Sticky notes on the wall of the Wikimedia Foundation office, 2010-10-26
By Ragesoss (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve been to a Teaching Guitar Workshop, you’ve put your questions down on Sticky Notes and passed them to your instructor. Sticky Notes are our crude – yet effective – way of taking questions and setting everyone on the right course.

If you weren’t in South Berwick, you’ll have the pleasure of reading what Shelley Brobst, guitar teacher extraordinaire, had to say in response to the Sticky Notes from her Teaching Guitar Workshop class.

1. How would you hold a pick?
There are a variety of ways guitarists choose to hold their pick. We have seen many pictures in a variety of method books that show ways to hold the pick. Many of these place the pick against the index finger of the right hand. The “top” of the pick is then lined up with the tip joint in the right index finger and on the side of the finger. Then the thumb covers the pick holding it to the side of the index finger. The other fingers of the hand is then held with a loose fist. Some guitarists choose to have more of a “pinching” position on the pick with the finger and thumb.

You can think of the pads of the thumb and index finger holding the pick. In either case generally, the pick “attacks” the string at a angle and not directly perpendicular. Various gauges of picks require you have more or less contact with the face of the pick against the string(s). You should experiment with a variety of pick thicknesses so that you familiarize yourself with sound production each gauge provides. Purchasing medium picks for your classroom will provide a solid basis for students beginning to learn how to use the pick. Happy Strumming!

2. PG13 Guitar Terms!
If you’ve ever taught guitar to middle school students, you know there are many terms that can cause chaos in your classroom. The nut, G-string and the D may elicit many giggles and inappropriate comments or gestures by your students. There are more boys in my guitar classes than in my other music classes. As a mother of boys, I do know that there are many times that boys can be downright rude… they think funny.

I remember being very nervous to teach the nut and g-string in my first guitar class. In reality, there was only one or two boys who giggled under their breath. I ignored their behavior and that was the end of it. Since then there has occasionally been that one obnoxious kid who has to be the center of attention. Reminding that student that my classroom rules include being respectful and interrupting class is disrespectful is usually enough to deter the behavior. Since this happens at the beginning of the year (in the first week or two of class) kids are still getting to know me and “testing” me out. I do try to avoid making the correction about what was said and focus on the disruption. I find this gives the child an opportunity to fix his behavior to be appropriate.

3. Any tips/strategies for special needs students in guitar class?
We all make accommodations for students. If students are physically able to play the instrument (make chord shapes, use their fingers, pluck) they should be able to learn in your class. You can pair students to help each other. Make sure you are in control of the pairing so you can ensure a partner who can be helpful is helping a special needs student. Being “good” at skills on the guitar doesn’t necessarily make a student good partner. You may need to make an accommodation in your assessment. Get to know what your student needs and make the accommodation to help that student be successful in music.

4. How do you fund 1. broken strings; 2. repairs for knicks and broken neck; 3. picks?
Know how other classes are funded! You may be able to purchase books from the “textbook/consumables” budget. Each district has its own regulations for funding music classes. Many teachers are able to charge a “lab fee” to students for consumables like strings and picks. Don’t forget your parent teacher association/organization.