GROUP GUITAR CLASS Week by Week

(Part 2 of 3)   

By Robin Steinweg   guitars on stands

The past two months I’ve shared some of the advantages of offering group classes. The first, June 27, covered Group Lessons, specifically a group voice class. July 27 featured Part 1 of Group Guitar.

Here’s an outline of what I cover in this eight-week beginner class.

I record the songs from each class, and email them as MP3s to the students.

Digital recorder, Tascam DR5  Digital Recorder

I record them at tempo so they can listen and learn the songs.

Then I follow up with a slow version which includes pauses before each chord change.

 

Week 1

-parts of the guitar (for both classical and steel string; I used pictures)

-finger numbers

-basics of tuning

-the all-important How to Read a Chord Chart

-how to strum (basic downstroke)

-easy versions of the C and G7 chords. Also complete fingerings of these.

 

Their first song requires only one chord: “Frere Jacques” (“Are You Sleeping?”)

-hints for a clear sound

-another one-chord song and then a couple of two-chord songs

-a strum in 2/4 time

0731184137  (Gavin’s got it down!)

Note that in the early classes I choose songs with as few chord changes as possible.

 

Week 2  Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Financial Business, Music Theory, Practicing, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips

Mr. Arpeggio Book

Student workbook and assignment book to coordinate with game board.

It is so exciting to start a new school year. I usually take August off to give myself time to get ready for a new direction in the fall. In my never-ending attempt to keep kids engaged in the study of piano and music, I create a different theme and activity set each year. This year my theme is World Music, and I’d like to share with you how I have put this to work.

Superheros

Game pieces to move around the board; little superheros.

Mr. Arpeggio Map

Game board. Students move a space for each day of practice.

As the basis for my activities I chose to use an assignment book and game board from Keys to Imagination, created by Michelle Sisler. (http://www.keystoimagination.com/) There are several themes available, and I am using “Where in the World is Mr. Arpeggio” to coordinate with my world music theme. Each student gets a
workbook that includes assignment pages, along with activity pages at the beginning of the book which correlate with the game board. I purchase these books for the students out of their fall deposit money. A vinyl game board is pinned to my bulletin board and games pieces depicting superheros are added. The game board depicts a map of the world with a trail for students to follow as they track down clue cards to find Mr. Arpeggio, who has been stealing musical symbols. The clue cards also include interesting history and composer facts. Students progress on the board according to the number of days they have practiced the previous week.

In order to add a competitive element to the game, I also hung an even larger world map (under $15 at Hobby Lobby) on another wall and marked out a route for the students to race around the world.  Students will choose a cute paper luggage tag on which to put their name, and then move the tag along the route as they accumulate points. In order to get on the map they need 15 points to get to Denver International Airport. From there they work their way to New York City, on to Paris, then Shanghai, and eventually end up in Los Angeles. Their prize reward increases at each destination. They will earn points by collecting the previously-mentioned clue cards, bringing their books, playing their scales cleanly, writing compositions, completing theory pages, playing at recitals, and other activities and goals.

large world map

Large map I added to have a race around the world.

During weekly media lab time I will add in world music activities on the computer. I may also use some of Keys to Imagination’s “Are We There Yet” studio series. This curriculum provides many activities related to studying world music. I will incorporate the world music theme into my group lesson activities and any special concerts or field trips we attend this year.

Are we there yet

Multicultural activities for group lessons and media lab time.

Media ceiling view

Media room decorations.

Students will also be choosing a piano piece to study from a foreign country. I usually have a theme-specific recital sometime during the winter so the students can share these pieces with family and friends. I’ll encourage them to write a report about the country and/or the composer and maybe share some of those facts before they play.

ceiling flag strip

This long banner ties it all together.

To set the mood, I ordered very inexpensive decorations from www.PartyCheap.com in the world theme—lots of flags! I may leave these up all year, or move some of them around from time to time. I have little cards to send out before lessons begin letting students know about the “world wide search” and how I need their help to find the thieving Mr. Arpeggio!

I’d love to hear from other teachers who use a theme each year for motivation!

 

 

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Posted in Financial Business, Music History & Facts, Promoting Your Studio, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

It is that time of the year again – back to school craziness!

photo-2This is a great time to order new music for your music studio, as most publishers have back-to-school promotions. Aside from my favorite methods and teaching staples, I also like to check out what is new and expand my studio library.

In one of my previous posts, I talked about how I will be offering four learning tracks in my piano studio this year: Fun Track, Recital Track, Festival Track and Competition Track. In this post, I would like to share some of the music I will be using for my Festival Track students.

