KinderGuitar would like to introduce our new teacher, Karl Evangelista. Karl recently completed an extensive training course to become a licensed and certified KinderGuitar teacher and is beginning to form his studio in the East Bay area. If you have friends interested in having their children start KinderGuitar please see our Certified Teachers page for contact information!
I have been working on a challenging piece with my son and surprisingly, he is doing most of the working (there is a prize after this one). We spent most of our time working on the notes in the song arranged from low pitch to high pitch so that he would become acquainted with the way the song was built. This was his first foray into scales. We learned a fragment of a scale and by the time we sat down the second day, he could play it well. The first part of the song had most of the scale that we had practiced while the end of the first musical idea had the same scale in reverse. Instead of going over each note for him to piece it together, I told him where the scale reversed course (started moving from high pitch to low pitch). This little instruction was clear enough. He knew the scale from low pitch to high pitch so well that he simply manipulated the group of notes to reverse and was able to not only play the difficult phrase but at some level now understands how the phrase was built and he has correlated the musical change to a physical movement.
In addition to working on songs with your child one note at a time, find fragments that are three or four notes long and play them until they are clear, fluid, and beautiful. What is the composer trying to communicate through these notes? Have your child manipulate the different notes in the fragment by changing the volume on certain notes, by omitting certain notes, by repeating certain notes to ultimately experience experimentation, etc… After each reconstruction or deconstruction, ask your child whether or not he/she likes what they’ve done. Your child’s understanding of the musical content will increase dramatically, awareness of likes and dislikes will become more focused, and musical memory will improve.
A wonderful and very young student recently performed for the first time in our winter concert. Before the concert we worked really hard to make everything feel easy. There were many moments of frustration and lack of focus but also many, many moments of great music-making that were fun. After having worked so hard during the few weeks preceding the recital, my student had improved dramatically. I could tell when he was up on stage that he was prepared and eager to share the songs he had worked on. He had seen Pepe Romero perform the week before and even imitated Pepe’s bow after his pieces.
We practiced in many different ways but in the end it really boils down to careful and thoughtful repetition. We shifted focus often during a practice session. For example, after warming up with some finger activities. We would play each song slowly once. Then we spent 5-10 minutes on each song varying our goals before a final few performance rehearsals. Here are some ideas to use with your child when practicing new songs or reviewing old ones:
1) Focus on NOT buzzing and keep track of how few buzzes are produced. Try to identify and eliminate the specific buzz-producing pinches.
2) Direct your child’s aural attention to what happens after plucking a note.
3) Play the freeze game (parent says ‘freeze’, child stops mid-piece, parent says ‘unfreeze’, child continues from where he/she left off).
4) If you’re a guitarist have student do one hand while you hunch over and do the other hand’s movements on the same guitar.
5) Clap in rhythm while child plays to emphasize the structure of the pulse.
6) Focus on endings. Are they quiet, too loud, pretty?
7) Focus on metaphorical breathing at the end of a musical phrase or idea.
8) Smile while playing the entire song.
9) Have your child play the entire song with closed eyes or in the dark.
10) Direct your child’s attention to the left hand while playing entire song. Then ask for feedback: Were you on the fingertips? Were their any uncooperative fingers? Did it look smooth?
11) Direct your child’s attention to the right hand while playing entire song. Then ask for feedback: Did it move? Did it bounce?
There is so much to learn for children who start an instrument: poise, attitude, respect, patience, and what work really is. Engage your children with creativity when practicing and eventually they will develop good practice habits. Children have the ability to work hard and deserve recognition when they improve as a result of it. So, go get ice cream!