Here we are at the end of another semester. Hard to believe! It’s always bittersweet. Nice to see the summer break, but also sad to say goodbye to my guitar kiddos. I feel like we pack so much information into a semester! I made the push this year, to try to get a section of guitar that would be a year-long for my more advanced players (as opposed to the 4 sections that last just a semester), but my administration didn’t see the value that see. My fight is not over yet!
As the semester wraps up, I always like to see how much information my students have obtained by giving them a final written exam. My goal is for my students to continue to play after they leave this semester long class, so I want to gauge their skills in four areas to see if they truly do know enough where they could continue to teach themselves if the drive and motivation is there.
The Four Assessed Areas
Chord Progressions -I want to know that they could write their own song if they wanted to. Do they know the I, IV, V chords of a key? Do they know that in a major key if they added the ii, iii, or vi chords that they would be minor chords? I want to know they have memorized the chords in the key of G and A. Very happen with how students performed on this portion of the test.
Fretboard Recognition – This area was by leaps and bounds better than it’s ever been! I think it’s because of my teaching it at the beginning of the semester, very explicitly. That’s where I will teach it every year now! Do you they know that B and E don’t have sharps? Do they know the open strings of the guitar? Can they figure out what note is on every fret of the guitar by working from an open string and counting up. Very happy here!
Improvisation – Do they know the pentatonic scale (in what I call first position), both major and minor? Do they know where the roots are? Do they know which finger to start on for a major key or a minor key? Given the key to a song, could they figure out what fret to start on? Again very pleased with the results here. Very high marks from all students.
Bass Guitar – Okay…here’s where I need to do a better job. Very poor scores on this section. I am asking students to figure out where they would play certain roots on the bass for certain songs. For instance, where would you play a root on the bass if the guitar player is playing a G chord. This is obviously just poor teaching on my part. Why? Well if they can figure out notes on the fretboard for a guitar, why can’t they figure out notes on the bass (when the open strings of the bass are the same as the bottom four open strings on a guitar)? It needs clarification from their instructor (which is why you should give any test, so that you can fix these lapses in teaching!). Here is a link to our Guitar Final (with lots of typos – I must have not had enough sleep when I made this test! Sorry!).
Very happy with my students this year, and the progress they’ve made. This semester’s group doesn’t have as much raw talent as I’ve had in previous groups, but they work incredibly hard.
We perform for the entire student body tomorrow as our last performance of the year. Today (our last day in class), we’re having a class talent show. Every student must play at least one song of their choice (alone or in a group). Some students will pull out the old “Ode to Joy” and call it good, while others have practiced the song they are going to play for months and will blow everybody away.
Then of course as a matter of tradition, Mr. Gerry performs the last song of the day which is always “Long May You Run” by Neil Young….and we all cry…..mostly on the inside.
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