From Doom Metal to “Let it Go”: Why I Love Teaching Kids with Different Musical Tastes

Last week, I went from teaching a 13-year-old guy with a short attention span how to play two songs from a band called Candlemass to teaching a nine-year-old boy “Let it Go.” Yeah, you’ve heard it (the latter one, that is). It’s that song from the movie “Frozen” and is probably stuck in your head. 

But the experience, while mildly stressful, reminded me of why I love teaching rock guitar. Sometimes, I actually gain more than my student, enhancing not only my repertoire, but my vocabulary of rock techniques. 

Let’s start with Candlemass. Chances are, you haven’t heard of them unless you’re sincerely into super-hard stuff. I hadn’t. But upon further Wikipedia research, I learned they’re one of the main bands in a delightful category of music called “doom metal,” which is pretty much guitars on distortion, tri-tones, and Black Sabbath-inspired riffs. To play this stuff, alternate tuning is usually required. (Side note: I actually like Black Sabbath.)

I spent probably an hour and a half stretching my fingers into new chords, memorizing riffs, and just jamming out to a couple of their songs. Since I hardly have time to practice, playing Candlemass kept my calluses fresh. 

Post lesson, it was nice to transition to “Let it Go.” This song, while more palatable to the general population, isn’t just four chords and super easy to play. But it’s easier to modify so a kid won’t go bonkers trying to get it down. And … there’s that catchy chorus: “Let it go, Let it go, etc.” 

See, were I left to my own devices, I’d be in busy-working-mom-of-two mode all day. Just teaching, but not learning. Writing, too, because that’s one of the ways I make a living. But when kids choose songs I wouldn’t play on my own, it makes me a better musician. And for that, I’m grateful.

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