By L.C. Harnsberger

It would be easy if every student wanted to learn the same songs and had the same goals, but who wants easy when you can have fun! The traditional note-reading methods like Alfred’s Basic Guitar Method are perfect for a student who simply knows they just want to learn guitar. It covers everything they need to gain a great foundation of skills, learn familiar songs, and have a good time doing it. But what do you do about a student just starting from scratch who wants to play rock songs?

One approach is to find out their favorite song and structure lessons to give them just the knowledge they need to play that song. You work on one section at a time and slowly it comes together. The end result is a student that knows one song.

Ideally you want to give them enough skills to have great technique, theory knowledge, and be able to put emotion into their performances. Alfred’s Basic Rock Guitar is a new method I wrote with Ron Manus and Nathaniel Gunod that gives guitar teachers the material that will get students playing in the rock style right away while still providing a methodical approach that gives them a solid foundation that will keep them playing! Here are some principles in the book that can apply to any lesson.

Start on the 6th String

Where traditional methods start on the first string with traditional melodies, a student interested in rock will want to play riffs from day one. When I first started guitar, I picked one up and taught myself to play the opening lick from The Beatles’ version of “Money.” All I needed was the 6th string and a good ear. Starting on the 6th string will give your student an almost immediate ability to play cool licks and skip songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” that populate traditional methods. Once the student knows the basic natural notes on the 6th and 5th strings, they can play licks that sound like “Louie Louie,” “When I Come Around,” “Iron Man,” and “We Will Rock You!”

King Louie

Riffs like this are fun to play and keep students’ interest. Honestly, who doesn’t like to be able to grab a guitar and play cool riffs endlessly!

Get to Power Chords Right Away

As you add more strings and notes to your repertoire, you can play more riffs. More importantly, you can play three-chord songs with power chords. Just by knowing the natural notes on the 6th, 5th and 4th strings, you can play an A-D-E progression with power chords.


Start them slowly and gradually your student will sound like the Ramones!

Have a Goal

Some students have a favorite song they want to play such as “Good Times Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin. It’s great when students are driven to play songs, but it’s the teacher’s goal to make sure they are providing a strong musical foundation during that journey. Continue to introduce the fundamentals of playing while you work towards a song. Gradually introduce essential techniques like scales, full chords, changing positions, bending, soloing, etc.  Not only will they learn everything they need to play their song, but they’ll also have a vast array of techniques that will give them the ability to learn other songs they choose to play in the future.

This is just a taste of the approach used in Alfred’s Basic Rock Guitar Method.

Check out the digital version here.