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I'm a guitar teacher that teaches beginners and intermediates almost 5 times a week. I've been teaching for 2 years now, mostly using a nylon strings guitar (I'm Brazilian, it's used in popular music here, students are not very interested in classical guitar hahah), recently with a Stratocaster as well, so the basic stuff has become automatic. But since I worked for so many hours a week, I want to improve while doing it.

To put some dynamics on it, I started doing the same basic chords using fingers I'm not used to (like doing C major with fingers 2, 3 and 4) and using my right-hand pinky when suitable.Yesterday I thought about doing chord inversions with intermediate students, but soon these will become automatic as well, I think.

Could you guys give me any tips for improving my technique while teaching and playing basic stuff, like those 4 chord songs? Thanks in advance!

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    I don't know that working to improve your technique while you are teaching someone else is the right thing to be doing. Practice demands your full attention and focus; teaching a student not only demands your full attention and focus, your student deserves it! Of course, teaching is also the best way to learn, so I'd say: focus on the student, pay attention and absorb the lessons that present themselves, and practice on your own time. – ex nihilo Aug 20 at 2:22
  • Thanks, @DavidBowling! You're right, they deserve full attention. But do you think it's counter productive to play different shapes or inversions with intermediate students when playing along? I know that it confuses the beginners. – Victor Martins Aug 20 at 4:37
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    It might confuse complete beginners, for the first few weeks. But it's absolutely a good idea as soon as possible to get them used to someone playing something else. When they start playing with others, that's what's going to happen! – Tim Aug 20 at 6:21
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    "Do you think it's counter productive...." -- that's a good question, and I agree with @Tim on this, I think. You'll have to assess the capabilities and needs of the student; when I'm playing with someone at a learning stage, especially if they are looking at my hands to follow the changes, I tend to use simple chord shapes. I might add some strategic inversions to keep them on their toes. This is good for me too: it helps me to exercise restraint and listening skills, and to play what is needed instead of whatever comes to mind. – ex nihilo Aug 20 at 13:29
  • Thanks, guys! Those are some valid points, I'll make sure I'm 100% comfortable with what I'm about to implement in class, like those inversions and different shapes, to give my students the best experience as possible. – Victor Martins Aug 20 at 23:24
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My reaction was the same as David Bowling's comment: If I was a student, I'd want my teacher to be focusing on what I was doing during the lesson and thinking of the best way to help me improve as quickly as possible.

Even while accompanying the student, you'll want to be focusing on checking every aspect of their playing and planning the next bit of teaching that you want to give. If the student is making mistakes, you'll be wanting to be thinking about the best way to correct those mistakes. Your accompaniment itself shouldn't be distracting you or the student.

One area that you can definitely look to improve during the lessons is your teaching skill - analysing deeply what your students' problems are, what the next bit of knowledge they need is, what songs and exercises will inspire them, and so on.

As a teacher, you can still be creative - but your creation is the musicians themselves!

  • That's a great advice. I kinda feel bad when I'm not using my time as efficiently as possible, so focusing on improving my teaching skill is a great goal, although I neglected it because I'm not planning to make this as my career. But you guys made me realize that I owe this respect to my students, since they are giving me their time and money, I should try my best to give them the best experience and improve my technique in my free time. Thank you very much! – Victor Martins Aug 20 at 23:39
  • @VictorMartins yes, I understand the desire to fit as much as possible into each short day! Teaching is a very transferrable skill that can help you with any job/business, relationships, your own learning... so although it's not directly 'music' it's very unlikely to be a waste of time to focus on it. – topo Reinstate Monica Aug 21 at 7:06
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Whilst teaching, your technique will improve at the same time, and you'll learn and understand things better at that same time. It's serendipity!

However - that's not what you should be considering during the lesson. Your student isn't there to help you improve - you're there to help him improve!

Any extra learning that need to be done by you ought to be done before the lesson. If you haven't sorted a particular technique out yourself, wait until you have, then teach it.

You can, of course, do things like play some lead over the chord pattern the student is learning to play - but be certain that it fits. You're the one who doesn't foul up - you're the teacher!

By having at least a vague map of what needs teaching in what order (Yes, it'll change for each student, as they arrive with new challenges and requests to learn something else) so that there's a thread running through that you're in charge of, and between lessons, make certain you know all about what will (probably) happen in the next lesson.

There are so many, many aspects to teaching, and students often throw curved balls in, that you can't be prepared for everything. But when an awkward question gets asked, if you can't answer it fully at the student's level, make darned sure you can for the next lesson!

I have a list of maybe 20 techniques used in guitar playing, and we work through them in no particular order, but I have to be certain that I know how each one works before that lesson. So there's homework to be done by teacher sometimes, as well. Be prepared!

  • Yeah, I was surprised with my improvement while teaching basic stuff, I'm earning money and experience, win-win!! Playing a lead as in doing a chord melody or just throwing a solo when suitable? I started carry a notepad to write what I need to bring to the next class for each student, they make some requests and I sometimes forget. Any other tips?? Thanks for the insight! – Victor Martins Aug 20 at 23:49

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