Dealing with students dropping out...

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by JJK, Feb 26, 2008.

  1. JJK

    JJK Member

    Messages:
    387
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    I have been teaching beginning guitar since September now, and have dealt with many students dropping out. They usually say they don't have time to practice and if its little kids, they say they can't push down on the strings hard enough and it hurts. Are there any techniques you use to get students to stick around and not drop out? I don't believe its because I'm a bad teacher or something, cause most people say I'm good, they just don't have the time to devote to it. Thanks for any responses.
     
  2. Guitar Josh

    Guitar Josh Resident Curmudgeon Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    18,684
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    TGP, Always TGP
    With young children, their attention wavers so much that it's hard to get them to concentrate. But think about this JJK. I would bet that when you picked up the guitar, you just sort of "got it". Within a month, you were probably playing most first position chords with ease, tuning your own guitar and starting to understand tab. That's a gift. Most people, young or old that have to really WORK at it will give it up quickly and veer back to things they are good at.

    So just keep the door open for them. Talk to their parents and say that they should put the guitar in a safe place and see if they come back around to it, and you are happy to resume lessons.

    But at the end of the day, if the check cashes, that's all you can really hope for.
     
  3. dave s

    dave s Member

    Messages:
    6,185
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2003
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Young kids under the age of 10 have a difficult time expressing themselves honestly. Most are there because their parents paid and they don't want to let down mom or dad. Or even you for that matter.

    The students who aren't practicing or aren't 'getting it,' or don't seem to be interested are the ones you need to speak openly and honestly with. Ask them to be completely honest with you about their motivations. They'll tell you given the chance. Let them know that if this isn't something they want to be doing that you understand and you'll speak with their parents and support them.

    My son's drum instructor asked my son the same thing. He was honest with my son, and my son with him. No hard feelings. He left the door open by saying something like, 'Maybe in 6 months or a year he might want to start up with lessons again. Maybe not. And that's ok too."

    Great guy. Very good instructor.

    dave
     
  4. spacelord

    spacelord Member

    Messages:
    207
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2007
    Location:
    Michigan
    I dropped out of lessons in my teens, because at the time I didn't feel like practicing.. it was a major chore. I took lessons again for a year or so 10 years later..but again.. I had no time or never felt like practicing so I would go into the next weeks lesson hardly learning what I should have. Now I have kids, even less time, but I practice almost every day/night AT LEAST a half hour or more. No lessons, but working through it on my own and having a good time doing it. Its easy to burn through an hour or 2 if I don't watch the clock.

    I suppose the trick is getting the students to want to practice. I doubt if someone truly doesn't want to practice you can change their mind.
     
  5. Swain

    Swain Member

    Messages:
    2,411
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2005
    Location:
    N. Little Rock, AR.
    How old are these kids? If the strings really are too hard on their fingers, get them some Silk And Steels.

    Also, I would make sure you teach them some simple melodies. Things that they like. They need to have a victory, or a success of some type. That's what's going to motivate them.

    Good luck! It's a great gig, if you can get it.
     
  6. proreverb68

    proreverb68 Member

    Messages:
    1,105
    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2005
    Location:
    NH
    100% in agreement with the above post.

    create oppurtunitys for success.
    YES YES YES attitude.

    In my teaching practice...Some of what I do with the young ones is this:

    Ultra light strings....tuned down a bit.

    Teach them the easiest things at first...and KEEP IT FUN>>>>

    Fun for them....may be about playing some song they heard at school...or on T.V or on Guitar Hero.

    MAke jokes, smile, be a friend to these little kids..
    ask them if they know any good jokes?
    They are afraid of getting it wrong...make them feel at ease if you can.



    Success for you and me is not being able to play The theme to James bond on one string with one finger...
    It is not to be able to play the Meow mix cat chow theme on one string...but ya know what?
    To a little kid...it is awesome.

    ThINK LIKE A LITTLE KID.

    If they like the song...the will most likely want to practice it.

    If you turn them onto music young...who knows where it will lead.
    If you turn them off...that is a big responsibility...and nobody who is turned off to music is going to Carnegie HAll anyways.
    I hope you are a qualified and good teacher.
    We all have areas that can be improved upon...its cool to read that you are looking to improve your skills. That's one sign of a good teacher right there.

