guitar

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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Playing the Blues“Can I hear your progress on that song we were working on last week please?”

He just shrugged his shoulders and looked at me sheepishly!

“Oh okay then. How about those exercises we were doing? Can I hear how you got on with them?”

He just looked at his feet!

“Oh dear! What HAVE you been practicing?”

Suddenly a mischievous grin appeared on his face.

“I’ve been playing the blues ALL week!!! It’s been driving my mum crazy. I play it before and after school. I can’t stop!”

It never ceases to amaze me how much fun students have at learning to improvise the blues. And not forgetting the kudos it earns them when they can use it to entertain friends and family. Best of all, it’s just so easy to learn!

So this month, here are some free resources to get you started or to add to the ones you use already. I’ve tried to make the sheet music universal to whatever instrument you play or teach (treble & bass clef/guitar & bass tab). I’ve also recorded a slow blues backing track (in G) that you and your students can “jam” with.

Introducing the coolest scale on the planet! Whatever instrument your student plays, they will love learning the  [···]

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Number 5, red

To help me recover from a car accident, my doctor sent me to Katie, a physical therapist. I was surprised to discover parallels between physical therapy and teaching music. I shared five of them a month ago. Find the first five teaching tips here: 5 Teaching Tips

Below are 5 More Teaching Tips Inspired by Physical Therapy.

6. Warm Up First: Cold muscles are less pliable and more prone to injury. It’s best to get the circulation going, blood and oxygen to body parts that will soon work hard. Spend a few minutes on a treadmill or bike; walk; even climb stairs.     Treadmill

Fingers, wrists and vocal cords can also be strained without warming up. Voice students can begin low-to-mid-range and gradually move higher or lower. Piano (or other instrument) students stretch fingers, play scales and arpeggios, and loosen tight shoulders. Correct posture helps.

Make it a habit. Warm up. [···]

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