Recently Desi Serna and Donnie Schexnayder published the book How To Teach Guitar. Within a week of its release detractors began a campaign against the book and its authors through the Amazon.com review system. They systematically reported abuses on the book’s many positive reviews until those reviews were removed, and began submitting their own negative reviews, with the main objective of harming book sales and the reputation of the authors. The authors, Desi and Donnie, respond below to these detractors’ most common criticisms.
1) The authors are not qualified to write on this subject
Desi Serna first began teaching private guitar lessons and group classes in 1995. From 1995 up to 2008 Desi taught lessons at a retail store, community guitar classes, and operated a home-based teaching studio.
His success as a guitar instructor led to his authoring several books including, How to Make Money Teaching Guitar (2001), Fretboard Theory (2005), Guitar Theory For Dummies (Wiley 2013), and Guitar Rhythm and Technique For Dummies (Wiley 2015). Desi has sold tens of thousands of books and DVDs worldwide, has one of the most popular guitar podcasts on iTunes, and as of 2015, his YouTube channel has over sixteen million video views.
Donnie Schexnayder has been playing and teaching guitar for over 25 years. In addition to operating a home-based teaching studio, Donnie has successfully coached dozens of other guitar teachers located all over the world through his online business, Start Teaching Guitar.
In addition to teaching guitar and publishing, Donnie owned a service-oriented IT consulting business and a real estate investing business. Throughout his professional career in these fields, Donnie studied business and marketing from recognized experts, including, but not limited to:
- Internet Business Mastery Academy
- Jeff Walker
- Perry Marshall
- Duct Tape Marketing
- Pat Flynn
- Michael Gerber
- Robert Kiyosaki
- Michael Port
- Tim Ferriss
This combined study and experience was applied to Donnie’s own guitar teaching business. These are the qualifications that Donnie brings to How To Teach Guitar and Start Teaching Guitar.
Considering the combined experience and level of success of both Desi Serna and Donnie Schexnayder, it’s a strange accusation that the authors are not qualified to give others advice on how to teach guitar and start a business.
2) The book is shallow and contains no depth
Our book is not intended for experienced instructors who are already well-established and successful. The book is intended for guitarists who have never taught music lessons before. The material is intentionally simplified to make it as easy as possible to get started teaching, without being overwhelming. We believe the book fills a needed gap and consider its content to be perfectly suited for its intended readers. We provide links in the book to additional information that readers can explore when they’re ready to learn more.
Furthermore, with the Kindle version costing less than $10, and the print version around $20, the book is very affordable, in fact a tremendous value when compared to the high recurring monthly fees of some guitar coaching programs. At our price, we offer guitar players the option of exploring a career as a guitar instructor without having to spend a lot of money up-front, or making a long-term financial commitment.
3) The book contains no new or original information
Most of the information needed to be a successful small business owner is available from your local public library for free. All we have attempted to do is combine what we’ve learned with our own experiences and a little bit of common sense, and organize it in a way that is easy for new guitar teachers to understand, and to act on. Our book is based on accepted, tested “industry best practices” that originate from a number of sources. Current information about running a business has been around for at least the last hundred years. There is very little “new” information about business and marketing available today or even about teaching guitar lessons. The challenge is not to present new information, but to present the best of the available information in commonsense terms that our readers can put into an actionable system using today’s technology. That is the work we’ve done for our readers with How To Teach Guitar.
We also have to consider that people are not just looking for information, they are also choosing their sources; the writers and teachers they prefer to learn from. While other guitar teaching resources may provide information and plans similar to some degree as in How to Teach Guitar, many people will prefer our book because they like our writing and teaching styles, the way we relate to them and their interests, our positive attitudes and calm demeanor, and finally, the way we do business and treat our customers.
4) The CAGED system is bad for your guitar playing
The CAGED system is first and foremost a study of how chord forms are naturally laid out on the guitar fretboard. For the student who is interested in general guitar playing that emphasizes popular music and chording techniques, the CAGED system is great for working with barre chords, chord inversions, different chord fingerings, and different chord voicings, as well as many familiar songs. To completely toss out the CAGED system, as some detractors suggest, a teacher would have to deny that moveable barre chords even exist.
In addition to being used as a method to learn chord forms, some guitar teachers extend the principles of the CAGED system for learning scale patterns. In this application, scale patterns are arranged to fit inside the chord forms, and this is where the controversy lies.
While some players have great success using the CAGED system as a means to arrange scales on the fretboard, other players find the patterns and position-playing does not work as well for their preferred styles and techniques. Nowhere do we suggest, however, that a player should limit themselves to any CAGED position scale pattern, or any scale pattern for that matter. We encourage all guitarists to explore their scale options and go with whichever patterns work best for them and their styles.
5) The book’s content was “stolen” from Tom Hess
How To Teach Guitar is an updated version of a book Desi Serna released in 2001 called How To Make Money Teaching Guitar. This book was one of the first online resources available to help guitar teachers. Much of the information in the new book, How To Teach Guitar, draws from this earlier work, which predates Tom Hess’ materials by at least four years. As already mentioned, another source is common business knowledge found in standard business books, public websites and small business coaches. Our book contains accepted best business practices, organized in a system designed to help first-time guitar teachers. There is nothing in the book How To Teach Guitar that is proprietary to Tom Hess or anybody else, and there are no violations of copyright in the book of which we are aware.
6) Wasn’t Donnie a member of Tom Hess’ program at one time? Doesn’t that mean he learned everything he knows from Hess?
Donnie was briefly a member of the Hess program, Elite Guitar Teacher’s Inner Circle, back in 2008, but he was not satisfied with the program and chose to leave. Donnie learned most of what he knows and added to the book from other sources and through his own experiences. You can read all about Donnie’s background in our first response above.
7) Wasn’t Donnie kicked out of the Hess program?
No. Donnie chose to leave. When someone leaves the Hess program, their access to his private discussion forum is blocked. To the best of our knowledge, Donnie was not officially “banned” from the Hess forums until he started Start Teaching Guitar in 2011, and that ban was simply for competing with Tom Hess. By this time he had long quit the Hess program, not being involved with it for almost four years.
8) If all this is true, then why all the fuss and opposition?
The detractors of our book How To Teach Guitar all make similar criticisms and appear to be guitar teachers associated with Tom Hess and his program. We would assume that Hess and his group do not want additional competition from new guitar teachers and coaches, so they are attacking the book, and us. Donnie directly observed this unhealthy response toward competition while he was a member of the Hess group, which is one of the reasons he chose to leave it. Donnie has experienced being a target of Hess’ opposition ever since he formed Start Teaching Guitar in 2011.
In closing, we thank you for taking the time to read our response to our detractors and this sensitive matter. We hope we have properly addressed any concerns you may have about our book and its reviews. It is, of course, unfortunate that we now need to defend ourselves against this attack. We would rather delight in the opportunity we have to share our love of music and teaching with others. We view our fellow guitarists and instructors as allies, not as enemies. We invite you to read our book and determine for yourself its value and benefits. We welcome your comments and questions, and we look forward to working alongside anyone wanting to venture into a music instruction business.