Before you have your students read notes or tab give them aural activities for learning left hand notes. Depending on the age of the learner the diatonic scale in root position can be learned one string at a time or as a scale starting on the 6th string and going up to G on the first string E and down.
Emphasizing correct fingering the students then need many opportunities to practice the notes while listening and watching their left hands.
• Echo practice: Teacher or student plays three notes on a string (or 2 on the G string) within duple or triple meter and class echoes while looking at their left hands to check for position and accuracy. Singing the notes while playing them can add another layer of learning. Use call and response after notes are secure encouraging students to make up their own echoes. Assess by going to each student individually, while the rest become the audience for the one or two measure solos.
• Starting with notes on the high E string have students improvise to an Em chord played on guitar, piano, autoharp or other available chording instrument. Proceed to other strings, use the G chord, and Em/B7 combination or G/D7 combination.
• HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS can begin right away hearing how starting and stopping in different places in the scale can produce different modes.
The more common modes:
C to C: Ionian (major)-improvise over C major and A minor progressions)
D to D: Dorian – improvise over D7/A7 and Dm/Am chords
E to E: Phrygian- improvise over the flamenco (chaconne) progression-Am, G, F, E or E/Am chords
G to G: Mixolydian – Improvise over G7/D7 chords
A to A: Aeolian (natural minor)-improvise over Am/Em chords or blues progression in A or Am.
These chords are only a suggestion. Have the students experiment with various chords that they like and decide what works with them.
Whether played on one string or many, an improvisation becomes a composition if it can be repeated on demand.
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