Friday, July 21, 2017

Where to Teach, pt. IV – The Downside of Music Stores and Schools

     Last month I looked at the upside to teaching at a music store/school this month I’ll tackle the downside. Looking at the list of positives to teaching guitar at a music store/school one might think, “Why wouldn’t you teach at a music store?” Well, there are several disadvantages to teaching there as well.

1. The Cut – a store will take a percentage of the lesson fee which ranges from 30 – 50%. This cut is generally referred to as a “studio fee” - you are charged for using their facilities, equipment and the acquisition of students.

2. Taxes – most often you are not a store employee, but an “independent contractor.” This means when you are paid, the store does not take taxes out and you will receive a 1099 form at the end of the year which reports to the IRS how much you have made and you will be responsible for paying those taxes to the government.

3. Getting Paid – again each store is different and some may require that you collect the payment from students. If that is the case, you responsible keeping track of money and giving the store their “studio fee” on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

4. Numerous Teachers – you may not be the only guitar teacher on staff and therefore may have to wait for new students. In many cases new students will be rotated from teacher to teacher so each person’s studio remains full.

5. Students Are Not Yours – although you may teach the students “technically” they are students of the store/school. Students may be given to another teacher if schedules change and your teaching days do not match with theirs. Additionally, it may sound strange, but some stores/schools will ask you to sign a "non-compete agreement" (were you are not teaching in other locations while working for them).

Friday, June 2, 2017

Where to Teach, pt. III – The Upside of Music Stores and Schools

     In 20 plus years of teaching guitar I have taught in a wide variety of situations and found each to have its own set of unique challenges, benefits and pitfalls. Some might say, “I’d never teach there” but, don’t dismiss a potential revenue stream on face value. This month I’ll continue on the “Where to Teach” series by going through the positive aspects of teaching at a music store or school. 

     A music store is a retail business which also offers instrument lessons taught from in-house studios and a “music school” is specific to teaching private/group lessons. There are several advantages in teaching from either a store or school: 

1. No Advertising - you do not need to place ads or rely on word of mouth; the physical storefront, reputation or location is what brings students in.

2. Students – over time you will most likely have as many students as you want and chances are they may ask you to teach additional days.

3. Studio – the store/school supplies a place to teach and most also equip the studios with music stands and amplifiers (some may not).

4. Central Location – all your students are at one location and come to you.

5. Supplies – most anything your students may need (tuners, method books, strings) can be purchased on the spot if you work at a music store or the school sells supplies.

6. Recital Space – some stores/schools may even have space to host recitals for teachers and their students.

7. Rules: the establishment may have its own rules regarding student absences and make-ups.

8. Discounts – many music stores often provide teachers with discounts on purchases.

9. Lesson Rate – in many cases the school/store sets the rate for lessons.

10. Getting Paid – each store/school operates differently, but if you are fortunate they will handle collecting money for lessons and give you a check on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.

     Next month I’ll be discussing the downside to teaching at music stores and schools. Hope this helps!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Where to Teach, pt. II – College/University/Public School

The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world and as such there countless people of all ages who wish to learn how to play it. One of the great things about teaching the guitar is there are a number of options as to where and how one can instruct students. Last month I outlined a number of situations one could teach in and this month I’ll get a bit more in-depth starting with the field of education.

Probably the most coveted teaching position for guitarists is at a university or college. Why? Well, for a tenured professor the pay is pretty decent, it has job security, accompanying pension and health benefits (here in the US), one works with high level students teaching lessons and guitar related classes such as pedagogy, history, coaching ensembles as well as conducting weekly masterclasses. However, in reality there are few tenure track positions in guitar available and when a position is open there is a large amount of competition. A full-time tenure track position at a college or university usually requires a minimum of a master’s degree, but a DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) is almost always preferred. Additionally, some job postings may ask that candidates not only teach classical guitar, but jazz as well – you’re not teaching rock ‘n’ roll as a full-time university professor.

Although, getting a tenure track position at a college is extremely difficult, adjunct positions are more frequently posted. Adjunct faculty are those who are: part-time, paid on an hourly basis, may teach private and/or group lessons and work with music majors and non-majors alike. Furthermore, it is quite possible being adjunct faculty that one may teach popular styles of music as non-majors may register for individual lessons.

An area of growing need for skilled guitar teachers is in the public schools as more and more school districts are adding guitar programs alongside orchestra, band and choir. I say “skilled” because the guitar is a specialized instrument and many music educators are not prepared to teach it. Generally, music educators are from a vocal, orchestra or band background with little (if any) experience with guitar. Public education is a good career track which offers a salaried position, pension and benefit program. Moreover, teaching in the public schools may not always require a degree in education as many school districts offer a process called lateral entry. Lateral entry is an "alternate route to teaching for qualified individuals outside of the public education system. Lateral entry allows qualified individuals to obtain a teaching position and begin teaching right away, while obtaining a professional educator's license as they teach.”

