Jerry has been playing guitar and singing solo and with bands for several years.
They Want to Be a Rock'n'Roll Star
So, your child has expressed an interest in playing the guitar after watching one of your old Led Zeppelin videos. You know that learning to play an instrument is great for kids, helping not only with motor skills and coordination, but also with concentration levels. It’s a great idea. So, what are the tutoring options available and what do you need to take into consideration.
Age and Skills
Like most musical instruments, learning to play guitar is not easy, but like any skill it can be mastered over time. Given that many very young children’s attention can be easily distracted, a good age for starting lessons could be around the 5 or 6 years, although it really depends upon the individual child. Apart from the ability to concentrate, your child will need to build up their coordination and motor skills, and develop an understanding of musical concepts. It also helps if they have a feel for rhythm, do they clap ‘in time’, do they scoot around the room every time their mother puts on ‘Take That’?
Make It Interesting
If this all seems like a little too much hard work, it isn’t, because the benefit of learning any musical instrument always outweighs the drawbacks. However, it is much easier to learn anything new if it is fun. If your child’s lessons start to become a chore and a bore to them, then they will soon lose interest in learning the guitar – on the other hand, if the lessons can be made interesting, your child will look forward to them, maintain enthusiasm and learn more quickly. Whatever guitar lessons you choose, it would help if there is a fun or games aspect built into the lessons to maintain their interest.
Your Child’s First Guitar
It will make it much more easy for your child to learn if they have the size to suite their size (Yes, they will probably grow out of it, just like they do their clothes, but probably not as often). Having the right guitar size will help them (literally) get to grips with it easier. Child/student size guitars are easily available to buy or in some cases hire (maybe from their own school) and will make their lessons much more enjoyable. Even though you might buy a guitar appropriate to the size of your child don’t buy a really cheap one (in other words a toy), cheap guitars usually sound awful, are difficult to tune and keep in tune and often prove to be a waste of money. If your child has ‘’an ear’ for music, supplying them with a cheap guitar will put them off wanting to learn with it very quickly. Also buy them an acoustic guitar as opposed to an electric guitar. Acoustic guitars can be played anywhere, sound great and are usually lightweight. An electric guitar needs an amplifier and speaker (often combined together) to produce any kind of tone (so incurring an extra expense for you) and, because they incorporate a solid body are usually quite heavy (especially for a child). Rather than buying a guitar and presenting it to them, take them down to the local guitar shop, where they can maybe try a couple of models on for size and get some good advice. If they are involved in the buying decision regarding their first guitar, they are more likely to stick with their lessons.
Aside from your child needing a guitar as described above, you really do not need very much more equipment, although here are some accessories that might come in useful. A soft carry case will help protect your child’s guitar from minor bumps and inclement weather - don’t forget to buy the ones with straps on the back so they can carry their guitar like a rucksack. You also might consider an electronic guitar tuner, these are not costly, but if you don’t want to buy one just search for a guitar tuner app on your smart phone that will do the job. Finally buy an extra pair of strings for when the original strings snap or need replacing.
You have several options when it comes to guitar lessons.
If you play the instrument yourself, you could opt to teach your child, but it could be stressful and time-consuming – so you would have to be committed to giving regular lessons, and not expect your child to pick it up straight away (especially if it was easy for you), as everyone learns at their own pace. Remember the tips of their fingers will hurt (because they will be too soft initially) when they begin to play. It will take time for the finger tips to form calluses and be more comfortable – if you are a guitar player you may have forgotten this initial, painful phase.
If you choose a tutor for private lessons, the same things apply, it is crucial your tutor should have a passion for teaching, have patience and endeavour to make the lessons fun for your child. The costs of private lessons vary, but the advantage of taking this route is that the tutor can often tailor the lessons to your child’s abilities or musical preferences. If they prove to be a good teacher then your child will look forward to the weekly lessons and are more likely to practice in between.
The third option, and one which is increasingly popular, is to make use of online lessons. This option usually works out cheaper than private lessons, and means your child can study as often as they want in the comfort of their own home. The main thing with an online course is to make sure it is interesting and well-structured and again, also caters for your child’s age group/experience.
Also look out for notices at your child’s school which may provide an extracurricular ‘guitar club’ for any budding Jimmy Page.
A Little Bit of Encouragement
A little bit of praise and letting them know how pleased you are with their progress will help your child feel confident and ensure that their lessons are enjoyable and ease the learning process.
Overall, guitar lessons will give your child the opportunity to learn an amazing skill which they can carry forward with them through life. Whether they become a professional musician (and join the next Led Zeppelin) or just play for fun, guitar lessons could be a great investment in their future.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Jerry Cornelius