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At what point do you teach tuning to high school students? I’m think from the beginning.
It is my approach to tell students to not touch the tuning pegs in the beginning. Everyday in class, each student plays their open strings from the floor to the ceiling, first through sixth, in quarter note value. After several weeks of tuning each guitar, students start memorizing the sound of each string. At that point, I tell students which string to adjust and which direction.
I have tried putting an electronic tuner on each guitar. That does not work all that well when students try tuning an octave too high too low. Most students now have an app on their telephone with a tuner.
Overall, I would not encourage tuning until perhaps the second half of the school year.
Students need to “hear” the pitches before they start to tune. If they don’t have an app on their phone using a “clip-on” tuner is the best way to have your students tune their guitars.
We start with listening and matching, showing the students to move the tuners gradually. Only then I have them tune with both clip on tuners and relative tuning. I think it’s important from day one to get the student to begin recognizing and matching pitch.
I don’t think most kids generally have the ability to match pitch during the early stages of learning to play – especially when there are 25 other kids trying to do the same thing. Like Bill mentioned above, I insist that kids not touch their tuning pegs for the first semester. After a semester of playing, I show kids how to use a clip-on tuner. These work pretty good in classroom settings as long as the guitar is close to in tune already.
When a student has played for a few weeks they can often tell if their instrument is “off” and I’ll tune it for them. It also takes up much less precious instructional time.
Clip on tuners work best because they pick up the vibration of only the instrument it’s attached to. Most students have a smart phone. There are a number of free tuner apps.
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