In the course of becoming musicians, we develop “fingers that play.” There are guitar (fretboard or string) fingers, keyboard fingers, woodwind fingers, brass fingers, and percussion fingers. Students who develop “fingers that play” have opened a lifelong doorway to active music making that can be shared with others.
Of all the “fingers that play,” guitar fingers are used the most for amateur music making. Learning guitar combines well with singing and playing with others in a wide variety of styles of music including popular, folk, rock, country, blues, classical, etc.
Guitar fingers compose. They provide the foundations for creating your own songs. Composers like Paul Simon write about how they sit down with their guitar, come up with a chord sequence, and then begin to improvise melodies/words over the top. Learning a pentatonic scale pattern that can be moved up and down the neck is an easy start for improvisation.
Guitar fingers have ears. After enough oral development, guitar fingers will play what you hear without thinking. Learning to read notation is greatly aided by attaching the process to “fingers that play.” Sight-reading that includes both vocalizing and playing is likely to be more powerful than just one or the other.
Guitar fingers love style. Guitar players learn to play both their left and right hands with musical style that includes attacks, length of notes, and bending or sliding. Playing the blues without bending the strings would be unheard of. Playing certain types of country music without muting the strings slightly would just be wrong.
Guitar fingers know musical function. Guitar fingers play melodies and chords. Learning chord function (as in I, IV & V7) is easy on the fretboard, and guitar fingers learn to think functionally within a key. Move a chord form two frets up the fingerboard, and you can just rename it a whole step higher. Try that on a keyboard.
Guitar fingers are soloists, accompanists, and ensemble players. Those fingers can pick up a guitar in private and provide a satisfying solitary moment. Guitar fingers provide a beautiful support for singing or other instrumental melodies. Guitarists like to play with others in formal ensembles or informal jams.
Guitar fingers get around. Wherever you are — at the beach, on vacation, taking a work break, or at school — guitar fingers (and probably your black case) are with you. Open your guitar case and see what happens to your social life. Guitar fingers can also be used on ukulele, bass guitar, banjo, or mandolin. A choral teacher friend once told me that she keeps her guitar case open in her choral room at all times in order to increase her “coolness” factor. She also reported that some students, who would never otherwise come into the choral room, stop into her room to ask about the guitar (and join choir?).
So, music teachers, therapists, and recreation specialists, give your students the gift of guitar fingers, and you will provide the pathways to a lifetime of active music making.
Guitar Fingers Get Around – by Will Schmid (firstname.lastname@example.org) – 3/22/2013
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