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  1. #1

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    What I want to talk about- not specifically jazz students who know what they want, but just regular beginners, kids or adults, who never learned how to read before and dont have specific direction yet.

    I found guitar method books like Mel Bay and Alfred absolutely awful, boring and uninspiring, especially for kids. I mean, the material there have nothing to do with what kids, and adults for that matter, can relate to. Some old forgotten country songs, or Civil war songs, or whatever, that not even their grannies could remember... Have you ever met anyone who actually finished all 7 Mel Bay books? And enjoyed it??

    Now Hal Leonard is much better IMO. The structure and content is more modern and fun.

    My personal favorite is Berklee Leavitt book, but for many I feel it moves too fast, and designed more for intermediate students, who already got somewhere and want to take music more seriously and motivated to learn how to read.

    so what are your thoughts and experiences on that?

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  3. #2

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    i agree 100%

    other sources are needed for repertoire "at some point", to provide more musical interest and motivation. one can find out who or what style of music, or what songs the student likes. from there one can attempt to show them a little bit of that, even if it's a simple version or just wets their whistle. it may seem lame to an advanced player, but can really inspire the student to play a little bit of what they like.

  4. #3

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    I also have to say I use those books for reading purposes primarily. With most of the students we study them half of the lesson time anyway. They have notebooks or blank sheet music papers where I write down chord progressions, songs, exercises, riffs, all that good stuff. But I still need a method book to make them read from. In theory it probably doesn't matter as long as you practicing your reading, right? But I personally can't take that Mel Bay crap anymore, I'm going nuts! Alfred is even worse. Like I said, Hal Leonard is by far the best of them all, but I'm wondering what other teachers are using with a good result?

  5. #4

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    I have to agree with what's been written here.

    I grew up playing guitar and piano, then music school forced me to choose one - I picked piano. Now decades later it feels like I'm learning guitar from nothing.

    For me the Berklee/Leavitt book 1 was all I needed, then I went into songs and exercises I borrowed from studying jazz piano.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    What I want to talk about- not specifically jazz students who know what they want, but just regular beginners, kids or adults, who never learned how to read before and dont have specific direction yet.

    I found guitar method books like Mel Bay and Alfred absolutely awful, boring and uninspiring, especially for kids. I mean, the material there have nothing to do with what kids, and adults for that matter, can relate to. Some old forgotten country songs, or Civil war songs, or whatever, that not even their grannies could remember... Have you ever met anyone who actually finished all 7 Mel Bay books? And enjoyed it??

    Now Hal Leonard is much better IMO. The structure and content is more modern and fun.

    My personal favorite is Berklee Leavitt book, but for many I feel it moves too fast, and designed more for intermediate students, who already got somewhere and want to take music more seriously and motivated to learn how to read.

    so what are your thoughts and experiences on that?
    Interesting discussion, Hep. Honestly, I think the problem with guitar methods is about more than just whether the tunes are interesting. The methods themselves are just awful and ignore standard practice in music pedagogy, across the spectrum, as taught on almost every other instrument.

    Guitar Methods
    * Introduce notes 3-at-a-time based on the layout of the instrument instead of a more traditional 1-at-a-time methodolgy.
    * Play crazy modal music with beginners to suit our 3-at-a-time note introduction, ignoring most of traditional western music.
    * Ignore basic music literacy pertaining to things like accidentals, dynamics etc. in our frenzy to learn every white note in first position.
    * Progress exponentially faster in the introduction of new notes compared to any other instrument.

    We introduce 3 notes on the first string (across the board, almost every method) and work on them for a while. Got those down? Here are 3 more, all at once, and our method is going to pretend for a time that these 3 notes have zero relationship to the first 3. In fact, they're going in their own box. We're going to camp out here, and play almost exactly the same modal melodies we played on the first string, just with 3 new notes. Oh yeah, it's modal, not tonal. There's very little relationship to traditional music yet.

    Then, when you're somewhat comfortable with 2nd string, we're going to throw all six notes together at once, but I think that most guitar students have mentally "clocked out" by the time you introduce that second string. "Oy, same thing again?".

    Other instrumental methods
    * Often introduce notes 1-at-a-time based on musical considerations, beyond the particular instrument's layout.
    * Spend a good bit of time with an initial small number of pitches playing traditional, tonal, recognizable, western music. Additional notes are then usually added one-at-a time.
    * Introduce all facets of music literacy and musicianship, while working the small note set and gradually adding pitches.
    * Most band methods limit note introduction to about 1 1/2 octaves for year-1 beginners.

    I'm just guessing, but I'd say that guitar pedagogy is easily at least 60 years behind everything else. The newest methods are largely the same as those which predate Mel Bay and his contemporaries. As an example, band programs teach very large groups of students at once. They learn a lot of music literacy in a year's time, and they keep students interested enough to keep coming back. I think they've got it down to a science.

    Band Methods as a Template?
    There's an entire economy around the school band world, and they're focused on efficiency and success. They keep a very high percentage of the least motivated students (who don't even practice outside of the classroom) playing, while incentivizing excellence for the top performers. (I'd guess that guitar methods are keeping the interest of only the top 5-10% of the music-interested population, and yes, of course I'm pulling that "guess" out of thin air.

    I think that a big problem with student interest is in not hearing something that sounds like traditional western music for so long in beginner methods. Hot cross buns, Go tell aunt rhody... It's pretty standardized by now for other instruments as to what works for engaging new students early on, and keeping them coming back. It has to sound like music early enough.

    Honestly, it just doesn't make sense that it's harder to get guitarists to learn to read. Guitar is intrinsically easier to play and "cooler" in its appeal than most band instruments. It should be easier to teach reading on, but it's usually harder. I think the main differences are the methodology and the missing ensemble element.

