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MENC: The National Association for Music Education

Guitar Class: A Multifaceted Approach

Author(s): Lee R. Bartel
Source: Music Educators Journal, Vol. 77, No. 2, Special Focus: The Making of a Master Music
Teacher (Oct., 1990), pp. 40-45
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of MENC: The National Association for Music
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3397816
Accessed: 19-06-2015 13:25 UTC

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W henthefirst
onguitar teachthemselves
appearedin MEJtwenty-five years to beginusingit in theirclasses.
ago, few educatorswould have Manyof the reasonsguitarwas
guessed how popular the idea an attractive optionforjuniorand
wouldbe a decade later.By 1973, seniorhighschoolprograms at that
"guitar class" was synonymous time are still
valid. the
First, guitar
withthemusicteacher'sadaptation class does not need to emphasize
to changingtimes.Thoughmany formalpublicperformance; it can
guitarprograms continueto existin be a "generalmusic" class, devel-
1990,theguitarhas beenovershad- opingmusicianship usingtheguitar
owed by the currentsymbolof a as theprincipal music-making tool.
musicteacher'scontemporaneity: Second, the culturalappeal and
MIDI technology. The guitarclass, stylisticadaptability of the guitar
however, continues to have great make it an attractive vehicle for
potential formusiceducation.The musicaldevelopmentfor students

opportunitiesand challenges of who findlittleinterestin band,

secondarygeneralmusic,theman- orchestra,or choir programs-or
datedfineartsrequirement, and a forthosewho have notdeveloped
reassessment ofobjectivesforjun- the necessaryskillsforsuch pro-
ior and senior high school pro- grams at the secondary level.
gramsdemanda reexamination of Third,the guitarprovidesa sense
guitarprograms in the schools. of masteryat variousskilllevels.
Thoughtheguitarhas a longand Finally,guitarclass developsa life-
venerablehistory,it was out of skill:because the guitarcan be a
favoras a classical instrument in personal,quiet solo instrument or
the earlypartof thiscentury.Its provideaccompaniment to casual
statusslowlybegan to rise with singing,it is ideallysuitedto the
Andres Segovia's first tour of life-styleof people who are not
-C NorthAmericain 1928.Neverthe- involvedwith music in theirca-
less, by 1960 the guitarwas still reersor professions. The appealof
strongly associatedwithcowboys, guitarprogramshas resultedin
countrysingers,jazz, and above theirwidespreadadoption,a fact
all, rock and roll. These associa- supported by the 1978 ASTA-
tions with popular culture pro- GAMA school guitarsurvey,by
longedtheguitar'sexclusionfrom AlanJohnJanzen's1980thesis,by
"serious" music makingby the MichaelDecker's 1984article,and
majorityof musiciansand educa- by myown 1984thesis.
torsuntilwellintothesixties. Duringthe past several years,
A well-designed
guitarclass At the end of the sixties the increased basic course require-
canprovide ad- the
zeitgeistfavored youth cultureand ments and
of music curricula quirements
mandatedfinearts re-
have introducedprob-
ditionto the secondary beyondtraditionalensembleoffer- lemsforband, orchestra,and cho-
schoolmusiccurriculum. ings. In this context,the guitar ralprograms inhighschools.These
LeeR. Bartel
the soon becamethenew panacea for problemshave broughtintofocus
many options
providedbya the generalmusic teacher faced the need for teachersto provide
withmotivating studentshostileto music experiences for students
programandshows "classical" music and the disci- who have had littleifany consist-
callonallfac- plineofthetraditional musicclass. ent music educationin the years
ets ofguitar
pedagogy to Enthusiasm for the guitarat the precedinghighschool or for stu-
end of the sixtiesled manyjunior dentswhowanta meaningful
meettheneedsoftoday's and seniorhighschoolteachersto experiencewithina singlemusic credit
students. course.
Lee R. Bartel is assistant professorof Musicteachersare usingvarious
music education and director of the approaches, includingcomputer/
Canadian Music Education Research synthesizer programs, to deal with
Centreat theFaculty ofMusic, Univer- the problem.Reportsfrommany
sityof Toronto. teachersindicatethata goodguitar

