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Sunday, July 31, 2011

How do you teach beginners to tune their guitars?

Thank you for the question. I have a lot to say on the subject, but will address only a couple of basic points here - 1) shortcuts 2) non-shortcuts.

1) Shortcuts - be sure to encourage students (and parents) to purchase electric tuners; find out which students already know how to tune and assign them to be tuning assistants.

2) Non-shortcuts -
-----Student need to learn the pluck/turn. Have them practice "plucking" one string in eight notes while simultaneously "turning" the corresponding knob. Teach them to pluck loudly so they can really hear the change in pitch.
----Once they can "pluck and turn" they can learn the tuning song: A-maze, A-maze, A-ma-zing, A-maze. Using echo imitation, have them use the song Amazing Grace as the basis for tuning - A-maze - E/A; A-maze -A/D; A-ma-zing - D/G/B; A-maze - B/E.

Finally, it is important to have realistic expectations. For many students, successful tuning will be the grand finale of the semester, not something that occurs during the first week. There are many ways to break the process down and give them small success. One way is to play an out of tune E & A and ask them to give you hand signals indicating the need to go higher, lower or stop.

Teachers should use "ear tuning" when tuning the guitars. As a voice exercise, learn to sing E A D G B E. Practice tuning until you can tune a guitar in 15 seconds or less. If the room is noisy, put your ear directly on the neck and you can hear it like a charm.

For more details I recommend my book "Teaching Classroom Guitar" (menc/Rowman and Littlefield) and some of the exercises in my curriculum "Guitar Essentials". Visit and for more information. Sincerely, Steve Eckels

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How can I work with 35 elementary students in a 40 minute period?

That is a really tough environment.  That size group is larger than anything I have experienced.

Is there any way you could 1) break them into two groups 2) get a large band room?

Since there are so many, open practice time might lead to chaos, so leading a group activity would probably work best.

My best advice would be to spend time working on melodies played on a single string - Happy Birthday, (see the table of contents of my Guitar Essentials Level One for song titles) etc.  Teach them by singing the fret numbers and having them echo you.

They are almost too young for chords, so working on the melodies accomplishes several objectives (see Teaching Classroom Guitar published by MENC). When you are ready to read music - you may want to use tablature first since it will get things moving faster (See guitar essentials contents). 
If you feel adventurous, you could remove all the strings, but the first string, and have them master the "monochord" - this is the name of the instrument that Pythagoras did his experiments on.  It means "single string".

If you leave all the strings on you should be able to do "string percussion" exercises such as echo imitation etc.

Stay with each song until it is mastered.  The students will benefit from "over learning" the piece.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What Do You Think of Youtube as a Learning Tool?

In regards to learning, the downside of youtube is that students try to play things that are not appropriate for their learning level.  I had one student who goofed around with one youtube example and never learned to play the whole song, and I feel he missed lots of the fundamentals which would have taken him further in the long run.  A comparison is someone trying to get medical advice from the internet.  While a certain amount may be helpful, there is no substitute for finding a "sensei" and being a disciple.  I do have a youtube channel where I demo proficiency skills that are are part of a learning sequence.  The skills are part of my "Guitar Essentials" which I use in my High School Classroom.

What is a Good Ear Training Exercise?

One of my favorites:
Play an Eminor chord with no beat.  Have the student play each note of the chromatic scale, on the first string.  Have them notice the relationship of the note to the chord.  The student should rate each note as a "green light", "yellow light" or "red light".  Have them remember the ratings and do an improvisation on one string.  For more information see my book "Teaching Classroom Guitar" published by menc.  See my webstie

Resources Available to Teachers

Steve Eckels MA, NBPTS Presents:
Teaching Classroom Guitar
Distance Learning
At your convenience!

License curriculum folios for unlimited use in your school for only 99.00 each level.
Ensemble folios only 75.00 each.

Each level includes an innovative approach to reading, accompaniment, rhythm, guitar solos, ensembles, final exams & more.  For complete contents visit www.guitarmusicman or  For personal assistance 406-257-6878.

