When I began teaching over 20 years ago, my first students were teen-aged or older. Their hands were fully developed and able to make all the beginning chord shapes. It was no problem keeping them engaged for a 30 minute lesson. Then one day, a mom asked me if I’d teach their 3rd grader how to play guitar. I froze. The mom is standing there waiting for me as I searched my brain for an answer. I wanted to say yes, but the thought of teaching a little kid stopped me dead in my tracks. I had no experience in teaching someone younger than 15. How hard could it be? After a long pause…I said yes. Gulp!
They were guinea pigs to be sure – those first few kids – lab experiments. Put your little finger here. Put your ring finger on that fret. “What’s a ring finger?”, they’d say. “How come you keep looking at the clock?”, I’d say.
Lately, I’ve been meeting every couple of weeks with two other church music directors. We get together to share music ideas, support one another, and otherwise commiserate about our work as ministers of music. Good times. One of these fellows has started up a music school in his church. Now that’s a cool idea! When I asked him how it was going, he got kind of a bewildered look on his face. “There are too many little kids that want to learn guitar.”, he said. “It takes them half an hour just to make a G chord!” (He grimaces while grappling with his imaginary guitar.) The three of us laughed because we’d all been there and done that.
For a young kid, the enthusiasm about playing the guitar flies out the window at about the same time he/she discovers how difficult it is to form the basic chords. The once gung-ho guitar student transforms into…a clock watcher! With a reassuring voice, I say, “Put this finger here, and this one here, and this one on the same fret, here.” Thoroughly convinced to the contrary, the student observes, “My fingers don’t do that, Mr. Shelby.” or, “That hurts my fingers!” As Dr. Smith from the classic TV series, Lost In Space, used to say… “Oh the pain, oh the pain!”
I wished for a way to teach guitar to young kids engaging enough that they’d forget to look at that darn clock. The first few weeks of learning how to make basic chord shapes and building up calluses can be tough so the learning needs to be fun! I needed a fun and engaging way to teach guitar to young kids!
I was prowling around one of my favorite music stores one day, when I came across Alfred’s Kid’s Guitar Course 1. Hallelujah, my prayers have been answered!!! I bought a sack full of them and have been using this course for my young guitar students ever since. Alfred’s has a Course 2 and just recently, they’ve come out with a combined Course 1 & 2 book that even has activity pages! Would you believe they’ve even got a matching Course 1 & 2 Flash Card set, Music Writing Book, and Note Speller Book as the perfect complements to the method books?! (Many of their method books come with enhanced CD and/or DVD options, too.)
“I don’t teach guitar to kids!” is something you’ll never have to say thanks to the folks at Alfred’s. With their help, clock watching has become a thing of the past in my studio. If you’re looking for a guitar resource for young students that will more than motivate, inspire, and make learning the guitar fun, be sure to check out these resources from Alfred’s Music. (You’ll find sample pages in all the links above.)
I look forward to reading about the methods or resources that you’ve found successful at your studio (whether guitar or any other instrument). Please share your ideas in a reply below. That’s one of the things I love about Music Teacher’s Helper – all the great ideas that are shared on this blog. There are many posts I’ve read here that have helped me be a better teacher. In my next post, I’ll share a story about two challenging young students (siblings) that I thought teaching would be completely hopeless. See you next month!
Check out last month’s post: Why I Use Music Teacher’s Helper