For a child who is a beginning string player, making music can be BAFFLING. There are so many things going on!
Learning how to play guitar seems almost intuitive for beginner guitar players who have taken piano lessons.
But to a child encountering music training for the first time with a guitar in hand, using left and right hands independently, strumming rhythmically, learning what a chord is, reading notes and understanding their relationship to the guitar strings is a process shrouded in mystery.
LET ME HELP.
Check out this page for EASY guitar songs and exercise sheets to demystify this process somewhat for your students...
An intro to this concept for your beginning guitar students.
Several different pages, starting with just a bass line.
Both the simple flat-picking melody & the A-D-E chords are important for beginners.
After Pizza Please, this is the song I use to inculcate the "Down, Down-Up" picking pattern into my young students.
These 4 exercises help kids figure out where the strings and frets are, and may be your student's favorite "song" for a couple weeks!
Whether playing tabs or chords, this sweet melody is very easy!
Yes, the F chord is hard, but let your beginners use a "baby F" chord: just 1, 2, or 3 strings.
This is the easy arrangement, which can use "baby chords".
On this page is also a much fancier arrangement, which uses chords G, G7, C, Cm, D, D7, A7, B, and Em.
Everyone should learn to play this little Christmas song, and thankfully for beginners, it is simple!
This arrangement uses just two chords, but a second arrangement found on this page uses four chords!
This famous song uses just 2 chords, and has easy tabs
A spooky -but-not-too-scary Halloween song with fun lyrics.
The melody creeps slowly from fret to fret.
Goofy words and a singable tune make this song fun to sing and play!
Older beginners will say, "We played this in band!", and indeed, this is one of the world's EASIEST songs for beginners.
If you tell your students that this is ALMOST the same as the theme song of the movie "Jaws", they will work at it!
Lots of repetition make this cute song easy, both tabs & the 2 chords
Kids like working on familiar tunes, and with guitar beginners it is even more important.
The melody of this beautiful hymn is very easy to pick in the key of G... also offered in C.
This melody (with different lyrics) comes from England. There, it says, "God save our noble queen (or king)." Here, the lyrics speak of freedom.
The pretty Christmas song with the long "Glo-o-o-o-o-ria" section
This is the lovely combined composition by Bach and Gounod - Charles Gounod added a soaring melody over Bach's Prelude in C for keyboard
This simple Christmas carol has an easy guitar tab line.
A beautiful hymn, very old, in praise of God.
Lead sheets and piano arrangements.
This beautiful Christmas song is not easy for young students, but the challenge to play it is fun!
With guitar chords but no tabs, this is an old-fashioned hymn with an irresistible melody. Very easy for fiddle players.
This hymn with the same words, plus a few more, is in a minor key, with a haunting melody.
It looks to be in a scary key for guitarists!
Don't fear; this one is just for piano. There are other keys for this lead sheet to be found on this page!
With a high and a low version of this carol.
This is the well-known short hymn with the lyrics, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."
Did you know there are many more verses?
Lead sheets and a piano arrangement can be found on this page.
With guitar chords, this lovely Christmas carol from France is an unfamiliar song to many.
A song about going to that better place.
This is one of the sweetest hymns I know.
Chords & lyrics, and arrangements for your choral group.
A song to include in your list of funeral songs.
With guitar tabs and also guitar chords, this is a simple round with a simple and good message!
Another song of thanksgiving to God.
This song was featured in the film "Little Women" years ago, as a kind of non-denominational, inoffensive kind of hymn.
Fittingly, I suppose, as Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott's father, was a Transcendentalist.
This song has a few secondary chords (Am & Dm), but the song will work with just the three main chords.
This song was written to comfort mourners - including myself - for a thirteen-year-old girl, who sickened and died inside the space of one week.
Several arrangements of this very interesting and OLD Latin hymn of praise. It is a bit of classical style.
A short and sweet song, easy to learn, and transpose.
Guitar tabs, and also a beginning piano arrangement are on this web page.
Lyrics too, as a downloadable PDF!
Easy guitar tabs make up the melody of this vigorous old-timey hymn about going to heaven.
It remains popular!
The arrangement shown here uses C, F, D7, G, and G7 chords.
Also on this page is a very simple version using only C and G7 - perfect for beginners who are using the "Little C" and "Little G7" chords!
New students are always delighted to play this song.
A sweet song that asks God to come near
A modern Christmas carol, with lyrics straight from the Bible.
Mary ponders the words that the shepherds repeat, that the angel told them.
With standard notation, and "helper" tablature below.
For beginning readers!
A violin duet with one very easy part for beginners.
Several ensembles for string instruments, as well as guitar solo.
A Christmas carol from France.
This one has no tablature, but numerous keys to try out the chords to.
