Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

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Ángel de Vicente

Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Ángel de Vicente » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:06 am

Hi,

my children love to take the guitar from me when I am playing, so we have bought a small one for the bigger child (4.5 years old). For some reason he likes the Carcassi studies, but I think he is still a bit small to play them by himself :D

So, the question. Do you know of any method / any website / any whatever that will give me some hints as to what to do with a small child and a guitar, so that he can enjoy his new "toy"?

Thanks,
Ángel de Vicente

Ángel de Vicente

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Ángel de Vicente » Thu Jul 01, 2010 11:52 am

Hi,

after some searching, I've found something that looks promising. I understand that links to commercial sites are not allowed, so I only write the name of the book: "Alfred's Kids Guitar Course Complete (Book and 2 Enhanced CDs), The Easiest Guitar Method Ever!". It is advertised for ages 5 and up, so my son is almost there.

Has anyone used it? Any opinions?

Thanks,
Ángel

Robin
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Robin » Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:56 pm

Hi angelv,

This is my favorite topic!! I teach children as young as 5 years old. I'm still in the process of developing this specialty but I can share a few things with you.

Regardless of the method you choose, I have found that it works well to start them with simple strumming using three string chords that require minimal left hand work. I do this because the young child has more developed gross motor control than fine motor control. They are more successful at moving their arm up and down than trying to co-ordinate finding one string with one finger while using a left hand finger. It gives them time to get used to holding the guitar, learning how to keep a steady beat, etc. Once this is established I begin to introduce single note playing. I have them use "i" and "m" at at first but not alternating. When they can play decent strokes with those fingers, we start walking the fingers. For the left hand, I often incorporate the use of a capo to shorten the neck so they don't have to reach. I want them to have a relaxed shoulder. They tend to over play their left hand as it is so I don't need to add arm extension to the issue.

Each child is individual so being responsive and respectful of their learning process will be of great asset. I also help teach the child to distiguish "play time" on the guitar from "practice time" on the guitar. Play time is their time to just have fun--experiment with it, play like a rock star, make crazy sounds with the strings (like rubbing a pick against the grain of a wound string). I think this is important. It allows for imaginative, creative play and it establishes self trust in their ability to interact with the instrument. Practice time is different. It is their time to learn to do the things on their guitar that the teacher is showing them--how to hold it, how to position their arm, how to use their fingers, to keep a steady beat and to work on the assignments given. Both playing and practicing are important but children sometimes confuse the two!

Best of luck to you as you introduce your son to the guitar!

Robin
So much music, so little time.

kjluv

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by kjluv » Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:25 pm

Hi,
My son started when he was 4 with the Suzuki method. Worked very good for us. You can see him playing in this forum at "my student's concerts" Kayden at Yale.
Good Luck! Let me know if you need more information about the method.

Aaron

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Aaron » Sat Jul 03, 2010 4:00 pm

Suzuki is effective if the teacher is good but it is a very rigid and uncreative approach. The Alfred book is decent but is not ideal, I've reviewed it. Don't start with fretting, start with open strings. Right-hand has to come first and yet we want good music. The best bet is to do lots of duets with the student on the open string. There are books like the Parkening Method that contain a few good duets with just open strings, and that works well. You can also take any of thousands of beginning etudes that use open bass strings and teach the student to play just the bass part and make the treble the teacher's part. You can do creative things by composing music with the student. You can do copy games and memory games with open strings. You can practice strumming rhythms by muting the strings or tuning to an open chord and singing one-chord songs. After the student is totally comfortable with the right-hand, then one-string melodies can be played with the left or you can use the Alfred kid's method or Dick Bennett's "Guitar For The Small Fry" or Mel Bay's Children's method, or Richard Corr's excellent Guitar Academy series (order from him direct if not in the UK, though be aware he is almost set on releasing an improved, updated version of his book 1)... there's lots more. The important thing is to make it fun and make each step completely manageable.

I've reviewed all of these methods, including the Suzuki approach, and I have qualifications and complaints about all of them. I teach each student individually using all the best resources. My youngest student today is 5, but I have another student who is now 8 years old and working on intermediate material from, among other sources, the Parkening Method volume 2, and he is also especially confident and expressive with free improvisation. He started with me at age 3.