'90 41

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needa more
eachers comprehensive

programis one of thebest solutions sider, however, the limitationsof are the kindof programmost easily
to the fine arts requirementprob- each approach in the process of introducedby the self-taughtgui-
lem. Guitarprogramscan be adapt- formulating a concept of the guitar taristswho primarilyplay first-po-
ed to the needs of the studentswho class that best meets the goals of sition chords. The typical objec-
are enrolled for the firsttime in music education. tives of the hum-and-strumclass
four or five years in a fine arts First and foremost, the guitar are to enable the studentto accom-
course. programoughtto be a quality mu- pany folk or popular songs with
The popularityof guitarcourses sic education program. It should basic first-positionchords. In addi-
in the past and the need to provide seek to attainbroad objectives set tion, studentsmay be encouraged
single-creditmusic courses at pre- forthe most exemplarymusic pro- to sing, to studyaspects of folk or
sent have created anotherproblem grams regardless of performance popular music history,or to devel-
for music teachers-the need to medium.The followingfive objec- op harmonic and rhythmiccon-
teach in an area for which they tives, adapted frompages 29-38 of cepts. The hum-and-strum ap-
have littlepreparation.Formal sur- Charles Leonhard's article, "1984 proach gives students skills that
veys and casual observations re- and Beyond" (see the suggested have ongoingutilityin leisure-time
veal thatmanyteachersnow teach- readings), illustrate specifically music making and, as such, con-
ingguitarhave limitedplayingabil- what such a program should ac- tributesa life-skill.The objectives
ity and only begin to use it after complish. The guitar class ought of the hum-and-strum programare
beinghiredto teach anothertypeof to: (1) enable each studentto devel- valid, but they often fall short of
music; Decker found, in his 1984 op personal musicianship to the attainingmany common goals of
study,that85 percentof the teach- highest level possible; (2) enable music education. The skill most
ers he surveyedfitin thiscategory. studentsto discover and develop commonlyneglectedin thismethod
Since basic guitarskills are easi- theirmusical talent to the highest is the readingof notation.This, in
ly developed, many teachers who level possible; (3) enable all stu- addition to a neglect of melodic
are new to guitarfindit an exciting dents to develop discriminations skill and of concept development,
teaching area. Although teachers thatgive themthebasis forcontrol- inhibitsthe students' achievement
who have not taughtguitarbefore ling the aesthetic quality of their of their potential levels of musi-
should be encouraged to take on musicallives; (4) admitall students cianship.
the challenge of a guitarclass, it is to the creative mode-enabling
equally importantto advise estab- themto develop the abilitiesneces- Guitarorchestra
lishedteachersof guitarto reexam- saryforself-expressionand forun- In the "orchestra approach,"
ine or to formulateclearly their derstandingthe expressionsof oth- studentsare assigned to sections:
concept of guitarclass. A teacher's ers; and (5) enable all studentsto firstguitar, second guitar, and so
performanceskillon an instrument develop resources for a rewarding forth.Each section plays a mono-
does affectthe kind of instruction life,positivesocial interaction,and phonic line of music. The guitar
offeredstudents-a fact that may participationin the ritesand rituals orchestra may have four or five
account for the diversityin teach- of society. such parts plus a group of guitars
ers' approaches to guitarprograms. playingchords, some bass guitars,
Many of these approaches are re- Hum and strum and a percussion section that in-
stricted by a limited concept of One of the most popular con- cludes keyboard. Teachers using
whatguitarclass oughtto be. Each cepts of class guitarcan be identi- this approach are attractedby its
approach has some unique fied as "hum and strum." Pro- similarityto band and orchestra
strengthsand may offerideas for grams of this type are usually de- programs.Objectives of the guitar
teachers new to the instrument; signed for the student who will orchestraclass usually include de-
everyteachershould seriouslycon- studyguitarforonly one year and velopingthe abilityto play melodic

