Your child wakes up one morning full of enthusiasm, and tells you all about their sudden passion and determination to learn to play guitar.
Good God - what do you do? How do you begin? Have they succumbed to the siren call of music already? What do you need to do? Are they too young? What are the first steps?
Deep breaths. Calm. Send them off to school and have a Google. 'Guitar tips for the young beginner guitar player'. Good. You're now here.
The ability to appreciate music, and especially to learn to play an instrument like the guitar, is something that most children will have a natural aptitude for - given their natural curiosity, imagination, and thirst for knowledge.
With all of these qualities to help them, it is very possible that your child will quickly master the basics of guitar and fall in love with the instrument.
But then what happens? If you've invested a bit of dosh in the whole process, how can you be sure that they are going to carry on with the pentatonic, the guitar chords and the guitar solos? Are they going to need to know the theory of tablature, the major scale and arpeggio, and the chromatic stuff?
Are you going to actually get them to keep going to their guitar lesson? And how on earth do you make them do their guitar practice? Should you even make them?
With any luck, they may, from now on, spend half their time holed up in their room, strumming away and playing the guitar. And with more luck, one day, you'll see them up on stage, pumping out some amazing jazz guitar, blues guitar, or rock guitar. A little Jimi Hendrix.
Maybe that gushy feeling of pride will make all this stress worthwhile.
Is There a Right Age to Play Guitar?
You don’t need to spend too much time googling 'guitar lessons for beginners'. The answer too this one is pretty simple: no, there is no required age to learn guitar or to begin guitar lessons for your child. As long as they can actually hold the guitar, and get their fingers round the fretboard, there is no age too young to start playing power chords or barre chords, fingerpicking, or learning their favorite songs through guitar tabs.
In general, it’s best for children to be about 6 or 7 years old when they begin learning guitar - any younger and children lack the physical maturity to play (their fingers won’t be strong enough to press on the strings and play them) or the intellectual maturity for the discipline and concentration that guitar lessons will require.
Children must have a sense of coordination in order to play the chords and learn more advanced techniques like fretting, finger picking, and chord progressions.
Learning guitar has many benefits for children.
The Benefits to Kids of Learning the Guitar.
Okay, so, to begin, let us say the obvious. Of course, the great benefit of getting your kids to learn the guitar is that they will know how to play the guitar. With the larger community of guitarists, they'll develop skills in rhythm guitar and lead guitar, in improvisation, arpeggios, ear training, and other guitar tricks. They'll be able to play songs that they love - and that you love - and be able to understand guitar songs and guitar music in a much deeper way, knowing basic chords, melodies, and guitar techniques.
But, if they are as keen about learning the guitar as they say they are, they will grow up with a great skill - being, among guitar players, experienced, knowledgeable, and, clearly, dedicated. The best guitar player is the one that started from an early age - from which they developed the muscle memory and guitar licks to play for life. They will thank you for this later in life, for sure.
They'll also, from an early age, develop a love for music that will stay with them forever. So, even when a particular barre chord or new guitar piece gets them down, they will still have this.
Are There Other Required Skills for a Child to Begin Learning Guitar?
At a minimum, your child must have the basic skills and abilities to learn an instrument like the guitar, and be comfortable taking lessons from an adult or an older child.
Even if you find a good guitar teacher who has lots of experience, is in great shape, and has taught before, they still won’t be able to teach everything in just a few days, but children do have an incredible ability to learn quickly.
They will listen attentively to their guitar teacher.
Their brains will completely absorb everything they're taught. The earlier that your child begins learning, the better they’ll be able to quickly correct any errors and to play at a high level when they’re older.
In order to play guitar, it’s important to have four key things: structure, discipline, patience, and interest. And having your kids learn these things is a great benefit too.
Because learning the guitar is not just about putting your index finger on a particular fret of the fret board - or whatever. It is a really intensive and formative learning experience.
