It’s an age-old question from parents who want to introduce their children to the beautiful world of 6-string guitars: what age can kids begin learning guitar? Or restated, is there such thing as being “too young” for learning guitar?
At the surface this is really a simple question to answer: there is no such thing as “too young” as long as the kid is personally motivated to learn. But if you dig a little deeper you’ll find that the answer is a little bit more complicated than that.
My Childhood Learning Guitar
I remember the first time I picked up a guitar – or rather the first time I sat in my dad’s lap and strummed his guitar while he fingered chords. Looking back now I know that he isn’t a very good guitar player but as a young kid I thought he was the best.
I also knew that if my dad played the guitar, I wanted to as well. I was 5 years old at the time.
My parents played along with my childhood fancies and bought a child-size guitar for me to mess around on. It didn’t take long for them to realize, however, that this wasn’t a fad for me. I was genuinely interested in learning the guitar. At this point a friend of ours donated a beginner full-sized guitar for me to learn on.
I played my guitar almost every day and within a couple years had already surpassed my dad’s ability to teach me. My parents graciously allowed me to take guitar lessons – classical guitar lessons to start – and I progressed from there. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tips for Teaching Kids
I share that story of my personal experience because I feel like it highlights a few important things about kids learning the guitar:
Small victories motivate kids. If you really want your child to learn the guitar, invest in a child-sized guitar. Or you can invest in a longer-lasting, quality travel guitar. You can get one for under $100. It will be so much easier for them to successfully create a good-sounding chord. The sooner they experience that first “victory”, the quicker they will get hooked on learning.
- Don’t Push Them. This generation of parents is super-sensitive about letting their child explore what they like instead of forcing them to learn something they don’t like. Pushing the guitar on a child, often in the form of guitar lessons, can easily backfire. I didn’t have my first guitar lesson until years after I first began playing the guitar. One option? Allow them to do online guitar lessons. It’s cheaper, can be done from home and is self-paced. (here is a review of a good online guitar lesson site)
- Lead by Example. The quickest way to get a child to learn the guitar is to show them how much fun it is to play! If you play the guitar yourself, play it in front of them. Let them strum. Let them sit in your lap and feel the beautiful vibrations of the wood. They don’t care if you haven’t played for years and your chords don’t sound perfect. They’ll be happy to listen to you play anyway.
So to answer the question, don’t hold back your child from learning guitar because you think they might be too young. At the same time, don’t force the guitar on them just because you want them to learn early. It’s a hard line to walk, I know.
I’ve seen kids start learning guitar at age 5. I’ve seen others start at 12 and learn at an incredible pace. Neither is better than the other in my opinion.
*Image courtesy of GuitarTipsforKids