Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaching Guitar Workshop - Day 2

Yesterday was really a quarter's worth of material.  By the end of the day today, we've gone through a semester's worth of material which should be taught in a guitar class that meets every day.  Why do I continue to write out what we did? So I know what could be taught in a semester guitar course and so that I remember what I was taught! The day was divided into the following session topics:

Session 1 - Picking Techniques (Rob), types of picks, rest stroke (picking a string with the pick coming to rest on the next string), 5th position chromatic four-finger warmups, down-upstroke (a.k.a. "alternating picking", pick down on downbeats & up on upbeats, foot tapping helps you feel the down-up of picking

The 21st Century Guitar Method 1 (Aaron Stang, Alfred EL03842CD)

Songs used to illustrate picking techniques:

  • Folk Song, Flamenco Fantasy, The Blues Beat (p. 9) - 1st string melodies; practicing the rest stroke distance , a great CD makes s simple melody come alive
  • Aura Lee, The Boogie Shuffle (p. 11) - 1st & 2nd string songs, practicing rest stroke
  • Oh, Susanna (p. 15) - playing on strings 1, 2, & 3, practice slowly at first
  • Ten Little Indians (p. 22) - down-upstroke

Session 2 - Two Octave Natural Note Scale (Assignment), stretching,

I found the guitar methods book for me: H.O.T. First Year Guitar (Nancy Lee Marsters) What makes it so great? It's written by a former choir director who explains many things that a guitarist would take for granted but which a new player would treat as "secret techniques".  For instance, Nancy teaches you how to move your fingers from one chord to another in a progression (sliding, lifting, moving, etc.).  It may sound like a small concept, but unless the student (or the teacher) learns the smoothest transitions from chord to chord they will not be able to move quickly from one chord to the next.  The red teachers manual has lesson plans, quizzes, and proficiency tests. Our class learned the "A" Progession transitions (p. 12) and practiced that progression playing The Camptown Races (p. 100).

Shelley gave the 30 students in the Level 1 class the assignment of testing out on a 2 octave natural note scale from E 6-0 to G 1-3 by Friday.  The pattern of frets and strings is as follows (ascending):

6th string: 0 - 1 - 3  (E - F - G)
5th string: 0 - 2 - 3  (A - B - C)
4th string: 0 - 2 - 3  (D - E - F)
3rd string: 0 - 2       (G - A)
2nd string: 0 - 1 - 3 (B - C - D)
1st string: 0 - 1 - 3  (E - F - G)

Students would tell her when they were ready to "test out" and go 1-on-1 to a corner of the room during break and play the 2-octave natural note scale in 1st position while calling out the fret numbers.  Special prizes were given to the students who also could call out the note letter names as well.  This is the first assignment she gives her beginning guitar students in the first week of school.  They must also test out by Friday of the 1st week.  The prizes for our Level 1 class? A star post-it on the head of our guitars if we could call out the fret numbers while playing the scale and a sticker on our name tags if we could name the letter names as well.  These scale patterns are shown on p. 22 of H.O.T. First Year Guitar in chord charts and on p. 31 in notation.

Essential Elements

New Chords: full C, Em, full G (with alternate fingerings)

Songs used:

  • This Land is Your Land (p. 15) - review transitions between simple C - simple G - D7
  • Hound Dog (p. 18) - down-up stroke, "Power of One" (if a beginner can't strum all the beats, play the new chord on beat 1 and use the other beats to move to the new chord), common note between D7 & C
  • Eleanor Rigby (p. 24) - full C and Em (using "rock on" fingers); use your arm to pull in on the chord shape instead of squeezing your fingers to make the notes/tone solid
  • Strum Builder 5 (p. 30) - syncopated strums 1 & 2, keep the strum going, just miss the strum on a tie or a longer note (eighth note subdivision)
  • Teach Your Children (p. 36) - practicing syncopated strumming
Session 3 

Rob illustrated LH hand positions for playing scales (parallel) and for playing chords (rotated) using page 10 of the Mel Bay Modern Classical Guitar Method (Stanley Yates, Mey Bay MB21548BCD). He reminded the class that nothing should touch the neck of the guitar except the thumb on the back of the neck and the fingertips on the fretboard.

Rob told us that H.O.T First Year Guitar is a method book which is intended to be taught sequentially from the beginning to the end of the book and is appropriate for 2nd year middle school guitar student or a high school guitar student.  We then practiced pp. 32-35 which have melodies using groups of two adjecent strings (6-5, 4-3, 2-1) which are then combined in a trio.

Essential Elements continued to be the most used book of the workshop.

Songs used:

  • Fourth String Warm-Up, Four Horsemen (p. 32) - notes on the 4th string
  • The Riddle Song (p. 33) - range of melody, chord transitions, piano chord at end (simple G)
  • Fifth String Warm-Up, Blues Bass (p. 46) - notes on the 5th string (reading ledger lines)
  • Sixth String Warm-Up (p. 52), Bass Rock (p. 53) - notes on the 6th string, string skips
  • Strum Builder 7 (p. 44) - bass/strum patterns

Session 4 - Fingerstyle

Shelley started by showing the class a quiet tuning method for a large group. She tuned her guitar first (she and Rob both play on nylon string acoustics) and then instructed us to place our guitars on our left legs with the neck straight up in the air. Since sound travels faster through a solid than through air, she told us to place our left ear on the shoulder of the body and listen as she played a string on her guitar. We could tune very softly using this method because we didn't have to play loudly to hear our own instruments.  The only problem was making sure we were adjusting the correct string peg because the neck was vertical and not in the same orientation as normal when tuning.

