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Flexible Lesson Planning
by Nick Minnion

Some years ago I was approached by a would-be guitar teacher seeking employment at my studios.

He proudly told me how he had spent two years developing a perfect guitar course designed to teach people from scratch to become 'Complete' guitar players in just two years. He brought in the materials for this course for me to look over and comment on.

They were beautifully worked out and stylishly presented and I estimated that well over 1000 hours of work had gone into them. I commended his efforts, but felt obliged to add, that it was a pity he hadn't actually given a few guitar lessons to a few different people first!

Had he done so he would have realised that his 'Perfect guitar course' was only suited to the 'Perfect Student'. Furthermore, that the 'Perfect Student' is an entirely mythical creature!

The truth is that even when you know a student well you cannot rely on fixed lesson plans. Have a plan - Yes, but build flexibility into it.

This is especially true of the first few lessons you provide a new student with. A lesson plan must always be adjustable to accommodate the individual's natural learning rate. Some beginners will see a chord diagram, understand it instantly, place their fingers on the fretboard in the right place, adjust their positioning to get the best possible sound, apply exactly the right amount of pressure and strum the chord to perfection. But most won't!

Some will take half a lesson just to figure out which way up the diagram should be read. Students' ability and confidence varies ENORMOUSLY. So make sure your planning takes this into account!

The key is to make the lesson objectives very small to begin with. So instead of:

First lesson objective:

Learn to play 'House of the Rising Sun'


First lesson objectives:

1. Hold guitar the right way up
2. Play a single fretted note cleanly
3. Hold down an Am chord shape
4. Student aware of 'optimum finger positioning'
5. Hold down a C chord
6. Optimise change from Am to C
7. Understand chord diagram
8. Ability to interpret chord diagrams for chords Am, C, D, FM7 and E7
9. Clarification of rhythm chart for 'House of the Rising Sun'
10. Understanding the importance of arriving on time for the first beat of each bar
11. Ability to play through the song one strum per bar
12. Understanding of 6/8 time
13. Ability to strum in 6/8
14. Ability to strum through the song in 6/8 time
15. Ability to play the song whilst teacher sings or plays the melody

The point is that some beginners may get all the way through this list in their first lesson, but most won't. By breaking the objectives down this small we ensure that, at whatever point we end off the lesson, the student has attained definite objectives and this in itself conveys a sense of progress to all concerned.

So build flexibility into your lesson plans. Allow the student to set the pace - its their natural learning rate that matters - not some pre-conceived idea about how much progress should be made over a given time.

Nick Minnion is the founder of, a popular website for guitar teachers. He is also an experienced guitarist / guitar teacher and author of How To Make A Living Teaching Guitar, Fifty Flexible Lesson Plans For Teaching Guitar, and How To Increase Your Income From Guitar Teaching.

©2002, 2009 Nick Minnion. This material may be freely copied and distributed providing that this copyright notice including the website address is included in full. This material may not be included in any publication offered for sale without the written agreement of the copyright holder. For further information on this and related articles please visit:

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