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Students from Würzburg High School’s guitar lab practice on their instruments in November. Music teacher Jeff Pellaton started the lab, which allows students to advance in their lessons at their own pace.
Students from Würzburg High School’s guitar lab practice on their instruments in November. Music teacher Jeff Pellaton started the lab, which allows students to advance in their lessons at their own pace. (Walt Seely / Courtesy of DODDS)

A new music program at Würzburg High School in Germany has struck a popular chord with would-be rock stars.

The school’s guitar lab, started by music teacher Jeff Pellaton, uses state-of-the-art equipment and new software that lets students learn guitar at their own pace.

“It’s like giving 15 separate guitar lessons at exactly the same time,” Pellaton said. “Since they can move at their own pace, we are not holding anyone back, nor are we pressuring anyone to go faster than they are able to.”

Students practice on their guitars, but the sound is fed through a cable into a headset each student wears, so it does not distract their peers. Pellaton has master control of the system and can listen in to any student’s progress or mute the music to speak to the students through their headsets, he said.

The school’s pianos also are linked into the system.

While the students can’t perform a school concert with the system, they do have the ability to record their playing, and to add musical styles such as blues or rock as accompaniment to their own playing.

“I have considered having the students make a recording as part of the evaluation for the course,” Pellaton said. “This is really exciting for the students — to be able to make an audio [compact disc] to take home and play for mom or dad or their friends.”

The lab may be a bit too appealing to Würzburg High School students.

“We have had about 75 students try to sign up for the lab, and we only have 15 slots,” Pellaton said.

One of the lucky students who got in is 11th-grader Sarah Brandt.

“I have wanted to learn how to play guitar forever, and this seemed really cool,” Brandt said. “Right now, it’s just a hobby, but it might turn into something more serious later.”

Brandt, whose mother bought her a guitar to practice on at home, said she plans to take the level two guitar lab as well.

“It’s awesome how the technology works,” she said. “The software makes it really easy to learn.”

And although they don’t get to experience the jitters of performing for the whole school, the students do perform solos and duets in front of the other students in the class, Pellaton said.

He said the guitar lab has the students’ creative juices flowing.

“They can spend a lot of time on improvisation, and the interest is really high,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly they are improving. With this new program, we are able to offer a musical outlet that may become a lifelong interest for them.”

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