Learning to play the guitar can be a fun and rewarding experience. However, finding a good guitar teacher in your area can be challenging, especially if you don't know what to look for. Calgary, AB in particular can be quite tricky in this regard, as there are many music schools, studios, private instructors, workships, and etc, all of which claim to offer excellent, "high quality" guitar lessons and "qualified" instructors. On top of this, services and technologies such as Youtube and myriad online "learn guitar now" programs claim to be able to teach you guitar in half the time and a quarter the price. In short, there is a lot of hype and marketing that prospective students have to sift through. In this introductory blog post, I'll explore some tips and tricks to help you find the right teacher for you.
First, a couple of caveats. Most of what I say here can be applied to finding teachers for other musical instruments as well, such as piano, voice, or drums. I am choosing to focus the article on guitar teachers for a few reasons. The most important one is that guitar is the instrument that I have the most experience with teaching in the Calgary context, so my understanding of the general landscape of guitar teachers in this area is the most up-to-date and accurate compared to some other instruments. And second, my personal opinion is that the guitar lends itself to more tomfoolery and questionable antics in terms of teachers than instruments like the piano do. While piano teachers more commonly complete various Royal Conservatory of Music exams, it seems as though everyone claims to be able to play the guitar, and there is generally not a lot of standardized evidence or certification to appeal to. Thus, while this article will be helpful to people looking to learn other instruments, it is most useful and necessary for prospective guitar students.
Without further ado, here are some guidelines I encourage everyone to consider.
1. Ask for Recommendations
One of the best ways to find a good guitar teacher is by asking for recommendations from family, friends, or other musicians. If you know someone who plays the guitar, ask them if they have any recommendations. If you go to a gig or performance by local artists (an activity I always recommend for guitar players), try striking up a conversation after the show and politely ask for some suggestions. At Northwest Music Academy, we have found that a sizeable portion of our new students come to us based on recommendations and referrals to friends and family by our current students (we even offer a referral program to provide better value to students and parents). And beyond this, when I was growing up taking music lessons in guitar and piano, the majority of teachers I practiced under were sourced from recommendations by friends or from musicians and teachers we respected. This is one of the best sources for solid guitar teachers.
2. Check Online
The internet is a great resource for finding guitar (or other) teachers in your area. Search for guitar teachers in your area on Google, Yelp, or other review websites. Read reviews from previous students and see what they have to say about the teacher's teaching style, personality, and qualifications. As always, online reviews from strangers (and sometimes fake accounts) should not be the only deciding factor, as there are many fake reviews, unrepresentative reviews, and a general lack of expertise among the people doing the reviewing. However, if a particular teacher has nothing but bad reviews and another has many 5-star reviews, this information should at least partially guide your search.
3. Check Credentials
When looking for a guitar teacher, it's important to check their credentials. As I stated above, formal credentials are much more prevalent among piano teachers than among guitar teachers. So just because a guitar teacher does not have many offical credentials does not mean they are a bad choice (you can still rely on testimonials from their other students, their ability to communicate and teach during the free trial lesson, their history of live performances, band memberships, etc) However, I believe it is better to go with a guitar teach who has credentials than one who does not. Quality credentials to look for include completed RCM examinations (and these should be for RCM levels higher than 2 or 3), or university or music school diplomas or degrees in music. Find out where they received their education, how long they have been teaching, and what kind of experience they have.
4. Consider the Teaching Style
Every guitar teacher has a different teaching style, so it's important to find one that matches your learning style. Do you prefer a more structured approach or a more relaxed, laid-back style? Are you looking to learn a specific style of music or just the basics? Make sure to ask potential teachers about their teaching style to see if it's a good fit for you. One important thing to note here is that, especially if you are a beginner, you should probably assume that you do not have an exact grasp on what you want, or what it will take to get there. If you want to play a guitar solo from Metallica, you need to learn a lot of basics and even seemingly unrelated things like some very basic music theory to help you achieve this goal and actually benefit from it. In short, be open to revising some goals. What I would personally consider if I were a beginner in this regard is whether or not the teacher has communicated a basic plan to help achieve my goals as well as helping to structure my weekly practice around working towards this.
5. Schedule a trial lesson
Before committing to a guitar teacher, it's always a good idea to schedule a trial lesson. This will give you a chance to meet the teacher in person, see their teaching style in action, and determine if it's a good fit for you. Many guitar teachers offer trial lessons for free (we do at Northwest Music Academy) so it's worth asking about.
In conclusion, finding a good guitar teacher in Calgary (or anywhere really) can be challenging, but it's worth the effort to find someone who can help you achieve your musical goals. By asking for recommendations, checking credentials, considering teaching style, and scheduling a trial lesson, you can find a guitar teacher who is a good match for you. Happy guitar playing!