It is that time of year again.Â When students of all ages and instruments line-up
outside of studios and classrooms in hopes of landing a chair in their favorite
school ensemble.Â Nerves are kicking in
as each student crams in some last minute practicing and teachers begin to
stress over finding the right student for each chair in their ensemble.Â
While many educators have at least some
knowledge of the guitar and what to look for when auditioning guitarists for
their ensembles, many do not.Â Though it
is impractical to expect teachers to have a thorough knowledge of the guitar,
with even a basic understanding of the instrument educators will be better
prepared to judge the abilities of their guitar students. Â This article will help teachers gain an
understanding of what to look for in the areas of Technique, Fretboard
Knowledge, Accompanying, Soloing and Sight-Reading, as well as how to rank
students based on their ability in each and all of these categories.Â
There are two areas of technique to watch for when
auditioning guitar players, the left (fretting) hand and the right (picking)
When judging left hand technique, watch for the placement of
the thumb and fingers in relation to the fingerboard.Â The thumb should be placed behind the neck in
a vertical position.Â If the student has
their thumb curled over the top of the neck, or have it in a horizontal
position behind the neck, these are signs of poor technique.Â Also, watch to see if the student is using
their pinky finger when playing, and how far their fingers are lifting off of
the strings between each note.Â It is
often a sign of a weaker player when they lift their fingers more than a half
inch off of the strings, or never use their pinky finger while playing.
With the right hand there are a few things to watch out for,
the first being, are the students using a pick or their fingers?Â If they are using a pick, check to see if
they are holding on to any part of the guitar as they pick.Â This can be a sign of poor right hand technique,
and may prevent the student from playing at faster tempos or executing
difficult picking passages.Â If the
student is using their right-hand fingers to play, check to see if they are
using just their thumb, one or two fingers or all of the above.Â A good fingerstyle guitarist should be using
their thumb on the lower three strings and their fingers on the top three.Â If they are only using one or two fingers in
their right hand, this may cause problems when trying to play fast or
complicated phrases or pieces.Â
There are two areas in which to test a guitaristâ€™s knowledge
of the neck, scales and the ability to name notes across the fingerboard.
The first thing to keep in mind when testing students on
their scale knowledge is that there are literally dozens of ways to finger any
scale or mode on the guitar.Â Because of
this, it is often common to ask a student to play a scale in two or more
positions of the neck. For instance, if a student plays a G major scale
starting on the 6th string, you might want to ask them if they can
play the same scale starting on the 5th string.Â The more fingeringâ€™s a student knows for each
scale the more advanced of a player they tend to be.Â As well, where most other instruments begin
by learning the major and minor scales, guitarists tend to learn the
pentatonic/blues scales first, then the major and minor scales.Â It is a good idea to start by asking the
student to play a blues or pentatonic scale in a few keys, then move on to the
major and minor scales and their modes.Â
Usually the less experienced guitarists will not be able to play more
than the pentatonic scale, while the more advanced players will be able to play
at least the major and minor scales, and maybe one or more modes of these
scales as well.
While most other instrumentalists have to be aware of what
notes they are playing in order to make music, guitarists tend to rely on the
geometric nature of the instrument and can learn to play without ever knowing
what notes they are sounding.Â It is
always good to test this in an audition, especially at the high school
level.Â One way to figure out where a
student stands with their knowledge of notes is to ask them to play x amount of
y note. For example ask the student to play 3 different Câ€™s and see how long it
takes them to figure this out.Â For the
more advances students this will only take a matter of seconds, for the weaker
students they might just stare at you and ask what a C is, donâ€™t be surprised
this can be quite common in younger, more inexperienced guitarists.
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