Do you want to start a school guitar program but not sure where to begin? This article walks through everything you’ll need to start a school guitar program including advocacy templates for your administration, what and where to buy, itemized cost estimates, and teacher and classroom resources.
Guitar programs make music more accessible to more students, increasing music enrollment across all grade levels. Further more, students that take guitar often continue on to chorus, band, and orchestra classes boosting music enrollment over the long term. Join the thousands of teachers implementing guitar into their music programs.
Advocating for a School Guitar Program
Advocating and convincing your administration is often the biggest challenge when trying to implement a guitar program for your school. Use our School Guitar Program Template as a starting point to advocate for your guitar program. Template includes:
- How increased music enrollment leads to improved attendance and GPAs
- Why guitar programs make music more accessible and boost music enrollment
- How guitar programs align to music codes and standards
- Costs (upfront and ongoing)
- Timeline to implement
Example costs are pre-populated based on assumptions described below. Feel free to adjust based on the needs of your program and actual costs you are able to obtain.
Guitars and Equipment
You’ll need to choose what kind of guitars you want (acoustics vs electric, nylon vs steel string), what size (full or ¾), and how much you’re willing to pay. You’ll also need a few accessories.
Our Guitar Recommendations
- Guitar Type: Go with nylon string acoustic, classical style guitars which are easier on the fingers for beginners. The Yamaha C40 is popular. We also recommend getting a few steel string guitars and one electric guitar (with small amp) so students can experience different types of guitars. You can rotate access with students weekly. If you’re on a tight budget, forget the electric.
- Guitar Size: If you’re teaching grades 7+, get 90% full size and 10% ¾ size to accommodate smaller students. For grades 3 – 6, get 50% full size and 50% ¾ size.
- Price: You’ll want a matching set of new guitars (don’t buy used unless you really trust the seller and have experience with guitar maintenance). New guitars can range in price from $120 – $220 each. Price depends on quality and materials. Plan for $150 per guitar. Don’t pay less than $120 per guitar or you’ll be spending a lot of time tuning and replacing strings. $150 guitars should last 5 – 7 years.
- Accessories: For each guitar, you’ll also need a bag/case (more on that below), a clip on tuner, picks, and an extra set of strings. Many manufacturers/retailers offer a package so all this is included. Plan for an extra $30 – $40 per guitar for accessories.
This article has a ton more information on everything from maintenance, sound systems, nail care, mirrors and more.
Where to Buy?
We recommend supporting your local music store. They can also talk through these options in more detail. Sweetwater is the largest online music retailer and Amazon is always an option.
Total Cost: $5,400 for class set of 30 guitars ($180 per guitar + accessories)
Teacher Training & PD Resources
You don’t need to be a great guitarist to be a great guitar teacher. This is contrary to other band instruments…so instead think of yourself more as a coach. Does the coach of a football team need to be a better passer than the QB? No. They need to be an expert in the rules of the game and the fundamentals of the sport, just like you are an expert in the fundamentals of music and pedagogy.
Did you know that for 70% of school guitar teachers, guitar is not their primary instrument. And many say there are always a few students better than they are! Many teachers claim they love learning alongside their students who often challenge them. But you should know some of the basics, which include some very simple concepts.
Where Can I Learn the Basics?
- Teaching Guitar Workshop has amazing in-person and virtual summer workshops for teachers
- Little Kids Rock offers guitar lessons as part of their modern band program
- Moosiko offers free teachers accounts to help them learn fun, simple songs
- Beginning Guitar Curriculum teaches teachers how to have a successful first year school guitar program
- Association of Popular Music Education (APME) has a ton of great resources on incorporating popular music in the classroom
- School Guitar Teacher Facebook Group is an excellent resource to learn and collaborate
- Teaching Classroom Guitar has planning resources and downloads to use
Total Cost: $400 for one-time professional development workshop or curriculum
Up until just a few years ago, classical style guitar programs were the norm in schools. However, popular music guitar programs and modern band programs have exploded in popularity over the last few years. The reason for the shift is simple, students want to play music they know and love. Implementing a popular style guitar program will increase access through diverse content, increase enrollment through relevancy, and boost engagement with fun, modern tunes.
There are a number of popular style curriculums you can choose from. Our Beginning Guitar Curriculum differs from traditional method book style in a few ways: 1 – It acts more as a teacher training guide rather than flipping pages in a book, 2 – It pairs with the Moosiko learning platform that contains 400+ relevant songs, skill tracking, and video assessment tools and 3 – It comes with a shared resource folder of lesson plans, assessment templates, and teaching resources.
Traditional types of method books can still work, they just focus less on teacher training and don’t have the features of an online platform. Some common ones are: Mel Bay, Hal Leonard, and Hands On Training (HOT).
Total Cost: $299 one-time fee per teacher. Download a sample here.
Now that most students have 1:1 devices and technology is being adopted more widely, online music learning tools will provide a lot more value for students and teachers. Moosiko is the #1 learning platform for school guitar and ukulele programs because it engages students while also saving teachers a lot of time. Some features include:
- 400+ fun, modern songs from the 1950s to today across a wide variety of genres and languages
- Skill tracking automatically measures progress of each student
- Students get a personalized learning path based on songs they love
- Video assessment makes grading easier for teachers
- Use on computers, tablets, phones so students can learn in class or at home
Total Cost: $1,080, Assuming $18/student per year supporting 60 students (two classes of 30)
Performing & Recording Tools
“When you learn guitar, the first thing someone will ask you is: Play me a song,” one of our teachers said. Students want to learn guitar to play for friends, a family member, or to jam to their favorite band. We can support individual student performances using a number of tools.
Soundtrap, a cloud based DAW, is designed specifically for schools and has the best collaboration and project-based feature set. Students can record multiple tracks, add beats, and even learn how to mix and produce. Here are two more articles that provide ideas on how to support student performances:
- Killing the Concert: How to Support Individual Student Performances (APME)
- Using Soundtrap to Perform with Moosiko
Total Cost: $300, which is $5/student per year supporting 60 students (two classes of 30).
You’ll need a place to store ~30 guitars in the classroom. This article includes dozens of examples of classroom storage setups for ukulele and guitar. You can store guitars in the open when school is in session but we recommend putting them in bags or cases during summer breaks. During summer break, store guitars in their bag or case in a cool space not exposed to direct sun. Loosen the strings to prevent excess strain on the neck.
Total Cost: $300. Can range from $150 (simple hooks on the wall) to $1,000 for a heavy duty mobile rack.
Adding it All Up
Guitar programs in schools are becoming very popular as music educators see the benefits of making music more accessible and diverse. Choral teachers, band directors, and general music teachers are all implementing programs not only because it is boosting music enrollment, but also because it is just plain fun! Teachers learning their favorite 70s hits are having just as much fun as students learn modern hip hop and TikTok tunes.
Grand Total Upfront Cost: ~$7,800. For the first year alone, this comes out to $130 per student, an extraordinary cheap price to give the gift of music to students. Per student costs drop dramatically in years two onward since the class guitars can be used again.
If you have additional questions on starting a guitar program, contact us here and we’d be happy to help.