Question for guitar teachers... please help!

arthur rotfeld

Silver Supporting Member
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7,049
Depends on the student, level, goals...I rarely teach scales to beginners. It's fine if you do, but consider, why?

To make reading easier? As a tool for improvisation? Etc...might not be relevant to the given student. Might be imperative.

With brand new students, my first few lessons are all about getting some simple melodic and chord work established.



I would generally go with scales before arpeggios, but there's a case for the other way around.

Can you tell that I think these things are on a case by case? Lol
 

Yer Blues

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8,549
I always ask my students what songs they would like to learn how to play. It starts there.

I teach them whatever it is they need to play those songs, in fases of course, always demonstrating how the ingredients needed are used. All knowledge of notes, chords, melodies, riffs, I always teach them in relationship to the songs they are learning.

I encourage them to bring songs they want to learn to our lessons, and pose as many questions about them as they can think of. In my experience, the music itself is the best motivator there is.
I think that is how my teacher taught me. He asked what bands and type of music I liked and would relate what he was showing to me to the bands/songs I liked. First song he showed me was "Knocking on Heavens Door" (I liked GNR), so that was sort of how I learned some open chords (G, D, C, and Am). Eventually he taught me barre chords and put them together in "Hotel California". And then on to scales and various chord extensions.

I did a lot of "learning/playing" on my own though because I really wanted to play. I have given lessons to friends and just couldn't get into it because they would never put any time into it on their own. Every week was revisiting the G or C chord.
 

JonR

Member
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14,886
In which order do you teach things???

Say...

Scales, basic chords, arps???

Please help.
Assuming you're talking about beginners...

Tunes > notes > chords > maybe scales

"Tunes" and "notes" means the C major scale, essentially, in open position.

Simple tune (or two) first. I might have one tune in C major, one in G major - so in that sense I guess you could say I start from scales, but it's really only partial: note positions on maybe 3 strings, open position. The main idea is just to get the fingers working (finger number = fret number), practising basic fretting technique, and also keeping time - and of course producing a piece of music (not just an exercise). The "scale" (theory) is neither here nor there.

I don't teach chords until lesson two, or sometimes three. Two reasons: chords are more difficult than single notes; and chords won't produce recognisable songs, not for some time. In my experience, students of all ages like to go home from the first lesson with some well-known melody they can (almost) play - a recognisable achievement in as short a time as possible. (Students who can sing appreciate chords more than those who don't.)

All the time, the focus is on technique and sound (music), not on theory. Theory is just a way to help us talk about the sounds, nothing more.

Something like arpeggios is nowhere on the horizon for my beginners. Neither are scale patterns above open position. (I very rarely have any students who want to be lead guitarists straight away ;).) It's all about grasping the absolute basics of technique: fretting, picking, strumming.
 

slackandsteel

Member
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929
Teach them an easy song with one or two chords to get them fired up. When I was 12 I borrowed a guitar from my cousin and he taught me "Tom Dooley". 2 chords. I practiced those chords and sang that song and wanted to learn more. Next I took lessons with a guy that taught me popular songs of the day (this was 1966) like "Satisfaction", "Wipeout", "What I Say" etc and a few months later I was in a garage band. I learned all the theory stuff later, but I got good fast at picking up songs on the radio without it and playing the easy leads note for note.

I had friends that also started at the same time that I did and quickly washed out. Their teachers started them with Alfred's Guitar Book 1 and learning to read notes and play Polly Wolly Doodle.

F' that !
 

johann

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2,746
thanks to all of you guys.

Anyway, suppose you were going to teach someone who's really interested in theory (scales, arps, chords, etc)

How would you approach it??
 

JonR

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14,886
thanks to all of you guys.

Anyway, suppose you were going to teach someone who's really interested in theory (scales, arps, chords, etc)

How would you approach it??
I think what guitarjazz means is that scales (at least) are just the beginning. In the same way that words are the beginning of grammar.
We can't talk about theory at all without first understanding (and naming) notes and scales; and notation before that.

So, for a theory student:
1. notation (essential for illustrating concepts on page or screen)
2. rhythm (duration, meter)
3. pitch (notes)
4. major scale (C)
5. key signature, accidentals
6. intervals
7. triad chords
8. cadences
etc

...but then I'm pretty much just reading out what most theory books have on their contents pages. The great thing about theory is there's agreed conventions, so it's pretty hard to go wrong with a standard text book - although I suggest picking 3 or 4 of the common best-sellers, because there are still differing perspectives and depth of detail. (Remember that "music theory" is not instrument specific; no such thing as "guitar theory", eg.)