    I teach alot of adults who had negative or un-enthusiastic teachers when younger...it turned them off to music for years and years.

    Have fun with them //// YOUr just priming the pump right now with them.
    SOunds like you just began teaching? Give yourself time to learn how to do it too...and make adjustments. It is a learned skill like anything else!(guitar playing etc)

    ON a technical aspect...get students to pay upfront in blocks of four by the month. So at least the parents are committed in that way.

    Dont be afraid to let students go. If you do, they will be replaced by students with more interest and drive.

    It's not all about theory, and those useful but truthfully...sometimes dull hal leonard, Mel bay books...
    In addition to reading notes, teach them a little song on one string...
    Have them sing do-re- mi...

    Put a sticker in their book when they accomplish a goal....

    plAY A FUNNY SONG FOR THEM..
    Like...the cat came back...
    Or I dont know why she swallowed the fly..
    Let them play the root notes..or sing along.

    It is a music lesson...
    singing is music as well.

    Create a good association early on...that is your job to help them feel great about music. You dont have to turn them all into virtuosos..
    Not everyone is meant to be a serious musician and thats ok.
    Music is fun whether your serious or not.


    PAtience....and an initial positive vibe...Goes a long way.

    Of course theres always those kids and parents who thrive out of the book...play it by ear...each student is different.

    My philosophy with most young students is that I am introducing them to music and I want them to enjoy the lesson as a fun time...not a time to take another test and feel bad about themselves. They learn more this way. Its an attitude.

    Teaching lessons is about more than being a good player...or getting students to learn scales and play ripping solos...
    Accomplishment will come...but initially, It's about being good at reading what people need, what they want, asking people questions about what they like, listening and createing a judgement free space where they can enjoy learning about themselves and music -------pressure free...

    If they are smiling...they will want to come back...and learn more...

    I actually dont MAKE anyone practice...I never scold a kid for not practicing...I jsut explain that they will remain at the same level and thats ok if thats what they want.

    Of course they dont want that. My trick is to never be-little anybody.
    It is sad...I hear storys all the time about idiot teachers.


    I tell them they can build a habit by starting with 10 minutes a day 5 days a week.....and ya know what?

    they do.

    Giving someone permission To practice 5-10 minutes a day and they will practice twice that anyways!

    Eventually grow it to 15-20 etc.

    oNE Little guy is practicing like 2-3 hours a day!

    Obviously something latent in him that wants to take it this far.

    ANd in the end...its not just the guy who plays at Carnegie hall who is valuable...its also the guy jamming out at his house after a hard day of work.

    Its in the joy of expression.
    THats what lessons can enhance and develop for most people.
     
  7. JJK

    JJK Member

    Messages:
    387
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Phew, that was a long post! Thanks for the response.
     
  8. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

    Messages:
    17,112
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Location:
    Close to the burn zone
    I always suggest empowering the young student with "choice"

    Ask them "what would you like to do today"
    Then teach that.

    Reading and theory will matter more later in their developement.

    The #1 thing I do as a teacher is to turn them on to guitar.
    All the rest seems to sort itself out.

    And, don't teach like some old fart from their grade school.

    I know, I do very well with that thinking.
    Kids know when you're being real.

    And they know when someone can or can't teach well.

    Hang in there bro.
     
  9. jamhandy

    jamhandy Senior Member

    Messages:
    385
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2005
    Location:
    Planet Earth with no imaginary geographical bounda
    I teach also, and my opinion is this... at least from observations...

    People are generally lazy...

    My favorites (least favorites, actually) are the young golden-spoon-in-their-mouth University of Michigan students who come, expecting the stuff to get handed to them on a golden platter like the rest of their life...

    Doesn't happen that way... the typical U of M student generally takes about 2 months of lessons tops, then drops out with a "I don't have time to practice" excuse... or... "I have too many classes right now to devote any time to the guitar"... (thus, another "I don't have time to practice...")

    What makes a player is the devotion to the instrument... I also have a LOT of great students who GET IT that they have to practice...