Up On the Housetop easy kids' Christmas piano sheet music - but with chords for guitar as well!
This is, surprisingly, an old Christmas carol! It feels modern somehow.
It doesn't use many chords - just the usual three "I, IV, & V" chords.
This song has a joyous feeling!
This joyous-sounding Christmas carol is full of energy!
Easy chords for guitar.
This page features the familiar version of What Wondrous Love, and also a little-known version, shown here.
I like to call this second arrangement "bluegrass" - but the melody is apparently from the Shape Note tradition.
It is very unlike the most familiar version you have heard before.
Shown here are the guitar tabs and melody. On another page, I have available a four-part choral arrangement of this alternate melody!
This is the "bluegrass" or Shape Note melody that is also featured on the link above.
Few people have heard this strong, compelling tune, though they may be very familiar with the lyrics!
Shown here is page 3 of a 4-page arrangement...
Also known as "Jewels".
This song talks about the preciousness of little children, like stars in God's crown.
Just three main chords make up the background.
Lots of opportunity for vocal harmony!
This beautiful Christmas song is not easy for young students, but the challenge to play it is fun!
This is a piece that both guitarists and fiddlers find they can grow faster and faster at playing, and increase their skill level along the way!
For guitarists learning to flatpick, this melody is almost entirely "Down-Up, Down-Up, Down-Up, Down-Up!"
Violinists may find themselves making little "bow circles" for the first time ever - very fun!
A violin trio.
This lullaby has lovely repeating melody lines.
In two keys for guitar - there are many possibilities for finger picking with this pretty song!
An old song from Wales, very pretty.
A song with an unforgettable melody.
Yes, the lyrics are here, on page two!
This is a very fun song with silly words about the cat that no one can seem to get rid of!
The chord pattern repeats over and over again; it makes for excellent walking bass practice.
The vocal range of this song can be limited to just five notes if necessary... handy for beginning singers.
This is a genuine cowboy song, written by a real cowboy.
Surprisingly sweet, and pretty!
This two-chord song is a super-easy first finger picking song.
Using "baby" C and "baby" G7, students can focus on their right hand technique.
Just two chords & silly words make this a perfect song for a first lesson.
Use "baby" chords C & G7.
This page has a very fancy arrangement with lots of different chords, as well as a very simple 3-chord arrangement, perfect for beginners!
This is the song I use to teach beginners to switch from the G chord to Em, C, and D7!
It is invaluable for giving them a tactile feel for changing chords with no extraneous motion.
The goal? To keep one finger down on the guitar neck at all times. With this set of chords, it is possible.
This is such a fun song, with words that hint at an earlier time.
From guitar chord fretboards small, large, and SUPER large, to flashcards and blank tablature, there are many tools here for your students!
The beginner guitarist may be able to play the chords, but they won't know what they're doing!
On a piano keyboard, we can look and see that between C & D is a black note, called either C sharp or D flat. And between B & C, and between E & F, there are no black notes.
We can see it just by looking -- it is self-evident.
The beginner guitar player has no such obvious visual aids. On the guitar neck, it is just frets, and more frets.
The frets offer no clues of the existence or non-existence of sharps and flats. Instead, the beginner guitarist must memorize the fact that there is no real separate note called E#, no real Fb.
And a note on one string can easily be duplicated on another string. You can play 4th-fret B on the G string, then move next door to the B string and play the same note open.
What's THAT all about? On the piano the notes stay put --- Middle C is always just Middle C. This is true of most instruments, in fact.
Then there's the PAIN problem -- pressing the strings hard enough to eliminate buzz, to make chords sound good. "Squeeze the strings! Squeeze them harder! Just ignore the pain.Now strum -- ugh!
You have to press the strings harder! Tippy-toe, like a ballet dancer. Hmm, you'll have to cut your fingernails. Oh - you didn't know that learning how to play guitar would involve pain and suffering?"
(Of course, I don't really tell my students their playing sounds bad, even if it does. They may not sound good even when they get their skill down, if their folks didn't find them the best beginner guitar.
You must encourage them along, and if they make good progress, talk their parents into trading in the clunker guitar.)
For older and adult guitar beginners, these issues even themselves out in not too long.
But young kids who are learning how to play guitar need easy steps, even baby steps, adding up to building blocks. They need to move one small step at a time, because in reality they are bringing together so many different skills. And they need lots of repetition.
I use very easy beginner guitar books for my guitar students, plus music sheets I make up, beginner guitar tabs. The music sheets are usually guitar tablature in combination with standard music notation.
(You and I both know that if guitar tabs are there, then that's what they're going to be reading, not the treble staff! But they do need the treble clef notes for the rhythm, unless they pick it up by ear.)