    This year, I'm doing a band method with my group class in octaves. My Year-1 kids are playing the sax part (centered around the key of G.) My Year-2 kids are reading the lower octave (basically tuba transposed to the same concert key as "high voices". If you do this with a band method, the tuba coincidentally has low E as the lowest pitch (when transposed to the sax key). You can pretty much just work out of the band method as written. Being in octaves, we should get to more interesting ensemble music much earlier than the 2-octaves-with-everybody approach.

    Sorry to nerd out. I've spent a few years thinking about these things, and they're interesting to me.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-02-2015 at 10:40 AM.

  7. #6

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    I'm not sure how accurate that is on guitar methods Matt, although I don't doubt there might be one.

    Which reputable methods go from notes on the 2nd string to notes on all 6?

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    I'm not sure how accurate that is on guitar methods Matt, although I don't doubt there might be one.

    Which reputable methods go from notes on the 2nd string to notes on all 6?
    No. Sorry. All six notes on first two.

    EFG, EFG, repeat.
    BCD, BCD, repeat.
    Now combine all six notes.

    Gets to a point where they're thinking finger numbers in a way that they wouldn't otherwise. it would seem much more appropriate to learn the three notes, then add a fourth, fifth etc.

    again, it's common practice on most other instruments.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-02-2015 at 03:38 PM.

  9. #8

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    Oh. I don't see a big issue here. This all leads to playing in open position in the key of C, right?

    It seems to work for Shearer, Noad, Leavitt (at least as far as I can remember).

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    Oh. I don't see a big issue here. This all leads to playing in open position in the key of C, right?

    It seems to work for Shearer, Noad, Leavitt (at least as far as I can remember).
    Sure. Fine for you, me...the most musically-motivated percentage of the population. I'm more interested in what hep was originally talking about, engaging more BEGINNING students who are interested in guitar, but have trouble with traditional methods or find them tedious on a musical level.

    There's a reason why major guitar programs in schools like those in Austin, TX or Clark County , Nevada write their own curriculum. If you've tried to teach this stuff in the classrooms setting to young students , you'll understand what some of the shortcomings are.

    I've spent some time in middle school band classes and taught group guitar classes in public schools, and I can tell you that the band methods are evolved from where they were a few DECADES ago. Even then, they were more highly evolved than guitar methods , and guitar methods are largely the same , not changing at all.

    If you're not interested in the conversation , don't worry about it. But having taught piano lessons from the Thompson method, and then using something more modern like Bastien or Alfred, the difference is night and day. the more modern texts practically teach themselves.

    You're going to be able to teach more, in less time , and with less skill required from both student and teacher , with more modern instructional materials.

    The fact that a certain percentage of the population learned in the old way is kind of beside the point as it pertains to the current conversation.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-02-2015 at 07:07 PM.

  11. #10

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    Good points, Matt. I studied clarinet, sax, and trumpet for a short while in college, and used Hal Leonard band books on those. Which one are you refering to? They ARE basically teach themselves! Yet, with guitar, my problem is mostly the repertoir of those books. I think Classical guitar books don't have this problem, they have nice pieces specifically desighned to develop the technique. No problem with that. I would love to have a book like that for non classical playing, with some relevant easy to play tunes, chord patterns, technique explanation, stuff like that.

  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Good points, Matt. I studied clarinet, sax, and trumpet for a short while in college, and used Hal Leonard band books on those. Which one are you refering to? They ARE basically teach themselves! Yet, with guitar, my problem is mostly the repertoir of those books. I think Classical guitar books don't have this problem, they have nice pieces specifically desighned to develop the technique. No problem with that. I would love to have a book like that for non classical playing, with some relevant easy to play tunes, chord patterns, technique explanation, stuff like that.
    Essential elements 2000. off course the technique part is completely on me. Chord study is just supplemented on my end as well.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-02-2015 at 11:09 PM.

  13. #12

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    Yes that's the one I used. I saw one for guitar from the same series, but it didnt look like it was for band playing. There was a lot of song material though, but, again, some even good ones were dumbed down. Like 'Hey Jude', they got the bridge wrong! So, in a way, the guitar method is let down again, compare to thorough course on other instruments.

    And I just came up with another question, while we are on topic of teaching: with the Classical method, do you think its a must to make students to play in Classcal position, with the foot stool? I found it hard to achieve sometimes, due to proportion of guitar size vs student size. Many kids complain its very uncomfortable, because the guitar is often too big for them, even 3/4 size! What do you do?

  14. #13

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    I too like the Hal Leonard guitar method books, I find they move from single notes to chords in an approachable way. I think some of the songs are good for showing how the real song went,(there's an approximation of cross roads that comes to mind). But as far as a place to begin especially with notation and reading I like it better than the other books mentioned.
    edbarrettjazzguitar.com

  15. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    Yes that's the one I used. I saw one for guitar from the same series, but it didnt look like it was for band playing. There was a lot of song material though, but, again, some even good ones were dumbed down. Like 'Hey Jude', they got the bridge wrong! So, in a way, the guitar method is let down again, compare to thorough course on other instruments.
    Man, that book was such a disappointment. I can't believe they slapped the essential elements name on it.

    Had the opportunity to talk with Bill Swick last year. Among other things I mentioned how deflated I had been when I got that book and saw what it really was. Well, turns out the authors were actually friends of his. Said that Hal Leonard had specifically commissioned it as a traditional guitar method with some new pop songs thrown in. Put it together in a couple of weeks I think.

    When you look at it, it's a rehash of the old Hal Leonard method, plus some new songs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    And I just came up with another question, while we are on topic of teaching: with the Classical method, do you think its a must to make students to play in Classcal position, with the foot stool? I found it hard to achieve sometimes, due to proportion of guitar size vs student size. Many kids complain its very uncomfortable, because the guitar is often too big for them, even 3/4 size! What do you do?
    Wow. How old are the students? 3/4 could be plenty small for most. Probably getting in the right position is an issue.