______Classroom Essentials Level I (72 Pages)
______Classroom Essentials Level II (65 Pages)
______Classroom Essentials Level III (61 Pages)
______Classroom Essentials Level IV (53 Pages)

______Guitar Ensembles - Classical
______Guitar Ensembles - International Folk Songs and & Holiday

______Textbook & Desk Reference $49.00 -  "Teaching Classroom Guitar"
            (MENC & Rowman & Littlefield, or

Internet Resources:
Video Demonstrations -Youtube                                                               FREE
Audio Clips - MySpace                                                                             FREE
Blog Discussion -                                     FREE
Twitter & Linkedin                                                                                    FREE

Supplemental books by Steve Eckels: Blues for the Young Beginner, Christmas Encyclopedia, Modern Method for Fingerstyle Guitar, Global Adventures, and more.    Available at, or

For more information:
Personal Assistance - 406-257-6878
Order forms -
facebook - SteveEckelsGuitarist
Blog -
Youtube - Eckels1
Myspace - Eckels1

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Teaching Classroom Guitar" Text & Desk Reference Contents

Teaching Classroom Guitar
A Handbook for Classroom Teachers
By Steve Eckels

Table of Contents

4 - Preface
7 - About the Author

Part One: Introduction
8 – Effective Planning, 1
14 - Assessment Techniques, 2
23 - Applying the National Standards for Music Education, 3
29 - Use Your Strengths, 4

Part Two: Preliminaries
30 - Preparations, 5
35 - Quick Start: The First Week, 6
48 - Hand and Body Positions: Learning How To Learn, 7
54 - The Right Hand: Using the Thumb and Pick, 8
61 - The Left Hand, 9
68 - Strength and Motion, 10
78 - Teaching Individual Tuning, 11
83 - Group Tuning Techniques, 12

Part Three: Music Reading
85 - The Natural Note Scale, 13
89 - Music Reading, 14
102 – Ensembles, 15

Part Four: Chords and Accompaniments
109 - How and Why to Teach Power Chords, 16
114 - Playing Bass, 17
117 - Teaching Chords, 18
124 - Strumming, 19
131 - Chord Progressions, 20
139 - Fingerpicking, 21
148 - Teaching Songs, 22
155 - Teaching Singing and Playing, 23
160 - Barre Forms and Transposition, 24

Part Five: Intermediate Skills
169 - Improvisation, 25
176 - Student Combos, 26
179 - Teaching Music Theory, 27
185 - Teaching Jazz-Chords, 28
189 - Teaching Solo Guitar, 29
196 - Tablature, 30
198 – Hammering-on, Pulling-off, and Two-Handed Tapping Techniques, 31
203 - Using Reference Frets to Understanding the Entire Neck, 32

Part Six: Remedial Techniques
206 - The Capo for Transposition and Ease of Play, 33
209 - Benefits of Teaching Melodies on One String, 34
212 - Using Riffs for Educational Purposes, 35

Part Seven: The Guitar Room, Guitars and Independent Study
216 - Setting up the Guitar Room and Equipment, 36
220 - Guitars and Accessories, 37
225 – Independent Study, 38

227 Glossary of Guitar Teaching Terms

Appendix #1 - Assessment Forms
238 – Student Assessment Checklist
239 - Class Participation Self - Assessment
240 - Sample Essay and Questions
243 – Instructor Feedback Form
244 - Skill Self-Assessment
245 – Self Reflection Form
246 - Proficiency Scoring Worksheet
247 – Practice Portfolio Requirements (final assessment)

Appendix #2 - Curriculum
248 – Guitar Essentials - Skill List for Four Semesters
252 - Lesson Plan Worksheet
253 - Curriculum Overview for Four Semesters
254 - Sample Syllabus
256 – Lesson and Practice Record

Appendix #3  - Blank Grid Diagrams
257 – Small Chord Grids
258 – Medium Chord Grids
259 - Lyric Sheet with 6 small grids
260 - Lyric Sheet with 12 small grids
261 – Building Jazz Chords by Scale Degrees/Grid and Staff
262 - 12 Fret Chord Grids

Appendix #4 – Blank Staff
263 - Six Stave (Large)
264 - Eight Stave
265 - Jumbo staff (transparency)
266 - Large tab
267 - Medium tab
268 - Tab-Staff-Grid Conversion Paper

