Positioning the goalposts correctly in guitar teaching

Positioning the goalposts correctly in guitar teaching

In almost any field, targets and goals are used as a driving force to motivate students and employees.


Because it’s hard to stay motivated working on something that appears to have no end in sight, and with no apparent pay-off along the way.

Working to a deadlineGoals at work and school

In the workplace, having goals to achieve motivates people to work harder. They promote a more positive attitude because of the good feelings that come with completing a project.

At school we all experienced the motivation and sense of purpose that an imminent deadline brought to say an essay assignment.

We might not have felt very positive whilst actually doing the essay, but it did motivate us to get it done, and handing in the finished piece of work usually felt pretty good.

Goals in guitar teaching

Goal setting is just as important in teaching the guitar as it is in the workplace and at school. This could mean setting a target tempo for a guitar student to achieve for a given technique exercise.

The goal might be for a student to be able to improvise convincingly over a particular jazz standard.

It could be being able to play the chord changes to an entire song along with the original recording.

As a guitar teacher, once you start to look for possible goals to set your students, you should find they present themselves virtually everywhere.

Good guitar teaching recognises difficulties

Mastering the guitar is a very long-term project. It takes a lifetime of learning and the magnitude of the task can easily be overwhelming. This is probably just as true for experienced guitar players as it is for beginners.

Breaking this huge project down into small manageable tasks allows guitar students to focus on something achievable in the short-term.

This is good for morale and is a cornerstone of being a good guitar teacher.

Goalposts in teaching guitarPosition the goalposts carefully in guitar lessons

In almost any area of guitar playing, there is plenty of potential for setting your guitar students clear goals to be achieved. Goals are wonderful.

But. Goals must be set carefully.

If you set a target tempo that is too ambitious for your guitar student, then the goal will work against them.

The same is true for giving someone a jazz tune that is too complex for them, or a set of chord changes that they couldn’t possibly perfect in just a week. Unrealistic goals are demoralising and do harm to the learning process. This is potentially a disaster for your guitar students and for you as a guitar teacher.


As with good teaching in general, goals must take into account a student’s current level of ability. They must also take into account their level of motivation and the amount of time they can realistically commit to practising.

A well-placed goal should be a little challenging but achievable. This is an important part of good guitar teaching.

When your guitar students do achieve a goal that you’ve set them, recognise it and congratulate them.

That’s the pay-off.

They have genuinely improved in some area of guitar playing and, just as importantly, they will feel good about what they have done and, hopefully, your guitar teaching too.

Now they are ready for the next challenge…

Stuart Bahn logo Be A Guitar Teacher

Be A Guitar Teacher author Stuart BahnStuart Bahn
Stuart Bahn is a professional guitar teacher in London, and creator of the Be A Guitar Teacher video course.

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