The First Steps to Teaching Your Child How to Play Guitar
Before you do anything else, you do need to check if your child is really interested in learning. If you’re sure that they’re motivated and really serious, there’s no reason not to let them try guitar, especially with all the positive benefits it can bring.
Try to introduce your child to music by example - if you like music and play an instrument yourself, play for your child and answer their questions.
Are they Ready to Begin Learning Guitar?
Once you know that they are really interested, you need to explore which instrument is right (and you can see more on this below!). Introduce your child to the world of music and give them a choice of all the different instruments, including the guitar, and different songs to listen to. There are many advantages to playing the guitar.
By introducing your child to music in this way, they’ll begin to have a sense of the wide variety of music, and can start to hear different sounds, play a bit themselves, and perhaps begin to develop a preference for a specific instrument.
For older children, music schools and certain town recreation departments might have free guitar open days or trial classes where your child can experience the atmosphere, and you can see how comfortable they seem with the instrument, fellow students, and the teacher. Because there is nothing worse than signing up to a guitar course or a series of online guitar lessons that they don't end up liking.
Understanding the Different Criteria of Learn the Guitar
The most important thing is to evaluate whether or not your child is truly interested and motivated to learn guitar, or if it’s more of a passing fancy, influenced by their friends or what they’ve seen on TV. Playing the guitar is not like liking Pokemon: to nail a guitar chord or a chord progression, or to learn how to use a guitar pick or how to tune a guitar does take a bit of work.
Learning guitar is a serious undertaking and requires a certain leave of discipline and maturity. Your child should realise that beginning lessons will have an impact on their schedule and on their life: one doesn't learn to read music or to make chord shapes on their acoustic guitars over night.
Talk to them not only about music classes and guitar lessons, but also about things like music theory, which serve as a general foundation for learning guitar. Is your child ready to take guitar lessons online or face to face, and to go have a class once a week?
Clearly, there are also other ways to learn how to play the guitar, but when you’re a child, you require the help and guidance of a professional in order to learn the basics of music theory, how to hold your instrument, to avoid errors, and when you do make them, how to fix them.
If your child plays the guitar at home, they will also need to learn how to limit the noise they make playing guitar.
Choose the Right Guitar Before Beginning Lessons
Once your child has passed all of the tests and proven themselves sincere in their wish to learn guitar, the next step is buying a guitar.
You can't just find any guitar - for starters, there are guitars made specifically for children of different ages, and as well, letting your child pick a guitar because it fits a certain price bracket or because they like the way it looks won’t do them any good in the long run.
But how do you choose the right guitar for your child? How do you buy a guitar for a beginner?
It is important to buy a guitar that suits them, and is right for their size and age as well as their musical tastes…and that stays within a reasonable budget! Choosing your child’s first guitar is an important step on this journey, and will play a role in determining what comes next.
It’s also pointless to buy them an electric guitar if they want to play classical or folk music.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that the guitar will be a central part of their new musical journey, and it must be something that they want to play.
The Right Kind of Guitar to Begin Learning
Before starting their guitar lessons, there are three different kinds of guitars that your child could choose - classical guitar, folk guitar, or electronic guitar.
A Classical (or Acoustic) Guitar…
…has three thicker, metal strings, and three thinner, higher strings made from nylon, which is a lot less painful for little fingers.
The neck of the guitar is longer than on a folk or electric guitar, and will require more effort from your child’s left hand.
The styles best suited to this guitar include flamenco, classical, tango, or historical pieces. They may want to play acoustic guitar if they like these styles.
The Folk Guitar
A folk guitar is similar to a classical guitar, but is less wide, and all the strings are metallic to give it that ‘country’ sound.
The neck is shorter than an acoustic guitar, and your left hand has less to do, but be careful - there aren't normally any special sizes for children.
There’s no hole to make noise with this guitar; if you want to play, you need to plug it into an amp which will play the vibrations of its strings.