Appendix #5 – Worksheets
269 - Blues Songwriting
270 – Blues Progression Practice Chart
271 – Blues Progression Worksheet (I, IV, V)
272 - Concert or Listening Interview  (questions)
273 – Parents Interview
274 – Student Interview
275 – Music Reading Practice Checklist
276 – Sing Along List and Chord Theory
277 – Singing Warm Up Checklist
278 - Songwriting Categories
279 - List of Popular Guitar Songs by Skill Level, Artists and Keys

Appendix #6
Publishers of Class Guitar Materials

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Guitar Essentials Level 4

205. Contents Level 4

Reference Charts
206. 15 Essential Chords
207. Note & Rhythm Reference Chart
208. Rhythm Equations-eighth notes
209. Rhythm Equations-sixteenth notes

Chromatic Studies
210. Chromatic Scales: keys of C, G, D, A, E
211. Tarrega Chromatic Sequence
212. Chromatic Octaves

Second Position Studies - Root 5
213. Second Position C Scale & Intervals, Root 5
214. Root 5 Moveable Major & Minor Chords
215. Root 5 Seventh & Diminished Chords
216. Root 5 Altered Chords

Second Position Studies - Root 6
217. Second Pos. G Scale & Intervals, Root 6
218. Root 6 Major & Minor Chords
219. Root 6 Seventh & Diminished Chords
220. Root 6 Moveable Altered Chords

Improvisation with Tablature
221. Blues Training Riff in G
222. Accompaniment & Bass Line in G
223. Using a Bass Line as the Melody in G
224. Moveable Training Riff in Eminor
225. Bass Line in Eminor
226. E minor Bass Line up one Octave
227. Jazz Blues in A

228. Rhythm Studies
229. Pop Style Rhythm Patterns

Right-Hand Arpeggio Studies
230. Right-Hand Patterns for Fingerstyle Solos
231. In the Style of Puff the Magic Dragon
232. Building a Fingerstyle Solo: Greensleeves
233. Music in Two Parts:
             In the Style of Pachelbel Canon

234. Happy Birthday Level III
235. Happy Birthday in Tab
236, 237. Mario Theme Duet
238, 239. Mario Theme in Tablature
240. Spy Riff in Dminor
241. Spy Riff in Tablature
242. Jam Session in Aminor
243. Jam Session in Aminor in Tablature

Singing and Playing
244. You are the Sunshine of My Life
245. Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Solo Guitar
246. Flight of the Bumble Bee in Tablature
247. Somewhere Over the Rainbow Tablature
248. Ode to Joy - Beethoven
249. Allegro - Giuliani
250. English Dance - Carcassi
251. Etude in Aminor - Carulli
252. Celtic Folk Song (Loch Lomond)
253. Minuet in G - Bach

Final Exam
254. Second Position Scales
255. Fifth Position
256. Solo Guitar
257. Fingerpicking
258. Rhythms

Guitar Essentials Level 3

143. Contents Level Three

Reference and Strength
144. 15 Essential Chords
145. Natural Notes and Rhythm Reference Chart
146. Slurs and Strength
147. Chromatic Study

148. Rhythm Equations-8th notes
149. Rhythm Equations-16th notes
150. Rhythm Reading:
            E & F Blues Scales, C Chromatic Scale

151. Interval Study in Open Position
152. Thirds, Sixths & Tenths, Up the Neck
153. Tenths Across the Neck & Fingerpicking
154. C Chords With Color Tones 4-6-7-9
155. G Chords With Color Tones 4-6-7-9
156. Triad Progressions for Fingerpicking

157. Notes on All Six Strings & Speed Patterns
158. Scales Using Three-Notes-Per-String
159. Chromatic Octaves

Improvisation in Fifth Position
160. Riff in A
161. Rock Style Bass Riff in A
162. Shuffle Style Bass Riff in A
163. Latin Style Bass Riff in A

164. Strumming in the Style of Hotel California
165. Strumming in the Style of Ghost Riders
166. Picking in the Style of Blowing in the Wind
167. John Denver Picking
         in the Style of Leaving on a Jet Plane
168. Click Picking in the Style of My Girl
169. Fingerpicking in the Style of Sleepwalk
170. Fingerpicking in the Style of Santana's Europa

171. Happy Birthday Level III
172. Happy Birthday in Tablature
173. Star Spangled Banner
174. Star Spangled Banner in Tablature
175. The Marine's Hymn
176. The Marine's Hymn in Tablature
177. Spy Riff in Aminor
178. Spy Riff in Tablature
179. Jam Session in Eminor
180. Jam Session in Eminor in Tablature

