Guitar in Band
February 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm #20664
Hi, I’m a new music teacher in a small K-8 school that has a small 7th and 8th grade band. We have two 8th grade kids in the band who play guitar (mostly self-taught) and don’t read music, and have some rudimentary ability using tabulature. I’m kind of at my wit’s end to figure out what to do with them in band. I’ve given them bass clef parts (bassoon or trombone) to try and transfer to playing a bass line, but that doesn’t work, because they can’t read bass clef. They end up sitting in band class noodling on their own, which is not a good solution, and is disruptive. I want to tell my assistant principal that it’s inappropriate to schedule guitar players in band, and that they should be in a different music class, but it has fallen on deaf ears. I see the same thing happening next year, as I have two students in the sixth grade band playing guitar as well. One of them plays bass on her own, but the other one started on a band instrument in 4th grade, but abandoned it in 5th grade, and was still assigned to band, anyway. I’m really not sure what to do, so any thoughts would be appreciated.February 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm #20894
If they keep scheduling them in your class, you’ll have to find some way to work them in.. which it sounds like is what you’re doing. You could make them switch to another instrument if you have any available. Otherwise, my suggestion would be to include them in your ensemble with the mindset of prepping them for jazz band at the upper levels. You could include them with your flutes (or transposed alto sax) and teach them to read the music in the treble clef. This would get them ready for playing heads of jazz tunes and improvising. You could also reduce the harmonic structure of the music selections you are playing and teach them to play those chords.
Good luck!February 22, 2013 at 2:08 pm #21029
Bottom line is that they need to learn to read music–either plucking out the melody or strumming chords from tabs. You’ll have to teach them to read, as well as figure out guitar tabs for the band music.
You need to lay down the line–if they want to be in the band, they have to learn to read music. It’s very simple! Everybody else in the band has to read music–why should they be any different? They may object, but tell them that’s why you’re here–to learn a new skill. Sounds like they just want to blast rock n roll chords aimlessly. But that’s not going to work in concert band.
Of course they shouldn’t be in band in the first place, since guitar is not a band instrument. Sounds like your admin doesn’t understand that, which is not unusual. (When I came to my present school, the head of the arts department (who wasn’t a musician) couldn’t understand why I couldn’t have a piano in concert band.) It is possible to make this work, but the guitarists need to bite the bullet, learn to read music, and then learn how to play in the band.March 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm #21415
Thanks for the suggestions. I don’t know if I’d have time to reduce the harmonic structure of the scores– they’re all in flat keys anyway. I like the idea of having the play the flute parts. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones in band who still don’t read music very well. It’s mind-boggling how much these kids rely on hearing “how it goes” instead of reading their parts. It’s very frustrating.March 5, 2013 at 10:51 pm #21463
I recommend they play the flute parts as well. Registration for the NAfME sponsored Teaching Guitar Workshops is now open. Go to http://www.guitaredunet.orgMarch 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm #21464
I suggest you post your question in the guitar forum.March 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm #21896
I get several additions to my middle school bands each year on various instruments including violin and guitar, who don’t read music. I’m fortunate enough to have a separate office and 1 practice room. I put an experienced band member in with the non-music-reader and the experienced student guides them through their method book (we use Standard of Excellence) in SmartMusic. If I have more inexperienced students than I can accommodate with the two rooms, I send the rest outside (in good weather) with the method book to work with an experienced partner. After a few rehearsals, when the new students become familiar with SmartMusic, they continue with it on their own. I’m considering requiring each student to have a subscription next year.March 20, 2013 at 10:56 am #21982
As a band teacher and a guitar player I still do not let 5th graders join band on guitar. I tell them that they can play guitar in jazz band in the upper levels but they cannot play guitar in beginning band.
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