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of beginner guitar books out there in music land, and I must have over two dozen myself! But here are the ones I've settled on for now:
To teach reading notes (instead of just guitar tabs) to my youngest guitar students, I like the Progressive books for Young Beginners. They move slowly, and have CDs.
Primarily, I appreciate these books because they start with one new note per page -- or even per two pages -- NO EIGHTH NOTES (the bane of counting for young kids), and NO TABLATURE to seduce kids away from the task of notereading.
Mel Bay's Easiest Country Guitar for Children is one of the cleverest guitar books I have seen! It is nicely laid out-- it starts with six simple, uncluttered pages each presenting a single topic:
How to Hold the Guitar, Parts of the Guitar, How to Tune the Guitar, Music Basics, How to Read Guitar Tablature, and one very good page about Picking Technique. (Unfortunately, there is no real discussion of note values. I guess that's where you, the teacher, come in!)
Then you turn the page, and it's all music. Very simple tunes (such as Railroad Bill, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Wabash Cannonball, Wildwood Flower and Shady Grove) complete with treble clef, guitar tabs, chord symbols, and where necessary, picking indications. There are no eighth notes in the first part of the book.
Just before the final song is another instructional page called How to Play Slurs. It covers slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs.
Then those techniques are introduced in the last song, Watermelon on the Vine. The book comes with a CD. It's a great repertoire book, but unlike the Progressive books, it does not teach notereading.
But my real favorite both for learning to read the treble clef and beginning chords is Alfred "Kids Guitar Course" Books 1.
Book One is the simplest book I have found for young kids, because it starts with the "baby" C chord -- just the one-finger on fret 1 string 2 chord, and stays with it for a few pages before venturing on to the baby G7 chord.
Lots of easy chords and strumming and counting practice before learning to pick individual notes.
This has become my favorite beginner's book, because when a little boy shouts with excitement, "That song looks fun!" and starts in playing right away a song that calls for a new technique, my heart is melted.
Another book I like very much as a supplement is Usborne's Very Easy Guitar Tunes. It has NO TABLATURE, so the student is forced to read the treble staff.
There are also no "lessons" with new things to learn -- just nice guitar tunes getting progressively more difficult. Some of the tunes are surprisingly pretty, and there are lots of duets and rounds to make playing together fun.
Because my guitar students frequently find themselves playing along with fiddlers, I recommend that they purchase Mel Bay American Fiddle Method, Vol. 1 .
The first three songs make a great medley (Boilem' Cabbage Down, Shortnin' Bread, and Cripple Creek), and help students really nail down the A, D, and E or E7 chords.
Accompanying other musicians gives real meaning and urgency to their at-home practice time! The songs in this great fiddle series all have chord symbols over the melody lines.
A couple of really great "Teach yourself guitar" books that have impressed me with their well-thought out instruction and content are The Everything Rock & Blues Guitar Book: From Chords to Scales and Licks to Tricks, All You Need to Play Like the Greats (Everything Series) and Usborne's Learn to Play Guitar (Usborne Music Guides)
If you haven't been playing a long time yourself, or have limited yourself to just one style of playing, you MAY enjoy these books. Or, they may be totally intimidating!
They aren't really for your students! Instead, garner what you can, and pass it on!
Now, for those of you who are really serious about guitar, as in classical guitar, there is a fabulous in-depth course I just started using.
I am so pleased with it, and am having fun moving through the 254-page book ahead of my students (although really applying oneself to classical style means longer right-hand fingernails - hard for a piano player!).
This terrific book, Solo Guitar Playing, Book 1, 4th Edition, was originally published in 1968 and has been reprinted several times. It is no-nonsense; no cutesy pictures for little ones, but many photographs of correct hand position and definitely NO TABLATURE!
You may ask, What does the author (Frederick Noad) cover in 254 pages? As Marley said to Ebenezer Scrooge, "MUCH!" On Amazon you can look at the entire Table of Contents, and you will see that this is a very well-designed course.
With much repetition of note reading, and steady progression into reading notes on each new string, careful preparation of the student pays off so that by the end of Lesson 7, they can be introduced to the famous Spanish study by Albeniz and not have to use tablature! In the following lesson is the beautiful Malaguena.
Solo Guitar Playing Volume 1 (Music Sales America) and Solo Guitar Playing/Book 1 with CD (Classical Guitar) are available at Amazon, and also at Sheetmusicplus, where it also comes with a CD and without.
I got it for about six dollars less at Amazon than at Sheetmusicplus, but the shipping at Sheetmusicplus can't be beat, if you have multiple books to order. And you can't get used books with Amazon Prime's free shipping... at least not yet!
Do you have a funny story about this music, or does it remind you of something you'd like to share with other readers? Do you have a question? I'd love to hear it!
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