Professional Service: How I teach music and recommendations for you.

When I started teaching music, I knew the difference between a good teacher and a horrible music teacher.

In my e-book Secrets To Building Your Own Profitable Music Teaching Based Small BusinessI talk about how important it is provide an excellent experience and service to your students.

You are after all in the service business.

But guess what, even if you’re in a PRODUCT based business, your customers experience is still very, very important.


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Here’s a tale of two teachers.

My first music teacher a guy whose name I don’t remember, let’s call him Ed, taught me music for about a year.  Anyway, I really wanted to play more and more of the songs I wanted to learn but he was very formal.  We were doing too much of everything  “by the book” Now,  he got me a music book with songs that I knew of and were vaguely related to the type of music I was interested in learning.


In actuality, I wasn’t having fun with Ed and his curriculum.  Too much of it was “by the book.”  Literally.  I could care less for the formalities.

I really wanted to learn the songs I was interested in, and I wanted to spend a lot more time focusing on song writing.  God bless him, I think he did the best he could, but I was pretty damn ADD back then, and the music I was interested in and the stuff I was interested in, he couldn’t or wouldn’t cater to.

That and I don’t think they had the sheet music available for my particular instrument at the time.

One day I upset Ed and he decided it was time to stop lessons.  If you’re a music teacher it happens.  You have to let students go.

Whenever I’ve done that, I’m very diplomatic with the parents.  Why?  Because I know in their eyes their little precious, or junior can never do no harm, or at the very least NO ONE (except for themselves of course) has the right to talk in anything less than a positive light about their progeny, even if they be devil-child incarnate, future Maury Show guests, or potential “stars” in upcoming episodes of America’s Most Wanted.

Now on to the second teacher.

A month and a half after Ed fired me as a client, I somehow convinced my parents to buy me a guitar (even at a young age I was always selling), and they reluctantly did.

We found a local music teacher and he taught me lessons.  He taught me music lessons for the next three years (until my parents realized to their chagrin, that this “music thing” wasn’t a phase).

Early on, John, my music teacher, and I worked on the material I wanted to learn.  Don’t get me wrong, we did some of the formal stuff, but if there was a song I wanted to learn he’d show it to me.

(To his credit he was VERY good at sneaking in a lot of the formal stuff, including music theory, which I adamantly refused to learn, but he taught it to me anyway just never using the word “theory” and it wasn’t until years later when I took a couple of theory courses in college when I was stunned as to how much he taught me – I could have tested out of both of those classes easily – literally only a handful of concepts I didn’t know.)

That’s what I suggest you do as well.  For me it has worked.  It pays to work a little bit by the book and VERY ESPECIALLY with what the kids want to learn.

(Nothing makes you lose a client faster than by creating an experience they DO NOT WANT – and it’s hard to create an experience the client wants by giving them what they do not want . . . so give them what they want which is what they’re paying for)

At the end of the first lesson I give them an assignment to create a list of songs they want to learn, or burn a CD for me of the songs they want to learn with a track listing.

I also teach them how to read guitar tablature in the first lesson (guitar and bass teachers take note!)


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Since they’re all starting, I always simplify the songs.

If you have musical notation like Sibelius you may want to simplify the songs so they only play the “main note” with one finger at a time (for the more formally trained this is also known as the “cantus firmus” or the notes that would make up the melody if you were to hum it).

Then as they get better, present them with an “intermediate” version of the song where they start using two fingers or “power chords.”

And then there’s the full blown version where you actually procure the sheet music in its full glory.

If you don’t have Sibelius and you’re a guitar teacher, you can simply put pencil on paper and very neatly and cleanly write out the tablature (or sheet music) for your students.  My guitar teacher had a “chord stamper” basically a grid placed on an ink pad.  Once he put it on paper he would pencil in dots to show where I would I need to put my fingers to properly play the chord.

Now here’s a tip, before you go out and splurge on Sibelius, or any other music notation software.  If you use pencil and paper to write out simplified versions of the songs your students want to learn, create a “master file,” meaning the original piece of paper with the tablature written on it, and scan it onto your computer’s hard drive.  This way you have a physical copy, and digital copy.

Why do this?

Chances are many of your students want to learn a lot of the same songs and this will save you time from having to write it out during your lessons.

Again the common denominator is creating a great experience for your students.

Teaching them the music they want to learn is only scratching the surface.

By the way, I still talk to John a few times a year to this day.

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