Rock Guitar Student Rocks Recitals!
One of the most universal goals for students taking music lessons is to have the opportunity to perform. That’s why talent shows, showcases, open mics, and concerts are such a popular forum. It’s a gift to be able to share your musical talents and achievements with an audience, and the experience can change the course of study for evolving young musicians.
The most popular performance opportunity a music student sees each year is the “end of year recital”. It’s a time when students of various ages and levels get to present a selection in front of peers and parents alike. In my studio, I like to note how amazing it is to see the range of study displayed and how you can see the course of learning an instrument perfectly articulated in the performances over an hour.
Everyone likes the idea of an end of year recital—parents and students alike—but more often than not, students who are studying a classical instrument or method of study are usually more inclined to perform than students on the rock or jazz trajectory. There is an underlying reason for this: the goal for both styles has a personal enjoyment and performance aspect to them, but classical instruments lend themselves to solo performance more than rock styles.
For example, when you think of becoming a rock guitarist, you think of playing in a band; you are one component of a whole—one piece of the pie. The idea of playing in a recital alone can feel counter intuitive, especially given the curriculum and goals of rock guitar study. Since rock guitar is such a popular instrument for children, but not as thoroughly demonstrated in performance at younger, beginner levels, I have three tips to help teachers give our future rock stars the confidence to share their talents.
Creatively Craft the Student’s Repertoire
Most rock guitar students learn a combination of chords and single line melodies as part of rock guitar study. Learning scales for future improvisation also comes to mind. When looking for repertoire that works for solo performance, the chords themselves don’t really stand alone, but single like melodies do. Even looking through basic guitar methods, even simple melodies that stand out from specific riffs provide good performance material.
What you want to avoid is a disjointed piece of music—like a combination of riff and melody or just melody then chords. Try finding an example that provides textural continuity—even if it is just a single line.
Consider a Duet!
Going back to the reason lots of students study guitar is the sense of ensemble. Guitarists want to either accompany themselves, or another instrument, or be in a band! Offer this opportunity to your students by forming your own duo. If the student really wants to play the rhythm part of a song during a recital, let them accompany you playing the lead on guitar or another instrument. If they have a melody, comp for the student and provide support.
Help Your Student Act the Part
One of the most important skills a student develops in performing in recitals is the development of poise and confidence. For a rock guitarist, this is just as important as a classical pianist or violinist. As a teacher, you must encourage your student to not shy away behind the instrument, but sit or stand proud, play with confidence and volume, and deliver their performance with conviction—no matter how simple or how complex. Memorization is the biggest asset to confidence building. When you know your piece and don’t hide behind the music stand as a guitarist, a much stronger performance can be presented.
Though rock guitar may not feel like the most natural instrument to present in a student recital, not taking advantage of the opportunity is a loss for the student and the audience. Guitar is an engaging instrument for students to observe, and though a student and teacher may not know exactly what to present in a concert, there is a wealth of material and options. Pick a single line melody, a long riff that can be looped or transition into various parts, or perform a duet! When employing a bit of creativity, a guitar teacher and student can develop great performance repertoire that inspires!