The No.1 Reason People Quit Guitar: Unveiling the Truth Behind the Dropouts

Apr 15, 2023
why your guitar students quit

As a guitar teacher, there is nothing more exciting than meeting a new student who has recently been inspired to learn how to play the guitar.

Our own excitement can quickly turn to frustration when after only a few weeks the student informs us that they "no longer have time to learn" and need a few weeks to catch up.

Especially because 99% of the time that's the last we ever see or hear from that student.

In this article, I am going to explore how students first come to the decision of wanting to learn how to play the guitar and the factors that lead to most learners quitting prematurely.

I'll be switching from the perspective of both a new student and you as a guitar teacher throughout the article.


Something Sparks An Interest In Learning Guitar

Imagine for a moment that you were a brand new student learning guitar for the first time.

Your all-time favourite band comes to town and you and a few mates have tickets to attend.

The anticipation builds as you make your way to the music hall, knowing that it's going to be an unforgettable experience. After all, you’ve been waiting a long time to see them live and tonight is the night!

As the lights dim and the crowd erupts with excitement, you catch a glimpse of the band taking the stage. The music starts, the crowd roars, and suddenly, there they are, with their guitars and rock start persona. The atmosphere is electric and they launch into their first song. 

You feel a surge of excitement as chills run down your spine, completely captivated by their performance. 

By the end of the night, you're on cloud nine, feeling utterly inspired. Inspired to pick up a guitar and play.

You’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar, but you vow to yourself that now is the right time and you’re finally going to do it.

For many of us, some specific event is the catalyst for wanting to learn guitar. We think about it for a long time and often have several opportunities to do so, but it’s not until our motivation is pushed over the limit are we compelled to take action.


The Next Day: The Reality Sets In

The very next day, you buy your first guitar and unbox it with excitement. 

But as you start searching on the internet for ways to learn, you quickly realize that there are countless tutorials and lessons, each teaching different songs and techniques. 

You might be trying to teach yourself for a few hours, or even a few weeks, but eventually, you get overwhelmed, stuck and frustrated. 

The lucky ones decide to reach out to a guitar teacher for help. You being a smart person who wants to learn guitar decide to look for a guitar teacher.

The idea of getting help from a real guitar teacher and the prospect of being a great player gives you fresh motivation and you’re excited to embark on this new musical journey.


Your First Guitar Lesson

You arrive at your first lesson maybe a little nervous, but eager to get started.

Your teacher proceeds to lay out your practice schedule and some beginner exercises and to your excitement demonstrates a song you like just to show you what's possible.

You are feeling good and ready to do whatever it takes to reach the point where you will be strumming and picking your favourite songs and perhaps even singing along.

You have tonnes of fun in the first lesson and leave with a big smile on your face, eager to go home and practice.


Giving Up On Guitar Lessons

 But then, somewhere around the six-week mark, something changed and you send a message to your guitar teacher:

"I'm sorry, but work has been crazy, and I haven't had time to practice. I've decided to stop lessons for a while. Thanks for everything."

You tell yourself that time was the issue, but deep down, you know the truth - you just lost motivation. 

Regardless of what story you tell yourself, the reality is that learning the guitar turned out to be harder than you thought, and you've decided to quit.


The Real Reason Students Quit Guitar Lessons: Unveiling the Truth

The truth is, students often blame time as the reason for quitting, but in reality, it's about motivation. 

Through years of teaching, I've discovered that the real issue is not time (although students will often state that it is), but rather motivation. 

In fact, I often ask my students in their first lesson: "Do you know what the number one reason people give for quitting guitar is?"

I let them guess, and then I reveal that the excuse they give is a lack of time to practice. I then ask them if they think time will be an issue for them, and almost always, they say no.


Prevention is the Key: How to Stay Motivated When Learning Guitar

The key to preventing your students from dropping out of lessons is addressing motivation and the real reason that most guitar students quit from the start. 