42 '90

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notation, developing ensemble- this approach must attemptto mentof solo players in a class
playingability,developingan un- counterthreeproblems:the small setting.Here,theteacheris usually
derstandingoftheelementsofmu- numbersof studentsthatare opti- a classicallytrainedguitaristor se-
sic,andperforming a widerangeof mumfora class,therestriction
to a riousself-taught playerwho is mo-
literature.The guitar orchestra narrowmusicalstyle,and the fre- tivatedby thedesireto establisha
class can accommodatea large quentlack of developmentof any program based on historicallitera-
numberof students, and thelitera- musicreadingskills. ture,musicreading,and theclassi-
tureperformed can be gradedin cal-soloistmodelofperformance.
so that students'skills
difficulty Jazzensemble In one suchprogram theteacher
and musicalunderstanding can be The jazz-ensembleapproachis meetswitha class of fifteenstu-
developed throughseveral grade similarto thatof the rock band. dents for twentyminutesat the
levels. A problemwith this ap- Thismethodagainrequiresa teach- beginning of the class to tunethe
proach,however,is the manufac- er withspecializedskillsand inter- guitarsandto introduce a technical
turednatureoftheguitarorchestra ests. Classes are typicallyquite or musicalconcept. Studentsare
conceptitself:theguitarorchestra smallandusuallyat thehighschool thendispersedto specifiedareas in
does not exist as an established level. Learningin theclass setting theclassroom,stairwells, halls,or
performingensemblein ourculture. focuseson thedevelopment ofhar- otherplaces to practiceindividual-
Consequently,neitherstudentsnor monicand melodictechnicalskills ly. The teachercirculatesamong
thepublicreadilyidentifies andtheapplication oftheseskillsin themtooffer instruction
andcomposers andarrangers do not readingjazz arrangements, impro- to pieces. The advantageof this
writeforit. The teachermustar- vising,and performing jazz reper- approachis theabundanceofhigh-
rangeand adaptmostof the class toire.Classes usuallyinvolvebass quality historical literatureand
materialand constantly"sell" the guitar and percussion. Limited methodbooks, the presence of
groupto thepublic. publishedmaterialexists for this clearlydefinedtechnique,and the
jazz ensembleapproach; a good easy incorporation ofa readingap-
Rockband example of such materialis the proach that bringsout both the
A conceptthatgainedconsider- book by WilliamLeavitt(listedin melodicandharmonic potentials of
able popularityamongstudentsin thesuggestedreadings).The tech- the guitar.A disadvantageis the
the early seventies(a popularity nical demandsof the jazz style fact that the methodrequiresa
thatithasmaintained becauseofits meanthata guitarcoursecan either smallclass size and thattheclassi-
connection withthecultureof our be developedoverseveralyearsor cal stylemaynot appeal to many
time)is the rock-bandapproach. can be limitedto highschool stu- students.
This versionof guitarclass has dentswhoare alreadyfamiliar with
particularappeal forstudents out- basic guitartechnique. The inclu- Multifacetedguitarclass
side the mainstream of band, or- sionofmusicreadingand improvi- Everyone of these conceptsof
chestra,and choir. It is usually sation, using both the harmonic guitarclass can be welladaptedto
taughtbyteacherswithspecialized and the melodicfunctionsof the theroleofsupplement to thetradi-
rock-or studio-guitarskills.In this guitar,makesfora music course tionalband, orchestra,and choral
approach, studentsplay electric thatmeetsmostoftheobjectivesof programs, buteach is toolimitedto
guitars,learnbasic bar chordsfor a traditional musicprogram. allow guitarprogramsto develop
rhythm guitarplaying,and develop the kindof maturity thatwill let
lead guitarimprovisationskills.An Classical guitarsolo thembe seen as legitimate equals
advantageof this approachis its One ofthemorecommonguitar- ofthetraditional performance pro-
emphasis on improvisationand class conceptshas a similaraimto grams.Teachersneeda morecom-
performance. Teachers who use thatof class piano: the develop- prehensive conceptofguitarclass:

MEJ/October 43

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a conceptthatcan meettheneeds bytheclass. A teachercouldbegin certainthat they cannot see the
of the one-credit course-but one this by havingstudentshum the fingering),and ask studentsto
thatcan also becomea multiyear, tuning pitches,byhavingthemimi- identify thechordsheard.Students
sequentialprogramthatdevelops tate blues riffs"by ear," or by shouldanalyze chords and other
students'generalmusicianship. writing out thefirst-position notes harmoniccombinationsof notes,
The five approachesto guitar on stringone as theyplaythemin transposeaccompaniments, learn
class thathavejust beendescribed various orders and with various to perform modulationsfromone
place differingemphaseson devel- rhythms.Strumming chordal ac- keyto another,and developall the
oping skills and understandings companiments seems to be a cata- associated aural skills of chord
thathave to do withmelody,har- lystforsinging, so studentsshould identification and production.
mony, style, improvisation, and be encouragedto singmelodicma- Style.One of the most striking
performance. Each of these skills terialwheneverit is appropriate to attributesoftheguitaris itsidiom-
andunderstandings, however,is an thestyleunderstudy. atic identification
with more cul-
essentialfacetof a guitarprogram Harmony.The guitaris an ac- turesand musicalstylesthanmost
and mustbe developedsystemati- companying instrument capable of otherinstruments. In our diverse
cally. six-notechordstructures, so it is society,musiceducatorsmustcap-
Melody.The guitarcan play a usefulinaccompanying singersand italizeon thepotentialoftheguitar
melodyaccompaniedby another otherinstrumentalists. To develop to exploretraditional and contem-
instrument or by itself.Studentsin students'abilityto accompany,the poraryformsoffolk,country, clas-
guitarclass shouldlearn to play, teacherin the multifaceted guitar sical,jazz, rock,andworldmusics.
read,and improvise singlemelodic class needs to offerinstruction in Substylessuch as flamenco,reg-
lines in various stylesemploying chordfingerings and thereadingof gae, and bluesmustbe included.
techniquescharacteristicof the chord chart accompanimentsto Improvisation.One of the objec-
style. This means, for example, songs in variousstyles.Classical tives of all music programsis to
thatstudentscould learn to play fingeringtechnique, three-finger admitall studentsto the creative
first-positionnotes with classical folkpicking,and plectrumstrum- mode-to help themdeveloptheir
apoyandofinger techniqueand em- mingcan all finda legitimate place abilitiesforself-expression
and for
ploy this skillin playinga guitar intheguitarclass. Studentsshould understanding the expressionsof
quartetarrangement ofa madrigal. learnto read severallinessimulta- others.The teachercan develop
The same class mightlaterlearna neouslyas wellas tofollownotated these abilitiesand understandings
bluesscale and use it to improvise chords. fromtheearlieststagesof instruc-
over a twelve-barblues progres- Activitiesin guitarclass should tionin guitarclass. For example,
sion. As studentscontinuestudy- lead students toexploreandexploit fingerexercisesfor dexterity and
ingguitar,thedifficulty levelofthe the harmonicpotentialof the gui- handpositionforbeginners can be
melodicmaterialshould increase tar. Studentsshould develop an conductedusing the blues scale,
(as itdoes in orchestralprograms): aural sense of harmonicprogres- leadingdirectly intoimprovisation.
more advanced studentsshould sion and shouldlearn to identify At an even morebasic level, one
learnto playmelodicandharmonic chordtypesand functions. For ex- teacherasked studentsto "findan
materialsimultaneously. ample,whenstudentscan play at interesting sound on the guitar"
Aural skills relatedto melody least two chords,the teachercan and then had studentsorganize
shouldbe developedthrough sing- labelchordsbytheirfunction (such these sounds into collages of
ing,playing,and writing activities as tonicand dominant),play the sound.
relatedto the musicbeingstudied chords for the students(making Performance.As a generalmusic

44 MEJ/October

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about ofmusic.

program,the multifaceted guitar rise above culturalmusicalbiases "Forty-Four Percentof U.S. SchoolsNow
thatincludethe unquestioning ac- OfferGuitarProgramming." SchoolMu-
program concentrates primarilyon sician50 (December1978),63.
thedevelopment of individualmu- ceptance of the mainstream per- andHermanSlayman.The
sicianship.Performance is an im- formance programs as theonlyle- Guitar Goes to Class. Chicago: The Gui-
portantmeansto thisdevelopment. gitimatemusic programsand the tar& AccessoryManufacturers Associa-
The lack of a traditionally estab- concept that secondary general tionofAmericaandThe American Music
music means only listeningand Conference,1974.
lishedperformance ensemblecon-
Grossman,Raphael."The ClassicalGuitar:
cept means the teachercan and talking.We need to applyourphi- ItsPlaceintheAmerican School." Music
shouldemphasizea varietyofper- losophyof music educationin a Educators Journal 49, no. 4 (February-
formancegroupings:classical so- culturallyrelevantmannerusing March1963),140-42.
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mentsoftoday-theguitar.And,if TheGuitar.London:Macmillan,1969.
guitarorchestra;folkgroups;rock Janzen,Alan John."A Surveyof Junior
bands;and so forth.The teacherof we are alreadyusingthe guitarin
High Music Programsin the Public
theguitarclass, who is frequently class, we need to expandour con- Schools of Manitoba."Master'sthesis,
also the band directoror choral ceptto makeitan exemplary music UniversityofManitoba,1980.
director,shouldtryto connectthe educationprogram.As multifac- Kozinin,Allan,Pete Welding,Dan Forte,
guitarprogramwithotherensem- etedguitarprograms growand ma- and Gene Santoro. The Guitar: The His-
bles suchas jazz bands,vocal en- ture,theywilltake theirplaces in tory,The Music, The Players. Toronto:
sembles,and stringquartets. theschoolsas seriousand reward- S. "TheA String
Lane,William is Depressed
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MEJ/October'90 45

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