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Get Your Child Started Playing Guitar

By Jon, published on 06/05/2019 Blog > Music > Guitar > How Do You Teach Children how to Play Guitar?

So your child wants to learn to play guitar?

If your child has expressed the desire to play a musical instrument, and especially if that instrument is the guitar, they could hardly have made a better choice.

Besides the fact that the guitar permits many styles of music and self-expression, learning to play such an instrument can help them develop muscle strength and coordination, to say nothing of better posture. They can discover and explore their innate creative drive and enrich their cultural background while they’re at it.

But is it easy to teach guitar to a child? How do you find guitar lessons for beginners? Will children’s guitar classes help? And, perhaps the most salient point: after investing in lessons and equipment, will your child have the staying power to master this melodic instrument?

How should they learn, and how often do they need to practice to improve? How long will it take before they’re strumming away on an acoustic guitar and playing blues chords?

So much to speculate on! And all of it is born of a simple question: “Mum, Dad… can I get a guitar?”

Let Superprof help you decide if learning the guitar is right for your child, right at this moment.

The Pitfalls of a Guitar Ambition

One shouldn't be sad when playing the guitar! Why the long face? Playing the guitar should be a source of joy! Source: Pixabay Credit: LangLi

Unless yours is a particular progeny, children in general tend to be careless with possessions and driven to discover ever more engaging activities than the ones at hand because of their relatively short attention spans.

Don’t get us wrong; we’re not saying that a short attention span is a negative characteristic of any child. In fact, such curiosity and hunger for discovery fuels some of the greatest minds!

The challenge lies in harnessing that sense of discovery to a single activity: learning to play the guitar.

And, hopefully, out of love and respect for the instrument, your child will take proper care of their guitar and discipline themselves to daily practice sessions without too much nagging on your part.

Said challenge is made even more difficult when children discover that their little fingers hurt after pressing on strings and a bit of coordination is needed to strum with one hand while forming chords with the other.

Even if your child is a bit older, say in the 10- to 12-year-old range, s/he could be easily discouraged by the amount of work and dedication required to transform them into a guitar player of merit. Their first lesson with a guitar tutor should be enough to convince them that they won’t be a Guitar Hero overnight!

What turned your child on to the idea of playing the guitar, anyway? Were they playing that game? Do they have a particular guitarist in mind that they wish to emulate?

Most mainstream depictions of guitar players are exciting and glamorous, including the Guitar Hero video game series.

While the creators at Freestyle Games did their best to emulate actual guitar playing, their simulated guitar is nevertheless a game controller and manipulating a digital controller is far different than cradling an instrument crafted out of living wood and calling forth melodies through skilled playing.

If your child has jumped on the guitar bandwagon because of a few musical video game sessions at a friends’ house or at yours, or perhaps even because s/he endlessly watches music videos and wants to be just like those guitarists, you may want to have a frank discussion with him/her about all the hard work and time involved in being a renown guitarist before you invest in an instrument and associated equipment, and in lessons.

How a Qualified Guitar Instructor Can Help

If, after that frank  discussion, your child is undeterred, your next move should be to involve a guitar tutor or teacher.

Through his/her experience, a qualified teacher would know just by talking with your young one whether this is a passing fancy or something s/he is likely to stick with. Also, such an instructor may have ‘loaner’ guitars for students who do not yet have an instrument of their own.

Putting a guitar in your child’s hands; feeling the weight of it and how the body curves protectively around it; the pressure exerted on the strings to form chords and the instrument’s responsiveness to the least touch may help your child to determine that such a learning adventure is not for him/her, saving you all of that expense.

Conversely, s/he may realise that being a Guitar Hero is nothing compared to the feel of a real guitar; a real guitar is far superior than a programmed piece of plastic!

Maybe the warmth of the wood and the crisp sound it makes will germinate a sincere desire to become a true guitar great – not a digital one. In which case, there is no way around the expenses… but, at least, they will be well-justified!

Your Child Wants to Learn the Guitar: Where to Start?

Begin learning guitar Your child may have put a lot of thought into why s/he wants to learn the guitar…

As a general rule, it’s the parents who encourage children to pick up a musical instrument. However, if the impetus has come from your child and you have eliminated all superficial reasons why s/he might want to learn and, still, that determination is there, so much the better.

Superficial reasons for your child wanting to learn the guitar include: video games, rockers on the telly or guitarists of their favourite bands, and taking lessons because their friends are.

If your progeny prevails through all of your questions, that shows s/he is motivated and eager to learn to play guitar.

