When you’re a parent and you’re paying for an ‘extra’ like guitar lessons, it’s good to know exactly what to expect from all those classes.
For example, how many classes does your child need to become a good guitarist? How can they improve their guitar playing quickly? Should I consider online guitar lessons for kids? And above all, how many lessons per week should your child have in order to learn how to play the guitar properly?
Such questions are hard to answer. It is truly difficult to definitively say that much about the process of learning to play guitar for a child. So much of what they do depends on their personal qualities: a sense of rhythm, an ear for music, coordination between their hands, creativity…
But it also depends upon how much they do guitar practice - how often they practice their guitar chords, how often they play songs, and how much they like to play different guitar tricks, guitar licks, and exercises like scales or arpeggios.
This, really, is the important thing. Because if they only play in the guitar lesson - if they leave their blues guitar or power chords, their rhythm guitar or pentatonic in the guitar course - they are never going to learn how to play guitar.
However, without the doom and gloom, by reading this article to the end, you’ll find the answers to your questions!
When Can You Consider Someone a ‘Good’ Guitarist?
You know what they say about children and learning languages?
When they’re very young, children are like human sponges that suck up all of the information around them using their intuition. At this point, they can get to grips the fretboard - and the theory of the barre chord, the major scale, jazz guitar, and ear training - really quite quickly.
But from what age can you begin learning the guitar? It’s generally recommended that you wait until your child is at least 6 or 7 years old - when they can actually begin to get their fingers around the chord shapes and fingerstyle method.
Essentially, they need a certain physical maturity in order to hold the guitar and keep their right and left hands synchronised.
But to go back to the original question - when can you begin to call your child a good guitarist?
Can they play the acoustic guitar perfectly? Play solos on the electric guitar? Or both? Is it about reading tablature and knowing all the barre chords, or just knowing some guitar songs very well?
Can they move from one chord to the next? Use all the fingers in their right hand on the string, from their thumb to their pinky with a perfect flexibility in their wrist?
It’s difficult to say exactly what makes a good guitarist. Where would you rank Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton on the list of skilled musicians? Or could we say that just knowing enough chords to be able to play the guitar with your friends is all you need to be a ‘good’ guitarist?
Going by that rule of thumb, and if your child begins guitar lessons as soon as possible, they can easily reach quite a good level by the time they are in their teens... just in time to pick up a girlfriend with their skills!
Improving their Guitar Playing - What Elements Can Hold Your Child Back?
After a few guitar lessons for beginners, will everyone improve at guitar?
Of course, and especially if you have the best guitar teacher you can find. But not everyone will have the same skill with the instrument, which after all can be a bit complicated. It can be challenging keeping your hands coordinated and staying on rhythm. It can be a struggle to practice fingerpicking or to master the chord progressions for the songs to play.
Some students learn their first piece of music in an hour. Others take two months. It’s difficult, but that’s how it goes.
There are a few common areas which tend to hold children back when they’re playing guitar and which will have to be overcome if they ever want to play Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’, Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry,’ Nirvana’s ‘Come as you are,’ Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ or even ‘Stand by Me’
Poor Coordination between Their Left and Right Hands
Keeping your left and right hand in sync and coordinated is torture for some, but obvious for others. And really it's this that is the primary challenge for beginner guitar players.
It’s hard to explain. It’s a bit like being able to sing like an angel, or being completely incapable of ever hitting the right note in front of a microphone. Coordination is one of those innate qualities.
If you’ve been born with it, you can quickly progress at guitar. Keeping your right and left hand coordinated won’t present any difficulty for you - but in beginner guitar lessons, this is something that you will learn.
But how do you keep improving if keeping your right and left hand coordinated is more difficult than AP Calculus? If this is the case, than learning to play guitar will automatically become difficult. And many children become discouraged.
But if you continue to study and practice, you can still become a good guitarist one day. And really, once you have nailed the basic chords to your favorite songs, it all becomes a little easier from there.
Patience and perseverance will be your best allies. Taking guitar lessons helps children to develop these skills.
A Bad Sense of Rhythm
Learning how to play the guitar cannot be done without a great sense of rhythm, and it isn’t just the metronome which drives the rhythm of a song. Unfortunately, just like coordination, rhythm is an innate skill.
We’ve all seen that person before in the bar or at a concert, unable to clap their hands to the beat even when it’s slow and easy. Somehow they’re still managing to clap on the upbeats and then the down beats, and then just something that they’re hearing all on their own. Same thing on the dance floor, those people who hear something just a little different from the rest of us.
Essentially, those people don’t have a sense of rhythm. And if you don’t have one at all, becoming a good guitarist may well be difficult - but it is far from impossible You can practice and try different techniques and open chords, but a child trying to learn guitar without a sense of rhythm will always be a beat behind.
