The Loog Guitar Revolution: Guitar Lessons for Kids Will Never be the Same

loog_slider01As a music educator and performer, I’m always interested in learning about new products and tools that can help students succeed.  When I discovered the Loog Guitar, a 3-string interchangeable guitar designed with children in mind, I immediately took notice.

I was excited to find out more about the Loog because I took guitar lessons when I was 8 years old, and it proved to be easier said than done. The guitar was added to the list of instruments that were uncomfortable for my tiny hands (which I thought would grow eventually, but never did – to this day, I still struggle to reach the octave on the piano!).

I became discouraged and quit after about 6 months, and eventually took up the ukulele many years later – which has been much easier for me to maneuver but even now, the ¾ size guitar is problematic for me.

Many of our TakeLessons instructors prefer not to teach guitar to young children for this very reason.  Now, with the Loog Guitar in the picture, instead of teachers having to focus on finding alternate fingerings and keeping a frustrated student focused on the difficult task of mastering an adult-sized instrument, they can focus on teaching the child to make music!  And isn’t that really what it’s all about?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Rafael Atijas, the creator of the Loog Guitar, who provided insight into how his concept came about and what the benefits will be for children who want to learn the guitar.

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When did you realize that there was a need for a guitar made especially for kids?

I saw my 6 year old niece trying to make music with one of those $30 guitars when I thought “There has to be a better way.” It was then that I realized that kids’ guitars are usually just cheap, scaled-downed replicas of classical guitars.  They are not really designed with kids’ needs, comfort or even safety in mind.

Where does your knowledge of guitars come from?

I studied guitar and was in different bands during high school and college (as was almost every other kid I knew). I was very much into rock music and at some point I just fell in love with guitars – especially vintage electric guitars.

What age group do you feel would benefit the most from the Loog Guitar?

Time will tell, but I think kids ages 6 to 9 will be the ones that will get the most out of the Loog Guitar, since this is the guitar that allows them to build chords without the need to form complicated shapes with their little hands.

Where did you get the idea to call it the “Loog?”

It is my subtle but very meaningful homage to Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones. I always found him to be a fascinating character (I’m a rock nerd, as you can see) and back when I had a band, I had a chance to meet him and he was super kind to us.

What types of learning materials are you planning on coming out with to assist with the learning process?

We plan to include a manual on how to play with three strings, and we will also offer video tutorials on our website.

What does this product mean for kids who have an interest in learning guitar?

Kids will have a friendlier instrument that will stimulate them to make music and get creative with it. What I like about the Loog Guitar is that it works whether you already know how to play guitar or not. And that’s what I hope it means to kids who have an interest in learning guitar: a fun and easy way to play music.

Anything else you wish to add?

I am truly humbled by the response the Loog Guitar project got on Kickstarter (the website that helped raise the money to launch the product), and one of the things I like the most is that so many people from the education field have reached out to me and had very positive things to say about the Loog Guitar. I know TakeLessons.com reaches a lot of music teachers, so I want to use this opportunity to extend my thanks to all of them.

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There you have it, folks.  I’m personally thrilled that there is now a product out there that will make learning guitar simpler for young children.  For teachers, what have you experienced in teaching guitar to young children? Parents and students, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced learning guitar yourself or watching your child learn guitar?  I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave comments below if you feel so inclined!  Now if only I could travel back in time and learn to play guitar on the Loog, maybe I would have stuck with it! To learn more, visit www.loogguitar.com or check out the Loog Guitar in action below:

The Loog Guitar in Action from Loog Guitars on Vimeo.

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Monet Payne is the Community Manager for TakeLessons.com. She is dedicated to providing the latest on music education and technology to those who seek it. By night, Monet is a professional singing actress, starring in musicals, operas, and everything in between. Monet has her Bachelors in Music, with a concentration in Vocal Performance, and enjoys teaching voice, involving herself as Vocal Director in several productions. She proudly co-founded a non-profit organization for Voice Education and her next venture will be to start her own theater production company.

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Lessons With Jimi: Tips for Teaching a Piano Student with Alzheimer’s

windy and jimiThe following story comes from piano teacher Windy C. in St. Petersburg, Florida. Last fall, Windy began the challenging journey of teaching piano lessons to a student with Alzheimer’s.  Below she shares some helpful tips she’s learned as a result of working with her student, Jimi. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story, Windy!