    Have to get the guitar face parallel to the music stand, and orient everything else to suit. They just seem compelled To orient it that way. If the feet aren't just right, a twist everything else compulsively to get the guitar face parallel. Finally had some success when I quit fighting with that. I'll msg my video.
    I was pretty reluctant about implementing it the first year we did foot stools with group classes. Thought it would be short term pain for long term gain, but it's really almost immediate benefit in technique. Well worth the effort.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-03-2015 at 01:02 AM.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Sure. Fine for you, me...the most musically-motivated percentage of the population. I'm more interested in what hep was originally talking about, engaging more BEGINNING students who are interested in guitar, but have trouble with traditional methods or find them tedious on a musical level.

    There's a reason why major guitar programs in schools like those in Austin, TX or Clark County , Nevada write their own curriculum. If you've tried to teach this stuff in the classrooms setting to young students , you'll understand what some of the shortcomings are.

    I've spent some time in middle school band classes and taught group guitar classes in public schools, and I can tell you that the band methods are evolved from where they were a few DECADES ago. Even then, they were more highly evolved than guitar methods , and guitar methods are largely the same , not changing at all.

    If you're not interested in the conversation , don't worry about it. But having taught piano lessons from the Thompson method, and then using something more modern like Bastien or Alfred, the difference is night and day. the more modern texts practically teach themselves.

    You're going to be able to teach more, in less time , and with less skill required from both student and teacher , with more modern instructional materials.

    The fact that a certain percentage of the population learned in the old way is kind of beside the point as it pertains to the current conversation.

    I did OK with young kids studying in the manner that you criticize. individual lessons, not a class.

    is there a guitar method that you are endorsing?

    what do you think of Sagreras?

    btw - Hep wasn't referring to a guitar class situation as far as one can decipher, are you?
    Last edited by fumblefingers; 10-03-2015 at 01:49 AM.

  17. #16

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    No, I don't teach guitar classes, only one on one situation. I teach rock band classes, but that is different story.

    With classical position, I just notice a lot of kids hate it, because they can't see the fretboard very well. It has to be a right guitar for a right kid, then it works. Also, it doesn't work without stool, and its hard to convince some parents they need to go through a trouble of getting one. Eh, I gotta keep trying, it's worth it.

    Thanks for the video, Matt!

  18. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    I did OK with young kids studying in the manner that you criticize. individual lessons, not a class.

    is there a guitar method that you are endorsing?

    what do you think of Sagreras?

    btw - Hep wasn't referring to a guitar class situation as far as one can decipher, are you?
    That's great. I've had success with private lessons as well, but it's a different beast. I wasn't saying that the discussion was or should be solely about group classes, but it is instructive to look at what successful teachers do in group settings or in teaching particularly young students etc.

    Teaching in those slightly more difficult situations just tends to point out more inefficiencies. The schools I mentioned and others like them are doing their teaching at scale and with the younger students. It's worth looking at. They each are kind of doing their own thing and developing their own curricula. That's cool, but I'm interested in something different as well.

    The point is that there's nothing like the consensus and uniformity of methods/materials which you find in other musical disciplines. Band, orchestra, piano etc. are really honed in on some things which seem to work and are beyond reinventing the wheel. The contrast with guitar methods would seem to point to the fact that, as a whole beginner guitar pedagogy at very basic levels is still very underdeveloped. The target is constantly moving at other levels as well. Segovia's right hand is a world away from pumping nylon technique. Guitar is just a younger discipline.

    No, I'm not endorsing a guitar method, and I'm not familiar with Sagreras. I studied some classical in school and know those methods, but I'm not a strict classical cat. I would have to check it out. I used Bill Swick's classroom method for several years and think it's exponentially better paced for beginners than traditional guitar methods, but I'm kind of going after something different now, myself.

    Austin's guitar curriculum is really well-developed for younger players. It's classical and seems very robust but requires buy-in both figuratively and literally with both method and literature. Swick is more quickly adapted to standard literature. Again, even though these are classical cats who learned the way we did, they saw the need to start from scratch.

    Austin has some good advocacy material on their site and point out the Guitar Society's frustration that statistically, most classical guitar students get their start comparatively late in life. I mean, is guitar really harder to play than violin? Well, again...I just think violin pedagogy as a whole is more highly evolved...
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-03-2015 at 08:01 AM.

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    No, I don't teach guitar classes, only one on one situation. I teach rock band classes, but that is different story.

    With classical position, I just notice a lot of kids hate it, because they can't see the fretboard very well. It has to be a right guitar for a right kid, then it works. Also, it doesn't work without stool, and its hard to convince some parents they need to go through a trouble of getting one. Eh, I gotta keep trying, it's worth it.

    Thanks for the video, Matt!
    Yeah, not even worth doing without a foot stool. WITH a foot stool, I think you'll find that they can actually see BETTER.

    I got tired of trying to sell foot stools as well. I made my own out of 2x4's. Google "how to make your own guitar foot stool" and you'll probably find my goofy face with instructions. I'll post later.

    Edit: it's in the blog linked in my sig as well...

    Better yet, buy some foot stools and include in a registration fee at the beginning.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-03-2015 at 08:12 AM.

  20. #19

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    Matt - here is a very brief review of a few well known guitar methods, some from masters, dating from the 1700s to the current day.

    Classical.

    1.Fernando Soreven tougher than Carcassi (see below). Has the student playing real music quickly.

    2. Mateo Carcassi –
    his method first diagrammed all the notes all the way up the neck. Early playing lessons cover the first position quickly. He wasted no time in getting to arpeggios and nice sounding little etudes.

