Photo credit: FlyingPete from morguefile.com
Are you struggling at teaching your guitar classes because you have both beginners and students who have rocked out for a long time? This has been a struggle that I have found myself in and one that I have been asked about by many other guitar instructors.
I have 2 guitar classes composed of seventh and eighth graders; fifty students total for a semester and 100 in an entire school year. In my classes over half the 8th graders in class took guitar class as a seventh grader, and loved it so much they wanted to take it again. It makes it very difficult to teach beginner guitarists and kids who are wanting to soar in the same class. I have tried for YEARS to get my administration to understand that I need a guitar level 1 and a guitar level 2 class….and I get the answer back that the schedule won’t allow such a change. So I make it work.
So how do I make it work? Honestly – it is never going to work perfectly…but here are a few things I have found that help like differentiating.
Let high flyers learn the solo
I do a lot of songs where I can differentiate in guitar class. For example: I have my super talented student learn the solo to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” ….he gets excited to be challenged…the rest of the class gets to learn how to play the blues shuffle, while my high flyer is rocking a killer solo. This helps A LOT!
Bass Guitar is my saving grace!
If I have a student that is super struggling with guitar with note reading sometimes just putting them on a simple bass line (just playing roots of chords) is all it takes for them to really see how incredible they can become with some practice.
Put your high flyer on bass
Sometimes I’ll use bass the opposite way. I’ll find a song that has a killer bass part and put my guitar class high flyer on it. I know I’m crazy, but I have two bass guitars that I run on every song in my concert. Kids fight to play the basses and they are a great way to differentiate.
Use Capos as much as you can!!!
I use my capos a lot too. For my beginners I’ll capo things so they are in the key of G then I’ll leave my advanced kids in a key that forces them to play barre chords.
If I had my way I would totally have two different levels of classroom guitar, BUT having them together really does push the beginners to learn their material quickly (That is one advantage). When the beginner guitarists see the high flyers, they want to strive to meet their level. I have seen them really put in a lot of effort to do so. My high flyers tend to be excellent leaders as well, but I have to keep them engaged. If they are bored, they are going lead my guitar class in the opposite direction. That’s why finding ways to differentiate your teaching is SO important.
Based on Matt Gerry’s Blog