Stupid Things Guitar Teachers Do to Waste Your Time

Embarrassing moment #1: you show up to your guitar lesson and your guitar teacher is wearing spandex. Take note; this has happened to me.

When taking lessons from a personal guitar teacher something that has really frustrated me, and I believe would also frustrate you, is that there are a number of things that can go wrong… My own first guitar lesson was in the 80's. At the time I knew next to nothing about playing guitar. Since then I've had many guitar teachers, and here's often what has happened with some of these teachers:

  • They spend inordinate amounts of time showing off playing guitar for you and putting on a show while you watch wondering when the lesson will start. My very first teacher was guilty of this offense. The really frightening thing is he wore spandex and played along to a Dio records while doing so. I have to admit, at the time I thought he was pretty cool. Only now looking back do I wish I could revise my memory and run from the room with dignity intact. It's a fact, some teachers are down-right embarrassing. It's a wonder to me that I'm still playing guitar after the 80's icon biggrin Stupid Things Guitar Teachers Do to Waste Your Time
  • They'll say, "okay, well here's a scale, go ahead and practice this for a few minutes and I'll be right back." And then they disappear for 15 or 20 minutes while you sit there practicing your scale wondering when they'll come back. Practicing is something you need to be doing at home. An instructor should never leave the room unless they have a good reason.
  • guitar guns 784382 300x232 Stupid Things Guitar Teachers Do to Waste Your TimeToo often guitar teachers simply don't have a lesson plan. You are paying $15, $20 or $25 an hour (or more!) and you sit down with them and they may not even have an efficient methodology that they can walk you through, or anything they've developed that's effective for teaching you while not wasting your time and money. They are often times teaching whatever comes off the tops of their heads.
  • Maybe they chose to teach you from a book. Don't be surprised if your a beginning guitarist and you find yourself starting off playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" from an ancient "Mel Bay" book. A fine song to be sure, but it can be frustrating if you're not interested in learning to read standard music notation, or you really just want to play the chords and songs that you're interested in. Quite frankly, I believe, you can waste a lot of time with a book like this.

I've had these things happened to me and I'll bet my wallet some of you can think of things like this that have happened either to you or to a friend.

In the end what do you have to show for it? $600 in the Hole.

Lessons are expensive! I'm sure it's not hard for you to imagine paying $20 a lesson. If you're taking four lessons a month, with one lesson a week, that over six months would cost you $600 of hard earned cash! $600 is a lot of money, in fact you could buy a really nice new guitar with $600. Wouldn't you rather have that than six months of dillydallying with a teacher who doesn't have a methodology and probably is not spending your time wisely? Over the course of the year that's two brand new guitars you could have spent that money on instead! Of course, it's true that not all guitar teachers are like that. If you are lucky enough to find a good one, and you're willing to pay the price, then you're fortunate.

What's your guitar teacher horror story?

I hope my experience inspires you to tell about your own experience with guitar teachers. If you have you're own story I'd love to hear about it and invite you to leave it in the comment section below.


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 Stupid Things Guitar Teachers Do to Waste Your Time

About Michael Jae

Michael is a guitarist of over 18 years and has taught lessons, played in front of live audiences, and wrote and recorded his own acoustic fingerstyle albums. He’s especially fond of playing classic rock, heavy metal, classical guitar, and fingerstyle acoustic guitar in the style of Leo Kottke and John Fahey.




  1. Michael, this was absolutely hilarious!  Some similar things had happened to me.  Especially when I was learning classical guitar.  The teacher brought out the old book and bragged about having a classical student.  I was only taking from him because my previous teacher got a studio musician gig and quit!  Hilarious!  Great Post!

    • I used to work in a music store that specialized in lessons, the violin teacher was always getting gigs and never showing up to teach his students. No he didn’t last long either as a teacher or at playing gigs.

  2. This is a really funny piece. It gets you thinking about the subject. Lets have some more please. Thank you for posting it!

  3. Music teachers in general need to focus on the needs of the student. They must always be aware of what the student desires to achieve. It often times is different than what the teacher wants the student to achieve. In addition, of course a teacher can be a bit of a show-off, but they are also demonstrating that it is easier to play well than one might think. Perfect practice makes perfect. All else is just messing around. Great Post!

  4. I have to admit those are some pretty brutal ways Guitar teachers waste time, and i have been in a situation where my instructor showed his skills off more than he taught me. Even though i was watching in amazement, i was still able to pick up some of the style and sounds. Agreed not much learning going on, but for 20 bucks a week who’s complaining, i got to jam.


  5. That does it…i shall give up my dream to be a famous guitar player and just stick to my lonely world of Internet! Thank you for the insight (which is quite frankly –too GRAPHIC)

  6. Hey nice expression of the article with the funny picture of guitar_guns….
    Thanks for this post.

    Tony Pearson

  7. Definitely hilarious…Keep up the good posts.

  8. I agree that guitar teacher wasted time but there is truth in the saying to see how the students learn, but the students had better learn how to function in the music world they must compete in.

  9. I’ve only had three guitar lessons. The first one was helpful in that I learned the right way to play a G chord, with my pinky.
    The next two were helpful because I discovered that I was on the right track and that playing in jams and practicing at home was a great combination.

  10. I’ve come through all of this, except the last one (and the spandex, thanks god :) , but than I got an excelent teacher who has lead me way beyond scales and techniques. The interesting thing is that he was 3 years younger than me (he had 19 years old). He is a teacher in the deeper sense of the word.

  11. Really? That’s hilarious! Glad that you posted this. I was planning on getting a personal trainer but with the things you mentioned above, I changed my mind. My co-churchgoer has been teaching me with guitars but still just the basics. Sometimes I’d like to give up since my fingers hurt a lot and are swelling.

