When we get beginner students we know that it is not conducive to retaining them if we spend the first ten hours bombarding them with notation and scales. We also know that we need to teach these elements of the guitar to provide our students with a good basis of theory right from the off. So where do we start?
I have always found for the younger learners we need to take a drip feeding approach to teaching them theory. Younger learners don't have the fear of music theory that we may see in some adult students, especially ones that have not had formal training. The drip feeding approach is a way of teaching them theory but almost without mentioning that that is what we are doing, there are a few ways we can do this. We can drip feed students theory by making sure every piece of music we teach them is also displayed to them as notation on the staff. Almost think of it like we want them to absorb the knowledge without us ever mentioning it. Then of course refer to the stave say “can you play me this bar” or “can you play me the bar starting with the D chord” these little hints will help the student to read the music without reading the notes. There is also of course a time and place for teaching the note reading too, I believe the best way to teach this is through some fun games.
Game 1 - King Of the Castle
This game assumes that you are teaching a group of two or more students. What you do is print out some flashcards of the notes on the stave, put the notation on one side and then the note name on the other. Get the students to line up and show the student at the one end of the line the flash card and if they get the answer correct then they can stay where they are, if they do not then they are out. Keep playing until you whittle the students down until there is only two students left and then you can do a face off! both students stand infant of you and the first one to identify the note correctly wins!
This game is great fun to play with either a class of students or a larger group of students and students will look forward to the theory part of their lessons.
Game 2 - The Great Re-arranger
This Game is more tailored towards smaller groups or one on one sessions. In this game we use flash cards of the notes on the stave and I will place them (notation up) infant of the student. I will then write a sequence of notes on the board and time how long it takes the student to arrange the notation in the correct order.
This game is great fun for the students as it means if there is more than one student you can put them in a race against each other. If there is one student they can try and beat their time lesson to lesson. This all helps to show the students their improvement and show them how they can have fun learning music theory!