How It Works

Goal

Children love the idea of being able to play the guitar.  As music teachers, we want to help them reach their potential, encourage them and set them on the best possible path. We’d also like to teach them to read music so that they can communicate effectively with other musicians.

Problem

Unfortunately, teaching children to read music can be hard and frustrating and as a result, a lot of guitar teachers don’t even bother with it. This is a situation which ultimately disadvantages their students.

Who can blame guitar teachers for not wanting to teach their students to read? Mentally processing pitch and rhythm is hard work, especially for the young beginner. How often have you, as a guitar teacher, been struggling to teach your child something like, Mary had a little Lamb? This is a song that contains notes of only four different pitches and three different rhythmic figures. It shouldn’t be hard to learn, but it is!

Consider that same child who, unable to play Mary had a Little Lamb, then effortlessly presents you with the opening riff to “Smoke on the Water” at their next lesson. Astonished, you ask, “How did you learn that”? “Oh, my Dad showed me,” is often the reply.

Solution

Here lies the answer to the problem. The young beginner often has trouble mentally processing the pitch and rhythm of the written note. Young beginners learn naturally through imitation. Whether they are learning to speak, write or play a sporting activity, they will naturally prefer to imitate the actions of an instructor before they mentally process the pitch and rhythm of a written piece of music.

Like the child who has watched and imitated the riff to “Smoke on the Water,” as played by their father, the Copy, Play and Learn guitar method allows the child to play by imitation. However, they will also learn to process pitch and rhythm in their own time and as they work through the pieces in this book.

How this guitar method encourages children to play.

  • By copying and playing the notes in the pieces they have just heard and seen as played by their teacher.
  • By engaging the students with relevant, contemporary, humorous and exciting songs.  The pieces are “real songs” and children feel like they are playing along with a professional rock band. They are based on the day to day experiences of children and brought alive to music. A story, sprinkled with humour develops with each song.
  • In many of the songs, the melodic line that the children play is based on visually recognisable finger patterns and exercises. Encouraging dexterity using progressively harder finger and string combinations, students can play by discovering a pattern brought to their attention by, and as played by their teacher.
  • The rhythm of the melody is easily learned through singing and clapping the words with which it is associated.

How this method encourages children to read music.

  • The backing tracks that the students play along with give the student an immediate sense of beat and rhythm.
  • Children often learn to read words through association. It could be argued that children have a positive dining experience at McDonald’s restaurants and that a child, not knowing how to read, will often recognise the word below the big “golden arches” as “McDonald’s”. In a similar way, some rhythmic and melodic phrases are often repeated in different pieces throughout this book. The cognitive and age appropriate pieces are designed for a positive musical experience. The rhythm, words or melodic contour of a pattern or phrase in a positively framed and previously learned piece acts as a trigger in a young person’s mind and they are instantly able to recall and play the phrase.
  • Children are often confused by the pitch, name and position of notes on the stave and the fingerboard. They often think that notes are placed randomly on the stave and don’t perceive the connection between the alphabetical order, the ascending pitch of notes and the likely position on the guitar fingerboard as the notes make their way up the stave.  In the Copy, play and learn guitar method, there are exercises the student can do, and flash cards that the teacher can make use of, to ensure that the student knows the names of the notes and likely location on the guitar.  Many of the pieces is this method are designed in such a way that the student does recognise the position of the note on the stave and is able to work out whether the line ascends or descends and hence the names of subsequent notes and therefore their position on the guitar fingerboard.
  • There are sometimes sections within the songs in this method, and, indeed whole songs themselves which encourage the student to play without first hearing or seeing what their teacher plays. These are the first steps toward mentally processing pitch and rhythm. In these cases, there are whole bars that may contain notes of just one pitch.  This allows students plenty of time to process.