Just by discussing the topic of motivation with my students in their first lesson, I've seen a significant decrease in dropout rates.

I also share with them a number of things that they can do to remain motivated at times they feel like quitting.

As with most things, it’s much easier to take steps to mitigate a problem rather than try to solve it after the fact. Taking practical steps to address this issue with your students will bring awareness to the problem of quitting prematurely and keep more of your students learning with you long-term.


Practical Steps To Keep Motivation High When Learning Guitar

Here are some practical ways you can help your students continue to stay motivated when learning guitar.


  1. Set realistic goals: It's important to set achievable goals and outline a clear path for them to follow that makes learning guitar easy. The better you can align their long-term goals with short-term lessons the more motivated they will be. Celebrate small victories along the way and always keep things relevant to them.
  2. Make It Easy For Them To Practice Regularly: Consistent practice is crucial for improvement. Help your students create a practice schedule that works for them and explain the importance that they stick to it, even when they don't feel like it. Long-term success in any venture lies in habits and routines.
  3. Connect With The Source Of Their Motivation: Identify what motivates your students and what may have inspired them to pick up the guitar in the first place - whether it's a particular song, a performance opportunity, or simply the joy of playing. Reminding your students why they got started whenever the going gets tough and that will hopefully help them reconnect with their motivation.
  4. Get Them To Play With Others: Playing with fellow musicians or in a band can be motivating and inspiring. Facilitate the opportunity for your students to join a jam session or play music together, inside or outside of the lesson.

  5. Consume Guitar-Related Content: I’m amazed at how many people claim to love music but only ever listen to it passively. Encourage your students to actively listen to music and reflect upon what they hear. Go a step further and expose them to new music, guitar heroes, magazines, articles and even online guitar lessons so that they adopt the identity of a guitarist rather than it be a short-lived phase.

  6. Go To Concerts: A big part of what got them inspired to play in the first place was going to see a concert that ignited their motivation to play. Seeing other great guitar players regularly can keep motivation high.
  7. Create Performance Opportunities For Your Guitar Students: Imagine going to football training every week but never getting to play a game. You would start to question why you were doing the training after a while, wouldn’t you? While initially terrifying for most students, creating opportunities for them to perform (or at least jam with others) sets up a real-life playing scenario - match day, if you will. This makes the learning real, gives students something to work towards and an experience from which they can reflect upon, learn from and set goals as they work towards their next show.

  8. Have Them Learning From A Fun & Engaging Guitar Curriculum: The last point is very important as many students quit lessons because the teacher has them new things every week. There is no plan, and no structure and the students learn a lot of content but never practice it long enough to get good at it. A great guitar curriculum will allow you to keep the student on a path and help them stay motivated as they connect the dots and make progress.


In Conclusion

The journey of learning guitar can be both thrilling and challenging. 

Many aspiring guitarists start off with great enthusiasm, but often lose motivation along the way, leading to them quitting. 

While a lack of time is often stated as the reason most students quit, I've come to realize that time is not the real issue behind quitting guitar; it's actually the lack of motivation. 

By discussing the topic of motivation with my students from the very beginning and providing them with ways to stay inspired, I've seen a significant reduction in dropout rates. 

So, if you're trying to keep your students from quitting early, remember that helping them stay motivated is key.


About The Author

Michael Gumley is the owner and head teacher at Melbourne Guitar Academy, Australia's #1 Guitar School where he employs 10 teachers and has over 400 students.

He is also the founder of Guitar Ninjas for which he has written over 12 books as part of the core curriculum and countless other lesson resources.

Michael's mission is to raise the standard of modern guitar education globally so that students the world over can experience a higher quality musical education. He aims to achieve this goal by empowering guitar teachers with the necessary skills, concepts and curriculum they need to level up their skills and become better teachers.

If you're looking for a guitar curriculum for your school, look no further than Guitar Ninjas 


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