By Robin Steinweg
Group classes are a great way to reach more students, multiply your time and promote your studio. I taught a group vocal class over the summer (Group Classes) and a group guitar class. Find the first two guitar class posts here (Group Guitar part 1 ) and here (Group Guitar part 2).
What I cover in weeks 5-8:
-how to tell the key of a song
-transposing, review how to make your own chord charts, and the 3/4 strum
-the “Happy Birthday” song. You’d be surprised how many accompanists I’ve met who can’t play it!
-another parody I wrote for this class, with only 2 chords, to the tune of “Clementine”. This one I personalized with their names and some positive traits:
1. In a church one sultry summer, round a table sat The Six: sore fingers, sore brains, but they strummed their acoustics.
2. Guitars ready, keep it steady, press your fingers till they bleed. Making music is so fun! What more in life could you need?
3. Play the 2/4, play it over and over again. “Almost got it,” says the teacher, “Take a little rest.” But then…
4. …comes another even harder, will we ever get it right? Now the strings are out of tune, but do I loosen or turn it tight?
5. There is Jerry, always ready, and Malea’s cheerful grin, Leslie’s great dry sense of humor; Robin says, “Play it again.”
6. Asia strums and Doris hums and Gavin, fearless, forward goes. By the end of this guitar class, every one of them will be pros!
What I choose to review and for how long depends on how they did at the last lesson, and what I think they need:
-the 4/4 strum and appropriate songs
-a demonstration that 2/4 and 4/4 strums can be interchangeable
Note: whenever I introduce new chords or strum, I choose songs with as few chord changes as possible. I aim for a good mix of musical styles and tempos.
I sing the melodies until they can. Sometimes I say the strum aloud: DOWN, downup downup downup—and we pause at the chord changes until they have their fingers in place. Once most have the hang of it, I make sure to do parts of the songs slowly and parts quickly to accommodate all class members. It’s equally frustrating whether you can’t keep up, or you’re being kept from going as fast as you are able, so I do some for both.
-how to decide which if any chords can be left out of piano sheet music to make it more guitar-friendly (Some piano music has chord changes on every beat, and with guitar it’s not only unnecessary, but can sound choppy. We white-out what we don’t need.)
-caring for the guitar
-more practice hints
-asking them to prepare for the final class by choosing a favorite piece to play (Even if every person chooses a different song, we’ll play them all.)
-favorite songs of each class member—if it’s a song with a dozen verses, we’ll shorten it!
-pictures of favorite guitar accessories, how to choose guitar strings and how often to change them
-an index of all songs with page numbers and an alphabetical index
By now I’ve learned my students’ individual tastes, so I might be able to match a couple of new songs to them.
And that’s it!
Suggestions for a Final Performance:
1. play favorite songs from the class with each other
2. play at an assisted living or nursing home
3. short recital for family members and friends
4. play “Amazing Grace” or “Ode to Joy” at a church service
5. set up on a street corner with cases out for tips J
6. give the class a couple of pieces that the vocal class worked on, and let the guitar class accompany the vocalists
Do you have other ideas? Have you had successes with your own group classes? Music Teachers Helper readers would love to hear about it.