Practice: A Real Way to Motivate Guitar Students

What do I mean by real anyway?

There are many, many articles on the web and in journals about practicing. Some focus on student practicing, some on parent involvement and some on the teacher's role and others on routine. However, most of the articles repeat the same suggestions and miss the best strategy to get students to practice.

Authentic, real-world performance opportunities.

What seems more motivating to you, playing for a grade in class or, say, performing a world-premiere of a work while the composer is in the room? The latter provides students with much more motivation and better yet, intrinsic motivation!

Below you'll find two ways to produce real-world opportunities that students will love and  will prepare for!

Real-world experiences

1. Record for the world!


Meet Alex Bates,  a freshman in intermediate guitar at Northland Preparatory Academy. Him and his classmates learned they would be preparing for audio/visual recordings to put on YouTube.

The point of the recordings was to demonstrate how their selected pieces should be interpreted.

The students not only selected their own music from level appropriate options but, had the opportunity to show their interpretive and physical skills across the internet!

The students saw the recording equipment beforehand, understood the specific goals of the recording and practiced their guitars with a real-life and relevant goal to shoot for!

"I definitely felt like practicing more, it felt cool to like get ready to play for a video " - Alex B.

It was fun, and it had much more impact than a class performance or even a one-off recital! 


The student videos will be uploaded soon, Alex's will be first so subscribe to our YouTube to catch them!

2. Play for the composer

Preparing for a playing quiz, in-class performance or year-end concert is one thing but, preparing to perform for the composer is quite another!

At the outset of the year, do everything possible to work with composers; here are a few ideas to help with that:

  • Contact your local guitar society to get their season line-up. Chances are there is a composer/guitarist on the schedule and chances are you can get a masterclass spot all while supporting the local guitar society!
  • Send an e-mail to the composer! Most composers have their own website or contact details through their publisher. Reach out and find a way for them to get to  your class. Skype works great to! 
  • Write something yourself and work on it with your class. If the students know they will be doing a world-premiere of their instructor's work, you know they will be prepared
  • Commission a piece, the latest I know of is Bill Swick's commission of Yellow, Red, Blue, and Green Trains from Jurg Kindle. In fact, Mr. Kindle wants you to commission a piece

If students feel they are playing for something larger than themselves and for something more important than a grade, their instincts to prepare will spark them to practice.

Key take aways 

  1. Rather than asking, "why isn't this student practicing?" ask, "what is this students practicing for?"

  2. Record, record, record! It's also useful for self-reflection and goal setting
  3. Reach out to composers. From my experience, composers feel honored and students feel important, it is a win-win.


Use your iPhone, technology you currently have or plan to request some basic recording gear in next year's budget. Learning to record can be a big benefit for you and your class!
Comment with questions on recording gear!

have any thoughts or questions about A Real Way to Get Students to Practice Guitar? comment below!

Posted in Guitar Professional Development, Inspiring.

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