    Oh well! They say if you really like to learn something you must conquer everything that means including pain. I’ve learned from a friend that she’s currently enrolled into this nice small school for those who wanted to learn to play guitar and other musical instruments.

    Well, I think learning piano is quite easy than guitar. I don’t need to hold those guitar strings anymore but instead just press those keys and memorize the keynotes.

    The picture of the man lying beside those guitars looks familiar. Isn’t he an artist? I think he was the lead actor of the movie “Get Him to The Greek. It’s just his fat in that pic.

    • Lera Jo, glad you enjoyed the post ;) It’s really amazing what you can learn on your own these days through books and the Internet and just by playing and sharing with other players. Each person is different though and some people, for example, like having a teacher to keep them accountable for progressing.

  12. How funny! The part about spandex sounds like it should be written into the new musical film, Rock of Ages (now in production), starring Tom Cruise. I hear it is supposed to be funny, too. I can see how the part about a teacher showing off could happen often because some instructors are wanna be rock stars and will take any opportunity to show off or they have more creativity than enough business sense to realize they’ve already sold/ booked you as a student and that they should be focusing on providing great lessons in order to keep their student coming back for more lesstons.

  13. Well I have never taken guitar lessons before but my son has wanted to for quite some time now. After reading your article I at list know to research the teachers extensively before I settle on one to teach him, your horror stories have been a real eye opener.

  14. I never took guitar lessons but I did go to drum lessons and I can truthfully say that the instructor didn’t do any of these things. And that picture you have posted of the guy in the speedo, is that a music teacher? Oh my goodness that is terrible and he should have been reported to the authorities for that one.

    • You’re lucky I hear drum teachers are usually worse! ;) Just joking. But seriously, maybe it was my bad luck, but these are true stories. I had a guitar teacher in high school that let his students watch Hellraiser in class on the TV! Even at the time I knew he wasn’t all there.

  15. My guitar teacher was like 40 when i was 15 wore leather pants and would hit on me and palyed songs to me and sung about me being his princess and such. I never went back! He also worked for my parents before he opened the guitar shop!

  16. hahaha great write up!!! as a guitar teacher myself at “GC Guitar Tuition” gee wiz! I’ve never heard of anyone leaving for a couple minutes that’s a massive no no!! :)
    Glad I didn’t see myself in any of the above :)

    really good points you made, heres my take on a few things might be helpful for budding students and teachers alike.

    1. teachers need to have a plan of attack lesson to lesson and be “over prepared” otherwise they will spend half the lesson righting stuff down,then there is no time for the explanation of what the student is actually doing in their personal practice time week to week.
    With that said If students have questions a guitar teacher needs to be able to adapt and think on their feet. Lesson plans are important but being flexible and incorporating it into things that come up during lessons is also important. I’m always prepared but also realise that sometimes lessons take different paths then the exact root you had planned and at the very least students questions need to be made note of for future lessons. Being adaptable as a teacher and as a student is very important. .
    Trust and honesty is also very important, students need to be honest about if they have practiced regularly enough and teachers need to make sure students understand why they should practice regularly and why they are playing a particular piece or exercise thus a student is more inclined to practice regularly because they have a goal and achievement that is clear and concise for the week.

    You never want to overload a student you need to assess each student and what they can cope with week to week, sometimes they need to be pushed but particularly in the beginning they need to succeed at simple things to get momentum, I make my students play a tune/riff/progression straight away to build instant confidence!!! So in turn they know in lesson 1 that they can do it, they believe they can learn to play guitar as much as I believe I can help them achieve that.

    I learnt early in my teaching career that “winging it” will bite you in the a$$ eventually you need to be organised for each individual student and respect that they chose you over a myriad of teachers out there.

    2. Its important for teachers to give you a variety of songs/theory/scales/technique from a variety of resources. There is so much good material out there and picking from a variety shows not only different techniques and styles but also different ways which guitar music is written. ie. Charts, notation, tab etc.
    I think this one of the biggest advantages of getting lessons and not doing it all on your own is a teacher needs to be able to sift through the variety of stuff out there and give you what’s appropriate for you as an individual both in terms of your ability and aptitude for particular styles and what going help you improve.

    3. Teachers need to teach riffs/songs/techniques that not only develop your playing but ones that you will resonate with, particularly if your a beginner. If you know how a song sounds and why it is your learning it you will pick it up much faster. Having said that once you have some miles and confidence under your belt a teacher should also challenge you with new genres and songs you may not know. Key there is the lesson is about you not the teacher, personally I can teach someone “for instance” the Am chord using a variety of tunes that use it.

    Most important…..4.

    COMMUNICATE, teachers who don’t communicate with students and dont ask them how they personally feel they are progressing struggle to retain students.
    There needs to be constant dialogue lesson to lesson and if students practice regularly it needs to be acknowledged, stating the obvious improvement over a week of steady practice does a lot for a students confidence and drive to improve. if a student slacks off they need to be reminded that it is not the end of the world but “only with consistent practice will there be consistent improvement”.

    Oh and also “HAVE FUN! Ultimately this is the best motivation for people of all ages.

    • Some very good advice here from Graham. Budding students and teachers take note from this post.

      This quote is especially true for beginner guitarists:

      “I think this one of the biggest advantages of getting lessons and not doing it all on your own is a teacher needs to be able to sift through the variety of stuff out there and give you what’s appropriate for you as an individual both in terms of your ability and aptitude for particular styles and what going help you improve”.

      With the right teacher you will be able to save years of frustrations, mistakes and progress many times faster than what you could by yourself, and generally have a more enjoyable music making experience.

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