I'd also recommend 2 or 3 websites, to at least help you sketch out a course plan:
http://www.musictheory.net/
http://www.teoria.com/en/tutorials/
http://www.dolmetsch.com/theoryintro.htm

And - most importantly - make sure the student plays each stage on their instrument. Theory is pointless unless you know what it sounds like. (All the notation, terminology and writing is only a way of approaching the sounds.)
You can get guitar-friendly theory books if you want them - such as:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/063406651X/
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,618
Yep. Those things are taught to children all the time in their music lessons without being projected on them as 'theory'. The basics of musicianship, key signatures, time signatures, reading (unless Suzuki) are taught as the music goes on, coinciding with the music lesson. Notice that the famous Piston theory book is called Harmony. Once you get beyond the nomenclature, this topic is the gateway through which you must enter. You can study music for a long time without knowing the details of harmonic analysis. Unless you need to impress a student with big words I'd teach them how to play and skip theory until they are ready.
 

arthur rotfeld

Silver Supporting Member
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7,049
Not to be too pedantic, but the Piston book is a harmony book-it only looks at that one aspect of music theory. In other words, harmony isn't synonymous with music theory.
 
Last edited:

Crocker

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1,078
It depends on the student, their understanding, needs, wants, ability, requirements as i see them, comprehension, etc. Most things have a degree of simultaneous instruction.

My generalized "study program" (to use your expression) starts with some basic note reading, a scale as soon as the student knows enough notes, and the chords that go with the scale, all subject to their understanding, ability, requirements, comprehension, etc. However, generalized is just that, since every student is different I custom taylor the program to suit. This is why I consider every method book inadequate on their face, though some are excellent when augmented by supplementary resources and a good teacher.

Edit: Fwiw, I teach a scale early so that there is a structure to start them learning a simple familiar melody by ear. If they can play an open position C major scale, they can then try to play, for example, Happy Birthday. Sometimes they will need to given the first note, and usually some interval coaching is needed.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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21,618
Not to be too pedantic, but the Piston book is a harmony book-it only looks at that one aspect of music theory. In other words, harmony isn't synonymous with music theory.
Agreed, but disassembling the components of music and discussing them or labeling them as 'theory' is unnecessary for young students. I played music on several instruments, learned to read, learned solos from recordings for probably 12 years before ever taking a theory course. By then I was ready and thirsty.
You can be a great cook and know virtually nothing about chemistry though basically you are doing science experiments every time you cook. Music theory, understanding what makes things tick, should come after a certain amount of music making experience IMO. I don't include the components of learning to read music as music theory even though they could all be examined more deeply in that light. Or maybe I'm just grumpy from fighting the Christmas crowds and hearing to much piped-in Christmas Muzak!
 

JonR

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14,886
Yep. Those things are taught to children all the time in their music lessons without being projected on them as 'theory'. The basics of musicianship, key signatures, time signatures, reading (unless Suzuki) are taught as the music goes on, coinciding with the music lesson. Notice that the famous Piston theory book is called Harmony. Once you get beyond the nomenclature, this topic is the gateway through which you must enter. You can study music for a long time without knowing the details of harmonic analysis. Unless you need to impress a student with big words I'd teach them how to play and skip theory until they are ready.
Just to say I agree. :)

It all depends what we mean by "theory", of course ;).
 

Wmacky

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557
Do any teachers actually test the student to see if music instruction is possible, or would be a waste of money and time? what would that test be? Would you teach someone that could not sing, and had no note interval recognition.
 

josh_michael

Member
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419
Besides parts of the guitar in the first lesson, and musical terms and techniques (left & right hand) worked in whatever is done, I start with reading music (unless the student ABSOLUTELY did not want to do that) and chords. Then once some chords and basic right hand strumming technique is mastered, better start getting into some songs that the student like. Without going into to much detail, scales would be next, then arpeggios. But all these things are really mixed in with each other.
To answer your question simply though: Chords>Scales>Arpeggios.
 

josh_michael

Member
Messages
419
Do any teachers actually test the student to see if music instruction is possible, or would be a waste of money and time? what would that test be? Would you teach someone that could not sing, and had no note interval recognition.
If the student wants to learn, why not teach them regardless of their talent?
 

josh_michael

Member
Messages
419
thanks to all of you guys.

Anyway, suppose you were going to teach someone who's really interested in theory (scales, arps, chords, etc)

How would you approach it??
Unless you've been teaching for a really long time, it's always easiest to work from an established format. That being, find a good theory book and just work from that. Or, if you are teaching the student to read music, most of those books will have the necessary theory already worked into the program.
 

arthur rotfeld

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,049
Do any teachers actually test the student to see if music instruction is possible, or would be a waste of money and time? what would that test be? Would you teach someone that could not sing, and had no note interval recognition.
If someone wants it, they get it. Everyone can get something out of lessons, if they apply themselves. Those who put forth little effort know it and will either quit or step it up.

So, no test for me. There are some teachers who don't work with kids, beginners, people who can't already play at pro levels. I'm not that guy.
 




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