But before you try to figure out if you have another Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix on  your hands, here are a few things to think about.

How Young is Too Young?

To be comfortable holding the guitar, your child should be at least 6 or 7 years old. That doesn’t mean that a lanky four-year-old couldn’t manage to learn a few chords with a properly-sized instrument (more on that later!) but there is a bit more to the question of age than size.

Your child would have to have the discipline necessary to attend lessons: sitting still with erect posture, all while taking instruction. Again, unless your child is unusually talented, those are all skills that s/he will develop in the early years of school, hence the recommendation to wait until they are at least through their Early Years Foundation Stage before starting guitar lessons.

Another factor to consider is strength. Young children have not yet cultivated enough strength in their hands and arms to play the guitar. You might  counter that assertion with: the very act of learning the guitar will help them develop the necessary strength.

That is a point to consider… at the risk of injury or rendering music learning a painful and unpleasant experience.

All fervent desires aside, it wouldn’t hurt to wait until your child has the physical capability to press down on the strings and strum or pick without the arms and hands getting tired, if only to maintain the pleasant experience of learning, not one that causes pain or stress.

Another important criterion is to make sure your child will have the discipline needed to practice regularly, at least 15 minutes per day if s/he is around 6 years of age so that s/he can see, hear and feel herself improving while playing the guitar.

What about reading sheet music?

Here again, indulge their love of music and quest for discovery but don’t burden them with the technical aspects of making music until they are a bit more mature and intellectually developed.

Choosing a Guitar

Before you dash off to the music store to buy your child’s first guitar, you should ascertain, if possible, what kind of music they want to play. Do they like classical music, or acoustic, or maybe the sounds of an electric guitar?

Dear Caregivers, if your child has declared a sincere interest in playing the guitar, isn’t it time for you to educate yourselves on this instrument?

There are 3 kinds of guitars:

  1. The classical guitar, with nylon strings
  2. Acoustic, or folk guitars, which have a similar shape to classical guitars, but with metallic strings
  3. Electric guitars which need to be plugged into an amp in order to play

In addition to the musical tastes and age of your child, you also need to look at the different sizes of guitar:

  • A 1/4 guitar, meant for the smallest players
  • A 1/2 guitar, suitable for average-sized children – say, of primary school age
  • A 3/4 guitar: the next size up, meant for the average-sized pre-adolescent
  • A normal (full size) guitar for children over the age of 12

Naturally, like off-the-rack clothing, guitars are not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Your child might be a delicately-built teenager or much huskier than the average adolescent while still being in the single-digit age range!

While the idea of surprising your aspiring Terry Kath or Taylor Swift with a brand new instrument is appealing – always provided s/he is just that enthusiastic, the better way to buy the right guitar would be to take him/her along to the music store to ‘try out’ several guitars for the best fit.

The Benefits of Learning to Play the Guitar

Guitar lessons will help your child develop the skills necessary to play music, along with a host of skills that serve them well in later life.

Playing guitar is a skill for children Learning to play the guitar will provide your child skills that will serve well in later life!

For a child, learning to play guitar has many benefits:

Guitar players develop discipline, dexterity and coordination.

Every caregiver, at times, despairs over their charges’ lack of focus and wild intemperance. Obviously, learning the guitar will not curb children’s natural exuberance but doing so may go a long way towards helping them channel their energy into a gratifying and rewarding activity.

Dexterity and coordination are natural by-products of guitar playing: tapping one’s foot to keep rhythm, one hand playing chords while the other strums and, should it be the case, looking up to read sheet music. The more your child performs all of these functions, the smoother – the more coordinated s/he will become… to say nothing of improved posture!

Your child will quickly build confidence as s/he learns and enjoys playing short pieces of music.

Self-esteem is a very elusive trait to cultivate; between schoolyard bullies and social media, believing in oneself is truly a modern-day challenge! One way to overcome negative thought patterns is to cultivate a remarkable ability. The ability to play a musical instrument, whether the guitar or the kazoo, is a source of pride and accomplishment that will help your child resist negative influences and thoughts.

On the guitar they can try out different musical styles, and it’s therefore a great opportunity to expand their musical horizons and introduce them to new genres like blues, jazz, flamenco, rock, and classical music.

The kazoo, on the other hand, is fairly limited in its range and what one can play on it…

The guitar works well as a solo instrument or as a part of an ensemble.

