Teaching Guitar To Adults 

 March 14, 2023

By  admin

There are some notable differences between teaching adults verses children. On average adults will take less lessons compared to children. They are more likely to have specific requests and will be much more likely to quit lessons due to perceived time and/or financial constraints. I say perceived because they are rarely genuine excuses. The real reason I'll explain below. This means your main challenge with adults will be keeping them for any length of time. So what can you do about it?

Keeping adult guitar students long term

Studies have shown we are very poor predictors of our own future behaviour and are actually better at predicting other people’s behaviour. This seems odd of course because we would assume we know ourselves better than someone else but think about how often you have advised (or wanted to advise) a friend who was about to make a bad decision. More often than not they would have been better off listening to your advice. The problem is we are emotionally attached to our decisions. Adult students who have enrolled for guitar lessons have no real idea of the journey ahead. In their mind they often believe they just need a teacher for a short time to point them in the right direction. Adults will tend to believe that once they understand the plan they no longer need a teacher and will be just as successful teaching themselves but in the large majority of cases they would be wrong.

What adult guitar students need to realise 

In a study on diets they found that 98% of people who managed their own diets failed. Of those who had a diet coach most were successful while being coached. I would often be frank with adult students saying something like “Most students who stop lessons stop practicing soon after. The reason we believe is generally no accountability. Once you remove the need to practice from week to week you are simply less likely to do it. Its just become too easy for you to put off practice for another day. The second important reason lessons make all the difference is because as your teacher I can make weekly corrections to the way you are practicing. There are lots of small details to remember such as how to sit, hold the pick, fret the notes, strum correctly, muting strings, rhythm and so on. If you teach yourself you will miss many of these details. Weekly lessons will allow me to look at your technique and make corrections. The third important reason is that I will be able to explain and demonstrate new skills which means you will learn them faster and more accurately. The forth reason is I will be providing structure making sure you learn new skills in the right order. Lastly I will be keeping you motivated. Going it alone is tough. Having someone experienced keeping you on track is in my opinion essential. You are feeling positive now but the odds are you will have some bad weeks and it only takes one bad week to quit.”

Adults and children learn differently.

In one study they found that adults get lazy. Check out this article. http://www.livescience.com/273-children-beat-adults… To get around this problem slow the adult down and go through the chord in detail. I would use several strategies. Firstly a reverse technique where I ask the student to put the fingers on in a different order. Instead of fingers 1, 2, 3, for C I would ask them to put the 3rd finger down first. Another strategy is to get them to describe the chord verbally. This forces them to visualise the chord in their mind. 

Adults have their strengths

In another program I saw some years ago they put high school students up against adults in a memory contest. The teens took the lead early but the adults caught up and took the lead later in the competition. Apparently teens are better at just remembering what they learn whereas adults are better at using memorisation techniques such as relating new information to something they already know. The adults were more strategic and needed time to workout how to win the game by using memory techniques. The moral here is when teaching adults to memorise say a chord get them to relate the chord to something they already know. For example the A minor chord and E major chord in open position are basically the same shape so it’s easy to relate them to each other. 


Guitar Teacher and Entrepreneur with more than 25 years experience

David Hart

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