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remmus
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by remmus » Sat Jul 03, 2010 4:16 pm

Aaron wrote: I've reviewed all of these methods, including the Suzuki approach, and I have qualifications and complaints about all of them. I teach each student individually using all the best resources. My youngest student today is 5, but I have another student who is now 8 years old and working on intermediate material from, among other sources, the Parkening Method volume 2, and he is also especially confident and expressive with free improvisation. He started with me at age 3.
I began teaching my oldest daughter when she was 3, and now she is 8 and easily playing pieces from the Parkening Method Vol. 1. She's not ready for vol. 2 yet but she's learning at a phenomenal rate. If she keeps this up she'll be outplaying me in a few years! :shock: :D
I've had a few other very young students who absorbed the knowledge and are quite good players now so I've learned not to reject teaching the babies until after I've sat with them for a few lessons. Some kids aren't ready but there are a few who are. Right Aaron?!! :D
"...it is awfully easy to become content with a level below what one is actually capable of." - Carl Peter

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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Sat Jul 03, 2010 5:10 pm

New Dimensions in Classical Guitar for Children
by Sonia Michelson
Pub. Mel Bay

"Using a holistic approach to early childhood education, I have combined the Suzuki-Kodali principles into a developmental method. Only one new idea or step is introduced at a time. When this is mastered, the child goes on to the next small challenge. Of foremost importance has been my awareness of each child's unique potential. Therefore, emphasis has been on stimulating eachchild's musical imagination and ability through special guitar techniques, eurythmics, listening games and theory games. Students learn through participation in movement, singing and guitar performance."

sbondy
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by sbondy » Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:15 pm

Aaron wrote:Suzuki is effective if the teacher is good but it is a very rigid and uncreative approach...

Pardon me if I voice some frustration in the direction of the above statement. The Suzuki method is quite the opposite in my opinion, but I am biased, as I've made a good portion of my living teaching children guitar with the Suzuki method for the last 10 years or so. To the original poster, I would recommend you investigate any and all teachers in the area who have had success teaching young children, be they in the suzuki method, any other 'organized' method, or if they teach their own method.

The Suzuki method is only as rigid as the teacher who teaches it. Yes, there is a prescribed curriculum (order of pieces) but every teacher needs to do what is best for their student, and teachers are welcomed and encouraged to change what they see needs to be changed. I think the above sentiments exist in the guitar world because people look at the Suzuki repertoire books and feel that they're limiting. The genius of the Suzuki method lies beyond the books, and in the nurturing approach to teaching children: the method works and is special because it demands the support of the parents, gets young students playing without the interference of notation, and with regular group classes it gives them an opportunity to be with peers to make music and have fun. Now, these things I've mentioned do not have to be unique to the Suzuki approach, anyone else is welcome to 'borrow' them (and I would encourage you to do so!). After one takes the initial Suzuki training courses, one doesn't sign a contract saying that they'll teach everything the same way, that they check their imagination at the door. Far from it. In my experience, people who take the time to do the training do so because they have a strong desire to be excellent teachers and are seeing if this is a valid approach. Many think it is a valid approach, others do not. This can be said of any method or approach.

Okay, reading over my diatribe above, I think I come across as a bit defensive, but I'll live with that! Again to the original poster, investigate anyone who claims success working with children and observe them teaching. Good teaching is good teaching, regardless of the 'method' used.

Best,

Steve

Aaron

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Aaron » Sat Jul 03, 2010 8:45 pm

I don't want this to devolve into a discussion about Suzuki, but I'll make some clarifications:

I agree that any method is as flexible as the teacher, therefore it is the teacher that is important, rather than the method. There are many excellent aspects of the Suzuki method! That said, no element of Suzuki is unique. You can find teachers and methods that use the same or similar ideas independently. The Suzuki method, with its specific organization and certification, attracts a disproportionate number of less creative or less broad-minded teachers, though there are certainly superb and creative Suzuki teachers as well as rigid, boring, and uncreative teachers outside of Suzuki.

In all of this, the student's personality is a major factor. Some students will thrive with one method and not with another.

