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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Merritt guitar workshop concept - long (33) guitar workshop concept - long 08 May 03

I'm one of the many self-taught hacks out here playing guitar. When I was 14, I wanted to play the guitar and sound like those ragtimey fingerpickers on my Dad's folk and blues records, so I bought a used Piece O' Crap acoustic guitar and a chord book (with my paper route money) and started playing.

The sorts of music that interest(ed) me swing, blues, folk, different pop music forms from about 1925 to about 1975 tend to lean heavily on a few core sets of chords. I taught myself to hear & play the patterns. Over the years I've learned the basics of music theory & composition, and taken a few piano and guitar lessons, but mostly I lean on my ear and an intuitive grasp of chord structure and melodic patterns. These days I'm an intermediate to advanced fingerstyle player/vocalist (depending on who's listening).

Have also taken on guitar students now and then teaching in a mainstream sort of way, but realized that the way I teach guitar is not the way I learned guitar. So when an opportunity to teach a workshop came up recently I tried to think of an approach or method that's more like my own experience.

So this is an experiment. I'd like to know what you folk-folks think of the roughed-in curriculum described below. Have you taught or learned in a similar way? What works? What doesn't work?

Absolute Basics Acoustic Guitar Workshop:
The goal of the 2-hour workshop is to give participants enough introductory basics to tune the guitar, listen for & start playing basic chord patterns in popular and folk music, learn a bit o' basic strumming, and enjoy playing the guitar. Workshoppers will learn to:

1. Tune guitar to Open D D/A/D/F#/A/D (I want a tuning that's obvious you strum it open and it's a major chord! - and can be used to create simple chords building from the D Major scale.

2. Play some basic 2-finger & barre chords patterns so that they're introduced to D, Em, F#m, G, A & A7 and Bm. I'll probably refer to these chords in only number terms with D as 1st chord, etc. in order to support the next section of the workshop.

3. Listen to basic chord patterns found in folk, country and popular music my thought here is that along with technical aspects of guitar playing, participants can start building/exploring a bit of musical intuition. We'll put down the guitars for a while and listen to something like the following on CDs:
~ 1/4/5 Blues Chord Pattern basically a 12-bar blues; examples could be Jimmie Rodger's Train Whistle Blues, Bo Diddley's Before You Accuse Me
~ 1/4/5 Pop Chord Pattern Young Rascal's Good Lovin', McCoy's Sloopie
~ 1/6m/4/5 Pop Pattern Everly Bros' Dream, Dream, Dream, Then You Can Tell Me Good-Bye; the bridges on both of these tunes present some common patterns as well
~ couple of other standard chord patterns

4. Play some of the chord patterns introduced in the previous section. Intro to 3 songs working with simple chord charts.

5. Strum 4 beats to a measure. Concepts of off-beat and on-beat.

6. a short review of:
~ elements of combining your guitar with singing
~ use of the capo
~ finger and hand care

Each participant must bring along a 6-string acoustic guitar. Materials received by workshop participants include a full-scale pitch pipe, tuning instructions using the pitch pipe, a set of basic chord charts, and 3 songs with words and chords.

Could provide more detail, but this should give you enough of the concept to work with. I'd appreciate any friendly support and/or criticism for this rough draft. Workshops are scheduled for late-May & early-June. I'm screening out people who're looking to build on other lessons, chord books, etc. as they'll likely not get much out of the workshop.


- Merritt

"It's all one big note." - Frank Zappa

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