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The Guitarist’s Guide to Being a Tutor: Part 3

In the previous tutorial I covered some of the reasons why tutoring’s beneficial, as well as ways of advertising your services. In this tutorial I examine considerations for private tuition.

Private Tuition

This is usually one-to-one teaching conducted either at your home or theirs, typically for 30 or 60 minutes,. This is often the normal starting point for many tutors. 

It’s important to know how to proceed once a potential client contacts you.

First Contact

With ever increasing use of the Internet, what used to be a phone call may now be contact via text, email, Facebook message and so on. Consequently, ensure you’ve a number of ways you’re contactable.

When you receive a request, try to answer it as soon as possible. If you can’t deal with it right away, acknowledge the message and ask if you can contact them at a time that suits you both. 

If you don’t answer an enquiry until much later this may be interpreted as disinterest on your part.

It’s All in the Details

When you contact a client, try to find out as much information as possible. Here are some important considerations for your conversation.

Playing Experience?

Establishing what a student already knows means you can pitch the lessons at an appropriate level. Neither boring an experienced player with aspects they’re familiar with nor baffling a beginner with alien terminology.

Do They Own a Guitar?

It sounds like a dumb question but you’d be amazed how many people book tuition, arrive without a guitar and don’t understand what the problem is. 

You may wish, therefore, to have a guitar students may use for the duration of the lesson. It’s entirely up to you if you charge extra for this, as long as it’s made clear when the lesson’s being booked.

If They Own a Guitar, What Is It?

Whilst a lot can be covered on either an acoustic or an electric, there are certain things one can do that the other can’t. Establishing what instrument they have helps define what you’ll teach.

Style, Song and Artist Preference?

It’s important to find out what they’d like to learn, because you need to be honest as to whether it’s something you can teach. If they want to learn jazz and all you play is rock, you’re not the tutor for them.

Availability For Lessons?

Find out what their diary’s like. Some people are available for weekly lessons, and’ll be wholly reliable. Others may need you to be flexible from lesson to lesson—if this doesn’t suit you, again, these are not the clients for you.

Grades?

Briefly, grades are formal music qualifications, usually in relation to competency on a given instrument. School-age students often require grades, especially as they reach the end of their schooling, as these aid applications for higher education.

If grades are required, you need to decide if you wish to follow such a formal route and, moreover, whether you’re able to deliver the required curriculum successfully.

If you’ve not considered offering grades, or have never taken any yourself, you should look at those available. In the UK we’ve the more formal routes, such as Trinity Guildhall, or the popular choices, such as Rockschool.

The accreditation offered by these examining bodies are all standardised, so you can offer grades according to the most appropriate curriculum.

I’ve assisted many students through grades, but I’ve never made them a prerequisite of my tuition. If students want or need them, then we do them, but some just want to learn for fun, and that’s fine as well.

Lesson Location?

Whilst tutors might prefer students to come to them, some’ll insist on lessons in their home, and again, that’s for you to decide as to whether you want to do that. 

Looking at this in greater detail:

Home or Away

You need to decide whether you’ll teach from home or be a visiting tutor. Of course, nothing prevents you from doing both.

Teaching from home makes a lot of sense. Firstly, everything you’ll need is to hand. It’s economically more viable thanks to no travel costs and not losing teaching time in transit from lesson to lesson. 

Furthermore, you control the environment. Lessons conducted in people’s homes tend to be a little more chaotic and not always conducive to education. With that in mind, if students are coming to you, ensure you’ve a dedicated space in which you can teach.

Some lessons will only occur at the student’s home. For example, parents of students with younger siblings may find it logistically impossible to come to you. Similarly, the student may have transport issues, or even those of physical mobility.

You’ll certainly find more work if you can travel to students. In my early days all of my lessons were away from home. Consequently, I’d spend a lot of time driving from place to place. I did it because I was getting established and glad of the work, but it did mean some 12-hour days.

If you do decide to be a visiting tutor, factor this into your pricing. If it’s reasonably local, it shouldn’t cost more but if you’re spending hours in transit then increase the price.

Costs

Talking of prices, not only should you charge according to location, consider the length of lessons. Obviously, the longer the lesson, the more you’ll charge. Your prices should also be competitive in terms of where you live, so do some research as to what other tutors in your area are charging.

Duration

Lesson duration is an agreement between you and the student (or their parents). In my experience, whilst age doesn’t always determine everything, students in their early schooling shouldn’t do more than 30 minutes, due to fatigue and attention span. 

Those aged nine or ten and older can manage an hour.

Conclusion

Establishing all of these details at the outset means you can make better decisions as to what you’ll teach, where you’ll teach, and whether you should teach at all.

Remember to:

  • Answer enquiries promptly
  • Establish a student’s experience
  • What guitar they own (if any)
  • What they’d like to learn
  • If they need grades
  • Where lessons will occur
  • Frequency and length of lessons

In the next tutorial I’ll look at other routes into tuition.