I have some great praise for Suzuki's emphasis on the musical experience over the notation system. Suzuki also is great at emphasizing quality interpretation and expression. The program has an excellent progression in clear steps. My biggest complaints regarding the musical aspects of Suzuki are the limited focus that does not engage with contemporary composition and the other cultural assumptions. Many of those assumptions are present in the classical guitar world as a whole and I don't like them there either. I also have a nit-picky hangup about the awful way that Suzuki accompaniment parts often do a complete authentic cadence as an intro instead of a better lead-in. Hearing that full cadence and then the song starting is a musical-intelligence insult and completely annoying even to passive listeners. It makes the music feel extra juvenile.

To be clear, this is all the background I have in Suzuki: I've read through the Suzuki repertoire books noting the pedagogy and fingering ideas (I understand that these are then actually taught through rote exposure and concepts in lessons not mainly through reading), my sister completed Suzuki violin, I know a number of Suzuki teachers personally, and I've taught a number of guitar students who came to me after starting on Suzuki or while continuing Suzuki as well. I will readily admit that I am not in a position to completely judge the approach as a whole, but I do understand it pretty well for an outsider.

To get back to the topic at hand: Most of the elements of Suzuki or of any of these other books are pretty good. On the other hand, I teach a number of things that are equally effective that I find often more rewarding. For example, I teach the concept of tetrachords and modes, including middle-eastern and Indian style modes, on the 1st string, and have students play the 6th string as a drone while learning or composing all varieties of simple melodies on the 1st string. My students all have more independence, awareness, and explicit understanding of the music than the majority of traditionally-taught students.

Tiago

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Tiago » Sun Jul 04, 2010 2:55 pm

In the end there is no bad method for a good teacher and no good method for a bad one.

Ángel de Vicente

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Ángel de Vicente » Sun Jul 04, 2010 11:57 pm

Hi,

thanks for the replies.

So far I have no idea whether my son will show any real interest in his guitar (once the fun of taking it away from daddy is gone...), but during the weekend he has (on his own) taken his guitar and strummed it a number of times, so I guess it is a good beginning. If after a week he keeps on doing so I think I will get one of the suggested books and try to teach him something (my main worry is that I'm not used to teaching to small kids, so I don't want to get impatient or go too far and make him lose the interest...).

Thanks,
Ángel de Vicente

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benessa
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by benessa » Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:28 am

Has anyone used a book by Matthew Hinsley called Classical Guitar for Young People. It was recently recommended to me and I will try it, but I know nothing about.
...plain Kate...and sometimes Kate the curst

Aaron

Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Aaron » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:01 am

That sure looks interesting. Too bad there's virtually no information about it available on the website for the book. All I know is that it is a book with CD, starts with free stroke, and got good reviews from some known personalities. I'm definitely curious...

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benessa
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by benessa » Mon Dec 06, 2010 3:52 am

The Hinsley book was recommended to me by Matt Denman who has an impressive youth guitar program (in Oklahoma City, I think). Seemed like an excellent recommendation!
...plain Kate...and sometimes Kate the curst

Nick Cutroneo
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Re: Guitar method for small children? (4-5 years old)

Post by Nick Cutroneo » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:01 am

To clarify, the Suzuki Method is NOT about how to teach classical guitar, but rather how to relate and teach young children. The guitar is the medium in which you teach. With that said, the Suzuki Method is great for a few reasons:

1) The pieces, especially in the first book, really engage the student (all of my students love the pieces). I just wish that the people who wrote the guitar method put more then 14 pieces in the 1st book (the Violins get 19 pieces, Violas get 20...the guitar should have MORE).

2) The Group Class is a great motivator for students. It's must like a team sport. The students become friends and have fun together with and without the guitar. Also, it starts the concept of chamber music together right from the beginning.

With children this young (4 and 5) you have to understand that they don't learn the same way that a 7 or 8 year old would. Having them start off with reading notes right from the beginning is a struggle because they can barely read to being with! Thus learning music by ear. At this age, they are still actively listening and learning through listening and imitating, just as they acquire language. However, due to the non-instrument-pedagogical nature of the Suzuki Method, you are at the whim of how developed (or in some cases underdeveloped) the teacher's understanding of HOW to teach an instrument.
Nick Cutroneo - Classical Guitarist, performer/teacher/suzuki instructor

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