Teaching Guitar: Tuning and Review
By NAfME member Shelley Brobst
It’s about time the students know at least a little about tuning a guitar. Spring Break is around the corner and they will be taking trips, trying out their guitar skills at Grandma’s on Mom’s OLD guitar. It needs to be in tune. This week’s exercise took longer than expected. I had planned on moving on in the “Guitar for Kids” book. Best laid plans…
Review the Test
I gave students back their tests from last week. They really were pretty happy with their scores and understood what they had problems with. Remember the biggest mistake some students made was answering G7 in the F circle. By pointing out that I had asked for a NOTE and not a CHORD, I was able to make the distinction between the two again. Also, this was an excellent opportunity for me to teach that Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears – the names of the 6 strings of the guitar. I believe we learn from our mistakes. I’m betting they will not make the same mistakes again next time… Yes, there will be another test.
There are several methods that work well for the classroom. I do not have individual tuners on each guitar so we will need to use our ears. I really want the students to be able to understand the concept of tuning so that I can say, “The D string is flat” and they will react appropriately. First they must get into tuning position.
Tuning position is when the bottom of the guitar “stands” on the left leg with the neck straight up next to the head and the sound hole facing away from the body. Students then put their left ear directly on the shoulder of the guitar. After a brief discussion/discover that sound does, indeed, travel faster through solids (like wood) than air we begin to compare. SCIENCE!!!! I tell them that they need to pluck gently enough that I wont be able to hear them while I’m playing. I’m going to play my string and they will pluck and compare their string. If they think they are in tune and their string sounds like mine they should go into quiet position. If not, they are to leave their guitar in tuning position and I will listen with them individually.
Usually, the guitars stay in tune by now so I search for one that is not in tune. I teach them to follow their finger up the string to the tuning peg that operates that string. Now, everyone is listening and watching this one student. She is nervous when I tell her to turn the tuning peg away from her. She barely turns the peg – about 1 mm. Hardly any change is made. It is important to instruct students to pluck as they turn. Also they must turn about 1/4 to 1/2 a turn in order to make a real difference to the sound. I have to demonstrate this to the students. Remember that you should hear the pitch change. Yep… all 21 students tuned all 6 strings.
Some students were worried and made me listen to each already in tune string. Others didn’t change a thing when they needed to. I did a quick 6 string check at the end to see how everyone did. For the most part, students had much better ears than I expected. Will I let them free to do this on their own next time… No Way! But, we’re on our way.
Leave Them Succeeding
Remember from last week that we are working on “Ode to Joy”? Well with 10 minutes left of my 45 minute class period, we only get to review the first line. I always like to close with something I know students will be successful playing. We played “Electric Avenue” pg. 42 and”Jambalaya” pg. 40 for run and review! This class was very heavy with test review, tuning and note review. Remember to have FUN playing music with kids!
Ideally, every kid in your class should have a tuner. In case your teaching situation is less than ideal check out these free tuner resources:
– 8 Notes.com
– Fender Tuner
– Gieson Interactive Tuner
– And this tuning video
- Teaching Guitar – A Classroom Diary – Week 1
- Teaching Guitar – A Classroom Diary – Week 2
- Teaching Guitar to Elementary Students
- Teaching Guitar – A Classroom Diary – Week 4
- Teaching Guitar: Assessment Time
Still don’t think you can do it? Then attend a Teaching Guitar Workshop next summer. You’ll gain the skills and the confidence you need to teach a successful classroom guitar program….for Elementary School, Middle School, High School or even University level! Enroll by January 1, 2018, to save $100! Use promo code EB2018 at checkout.
Check out this video of Shelley Brobst teaching rest strokes and chords at NAfME headquarters.
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