Our guide to becoming a private guitar tutor in the UK
Do you know a riff from a rasguedo and a hammer-on from a harmonic? If so, you could have what it takes to become a guitar tutor. Teaching guitar is an excellent way to supplement your income as a performing musician or to turn your passion into a full time job. We’ve put together this guide to help anyone interested in becoming a guitar teacher in the UK.
The Marketplace for Guitar Teaching
There has never been a better time to become a guitar tutor than now. According to the Musician’s Union’s 2012 Working Musician’s Report, in the UK and London in particular, musicians are playing an important role in attracting tourists to the UK. In 2011/12, the annual London musical theatre and classical ticket sales to overseas tourists was estimated to be £67m.
The live music scene and music festivals also attracted at least 7.7 million visits to live music events in 2009, resulting in £1.4bn being spent on music tourism. Given these statistics, it seems that a career in music in the UK is more popular now than ever, so as a guitar tutor, with the correct business approach, you could find yourself in demand.
Similarly, according to a 2014 BBC report, the electric guitar is now a more popular instrument than the violin amongst children learning to play instruments. The survey, which was conducted by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), found that 13% of 5 to 17 year olds play the electric guitar, compared with 12% for the violin.
The report suggests that the UK is seeing a music boom with 76% of children aged five to fourteen able to play an instrument, compared to 41% in 1999.
What Qualifications do you Need to Become a Guitar Tutor?
To become a self-employed private guitar tutor, you don’t need to have any specific qualifications to teach students. However, having relevant qualifications will make you more credible in the eyes of students (and their parents). According to a survey of 2,000 musicians, 60% have a degree and 40% don’t. Most have at least five years experience of playing and two thirds have four or more years of formal education and training.
However, students don’t pay for qualifications, they pay for results. If you are confident in your ability to read music, play to a high standard and engage with students on a one to one basis, then the barriers to becoming a guitar teacher are relatively low.
Equipment and Resources
As a musician, the chances are that you already have a lot of the equipment that you’ll need to teach the guitar to students. Because a lot of your tutees will be complete beginners, you should assume that they don’t have their own guitar to practice with. You should therefore have a selection of instruments that they can use during your lessons. If you have a significant collection, you may also want to consider implementing a rental scheme, where students can take your guitars home for a weekly fee. Here’s a useful checklist of equipment you’ll need to conduct guitar lessons from your own home:
- A selection of guitars (electric and acoustic)
- Guitar amplifiers (at least two for jamming)
- A selection of guitar pedals (for electric guitar)
- Leads, plectrums and capos
- A tuner and spare strings
- Recording equipment to track student progression
- A Laptop and music editing software like ProTools
Of course, as a guitar tutor, you may want to travel to students’ homes, so you should consider whether you’ll need portable equipment that you can carry with you.
In terms of resources, you should have a selection of teaching material that you can use during lessons. If you’re teaching older students, you may want to follow a planned guitar programme so you can track your students’ progress and give them an indication of their skill level. There are hundreds of guitar courses you can buy in textbook format or as online courses, which will help guide you through what to cover during lessons. Ideally though, you should try to develop your own courses and teaching methods to personalise students’ learning.
If you’re tutoring younger students at primary and high school level, then you should also have resources that complement whatever qualification they’re studying towards. This ensures that what you teach will be relevant to what they are learning in school and will contribute towards their academic grade.
How Much Can you Earn as a Private Guitar Teacher?
Rates for hiring a guitar tutor generally vary between £20 and £50 per hour. Guitarists usually price their services based on their qualifications and experience. According to the Musician’s Union survey, 56% of the musicians surveyed earn less than £20k a year. However, it’s worth noting that not all of these musicians are exclusively guitar teachers. The graph below, taken from the report, shows that 60% of musicians earn money from teaching.
When we consider that academic tutors who work full time, report earnings in excess of £31,500 a year, guitar tutors who adopt a business-like approach to their services can sustain a respectable income.
Working with Students
To be a guitar teacher, you need to have a passion for helping others learn. You also need to be extremely patient and encouraging as you’ll be working with students of different age levels and abilities. If you plan to tutor students under the age of 18, it’s recommended that you obtain a DBS certificate.
Although not a legal requirement, as a guitar tutor, parents especially might expect you to have underwent a criminal background check. At the moment, in the UK, individuals can’t apply for DBS checks on themselves. Instead, you’ll need to obtain one from an employer, an agency or an associated umbrella body.
If you plan to tutor students at home, then you might also want to consider taking public liability and private indemnity insurance in the event that a student injures themselves during a lesson or wants to take legal action resulting from advice you’ve given.
How to Market Yourself as a Guitar Tutor
Initially, finding students to tutor can be challenging, especially if you don’t have an online presence or a professional reputation in your local area yet. Marketing as a guitar teacher is worthy of a blog post all on its own, but generally speaking, word of mouth advertising and having your own website are two of the most effective ways to promote your guitar teaching business.
There are also several music directory websites for tutors such as this one, The Tutor Website, where you can create a profile and have students and parents contact you directly. Promoting yourself on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter can also help spread the word about your business. Although the following list isn’t exhaustive, it may help get you started in marketing yourself as a guitar tutor:
- Contact other music tutors in your local area and ask for referrals if they find themselves fully booked
- Tell your existing students that you’re looking for new business
- Create your own website and optimize it for search engines
- Participate in online forums where students may be looking for guitar teachers
- Consider tutoring online via Skype or other online tutoring platforms
- Create business cards and display them in shop windows
- Consider advertising in music directory websites like The Tutor Website
- Tell people about your guitar teaching business on Facebook and other social media websites
If you have any other questions about how to become a guitar tutor, please post them below. Perhaps you’re a guitar tutor yourself? What advice would you give to anyone considering pursuing a career in guitar teaching? We’d be keen to hear about your experiences.
Image credit: Rick Filipkowski - https://www.flickr.com/photos/rickleefilipkowski/3929799202