Ted Meyers http://www.guitarworld.com/taxonomy/term/3210/all en VH1 Save the Music: An Effective Strategy for Teaching Young Beginners the Joy of Playing Guitar http://www.guitarworld.com/vh1-save-music-effective-strategy-teaching-young-beginners-joy-playing-guitar <!--paging_filter--><p>Hello. My name is Ted Meyers, and I teach guitar classes at the Ella P. Stewart Academy for Girls Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio.</p> <p>Being assigned the ongoing mission of teaching a new crop of middle school students each year to play guitar on a beginner level in a group setting, I’ve had numerous opportunities to try various approaches to getting the kids to focus on learning to play the instrument without becoming bored or frustrated. </p> <p>I’ve found that the best way to accomplish this is to show them how to play things that sound musically satisfying but don’t require much in the way of technique. </p> <p>These criteria are important because, as I’ve learned, when you’re dealing with young teenagers, you need to hold their attention and give them just enough of a challenge that the task at hand will be realistic and won’t end up discouraging them. </p> <p>One strategy I’ve found to be particularly effective is to get the students strumming chords right away, as opposed to the conventional guitar method book approach of introducing simple single-note melodies that don’t sound very inspiring or “cool” on their own. </p> <p>What I’ll do is teach them some simple chord progressions — meaning chords played in a particular order — that convey a sense of musical purpose and forward motion and sound like something you would hear in a real song, as opposed to just introducing a handful of random chords. </p> <p>This tactic helps captivate the students and keep them focused. I will also, at least initially, limit the chords to only the top three strings (the G, B and high E) and stay in first position, using a combination of open strings and fretted notes. This makes things easy on the fingers while also capitalizing on the superior, full-sounding tone of the open strings and notes played in the lowest positions (within the first few frets).</p> <p><strong>FIGURE 1</strong> is a little chord-playing etude I came up with — an etude is a musical exercise that sounds like a mini-composition — to get the kids started (after we’ve tuned up, of course). It consists of four easily fingered chords: G, Gmaj7, G7 and an all-open G6. Using only the top three strings like this — instead of six, five or even four strings — allows the students to better hear and focus on the individual notes that comprise each chord voicing and how they relate to each other and sound together (like listening to a three-part vocal harmony). </p> <p><img src="/files/imce-images/Ted%20Meyers%20FIGURE%201.jpg" width="620" height="533" alt="Ted Meyers FIGURE 1.jpg" /></p> <p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F78965717%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-jIXMo"></iframe> </p> <p>The first thing I advise them to do, to help insure a good, clean sound when fretting, is to pre-position the ring, middle and index fingers on the high E string at the third, second and first frets, respectively. By doing this, they can then “peel off” the fingers one a time to reveal the next chord in the progression. </p> <p>I find that doing this helps beginners due to their lack of finger strength and calluses, which both develop over time with consistent practice. I point out to them that if the chords do not sound clear, they may need to press down a little more firmly, or the fretting finger on the high E string is not centered properly between the fret bars, in which case, they’ll need to “scoot” the finger a little to their right, closer to the fret. </p> <p>Regarding the strumming, I find that it’s good to get the students used to playing a combination of quarter notes and eighth notes early on, as you would typically encounter in a popular or folk song, and teaching them how to count beats. </p> <p>Consecutive downstrokes are used for the quarter notes, and a downstroke-upstroke combination is employed for any pair of eighth notes, which in <strong>FIGURE 1</strong> fall on beat three in each bar, except the last. So the counting for the first four bars is “1 2 3-an 4, 1 2 3-an 4,” etc. </p> <p>Once the students have mastered this little progression, I then present to them the option of playing the chords in reverse order, which becomes a fun challenge and gives them a greater opportunity to hear and compare the sound of each chord. </p> <p><strong>FIGURE 2</strong> expands on this little progression and introduces a few new chords, for which notes are fretted on the B and G strings, as well as the high E. When playing these chords, it’s very important that the fretting fingers “stand tall” and don’t inadvertently touch or “slouch” and lean against the neighboring strings. </p> <p>It’s a good idea to teach the students to “test out” each chord to make sure they’re fingering it cleanly by picking the notes one at a time. This will reveal any “dead” notes in the chord and fingering adjustments that need to be made.</p> <p><img src="/files/imce-images/Ted%20Meyers%20FIGURE%202-1.jpg" width="620" height="780" alt="Ted Meyers FIGURE 2-1.jpg" /></p> <p><img src="/files/imce-images/Ted%20Meyers%20FIGURE%202-2.jpg" width="620" height="232" alt="Ted Meyers FIGURE 2-2.jpg" /></p> <p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F78965905%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-1hDq4"></iframe> </p> <p>I hope that, as a teacher, you too will have success using this approach with your beginner students. Try coming up with similarly satisfying and easy-to-play chord progressions of your own design, gradually introducing more challenging elements as your students progress.</p> <p><em>Photo: Rob Davidson</em></p> <p><em>For more about Ted Meyers, head to <a href="http://meyersmusic22012.weebly.com/index.html">meyersmusic22012</a>. Check out the photo gallery of Meyers with his students below!</em></p> <p><em>The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education programs in America¹s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child¹s complete education. Get involved at <a href="http://vh1savethemusic.com/">vh1savethemusic.org</a></em>.</p> http://www.guitarworld.com/vh1-save-music-effective-strategy-teaching-young-beginners-joy-playing-guitar#comments Beginner Guitar 101 Save the Music Ted Meyers VH1 VH1 Save the Music Beginner Guitar 101 Guitar Basics Blogs Lessons Mon, 25 Feb 2013 11:14:25 +0000 Ted Meyers 17779 at http://www.guitarworld.com