Many classical guitar teachers of the past had stated that the field of classical guitar education in general was an area that was in need of re-evaluation in terms of proper teaching methodology, especially at the beginner level. However, the last twenty years have seen the steady growth and expansion of classical guitar education. Various factors have contributed to this, including new and innovative methods of teaching, the construction of better instruments, the proliferation of new music written specifically for the classical guitar, and the growth of guitar programs in elementary and secondary levels of instruction. The purpose of this research was to investigate two models of effective instruction, identify teaching and learning strategies, and provide a descriptive analysis of the teaching methodology applied and method books used by these two programs that resulted in their effectiveness. Though both were effective models, they met different needs.
This study observed two programs, including a guitar program at a public charter school in a large city in the Southwestern United States, and one private studio in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. The researcher also conducted in-depth interviews with the instructors of these programs. Supplementary guitar programs using similar approaches were also involved in the study. Research questions focused on instructional settings, teaching methods and method books used, solo and ensemble repertoire, teacher effectiveness and student evaluation.
Based on analysis of data, the study observed that the instructors of both models had clearly defined goals and objectives. The instructors were very specific about what they wanted to accomplish, and about what teaching methodology they wanted to apply. Both programs gave a very strong emphasis to selecting high quality musical materials that were appropriate to the age and grade level, as well as music that was compelling and challenging. Secondly, both models were strongly rooted in a specific classical guitar tradition using nylon string guitars, and both models taught similar right-hand and left-hand technique to establish firm technical foundations. The implication for guitar teachers is that having clearly defined goals and objectives and selection of high quality music materials plays a vital role in the effectiveness of a guitar program.
There were also notable differences between the two models. The first model followed a traditional method established by nineteenth-century pedagogues of the guitar, and contemporary authors like Charles Duncan, Aaron Shearer, and Frederick Noad. Sight-reading, introduced during the initial stages, was an important part of the learning process. The second model followed the Suzuki method where special emphasis was given to good tone production and learning by listening. Actual sight-reading on the guitar takes place only later. Parental involvement and the home environment also played an important part. A strong emphasis was given to starting at an early age in the second model whereas in the first model, students normally started at a later stage.