Being a Good Guitar Teacher and the Two Common Styles of Teaching

To me there are two main styles of teaching the guitar,

Notation, via a tuitional book By method of favourite song

Learning By Notation:

This is a common way a lot of classical teachers teach. This method involves teaching the fundamentals of music and notation first. Here is a shortlist,

guitar parts sitting or standing pick holding finger numbering music staff note naming bars note values time signatures sight reading notation for all six strings playing sight read notation on all six strings playing notation songs to a fluent stage

This method in the end is a great way of learning the guitar but from my experience is best suited for children under the age of 12 or adults that realise the importance of reading sheet music and rhythm lines. Either way I find it only holds the attention of the average student for 10 to 15 lessons before they want to learn popular or favourite songs.

A lot of new students that come to my lessons who have played before will always say “I can play quite well but I don’t know anything about music or notation”. It seems to be a known fact that you don’t really have to be strong in notation or music theory to play the guitar. Because of this the guitar is a popular instrument to learn, and for the fact of video clips and the rock band image. I find that a student learning violin, cello, trumpet or any other classical instrument will be more focused on lessons and practise because they are aware of the regiment that comes with that instrument. Because of this rebel behaviour that comes with the guitar a lot of teachers use the method of learning via favourite song. This way the student stays more interested in the lesson program.

Learning by Method of Favourite Song:

This is the most popular method of teaching by far, both for the student and teachers. A lot of teachers I know use this method; the main reason for this is because it gets results fast across a broad range of students. When a new lesson starts I will explain the two methods of learning and usually give them a choice on which path they would like to follow, in most cases they will leave the decision up to me.

Choosing the right method for the student:

Age is a main factor for teaching method selection. I usually find that primary school children don’t have a lot of peer group influences when it comes to music. They like what they like and this usually stems from their parents choices of music. Therefore they are easily influenced when it comes to a song they play on the guitar and happily practise what they are given. Children usually have to be taught a little slower and step by step, not missing a thing on the way as they will get confused. Also try to create some games they can play in lessons, things like:

guessing chord shapes timing them to see how fast they can change from one chord to the next memory card game using diagrams, photos, TAB, notation of the same chords or notes Staff note guessing game

I have found a few games on the internet and software learning tools that are useful.

Guitropolis: www.guitropolis.com (software using games and lesson plans to learn from) Music Theory Net (www.musictheory.net this site is mainly for music theory but has a couple of trainers that are helpful)

Because children under the age of 12 are a blank page, it gives you more flexibility with teaching notation and some music theory rather than rushing them into playing popular songs right away. The age limit is not a set rule but more of a guide line.

Some younger students mainly want to learn the guitar just for the image. The guitar, drums & singing are probably the most popular instruments to learn simply for the fact that kids are bombarded by music video clips, idol type shows and movies showing the rock & pop lifestyle. If we compare a student learning the clarinet or cello to someone learning the guitar, there is a large attitude difference. Someone learning a classical instrument will usually understand the regimented learning process involved with learning these types of instruments.

Overall learning should be about FUN with the instrument so keep the lessons at a balanced level of structure vs. songs

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By: Danny Poole
























About the Author:

My teaching philosophy is to encourage the interest and passion that my students have for music, by allowing them to learn the guitar through their favourite songs. There is no use in trying to force sight reading and music theory on a teenager who wants nothing more than to be in a band just for fun. I have always found music can only be successfully taught once someone has been playing for a little while, and they start to love the instrument. As they improve on the basics, their natural desire is to become better, and at that moment they realise they need to know (and most importantly, want to know) the theory they initially despised!