Solo Guitar
181. Andante by Sor
182. Andante, Part 2
183. Allegro by Giuliani
184. English Dance by Carcassi
185. Minuet in G by Bach
186. Romanza, Spanish Folk Song

Singing & Playing, In the Style of...
187. Black Magic Woman
188. Don't Know Why
189. I Shot the Sheriff
190. I Shot the Sheriff Riff Study
191. Let the Good Times Roll
192. Light My Fire
193. Summertime

Final Exam
194. Rhythms: 8ths
195. Rhythms: 16ths
196. Intervals & Chords
197. Tenths & Solo Guitar
198. The Chromatic Scale & Chromatic Octaves
199. Fingerpicking

200-204 . Dictionary of Chromatic Intervals

Guitar Essentials Level 2

77. Contents

Reference Charts
78. 15 Essential Chords
79. Natural Notes and Rhythms
80. Rhythm Equations
81. Rhythm Equations (no answers)

Slurs & Strength
82. Slurs (Hammering & Pulling)

83. Major Scales C, G, D, A, E & Rhythm Reading
84. Using Reference Tones & Neighboring Tones
85. Notes on all Six Strings & Speed Patterns
86. Major Scales in Sharp Keys
87. Major Scales in Flat Keys

88. C-A-G-E-D Theory & the Capo
89. Chord Family In C with Tab
90. Chord Family in G with Tab
91. Chord Families in D minor & A minor
92. Barre Chord Progressions & Triads
93. C Chords with Added 4, 6, 7, 9
94. Inversions of Triads with Fingerpicking
95. Triad Progressions: I-IV-V

96. Riff in Eminor
97. Blues in G & G minor
            Using Moveable Jazz Forms
98. Pentatonic Blues in G minor
            (3 Octaves) with Tablature
99. Moveable Blues Riff in G and G minor
            With Tablature
100. Improvisations with G major
            Pentatonic (3 octaves)

101. Root-5 Bass, and Bass Runs
            In the Style of Johnny Cash
102. Frailing & Bass Runs
            In the Style of Johnny Cash
103. Travis Picking
            In the Style of Dust in the Wind
104. Fingerpicking in ¾ time,
            In the Style of Annie's Song

105. Happy Birthday (Level 2)
106. Happy Birthday with Tablature

Sing & Strum, In the Style of...
107. I Can See Clearly Now - Triads & Barre Forms
108. Don't Know Much - Color Tones
109. Have You Ever Seen the Rain? - Passing Chords
110. My Girl - Triads
111. Stairway to Heaven
            Barre Chords, Fingerpicking
112. Tears in Heaven - Passing Chords

Solo Guitar
113. Greensleeves
114. Silent Night (with intervals)
115. Andantino by Carcassi
116. Etude in Amin by Carulli
117. Loch Lommond, Celtic Folk Song
118. Moderato by Giuliani
119. Ode to Joy by Beethoven

Note Dictionary
120. The Low E String
121. The A String
122. The D String
123. The G String & Review
124. The B String
125. The High E String

126. Diatonic Intervals

Final Exam
127. Sharp Keys
128. Flat Keys
129. Barre Chords and Passing Chords
130. Barre Forms
140. Rhythms
141. Fingerpicking
142.  Natural Notes on all Six Strings

Guitar Essentials Level 1

Here are the contents for Guitar Essentials Level One

1. Contents

Reference Charts & Tuning
2. 15 Essential Chords: Reference Chart
3. Natural Notes and Beat Values
4. Subdivisions of a Measure
5. Rhythm Equations
6. Rhythm Equations (no answers)
7. Tuning Using the Open Strings

Melodies On One String
8. Flaming Ice Cube
9. Happy Birthday, Jingle Bells
10. The First Noel
11. My Country 'Tis of Thee
12. Love Me Tender
13. Yankee Doodle

Right Hand Technique, Scales & Chords
14. Right Hand Variations for Scale Practice
15. The Natural Notes and Mini-Scales
16. Mini-Scale Looping, Intervals
17. Alphabet Chord Drill & Fingerpicking Patterns