    When I was a kid just learning, all I did was play my guitar... as soon as I got home from school.. I played the guitar... when I could audition for the jazz band, I did... and I played guitar IN school... then I put together a rock band in high school... and played even more... that was 30 years ago...

    Some folks (adults) want to claim the "I didn't practice this week" bull-crap story... but I just keep teaching them... it comes and goes in spurts for the adult students... I tell them, if they bring up the issue of not practicing... that there is about 1,500 years of euro-western music to talk about for their next lesson, so to just keep coming back... we have plenty of material to talk about... haha... I have had adults call to cancel, telling me that they didn't practice this week... I don't let them cancel for that reason...

    Beginners like to be able to do neat stuff on the guitar. No matter what you give them to work on, if they will just touch the guitar during the week, you can build on it... sometimes its a simple Stevie Ray Vaughan riff, like the beginning to Pride and Joy... or a simple blues riff that moves around in I, IV and V...

    This is a good point:

    I also encourage everybody to write up a 40-song song list... and then I encourage them to learn those songs as they can. Usually, the student gives a half-hearted attempt at writing down like 15 songs. I have rarely had a student come up with 40 or more songs. But that is what it will take to go play professionally... and that is one way to gain their interest... get them involved with songs they really want to play...

    As far as the younger folks... obviously, make sure they have a very light gauge of strings. Don't expect a 9 year old to play with a set of 13's.... even on an acoustic... encourage them to buy some .008"'s so that it helps their fingers... you can put electric guitar strings on an acoustic if necessary to get less tension... or, if they tune the strings lower... say to a "D to D" instead of an "E to E"... this will give them less tension... plus, they just need to play... and work up the muscles in them fingers...

    If a kid's fingers can master an X-Box, Playstation or Super-Duper-Duper-Duper Nintendo... he can master Jimi Hendrix....:crazy

    :BEER
     
  10. jamhandy

    jamhandy Senior Member

    Messages:
    385
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2005
    Location:
    Planet Earth with no imaginary geographical bounda
    ps. I have one 10 year old student that was struggling with the desire to come to guitar lessons. I sat down with his dad alone for a while, and I asked his dad some key questions about what the child liked as far as music.

    Guess what I found out...?

    The kid LOVES Johnny Cash... and man, what easy guitar parts to transcribe to TAB...

    The next week when the kid came, I showed him two Johnny Cash songs, and he has been on fire ever since. It was an amazing success story. I would have not had any idea that he liked Johnny Cash without talking to his father.

    So... for the younger students... sometimes you have to interview the parents to learn more about the child.

    Also... show the younger students some guitar gizmos like digital delays, wah-wahs, phase shifters and stuff like that. This kid was amazed when I started whipping out all that kind of stuff. I think I gave him a bad case of gear addiction, though... haha... getting him started as a gearhead at age 10... hahahaha... hey, if he's still playing in ten years, it worked.....

    :BEER
     
  11. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

    Messages:
    11,783
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Australia
    Actually, choices don't empower kids, they terrify them, because the kid does not know what they need to learn, that is your job. Having said that, knowing what they like, and where they want to end up is crucial, then plotting a course to get them there.
    The long post above was saying to teach music that the student likes.
    I'm so in favour of that. Teaching scales and exercises is dull boring, even though they are important to know. The same ends can be achieved by choosing pieces of music that contain the elements you want the kid (or adult) to learn, and teaching those.

    The "I don't have time" excuse, is not always an excuse. Time is precious theese days, and everyone wants a bit of it. Money can be hard ot come by too, and needs to be prioritised. Some weeks guitar lessons fit in, sometimes they do not.
     
  12. robelinda2

    robelinda2 Member

    Messages:
    2,649
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2007
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    sometimes you gotta be more than just a guitar teacher. especially to the little kids. if the kids can relate to you then they'll keep coming and hopefully practice. I have a few kids who i wasnt really connecting with, then one of them walked in with a Family Guy shirt on, how the lessons have changed now! Best of friends, every lesson the kid goes on for 5 minutes with his best Family Guy quotes, he always says "that wasnt 30 mins!" at the end of the lesson, time flies......
     