Monday, April 3, 2017

Where to Teach, pt. I – Options

I remember when I began teaching guitar and trying to navigate how to make a living teaching lessons or at least supplement my income. Moreover, several times in my life I have had to start from square one as a teacher, but each time it got easier because I had developed the knowledge and skills on how to do it. It would be nice if all one had to do was post a sign offering lessons and the students would just show up; however, it is never that simple and building a thriving studio will take time, patience and perseverance.

One of the great things about teaching guitar is that there multiple places one can teach – you can pick one or several in order to develop an income stream which works for you.

· College/University/Public School - class guitar, individual lessons for music majors/minors/general student population)

· Music School - geared toward individual lessons

· Community Arts School - focusing on a specific local population

· Music Store - usually a retail establishment which offers lessons

· Home - students come to your home

· Travel - the teacher goes to an individual’s home to teach lessons

· Outreach Programs – generally afterschool programs offered to school districts

· Skype/Internet – video conferencing lessons with students far away

Over the next several posts I will discuss the pros and cons of each teaching each situation. Until next time!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Building a Reference Library, Pt. IV – Styles

Over the course of my career as a musician I have always been interested in other styles of music; although I started out playing rock I have also studied classical, flamenco and jazz to name a few. Having studied other styles has come in extremely handy as a guitar teacher because inevitably a student comes in who is interested in: joining the school in jazz band, playing some country licks or even getting into some finger picking. 

This month I wanted to wrap-up the series of “Building a Reference Library” by noting several books which are wonderful starting points for students (and teachers!) with the basics of a given style. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list by any means, but some books that have been in my library which have been helpful to me over the years. 

By Dennis Koster
This is a fantastic book for dipping into the flamenco pool, introducing flamenco forms and rasgueado technique in a structured and easy to understand manner.

By Charlton Johnson

This is a great book for understanding the basics of “four-to-the-bar comping in the style of Freddy Green”. 

By Mike Christiansen

One of my favorite books for getting into the rhythms and chord changes which are indicative of Bossa Nova/Samba style. 

Mel Bay’s
Getting Into….

This is actually a pretty neat little series Mel Bay put out. Two books I have from the series are Funk Guitar by Ronald Muldrow and Slide Guitar by Steve Dawson. 

By Frederick Noad

This is a book about the classical guitar and has been around for years. It covers the basic seating position, techniques, note reading and includes a ton of music examples. However, if classical is a style your student (or yourself) and interested in learning I would highly recommend finding a qualified instructor. Classical guitar is one of those styles in which a well versed teacher is required as learning bad habits can take years to undo. 

Hope this is helpful and if anyone else has some style recommended books feel free to comment – thanks!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Building a Reference Library, Pt. III – Sight Reading

Back in December I began a series of posts discussing reference books that would benefit teachers to have in their library. This month I’ll continue and talk about some good books for sight reading. I know most guitarists don’t read or don’t read well, but working on it with a student is a good way to dive in and practice that skill! 

Robert Starer

Before one even starts to read notes on the staff, it is a great idea to become familiar with rhythms. Rhythmic Training is good book to start with and there is an also a workbook available with various rhythm drills. 

Dr. Charles Colin and Bugs Bower

This book emphasizes short eighth measure melodic studies, focusing specific rhythms with accompanying chords above. The rhythms don’t get much faster than eight notes and also supplies examples of picking patterns.

M.T. Szymczak

This book has been in my library for years! There are one and two page studies and it emphasizes working with sixteenth note rhythms. One of the things that is unique is that it offers a rhythm guitar part with its own accompanying rhythm. It is from the Berklee Series and is out of print, but if you come across a copy that is not too pricey it is worth it.

Roger Filiberto

The title says it all – studies in all positions. Of course you can read music in any position, but this is organized and helps to break down the fretboard positions and offers studies which are specific to each.

Tom Bruner

Looking for a challenge? This is it! The book has position studies, but the trick is the notes are entirely random. This book can be frustrating, but you’ll get to know the notes - that’s for sure.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Building a Reference Library, Pt. II – Music Theory

In my previous post I wrote about building a “reference library” and talked about several books which are wonderful sources for everything guitar related. This month I’ll continue on the same topic and discuss materials that are good resources for understanding music theory.

Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
By Tom Kolb

One of my personal favorites and a book I believe every player should have in their library; Tom Kolb is one of those players who is also a wonderful teacher. The book is laid out quite well starting with Chapter 1: The Fretboard and makes it way through theory basics, intervals, harmonizing the major scale and even delves into complex subjects such as chord substitution and reharmonization. 

A Journey Through Form and Analysis of Modern Harmony
By Ed Arkin

This book is no longer in print, but if you ever come across a used copy it is worth having in your library. It can get pretty “heady,” but covers topics like: Harmonizing the Major Scale, The Blues, Chromatic Alteration, Tritone Substitution and Quartal Harmony. There are some copies on Amazon, but the price tags are over the top. 

