guitar

Want to multiply your time and your earnings? If so, you might enjoy teaching a group of several students—or a crowd of them—all at once. Instead of teaching one student at a time for eight hours a day, you could teach those eight students for one hour!

This article is part of a series for new teachers. Or for seasoned ones.

In addition to monetary benefits, group classes are a wonderful way to turn an otherwise solitary pastime into a team effort. If you’ve ever felt competition from activities such as dance, soccer or hockey, you realize the draw of groups. So let’s look into it further!

Details to consider

Ages

  • What age range will I teach?
  • Will I include children with adults, or keep specific ages grouped together?
  • How many am I willing or able to teach at one time?
  • If students are elementary age, can I handle the wiggles of a group of them? Real Simple offers eleven tips from teachers for managing groups of children, some of which can be adapted to a group guitar setting.
  • If students are teen-aged, will they feel more inhibited in a group?
    • I have found that a mix of ages is desirable—the students help one another, they don’t have as many age-related hang-ups, and appear to relax and have more fun.
    • I love to have adults in the group—especially seniors. It’s a fun dynamic!
    • It seems like most activities are geared for people of roughly the same age. It’s especially noteworthy that group lessons can bring the generations together.

Where to teach

  • How much space do I have?
  • Will I rent a room? How much will it cost? Is it comfortable? Furthermore, is it air-conditioned, ventilated or heated? Also sound-proofed enough? Is there convenient parking? And is there a waiting space for parents or drivers?
  • Can I do this at home? If I do, will it disrupt my family? Or my neighbors?
  • Do I need to be concerned about insurance? Here are one teacher’s thoughts.

Group dynamics

  • How much individual attention can I give in a group setting?
  • If potential and natural abilities vary widely, how can I keep faster-advancing players challenged while not discouraging struggling ones? (Join me next month for ideas on both of these.)

Materials

  • What materials accommodate a group?
    • Because it’s difficult for me to find a one-size-fits-all curriculum, I create my own courses. I give students binders and hand out each week’s lesson sheets, 3-hole punched. I include a variety of information, chords, rhythm, and a touch of note reading. Every week there will be new songs on which to practice chords and strums. To make it attractive, I use public-domain clip art and my own graphics so I don’t run into copyright issues.
    • I send each student mp3s of the songs so they can listen and learn them if they don’t already know them. These are good practice tools, too.
    • No matter the time of year, I like to teach them at least one Christmas song. Some have just three or four chords, and what a boost for a student to be able to pull off a beautiful piece come December!

How long and what to charge

  • How long will each class last?
    • I have found that 45-50 minutes is about right. It allows for questions after class, and for one group to leave while the next arrives. Tender fingertips don’t last much longer anyway, at first!
    • I’ve tried thirty minutes. We barely get tuned and play last week’s lesson. Not enough time.
  • Will this be a semester class, or a certain number of weeks?
    • I have tried four, eight and ten-week sessions as well as semesters. Four seems pointless. Even at eight weeks many youngsters are just getting their fingers toughened up enough to enjoy it, and switch chords quickly enough to keep the rhythm going. But ten weeks or a full semester proves successful.
  • What will I charge per student?
    • Since it’s not one-on-one, I don’t charge as much as for private. However, groups take a great deal of planning and energy. Don’t under-charge!
    • Charging too little may encourage less serious students.
    • Find out what other groups charge. Like dance or martial arts.

Policy making

  • What policies will I create?
    • First of all, will I offer makeups?
    • What will I do if the weather is bad and class can’t be held? And what if I must cancel for some reason?
    • Will I teach more than one group class per week and invite students to attend any or all of them? And will that be in lieu of makeups?
    • How will I handle purchase of materials or students needing new strings?
    • Will I allow electric guitars in class, or just acoustic?
      • I only allow acoustics. Dealing with amps or with volume is a headache I can do without in a group setting.
    • Will students be required to pay in advance?
      • In my studio, yes. I hate chasing payments. Also, I don’t want to spend precious class time dealing with money. So they pay the full amount ahead of time.
    • How much time will I expect students to practice?

Questionable lyrics

  • Finally, what if students request songs with inappropriate lyrics?
    • This is a big deal to me. I’m very concerned about the words my students see or sing. Yes, I know they probably hear a lot worse on the radio or in the halls at school. But that does not mean it’s acceptable! In addition to specific words, age-appropriate subjects are important to me, too.
    • Because of my convictions about lyrics, I either use white-out, swap in acceptable words, or say “Sorry, I don’t teach that one. Let’s find another you like.” After all, both my reputation and my conscience are involved.

In next month’s post, I’ll share about the lessons themselves. Planning for how to make the group work. And equally important, what information to cover. Ideas that have worked for me. Join me then!

A group of enthused musicians creates buzz for your studio. Are you ready to give it a try?

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GROUP GUITAR CLASS Week by Week

(Part 2 of 3)   

By Robin Steinweg   guitars on stands

The past two months I’ve shared some of the advantages of offering group classes. The first, June 27, covered Group Lessons, specifically a group voice class. July 27 featured Part 1 of Group Guitar.

Here’s an outline of what I cover in this eight-week beginner class.

I record the songs from each class, and email them as MP3s to the students.

Digital recorder, Tascam DR5  Digital Recorder

I record them at tempo so they can listen and learn the songs.

Then I follow up with a slow version which includes pauses before each chord change.

 

Week 1

-parts of the guitar (for both classical and steel string; I used pictures)

-finger numbers

-basics of tuning

-the all-important How to Read a Chord Chart

-how to strum (basic downstroke)

-easy versions of the C and G7 chords. Also complete fingerings of these.

 

Their first song requires only one chord: “Frere Jacques” (“Are You Sleeping?”)

-hints for a clear sound

-another one-chord song and then a couple of two-chord songs

-a strum in 2/4 time

0731184137  (Gavin’s got it down!)

Note that in the early classes I choose songs with as few chord changes as possible.

 

Week 2   [···]

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-little-boy-guitar-portrait-smiling-image37124566At least that’s what I used to say when a parent asked me.

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 setMusic 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

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