    3. Julio Sagreras
    taught an untold number of students over decades, a number of them went on to become outstanding guitarists in their own right. Lesson 1 covers one note on all six strings – the open note. I urge you to look at his lessons 1-35. Lots of great drills there. Then he gets to the etudes which are very nice.

    4. Frederick Noad
    very well know guitar pedagogue - has the student playing notes on all strings very quickly in his first chapter that covers music reading.

    5. Aaron Shearer
    similar to Noad from what I recall


    Plectrum.

    1. William Leavitt - Method: "Guitar - Phase 1", 1970 (part of a two-part basic series for beginners. not the well-known method). Covers all six strings quickly in the open position key of C.

    2. Alfred Book 1
    – 1980s. I seem to recall a number of drills on one string at a time. As a teacher I spent several weeks per string if the student needed to go that slow. Lots of kids need time to deal with holding the guitar and pick etc. Lots of corny old traditional tunes.

    3. Mel Bay book 1
    – I don’t recall, but I assume that it's similar to all the others. Mel Bay mixes traditional, classical, and modern tunes. The books are a bit dense with material and can be difficult to follow, from what I recall.

    4. Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book 1,
    Second edition 2002. Methodically drills one string at a time in the key of C, open position. Note - The tunes are less traditional (and corny and square?) than other methods, and set the player up for playing blues and rock much sooner. Advantage or disadvantage? - you tell me.
    Last edited by fumblefingers; 10-03-2015 at 11:42 AM.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post

    Guitar Methods
    * Introduce notes 3-at-a-time based on the layout of the instrument instead of a more traditional 1-at-a-time methodolgy. Which is also suited to the instruments in question, no?
    * Play crazy modal music with beginners to suit our 3-at-a-time note introduction, ignoring most of traditional western music. Crazy? Says who? Regardless, we don't dwell that long in this musical space.
    * Ignore basic music literacy pertaining to things like accidentals, dynamics etc. in our frenzy to learn every white note in first position. Frenzy? What frenzy? Anyway, we get to those soon enough.
    * Progress exponentially faster in the introduction of new notes compared to any other instrument. Really? The key of C on a few strings at a time, in a narrow register?



    Other instrumental methods
    * Often introduce notes 1-at-a-time based on musical considerations, beyond the particular instrument's layout. Yes, you said that. But they don't have 6 strings, aren't frequently used as solo instruments, aren't used as an accompaniment instrument, don't allow for big chord playing.
    * Spend a good bit of time with an initial small number of pitches playing traditional, tonal, recognizable, western music. Additional notes are then usually added one-at-a time. How much wonderful traditional music can one play when the notes are introduced "exponentially slower" than with the guitar (according to you)? This seems to be a dubious/contradictory claim.
    * Introduce all facets of music literacy and musicianship, while working the small note set and gradually adding pitches.
    One could easily argue that they have to, because of the need to play with other instruments in an ensemble.
    * Most band methods limit note introduction to about 1 1/2 octaves for year-1 beginners. But that's OK because the guitar is more challenging to play along the neck than across it, because of the note placement choice introduced by the 6 strings. Once you can cover all six strings in the open position you can play A LOT of music.

    I'm just guessing, but I'd say that guitar pedagogy is easily at least 60 years behind everything else. The newest methods are largely the same as those which predate Mel Bay and his contemporaries. As an example, band programs teach very large groups of students at once. They learn a lot of music literacy in a year's time, and they keep students interested enough to keep coming back. I think they've got it down to a science.

    - What is "everything else" one wonders?
    - The guitar is a SOLO instrument. Yes it can be played in an ensemble - if one wishes. And amplification sure helps.
    - Guitar class is like Karate class. It's great for social interaction and information exchange - but - it's bad for individual attention, technique development, and developing solo capability - which is mandatory
    - Keeps them coming back, eh? there are more guitarists in the world than players for any other instrument as far as i recall. Sure, a lot quit, but a lot take their place.


    Band Methods as a Template?
    How 'bout no, Matt? I would suggest comparing to the piano. But I really just advise letting the guitar be the guitar, and to deal with it according to its idiosyncrasies.

    I think that a big problem with student interest is in not hearing something that sounds like traditional western music for so long in beginner methods. Hot cross buns, Go tell aunt rhody... It's pretty standardized by now for other instruments as to what works for engaging new students early on, and keeping them coming back. It has to sound like music early enough.

    Maybe so, maybe not. If that is your preference then you can go with Mel Bay and Alfred. But to be honest, most beginning guitar method books contain some degree of those corny old traditional tunes that you believe today's kids crave so much.

    Honestly, it just doesn't make sense that it's harder to get guitarists to learn to read. Guitar is intrinsically easier to play and "cooler" in its appeal than most band instruments. It should be easier to teach reading on, but it's usually harder. I think the main differences are the methodology and the missing ensemble element.

    No. The main difference is the six strings - and all the choice, and hence conundrums, that the extra two strings bring.

    .
    I have a few counterpoints above - in blue - for your consideration.
    Last edited by fumblefingers; 10-03-2015 at 12:29 PM.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    Matt - here is a very brief review of a few well known guitar methods, some from masters, dating from the 1700s to the current day.

    Classical.

    1.Fernando Soreven tougher than Carcassi (see below). Has the student playing real music quickly.

    2. Mateo Carcassi –
    his method first diagrammed all the notes all the way up the neck. Early playing lessons cover the first position quickly. He wasted no time in getting to arpeggios and nice sounding little etudes.

    3. Julio Sagreras
    taught an untold number of students over decades, a number of them went on to become outstanding guitarists in their own right. Lesson 1 covers one note on all six strings – the open note. I urge you to look at his lessons 1-35. Lots of great drills there. Then he gets to the etudes which are very nice.

    4. Frederick Noad
    very well know guitar pedagogue - has the student playing notes on all strings very quickly in his first chapter that covers music reading.