Even amazing guitarists like Johannes Linstead play to accompaniment of other instruments. However, unlike the drums or bass, the guitar is one instrument on which you can play an entire piece of music with no band to back it up. So, if your progeny is a bit performance-shy, you may assure him/her that s/he can play as much as s/he’d like, all by himself.

By the way, you might be interested to know that Johannes, a world-famous fusion guitarist, started guitar lessons when he was just eight years old!   

Those are just a few of the more practical benefits of guitar playing. We did mention, earlier, that learning the guitar will arm your child with skills that will serve him/her in every aspect of their life, right?

Here are just some of the benefits of learning how to play the guitar:

  • Tolerance and openness – aspiring musicians are inevitably exposed to new cultures and musical styles (blues, rock, reggae, country, classical), and develop an increased appreciation for culture in general
  • Motor skills development – as your child’s coordination and physical strength improve while they strum and play the strings with a pick, they will develop fine motor control so necessary for a multitude of tasks such as handwriting, woodworking and the like.
  • Discovering one’s creativity – learning how to improvise and jam is a great way for children to express themselves
  • Discipline – regular guitar lessons and practice will also help your child improve their discipline and ability to concentrate by employing all of their senses (sight, touch, sound, thought)

Are  you still pondering whether or not to indulge your child’s wish to learn the guitar? Hopefully, these thinking points help!

Where to Find Guitar Lessons

By learning to play guitar and taking regular classes, children learn something new, get a chance to meet new people, share their passion with new friends, and enrich their world while they’re at it.

By learning how to concentrate and practising regularly, children reinforce determination while giving their natural inclination and eagerness to learn free rein.

Subconsciously, they instinctively focus their thoughts on the music and the skills they’ve acquired to make music.

It’s for these reasons that we say learning the guitar helps children develop.

Help your child improve concentration by learning the guitar Learning guitar can help to improve a child’s concentration

You’re sold on the idea of learning the guitar and so are they. Now is the time to start your search for your child’s ideal guitar teacher.

The question is: what constitutes an ideal guitar teacher?

How many styles of music can your prospective guitar teacher play?

Needless to say, if s/he can’t play them, she can’t teach them. Of course, your child’s first lesson most likely won’t consist of the guitar solo from Layla or Slash’s Sweet Child of Mine riff… let alone the frenetic tempo of flamenco guitar.

Still, any prospective teacher your engage for your child’s guitar lessons should be able to play many styles competently and teach them with patience and passion.

You should look for an instructor who has experience teaching younger musicians.

If any prospective teacher has no experience working with younger children, you may be putting your child at a disadvantage because such a teacher could have trouble forming a mentoring bond with younger pupils.

It is vital that guitar students trust, like and feel comfortable with their teacher because learning music is an intensely personal experience whose success largely depends on how the student relates to his teacher.

C’mon, Devon, it’s time for your guitar lesson! – Jessica D.

This child started playing the guitar at nine years old. He had no particular talent and, by all appearances, no particular desire to learn: he did not practice outside of lessons and he treated his guitar in such a casually offhand manner that it risked being ruined.

Yet his teacher welcomed him for lessons every week, pocketing the fee and giving only a bit of guidance or advice.

If your child’s prospective teacher is more interested in collecting fees than ensuring his pupils learn; you would be best off finding a different teacher.

In order to benefit from everything guitar lessons have to offer your child, it’s best to interview several teachers and check out several venues where your child might learn well.

Such venues might include:

  • A class your local community centre
  • Classes at a music school
  • Private lessons in a music shop
  • Guitar classes with a private professor who can come to your house

If your child is particularly shy or self-conscious, private lessons would perhaps be better than placing him/her in a classroom full of other students of varying ability, talent and desire to learn.

As a busy parent, you may be wondering where you’re going to find the time to interview teachers and run from place to place in search of the best guitar master for your child. 

Here, at least, we can provide a concrete solution: Superprof has hundreds of guitar tutors scattered all across the UK!

On the Superprof page, you can review tutor profiles: their background in music studies and their experience in teaching; what type of guitar they teach, what skill level they teach  and testimonials from past students.

Plenty of Superprof guitar tutors offer lessons one-on-one or in small groups and have no trouble coming to your home for lessons. And, perhaps best of all, most Superprof tutors offer their first hour of lessons at no charge, just to see if s/he and your child get along well enough to learn from one another!

Superprof is an excellent way to cut out all of the running around you would otherwise have to do to find the ideal guitar teacher for your child!

Once you’ve found a teacher you’re reasonably satisfied with, what’s next? 

