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Want To Be A More Effective Guitar Teacher? Talk Less, Coach More.

Want To Be A More Effective Guitar Teacher? Talk Less, Coach More.

Over-lecturing is a common teacher mistake that kills the passion and progress of students.

Sometimes we talk too much because of ego; we want to show off. Sometimes we talk too much because of laziness in preparation. But usually we talk too much (or for music teachers like myself, we play too much) because we are so enthusiastic about our topic, and we have a fundamental misunderstanding of what effective coaching is.

We think we can pour our knowledge into our students.

But we can’t.

Our students aren’t cups that we can pour knowledge into. Learning has to happen inside the student. As teachers, our job is guiding an internal change within the student!

Trying to pour water into a jar with a closed lid will result in getting water all over the floor–a mess.

Similarly, if you just lecture at – or play at – your students, your words and will be wasted. They’ll disappear without effect.

Observe Your Student And Give Succinct Feedback

So if talking too much and playing too much gets in the way of learning, what does effective teaching look like?

Here’s a description of one of the most famous and effective coaches and teachers of all time in action, from the beautifully named You Haven’t Taught If They Haven’t Learned by researcher Ronald Gallimore. He was writing about John Wooden, whose UCLA basketball teams won more national championships than any other team in history:

  • “Wooden seldom reinforced anyone in the form of praises and scolds, as we had expected. Instead, three-quarters of the teaching statements we recorded were packed with information and knowledge.”
  • His corrections came two or three times a minute, and each was rarely longer than 15 seconds in duration.
  • About 10 percent included a demonstration.
  • He never lectured.

As effective guitar teachers, we can do the same. Instead of lecturuing, we can guide our students with short observations and comments like:

  • “Fingertips close to the fret!”
  • Start moving before the beat.
  • Keep that foot tapping.”


Great Teachers See Reality And Potential–And How To Bridge The Gap

As teachers, we can see better than our students what their potential is, and we know better than them what they need to do in order to approach that potential.

We can’t force them to be good, though–they have to do it themselves through repetition after repetition. To improve, these repetitions must be ever closer approximations of a worthy ideal.

And that’s where we come in, and that is why the greats are always coached. We observe repetitions and give feedback which is literally impossible for the learner to give themselves–because they are inside what they are doing and can’t actually see it clearly!

Today in our lessons I challenge you (and myself) to talk less and play less so that we can focus on observing our students and giving them the feedback they need to improve.

Have An Awesome Day!

Dan Emery

Founder, NYC Guitar School


Coach Wooden’s teaching behavior:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” –Earl Nightingale

PS If you are a guitar teacher who is interested in growing your skills and studio with a great organization, visit for more info.

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Dan Emery is dedicated to Coaching Personal Greatness, One Lesson At A Time. He is the founder of NYC's friendliest and fastest growing guitar schools, New York City Guitar School, Brooklyn Guitar School, Queens Guitar School and NYC Guitar School, East, and the author of the Amazon best-selling Guitar For Absolute Beginners and six other books on learning guitar and deliberate practice. He coaches new entrepreneurs through the Entrepreneurs Organization Accelerator program and especially enjoys helping other Educational Entrepreneurs. He has a Masters in Education from Columbia University Teachers College, extensive performing experience as songwriter and guitarist for The Dan Emery Mystery Band, a wife, three kids, a cat and some juggling equipment.


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