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 Been drafted to teach a beginners guitar class...

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United States
792 posts
since 5/22/06

03/17/2017 13:12:38 View dustyelmer's MP3 Archive View dustyelmer's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

and I need some suggestions on what to cover! So far I've got the first position chords/chord families, basic strum patterns (boom chick-a boom) and capo basics. Beyond that I'm not really sure what to cover. I don't want to overwhelm but I also want the students (I'm expecting it to be mostly adults) to get their money's worth. The following week there's a second class where I had planned on teaching barre chords (at least the concept) and maybe a couple of scales, but again, I don't really want to frustrate or overwhelm. Any suggestions on topics would be greatly appreciated. 

TexasbanjoPlayers Union Member


United States
19807 posts since 8/3/03

03/17/2017 13:30:20 View Texasbanjo's Photo Albums View Texasbanjo's Blog Reply with Quote

How about chord sequence to a couple of songs, lyrics to the songs to pass out.  That way they can practice their basic chords and their backup/strum and sing/hum along.   Probably have to be songs that everyone would know.  Might keep them interested enough to come back for another lesson.  Just a thought.

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United States
809 posts since 8/20/16

03/18/2017 10:12:07 Reply with Quote

You touched upon a great idea. You said "I don't want to overwhelm but I want...{them} get their money's worth". I don't think you should teach them more than two chords (simple three note chords) and it should be learned in the context of a simple song. The melody and strumming two times per measure. It will be plenty to think about and practice for their first week of studying a new instrument. The second week you can expand on these chords and build them into full first position chords and teach them a more complex strumming pattern. Since you say they are adults they are probably busy and won't have more than an hour or so to study each day, and it is VERY important that they practice every day, at least in the beginning. Mary Had a Little Lamb is fine for new students - C and G7. Everyone knows it and once you show it to them it will be hard to forget. They should have it written out for reference along with chord diagrams. They should sing the melody while strumming the chords so that it won't be hard to learn to sing and play at the same time - it will be a pain in the rear to learn it later. Don't go too fast, I know it will be tempting to show them more especially if it looks like they are understanding the lesson as you are showing it to them, but, trust me, they will forget unless they have bite sized lessons to digest. That's my opinion, but I could be wrong.

Edited by - Mooooo on 03/18/2017 10:14:46

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John GribblePlayers Union Member

4153 posts since 5/14/07

03/18/2017 17:34:14 View John Gribble's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I agree with Sherry and Mike. Give them techniques they can use to make music that day. Over the years of teaching adult students, I worked out an approach to teaching accompaniment/backup chords. I wrote a little book which gives the approach. You can download it for free at

Have fun with it! 

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United States
792 posts since 5/22/06

03/20/2017 09:44:56View dustyelmer's MP3 Archive View dustyelmer's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Thanks everyone, got some great ideas from you all.

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Winged Words

United Kingdom
604 posts since 3/22/12

03/20/2017 10:01:26 View Winged Words's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Perhaps include a simple fingerpicking pattern at an early stage? I remember feeling like I was a real player once I could keep a pattern going over a C and G7 chord. A huge boost!

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United States
571 posts since 4/5/06


03/21/2017 11:09:04View monstertone's MP3 Archive View monstertone's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I"m a bluegrass banjo picker, so take this with a grain of salt, but I was fortunate enough to have learned in the company of guitar players who were well versed in BG style guitar. Boom chick(a) boom chick(a) first position chords,  letting whatever open strings ring, walking through chord changes & the classic Lester Flatt "G run" to take it home. And they gotta learn that run in any key! There is a lot to be said for a good rhythm guitar player pounding out chords. One who has the power in his right hand, ala Jimmy Martin. I can spot that wrist action a mile away, & if he doesn't have it, I keep walking.     

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rudyPlayers Union Member

United States
10975 posts since 3/27/04

03/30/2017 00:19:04View rudy's MP3 Archive View rudy's Photo Albums View rudy's Blog Reply with Quote

I've taught beginning adult guitar with another instructor a few times.  It's nice if you keep the class size down to 6-10 students so you can assist individually.  If the group is small it's nice to ask what ideal goal each person would like to achieve.  That can really focus the direction of the instruction.

For a beginning class you should at least lightly cover what makes an instrument play easily and explain how that will help their progress.  A first lesson should also cover how to tune.  I throw a couple of strings out to demonstrate the importance of a tuned instrument.  Rank beginners may or may not know these basics and you can learn how to tailor your material by asking a few questions about prior experience and any efforts up to the present.

I like to cover the concept of 1, 4, 5 chord progressions and the fact that somewhere in the vicinity of 75% of popular songs can be played by learning only 3 chords, and learning the relative minor for those three chords will boost that to about 90%.  A beginner's class should be based upon learning those 4 simple chords and a few songs should be charted out to demonstrate (and learn).  Lessons can start with a 2 chord song to prevent anyone from being discouraged.

I like to teach the concept of cut and waltz time and back that up by teaching bass / chord and bass-chord-chord strums using a single chord, usually a G, as I try and teach the 1, 4, 5, relative minor idea using G, C, D, and Em.

Those concepts can be verbally expanded by explaining that those same principals apply to other keys, with a demonstration of a 4 chord song in 3 or 4 other keys to show what can be done in further classes.

If you can provide printed materials that's a big plus, and charted material that uses songs that is appropriate to the group is nice.  There are a lot of resources out there on the web, so it's possible you won't have to re-invent the wheel to teach your class.

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United States
792 posts since 5/22/06

03/30/2017 14:55:58View dustyelmer's MP3 Archive View dustyelmer's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Thanks to everyone for the great pieces of advice. You've all been a huge help!! I really appreciate your taking the time.

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2395 posts since 12/6/09

03/31/2017 03:45:32 View overhere's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

After basic 3 or 4 chords and they can play smoothly….2; put those chords to work by using songs. Easy songs were always the old train songs. As they learn those patterns show them some single string playing (assume you use flat pick). C D G are great chords for flat picking melodies. Some suggestions; Wreck of the old number nine. George Alleys FFV. Freight Train etc….if they lose interest with those they aint gonna make it anyway…

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dlaughery1013Players Union Member

United States
490 posts since 12/8/14

04/06/2017 11:07:52 View dlaughery1013's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

I had after school classes for some of my students and the first thing was how to tune the instrument.  It often took the whole lesson's time to get everyone tuned up.  Dave L.

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40 posts since 9/27/16

04/09/2017 13:00:01 View Danae's Photo Albums Reply with Quote

Hi :) When I want to help a beginner, I usually teach him the 4 chords : Em / C / G / D, and when he masters this, then I show him all the songs he can play with this :D
It always works :D

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