The Perils of Starting a Guitar Education Business

The initial stage of starting any new business is a moment of total optimism. I can remember it quite clearly coming to me when I knew I needed to start The School of Feedback Guitar. Before my car died in 2005, I was driving around Johnsonville TX, thinking about my future, my direction, and mostly, my life. I hit this spot where I realized it was now or never. I had that moment where everything became clear, where my intuition said, "It's time, dude. You need to teach." If only the work was that easy!

I embarked on a journey to find an office. I found a soundproofed studio in south Austin, painted it the colors I liked, and made it possible for teaching. I bought an excellent music stand, two guitar stands, and I found chairs (very uncomfortable) from craigslist. I didn't have a car by that point, but I was able to convince a friend to help me move all of my guitar stuff to that place. I got really good at biking for five miles to and from the office, rain or shine, and I never missed a chance to teach, even if it meant that a student decided to no-call-no-show.

Starting simple with advertising on Craigslist, I was able to secure some income. It was a journey. I still had yet to quit my job (slinging coffee at a second rate coffeeshop) and I still had bills to pay. This part of the journey was absolute hell. I sweated and sweated until I got a somewhat stable roster of students, and then I finally quit my job. It took about a year to do.

Slowly, I was able to raise my prices to a decent level, a level that afforded me the luxury of not quite being in poverty. My dad helped me out with business and tax advice, but I was pretty much on my own. I made improvements to the way I taught, the presence I had online, the reputation I built, and finally, I managed to systemize so many of the most annoying tasks. My booking system got better, my websites became stronger, and students began to flow in easily.

There were still bumps in the road. I had to switch offices twice from that first office. Each time was an upgrade, thankfully. Moving, as it ever was and still will be, was a bitch, but it was worth it. Finally, I had a full roster of students eight (very long) years later. I built something completely on my own, with a little luck, advice from good people, and a lot of sweat. It was hard.

I write this out because I am again in another transition. I've switched to doing completely Skype guitar lessons, I have begun the process of making courses of the knowledge I have and selling them online, I created a YouTube channel to share simple ideas that could help to transform people's lives, and most importantly, I've made major strides towards being a full-time composer. It hasn't been easy to start any of this, nor is it much fun to be up at 1 AM writing this when I worry about the future of me being a musician, but I am reminded of how hard it was to start The School of Feedback Guitar. When it comes down to it, I'd have to say that becoming a self-employed guitar teacher was very much like flirting with poverty. But was it worth it?


It's worth it to feel free, to be free of anyone telling me what I needed to do. It's worth it to be on one's own and doing something that is completely in line with passion. It's worth it to feel like I was giving back the insane amount of knowledge I was able to procure over the years as a teacher. It's worth it to have a grasp on the human dynamics that we are all witness to, but it was so well-worth my time to learn to have a part in it without any sort of embarrassment about how open my heart really is.

The price for going your own way is high. The path of doing your own thing can sometimes be fraught with so many difficulties that are sometimes so debilitating that we don't know what to do. But in the end, I couldn't possibly have it any other way. I hope you feel the same way about the things you want to do in your life.

5 Signs Your Guitar Teacher is Totally Awesome

5 Signs Your Guitar Teacher is Totally Awesome

How do you spot an excellent guitar teacher, one who cares about you, one who who wants to know how you are doing with learning guitar?

How do you know if a guitar teacher is truly interested in making you happy?

This post goes over five signposts that mark awesome teachers. If you find a teacher that hits all five of these, hold on tight: you've found a rare and most precious gem.

Learn how to sing beautiful lullabies to your baby

Recently, a very close friend of mine had her first baby. Her new daughter is a cutie! Like many first-time new parents, my friend didn't have a lot of time. Between changing diapers and loving her baby, she was super busy. She told me that she was overwhelmed with the excitement of having this baby around, which also meant she had far less time to devote to things she wanted to do. This was okay because caring for her daughter gave her so much pleasure.

My friend wanted to learn to play guitar for years. When I approached her to see if she wanted to learn guitar and sing lullabies for her baby, she got super excited! Not 30 seconds later, she got super worried that it would be too hard. Since I've been a guitar teacher for more than a decade, it seemed like a wonderful challenge to help her learn lullabies without any extra stress. What happened was magical!

The first lullaby my friend learned was Brother John, otherwise known as Frere Jacques. I taught her how to tune her guitar in five minutes, how to play her first chord in another five minutes, and then after I demonstrated the song for her she jumped right in and sang for her baby immediately, right on the spot. You should have seen the smile on this baby! She was sooooo happy! My friend was surprised that she could learn a simple lullaby with just one chord. Not only that, but I showed her three more lullabies that required just one extra chord. Within an hour, she could play and sing four lullabies.

I told my friend I was thinking of making an online course for how to learn lullabies and she said it was a great idea. She was also very clear about what I needed to do:

"Dave, you need to make sure that you make it easy for people to learn. First-time parents need a win. They want to do things right for their babies, but lack the experience to do it well. If you can make learning lullabies easy, you'll do great."

That sort of feedback was priceless. I know it's easy to learn anything if you have the right method, so I put a lot of effort into making this really easy to learn.

Learning to sing lullabies should be the easiest and most natural thing for parents to do, and it shouldn't take very much time to learn to do it. Therefore, here's my promise to you: This course will show you how to sing lullabies to your baby without it taking any extra time or energy on your part. In fact, you can learn all of these lullabies when your baby is sleeping!

My friend now sings for her baby on a daily basis. She does it with her own voice, her own guitar, and her own love for her baby.

This course can show you how, too.

5 Signs Your Guitar Teacher is a Turd

5 Signs Your Guitar Teacher is a Turd

Most beginners, once they find a guitar teacher they like (or can at least tolerate) will stick with that teacher for the duration of the lessons. If you're one of these people, then perhaps it's worth your time to make sure that the teacher you are committing to isn't a turd. 

This blog post will go over five signs that your teacher isn't worth the time, energy, or money you're spending on them.

How to Find a Guitar Teacher: What to ask a teacher before taking guitar lessons

How to Find a Guitar Teacher: What to ask a teacher before taking guitar lessons

My first question for any teacher I'm considering working with is, What is your favorite thing to teach? This question gives the teacher the floor to talk about what he teaches best.

It could be that he is the best at teaching jazz guitar, or loses herself in teaching lead rock guitar. If you want to learn lead rock guitar, then you've found your teacher.

How to Find a guitar teacher: Do you feel welcome?

How to Find a guitar teacher: Do you feel welcome?

Ask yourself this question the next time you walk into any store or place of business: Do you feel welcome there? If not, that's probably not going to change.

If you can find a business that makes you feel welcome, right from the get go, you will have a much better experience in the long run. This also applies to guitar teachers.

This post goes over four archetypes of guitar teachers to avoid because they won't make you feel welcome, and they certainly don't want to help you learn in a way that works for you.

How to Find a Guitar Teacher: How much do you pay for lessons?

How to Find a Guitar Teacher: How much do you pay for lessons?

In general, there is a positive correlation between reputations and fees. The better the reputation, the better the chances that the teacher is worth his or her salt. 

That said, how much is too much? How little is too little? How can you know what a guitar teacher charges is fair? 

How to Find a Guitar Teacher: Beautiful Spaces

How to Find a Guitar Teacher: Beautiful Spaces

If you aren't inspired by your surroundings in guitar lessons, how will you feel inspired to learn guitar? If you aren't energized by the space you are learning in, how will you feel energized after the lesson is over? 

Often overlooked, the environment where you learn guitar in has much to do with your long term enjoyment of guitar.