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Teaching Tips


KJ

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My twin eight-year-old nephews want to learn how to play guitar and read music. My sister-in-law contacted a local conservatory to arrange lessons, but there is a waiting list. In the meantime she asked if I would get them started by giving them some lessons. I was wondering if anyone could recommend some published materials to use as study guides, and any other tips. Remember, they are only eight, so they will be happy to start out learning "Old McDonald", "Twinkle Little Star" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and not the latest from Mudvayne(?).

 

Any suggestions will be appreciated.

 

Thanks,

 

 

 

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KJ

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bari man low

KJ

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"50 million Elvis Presley fans can't be all wrong" - John Prine

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Since they're likely to be in the hands of professional instructors, I think you're best bet as their "cool" uncle is to encourage their love of music. Play some good discs for them. Teach them some simple things and "jam" along with them. Let them experience what it feels like to play an instrument. There's always time for the rudiments later.

 

Whatever you teach them, make sure to present it in a fun and encouraging way.

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Try a variety of approaches. Scott may well be right with the Mel Bay...I used it though and a lot of students quit because they were bored to tears...so if you do use it, I'd use it along with practical chord studies, etc.

 

I agree with Dan's assessment of exposing them to some cool guitar stuff.

 

My own approach for strict beginners is very, well, blasphemous to traditional teaching. Hand positions are the hardest for beginners to get. I got sick of having students drop out while using Mel Bay, only to have been taking lessons for a couple of months and still not know any chords. So, early on, I had students practice I-IV-V cadences on open chords. That didn't work, either...because many beginners couldn't change from a G to C to D to G without these dramatic "spider-fingers" pauses between each change. So...I got an idea.

 

I figured 90 percent of kids coming for lessons didn't want to be the next Segovia or Carlton or Pass. Most of 'em wanted to know how to play what I'll call "Campfire Guitar"...KUM-BAYA....y'know. So...chords became my early focus. I figured if they drop out after two months, at least they'll know all their open chords and be able to play with Uncle Josh at Church Camp.

 

To that end...I taught the chords in a sequence that was, if non-theoretical, was certainly practical in terms of finger position. I started with the simplest chord...Em...then, Am...C...FMaj7...D7...G. If you play those chords in open position, you'll see how the fingers naturally flow from one position to the next. Easy for even little fingers to do (I've got a 7 year old kid doing great!). From there, I'd have them skip a chord...going from Em to C...etc...making each exercise a little more challenging. Then, on to what I call a "Doo-Wop" progression...G, Em, C, D7...and before you know it, they can play the I-IV-V changes. Then, we can go on and take it from there...be it to Mel Bay...whatever.

 

But you'd be surprised at the interest-holding power they get from being able to strum simple songs in a very short time.

 

I know it's blasphemous...but it works.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Damn, Ted, that's a good idea! I've known too many people (even adults) that gave up because they found it difficult to switch between chords without stopping. I, of course, would tell them to just keep practicing... but it can be very discouraging when they feel like they "just can't do it."

Scott

(just another cantankerous bastard)

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If you *must* teach someone that young...:

 

Open G using just the G, B and G fretted at the 3rd fret is easiest. You can then try an arpeggio of the fragment of Am using the second finger on A on the G string and C on the B. The arpeggio then turns into a two finger chord later on... etc. Chords introduced as arpeggios first work better because there isn't the onus to switch chords "fast" at first, but they still learn the shapes.

 

"Sesame Street" as a theme is easy and more "exciting" to a kid than Mary Had a Little Lamb.

 

 

8 years old is too young for guitar IMO though. Too dangerous, they're too malleable in spirit at that age and can quickly either get the wrong impression or hate it alltogether and never try it again. Doesn't mean it can't work, but I think piano lessons are better at that age - which is what I recommend to people who are potential clients (I'm a guitar teacher), and I then tell them to let the kid fool around with the guitar unrestricted in the mean time. That developes both curiousity and interest, while providing *some* practical real world knowlege (the sound gets "higher" when you go in this direction; turn these knobs the string gets tighter and goes "up"; etc.).

 

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New and Improved Music Soon: http://www.mp3.com/chipmcdonald

Guitar Lessons in Augusta Georgia: www.chipmcdonald.com

Eccentric blog: https://chipmcdonaldblog.blogspot.com/

 

/ "big ass windbag" - Bruce Swedien

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