Guitar Pedagogy: MUSC 573


Course Objectives: to develop a detailed understanding and working knowledge of principles of playing and teaching the classic guitar and procedures for their application to individuals in a variety of teaching settings; to gain a more complete understanding of learning and unlocking creative potential.

Text: Mastering Guitar Technique: Process and Essence by Christopher Berg, 1997, Mel Bay Publications, Pacific, MO. Selected readings from journals will be assigned and other materials will be given out in class.

Grades will be determined by in-class participation during discussions, mid-term exam, in-class presentation, and a final exam. All students will present a well-organized and concise 30-minute oral evaluation of a selected pedagogical book or method. Graduate students will also submit a 10-12 page paper comparing and contrasting two or three similar guitar methods or books. See me for project suggestions or approval.

Format: Most of the material will be presented in lecture during the first half of each class. In-class discussions will occupy the second half of each class. We will address the following topics and ideas during the two classes of each week.

Week One: The Re-Imagination of Performance and Pedagogy


Nature of genius; Teacher as Artist; Overview of guitar pedagogy: history, evolution, detours, and new directions.
Assignment: “The Re-Imagination of Guitar Pedagogy” by Christopher Berg, Soundboard, Winter 2000, Volume XXVI, No. 3, pages 43-52;

Week Two: Our Primary Instrument


A discussion of the capabilities and limitations of our bodies (the instrument we use to play our instrument) and the way these relate to performing music on the guitar.
Assignment: study pages 7-24 in Mastering Guitar Technique.

Week Three: Our Primary Instrument (continued)


Because this information is the cornerstone of our approach to technique and musicianship, we will spend two weeks on it.

Week Four: Principles of Positioning and Movement


A thorough study of principles of positioning and movement and how these inform seating, right hand positioning, and basic right hand finger movements.
Assignment: study pages 25-32 and 37-46 in Mastering Guitar Technique.

Week Five: Left Hand Positioning and Movement; String Crossing


A detailed approach to left hand positioning and basic left hand finger movements; string crossing for both hands.
Assignment: study pages 33-36 and 49-50 in Mastering Guitar Technique.

Week Six: Visualization


An introduction to mental techniques of study; open-position scales; sight-reading.
Assignment: study “An Innovative Approach to Learning the Guitar” by Aaron Shearer (hand-out).

Week Seven: Arpeggio Technique; Tone; Slurs


A detailed analysis of sympathetic and opposed motion of the fingers as applied to right hand arpeggio patterns; concepts of tone production.
Assignment: study pages 59-66 and 92-107 in Mastering Guitar Technique. (A take-home mid-term exam will be given this week.)

Week Eight: Shifting; Advanced Scale Technique; Fingerboard Harmony


An approach to effortless shifting; a discussion of the various scale systems; and how to reveal the hidden logic of the guitar fingerboard.
Assignment: study pages 108-110 in Mastering Guitar Technique.

Week Nine: Interpretation


A discussion of approaches to music interpretation; how musical ideas can shape technical development but also how a deeper understanding of technique can liberate musical ideas; relationship of fingering to phrasing.
Assignment: handout given out in class. (You already have this.)

Week Ten: Mastery: Practice as a Noun


A discussion of practice; how strategies need to change as students develop.

Week Eleven: Career Options


Creating an effective resume; job search; how to set up a private studio; other possibilities. Guest speakers may be invited this week.

Week Twelve: In-Class Presentations


Week Thirteen: In-Class Presentations


Week Fourteen: In-Class Presentations


Final Exam: TBA