Monday, March 11, 2019

Teaching Young Children, Pt. V – To Pick or Not to Pick?

Guitar instructors who have little experience working with young children will often approach teaching them as they would an upper elementary aged student, teen or adult. However, this is a common mistake as young children (ages 5 to 8 for our purposes) are still developing their fine motor skills which are the smaller muscles in their hands fingers and wrists. Children use fine motor skills when writing, holding small items, buttoning clothes or turning pages.

Since young children lack of fine motor skills I do not have them use a pick when beginning to play guitar as it is difficult to manipulate a small object. Rather than use a pick I like to have my young students use their thumb when playing. The large appendage is easier for them to manipulate, maneuver and aid in development of the lacking fine motor skills.

The default hand position that I like to have students use is one in which the fingers of the right hand “cup” the first string for stability right over the sound hole while keeping a straight wrist. From this position students move their thumb from string to string (see images below). 

Teachers will need to remind their students that their fingers/hand should stay in the “cupped” position as the fingers will have a tendency to “slip into the sound hole and pull the hand out of position.

Next month we’ll get into some playing!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Teaching Young Children, Pt. IV – Parts of the Guitar

Although I had written about the parts of the guitar in a previous blog post it is worth mentioning again – especially when teaching young children. When working with younger children it is best to use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, stupid). Children do not need to know all the nuances of the guitar such as the binding or upper and lower bout, but rather the “bigger picture” parts they will be using or interacting with. Here is a list of the parts of the instrument that I cover with students and all are listed with on this diagram:

· Head 

· Neck 

· Body 

· Tuners 

· Nut 

· Frets 

· Fret Dots 

· Sound Hole 

· Bridge 

· Saddle 

The parts of the guitar are important to know for young students to know and should not be overlooked as it gives them a sense of ownership over the instrument. Moreover, you should review the parts of the guitar with your students each week for the first few lessons as well as ask parents to review them with their child at home.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Teaching Young Children, Pt. III – Seating Position

Although I have previously written about the importance of a proper seating position as it is topic worth repeating as it can be vital in developing proper technique in young beginners. Of all the styles of guitar playing classical guitarists have the most uniform seating position as this position can: help develop “proper” technique, easily balance the instrument and give the ability to survey the guitar when playing.

A traditional classical seating position involves sitting close to the edge of an armless chair and elevating the left leg with a footstool while holding the guitar. When the guitar is held correctly it will come in contact with the body at four points: (1) on the side of the guitar where it is placed over the left leg (2) the lower bout as it “rests” against inner thigh of the right leg (3) the back of the guitar as it touches the chest of the player (4) on the top/side of lower bout when the right forearm is in playing position. This playing position enables the guitar neck to be angled upward much like when one is standing and playing allowing more freedom of movement in the fretting hand.

The classical seating position works for any style of guitar playing, it also helps support a “structured” approach to learning for young students. I have all my students use this seating position until they have developed a proficient technical facility and then may sit in another position if they choose. If your students are not sitting this way already, have them try it. It may 
seem a bit strange for them at first, but in the end it will prove most beneficial.