In all my years of teaching, I have always believed in the value of music festivals. While not every student is suited to the stress and extreme demands of music competitions, I think music festivals offer a nice alternative for most students. There are many kinds of music festivals. The ones I am talking about are those where students are given an opportunity to perform one or more memorized pieces before adjudicators in a non-competitive setting, with or without an audience. The key word here is non-competitive. Instead of selecting only one first-prize winner, everyone has a chance to earn a Superior rating, or Gold Medal, or whatever the award is to recognize a job well done. In music festivals, age and level do not matter, older beginners can play elementary pieces and still receive the highest recognition, provided the job is well done. Some music festivals have repertoire requirements, for example a Sonatina Festival where everyone has to play one movement from a Sonatina. But my favorite music festival is one that allows students and their teachers the freedom to choose and play “anything.” My local music teachers association offers one such festival!

When choosing music for my Festival Track students for music festival adjudication and performance, I have the following criteria:

1. The music must inspire practice – it is readily appealing.
2. The music must challenge the student in some way – rhythm, hand crossing, specific pianistic figurations such as extended arpeggios, etc.
3. The music must not be overly difficult from beginning to end – there can be sections that challenge the student’s current technical abilities, but there must also be sections where the student can feel enthusiastic about their progress.

The following fits the bill nicely.

Piano Extravaganza by Robert D. Vandall

Read more…

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Posted in Product Reviews, Teaching Tips

Around the dinner table we had a conversation about music teachers.  Here’s a sampling of what people regarded as their best teachers.

One person remarked that he was never prepared for lessons with his first violin teacher, and was often afraid to go his lesson.  And yet once he was there, his teacher was always friendly, always engaging, and he left feeling happy to have been there, and determined to do better (which he oftinstruments camp 024en did not, because next time he was again unprepared!).  This musician is now quite well known in his style, tours constantly, and runs several music camps focused on encouraging students to express themselves through music.

Another person at the table plays violin but noted that two of her favorite teachers had been piano teachers.  One was a lot like the teacher we just discussed:  any time the student came to a lesson, the teacher took her from where she was, gave her lots to try during and after the lesson, and left her feeling energized, and never guilty about not having practiced enough.  Another of her favorite teachers used to Read more…

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Posted in Teaching Tips

By Guest Blogger, Donna Schwartz.

Last time, I gave you 2 simple tricks to read music notes. In many school districts, teachers are pressured into putting on concerts right away, and are told by administrators that the students have to read music right away.  This goes totally against how we learn music, which is by using our ears to listen and our bodies to feel rhythms.

There are many systems that teachers use to count rhythms, with the most popular being the number counting of beats in every measure. I was trained that way myself, but noticed quickly that some of the same syllables for certain rhythms (i.e. 8th notes) were also used to count triplets (i.e. 1 + a).  This would be confusing because triplets are felt differently than 8th notes. I somehow managed to learn how to feel the rhythms in those situations instead of relying on the counting.

The number counting system is good for determining where the beats fall in a measure, but there’s a simpler, well-researched system that is based upon rhythm function. Edwin Gordon’s system allows the student to recognize and feel the big and small beats in duple (based upon 2 small beats for every big beat) and triple (based upon 3 small beats for every big beat) meters.

Since most students are taught the number system, I will explain how this works, but I also want to compare that with Gordon’s syllables to give you a choice. Whatever works is what is best for you! Read more…

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Posted in Composing & Arranging, Teaching Tips

Note Recognition

“Catch a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he’ll feed himself for life!” And so the saying goes.

As music teachers, I’m sure you’d agree with me, that a core objective in our lessons is to develop independence in our students. We don’t want them to be “spoon fed” for years. Rather we want to encourage them to think for themselves as musicians and use their initiative to learn new skills and pieces. Personally, I want my students to learn to read music as quickly as possible and then they can enjoy a lifetime of exploring new music for themselves.

So how do you teach music reading skills? I tell my students that they must memorise the notes but not the music (at first). Here are some resources and ideas you might like, starting this month with:

STEP 1 – Note recognition

MUSICTHEORY.NET
A great starting point is musictheory.net It’s a free web based resource that you can fully customise to your student’s needs. The great thing about this method is that pupils can answer the quiz at their own speed without any time pressure. Select “Note Identification” and then follow the self-explanatory steps. You can always paste the link to your uniquely designed activity to include in the student’s weekly email notes or paste it into their Read more…

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Posted in Music & Technology, Teaching Tips

schubert scorePreparing solo music on your own can be a wonderful experience – it is a bit like meeting a new person and watching their personality and interests unfold over a long conversation and discovering you have just made an important new friend.

