Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
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The technique and practice habits learned, while studying classical guitar, will help you no matter what style of music you may want to play in the future. Electric, folk and classical guitars are all tuned the same and while each one may use some exclusive techniques, I believe the classical guitar will give you the best start.
I will only use Yamaha guitars: I prefer a classical guitar (one with nylon strings). Currently, the model I am using is the CG110. A Yamaha guitar that is not solid top. Solid top guitars do not tend to fair as well in the classroom. I know there are many brands out there that might work out, however, Yamaha makes a good guitar for the money, and they stand up in the classroom.
Right now, I am using the Korg CA 30 Chromatic tuner. The tuner sells for around $29 here in London. (plus taxes) For guitar, you do have to hold it pretty much right next to the sound hole, because the guitar is so quiet. Often, it will not pick up all the strings in a noisy classroom, so I tune what I can with the tuner, and then tune the rest by ear.
1. Make sure you take time to get to know the students names. I like to sit everyone alphabetically. This can break up some dangerous cliques as well as help you learn the names faster. Don’t let someone break order to “sit with a friend”. It almost is never a good idea.
2. Assign a specific guitar number for each student. (if the guitars are not numbered yet, you may want to do this very soon). I like to paint the number on the outside of the guitar case, along with the school name. I also, engrave the back of the headstock and write inside the sound hole with a Sharpie. Basically, you want to mark the guitar up, so that if it gets stolen, it is easy to identify. You should also keep track of the serial numbers with the guitar numbers.
3. Decide how they are going to get their guitars. Like any music class, you must establish a routine. I spend quite a bit of time on this at the beginning. “When you get to class, first set your books down at your seat and then make sure you have a footstool set at the left leg of your chair. (Remember, we used 4X8 pieces of wood cut 12 inches long). Then, carefully go and bring back your assigned guitar. Holding the case in your right hand, gently set the case on the floor at the right of your chair. Move the case so that it is lying flat. Open the clasps that are holding the case closed and carefully remove the guitar and lay it on top of the closed case. This is where I want you to keep the guitar when I tell you to put it down”.
4. Then I would explain positioning. Have them put their left foot on the footstool. Get them to pick up the guitar with their right hand and set it on their left leg (which is now raised by the footstool).
In general, try to keep them active as much as you can. (You will have fewer problems). Try to keep it fun and interesting.
To those that just want to learn songs and not how to read. I try to explain that it is like learning the English language. If you don't read and write it, it is very hard to communicate the information to someone else, or for you to learn new information unless someone can show you.
The use of a footstool allows you to sit in the “proper” position, so that the guitar is stable and not held up by the left hand. This allows maximum ability to “get” notes.
I use a 6 inch x 4 inch piece of lumber cut at approximately 11 ¾ length. I buy a couple of 8 foot lengths and then have my school shop cut them up for me. They should cost under $3 each. You can purchase “real” classical guitar footstools, but they are usually at least $15 each, and tend to get “borrowed” quite easily.
If a student is new to the guitar, there is no reason to have them play any different than other students. It does not matter if you ar “left handed” or “right handed”. Both hands have to work equally hard. Unless a student comes into class and can demonstrate that they already play guitar, with some proficiency, with the neck of the guitar to their right (often referred to as “left handed”) then I make them play in the traditional position with the guitar neck to their left. It is a big disadvantage to play “left handed”: 1. guitars are more expensive, 2. it is harder to find a “left handed” guitar, 3. if you go over to a friends house who has a guitar, you cannot play their instrument.
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