Guitar Lesson FAQs

What is a good age for my child to start taking guitar lessons?

There are some issues to think about in the process of children learning how to play any instrument. Let’s discuss these in order.

1.) Maturity

2.) Focus

3.) Time allotment

4.) Physicality to handle the instrument

5.) The will, or drive, to play the instrument

First, maturity. Is your child mature enough for his/her age to accept the responsibility of all the necessary steps involved in learning how to play the guitar? Some 3rd graders are indeed ready to go, while some 7th graders simply aren’t there yet.

Here’s what I’m looking for in this instance. Does your child resist doing homework? If so, what are the reasons? Having been a regular classroom teacher for 15 years I know every kid has their down time and they’ll resist homework as part of human nature to take the easy road. Generally, a student will have a favorite subject (or two) – is it a struggle to get homework done in that subject area? If so, typically, that lack of maturity will negatively affect any musical proclivity. Which leads us to focus…

Focus is the ability to maintain 20 minutes of uninterrupted study on any given subject. The rule of thumb in education is 50/7/12/20. The first fifty words in any presentation must be potent enough to hold interest to reach the seven minute mark. If the seventh minute is attained, the presenter/teacher will have the focus of the student/s for 12 minutes. But, at the 20 minute mark, the rule starts anew! A ½ hour lesson, broken in to 2 steps, should be successful for students that can maintain 20 minutes of instruction. This is also why a one hour lesson is too long for most children. Which leads us to time allotment…

Time allotment, in this case, is all about the number of activities your child finds themselves in presently. Simply put, if every minute of your child’s schedule is full currently, then adding guitar lessons may not be wise. Choose with wisdom. Set your child up for success, and in this case, success means having time to practice without becoming burdensome. Which leads us to physicality…

Physicality to handle the guitar is defined as making absolutely sure that the instrument fits the student. 3rd through 5th graders should use a ¾ size guitar. A middle school child may be able to handle a full size instrument. And, at this point I should mention that the guitar should be “set up” by a professional to assure correct playability! Which leads us to drive…

Drive, the will to play the guitar – this is the intangible attribute that trumps all other challenges! The rule here is: wish, want, need, got! Some kids wish they could play the guitar, others want to play. Both of these attributes usually lead to unfocused and disinterested students. The “need” to play, however, moves a child up the hierarchy quickly and resolutely as in the “need” to prepare for a concert or recital. Finally, if your child comes to you and says that they have “got” to play the guitar because they want to write songs, or play with other kids in a group, you are dealing with a different animal. These students are usually self-directed and focused kids!

So, a mature, well focused 8 year old will do well taking guitar lessons, there’s the easy answer you were looking for when you found this page!

Get back to me with specific questions or concerns.

Choices, choices, choices … which guitar do I choose for my kid?

Way back in the day, well, the 1970s … there weren’t too many choices for youngsters when it came to picking a guitar to use for lessons. Full size instruments were the norm and ¾ sized guitars were typically found only on a few selected electric models.

Let’s fast-forward to the present. Now there are several great choices for children ages 7 to 11 and most of them are acoustic guitars!

But first, why should it matter what size instrument my child uses while learning how to play the guitar?

Consider the neck length on a standard acoustic guitar. Typically, the reach to the nut (where the strings “break” over to the 1st fret) is about 14 inches from where the neck leaves the body. If that were the only impediment we could work around it – but the body depth is about 4 ¼ inches and that means a 7 to 11 year old simply will not be able to comfortably reach the first fret to play notes or chords!

Even if you use a capo (a mechanical device clamped on the neck used to work around difficult keys) on a full size guitar, the relative position of the student’s thumb and finger tips is still problematic. The body depth makes reaching chords and individual notes difficult!

What do we do then to overcome this challenge?

In the last couple of years, travelling guitars (3/4 size) have become very popular. Most players purchase these smaller instruments to use away from home, on vacation for example. They fit as carry-on luggage in most aircraft and yet still sound good to the ear allowing players to keep their fingers in playing condition while their primary instrument resides safely at home.

The ¾ size guitar’s “reach” to the nut is approximately 12 ¾ inches from where the neck leaves the body and the body depth is around 3 inches. Much, much more accommodating for a youngster.

