Teaching Great Guitar Classes – From Someone Who Has Been There!

Nick Line • January 2023Modern Band • January 15, 2023

As a new band director, I quickly learned I was going to need to get comfortable with teaching instruments other than my primary instrument (trombone). I had my basic understanding of other instruments from my college methods courses, but there’s nothing quite like your first day standing up to teach a new-to-you instrument to a group of eager students. I am also a self-taught guitarist, but when it came time to lead a guitar class, I soon realized even though I knew how to play, I didn’t know what direction to take my students. I knew I wanted my guitar students to learn healthy playing techniques (something I lacked early on as a self-taught guitarist). I also wanted them to learn solid musicianship. In a K-12 setting, guitar has often been regarded as a less “serious” instrument. As a result, school guitar classes often don’t push students to learn in the same way our traditional band, choir, or orchestra classes do. I wanted to find a way for my guitar students to learn to play as an ensemble and to set up a foundation for playing that would allow them to pursue any style of guitar-playing in the future, whether that be classical, folk, jazz, rock, bluegrass, hip hop, etc. 

The guitar methods I previewed lacked the depth and diversity I had hoped to find. Most materials I found were clearly designed for independent study or one-on-one lessons. I needed a curriculum designed for the public-school classroom – something that would be scaffolded in a way that all students in a class of 30+ could be successful. 

After several years of dissatisfying results, I found the Guitar Ensemble Method online learning platform and it was exactly what my students needed.

Guitar Ensemble Method is designed to help establish guitar classes that focus on building a solid technical foundation, music-reading skills, and ensemble-playing experience. Guitar Ensemble Method focuses on music from a broad range of cultural and historical traditions. Since this method is designed specifically for classroom teaching, skills are carefully scaffolded to allow for all students to be successful in their guitar learning. 

Guitar Ensemble Method’s state-of-the-art online platform pairs directly with the method book to provide digital learning modules for each song in the book. These modules include pre-made lesson plans to help teachers and 5-8 video lesson components for each song. The video lessons are short enough to be interesting and interactive while guiding students’ practice and learning. Each video lesson is taught by some of the top names in guitar education – including university guitar professors, Grammy-Award winners, Fulbright Scholars, and winners of major guitar performance competitions. This library of online video lessons is incredibly useful for teachers, especially those who aren’t yet confident guitarists. The video lessons include on-screen graphics for supporting students’ music-reading and multiple camera angles and close-ups for clear demonstrations of ergonomic playing technique.  

I’ve been using the Guitar Ensemble Method curriculum in my own public-school teaching for over ten years now. My students continue to enjoy their guitar learning because this method is structured in a way that all students can experience success on the instrument. As someone who has primarily taught band, this curriculum offers a clear path to follow amidst all the different directions one can take a guitar class. It has even improved my own technique and pedagogy on the guitar, and my improved confidence pays dividends in the classroom.


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