What to teach? So many choices! I want to teach my kids something substantive, but I don’t want to scare them. I hope they walk away inspired. The first hour of your guitar class can be intimidating; fortunately, you can cover a lot in just a little time. Here’s a list of 5 openers for your class.

1. Listen to Different Guitar Music – 8 minutes
Guitar has appealed to people and increased in popularity because of its versatility. It can be used as a lead instrument and guitar players can accompany singers, other guitarists, or themselves! Additionally, the instrument has crossed genres. Play a classical piece, a jazz piece, a blues piece, a rock piece, or a metal piece – there is bound to be a song or two that inspires your first-day players. This video is a little rock heavy, but you should feel free to curate this with the artists and genres you love the most.

2. Teach Good Posture – 7 minutes
Holding the guitar and sitting correctly is part of the do-no-harm strategy. Take a few minutes to demonstrate good posture. If you need a refresher and if you have the A/V capabilities in class, check out this video.

Your kids are going to need correcting over time (I wish 7 minutes would be enough). However, emphasizing the importance of good posture at the outset will – hopefully – set your kids on the right path.

3. Easy Chords – 15 minutes
How do you get a person (young or old) to play guitar in 5 minutes? One-finger chords! Using the top 3 strings (G, B, and E strings) you can play C, E, G, G7, Gdim (a great proxy for A7) – all with a single finger – and Em – no fingers at all! These chord charts alone can set you off on some great songs!

Start off simple with Row Row Row Your Boat using just the C – this is an awesome sing-and-play opportunity. Get the kids to put their index finger on the first fret, second string and set them off strumming only down strokes with their thumb. You’ll play the full C chord to give the song a little bass.

As your class progresses take it up a notch. Play, He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands (C, G7), Elanor Rigby (Em, C), Wheels on the Bus (C, G). Challenge yourself to come up with a tune – there are tons! There’s a lot of work ahead after one-finger chords, but nothing spells confidence like making music out of the gate.

4. Blues on Open Strings – 15 minutes
Play bass on strings 4,5,6. Find any song in A that they might know (blues is always a good bet) and put the chord progression on the board the easiest way for the students to read. Go over the strings using call and response or your most successful method.” Sing “In the Jungle” by rote and assign a single bass note to each of three groups of players. Have them play only when it is their turn. Chord progression: A, D, A, E. Change the string that each group plays and repeat. Any three chord song will work, so you can use a song that the children already know from music books. Play along with: Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” and “Three Little Birds”; Van Morrison’s “Gloria”; Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love.

5. Name the Guitar Parts – 15 minutes
Every musician should know her instrument. Engage your students and have them take turns coming up and physically showing the rest of the class the different parts. Where are the strings? Where is the sound hole? Where are the tuning pegs? Where are the frets? Etc.

If kids need time to select guitars, learn the rules of the class, do roll call, etc., just spread these lessons out – no pressure. Any one of these lessons can sprawl out into an entire hour or more. Remember: keep it light, keep it fun, go at a pace that feels comfortable and they will come back for more!