Ages 5-10: SmartStart Guitar, $19.95. Ages 6-10: Kids Guitar, $39.95. Kids’ Guitar Special, $119.95. Teen and adult: You Can Play Guitar, $39.95.
Homespun Tapes. PO Box 340. Woodstock. NY 12498. (800) 338-2737. www.homespuntapes.com.
Let’s cut to the chase. If you want to teach your children how to play the guitar without spending hundreds of dollars on lessons, and you either don’t know how to play the instrument yourself or just don’t know how to teach it, Homes spun Tapes has exactly what you’re looking for.
Let’s start with the littlest ones first. SmartStart Guitar, taught by Jessica Baron Turner, uses a special “open” tuning that allows kids to make pleasant music by simply strumming the open strings. It starts with the basics-how to pick a guitar of the right size, the parts of the guitar, names for the fingers, posture, how to hold the flatpick-and teaches kids how to play a steady beat and a number of simple chords and strums. An included songbook has the music for all the folk song and children’s songs on the 50-minute DVD.
For slightly older kids, and in my opinion very usable for young teens. Kids Guitar is taught by the irrepressible Marcy Marxer. Like Jessica Baron Turner, she talks gently to the young viewers. On the first DVD, Marcy teaches guitar basics, chords, and simple strums similar to SmartStart, only with the classic guitar tuning. The second DVD introduces simple fingerpicking, arpeggios. how to use a capo, more strums and chords, and some basic chord theory. Songs on both DVDs include classic folk, children’s songs, and Gospel.
Don’t already own a guitar? Homespun’s Kids’ Guitar Special includes both Kids’ Guitar DVDs, an Oscar Schmidt 3/4-size guitar (perfect for little hands), and a free Wittner Quartz Guitar Tuner.
Now we come to older teens and young adults. Homespun has kindly labeled every course in their catalog of hundreds of courses with a difficulty level from “1” (beginner) to “4” (when is your next concert?”). Problem is, they offer several “1” courses for adults.
After struggling with this for weeks, I’ve decided you should just go ahead and get the two-DVD set You Can Play Guitar by Homespun Tapes owner Happy Traum. Starting with the assumption that you have no prior guitar experience or musical knowledge, Happy gives an amazingly fast. thorough, and step-by-step introduction to everything from the same guitar basics covered in the kids’ courses, to a boatload of chords, chord progressions, strums, and enough chord theory so you can not only change keys, but understand how this works. Songs taught include spirituals, folk, cowboy, children’s, and blues.
Happy, whose demeanor matches his name, is a great teacher. He troubleshoots everything you could do wrong before you do it. This course is easily the equivalent of a year or two of expensive guitar lessons.
All these Homespun courses are very highly recommended.