In the case of the really great pieces, feeling the layers of meaning reveal themselves to you as you get to know a new piece can be intoxicating; it has even been described as a bit like falling in love.

But how can we be sure we don’t learn mistakes as we prepare our pieces? And how can we learn a piece quickly without straining our voice?

Everyone will have his or her own answer to these questions. In my own work, I’ve found that keeping to a strict method – one that leaves actual singing to quite late in the learning process – makes all the difference. Here is a brief outline of the method I use to learn music quickly and without strain. I hope it will be of use to you too.

 

HOW TO LEARN YOUR MUSIC:  a method for singers

1. Listen to a number of recordings to get a feel for the piece (never listen to just one recording!). Do not sing along.

2. Read the text aloud.

3. Ask yourself what the text means. Paraphrase the text and say your own version aloud to be sure you understand what you are singing about.

4. Read the text aloud again and again until you can say it without tripping up.

5. Working very slowly (nowhere near performance speed), add the rhythm to the text (you are still not singing!) phrase by phrase. I like to start at the back of the piece and work toward the beginning phrase by phrase. This way I am always working towards something I already know. This helps to make important links between sections, and avoids the ‘dropping off a cliff feeling’ when you’re not sure what comes next.

6. Say the text aloud in the correct rhythm over and over until you can do it without error. Do this at a medium tempo – speed is unimportant until much later in the learning process. Strongly resist the impulse to sing! Read more…

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Posted in Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Running a piano studio tends to be a lonely job.

hans-shake_318-23259

Setting up an independent piano studio, I worked alone to make it a vibrant learning environment for budding musicians of all ages. Although I cherish my students and their families and never feel isolated while teaching, they do not provide a sounding board for the administrative side of the business.

My church position requires me to work alongside the choir director, the choir members, a few colleagues when we play duets, professional musicians for seasonal cantatas and the like but, I’m not required to attend staff meetings. I choose my own music and practice a number of times each week by myself.

Writing a blog post or article requires time and space alone with my thoughts AND my computer. Sadly, I look at my computer screen more frequently than anyone or anything else and it offers no human interaction beyond its service as an electronic communication conduit.

As timing would have it, over the past year, I’ve worked with more colleagues than ever before.

Co-publishing a book, planning a conference, and running a camp completely and dramatically changed my connectivity with fellow colleagues. Now, there’s not a day that goes by without a text, a call or email about an upcoming deadline or project that requires team work.

This led me to wonder why it is that so many of us set up our OWN studio, independent of others, in our OWN homes or rented space. We seem to dwell in our OWN silo with only limited social pipelines to the outside world like Facebook, blogs, etc. Why were most of us never encouraged to seek a mentor or partner who could offer advice, tips, an exchange of ideas, and even share a studio or business together upon earning a music degree? Or maybe I just speak for myself? Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Professional Development, Studio Management, Teaching Tips

I thought I’d share something I call The Capo Common-Tone Chord Concept with you in this month’s article.  This is something I use with great success to get new guitar students ready to play music quickly.  In my role as worship director at my church it’s been an indispensable tool in getting new guitar students up and running on the worship team. The first chords most guitarists learn are G, C, D, and Em.  In the key of G, these chords cover the 1 – 4 – 5 – 6m chords that are found in most folk, pop, and rock songs.

Key of G basic open position chords After I teach these basic chords, I usually teach my students a special voicing concept for G, C, D, and Em that is used more widely in the music they really want to play.  After that, I show them how to use the capo and suddenly they’re able to play a lot of music in a lot of different keys! One of the things that used to frustrate me as a guitarist is when I would buy a piece of sheet music only to discover later that the guitar chord diagrams don’t show that actual chord voicings that are being played on the original recording of the song!  That frustration worsened if the song was in a non-friendly guitar key like Ab, Bb, or B.  Even if I learned how to play a Bb barre chord, it never sounded like the guitar in the original recording.  I knew something else was going on that the sheet music wasn’t telling me.  It was only when I discovered this common-tone chord concept that I learned what was actually happening! Here’s how the Capo Common-Tone Chord Concept works:

  1. Place your 3rd and 4th fingers (fretting hand) on the 1st and 2nd strings at the 3rd fret as shown in the diagram below (circled in red).  These two notes (D and G) are the “common tones” that will remain the same for all 4 chords.
  2. Since the 3 & 4 fingers stay in the same place for all 4 chord shapes, the 1 & 2 fingers are the only fingers to that move.  Look at the 1 & 2 fingers in the G chord.  Notice how they move one string over to create the Cadd9 chord.  Very simple movement!
  3. To make the Dsus4 chord, the 1 & 2 fingers split on either side of the 2nd string (like they do in a regular D chord).
  4. Finally, the 1 & 2 fingers land on the 5th & 4th strings to make the Em7 chord.

