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Teaching Skills Teaching Skills > Teaching Troubleshooting > Guitar Teaching Tips > Work with your students' strengths
Summary: Bite-sized chunks of wisdom that you can use to sharpen your teaching skills and increase your awareness.

Work with your students' strengths

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You often get a student who is noticeably better at one aspect of guitar playing than another. For example they may really struggle to strum chords, but be quite happy with scales and single-note playing.

If you are teaching them during the first couple of years of their development then I advise focusing on what they are best at. You don't entirely ignore their strumming necessarily, but you don't take it up as a big challenge to be overcome.

The point is that in the early stages (first three years) how much the student plays is more important than what they play.

In our example, there are many details and skills common to both lead and rhythm guitar playing. By focusing on what they are making good progress on (lead guitar) you encourage them to play more. By playing more and more lead guitar they will:

  • strengthen their fingers and hands
  • improve their accuracy and finger positioning
  • develop awareness of rhythm and phrasing
  • improve their ear
  • learn to anticipate chord changes
  • grow in enthusiasm
  • get used to practising for longer

...all of which will put you in a better position to tackle any difficulties associated with their rhythm guitar work.

If they have come to you as an experienced player, particularly asking you to help them with their strumming then, of course, it is vital to address that area directly. In this case though, I would still carry out a broad assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. If I discovered that their single-note work was strong, but their chord work hopelessly out of time then I may decide, for example to use single note riffs played with a variety of different rhythms to help develop their rythmic awareness (working with their strength) and then find ways to transfer that awareness to chord strumming.

Work with what thay can do. Work with what they like doing. But make sure you focus on the specific aspects of the work that enable them to move into new areas.

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