Lost Love for the Guitar
If a child starts with guitar lessons at 6 or 7 years old, they usually haven't decided they want to learn on their own. 99% of the time, it’s the parents who wish they’d learned guitar themselves, and are conscious of all the benefits of learning guitar at a young age.
At such a young age, ‘forcing’ a child to become a musician can be delicate. They may take it as a treat, but they may also take it as a punishment. Music theory, fingerstyle guitar, arpeggios, learning to play with a pick, and choosing between an acoustic or a folk guitar… Each step along the way could end up being a block for the young budding musician.
No Ear for Music?
Reading tabs or a piece of music, learning music theory - that’s all theoretical, almost scientific.
You learn all the techniques after a few lessons with your music teacher or guitar tutor.
But an ear for music - once again that’s something you either have or don’t from birth.
If you’ve studied music before or played in a group, you’ll know just how important it is. You need your ear to listen to the chords and the harmonies - essential when you’re playing guitar!
Is a One-Hour Lesson a Week Enough to Learn to Play Guitar?
How often should guitar lessons be each week in order for your child to improve at the guitar? That’s the basic question at the heart of this article.
Let’s assume that you’ve decided to start with one hour of classes per week. With one class per week, can you quickly become a good guitarist?
Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible to say for sure. There are many different variables that affect how quickly or not your child will be able to learn guitar. Having some intrinsic skills might make one child learn twice as fast as another. Or at only half the speed.
But if your child is a budding guitarist with a love for music, sense of rhythm, coordination, and an ear for music, one hour a week might be a bit short. If you’re trying to quickly learn guitar and become good, letting six days pass between guitar lessons is a bit of a loss.
Even if your child practices after each lesson, they still only have one hour with their teacher per week. It’s good enough to learn the basics, but not to quickly improve their guitar playing.
Should I Sign My Child Up for Two Hours of Guitar Classes a Week?
If you’ve decided on at least two hours of classes per week, should the two classes be different? It’s definitely important to space them out.
The lag time between each class will be greatly reduced, which won’t give your child as much of a break. Playing guitar is something that should be done over time and regularly.
We would therefore recommend sending your child to their guitar teacher at least twice a week for the extra practice and corrections.
You might find that your kid gets as much benefit out of a half-hour lesson as they do from an hour-long one.
Milestones of Playing Guitar
It’s difficult to lay out exactly how your child will learn guitar, or to be able to say when they will be ‘done’ with lessons. But here we’ve tried to describe the major milestones.
Step 1: Learn to Read Guitar Tabs and Begin Playing the First Chords
Before your child really begins playing the guitar, they first need to learn the basics of a string instrument.
From their first guitar lessons with an instructor, they will begin to learn how to read guitar tabs and play their first chords. Most professors won’t start right away with music theory. Much better to give your child a taste for guitar by trying out their first few chords to start.
For this first step, it’s safe to estimate that this will take about 2-3 weeks of lessons.
Step 2: Play their First Piece of Music on the Guitar
Once they’ve mastered the basic first chords, it’s time to put them all together and learn how to play a song.
Your child’s guitar teacher will know short and simple songs for them to learn. There are several options, and they will know them all.
It will take about one month to learn how to play their first song on the guitar by heart.
Step 3: Learn to Read Music and Understand Music Theory
Once your child has gotten a taste for music and played their first songs, it’s time to focus on their foundations.
If you want them to become a good guitarist, they can’t just always play using guitar tabs. To become a real musician, it’s necessary to learn music theory as well. Ask their music teacher to introduce them to theory in small steps and get them to the point where they can read sheet music.
For this, it will take at least a year.
Step 4: Become a Musician in a Band
In their teens, some of their friends will probably have the same interests as them - chief among them, to be in a band.
This isn’t only playing and writing music, but being able to perform on a stage, and carry people along with you.
They’ll have graduated to creating a new form of art with their own fingers.
But before they can write their own music, they’ll need to learn the basics. How to play a harmony with other musicians, having a good sense of rhythm, and a true knowledge of music composition are all necessary in order to play with a band.
At least two years of guitar classes might be reasonable before your child reaches this step.
Step 5 - Work on their First Complex Guitar Solos
To the general public, being a good guitarist isn’t just being able to play or sing along on a folk guitar. No, above all being a good guitarist means being able to play a solo on an electric guitar.
Try to emulate the other great guitarists, like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Van Halen, Slash, Santana, Hendrix and all the others…
But before you reach the stage where you’re playing solos, you first need to master all of the theory. Music theory and advanced guitar techniques will be necessary to finally reach the stage where you’re creating your own melodies.
This stage may take another 2 or 3 years to really master playing solos.
And don’t forget to consider your neighbours when you’re playing guitar.