The neck of an electric guitar is similar to a folk guitar but the difference between the high notes is more noticeable.
All of the strings are metallic.
This type of guitar is very popular amongst musicians because it has lots of possibilities and can play blues, rock, funk, pop, and metal.
But be careful when you’re choosing a specific model, electric guitars are generally more expensive than acoustic or folk guitars.
Even if an acoustic guitar might seem more suitable for a child, especially with its nylon strings, some parents prefer to start with an electric guitar because the neck is shorter, and the noise is easier to control since the child can wear headphones instead of using an amp.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from a music professional like a guitar teacher or a specialist salesperson in a guitar store.
Each Child will Have their Own ‘Right’ Guitar
Once your child has decided what kind of music they want to play, you need to take into account their size and age.
For children 4-6 years old (less than 3 1/2 feet tall), you usually use a 1/4 guitar, which looks a bit like a toy.
For 6-8 year olds (about 4 feet), a 1/2 guitar will be the right size.
For children between the ages of 8-12 (about 4 1/2-5 ft), a 3/4 guitar will be perfect.
Children older than 12 and adolescents can go straight to a full size guitar.
All of these sizes don’t always stay the same in the store however; the best thing is to have your child try several different guitars and see which ones they like and which ones fit them the best.
Other Advice as Your Child Embarks on Guitar Lessons:
- The style, musical tastes, and personality of your child will make a difference when determining which guitar is right for them
- As far as the look of the guitar, let your child choose the colours or designs that they like, it will help increase their pleasure in playing
- What brand should you choose? There’s a lot to choose from, so be sure to get some advice from a salesperson at a music store, or your child's guitar teacher
- Well regarded brands that you can choose from include Ibanez, Fender, Takamine, Yamaha, Cort, Gibson, Vigier, etc.
- Get as much advice as possible, and if your child is really fixed on a specific brand, do some price comparison shopping online or in other stores
- And finally, don’t forget to encourage your child. Learning to play guitar will help with their personal development, through socialisation, sharing of interests, relating to new teachers and professionals, being exposed to different ideas, and general cultural enrichment.
Finding the Right Teacher for Your Child.
Getting the right guitar teacher is an important step for anyone who is serious about learning the guitar - not just for kids.
Guitar teachers help people all the time with getting to grips with the guitar basics, learning their first song, their first guitar solo, and getting to grips with good technique.
The better your technique at the beginning, the better it will be for life, as the way one plays open chords or places their fingers on the guitar strings informs the way they do everything else in terms of the guitar.
A good teacher is the best way to ensure that your child's guitar career is based on the most solid foundations.
Just make sure you get a teacher who knows how to work with kids. Not all of them do. So, ask for proof that they have had a DBS check - and you may well want to ask if they have any qualifications for teaching to kids too.
And Knowing How Many Lessons They'll Need.
This is a question many parents ask in regards to their kids' music lessons. The answer is a difficult one to give - mainly because there is no real answer.
A guitar teacher can be a useful thing to have at all stages of your guitar playing journey. Yes, it is important for beginners, but even the most advanced guitar students return again and again to guitar instructors. This is important, because students value the support that teachers give - and it makes sure that they stay on track.
Unfortunately, learning the guitar is not a quick process. It takes a long time to ensure to develop into a musician that can continue to learn by themselves. This is not something that is going to happen in a term, or even a school year.
So, don't be impatient!
The Important Question: How Do You Make Kids Play Guitar Quietly?
And finally, the question of the cheeky parent.
We do understand. Guitar practice can be a nightmare to listen to, particularly when you child is determined to play the electric guitar with the volume turned up to eleven. Songs can be bad enough, but when they are practising scales and exercises for hours on end, it can feel like a little too much.
There's a very easy solution to this: buy them an amplifier with a headphone socket. Or, make sure they learn the classical guitar or acoustic guitar before the electric. At least, then, they will be a good guitarist before they start making such a racket!