Jerry Snyder's Guitar School Method Book 1 (Jerry Snyder, Alfred 17879) Shelley introduced fingerstyle picking and correlated it to classical guitar instruction (p. 63-65). The fingers of the right hand are given Pima abbreviations:

  • Thumb = P (ulgar)
  • Index finger = i (ndice)
  • Middle finger = m (edio)
  • Ring finger = a (nular)
  • Pinky = chicitita (rarely used)
We then practiced alternating "i" and "m" fingers playing two eighth notes on each string, ascending and descending strings.  Since the Middle finger is longer than the index finger, it is normally used to "ascend" from strings 6 to 1. The reverse is true when "descending" from 1 to 6: "i" goes first.  The Prelude (p. 72) was used to illustrate Pima fingerstyle playing. It is a beautiful little duet which gives the student a real feeling that they are playing beautiful classical guitar music.

H.O.T. First Year Guitar, Unit 6 (pp. 61-64) further illustrated fingerstyle playing.  The exercises on p. 63 help the student practice using a rest stroke for their thumb (P) while playing free strokes with ima fingers.  Shelly demonstrated that the ima fingers should touch the meat of the palm every time and not just dangle in the air.  If one finger play, the others should come along with it to touch the palm.  The rest in these exersizes helps the student prepare their ima fingers back on the 1st-3rd strings and their thumb (P) back on one of the bass strings.  Page 64 give further arpeggio and chord changing practice. 

Why should a first year guitar student learn classical guitar (a.k.a. "fingerstyle") technique? Because their are many pop and modern songs which use this technique.  One that was demonstrated was Hey There Delilah. We also played Time is on My Side (p. 66) in the The Essential Elements book using a pimami argeggiation.  I couldn't sing along when I played because I had to concentrate too much on chord changes and fingerpicking.  The second time through was better :)

Session 5 - Qusetions and Answers

Throughout the workshop, students have been encouraged to write their questions on sticky notes and place them on a tag board on the wall for Shelley or Rob to answer later in the day.  Questions this afternoon were about the structure of a typical lesson.

Rob plans 50 minute lessons in 10 minute increments because middle school students can't concentrate on one topic much longer than 10 minutes at a time.  His time plan looks like this:

  • 5 min - warumup
  • 5 min - review something fun or that the class plays well
  • 10 min - notes, RH techniques, picking
  • 10 min - chords
  • 10 min - ensemble playing
  • 10 min - pop melody/ rhythm, fingerstyle/classical

When deciding what should be in a typical daily plan, Rob thinks about the following skills that a guitar student needs to work on each day:

  • notes vs. chords
  • new vs. review
  • ensemble
  • styles
  • pick vs. fingers
  • playing test every Friday
Rob seats his class guitar student in rows of six, with three chairs on each side of a center aisle, about four rows deep.  Shelley runs three columns of two chairs each.  Both seatings allow for easy division of the class into duets (part 1 one side of the aisle, part 2 on the other), trios (Shelley's is by column, Rob has to divide the chairs on the aisle into the 2nd part with the outside two chairs becoming the other parts) and quartets (by row from front to back).  

Both Rob and Shelley number each seat, stand, and classroom guitar so that they can handle papers and classroom management issues.  Shelley goes further by naming each guitar with a famous player's name (Jerry Snyder's Guitar School 1 Teacher's Manuel, p. 7 - Listening Activites for names and styles). This allows the guitar to become a "person"al item for the student and have built in listening activites and writing lessons based on that guiartist's name.  Shelley groups styles in her three column setup by duet partner (e.g. pop, classical, country across one row).

Rob shared the mantra "Ask and ye may recieve. Don't ask and you won't get it" and "If you steal from one person it's called research. If you steal from many it's called research."

A number of websites were shared:
  • Music Publisher's Association (copyright)
  • ClassroomGuitar.com
  • CAmbridge Guitar Ensemble (Shelley's ensemble she plays with in England)
  • DiscoverGuitar.com - GAMA ensemble video featuring Rob's school
  • Teaching Guitar Workshops Facebook page

Session 6 - Small Group Ensemble Playing

Books with guitar ensemble pieces:

Guitar Ensembles, Beginning Level, 2nd ed. (Nancy Marsters, Class Guitar Resources CGR 20)
Guitar Ensembles, Advanced Beginning Level  (Leo Welch, Class Guitar Resources CGR 40)
Essential Elements for Guitar, Book 1 (Will Schmid & Bob Morris, Hal Leonard HL00862639)
Guitar Expressions, Student Edition (Aaron Stang & Bill Purse, Alfred EMCG1002)
Mastering the Guitar, Class Method Level 1 (William Bay & Mike Christiansen, Mel Bay MB97121)
Jerry Snyder's Guitar School Ensemble Book 1 (Jerry Snyder, Alfred 19461)
The 21st Century Guitar Ensemble 1 Student Book (Sandy Feldstein & Aaron Stang, Alfred EL03955S)

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