The Art of Auditioning Guitar Teachers

Why audition guitar teachers?

There are tons of teachers out there. Mean ones, nice ones, compassionate ones, weird ones, and you might even be able to find a teacher who is kind, personable, and down-to-earth. But, chances are you are not going to find this amazing first teacher without a little bit of work.

I remember my first guitar teacher. He and I worked together for just one lesson. He was younger than I was but incredibly insecure (though he was incredible at guitar). My second teacher was completely burned out. Then, I met my first real teacher in college. To say learning was accellerated would have been an understatement.

It took me three tries before I was able to find a teacher that encouraged and inspired me to get better, one who held the space while I flailed and stuttered to learn. If you are looking for a guitar teacher, please consider that you aren't going to find the best one on the first try. My highest recommendation for you is to audition three guitar teachers, and pick the one that you like the most.

What sorts of things could you look for in a teacher and learning environment if you choose to audition them? 

3 things that mark a great guitar teacher

Is the guitar teacher is interested in you?

When you audition the teachers, which one is most interested in helping you? Which one listens the most intently? Is the teacher asking you a lot of questions so that he or she can get a better idea of how to help you? A teacher that asks you questions, wants to know more about you, is a teacher that is interested in you. This bodes well for the pace of learning, for how long it will take you to learn guitar.

Is the guitar teacher flexible enough to help you?

Some teachers are completely inflexible. It's their way or the highway. Does this teacher have only one way of teaching guitar? Or is he or she flexible in which ways you can learn? You can find out by asking a simple but pointed question: "What will I need to learn from you in order to play guitar?" 

Some teachers will say that you need to learn music theory or scales in order to play guitar, and you might not be at all interested in learning them. A flexible teacher will collaborate with you on a path to learning what you want. Additionally, he or she will only show you exactly what you need to learn in order to do what you want with guitar.

Is the guitar teacher fun to hang out with?

Un-fun teachers are easy to spot; They are complete jerks who are on autopilot, there to collect a check. Further, a teacher that throws you any bad vibe at all is not worth your time. This is a most obvious indicator of how enjoyable your lessons will be in the long run. Keep in mind: bad vibes will neither go away or change.

3 things to look for in a learning environment

Looking at the environment where you'll be learning guitar is as important as looking for specific things in a teacher. Here's some things I would actively look for.

Is the environment clean or trashy?

A trashy environment is proof that this teacher doesn't care about teaching long-term. Do you want to work with a teacher only to have him quit on you when you have some momentum? I think not, especially when you are probably committed to learning guitar. Besides, a trashy environment is indicative of a disorganized teacher. Yikes.

Is the environment noisy or quiet?

If you are a more introverted person, you might like quiet atmospheres more than loud ones. If this describes you perfectly, I would suggest avoiding huge guitar education schools* altogether. If you are more extroverted, you would probably love the noise. Pick an environment that suits your tolerance for extraneous sound.

Is the environment welcoming?

There is nothing like walking into a room that is white, barren, and ugly. I'd run if I heard the hum of the florescent lights. To me, these environments are totally soul-sucking. Perhaps you do too? Of course, there are the environments where the guitar teacher has taken time to make it as welcoming as possible. My recommendation is to choose the latter.

Parting advice for choosing the best guitar teacher

My final parting advice for you as you are auditioning guitar teachers is to let each teacher know that you are auditioning two other teachers and will pick the best one. This sends a signal that they will need to work hard to gain your business. Further, all of them will know you're a serious student who is ready to commit to learning guitar. This alone would assure you a wonderful guitar teacher, one who is inspired to meet your enthusiasm, week after week.

Guitar education schools are places that pack students and teachers into one building, noise ordinances be damned. Noisy!