Week two in guitar class we concentrated pretty heavily on notation on strings one and two. Most all of my students learned the notes B,C,D,E,F, and G in sixth grade with their introduction to guitar. So theoretically this is review but after not playing for a while, I pretty much have to start over but can move pretty fast as it come back to them quickly.
I am blessed to have a Promethean Board in my classroom that I scan all our music into, and so one of the things that I find has really helped my students is to have them come to board and highlight notes that are on the second string.
This also helps me in my teaching. I can say, “Play me a yellow note.” Follow it up with, “Name that yellow note….. What fret is that yellow note.” When students are getting it, I remove the highlighting.
Something else that I like to use my Promethean Board to help with is by creating digital flashcards. It’s basically just a powerpoint that I use like traditional flashcards. This first one I use multiple times and make it into a competition. It has different slides with notes of the first and second string. I go around the classroom and have students name a note while I time them as a class. If they get it wrong they have to guess again until they get it right. Here is a place where using a little “peer pressure” I find really motivates students to learn their notes.
The first day I use the flashcards to have students tell me the names of the notes, the second time I use them we name the string the notes are on, and the third day we name note, string, and fret. I am attaching the file here for anyone who’d like to try it with your class… Notes of Strings 1 and 2 Flashcards. It’s nothing super special, but I find it really works well.
The other flashcard powerpoint I like to use breaks down notes of the second and first string into one measure slides. I find that sometimes looking at a whole song can overwhelm students when they’re first learning their notes, so using this let’s them focus on just four notes. We play the flashcard together, I ask them questions about the notes and how to play them, and have them discuss with their stand partner when things don’t sound correct. I tried to sequence the cards by first showing them names of notes with the note on the staff and the fret number all displayed for them to see. Then I start taking some of those aids away until we’re left with just the notation. I will again attach the file for those interested in trying it out. Strings1 and 2 playing flashcards
Our test this week was over Ode to Joy. I gave students a choice to play their test either in class or go out into the hallway and record their test to a digital recorder. As an incentive to play to an audience I let students who played for the class only play line 3 and those playing for the recorder needed to play lines 3 and 4. It was about half and half on students deciding to play in class as opposed to the hallway.
Tests this week turned out very well. Lots of A’s and B’s! I did have about 5 or 6 students who are obviously struggling with their notes who I urged to come in for help and to retake their tests. With some of these students I find that they just have to learn my expectations, and that I’m going to demand a lot of them and they are going to need to pay attention in class and practice. It doesn’t take long for them to figure things out and a majority of students are very eager to please.
Week three brings a chord test on G, C, and D7. I find that students have a definitive preference most times about playing notes or chords. I told them in class today that whatever their favorite is (notes or chords) is probably NOT the one they need to practicing the most. Most people like what they’re good at, and I warned them to make sure they practiced what they’re struggling at when it came to practice time at home.