Capo Common-Tone Chords How to apply this concept:  Let’s say your chord progression is Em – C – G – D.  Try playing the common tone voicings instead of the basic chord forms.  For instance, if you see a C chord in your chart, play the Cadd9 voicing instead.  When you see D, play the Dsus4 instead.  If you come across a C2 (Csus2), the Cadd9 is going to sound great.  This approach might drive a music theory purist crazy – but to most ears all these voicing are going to sound great.  Try it! In the diagram below, I show you how to easily change the G chord into a G5, a.k.a. G(no3), by removing the 1 finger. (The 5th string gets muted by the 2nd finger.)  Now, move the 2nd finger over one string and your Cadd9 becomes a legitimate Csus2 because the 3rd of the chord (that was previously played at the 2nd fret of the 4th string) is now muted.  I love the jangly sound of those treble strings! G5 and C2 But wait!  There’s more!  Arming yourself with a capo, the guitarist’s top accessory (behind a tuner of course), enables you to use these common-tone shapes to play in at lease 5 more common keys! Common Tone Capo Chart No more going into cardiac arrest when you’re called upon to play a song in Bb (or Ab, B, etc.)!  Just slap your capo on at the 3rd fret and play your common-tone shapes!  Try this experiment:  Play the following chord progression using the basic open Key of G shapes - C – G – Em – D.  Try playing the same progression substituting the common-tone shapes.  Now put your capo at the 3rd fret and play those same shapes.  You’re playing C – G – Em – D shapes, but sounding Eb – Bb – Gm – F.  I’m betting both you and your students will love the sound of the common-tone chords and find the concept very, very useful, especially when transposing.  When first learning this concept, it may help to write your transposed chord shapes over the existing chord names in your chart.  After a while, you’ll begin to recognize them and you’ll no longer need to write them in…you’ll be able to transpose in your head! In my next post, I’ll expand this concept to include some inversions. Read more…

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Posted in Music Theory, Performing, Practicing, Teaching Tips

Robin Steinweg

Group Guitar Class

July 27th, 2014 by

Group Lessons, Part 2 of 3

By Robin Steinweg

Guitar-group of kids

My waiting list had grown, especially with prospective guitar students. What to do? I multiplied my time this summer teaching an 8-week group guitar class (read about my 8-week vocal group here: http://www.musicteachershelper.com/blog/group-lessons/).

Part 2: Group Guitar Class

I’ve seen great success with group guitar classes in the past—this was no exception. Here’s how I went about it. You may have excellent ideas, too. We’d love to read about them, if you’d share them below!

*How many in a group? Six students signed up. I’ve had as few as three and as many as thirteen. I’ve been in larger groups myself, so I’d go up as high as twenty. The toughest part of that is tuning. I have them come early for that.

*What ages? Ten to adult. This group had three children (10+) and three adults. Though I enjoy groups of similar ages, I think the ones with adults and kids together are the most fun. The generations encourage and enrich one another, and the adults tend to remove the need-to-be-cool factor. We can get silly or serious. It makes the youngsters more open to songs of a variety of genres and decades.

*How long are classes? I aimed for forty-five minutes, but we usually ended up going over.

*Materials used? This class was for absolute beginners. I came up with my own instructional materials and compiled appropriate songs, which has given me complete freedom to tweak as I go for the particular group. I also have future group guitar class materials for advanced beginners, intermediate, advanced intermediate, and advanced. I’ve often had students stay with me through all five groups, and then enroll in private lessons.

I present most songs as chord/lyric sheets. I decorate with copyright-free clipart.

Each student must have an acoustic guitar to play. No electrics—I don’t like to mess with cords and amps in a group. I’d get hoarse talking over them!

guitars on stands

*Where to hold the class? I’ve taught in my home studio, in my living room, and at two different churches in town, depending on the size of the classes. They all work well.

*Is a group an advantage or a hindrance? Read more…

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Posted in Financial Business, Promoting Your Studio, Teaching Tips