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Last fall I began teaching a 90-year-old woman who has moderate stage Alzheimerʼs. Knowing this in advance, I thought I was up for the challenge; however, things changed when we sat down at the piano for our first lesson and she looked around the room with a confused look on her face and said, “Iʼm sorry, I have no idea what Iʼm doing here.”

I can honestly say I might have had some second thoughts at that point. I looked at her and calmly replied, “Well, Iʼm Windy and youʼre here to play the piano with me. So letʼs have some fun!” But in my head I was mildly freaking out and thinking “Oh my goodness, what the heck have I gotten myself into? How am I going to do this? I never learned how to teach someone with no short-term memory in college!”

I came home after that lesson and scoured the internet and college text books for tips on teaching music to people with dementia, but I came up with nothing. What I am about to share is what I have learned through my experience with Ms. Jimi. I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on how the brain functions, but I strongly feel that what I am about to share can help anyone working with people who struggle with early to moderate stage dementia or Alzheimerʼs.

Over the past year, Ms. Jimi and I have built a wonderful relationship and I look forward to her lessons more than all my others because I never know what to expect.  All the orthodox ways of lesson planning, goal setting, and progressing go out the window and our 30 minutes together are more like a session of music therapy. Here are five practical things that I have learned from teaching Ms. Jimi:

1. Give The Student The Opportunity To Reach Small Goals

Early on, I realized that Jimi was not going to progress as a typical student would. She could not remember from week to week what we had played the lesson before, so it was obvious that our lessons together needed to be taught in the moment, as an exercise time for her brain.  For 30 minutes, Jimi and I play through pieces that she enjoys and that challenge her, but do not frustrate her.

Ms. Jimi can play simple songs with both hands in C position, G position, and middle C position. We have about six songs in each position that we cycle through. Occasionally, I will add a new one. Usually I will help her through the song the first time. Then we will play it again, and she almost always improves the second time. I’ve noticed when Jimi can play through an entire song by herself, she feels very accomplished. However, she never remembers from week to week what we played during the previous lesson.

2. Use Teaching Aids

As I said, Ms. Jimi is 90, so her eyes struggle at times. Large note music, with the letter written inside the note head, help her immensely. Sometimes I put stickers on the keys to label them just like I might do for a child when he or she is first learning a position. Having the keys labeled is one less thing she has to figure out, which allows her to play through the piece more fluently and enjoy the melody.  I have also found that staying in the same position for an entire lesson helps her to feel more successful. Switching positions between songs causes her to become confused, which then leads to frustration.

3. Know When To Take Breaks

Jimi loves chocolate. If I sense that she is having a rough day and not enjoying the music, we eat a chocolate together.   Sometimes I pull out books that I’ve brought along and ask her if I can play a song for her. She loves “Claire de Lune” and each time I play it, she reacts as if itʼs the first time I have played it for her. “Oh Wow! I love that song!” she will say, often teary-eyed.

4. Know When To Keep Quiet

There are times when Ms. Jimi says “Donʼt touch my fingers this time!” or “Now let me do it and you donʼt talk!” I love her wit, her will, and her determination. And I have definitely learned that it doesnʼt have to be perfect, but she needs to do it on her own. Sometimes I just need to sit back and let her play; if she stumbles, I try to let her figure it out unless Iʼm asked for help.

5. Be Flexible, Creative and Make it Fun

Iʼm always looking for ways to improve Jimi’s experience at piano lessons. Even though I know I could teach Jimi the same exact lesson every single week and she would probably never know – I WOULD KNOW. I mean, good grief, if I live to be 90, I hope that someone makes sure Iʼm still having fun!

One time her grown son came to town and brought her to her lesson. We worked on a simple waltz. She played it for him. Then I asked her if she wanted me to play it so that she could dance with her son. They floated around the room and it was a special moment. On another occasion, I showed her a YouTube video about a 100-year-old woman who was a Holocaust survivor and still loved to play the piano every day. Jimi loved it!

Each music student has different needs. No two students are the same, and that’s what makes our job as music teachers exciting and ever-evolving! My challenge for other teachers is to take the time to experiment and think outside the box to help enrich the lives of their students, not only musically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Music reaches deep into the soul and can bring so much joy into the lives of others!

Enjoy the Journey,

Windy C.

Windy Cobourne

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