The Unwound Third > Jam Session

Need song suggestions for teaching

(1/2) > >>


Hey y'all,

I thought I'd come out of my cave for a while, I'm really amazed to see such activity on this site!  And to have a chance to hear those Shirley Griffith LPs on the juke, that's great, kudos to all who worked on that stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I started a volunteer gig for an organization called the People Program, in which seniors pay $150 per semester and take as many classes as they want in subjects like Spanish, yoga, money management and all those other staples of adult ed courses all over the country.  My landlady (who runs the program) asked me to teach some blues guitar, and after only two classes, I think it's gonna be a fun hour to look forward to every week.

There are some challenges that teachers don't have to mess with in a place like PTCBW.  One woman has so much arthritis in her hands that she can only make partial chords on the top three strings.  My oldest student--mid-80s--has a slight palsy that makes it hard for him to hold chord shapes.  And of course, there's not a single student in the class who has ever dealt with an alternating bass pattern before.

So here's my request: please give me suggestions for blues tunes that might fit this kind of class.  I started out teaching "Spike Driver's Moan," working on 6-4-6-4-6-4-6-4, ok, let's try this, 6-1-4-6-1-4-6-1-4-6-1-4 . . . . We're progressing at a rate of 1 measure per week. 

I tried teaching "Blues, Stay Away from Me," which I think is the title of the Delmore Brothers' tune that Eddie Pennington taught at an impromptu afternoon session this year.  I had much more success with that, seeing that it uses more of a boom-chuck pattern with the right thumb.  But I don't know any more of those, and I'll have to come up with something once a week for my new-found friends to keep them engaged.

And it also seems kind of clear to me right now that I will have to get out of the blues mode eventually and mix in some other genres.  But remember, these are adults I'm teaching, so I don't think "Puff, the Magic Dragon" will go over too well with them. 

Thanks for any and all suggestions.


uncle bud:

While it may seem a bit odd, what about open tunings? I'm thinking in terms of dexterity limitations that these might help some folks.

I agree with UB and that's what I was thinking as I read your post.... Open Tunings.  Also, I think I'd start with mono tonic bass - I admire your guts  and your community minded spirit for teaching fingerpicking blues to seniors!   They'll love anything you do  (whcih is what I found out when I played with Washtub Jerry in a Sen. Center).


A couple of great songs that have always made a hit are "Irene, Goodnight", "The Tennessee Waltz", "Wabash Cannonball", and "You Are My Sunshine", written by former Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis.  If your students are like many I've encountered, they may be more interested in being able to accompany themselves singing than in playing melodic arrangements, so some boom-chang back-up may be just what the doctor ordered.  Best of luck with this, Lindy.
All best,

I was thinking along the same lines as JohnM - accompanying singing with simple guitar stuff.  That way, you can use the boom-chuck as a foundation for a little melody done with the fingers if the students are up to it.  If they're singing the songs, they'll already know the melody, so it'll just be a question of bringing the notes out of the guitar.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version