The prices are reasonable, too. A good quality ¾ size instrument that plays and sounds resonant will run between $150 and $300. The beauty of this purchase is that the student will always keep this guitar as they grow as a traveling instrument. This purchase will definitely not be a wasted investment. If your child elects to play an instrument other than the guitar, these ¾ size units are easily sold without much monetary loss!

So, take a trip to your local music store and let your youngster test drive a few of these guitars. I’m sure once you see the advantages of utilizing a smaller guitar for younger kids the decision as to which instrument to purchase will become obvious.

As always, get back to me with questions or concerns should they arise!

Good luck and have fun in the process – a kid never forgets their first guitar!

Guitar lessons vs. piano lessons.

This question usually comes up at some point in a child’s musical experience.

The piano is the root of all western music and music theory. It is a good idea for every musician to have some piano in their background.

In my experience, kids can take instruction on both instruments simultaneously and have success. Now, understand, if your child’s schedule has room for only one instrument and they love the piano, then go with piano lessons.

If, on the other hand, you have a student that fights you on every aspect of playing the piano and says they’d like to try the guitar, then go with guitar lessons.

The beauty of the guitar and piano is that they are both rhythm instruments. Meaning that the person playing a guitar or piano can sing along with the instrument. Try that with an oboe! Ok, I love the oboe, too, but you can’t sing and play with a wind instrument…

The guitar also emulates the piano in music theory – the student will learn chord progressions and harmony in a similar fashion. The piano and fretted instruments have this advantage, so taking guitar lessons will allow for a good understanding of the theory of music. Some might argue that instruments such as the hammered dulcimer do the same, but I suggest that any instrument that cannot play a triad is still a solo instrument.

Here’s the bottom line. The piano has a special place in the hierarchy of music. It is the most important instrument for a child that will/may eventually find themselves in college as a music major. The guitar is a specialty instrument, meaning that it has similar traits to the piano, but cannot necessarily replace the piano in importance.

However, if your child has the will and drive to play the guitar, by all means, go with the guitar!

Namely: sore fingers! I have developed techniques I teach my guitar students to get them past the hurdle of sore fingers, which is probably the #1 reason people give up on guitar lessons.

I want young students to learn chords quickly so they will be able to accompany themselves on some of their favorite tunes.

I think students should learn music theory at an early stage! I find that new students soak up material at a fantastic rate, so I can use that ability to teach multiple skills simultaneously.

I recommend “TV practice time” where the student works on certain attributes of playing while watching television. Why? The pain centers are turned off because the mind is not focused on the irritation on the fingertips.

Well, I suppose it’s only natural that I would be a guitar teacher – since my background was teaching, and in Special Education to boot! Indeed, I’ve had the opportunity to work with all age ranges and skill levels.

If I had to pick one group, I’d choose beginners. That may seem odd, but I really like working the basics with people, especially the elimination of bad habits before they begin!

Guitar lessons vs. piano lessons.

This question usually comes up at some point in a child’s musical experience.

The piano is the root of all western music and music theory. It is a good idea for every musician to have some piano in their background.

In my experience, kids can take instruction on both instruments simultaneously and have success. Now, understand, if your child’s schedule has room for only one instrument and they love the piano, then go with piano lessons.

If, on the other hand, you have a student that fights you on every aspect of playing the piano and says they’d like to try the guitar, then go with guitar lessons.

The beauty of the guitar and piano is that they are both rhythm instruments. Meaning that the person playing a guitar or piano can sing along with the instrument. Try that with an oboe! Ok, I love the oboe, too, but you can’t sing and play with a wind instrument…

The guitar also emulates the piano in music theory – the student will learn chord progressions and harmony in a similar fashion. The piano and fretted instruments have this advantage, so taking guitar lessons will allow for a good understanding of the theory of music. Some might argue that instruments such as the hammered dulcimer do the same, but I suggest that any instrument that cannot play a triad is still a solo instrument.

Here’s the bottom line. The piano has a special place in the hierarchy of music. It is the most important instrument for a child that will/may eventually find themselves in college as a music major. The guitar is a specialty instrument, meaning that it has similar traits to the piano, but cannot necessarily replace the piano in importance.

However, if your child has the will and drive to play the guitar, by all means, go with the guitar!