    5. Aaron Shearer
    similar to Noad from what I recall


    Plectrum.

    1. William Leavitt - Method: "Guitar - Phase 1", 1970 (part of a two-part basic series for beginners. not the well-known method). Covers all six strings quickly in the open position key of C.

    2. Alfred Book 1
    – 1980s. I seem to recall a number of drills on one string at a time. As a teacher I spent several weeks per string if the student needed to go that slow. Lots of kids need time to deal with holding the guitar and pick etc. Lots of corny old traditional tunes.

    3. Mel Bay book 1
    – I don’t recall, but I assume that it's similar to all the others. Mel Bay mixes traditional, classical, and modern tunes. The books are a bit dense with material and can be difficult to follow, from what I recall.

    4. Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book 1,
    Second edition 2002. Methodically drills one string at a time in the key of C, open position. Note - The tunes are less traditional (and corny and square?) than other methods, and set the player up for playing blues and rock much sooner. Advantage or disadvantage? - you tell me.
    well, yeah, apart from the Classical methods, which I have no problem with, you just mentioned all the books that I did. I was hoping there is something more out there.

    What I dont get about Alfred and Mel Bay is cluttering the melodies with partial chords, basically in random fashion. There is no style to it at all. To me, it should be done on more advance level that actually makes sense, and for more advanced students. Like playing chord- melody style. For beginnere, Id only use melody and chords as symbols, and keep them separate for a while. Hal Leonard does this. Alfred does the opposite, and doubt it was written by an actual guitarist, it seems like the author had no clue.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    I have a few counterpoints above - in blue - for your consideration.
    Ok. with your formatting, that's the one thing I can quote without getting on the computer I guess...

    My original overarching statement was that from everything I have experienced in teaching and observing others teach, (guitar and other instruments), methods for teaching beginning musicians have EVOLVED a great deal, even in the last few decades while guitar methods have remained largely the same. (In fact we mostly point to methods which are 50 years old as the standards for current methodology). I'll hereby mark you down in the "it was good enough for me" category. (Actually, it was good enough for me as well, but that's not my point.)

    I'm personally not interested in the fact that plenty of people learned to play the piano in the old days before Faber and Faber or Bastian. I'm more interested in the fact that these newer methods are much more engaging to students, less mind-numbing for the teacher , and overall more efficient as methods. I think it's worth asking whether or not there's something better for guitar as well.

    Another thing, learning to play piano from a graded method, encompassing years or months, doesn't hinder a student's playing classical literature in the end ( or even concurrently), any more so than a graded beginning guitar method would somehow magically REPLACE all previous literature.

    It's a false argument. Sure it's a solo instrument , played on multiple strings at a time, but even current methods don't BEGIN that way. If you want to have a debate with someone on the abolition of guitar as a solo instrument , you'll have to go somewhere else for that.

    Anyway, I find it interesting that you put so many words into discussing subjects which you seemingly don't care that much about, but that's your business. Hope your weekend is great.

  24. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    Matt - here is a very brief review of a few well known guitar methods, some from masters, dating from the 1700s to the current day.

    Classical.

    1.Fernando Soreven tougher than Carcassi (see below). Has the student playing real music quickly.

    2. Mateo Carcassi –
    his method first diagrammed all the notes all the way up the neck. Early playing lessons cover the first position quickly. He wasted no time in getting to arpeggios and nice sounding little etudes.

    3. Julio Sagreras
    taught an untold number of students over decades, a number of them went on to become outstanding guitarists in their own right. Lesson 1 covers one note on all six strings – the open note. I urge you to look at his lessons 1-35. Lots of great drills there. Then he gets to the etudes which are very nice.

    4. Frederick Noad
    very well know guitar pedagogue - has the student playing notes on all strings very quickly in his first chapter that covers music reading.

    5. Aaron Shearer
    similar to Noad from what I recall
    Thanks for the summary BTW.

    Ok. I did classical out of Noad in college, like everyone else I guess. Taught occasional classical students out of Christopher Parkening's method in adulthood. They both integrate a lot of Carcassi and Sor, and I've never looked at those earlier works as dedicated methods. I think it's pretty standard to start with open strings and then, move on to adding notes on the 1st string etc. in the classical world. Parkening gets to the arpeggiated, solo guitar, pretty stuff a little quicker than Noad. Also, I always felt that the more arpeggiated carcassi-esque type studies were better for training the right hand without as much intense teacher input. Good technique kind of naturally flows out of those exercises versus single-string finger alternation work like the front of Noad.

    I'm not a dedicated classical guy so if someone wanted to get serious beyond that first level, I'd probably refer them on.

    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    1. William Leavitt - Method: "Guitar - Phase 1", 1970 (part of a two-part basic series for beginners. not the well-known method). Covers all six strings quickly in the open position key of C.

    2. Alfred Book 1
    – 1980s. I seem to recall a number of drills on one string at a time. As a teacher I spent several weeks per string if the student needed to go that slow. Lots of kids need time to deal with holding the guitar and pick etc. Lots of corny old traditional tunes.

    3. Mel Bay book 1
    – I don’t recall, but I assume that it's similar to all the others. Mel Bay mixes traditional, classical, and modern tunes. The books are a bit dense with material and can be difficult to follow, from what I recall.

    4. Hal Leonard Guitar Method Book 1,
    Second edition 2002. Methodically drills one string at a time in the key of C, open position. Note - The tunes are less traditional (and corny and square?) than other methods, and set the player up for playing blues and rock much sooner. Advantage or disadvantage? - you tell me.
    I learned out of Mel Bay as a kid after having a few years in band, playing saxophone. It's got a special place for me. I just don't think books like that work for many people who aren't already serious musicians, and that's my point. I had special students who did really well with the note reading parts of lessons. I do chords with them and lead/licks/scales etc. depending on interest, but the chords and note-reading were always the main-frame. There's just such a high percentage of "the rest" for whom the note-reading was more for me than them. It was something to get past to get to the "real" guitar music. I think you can always chalk a lot of that up to guitarists just wanting to rock out, but I also think it's the methods.

