Recently I’ve started teaching ukulele and guitar lessons at Hewn From The Mountain, a music instrument store in Crestwood, KY. I’ve just got four students right now, but I’m hoping to add more as time goes on. I’m teaching two ukulele students and two guitar students.
First of all, I’ve never taught lessons before, so I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about teaching someone else to play an instrument that I’ve been playing for a while. I was sure there would be some things I’d be asked and would have totally taken those small things for granted, having not thought about since I was first learning.
I figured I approach lessons the same way I taught myself to play: I’d learn some chords, then I’d practice some songs that had those chords in them.
My first student of the day is a 7 year old girl who has never played an instrument before in her life. Except the kazoo and a harmonica. She also has a million new questions every day. I thought she’d be my most challenging student. I taught her three chords in our first lesson and was amazed that she remembered all of them the next week.
As she progressed and learned more chords and more songs, we began talking about possibly doing a recital in the summer for all of my students. She was extremely excited about this and began talking about it constantly. She also asked if, after our recital in the shop, we could take field trips to other places to play music for other people. This, to me, sounded vaguely like touring…
Soon she began writing her own songs. Just lyrics and melodies at first. When she brought them to me, she asked me to tell her which chords went with each word. She was under the assumption that since chords were named after letters, that they corresponded with certain words or phrases. I told her the best part about songwriting is that you get to decide what chords go where.
I then sort of regretted that because I wasn’t sure how to explain to a 7 year old what key signatures were and how music theory worked. But again, she surprised me and all of the chords she chose were correct in the key of F. She’s going to be one hell of a songwriter / musician when she gets older.
Most days, I feel like I learn just as much as my students. I’m almost always stumped by a question about something that, after playing an instrument for so long, you take for granted and don’t even think about. For example, one day a student asked me how to strum. I said, well, you just move your hand up and down against the strings. But is there a correct pattern to use? I guess I hadn’t thought about these things since I began playing, but it was a very good question.
It’s truly awesome to be able to share music with someone who absolutely loves music. It’s extremely gratifying to be able to pass the knowledge of creating music on to someone. Most times when I’m preparing for lessons I wonder, what will I teach this week? But I’m getting to the point where I wonder more, what will I learn this week?