How to Choose the Right Guitar Instructor

As I was reflecting during the week, attempting to find a relevant subject for this blog, the usual subjects came to mind: Should I write about an exotic scale or mode?

Maybe something about chord inversions? Another advanced music-theory concept?

As I was lathering up my egg-like head for a fresh shave, I realized the answer to this puzzle lay in the very noggin I was about to shear: All this information I have the ability to write and share comes down to the great instruction I have received in my life.

Why not dedicate this blog post to helping readers find a great guitar instructor? So this post is devoted to students of the guitar who want to find an inspirational teacher—their own personal guitar guru. When beginning any new adventure, it is important to look inward.

What are your unique goals? Are you ready to be focused, hardworking, punctual and self-disciplined?

If yes, you’re on the right track. If you find yourself lacking any of these virtues, it might be best to work on them first before you go and frustrate yourself and others. I also firmly believe a student should respect and trust that their teacher has a greater plan that the student might not understand at the moment.

I believe most of us can benefit from adopting some Confucian teachings in regards to student-teacher relationships. Now that you’ve got the iron-will determination, passion, humility and patience, it is time to hunt for the proper instructor to take you there; your own musical Mr. Miagi! I believe the first decisive factor should be education.

How long has this person been playing guitar? Who have they studied under? What college or universities have the attended? If the education is there, it also must be matched with experience. Are they established musicians who have made a measurable mark in their field? I’m not saying your prospective teacher needs to have a doctorate from UCLA in atonal music, but if your teacher hasn’t had some formal education from private instruction and/or college, I would look elsewhere. There are too many great guitar players to settle for a garage band dud.

Besides the benefit of information in their heads, a great education gives students a solid fundamental foundation and structure to formulate lesson plans to help you reach attainable goals. You should enjoy the music your prospective teacher makes, and there should be some kind of “wow” factor this person possesses that makes you look at the guitar in a magical way and inspires you to practice your butt off!

Your teacher should provide clear, thoughtful instruction and take stock in your goals. I can admit I have lost sleep some nights thinking about better ways to reach some students, making sure I’m doing everything in my power to help them succeed. A good teacher will balance the fun material you want with the techniques you need to implement them.

I also believe that if you are open to the idea of a career in music in any capacity, some real-world advice would serve you well. Thank you for reading; I would like to dedicate this post to my favorite teacher, Ken Rosser from Musicians Institute.

Shawn McGovern is a GIT graduate and sought-out guitar instructor in Providence, Rhode Island, and Los Angeles and may be contacted through his site,

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