By Gardner Read

Ok, not exactly “music theory,” but the book covers everything you ever wanted to know about music notation and then some! The book is 400+ pages devoted to everything regarding music notation and I have referred to it any number of times when I have come across something I did not recognize or understand.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Building a Reference Library, Pt. I - General Knowledge Books

One of the things I have always found helpful as a guitar teacher was having a reference library to pull lesson material from. This could include anything from something you would like to teach a student (such as finger-tapping) or just general knowledge you would like to impart (like guitar history). I feel spoiled because years ago when I was building a reference library many music stores used to have a healthy stock of books on various topics from music theory to song books. Today when I go into music stores the stock is rather limited to basic method books and an abundance of tablature song books. 
Since the Internet took over the world I have been disappointed numerous times with a book purchase because I haven’t been able to go through the book a bit before I purchase it. If you’re lucky there are a few pages posted to see what the book is about. Needless to say, I enjoyed thumbing through books prior to purchasing them to get a feel for whether they would help me as a player and teacher; over the years I have amassed a sizable reference library. 

Over the next few posts I am going to discuss some books that I have found extremely helpful which I have referred back to time and time again. It may be old school when everything today is a click away, but a book itself may go more in-depth on a topic you had only a passing interest in, offer insight into a new topic or lead you into a totally new direction. An old friend once said, “If you buy a book and get one new piece of information out of it, then it was worth the money.” 

The books listed below are all purpose general knowledge books – let’s take a look! BTW, if you have some reference books you’ve used and can recommend please feel free to chime in. 

This book has several sections and some of things discussed include: 1) Guitar Innovators: short biographies of well-known and lesser known players. 2) Acoustic Guitars: discusses the anatomy of the instrument and how they are constructed. 3) Electric Guitars: reviews hollow and solid body guitars, pick-ups and instruments by Fender & Gibson. 4) Playing the Guitar: tuning, right & left hand technique, theory, rhythm charts, scales, harmonics, modulation and chord substitution. 5) Guitar Maintenance and Customizing: setting the action, fret care, guitar care, simple repairs and strings. 6) Performance Technology: guitar amplifiers, microphones, mixing consoles, working on-stage and sound processing. 7) Chord Dictionary: the chords are laid out in a “per key” basis with multiple fingers for various chords. 

A dictionary of music is one of those reference books that should be in every musician’s library. The book contains everything from musical periods, notation, tempo markings in all languages one may come across, descriptions of musical forms as well as theoretical concepts. 

A wonderful book which uses visuals to a great extent to help the reader understand various guitar & music related topics. There are three main sections to the book: 1) The Guitar – which has a timeline of instruments and discusses all types of guitars. 2) Playing the Guitar – covering topics such as playing position, alternate picking, playing the blues, the modal system, melody over chords, transposing chords and chord scale relationships. 3) Sound and Amplification - which discusses such topics as combo amps, rack mounted systems and specific amplifiers like the Vox AC30. 

A wonderful book covering guitar history from the pre-twentieth century guitars to “modern” instruments made by Paul Reed Smith and Emmett Chapman. All variations of guitars are talked about: classical, flamenco, steel string, resonator, archtops, solid body, etc. The book is a whopping 480 pages with pictures and profiles of various makers.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Helpful Links - Affiliate Marketing

Hi Folks, 

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have decided to try something new at The Guitar Teaching Blog - affiliate marketing. You will now find links to various products pertaining directly to the monthly topic and which you might find helpful in your own teaching or playing. As always I hope you find the information useful! 

12 Bar Blues - Walking Bass Line

In previous posts I have discussed different ways to introduce the 12 Bar Blues to students. This month I wanted to talk about using a walking bass line to accompany another guitarist or musician when playing a 12 Bar Blues. Walking bass lines are generally associated with our bass playing brethren, but guitarists can also effectively use them. In its most simplistic form a walking bass outlines (or arpeggiates) the notes of a chord using a quarter note rhythm.

There are many complications when introducing a new concept like a walking bass line to students, such as should the teacher discuss: What it is, Where it comes from, How to change keys or How to develop it; my M.O. (modus operandi) is that students are on a “need to know basis.” Don’t feel the need to burden the student with a great deal of information about what they are doing just get them playing, technical and theoretical information can be slowly introduced during subsequent lessons.

Below is an example of a basic Walking Bass in A with fingerings. I have included accompanying chords not only for the teacher to play along, but also so the student can see how the chords fit with the bass line. Moreover, the teacher and student should swap parts as the student becomes proficient playing both parts individually.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Open Position Power Chords, Pt.IV - 12 Bar Blues

In the last few posts I discussed open position power chords and the various ways that they can be utilized in lessons. These simple chords can be played using only one finger and are a gateway to playing the basic blues/rock patterns. 

Last month open position power chords were taken to the next level by incorporating a shuffle rhythm. This month we’ll plug those chords and rhythm into a basic 12 Bar Blues pattern. Students can continue to use a continuous down strum for the shuffle rhythm in order to facilitate the ease of playing.

Where to Teach, pt. IV – The Downside of Music Stores and Schools

     Last month I looked at the upside to teaching at a music store/school this month I’ll tackle the downside. Looking at the list of posit...