Bill Swick Bio PicIt is important to engage students in playing the guitar before teaching skills like note reading and rhythmic counting. Have a plan to get students playing before opening any method book.

When starting each beginning guitar class, I have 7 songs that are written out in what I call Cuban Tablature. It is simply two numbers. The first number represents the string and the second number represents the fret. Happy Birthday would start out like this: 3/0 3/0 3/2 3/0 2/1 2/0. I let the students work privately and picked the tunes they want to learn. This all occurs in the first week or so of the class starting, before there is any conversation about note reading, etc. I also teach them a one-finger C chord and a one-finger G7 and we sing a half of dozen songs with those two chords. The whole concept is to engage the students in playing before getting too academic.

What I have discovered by doing this is that many students experience the “desire for mastery” for the first time ever. Once they experience that desire to play a simple melody completely without stopping and without mistakes, they are hooked. After a week or so, once every student has mastered 2 or 3 songs, we have our first in-class recital where each student performs their best prepared work for the rest of the class. While most students are apprehensive about performing in front of others, once they do it, they want to do it again and again. I schedule weekly in-class recitals every Friday so students can demonstrate what they have learned that week.

The Monday following the first recital is when we begin talking about note reading and introduce simple rhythms and the 3 notes on the first string.

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