Tips for teachers or others working with children

(NOTE! A handbook with lots of material (150 pages) exists but
has not been published. Contact us if you want more support) 

• In schools, I recommend that you mark each instrument in some way to avoid confusion and possible problems.

• The instruments can be left on a shelf and can stand or be stacked in pairs facing each other. I often keep them in groups of 10 or 12 in wicker baskets.

• A good way to not lose the pick is to put a bit of “sticky tack” (used to hang posters, etc.) on the side of the instrument and stick the pick onto it. Children learn to do this quickly as part of their normal routine.

• Save old credit cards, etc. and cut picks from them so you have some extras if you don’t want to purchase guitar picks in a shop. You might also want to try cutting larger picks from plastic containers. For very young children or persons with physical problems, larger picks can be easier to hold – though not always. Try harder and softer materials to see what works best.

• A handy way to store song sheets is to keep all copies of each song in a plastic holder (A4) in an office-style ring binder, perhaps in alphabetical order. This is more important if you have lots of songs and want to keep Christmas songs separate, etc.

• It will be important to have 1-2 persons learn to tune the zitheroos. Very TINY movements are the main thing, and with practice it will go quickly (10 instruments in 10-15 minutes works for me). Try working together with one other person the first time you do it. Remember that the tuning will rise a bit in spring and go down in the fall, and that the higher strings will change a bit more than the lower ones.

• Remember that children from about age 10 can learn to use the Transposer in just a few minutes, transcribing songs from any songbook to model song sheets for the zitheroo. Give it a try when you tire of the songs that you have!
Contact us if you have questions or comments.

Get started with some dancing or rhythmic games
(focus attention on keeping the beat)

Sing and work with the rhythm of the song before you play the tune
(clap the rhythm of the song as you sing—or stamp, tap your head or nose or…)

Sing through the song while everyone follows along, note by note, with their finger on the notes—but without the instrument
(practice, for example, all stopping on a certain word, and check to see if everyone is at the same place!)

Play the song before everyone is bored and tired
(work on “theory” a little at a time)

Ask the children why some notes are big, or red, etc.
(explore together: “big ones you rest on” and so on)

Play it again in different ways
(Raise your arm after each long note, or play very quietly, or slowly… By playing the same song with new challenges you get practice but are not as likely to be bored and tired)

Let the children play “solo” sometimes
(Children with difficulties can play at their own speed, troublesome children often concentrate well when others are watching, children who think they play well get a chance to show what they can do)

Divide the class into 2 groups
(One group plays the first half of the song, the second group the rest, etc.)

Let the children practice in pairs and then play for the group
(Children who haven’t matched or cared about following the beat may find it easier to try to play together with one friend. Getting a chance to choose a couple of favorite songs and perform can increase motivation)

Try playing “rounds”, pieces with 2 “parts”

Play the chords to the songs on guitar or piano
(This sounds good, strengthens the rhythmic feeling. You most likely just need C, F, and G7 chords—with a “capo” on the third fret of the guitar you can instead play A, D and E7.)

Compose songs together, or in pairs or alone
(see suggestions below)

Perform for others!
(for parents, retired person’s groups, institutions… Gives the children the “can do” feeling, self-confidence and pride)

Write a simple song together
(Start with a phrase or a theme, something close at hand)

“Rap” the first line (=read it rhythmically), let the children think of a next line, maybe something that rhymes…
(It doesn’t have to rhyme, but it can be fun to think of all the words that rhyme with the last word of the first line)

Simple is often best — 2 to 4 lines of words is plenty
(repeating can give it a nice effect…)

Put the first note/dot on the paper all the way to the left
(string 4 is the “home note” in major, string 2 or 5 in minor, but…)

Get the children involved in thinking about “where does the melody want to go?”
(one can 1) repeat the same note,2) move stepwise up or down, 3) leap up or down)

Get the children involved in rhythmic aspects
(Where should the melody rest? Fast notes? Tempo? etc.)

Copy and play the song together—let the children compose in pairs next time!

It is important that the children have a positive experience which gives them self-confidence and promotes interest in further musical exploration in the future.
Here are some things you can do with the zitheroo:

• sing and play a variety of songs

• try playing in parts and rounds

• compose and play songs, complete with words and illustrations

• help them learn to distinguish between pitches, different intervals and rhythmic elements, understand repeat signs, etc.

• have instruments available to them for personal use outside of group sessions

• let them borrow instruments, taking them home to play and “teach their parents”

• play music together with their parents at various events

• experience the concert situation and perform before an audience

• perform in a public concert with adult choirs or ensembles and experience a variety of music both as active participants and listeners.