  13. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,153
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    A teacher/student relationship shouldn't be a permanent state of affairs - it makes sense from an educational point of view although it sucks as far as providing you with regular income, I know.

    I think the best thing you can do is wish them well and hope for good 'word of mouth'.
     
  14. yZe

    yZe Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,239
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2006
    Location:
    Tampa, on the Territory of Florida (D.C. Free Zone
    Do your technical & developmental drills sound like actual musical phrases?
     
  15. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

    Messages:
    11,783
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Australia
    I think what you are decsribing is "mentoring". Mentoring is an incredibly important facet of child-raising that is not givon enough tiem in our society. It can't be one by a parent, but it can be done by anyone else. IN fact we all do it all the time, but it can be both good and bad, it can teach care or carelessness.
    Awareness that you are mentoring is the first step to ensuring you are doing more good than bad.
    It's different to friendship, because it is not a peer to peer thing.
    Maybe it's the best answer to the original question at the top of this thread.
    Apart from prosaic things like time and money, a lack of a mentorship bond might be the biggest reason why a student drops out.
    A child who feels he is being mentored will be more eager to please, and motivated to practise. He will crave approval and bloom under the influence of it.
    Forgive my waffle, but as part of my profession and my hobby of raising colts and stallions, I make a study of understanding male and child/adult relationships.
    To the OP, how important do you perceive yourself as beign to the student ? I suspect thsat if your rate your own imortance as low, then the student will to.
    Thinking of yourself as a mentor first, then musical mentor, then music teacher might help you connect better.
     
  16. tomb

    tomb Member

    Messages:
    31
    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2007
    Location:
    NW WA
    Great comment...

    When I was a kid nothing caused me to drop out of lessons quicker than having to learn Tom Dooley or Michael Row Your Boat Ashore on a crappy acoustic because my folks refused to get me an electric. Man I wanted to be learning Hells Bells not some old fart folk song!
     
  17. robelinda2

    robelinda2 Member

    Messages:
    2,649
    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2007
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thats fantastic, thanks. That makes a lot of sense. I even have a few students that i teach for almost nothing, only because they have real potential but just dont have the money, and I really enjoy teaching or mentoring them, and would be upset to lose them at this particular stage of their playing just because of money. I can live without the few extra dollars i would be getting. Teaching to me is more than job, i would teach almost all my students for nothing if i won the lottery, i truly enjoy the task of making students better players, and you gain some great friends in the process if your'e lucky.
     
  18. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

    Messages:
    11,783
    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Australia
    Yeah, I have a kid tha I was teaching, age 10, just on fire to learn. I itially I charged his mother, mainly as a test of dedication. He passed !!
    So now I teach him for free, and lend him gear, books etc.
    Ironically, I had to drop doing because of demands on my time, but I catch up every few weeks. he is goign to a music store teacher now, who is impressed with his playing. I get so much satisfaction from that.
     
  19. Clifford-D

    Clifford-D Member

    Messages:
    17,112
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Location:
    Close to the burn zone
    Just had an emo drop out

    He couldn't laugh, didn't ask questions.

    soon $4:00 gas. damn.



    In all fairness to the student, he was looking for scream/shred
    and I just don't look the part, nor enjoy that music
    so maybe I projected that vibe.
    Doesn't matter that I could teach it.


    .
     
  20. Festus

    Festus Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,476
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2006
    Location:
    So Cal...Ventura County.
    Interesting that the OP mentioned September when his student load started dropping off. That's been the experience for just about ALL of the private instructors in my area. It's just recently been getting healthy again.

    There's a lot of factors involved, not sure it can be attributed to just one or two. However, I can't help but think the digital age has lot to do with it. Push a button and go. Instant on, whatever they want in the digital realm. Learning an instrument takes time and some work. A lot of kids I've seen lately don't have ANY patience for something that doesn't respond immediately to video game controller commands.

    As mentioned earlier, mentoring is a big one. When I'm able to form that mentor/student bond, they stay with me for quite a while, and they develop into rather good players, if I may say so. Also, the periods I've gone through when I lost sight of the concept of mentoring, that's when teaching has been the hardest.

    So, tough it out, and do the best you can that the word-of-mouth about you is positive.
     

Share This Page