Tips for tutoring



Patience will be your closest ally. Never never lose your patience with a student, especially if they are trying hard but not quite getting it. They will lose their trust in you. ENCOURAGEMENT (even though you yourself may well think they’ll never get it) is key. You’ll be surprised- they will suddenly get it. Teaching is simply a juddering series of these break-throughs.

If the student is being absent-minded and not concentrating on the task in hand, use your initiative to regain their attention. A joke or an impressive riff will usually win them over. If something is on their minds and they are really keen to talk it out- let them. This is the advantage of one-on-one lessons-you get a chance to get inside their heads and learn what makes them tick.


If your sticking point is a physical one, and he’s simply struggling with the ability to get his fingers/drumming to obey what he’s hearing in his head, there are 2 things you must do:

Isolate the passage of music and play it over and over again until they get it. Practice is not for the mind- it’s for the body and for muscular memory. Also we all now know that songs are a series of passages in repetition. The sooner they realise this the less baffled they will be by the concept of music.

Slow it down. This is an age-old teaching technique that is too often overlooked. This will enable them to play the notes accurately, and more importantly get on top of the rhythm. Rhythm, of all things, is hardest for them to get-and it’s so important in making a note, riff or fill sound musical. Never overlook rhythm at the expense of the right notes. Keep mentioning its importance.


Your teaching needs to be as RESPONSIVE as possible. This is the advantage of one-to-one lessons- you must adapt to the pupil’s need and learn how to get the best out of them. This is not a science- more trial and error over a period of time.


The student must enjoy his lessons. This, rather than actual progress, is what will keep the lessons booked term after term. You can be almost certain that the parent won’t know much about how well their kid is doing. However, rest assured that after every lesson they will ask if they enjoyed the lesson. If the answer is an indifferent ‘it was OK’ or indeed worse- your hours are numbered. If the student enthuses about it and looks forward to the next lesson- you could be playing the same riff for a term and the parents wouldn’t care. I’m not saying our aim shouldn’t be progress and excellence if possible, what I’m saying is music lessons must be fun. The agency’s aim is to distance itself from the traditional notion of school music lessons, with its crusty teachers and grade culture.


You have to be flexible and constructive at the same time. You can’t teach everyone from the same book or indeed at the same rate. Some can take in information at an amazing rate, others have to be gently led through the material by the hand. Although the idea behind having a harmonised syllabus is that there is common ground in what students cover, the advantage of individual tuition is that if one approach or explanation doesn’t work, you can try several until the student is ready to progress.


To this end, the first thing you should do when sitting down with the pupil is find out what music he/she is into. Have a look through their cd collection or ipod. Hopefully the KTM syllabus will cater for many different tastes, but if you can simplify one of their favourite songs to make it playable for them- you’re onto a winner.

If they aren’t a beginner then you should also spend the first lesson finding out what they know in as non-scrutinizing manner as possible. By getting them to play the chords/scales they know you can find out where the gaps in the knowledge and fill them.


A common question is “can you show me that solo/intro”. In response to this you should try to go beyond just teaching the solo notes parrot fashion by explaining what modes/scales those notes come from and why they work over that particular chord progression. In this way the student gets to learn the solo, and more importantly learns the musical thinking behind the piece and then can use this information in other musical contexts.


If a student is purchasing new equipment, you should try and make yourself available for any advice and if possible to go down the shop with them. This is a PR jackpot. The parents/pupil will love you for it, because they know they will be getting value for money as well as the kind of sound they’re after. And we all know how daunting music shops can be as a youngster.


Metronome/Drum machine

if you are doing exercises, running up and down scales or arpeggios, you will find that you get a much better response from the student if there is a metronome set at an appropriate tempo. This also emphasises the importance of rhythm and emphasise in their playing. Of course it should also be used for any unaccompanied passages they are learning as well. Especially intricate solos- they may know all the right notes and fingering but it’s only when they’re on top of the rhythm that it will sound anything like the original. If a student does have a metronome, there are plenty of different ones online.

Check out the Korg KDM-1. You can buy it online from for about £30. Seems pricey for a metronome but it’s worth the investment. It’s plenty loud enough (so many metronomes simply aren’t) and the click is a pleasant tone as opposed to that godawful cheep you get from others. It’s also really useful for your own practice.

A notebook.

You should give your pupil a notebook on his first lesson. This will be a vital tool for the both of you. Note down the basic notions of what you’ve covered, and any technique points that you’ve focused on. This will serve as a reference to the pupil during the week and a reminder of what you covered to you when you come to take the next lesson. Also, give praise when it’s due (especially for the younger kids for whom evidence of practice should always be noted).

Tab/manuscript/chord paper

Obviously, a useful companion. We’ll have a fair amount of the syllabus notated for you, however if you are doing anything specific to the pupil, then you’ll be needing this. is a great resource for printing out free manuscript or tab paper as big or small as you like.

Portable Music Player

If you’re in a school, or in a home that doesn’t have a cd player, an ipod or personal cd player and a portable speaker system is really useful. Obviously this isn’t a standard issue, but the speakers are worth the investment if you’ve got an ipod. Look for the Logic3 system. It’s about £30 online, supremely portable and is great for your own holidays/travelling if nothing else.

Other useful items: spare picks, electronic tuner, spare strings, pen.


A great website for GUITARISTS is . Compiled by former guitar institute teacher Justin Sandercoe, it has loads of online lessons and resources. Always good for ideas and reference.

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