The 7-year-old guitar pupil 5) bits

… to learn to strum chords? Only if they are badgering you quite persistently and you feel that you will lose them if you do not show them some. And even then, just a couple will be plenty for a while.  … to learn to play melody? Definitely. And more or less exclusively for now.  … to read from some kind of notation? Yes, unless they have very unusual powers of memory. … to learn stave notation? (see previous point) – assuming they are learning some kind of notation, then stave notation is the only approach I would use with a 7-year-old. Any alternative notation is just short-changing them and shutting down options for the future. … to learn a solid technique? Of course! … to learn classical guitar technique? Tough question! But for me an easy answer – Yes, if you are serious about keeping their options open for the future (and I imagine you are, with this age group).  Of all the ways you can think of to play guitar, classical guitar technique is the most all-embracing, flexible and and adaptable – the one which develops the most skills and the largest range of movements. It it also the best suited to gradual, progressive learning and Doing One Thing At  A Time. And here’s perhaps an unexpected thing; it is the most fun approach for 7-year-old pupils and their teacher. … to KNOW that they are learning classical guitar technique? Not really, no. With this age group, the lessons should be about Music, Skills, and Fun. The less you use words like “classical”, “rock”, and “acoustic” in lessons, the better. Pupils should learn things because they are worth learning, not because of a stylistic label the teacher attaches to them. … to learn some classical guitar music? They certainly don’t have to, but on the other hand why wouldn’t you want them to?  … to learn some “real music”? Definitely. Not chords! (see above). But riffs are a different story. Riffs are great physical and mental exercise for young pupils – they are short, simple, memorable and of course by their very nature, you end up repeating them over and over again. Almost every riff can be tied to some aspect of technique – a fingering pattern, position shifting, articulation … And they are a great antidote for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. … to learn to improvise and compose? Yes, if you are serious about keeping options open for the future. And yes, if you are serious about including pupils with a range of learning styles. And come to think of it yes, if you are serious about music at all! The only proviso I would have is that not all pupils will take to this sort of work. Some people will always prefer a closed task (“play this tune correctly from beginning to end”) and will be at sea if you give them an open-ended task. So be aware and open-minded, and don’t rub people’s noses in something they don’t like and are not comfortable with. But then, you could say exactly the same thing about other musical skills such as reading from notation or playing with others.  … to learn tunes from memory? Absolutely, and regardless of learning style (see above). I can’t think of any music pupil who will not benefit from being regularly challenged to play from memory (as long as the challenge is a fair one and tailored to their ability).  … to learn “theory”? Strictly speaking, no. Three-quarters of the world’s music is made by people who have only the haziest ideas about bars, beats, and note names (let alone scales, cadences and all the rest of it). And without wanting to repeat lame old jokes, you could raise that figure to about 99% in the case of the world’s guitar music! But on the other hand, think again about keeping options open for the future. If your pupils are going to be able to function in a range of musical environments, access and understand all music, and communicate effectively with other musicians, then they do need at least some basic terminology. … to KNOW that they are learning theory? This goes against all my gut instincts, but I must admit that actually yes they do. I much prefer the idea of teaching theory in the background as a sort of “hidden curriculum” but I have found that unless you focus pupils’ minds explicitly on theory from time to time, they will simply not notice it or register it at all. A wise music teacher friend of mine once described theory as like a window through which you look at the music. The point is that you tend to do just that: you look straight THOUGH a window, not AT it. … to play with others? Yes, yes, yes! Come on, you don’t need a list of reasons for this. Again just one or two provisos. One, learning styles again. Not everyone is a social being and for some people, music is an escape into their own world, not a place where they want to try to keep in step with everyone else. Two, there will always be some pupils who just cannot play to a steady beat. For such pupils, group playing is confusion and humiliation, and for those around them, it is torture. So watch out and be sensitive. …to have fun? Lots of it. (Within reason of course, I mean where would it end … 🙂 )

In summary … some guiding principles for the teacher of young guitar pupils

1: Keep as many options open as possible for the future. 2: That does not mean giving them too many options now! 3: Don’t take short cuts (they have plenty of time!) 4: Teach nothing that they might need to unlearn later 5: Keep them curious and hungry 6: If you want them to learn something then create a NEED to learn it 7: 97% of all human communication is non-verbal 8: People will forget almost everything you say, and most of what you do, but they will always remember how you made them feel