What order should guitar teachers teach things in?
Wouldn’t it be great if guitar playing could be taught by following a simple list of ‘to do’s? We would just tick a box each week and print off ‘material for lesson 57’…
This is pure fantasy of course.
One-to-one tuition just doesn’t work like that.
Universities can offer fixed programs of study because they have students of a very similar standard and who’ve been working towards and preparing for that specific degree program for years.
Even then, it would still be better for students to have a more tailored approach to learning; one that took into account their own strengths and weaknesses.
But it’s just not practical.
In one-to-one guitar tuition we teach guitarists of a wide range of abilities, who have wildly different requirements. So what order should guitar teachers teach things in?
Well this depends on many factors; but especially these three:
Age and structuring your guitar teaching
Firstly it depends on the age of the guitar student.
A six year old guitar student would probably find chords very difficult as they don’t have the physical strength needed.
Single line melodies may be the best option to being with and they will almost certainly appeal more than chords.
Guitar type and structuring your guitar teaching
Secondly, it depends on the type of guitar they play and the style that the guitarist is interested in.
The minor pentatonic scale will be relatively unimportant for a classical guitarist but it’s probably the most important scale of all for an electric guitarist.
Student response and structuring your guitar teaching
Thirdly, it depends on how each student responds to certain material.
Whilst a very academic guitar player may love music theory, another student may find it impossibly complicated and demoralising.
One student may like nothing more than working on technique, whereas another may find it mind-numbing.
Good guitar teaching is nuanced
As should be clear, good guitar tuition is not a one-size-fits-all process. One-to-one guitar lessons should be tailored to the individual’s needs, interests, level of skill and academic ability.
It will make sense to teach some things early on to some guitar students, but much later on when it comes to others.
Some areas of study may need to be revisited more than once.
Some may need to be introduced in stages whilst interspersed with other material.
If we try to apply a rigid program of guitar teaching to all your students, we’re destined for failure in many cases.
Sometimes the order does matter
In the Be A Guitar Teacher course I outline certain specific areas of of teaching guitar where the order does matter. But even then we need to be adaptable and not push on ruthlessly without taking other factors into consideration.
The question ‘what order should guitar teachers teach things in?’ has a different answer depending on which of your guitar students you are teaching.
Recognising the individuality of our guitar students does not mean that we shouldn’t have well-defined programs of study.
It would make a lot of sense to have a series of alternate picking exercises that goes from the most basic approach, such as picking on a single string, right through to an advanced exercise that’s packed with string skips.
The same is true for having a program that guides guitar students through the essentials of music theory. A well laid out series of lessons that guides your guitar students through the basics of rhythm and chord work, for example.
This sort of structuring is both good and desirable. Just be flexible and discerning when it comes to actually delivering the material to students.
|Stuart Bahn is a professional guitar teacher in London, and creator of the Be A Guitar Teacher video course.|
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