.

Of course, we do have a lot of instances where a guitar teacher is also a virtuoso performer, but make sure he or she really has time to teach you!

It’s a very important consideration that you selected a guitar teacher who’s dedicated to teach you and doesn’t have a gig every evening!

It is a very, very dangerous situation to study with a teacher who has a lot of gigs because he or she will simply not teach you and simply go and play his or her gigs.

So you need to have a dedicated teacher who can dedicate his or her time to you, to help you become a great guitar player.

It is therefore, vital that you practise with someone who specialises in teaching and someone who has taught for at least 10 years.

Of course this does not help guitar teachers who are only starting out, but there is a vast difference between a junior instructor and a master!

It is imperative for a great master guitar teacher to have done at least a decade of TEACHING in order to seriously take you forward.

It’s imperative that he or she has the experience to take you to the level that you want to achieve.

It’s very difficult to find an excellent instructor.

Even if you are willing to pay whatever it takes, it is still a very difficult endeavour to find the right teacher who you can work with on a long-term basis.

You need to find someone who has the right skills & mindset.

You do not need an instructor who is (only) looking to receive a cheque, but someone who’s DEEPLY interested in making you become great!

It’s rare because a lot of guitar teachers simply teach to make a living.

Everyone obviously has rights to earn a living, but you do not want to be the victim of a teacher who performs most nights and teach the guitar in order to make extra money on the weekends.

You need to have a guitar instructor who is super-serious about teaching and mentoring you and who is 100% dedicated to your future guitar development!

So make sure that when you select your guitar teacher that you find someone who is dedicated to teaching and who is dedicated to making you become a great player.

Remember, a great guitar teacher will always look after you and always think about what he or she can do to take your guitar playing forward.

That is why it’s so important that you select the right guitar instructor for your guitar lessons.

Select an instructor who is really competent, but also available specifically to teach you and to instruct.

You need a teacher who’s wholeheartedly dedicated to teaching you the secrets of the 6 string!

You do not need a teacher who is busy with gigs and busy with a lot of other things.

You may even see some guitar teachers put in their bio: “I’ve gigged with X, Y, Z.”

That in itself does not mean much and that doesn’t tell you how well that guitar teacher can teach you.

(Also remember as sick as it may be, in the music industry it’s sometimes WHO you know not how great you play…)

The only thing it tells you is that that person is probably going to tell you in a few months that he cannot see you for a few months because he has to go and play a few gigs.

Do not look for a gigging guitar teacher.

Do not look for someone who plays with famous artists.

Look for someone who is dedicated; look for someone who’s there to teach you and to make you a great guitarist! (Obviously someone who is also a very competent player!)

A dedicated guitar teacher will always be much better for you than a performer because a performer (generally) only cares about performing and he or she does not care about your development and your ability to go forward.

So make sure you select a right guitar teacher who is there to teach you exclusively.

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Quality #4 – A great guitar teacher is someone who inspires you to become the best you can be

Become the best you can be

You can always know that you are in the presence of someone great if you feel inspired and you feel that you can go forward so much quicker than you’re able to do by yourself.

So you need to select someone who can inspire you and help you bring the best out of you.

You see, your success on the instrument depends upon a few things.

It depends on the amount of time you practise, but it also depends on what you practise and it depends on the quality of tuition that you receive.

Without great quality tuition, you can never hope to become an excellent guitarist.

Of course, self-taught guitarists do sometimes become great. (Usually through extensive self-education)

I am generally not in favour of being self-taught as one generally develop very bad habits and it’s generally better to get excellent education and excellent tuition from an excellent instructor.

You need somebody who can inspire you to greatness, somebody who can help you become who you must become.

So look for someone that will bring the best out in you.

If you get someone who will bring the best out in you, then you know that you found the right guitar instructor for your guitar lessons and your guitar development.

Look for someone who genuinely cares for your progress and someone who’s willing to put in that extra mile to take you forward.

A great guitar teacher is someone who has studied the guitar for many, many, many years and analysed it from countless perspectives.

A great guitar teacher is someone who has put in thousands, upon thousands, upon ten thousands of hours in practising the instrument and even developing his or her skill to instruct.

The more time as well as talent the individual has, the better off you will be.

For you to become a success, you need to study with someone who is a success himself.

Your guitar instructor needs to know exactly what he’s doing.

Otherwise, how will you ever learn how to play the instrument properly?

So make sure you study with someone who has himself paid a steep tuition fee in terms of years and effort.

Make sure you study with someone who’s willing and who has put in the time to become great.

You can ask your guitar instructor what was his background.

Of course, if you are studying with someone who has been coaching guitar for many years, do ask respectfully, but once you know the background of your guitar instructor, you are able then to make an amazing choice.

(It always makes me cringe when a new student asks me various questions without using finesse… remember your guitar teacher KNOWS what he or she is doing… so always be respectful. Treat your teacher as you would want to be treated if the chairs were exchanged!)

In my own case, I studied with master guitarist Johnny Fourie, legendary guitarist of South Africa, Jazz guitarist and an amazing human being.