    I've played through and looked at the Hal Leonard. It's cool for what it is. Very similar to the Mel Bay books. Chord integration a little earlier on perhaps. Dick Bennett's old method book (I think it's out of print...) was probably the best for integrating chords on a really basic level. (I'd say leavitt is the standard there, but that's not necessarily basic?) Dick Bennett had dedicated exercises which first arpeggiated the chords, followed by strums. Pretty cool. Maybe Hal Leonard was similar, but the Bennett book was cool with that.

    I put my eyes on the Leavitt book at the store a few years ago between lessons, but never actually used it or anything. It's probably a good "pre" modern method book. Some overlap I'd imagine.

    I've never seen the Alfred book, but the newer Alfred Kid's Method or whatever it's called is really excellent. It's more of a piano methodology, introduces notes one-at-a-time, and integrates chords in the notation section. Actually, it begins with 3-note chord strumming (rhythms notated on the staff below with those diamond-head notes...) so that when you get to the note-reading section you're integrating chords immediately. Really provides the interest lacking in other methods for the "learning enough notes to play music" phase.

    I think it could be a decent method for students of any age if it didn't have the goofy cartoon animals throughout. I put two or three 4th/5th graders all the way through that book with great success in a few months, and they actually enjoyed it. Just not as easily done with Mel Bay and other kid's methods. They generally make me want to gouge my eyes out. Anyway those are my thoughts and what I'm familiar with in standard methods. Jerry Snyder's books are really good as well but pretty standard. He's got outstanding guitar ensemble material.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    well, yeah, apart from the Classical methods, which I have no problem with, you just mentioned all the books that I did. I was hoping there is something more out there.

    What I dont get about Alfred and Mel Bay is cluttering the melodies with partial chords, basically in random fashion. There is no style to it at all. To me, it should be done on more advance level that actually makes sense, and for more advanced students. Like playing chord- melody style. For beginnere, Id only use melody and chords as symbols, and keep them separate for a while. Hal Leonard does this. Alfred does the opposite, and doubt it was written by an actual guitarist, it seems like the author had no clue.
    i think we were talking about different "Leavitt Book 1s" I'm not talking about the ubiquitous green one, which is first in a series of three, I'm talking about the white one, which is first in a series of two. It is indeed for beginners. It and its companion volume are not very well known, especially when compared to Leavitt's other books.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    Ok. with your formatting, that's the one thing I can quote without getting on the computer I guess...

    My original overarching statement was that from everything I have experienced in teaching and observing others teach, (guitar and other instruments), methods for teaching beginning musicians have EVOLVED a great deal, even in the last few decades while guitar methods have remained largely the same. (In fact we mostly point to methods which are 50 years old as the standards for current methodology). I'll hereby mark you down in the "it was good enough for me" category. (Actually, it was good enough for me as well, but that's not my point.)

    I'm personally not interested in the fact that plenty of people learned to play the piano in the old days before Faber and Faber or Bastian. I'm more interested in the fact that these newer methods are much more engaging to students, less mind-numbing for the teacher , and overall more efficient as methods. I think it's worth asking whether or not there's something better for guitar as well.

    Another thing, learning to play piano from a graded method, encompassing years or months, doesn't hinder a student's playing classical literature in the end ( or even concurrently), any more so than a graded beginning guitar method would somehow magically REPLACE all previous literature.

    It's a false argument. Sure it's a solo instrument , played on multiple strings at a time, but even current methods don't BEGIN that way. If you want to have a debate with someone on the abolition of guitar as a solo instrument , you'll have to go somewhere else for that.

    Anyway, I find it interesting that you put so many words into discussing subjects which you seemingly don't care that much about, but that's your business. Hope your weekend is great.
    what??? you think I don't care?

    Here's an executive summary:

    1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    2. Guitar methods have evolved and improved since Carcassi's day, although they build on the foundation as opposed to wholly replace it. Sagreras' work is a perfect example.

    3. The guitar is a solo instrument. It is not a band instrument, it is not an orchestral instrument, it is not a part of a string quartet. It is unique, and hence has unique pedagogical requirements.

    4. Today's "method book 1" type texts spend more time having the student learn a few notes on each string than the classical methods did. For one, a pick is being used as opposed to four digits, so that follows. This gives beginners time to build upon one little thing at a time. They can go slowly if they need to, although most don't struggle too mightily with this, from my experience. (I took lots of kids, teenagers and adults through that old Alfred book decades ago, and a few made it up into Leavitt and rock tunes).

    5. In very little time a student can learn to play in the key of C across all six strings in the open position. That also enables A minor. Closely related keys G and F are a small effort upward from there. With that, hundreds of etudes and pieces can be learned. A well constructed method weaves in rhythm, articulation, and dynamics without much trouble at all.

    6. Guitar class a sub-optimal means for learning the guitar. That's an understatement, actually. And guitar ensemble music? Most of it is horrendous. That's a shame because it needn't be that way, but that's another topic.


    In summary:
    I can tell that you're frustrated but I don't see a tangible proposal from you with any concrete specifics about how to re-organize guitar pedagogy in it's earliest stages with specifics about strings and string sets and keys and chords etc. I see the complaints though. No offense, but your expressions of frustration and disdain almost strike me as those which might come from a non-guitarist. You might want to think about reviewing #1 above.

    That said, guitar pedagogy for 3-4 year-olds is not something I've spent time with. It has many challenges. I will admit to less interest in teaching that age group.

