Scope: first-year guitar study at WNS introduces students to the notes and chords of the first position, the fundamentals of reading pitch and rhythm, strum patterns and “rhythm guitar,” basic riffs, and ensemble playing in classical and contemporary styles. Music notation, TAB, and chord synopsis are all introduced.
Repertoire: Repertoire in 7th Grade takes great advantage of the guitar’s versatility despite being a first-year course. Folk songs, classical, rock, blues, pop, and world music are all featured. The main categories of repertoire generally follow the: melodic (the “singable” part of a song), the harmonic (usually open chords strummed in a rhythmic style), riffs (highly repetitive and rhythmic rock or classic soundtrack themes), and counterpoint (playing 2 or more parts in an ensemble in a classical or baroque style), culminating in a spring concert showcasing 4 or 5 pieces.
Technique: Students begin by establishing the correct posture and hand placement. The right hand is the 2nd area of focus, playing open strings with a “rest stroke.” Pick styles and free strokes are demonstrated for optional later use. Then, left-hand technique is introduced, habituating fingertip placement, as well as the “sweet spot” of the fret. 3-string chords introduce the harmonic element, as well as basic down strumming with the thumb or pick. Scale fragments and tremolos are habituated as warmups in the first quarter. In the 2nd quarter, percussive strumming and down-up strums are learned. In the 3rd and 4th quarters, students will have learned several pieces in the “first” or “open” position of the guitar on most, if not all strings, and will have memorized around 10 chord forms in the first position. The later part of the year also includes extensive practice with rhythmic strumming as accompaniment and playing in ensemble counterpoint.
Music Notation: As a first-year course, the class starts with the fundamentals of music notation, including pitch, rhythm, clef, and meter. The guitar is a treble clef instrument and this notation accounts for the majority of reading during 5th Grade. However, the guitar has historically heavily utilized tablature (graphic numeric fret and string designations), as well as chord synopsis (learning chord names and reading charts with these designations, usually with strum rhythms indicated, and no “notes”). The benefits to all 3 systems are clear and relevant to the beginning player, and as such, are regularly utilized during the year.
Additional: During the second semester, the ability to play in ensemble—meaning in a rhythmically cohesive way with others—is paramount to ensuring an enjoyable classroom experience for all students, preparing a satisfying final concert, and ensuring success and enjoyment in future study.
Scope: Where 1st-year study covers the fundamentals, and 2nd-year study reinforces and reviews the fundamentals, 3rd-year study pivots into new territory in several ways. Students are expected to master a wider variety of techniques in both fingerstyle and flat-picking styles, upper position playing, leads, and improvisation. Solo guitar takes on added importance, with arrangements handling chord and melody together. Rhythm guitar parts and riffs will include increased syncopation, rhythmic difficulty, and slurring. Upper position playing is introduced, including movable scales and barre chords. Mastery becomes a more recurring theme, with students learning to play from memory, preparing pieces with limited time, and recalling notes and chord shapes more readily. “Real parts” are added to reflect professional parts of familiar songs with greater detail.
Repertoire: Among the key differences in the 8th Grade is the move to more “solo” repertoire as students delve into the early Classical literature for the guitar. Very satisfying on its own and not requiring the classroom ensemble, this music builds musicianship and confidence. Correspondingly, the ensemble repertoire becomes more involved with a greater number of parts and added complexity. Increasingly, the student is urged to take on more projects to her liking, and the exploration of personal tastes is encouraged alongside the standard repertoire. Styles remain broad: rock, classical, folk, blues, bluegrass, and acoustic styles are utilized.
Technique: As noted earlier, the demands of the 3rd-year course move from the reinforcement of fundamentals to new techniques. The frequent use of “pima” or arpeggiated right-hand fingerings is a major component, while the left hand emphasis moves up the fretboard for melodies and occasionally chords. Flatpicking requirements become more challenging, as well, in order to better handle contemporary styles.
Music Notation: These requirements remain somewhat similar in that the students continue to read in treble clef, tablature, and chord synopsis. The differences, however, reflect learning new key signatures, positions, and a broader chord palette.