Teaching advice

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by rotren, Aug 24, 2005.

  1. rotren

    rotren Member

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    Hello everyone, some teaching advice wanted.
    I'm getting asked to do lessons regularly, and I have given lessons to maybe 7-8 students the last year. I find I am often not sure how to teach them really well.

    One problem is the material - I've tried a few books and going over them together with the student. Most of them get bored quickly. I find it hard to balance the theory and practice. There is not much material you have time to go over in a half hour lesson. The stuff on http://www.teachguitar.com/ seems like it could be very useful, anyone tried any of those books?

    Another problem is giving them work to do. Mostly I've showed them how to play a song in the lesson, explaining what chords are being used, technique, etc. Should I record background tracks on a CD, print out tabs and notation, the whole shabang? That is a lot of work for me to do for each song, and it's not how I learn songs myself.

    Anyway, if you have any suggestions on how to teach beginners (and slightly more experienced ones), please let me know.
     
  2. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    I have the teachguitar.com source on my computer. A lot of the info is just common sense stuff that experienced players take for granted. However, what we know from years of experience and instinct - and the explanation of such, in a lucid manner, to others - are entirely separate things (hence, the old phrase, "a good player does not necessarily make a good teacher"). In this respect, that particular reference source does shine. A phrase that you'll often hear from students, as an educator, is "I can't _____", and your ability to deal with such is paramount. The teachguitar.com site addresses such common stumbling blocks as the facility of barre chords for inexperienced hands, as one example. I call on the site regularly, and often print out diagrams and such for my use in teaching.

    I've looked at a lot of books designed for the newbies, and have settled in with Aaron Stang's Warner Brothers series.

    http://www.music44.com/X/product/EL03842-W

    A lot of the books out there are are just insufferably stuffy or cheesy. While Stang's series is not entirely devoid of cheese, it does present a broad overview that seems to appeal to a wide variety of folks - excerpts from the classics (Brahms, Mozart); traditional melodies and folk songs; cultural tunes (Scottish, Carribean, Mexican, Irish); blues and boogie woogie; surf; metal; country, etc. Several of my fellow teachers have went with this series as well.

    Initially, you will also probably need to put some time and effort into organizing a set of staple reference materials, to be used in addition to any books that you work with. Staples for me include a diagram of the piano keyboard (for harmony and theory reference); intervalic fingerboard shapes; chord, scale, and arpeggio diagrams; an overview of the CAGED system; and several varieties of blank worksheets - tablature manuscript, standard notation staff paper, guitar fingerboard diagrams, chord block sheets.

    A trap that you'll want to avoid, especially as your client base grows, is taking too much of your work home with you. You want to focus on doing your work as you're being paid to do so. Bring a CD boombox with you, as students always want to learn their fave tunes. However, students sometimes bite off more than they can chew, so it's the teacher's job to provide reality checks for such occasions. With regard to learning tunes, I try to steer the students toward being able to scratch and dig for themselves a bit, via ear training and chord analysis (give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime). I do encourage students to check out available tablature, with the disclaimer that much of what is available on the internet is just plain wrong. I explain to students that if they want to work on a tune that I'm not familiar with, they need to bring a CD and any tablature that they've managed to obtain.

    When I do work on material in my free time for a student, I make sure that it's something that can be universally applied with other students, in the future. If you chart or tab something out, immediately make copies for your files. Better yet, type your lesson material into your email - it's neat, concise, and available for printing out.

    Working with intermediate and advanced students does require some forethought. With experienced players, I require in advance that they write out a list of goals, short term and long term, as well as what they like and dislike about their playing, and where they want to go. This not only streamlines the efforts of myself, it affords the student more bang-for-the-buck. There have been a few instances, upon receiving the student's projected goals, that I've referred them to a stylistic specialist (this is just good business practice - a podiatrist will not with clear conscience take on a client that requires brain surgery).

    Staple hardware for me: yellow highlighter pens, ink pens, pencils, extra picks and cable, Intellitouch clip-on tuner, metronome.

    I've been teaching off and on since 1984, and my current weekly clientele floats between 35-40 students. Best of luck with your endeavors.
     
  3. rod horncastle

    rod horncastle Member

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    Good advice there Tim!

    I have to say that often guitar teachers are way to hard on ourselves. Our students are too lazy & bored. They don't want to do the hard work yet want the JOY of music. Every Piano teacher I know says "please open book 1 to page 1 & begin. Practise your scales and chords. No you won't be learning any Elton John songs till you Memorize all positions of the major & minor scales".

    Imagine if we said that to most guitar students. (oh yeah! they do quit when it gets hard). I'm impressed when I meet any guitarists that know the language of music. Which isn't very often where I live,.

    Anyway, Sorry for unloading. Teach them Major/M
     
  4. rod horncastle

    rod horncastle Member

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    Good advice there Tim!

    I have to say that often guitar teachers are way to hard on ourselves. Our students are too lazy & bored. They don't want to do the hard work yet want the JOY of music. Every Piano teacher I know says "please open book 1 to page 1 & begin. Practise your scales and chords. No you won't be learning any Elton John songs till you Memorize all positions of the major & minor scales".

    Imagine if we said that to most guitar students. (oh yeah! they do quit when it gets hard). I'm impressed when I meet any guitarists that know the language of music. Which isn't very often where I live,.

    Anyway, Sorry for unloading. Teach them Major/Minor/blues - scales & chords and they'll be ready to begin making music. Also teach them to play along with any country/ rock/ blues songs by ear and they may turn into a useful musician.
     