  27. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    what??? you think I don't care?
    Sorry. I momentarily forgot your warm, fuzziness. You often have the appearance of seeking an argument for argument's sake. I sincerely appreciate your input and I responded to it, albeit out of order. My bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    3. The guitar is a solo instrument. It is not a band instrument, it is not an orchestral instrument, it is not a part of a string quartet. It is unique, and hence has unique pedagogical requirements.
    All well and good. We're actually talking about the portion of methods, however, which is specifically melodic and no different in musical content from other instruments. I haven't looked at string methods. Do they all teach: 1)every note on one string, 2) every note on the second string, 3) both strings combined? Is that a question worth asking or does the fact that they're not going to play six string chords make that entire line of thinking stupid?

    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    I can tell that you're frustrated but I don't see a tangible proposal from you with any concrete specifics about how to re-organize guitar pedagogy in it's earliest stages with specifics about strings and string sets and keys and chords etc. I see the complaints though. No offense, but your expressions of frustration and disdain almost strike me as those which might come from a non-guitarist. You might want to think about reviewing #1 above.

    That said, guitar pedagogy for 3-4 year-olds is not something I've spent time with. It has many challenges. I will admit to less interest in teaching that age group.
    My proposal was to introduce pitches in succession and with regard to the tonality of western music. We already almost do this! E-F-G? Great! What next? B? I think that's where the pianists and violinists snort their milk out of their nose. You're teaching E-F-G and then erasing the etch-a-sketch. Now B-C-then-D. In a week or two, by your own calculation in an above post we'll get back to E-F-G.

    My proposal would be something like E-F-G, then D, Then C. That's the way it's taught on other melodic instruments. The argument that it's different because it's a guitar is false because it's assuming that we don't already teach notes in succession. Every guitar method does so. It just does it in a musically nonsensical way. It honestly feels like the discussion with the guy who wanted to change music notation to look like a piano keyboard. You have some regard for instrument layout. But do you really have to start with open pitches on every string?

    I've only encountered one method which ever introduced D as the 4th pitch: Everybody's Guitar method. The pace is still to fast IMO, but at least they're kind of addressing what I see as part of the problem.

    I don't think the planet will stop spinning the other direction if you introduced pitches E-F-G-D-C-B-A-G for example. My pitch introduction this year is D-C-B-A-G, in two parts, octaves, starting from 2nd and 4th string. It gets you to the point where you can play ensemble music in weeks instead of months if you're a selfish bastard like me who likes to put on group concerts.

    The thing is, when the pacing is right, it has zero effect on high-performers. They just move more quickly through the material. Fumble, I know without a doubt that you were a "work ahead in your book" type. I've always had elite ensembles which play real music, but it just takes forever to get "all the rest" up to a point where they can play some real music. It just ain't that way in the band hall. They get all of those kids playing part music quickly, because they're doing it in multiple octaves and the methodology is as tight as a drum.

    Teach D after E-F-G. I don't think that's controversial, and it's not even dependent on doing it as an ensemble.

    Not slower. Just a different order.

  28. #27

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    In most methods, I see the second string introduced with B, C, D all at once - same exercise/tune. That's after the first string notes of course E-F-G.

    Then you can play little runs like C-D-E-F-G-F-E-D-C, B, C.

    That enables somewhat tuneful little etudes.

    I don't get the issue.

  29. #28
    I understand. Mel bay and Alfred got it right almost immediately with their method, no change needed. Meanwhile pedagogy for piano and other instruments, (which far predates modern guitar study), continues to incrementally evolve, at each step building on what previous methods did, across different publishers, authors etc.

    Right. It's silly to question whether methods that are basically 60 or more years old might be tired. Who needs incremental improvements, as long as some were able to learn the old way? "It was good enough for me, Johnny."

    Regarding methods for group classes, of course it's easier to teach one-on-one lessons. You can say the same for any instrument. Whether or not it's easier isn't the point, nor is it about whether anyone should teach groups or if it's intrinsically a solo instrument. Never said that everyone should do it.

    the larger point is that in order to teach groups, whether guitar or another instrument, the methods have to be pretty efficient and engaging tot he student. I don't think it's silly to look at what major school programs are doing in teaching large numbers of younger guitar students to play and read music.

    I think it's also worth looking at the broader implications behind the fact that so many of them feel that the old methods we're talking about are inadequate.
    Last edited by matt.guitarteacher; 10-04-2015 at 07:50 AM.

  30. #29

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    Firstly, I believe in continuous improvement. In my profession we assess the maturity of a process in terms of:

    1. Is it ad-hoc?
    2. Is it repeatable?
    3. Is it defined?(i.e. written)
    4. Is it managed?
    5. Is it optimized?

    1 is worst, 5 is best. Most people/corporations find it difficult to sustain levels higher than about 3.5.

    Second, I don't believe that I pointed out that class guitar was "easier" than individual instruction, I pointed out that it was sub-optimal relative to individual instruction - assuming the same goals. It has its place. I have attended many a guitar class and had fun, despite the overall trend of retarding the rate of progress. That's another way of saying - the goals for a guitar class should be more modest than for individual instruction.

    One way to mitigate that is to have the class members do their uninspiring little drills at home and concentrate on the ensemble playing in the class. Offer to teach any/all students 1-on-1 outside class, so that they get everything out of the class that they can. In class, when someone holds the group back, isolate them. When the whole class has sloughed off, drill the uninspiring "crazy modal melodies" in class one row of students at a time while the others wait for their turn. There's a disincentive to slacking off.

    I'm not meaning to give you any sh*t about it, but would still like to hear how you would replace the typical "Book 1", or perhaps what you would do differently for the early lessons that cover the first 3 strings. Sagreras was frustrated with guitar methods too. He didn't think that there was enough material to digest, and also thought that the gaps between lessons/etudes were too wide/difficult to traverse. So he fixed both of those issues.

