To Teach Guitar

Discussion about guitar playing from a diverse group of people with different tastes and levels of experience.
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Snoogans775
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To Teach Guitar

Post by Snoogans775 » August 24th, 2004, 12:10 am

I have always loved teaching, from explaining physics equations to my friends to teaching music theory to myself. I have recently been teaching my bassist some fretboard music theory, and she has had incredible improvement, although she's been taking lessons for a couple years, she was never able to understand what she was doing. It's very exciting for me, because I did think about what I was doing, and followed a crude but structurized method in teaching her.

I am only 17 years old, but where would I find an opportunity to teach more, or where would I find a place to learn guitar teaching method outside of a community college or studying guitar books?
I don't follow my dreams, I just ask em' where they're going and catch up with them later.
-Mitch Hedburg
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NoteBoat
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Post by NoteBoat » August 24th, 2004, 4:23 am

Learning how to teach guitar is a real problem, because there's no standard way to approach things - and that's true whether you go to college or use books. The core of the problem is that guitar (plectrum guitar, anyway) hasn't been around very long as a musical style of expression, and the people who laid the groundwork were largely self-taught, so they approached it from different directions. Other instruments, like drums or piano, have been around long enough so there's agreement on 'pedagogy' - the structure of what skills are needed before you can master later skills.

There's agreement on some aspects: you'd teach dominant seventh chords before altered ninths, for example, but we can't seem to agree on the best starting point. Where all percussion teachers will begin with 4/4, one note per beat, and all piano teachers will begin with a five-finger position in C major, some guitar teachers start with chords, others with notes. There's even disagreement on method within families: Mel Bay's method teaches all the open position notes first, while his son Bill Bay's method gets into decorations like slides and bends before completing the open position.

The essential skill of teaching is in taking a concept and presenting it in a way the student understands. If you can do that, you can teach anything you know, and if you can't do that, you'll never be able to teach (no matter how good you are at performing). Two other critical skills for success: being able to analyze the supporting skills needed - for example, I wouldn't teach economy picking before alternate picking - and being able to understand and solve mechanical and conceptual problems your student faces.

If a student is having trouble fingering a chord, the problem could be: in the finger position, the thumb position, the angle of the neck, the angle of the guitar face, or the posture of the torso (and I'm probably overlooking a few causes). You need to be able to figure out what's needed to get your students from point A to point B.

It's also very helpful to understand why things aren't done... lots of books show the open G chord with fingers 1-2-3; if you know that using 2-3-4 allows for faster changes in most situations, you can keep your students from going down paths that will require later changes.

I wouldn't ignore either college or method books - in fact, I took both approaches. Neither one is the key to success, though - that comes from doing it, analyzing what you're doing, and adjusting as needed.

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argus
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Post by argus » August 24th, 2004, 5:30 am

If you're teaching someone who has never touched a guitar before it can be a bit intimidating - just remember that they don't know what to do and they're relying on YOU to show them. If anyone's going to feel intimidated it's them, so start by making them as comfortable as possible.

Hopefully you know your material inside out - chords, scales, theory, etc... If you don't, learn them. Get them burned into your brain. They should be second nature to you.

I'll tell you what I've been doing with my current student, who is 11. When he started, he didn't really know anything about guitar.

Week 1 - Open chords G C D A and E, 12 bar blues in G, D and A. Taught him powerchords. Tried barre chords (E shape) but his hands are too small to reach around properly.
Week 2 - Revising material from previous week, learning notes along the first five frets of fifth and sixth strings. Taught him B7, Dm, Em, Am, and 12 bar blues in E. Taught him the major scale.
Week 3 - Consolidated material from first two weeks. He didn't have a metronome before week 3 so now everything is practiced with it (I got tired of tapping my foot). Taught him A7, E7, D7, G7 and C7 - this will make it easier down the track. Taught him minor pentatonic.
Week 4 - Taught him F, which was a bit daunting. This is the only chord (apart from 6-string e-shaped barre chords) he's had major problems with so far, but I should have seen that coming. Taught him A-shaped and Am-shaped barre chords which he found much easier.

Next week if he's practiced F, I'll go over the 12 bar blues in C. Apart from that, he's learning the notes on the first 5 frets of the D and G strings, and how to play the major scale with the root on those strings.

And that's it so far. At the start of every lesson we go over the previous material - both to warm up and to check if he remembers it. He's going really well, although his timing could use a bit of work.

So if you're serious about this, this is what you should keep in mind:

* When you start your first lesson, ask the student to tell you everything they know so you know where to start.

* Make sure the guitar is in tune at the start of every lesson. Not so much for your benefit, but it's a good habit to get the student in to.

* If he doesn't have a metronome, make sure you have one. This was one thing I've overlooked, and it's pretty important.

* Bring a notebook or a binder with looseleaf pages... and plastic pockets. It's a bit embarrassing turning up without a pen or paper, so make sure you have some. I say looseleaf since you can (1) detach them if you need to hand out notes and (2) keep track of them if you need to take notes of your own.

* Bring plenty of picks. The student might not have one, or might find their current one uncomfortable. Fork out those extra few bucks next time you're at the guitar shop. It might help your student, and they're cheap as chips so it's not as if you're giving them your kidney.

* Keep a spare set of strings handy, the student might not have any. Mine hasn't broken any yet but I'd rather be on the safe side.

* Try to finish on time - even if you don't have plans afterwards, they might. It's just being considerate, really.

* Remember to write down things for the student to practice. Go over it with him at the end of each lesson to make sure he understands exactly what you want him to do.

* Remember to thank the student on the way out when you get paid. Again, it's just common courtesy.

* Most important of all, WORK AT THE STUDENT'S PACE. It seems as though I've taught this guy a lot (see the 3rd paragraph), which I may have, but he feels comfortable with it and he remembers it all and that's all that matters. If I was teaching him any faster I don't know if he'd be able to catch up, any slower and he might get bored.



I hope you find all this useful. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add them.

Snoogans775
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Post by Snoogans775 » August 26th, 2004, 7:32 pm

thank you, both of those are very enlightening. I'm surprised by the pace at which the student was able to learn, I couldn't even fathom that. thank you very much, but how would I advertise myself?
I don't follow my dreams, I just ask em' where they're going and catch up with them later.
-Mitch Hedburg
Did you see that!

dhodge
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Post by dhodge » August 27th, 2004, 5:07 am

The two best places for you to advertise would be where you'll find the most people interested in learning the guitar. Obviously, putting up a poster in your local guitar stores is a start. But I'd also put up some posters at your school. Especially since you've got good word of mouth there already from teaching your bass player!

Peace

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argus
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Post by argus » August 27th, 2004, 7:47 am

You could always just play the guitar when you have guests over and see if they bite. It worked for me.

Snoogans775
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Post by Snoogans775 » August 29th, 2004, 1:29 am

I think the school advertising would work great, lots of people know my guitar playing, and if that turns out scarce I'll try the guitar store, thanks a bunch
I don't follow my dreams, I just ask em' where they're going and catch up with them later.
-Mitch Hedburg
Did you see that!

slothrob
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Post by slothrob » August 29th, 2004, 7:21 am

There always seems to be flyers for guitar teachers at every pizza shop I go to (right next to the real estate ads and the "win a cruise" contest box). I don't know what the business arrangement is. Maybe pizza shop owners tend to have nephews who want to teach guitar.

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