Teaching Guitar – A Career In Music
Making a living playing guitar as a performer is possible, but it is not a secure lifestyle. If you are thinking about raising a family or getting a mortgage then being a gigging musician is not a practical choice. Of course, if you have the willpower and self-confidence anything is possible, but sometimes you have to be led by your head rather than your heart. However, if you want to make guitar playing more than a hobby, but at the same time retain a degree of financial security, then teaching is a good way to do it.
Teaching guitar is a very flexible activity. It can be done around a regular job or alongside performing gigs. If you decide that teaching guitar is for you, then you can do it full time and become a professional guitar teacher. Most guitar teachers are self-employed, but there are opportunities for salaried positions in colleges, universities and other educational institutions.
Guitar Teaching Qualifications
In most countries, you are not required to have any formal qualifications in order to teach a musical instrument. This means that anyone can start teaching guitar. However, there are instrumental teaching qualifications available. These are usually set at a high level. Not only do they demonstrate your ability to prospective students but they also give you confidence in your own abilities. Classical Guitar teaching qualifications are awarded by organizations such as The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and by Trinity College London. Traditionally, music teaching qualifications were only available to teachers of classical music instruments. Nowadays, teachers of rock and jazz instruments are also catered for, with businesses such as Rockschool offering teaching qualifications for popular music instruments such as electric guitar, drums and keyboards.
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Having a qualification does not make you a better teacher in itself, but it does demonstrate commitment on your part. Having the letters after your name is also beneficial when marketing your services, and may also allow you to charge more than your competitors.
How Good Do You Have To Be To Teach Guitar?
While being a good player is no guarantee of being a good teacher, having the technical ability at your disposal to demonstrate advanced techniques will be beneficial. However, if you are teaching infants how to strum a few chords then you do not have to have to be Segovia, so long as you can provide them with the correct foundations on which to build their playing.
The best answer to ‘how good do you have to be to teach guitar’ is ‘good enough to be able to teach everything you say you can’. The best classical guitarist in the world may struggle to teach a teenager who wants to learn Metallica songs. Kirk Hammett himself might falter if asked to analyze a Pat Martino solo. This is why you should only advertise what you can do. This way you will never find yourself in an awkward situation. If you only teach basic acoustic guitar, advertize ‘beginner guitar lessons’. You are still likely to get students. If you only teach classical, or metal, or jazz, advertise your services realistically. Branch out only when you feel ready – or be prepared to blag it, which is stressful and unfair on your students.
Teaching Guitar Business Plan
Teaching guitar can be a fulfilling and financially rewarding career. While you are unlikely to make a fortune, if you go about it the right way, with a solid business plan and realistic expectations, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t do well.
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Teaching Guitar – How Much To Charge?
How much you charge for giving guitar lessons depends on several factors. A balance needs to be found between your ability, experience, the competition and your overheads. Prices differ from area to area. If you teach in the center of an affluent city then your prices should be higher, not only to reflect your overheads but also because your clientele are likely to have more money themselves. Price fairly, both for yourself and for your students.
When pricing any business service, you have to take into account your costs and potential income. Your starting point may either be the time you can commit, or the amount of money you want to make. While you don’t have to compile an MBA style business plan (although there’s nothing stopping you), do make sure that you will be making more money than you are spending, and that it is enough for the venture to be worthwhile. Fixed costs may include rent and insurance. Variable costs may include heating and electricity (you will use more the more hours you are teaching) and stationery. Income at its most basic is what you charge per lesson multiplied by the number of lessons you give. There are ways of increasing the amount you earn, some of which are described later in this article.
Many music teachers only work during term time. This is convenient because most music teachers also have other musical work that they can do during school holidays. However, it means that for three quarters of the year you won’t have your steady teaching income. Budget for this in your business plan.
Be aware that it is possible to over-plan. If you want to start teaching, it can be as simple as putting an ad up at the local music shop, giving 15 minute free introductory lessons and then charging a similar amount to other teachers in your area.
Teaching Guitar – Practicalities
There is more to teaching guitar than simply sitting down with a student and, well, teaching them! Before the lesson you should have a clear idea of what you intend to cover, and how you will do it. You should devise a system of recording a student’s progress, and also the success or otherwise of your teaching methods. You can do this in a notepad, or by using a spreadsheet. You must always have a clear objective for each student. This may be to pass graded exams, to get into a music college or to play in a band. Discuss with the student, and with their parents if necessary, what they want out of their lessons. Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to learn guitar.
You must also keep very accurate records of payments you receive and anything you spend on the business. Keep records of all transactions. Read up on bookkeeping and business accounts or visit an accountant or bookkeeper. Don’t get on the wrong side of the taxman.
The best way is to charge in advance for groups of lessons. Ensure that your students know that if they fail to turn up for lessons then it is at their own expense. Draw up a contract for students to sign prior to starting lessons with you.
You may find that teaching from your home requires you to change your insurance policy. If you are renting, you may not be allowed to run a business from your home. You should also make sure that you have the correct public liability insurance. The Musicians Union in the UK, or similar organizations around the world, will be able to help with insurance and legal matters. Seek advice from professional organizations and from other teachers to find what cover you need.
Working With Children
It goes without saying that the safety and well being of your students should always be your first priority. However, in this day and age any adult who in the course of their work comes into contact with minors puts themselves at risk of false allegations. The only way of dealing with this is either not to teach children at all, or to only teach them with their parents present. Take precautions such as avoiding physical contact with students and always teaching in a public area with the door open. Seek advice from teaching organizations on how to protect yourself.
Taking It Further – Growing Your Guitar Teaching Business
There are plenty of other ways of making extra money per lesson. You could buy music, strings, picks, straps, cases, even guitars in bulk and sell them on at a profit. You could write your own syllabus and charge for worksheets. You could sublet your premises to other teachers or to bands needing rehearsal space. Entrepreneurs among you will already be thinking about franchising your guitar school! There are plenty of ways of growing a guitar teaching business.
Teaching in groups is very profitable – your income is multiplied by however many students are in the class. Usually you will charge slightly less per student for group classes, but even teaching small groups is a good way of making more money.
One thing you should not do – and you will be asked to – is to transcribe music outside of lesson time. If a student wants tab of a favorite guitar solo, work it out in the lesson. Minimize the hours that you spend on your business that you cannot charge for. It is inevitable that you will be working some hours for free: preparing lessons, updating your website, advertizing, even watching students’ performances or gigs are all necessary parts of teaching guitar as a business. You should factor in these unpaid hours into your overall business plan, and adjust lesson prices accordingly.
Teaching Guitar – Conclusion
Teaching guitar can be either a hobby, or a lucrative career. For many it is somewhere between the two. If you want to get rich, then teaching guitar is perhaps not the best career path. However, if you want a career that is truly rewarding, and related to something that you are passionate about, then it is highly recommended.