    Maybe there's a new publishing in your future?
    Last edited by fumblefingers; 10-04-2015 at 10:37 AM.

  31. #30

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    For what it's worth, I totally get what Matt is saying. I know the difference between trying to teach an old school piano method (Thompson?!?!) vs something more modern.

    So while we might agree in principle, if it ain't broke don't fix it, some of the older methods really were broken.

    As a guitar player I have much more recent experience being the student. I mentioned I did Leavitt book 1 ... I thought it was a bit difficult (dry) to get through, but at least it didn't feel "dumb" like some others. Conversely the classical methods I looked at seemed to be good stuff, but they launched kinda fast and lost me - turned me off of trying to play classical guitar. I would've liked something somewhere in between, and something written for me instead of for my grandfather (and I'm not exactly a youngster myself).

    Interesting thread. Even if the group of you disagree - or maybe *because* you disagree - this ought to be useful info for other teachers.

  32. #31

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    I haven't really read the other posts, but I find myself always using "Guitar For the Young" by Rodney Stucky, here is a link:
    Guitar For The Young, Book 1 (CD Included) Sheet Music By Rodney Stucky (SKU: DZ.DZ-1110) - Sheet Music Plus

    It is mostly for younger students, but I had used it for a 15 year old once and it worked really well. I like how it it starts a student off with learning a few tunes by rote, then introducing reading through rhythms, and then finally combining the two. It is a classical method but it has a really great approach to learning fingerstyle, starting the student off with the thumb and then introducing the other fingers through simple chord studies.

    For older students I don't really have a favorite, I just take one of the common methods and try to insert my own thing over those methods. I have never used it but the Jerry Snyder guitar school books always seemed cool. They are divided into two parts, one for chords and one for single note stuff and there is also a teachers book available with quizes and extra duets.

  33. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    Second, I don't believe that I pointed out that class guitar was "easier" than individual instruction, I pointed out that it was sub-optimal relative to individual instruction - assuming the same goals.
    Wasn't intending to say that you said that.

    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    I'm not meaning to give you any sh*t about it, but would still like to hear how you would replace the typical "Book 1", or perhaps what you would do differently for the early lessons that cover the first 3 strings. Sagreras was frustrated with guitar methods too. He didn't think that there was enough material to digest, and also thought that the gaps between lessons/etudes were too wide/difficult to traverse. So he fixed both of those issues.

    Maybe there's a new publishing in your future?
    I'm basically adapting a band method right now, same notes different order basically. The one "efficiency" element that usually isn't factored into the equation with these things is human motivation. The ensemble element helps greatly with this honestly. Also, having music which sounds like music sooner than later seems to be a common thread in other instrumental methods as well, and I assume it's for THAT reason as well.

    Interestingly, I found a violin method in my basement yesterday . It's loaded with tonal music from the beginning. Like a guitar method for classical, begins with open notes , then adds fretted notes on the second string in the key of the second string , A I think.

    So, basically , they throw out the "white note only" idea in favor of tonality . Probably not going to ever do anything exactly like that , but I thought it was interesting that the emphasis is on tonal music there as well.

    I'll try to post the note sequence I'm doing, later today, when I look at it.

  34. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by fumblefingers View Post
    Sagreras was frustrated with guitar methods too. He didn't think that there was enough material to digest, and also thought that the gaps between lessons/etudes were too wide/difficult to traverse. So he fixed both of those issues.

    Maybe there's a new publishing in your future?
    yeah, the need for extra in between material is a common thread , as it's addressed in some newer methods. The newer editions of Mel bay for example fill a lot of supplemental material in between. The bill Swick method that I used for several years does a lot of the same.

    The problem with slowing the pace, of course, is that you further delay the playing of "real" music, hence, my emphasis on tonality earlier.

    No. Not publishing anytime soon. :-)

  35. #34

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    Never ran into a method book I thought was good....


    i start students using a sight singing book, once they have the basic idea, I have them start working from the Bach Inventions. Obviously, they won't understand everything, and probably won't play it perfectly, but the music is so damn "substantial" it makes it worth the effort. Plus it's been working for musicians for 400 years, why reinvent the wheel.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher View Post
    yeah, the need for extra in between material is a common thread , as it's addressed in some newer methods. The newer editions of Mel bay for example fill a lot of supplemental material in between. The bill Swick method that I used for several years does a lot of the same.

    The problem with slowing the pace, of course, is that you further delay the playing of "real" music, hence, my emphasis on tonality earlier.

    No. Not publishing anytime soon. :-)
    I think that's a choice. I think we have to stand back from the books and evaluate things a bit.

    I really like the ABRSM approach (not that they made it up, BTW). It has beginning through advanced students (8 levels) work on the following things at every level. A level takes about a semester, or a little longer if needed.

    1. Repertoire/tunes - 3 pieces, one each from a particular era, are required for a recital every semester.
    2. Technique (scales, chords, arpeggios, intervals, slurs, harmonics, etc)
    3. Studies/etudes (a lot of those book "tunes" fall here, not in #1)
    Last edited by fumblefingers; 10-11-2015 at 11:06 AM.

  37. #36

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    I like ABRSM too, I use it when I need to prepare a student for the exam. Those are not method books, though, just a collection of pieces, sight reading examples, scales, etc all in separate books. And
    again, its strictly Classical/fingerpicking, no plectrum allowed.

  38. #37

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    sure, sure. i'm referring to the system of organization and critical thinking about what you're doing. that is,

    1. technique is technique
    2. etudes are musical studies - not repertoire
    3. pieces are repertoire

    this concept can be applied to jazz, in fact ABRSM has already done that (for piano, trumpet and maybe another instrument or two. not guitar last time i checked, but that's not germane.)

    just as a quick example, you can use Leavitt for #1 and #2 above.