This week’s main goals are:
• Teach 2 new chords
• Have students be able to change chords in a song
• Strum up and down
• Compose using 3 main chords.
The line leader grins as she comes through the door. All the kids seem excited to come in and have another go! Straight away I have the kids go to their square on the carpet. We start with a review last week’s slides to refresh their memory and help the kids who were absent understand what they are expected to do. Posture, posture, posture.
Get Your Guitars
Remember that I have a procedure for getting the guitars to their spot. I’m not ready to trust that they can do it by themselves so, I walk them through it one more time. All this rehearsal ensures my guitars will stay in good shape for the long haul. We really want these guitars to last for years to come. There is still that one student who doesn’t get the next guitar in line but, goes for the pink case instead. This of course makes all the other guitars lean over threatening to fall. Grrrr… Once that has been addressed and all the students are at their seat and in quiet position, I tune all 20 guitars. My record: 2 minutes 05 seconds to tune a classroom of 17. (While most of them stayed in tune “close enough for the classroom” from last week, my tuning procedure really helps cut down wasted time.)
We watch a short video clip about how the guitar is made while I am taking attendance.
15 Minutes Gone
Next we review the “Horse With No Name” (HWNN) chords and get them strumming down with that thumb. I do not to pass out picks yet so students can build large muscle movements into their strumming hand. It’s amazing how that little piece of plastic smooshed between the finger and thumb can be so debilitating to a person’s coordination. All kids are successful this week at changing chords and strumming down to the beats! Now for the hard part – strumming.
On the board is the Em chart with a rhythm line showing down and up strum symbols. For right hand rhythm practice, students must mute the strings (touching with fingers) by holding the neck of the guitar (including strings) with their left hand. They should not squeeze the strings. I teach them to flick down with the back of their index finger and up with the back of their thumb. This motion is similar to what will happen when they get a pick between their fingers. The second rhythm line is activated to disappear when I touch either down or up. Systematically I chose to get rid of the up strums or the down strums until I’m left with the HWNN rhythm going in the right hand. Now I tell students the Em chord is on the down strums and the “other chord” is played on all up strums. After some practice about 80% of the class can do this with me.
By the Book
There are several method books that you could use to teach elementary guitar. I’m using the Guitar for Kids Method & Songbook from Hal Leonard. Now, I show them the simple C chord and have them put it in their finger and strum quarter notes then eighth notes. They like this! We’re jamming now! Four quarter notes, Eight eight notes. Then play the “Are You Strumming?” song. That was easy!
Next: G7. The same procedure as above. One of the tricks I use to get kids to use the tip of their left finger is to have them show me the OK symbol with their left hand. When making the ‘O’ with the left hand, finger and thumb are touching at the tips of the fingers. This is exactly how you want the finger placed on the string with the thumb supporting behind the neck. So I have them open up their ‘O’ and put the neck of the guitar between. Now they should get clear string ringing for the C chord. Success! Holy Cow! only 12 minutes left!!!
Play the C and G7 song “Hokey Pokey” with the recording. Others you could play are “Skip to My Lou” or “He’s Got the Whole World”. These are great to get kids singing and playing the guitar and you could get a little ear training in too! Now for the real fun – composition!
Next slide has the 3 main chords we know; Em, C, and G7. There are 8 empty measures and the chord letter names are infinite cloners. Students fill the measures with chords and we play their composition. I only allow one chord per measure and straight down strums on the beat to start. Others suggest changes to the work; adding a second chord in a measure or changing the chord entirely. All students are engaged now… even the ones who are complaining about that chord change in the measure. If I had more time and technology, (insert long sigh…) I would have students submit a recording of themselves playing their composition.
Time to pack those guitars already. Next time… notes on the first string!