Why I Love to Teach
by Dennis Winge
As of 2020, I have been teaching for 20 years (and I celebrated my anniversary with a free gift to all guitarists called “20 Years of Guitar-Teaching Wisdom You Can Use Right Now.”) I first started teaching at the prompting of my guitar teacher while I was living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Since then, I have taught in Manhattan, Westchester, Horseheads, and, since 2016, at Guitar Lessons Ithaca.
Teaching is way more than just a job, it’s a privilege! In fact, I never feel like it’s work anymore, because I continue to be trained by an international teacher’s group called the Elite Guitar Teachers’ Inner Circle, where I’ve learned how to make every lesson super-fun and highly productive. To say it’s rewarding is a total understatement. Here’s what I love about teaching:
I wasn’t always a results-oriented person, either in my guitar playing or in my life. I had to learn how to do it. And more importantly, I learned how much fun it is to set goals and achieve them, musically and otherwise. It took me 40 years of lessons, books, videos, and plain-old teaching myself, to get where I am today as a guitarist. However, I believe knowing what I know now, that I could have done it in 10 or 20 years.
I don’t want you or anyone else to have to go through that. You can become a great player, or even a talented hobbyist, with an amazing amount of enjoyment, in way less time than it took me. I want that for you, because I see how wonderful it is to be able to play many different styles, write compositions in many different genres, do gigs of all kinds, etc.
Over my 40 years taking lessons (and I still take lessons today), I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Only now, after 20 years of teaching experience, do I see what a great teacher should be. Too many teachers think their job is to simply to relay information. If more of my teachers had simply inspired me, not just fed me information, I would have been so much more motivated.
I had dozens and dozens of teachers over the decades, and not a single one of them asked me exactly who I wanted to sound like, or showed me what I would need to do to get there. Instead, they just fed me the same information they fed everyone. None of them had a master plan for me; they were winging it from week to week.
Yes, there are a lot of fundamentals that every musician must study, but there is no reason that a teacher cannot create a customized plan which shows a student exactly what they need to practice to get where they want to go as fast as.
More importantly, the lessons need to be fun. If you are not having fun at something, you need to rely on your willpower, and that will only last so long. Great teachers have to inspire the students, let them hear the potential, and see it within themselves. And for older students, its never too late. Even if you are 70 years old and enjoy the process of learning, then that is a benefit unto itself, which leads to my next point about growth.
I love seeing people grow in lots of ways, both musically and personally. Learning a musical instrument, just as I wrote in my article, “Life Skills Enhanced Through Playing Music,” the skills learned in playing music seem to almost automatically transfer to the rest of a musicians life, such as physical coordination, ear training, structure, creativity, working well with others, perseverance, and self-discipline. After having read “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, I encourage my students and myself to adapt a growth mindset every day, and we’re loving it.
I love the variety of styles when teaching. I personally play many different varieties of music, and over many years I’ve spent time listening to everything from punk rock to classical to metal to jazz. I truly love when students show me music I’ve never heard before, such as new bands, music from video games and memes, and even new genres I haven’t even heard of.
It’s a very exciting thing to live vicariously through the tastes of my students. The days of pigeon-holing various styles of music are over because the information-rich age we live in has resulting in an extraordinary amount of wonderful culturally-blurred hybrids of music.
You might think that after 20 years, teaching is easy for me. Even though it does come naturally now and the students have access to a huge amount resources I have created, there are still challenges I face – and those are my favorite parts of the experience! I love the challenge of:
a) explaining things in lots of different ways for different types of students. Too many teachers use method books or are only comfortable in teaching in a certain way. A great teacher has to assess what the student’s learning style is and present to them in that way, not their own preferred way.
b) connecting the dots for people. This means that when more advanced students who know quite a few things sign up for lessons, it’s simply a question of connecting what they know and implementing them, and I enjoy assisting in that process.
c) resetting the musical or personal self-imposed limitations. Mindset is the key to success and too many people believe they are too __________ to enjoy playing the guitar. Anything that goes in that blank makes for an untrue statement. By continually resetting your mind and opening it to new possibilities, you can go places higher, deeper, broader, and grander than you ever dreamed.
I love talking about music. The next best thing to playing it in my opinion is in analyzing it and breaking it down. I like explaining concepts, exploring ideas, implementing them. I like music theory. I like breaking things down to their simplest, most raw form so that they can be reconstructed in a way that benefits a student immediately. I always learn from this process, often seeing things in a new way, or at least making connections to things I hadn’t before. In that way, every student is my teacher.
Are Lessons Right For You?
If you are thinking of thinking of taking lessons, you may consider taking a free trial with me. If so just click the button that says “Tell Us More About You.”
If you are hesitant to consider lessons and want to try learning on your own, read the article “The Truth About Trying to Get Better at Guitar Without a Good Teacher.”
Lastly, if you are currently taking lessons but are less than 100% satisfied with your current teacher, read the article “How to Cut the High Cost of Cheap Guitar Lessons.”