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New class at Iowa Valley Junior High teaches students how to rock on the guitar


Iowa Valley Junior High student Brittany VanBennekom learns how to do a walking bass line during the new guitar lab class.

It’s Friday afternoon at Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School and 12 students are sitting in class, rocking out on the guitar.

The class: guitar lab.

At the beginning of class, IV band teacher Brian Redington instructs the students on how to play the G chord, a C chord a D7 and the G7. With guitars in laps, the seventh and eighth grade students strum at the strings.

Four of the students, bass players, pluck at the large guitars, some of which, when stood on end, are taller than the students themselves.

The sound is discordant. Several different notes are played at a time, many of which do not come close to a C or a G, or even a D7 chord.

Redington breaks the students up into pairs, matching students of different experience levels. Students with more experience playing guitar help out the beginners.

The students help each other with proper finger placement, technique and tempo.

Mr. Redington walks among the future rock stars, giving further instruction and encouragement.

Halfway through the period, Redington brings the group back together. He has the students play the four chords in progression. First they play C, then D7, then back to C.

Then Mr. Redington has the students play 12 counts of the G chord. With the assistance of bass player Luke Ryan, the students play the G chord over and over, coming together in the same tempo.

At the instruction of Redington, the students start the song over.

Sure enough, the song “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley is distinguishable.

Within one hour, these 12 students came together and produced a song the King of Rock would be proud of.

“It’s a lot of fun. It’s something to do that’s a lot better than study hall,” said student Caden Wilson.

That is exactly why the guitar lab was started, Redington said. The class began four weeks ago at the start of the second semester, the first class of its kind at Iowa Valley, and it is held every other day during sixth hour.

“It’s a non-book class,” Redington said. “We were looking for ways to get kids out of so many study halls.”

The class was much more popular than he expected. Redington said he initially hoped three or four students would sign up. Instead he got a dozen.

Some of the students bring their own guitars, and some use guitars owned by the school. Coordinators of Marengo’s Haunted Barn donated two guitars to help get the program started.

Redington said the students have really taken ownership of the class, and are working hard.

With his specialty being brass instruments, Redington said he is learning how to play guitar along with the students.

“I’m trying to stay half a step ahead of them. The force me to,” he said. “The kids are teaching me too. The students are the teachers in this class. It’s a lot of hard work, but it is also a lot of fun. I honestly wish we could do it every day.”

Each student came to the class with different experience levels, and different tastes in music. One assignment Redington gave the students is to present a PowerPoint presentation about their favorite band.

He is also taking requests from the students for what songs they want to learn. The kids said they want to learn how to play “Eye of the Tiger,” “Smoke on the Water” and some of the songs played by the IV pep band.

Redington said he hopes to teach the class again next year, and said he can accommodate 12 to 15 students. He said next year he hopes to be able to schedule a concert for the guitar lab students.

Student Logan Weldon said he always wanted to learn how to play guitar, and now he has a chance to learn chords, notes and how to actually play a song.

“It’s awesome,” he said.

Lane Lyman said he has had a lot of fun in the class. He said he wanted to learn how to play the guitar to impress his grandfather.

“He wants me to learn how to do it, and I want to make him happy,” Lyman said.

UPDATED February 16, 2010 2:30 PM

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