  5. rotren

    rotren Member

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    Thanks for the advice! One of the problems I run into is that a student doesn't want to learn the major and minor scales - he says he doesn't have any use for them. He wants to play songs and play blues licks. I show him some, but I also explain that the diatonic chords and their respective scales are the fundamentals, and time should be spent on learning them too. The problem the student runs into is that he doesn't really learn much; everything he knows is by memory and the knowledge to "connect the dots: isn't there. Oh well.

    I find it hardest with beginners. I'm not always sure where to start, and what work go give them for next lesson. I think I might need that teachguitar.com stuff - it seems it would help me organize lesson material to send home with the student to work on.

    Thanks for the feedback, it is very useful to hear advice from someone who teaches guitar a lot more than I do.
     
  6. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    Thanks Rod,

    I have to remind myself that not every student that I take on is going to have a fire under his or her butt, and a true desire to learn. The thing I've gathered about maintaining a somewhat stable client base is that a healthy balance between "fun" and "work" must be achieved. If I don't strike that balance, I lose clients.

    Before assigning a student work in any particular area, I always play for them an example of something pertinent to the proposed assignments, that I think they'll perceive as being cool, as based on what I know about their tastes.

    However, as you say, some people are just downright lazy, period. For those that say, "I wanna play like _________", and then don't pursue the subsequently designated assignments - my reaction is not mean-spirited, but it is brutally honest. Typical response from me is "You need to decide to decide whether or not you want this; if not, then perhaps you should consider pursuing another interest." At that point, they have the option of getting into the game, or continuing to pay me, while simultaneously wasting their time and mine.

    Ear training is a big part of my agenda, as is working with a variety of styles; for instance, learning to play convincing 3/4 accompaniment on a traditional Mexican folk song might not be high on their list of priorities at the moment, but if they stick with music long enough, they'll ultimately be glad that they delved into areas that they might not have been initially interested in. This I can guarantee.

    I require that my students trust my instincts, judgment, experience, and agenda, such as it may be. They are free to pursue the services of another educator at any time.
     
  7. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Member

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    As teachers, I feel that we have the responsibility of guiding students toward music, regardless of whatever their guitaristic preferences might currently be; our college educators did not ask us if we'd instead prefer to pursue long division or multiplication, when we found ourselves in their algebra and trigonometry classes. However, as the old saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink." If teaching music is as vital to your financial income as it is to mine, there is a certain amount of yin and yang here.

    You get a feel for teaching beginners after a while. Theirs is basically a clean slate. I initially ask them to learn the names of the strings, show them the basic layout of the instrument, and show them how to use a pick. I don't accept beginning students unless they are willing to learn to read standard musical notation, which is an effective agenda, in and of itself. Chords and other concepts I introduce slowly but surely. Actually, it's typically the guy that's been playing for a year or two that I seem to have the most difficulty in teaching. You know the guy - he's got a slew of bad technical habits, has highly narrow musical tastes, is stubborn, and has the world by the balls - even though he's never worked a paying gig in his lifetime.
     
  8. Tyrone Shuz

    Tyrone Shuz Member

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    (for better or worse!).

    Anyway, I tend to take the student wherever they want to go. will tell them my preferences on what would make them better. But I try to make it as fun as possible for the student, and eventually they'll become "hooked", and wish to learn music and how it works as opposed to their favorite tune.

    Some students "get it" early and lots of theory is covered early. My naturally talented students that like Mall Punk see me vetoing their song choices for being too easy after the first couple that sound like that.

    I always have my students make long song lists of tunes they like and have on CD. They'll bring 'em in, and I'll bang 'em out for 'em, in chord chart form, and tabbing out single note lines if necessary. But if it's too easy, I'll try to get them to find I (or i) and figure it out from there.

    Because each student takes on information differently, I haven't been happy with books in general. I've long wanted to write one myself, but I face the same dilemma all the other authors do.

    But I will say that Keith Wyatt from MI has some fantastic beginner books that are useful, and well laid-out. Start beginners out with basic "cowboy chords" and give them exercises to change between them, and start with EASY strumming tunes as soon as possible.

    Remember, a guitarist's primary job is rhythm, even shredder's like Gilbert and Wylde have to play chords till their solo comes!
     
  9. Priestunes

    Priestunes Member

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    I've had my share of instructors over the years, and I have to say that my second instructor (the first electric guitar lessons) was my favorite. He was a few years older than me, a complete scatter brain, had funny shaped glass ornaments stuck in the couch cushions, and was a blast to watch. He taught me After Midnight and The Core and I played those two songs for weeks, and had a ball. His methodology was to show me some song and let me play it as loudly through his Fender amps as I wanted, and then take my five bucks. I didn't learn a whole lot more, but I learned to play loud and if it got stupid sounding, he'd correct me. More than anything, now that I think about it, he taught me how to control the volume of an electric guitar, which came in very handy when playing in bands. I've been in bands ever since. I can't stand not being in bands and feel stilted when just playing for playing's sake. He showed me blues scales, but quickly showed me how to play phrases, then how to make up my own based on the scale and the popular phrases (Freebird pulloffs or that Stairway to Heaven series of bends... stuff like that). So it was really loose and not at all heady. That stuff came later.

    Other teachers showed me more complex chord structures and how to use anchor notes and what scales to play over altered chords.... and that was all very helpful, incredibly so, yet there was something really neat about the first.

    Cool thread. Thanks for writing!
    :cool:
     

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