Chord Progressions, Strumming & Spelling
18. Key of C - basic down-strokes
19. Key of G - root-strum
20. Key of D - root-strum with eighth notes
21. Key of A - root-strum with eighth notes
22. Key of E - syncopated strum
23. Key of Amin - root-strum with eighth notes
24. Key of Emin - fingerpicking the circular arpeggio

Chord Drills
25. Theory: Major & Minor
26. Theory: Major & Seventh
27. Chord Drill: Common Shapes
28. Blues Progressions in 8 Keys

29. Rhythm Figures and Counting
30. Combing Scales with Rhythms

Power Chords
31. Open Power Chords & Blues in A
32. Moveable Power Chords: Root 6th String
33. Moveable Power Chord: Root 5th String

34. Pull-offs in the Style of Thunderstruck
35. G minor Pentatonic Scale: extended box form
36. G Blues Scale Riff
37. Famous Rock Riffs

Barre Chords
38.  Barre Forms Based on E-Chord Shapes
39.  Barre Forms Based on A-Chord Shapes

Songs: Melody and Accompaniment
40. Key of C - On Top of Old Smokey
41. Key of G - This Little Light of Mine
42. Key of D - Red River Valley
43. Key of A - Michael Row the Boat Ashore
44. Key of E - Hound Dog Blues
45. Key of Amin - Fingerpicking Scarborough Fair
46. Key of Amin - Fingerpicking House of the Rising Sun
47. Key of C - Fingerpicking Let it Be

48, 49. Happy Birthday & Happy Birthday in Tablature
50, 51. Pachelbel Canon & Pachelbel Canon in Tab
52, 53. House of the Rising Sun &... Rising Sun in Tab
54, 55. On, Oh Flathead & On, Oh Flathead in Tab

Sing and Strum,  In the Style of......
56. Joy to the World - Power Chords
57. You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog - Power Chords
58. Hotel California - Pinch Accents
59. Scarborough Fair - Fingerpicking
60. Simple Man - Fingerpicking
61. Yellow Submarine - The Shuffle Beat & Triads

Solo Guitar
62, Malaguena
63. Silent Night
64. Fur Elise, Excerpt
65. Moonlight Sonata, Excerpt
66. Estudio by Aguado
67. In the Style of Stairway to Heaven

Final Exam
68. Note Recognition & Scales
69. Chord Spelling and Recognition
70. Note Values, Rhythms & Counting
71. Natural Notes on 6 & 5, & Power Chords
72. Finger Picking

73, 74, 75. Glossary of Music Reading Terms

76­­. Essay - Good Manners and Learning

Do you ever have beginners who show an interest but soon get discouraged by the work it takes early on?

 This is a great question.  Accept the fact that a percentage 10-15% will not be able to stick with it.  Allow them to listen and enjoy the environment but don't expect 100% success.  With the other 85%, provide a series of small successes.  Be sure there is laughter.  Some students have already made lots of progress with tab and will not slow down to learn reading.  They should have tab.

When possible, incorporate reading in chord work, rhythm work and everywhere.  I would encourage you to obtain my materials and book "Teaching Classroom Guitar".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Which should I teach first, chords or melodies?

Chords are comprised of notes, so I believe that simple melodies and "mini scales" be taught first.  A good example would be "Happy Birthday" played entirely on the first string.  A scale can be as small as three notes (e,f,g) on the first string.  Once the fingers are moving around I present the C, F, and G.  The F is abbreviated-f,a,c,e and so is the G-g,b,d,g,b,e.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How can I find guitar students?

One of the best ways to generate students is to give a class at the local community college. You can meet lots of people that way. Also, creating a nice brochure and distributing it to school music teachers is a good idea. Finally, if you can have a booth at local fairs you can meet lots of people - try to play at the fair too. Good luck--you can do it!

Can someone who is self taught, teach someone else to play?

Can someone who is self taught teach someone else to play?

There is a big difference between teaching and playing.  The trick to teaching is trying to remember the steps of the "learning ladder" that you went through when you were learning.  If you simply show the student what you are playing, you may create a "pedagogical leap"
(skip a step) and thereby create frustration.  Try to invent some exercises that are derived from the skill sets used to play the music you are trying to teach.  Convince the student that for them to succeed they need to make a commitment to success.  Best Wishes.
Steve Eckels