As a guideline of what you could expect: to start out, children will learn about the chords, strumming patterns, and tabs. They will start to learn different techniques like licks, barre, and fingerpicking. They will most likely learn a simple song in each class so that they have something to practise until the next lesson.

Your best guitar teacher won’t delve deeply into the technical, at first, but later, when s/he feels your child is ready, lessons will turn to musical theory and more technical aspects.

Those classes will help give children a good theoretical base and practical experience playing the guitar. In-depth focus is given to the basic parts of the guitar, including the fretboard, tuning, and how to place your fingers on the neck, and guitar maintenance.

Basic knowledge of music theory and playing guitar will help your child to progress to playing other pieces of music and conquer more advanced techniques and playing, including skills like jamming, playing solos, and writing their own songs.

How Long Will it Take to Learn the Guitar?

For a child, the focus is on results rather than the process of obtaining results.

That is why so many children get discouraged after only a few lessons; they realise that learning the guitar is much more work than they had anticipated and mastering Stairway to Heaven alone takes several weeks, if not months.

Thus, the answer to the ‘how long’ question depends exclusively on them. Will they go the distance? Practise every day? Pay attention during lessons? Make the intuitive leaps necessary to put together musical theory and practice?

Outside of that, it might be worthwhile to know that a guitar class for an 8- to 10-year-old generally lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, depending on the maturity of the student. Older students who have a better grasp on their impatience may attend music class for an hour, followed perhaps by a jam session if the lesson went particularly well.

The frequency of guitar lessons should be adjusted based on the skill and level of each guitar player.

Generally, one lesson per week is sufficient for younger learners; older ones or students who hope to enter a music programme at university might have lessons twice or even three times per week.

It is important to remember that guitar mastery does not come from lessons alone! The more your child practises the guitar outside of lessons, the better a player s/he will become, and quicker!

How do I reduce the noise while my child is practicing guitar?

Of course, learning any instrument, including the guitar, can be difficult at the beginning, especially for those who live with the budding musician. However, listening to the faltering beginnings on the guitar is arguably much more pleasant than those of novice trumpet players, violinists or even drummers!

After a few weeks of listening to the hesitant chords of your budding musician, you too might wonder how to drown out all the annoying noise that comes from learning to play the guitar while still being supportive of the learning effort?

Claim back your sleep! Claim back your sleep!

You may try designating a specific time for your child to practise guitar each day. To start out, just 10 to 15 minutes of regular playing practice is ideal for both your child’s growing skills and for any listeners.

If your child has been learning the guitar for a few months, his/her playing may actually be pleasant, and therefore less of a concern… at least, until s/he progresses to the electric guitar and turns the amplifier up too loud!

If s/he is waling away on an electric guitar, s/he can plug headphones into the amp and leave everyone else in peace.

If you live in a house, there shouldn’t be any trouble defining a specific space and time to make music – everyone can learn to respect others and their tastes.

If your home is in somewhat closer quarters, say in a block of flats, your neighbours might not enjoy the daily serenades but you could offset their frustration by letting them know your child is taking lessons.

Should those neighbours express dismay, you could take your child to a music store; oftentimes such concerns have soundproof booths for musicians to practise in without annoying the general public.

And, as a seasonal consideration, why not go to the park? Warmer weather is here; why not regale sun worshippers with a few well-played chords?

Final word: don’t force lessons or practice onto your progeny.

Indeed s/he was insistent on having a guitar and moaned when lessons were rescheduled; s/he just wasn’t that devout when it came time to practise… after you’d already invested all of that time and money!

Pushing will only lead to resentment – that is true for making music as well as doing homework or cleaning the house.

You might try instead to ask him/her to play something for you or a visitor; you may even ask him/her to teach you a few chords! Or you could tune the radio to a particularly popular song and ask if s/he can play it…

Surely you can think of other sneaky ways to get a guitar session in… good luck!  

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Sarah Meagle
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Sarah Meagle

My nephew wants to learn how to play the guitar and join a band in their school. It was explained here that learning to play guitar will help develop their coordination. Moreover, it’s advisable to consult experts when considering guitar lessons.

Tiffany Locke
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Tiffany Locke
I’m glad that you mention how the guitar is a relatively easy to learn and inexpensive instrument, which can help children improve their discipline and ability to concentrate. Since this is the case, it would probably be a good idea to look for an instructor while they’re young so that they can improve these skills as much as possible. When choosing an instructor, it would probably be a good idea to find someone who specializes in kids guitar lessons so that they know how to work with children to teach them the necessary skills and keep them comfortable during the… Read more »