Teaching classroom guitar is fun for kids. You play tons of music, work on getting better, learn theory and good practice habits. But, what if you want to unlock an even richer experience? You could integrate other disciplines! Bringing seemingly unrelated disciplines into the guitar class teaches students that making music does not happen a bubble.
Following are a few suggestions to make your guitar students really think about the instrument and the music they play.
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Have a rule upfront – no swear words! In music class you tend to do a lot of instrumental pieces. Have your guitar students write a poem to go along with the music. The poem does not necessarily have to be sung, it can just be about the feelings and ideas the music evokes. Desired Impact: Your kids will listen to the music from a new perspective and try to add to it.
Make a Collage
What better way to learn about a composer and her songs than to make a collage. Let’s choose JS Bach – a picture of Bach, a map of Germany with a pin in Leipzig, a picture of a church in Leipzig, a Well-Tempered Clavier. How about Bob Dylan? – a picture of Bob, a harmonica, a guitar (electric?), a lot of album covers.
Study the Engineering
Go beyond the diagram of where the fret board, nut and strings are and take your students into the craftsmanship and engineering of guitars. We wouldn’t have instruments if it were not for engineers trying to understand how things work. In fact, many schools now have guitar-building classes as part of their STEM program (How cool would it be if your students built the instruments they played?). Let your students dive in a little bit, you might have the next Leo Fender sitting in class.
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Inherent in music is math…don’t say, “yuck”! If you play music you need to count, you need to understand fractions (quarter note, half note, eighth, etc.), and you need an understanding of balance. Have your class do crazy math activities like figuring out how long a piece should take e.g., 60 bpm, 4/4 time, with 15 measures should be played in one minute; Allegro, 3/4 time, with 60 measures should take about 90 seconds (I heard Bartok was fanatical about this).
These are just a few suggestions to get you thinking about cross disciplines in your guitar class. Try adding something new and your students will never forget their guitar teacher!