Now contrary to what I say about being self-taught, Johnny was self-taught.

However, Johnny is an exception, not the rule.

What Johnny used to do was to take the Jazz recordings and basically, transcribe them and get to know them inside-out.

Johnny Fourie was so good with Jazz that he could play almost any Jazz standard that you can mention in any key without knowing what the names of the chords are.

So he didn’t know the names of the chords, neither did he know the scales, but he could play the right scales, the right lines just using his ear.

How did he achieve this?

Well, in his case, it was 10 hours a day everyday listening to Jazz, imitating Jazz, learning Jazz lines and playing it on the chords without knowing what the chords were called.

Johnny told me that only in his thirties did he get to study the guitar by himself again (with books) and get to know what scales and chords were called.

Before that time he didn’t do that, he simply used his ear.

So it is possible to learn by being self-taught that the price you will need to pay will be tremendous.

It will be a tremendous amount of effort.

It’s so much easier to learn with a master guitarist.

In my own case when I studied with Johnny, I can only tell you that one lesson that I had with him, the very first is and I still vividly remember it, took me forward so fast, I literally shouted when I got out of the lesson.

I was so delighted with what I have learned from Johnny in a single lesson that I realise the importance of studying with someone who is of an outstanding level.

It is amazing what one achieves when you study with the best.

Within a single lesson, you can change your entire life, you can change what you need to do, you can change who you want to become, you can change everything about your guitar playing.

It does take a certain amount of courage and strength to find the right person and in my own case, I only felt ready for Johnny at a later stage.

Of course, I was studying at university at that stage and that’s when I start to study with Johnny Fourie. There was still a lot of war stories going around about master Johnny and what he achieved in the guitar and I must say, it was amazing to study with such a human being with such knowledge, such passion about that instrument who had such tremendous “feel” for the style that he played.

That’s another point that’s very important.

There are a lot of guitarists who can play fast but meaningless…

There are only a handful of guitarists who know what it means to play musically.

Johnny Fourie was one of this handful of guitarist who was musical.

When I say musical, I mean someone who’s able to bring musicality out of the instrument.

It’s a very rare thing to find someone who could actually play things musically.

Even in today’s age, we find only a few people have the ability to be truly musical.

It is a sad truth that in our modern society, most people are simply not musical.

To be musical means to produce a good tone, it means to produce a good sound and to produce a good sense for the style that you are playing.

All of this takes tremendous amount of practise, dedication and knowledge of the instrument.

It is vital therefore that you select someone who is suitable to you and you select someone who cares deeply about your development.

As in the case of Johnny, I was nurtured and taught, I was cared for, I had someone who could take me by the hand and someone who could take me forward and show me what it means to become a great guitarist, someone who could show me the way and that’s exactly what you need to do too.

You need to study with someone who cares for you, someone who can mentor you, someone who can guide you.

It is very important that you do not just study with your local teacher.

A local guitar teacher is generally not a good guitar teacher.

A local guitar teacher is usually a convenient guitar teacher.

If you want to become great, you need to learn how to inconvenience yourself.

It’s only by putting a tremendous amount of effort into your playing and your ability that you will be able to become great on your instrument and great on producing a great sound.

Therefore, it is absolutely vital to study with someone who can inspire you, someone who can mentor you, someone who can coach you and someone who can make your life slightly easier by helping you believe more in yourself.

Therefore, next time you look for a great guitar teacher, make sure that you look for someone who can take you by the hand and guide you to make you the best that you can be.

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Quality #5 – A great guitar teacher is much more than a just a great guitar teacher!

clapping hands

It’s very important that you select somebody who can have a massive impact on your life.

A great guitar teacher needs to be knowledgeable in many areas of life and not just a one-trick pony.

As I’ve stated before, studying with a guitar teacher is a relationship and the relationship can last several years.

That is why it is absolutely imperative that you select a teacher who is dedicated to you, but also someone who’s more than just a teacher.

You need someone who can motivate you, someone who can help you keep going when it gets tough, someone who can be there when you feel like giving up.

Someone who can be there to tell you that it’s going to be fine.

Someone that can motivate, inspire and take you forward much quicker than you can ever dream of doing by yourself.

So it’s very important that when you select your guitar teacher, you get somebody who could have a tremendous impact on your life.

Not just an impact in your music, but also an impact in your future.

Someone who motivates you, someone who talks to you about things more than just playing the guitar.

At times with my own students, we talk.

Yes, we do a lot of guitar playing, but at times we do have conversations and it’s in these conversations that I honestly try to help my students go forward and try to help my students learn more about life.

Now, I have some wonderful students who often give me great advice and I learn great things from them and I learn secrets from them that I wouldn’t have otherwise known.

But at the same token, where I can help, where I can motivate and inspire, I always motivate and inspire.

I always help others to go forward.

So make sure that your guitar instructor can help you, can motivate you, can inspire you and can turn your musical dreams into reality, and also have a positive impact on your life and on everything that you want to achieve in your life.

You will be extremely happy if you do that and if you select someone who genuinely cares for you, someone who will take you forward, someone who will show you what it means to become great in time…

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