The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. With a short learning curve, children start strumming chords almost immediately, yet it’s a complex instrument capable of performing a variety of musical styles.
The guitar is a musician’s companion. It’s affordable (around $100–$150) and can go with you anywhere! Because of its portability and versatility, the guitar is the instrument of choice for most songwriters. Did you know that many young children are naturally songwriters at heart?
Scientists say that brain plasticity starts to slow down after the age of 9 or10. Students can start learning as young as 5, however most conventional teachers start with children over 8 years old.
Not all guitar lessons are taught the same. Look for a teacher who is working with children, and then ask to sit in on a lesson or two. Here are few things you will want to look out for:
Groups are more fun and engaging than one-on-one tuition. Most parents probably see this as simply a lower cost option, but actually, taught correctly, children make tremendous musical, developmental, and academic progress. They get to learn musicianship, leadership and team work. These are all important in orchestral situations, as well as general life.
good form and playing technique
It takes special skills and knowledge to teach guitar to children successfully. Guitarists are called “small muscle athletes”. If guitar students don’t acquire good techniques and habits from the start, eventually their progress stalls, and frustrated, they quit. Look for a teacher who emphasises technical foundations, but be weary of overqualified or inexperienced instructors who could kill the love of learning and, in some cases, cause stress to your child.
introduce the reading and writing of music notation
A musician who can read music is empowered and has more enjoyment and opportunities than those who can’t. Not all guitar tutors promote music literacy, but it’s worth making this is a part of the musical journey.
use age-appropriate teaching materials
You wouldn’t use the same reading book for a 5- and a 12-year-old, and the same goes for learning the guitar, yet often conventional guitar methods for 5- to 12-year-olds are very similar. For children younger than 8-years, find a teacher who creates their own teaching materials, such as songbooks with large notes for younger kids, educational guitar games, tracing and music writing activities.
encourage balanced musicianship
A balance between the classical and modern approach is ideal to keep the lessons fun, but also creative and stimulating. Sight-reading, composition, songwriting, ear training, music theory, and rhythm studies are also a lot of fun.
Modern acoustic & folk styles commonly use a Steel String Acoustic Guitar. Students learn chords, chord progressions and strum along to pop/rock and folk songs. Steel strings are tough on fingers, so not ideal for beginners.
Classical guitarists use a Nylon String Classical Guitar. Nylon strings are ideal for children because they are gentle on the fingers.
Pop/Rock Styles commonly use an Electric Guitar. Electric guitars need to be plugged into an AMP. These guitars are great for chords and solos, but can be heavy for young children.
With all guitars, select an age-appropriate size.
Inga Hope is the founder of Gentle Guitar, a guitar school for kids, specialising in age-appropriate guitar and music theory foundations for children aged 5- to 12-years.