HELPFUL TIPS WHEN CHOOSING A TEACHER AND RED FLAGS TO AVOID
1. WILL I LEARN TO READ MUSIC? If you are going to pay for lessons, you should get a complete music education, not just learn a few guitar licks or bits of songs. Red flag: If a prospective teacher tells you that you don't need to learn to read music, they probably can't read themselves. You should cover the same music notation that all instruments read; all the major music schools use standard music notation. It prepares you to play in any musical situation - school jazz band, church praise band, recording, 'pick-up' performances, etc. Reading enables you to communicate on equal footing with other trained players, and allows you to continue your music education, whether via college/formal training, or through self-study with books, guitar magazines, and legit internet information. Don't short-change yourself! With the right teacher, learning to read music on guitar isn't difficult, and you will understand not only the guitar specifically, but music and music theory overall. (While performing professionally, I've never encountered a guitarist that regretted learning to read music. However, I've met many guitarists who wish they had learned to read after finding themselves at a musical dead-end!)
2. IS THERE A PREPARED LESSON PLAN? As with any other learned endeavor, a student should expect to be smoothly led from one level to the next by a well thought-out, time-tested teaching approach using material prepared ahead for that day's lesson. Red Flag: On arrival to your lesson, if you are asked "What would you like to learn today?", that teacher has no lesson plan.
3. WHAT IS THE LENGTH OF EACH LESSON? A one-hour session gives the teacher and student time for review of the previous week's material, and time to cover new material before leaving the session. 30 minute lessons often don't allow time for both, and can feel rushed.
4. IS IT AFFORDABLE? Any musical instrument takes time to learn to play well (you're not going to master the guitar with a few lessons or expensive videos). Think of the price long-term, so that you can hang in there for awhile and get a thorough training, without breaking the bank. Call around - shop prices and compare lesson length.
5. WILL I LEARN TO PLAY WITH OTHERS? (This question is often overlooked). Small-group lessons are most recommended for this. It's more motivating for the student, and trains the student to play rhythmically in-time with others. Also, the student immediately comprehends his/her musical role in a given song as all the parts come together. If done correctly, it's the best of both worlds for the student. In a small group, you're still getting individual attention (you're neither pushed nor held back by being in a smaller group), yet you learn to play music with others, like all music later on will be played.
[Note: we only recommend one-on-one lessons for either of the following extreme cases:
1) If the student is already extremely advanced, can already read music, performs with others, but may want to work only on one specific topic (ex. jazz soloing, modes, etc.), OR...
2) If the student has a learning disability, and would realistically have a difficult time keeping up with others, thus requiring an extremely slower-paced lesson].
Otherwise, we find that students will see results sooner in a small-group lesson approach. Red flag: If a teacher only offers, or recommends, one-on-one for all of their students, they probably don't have a lesson plan (see #2) to train you to play with others.
6) WHAT ARE THE TEACHER'S CREDENTIALS? Whether they are fresh out of music school and trained to teach, or are exceptional players locally, how long have they been teaching? It's a fair question to ask before spending your time and money. Many guitarists turn to teaching just for extra work, but don't commit to teaching for long (it's a totally different skill). In any given city, there are good guitarists enjoying fine reputations for their playing, but what is their reputation for teaching? Ask around...