Teaching children to play guitar differs in many ways from teaching adults, regardless of whether you want to dabble in professional guitar teaching or just want to teach your own children. You should choose an instrument that suits the child and start with simple and fun songs that they already know and that they will like to play. You should stay focused on the fun and worry about music theory later.
Method 1 of 3: Choose an Instrument
Step 1. Choose between acoustic or electric guitar
There are versions of both the acoustic guitar and the electric guitar available in children's sizes. Also, the entry-level models generally cost about the same. Talk to your child about the type of music he likes and wants to play so that you can help you choose between acoustic or electric guitar.
- In general, a child is likely to be more comfortable with an acoustic guitar if they enjoy singer-songwriter music, folk music, and country music. On the other hand, kids who like rock music will generally prefer an electric guitar.
- It can be easier to play an electric guitar than an acoustic one because the action is lower. There is less space between the strings and the fingerboard, so little fingers don't have to work as hard to play.
- Also, electric guitars give you the option of connecting headphones to the amplifier so that you can rehearse silently, which may be useful if you are concerned about disturbing your neighbors or others in the house.
Step 2. Get the correct size for the child's age
The child will get frustrated playing if the guitar is too big for him. Guitars are generally measured on a scale. You should start with the recommended size for the child's age, although feel free to increase a size if the child's hands are larger or taller than average.
- If your child is 4-6 years old, get a 1/4 size guitar.
- If the child is between 6 and 9 years old, get a 1/2 size guitar.
- If the child is between 9 and 11 years old, get a 3/4 size guitar.
- Full-size guitars are suitable for children ages 12 and up.
Step 3. Get the necessary accessories
In order to begin playing the guitar, your child will need several picks, a metronome, a tuner, and perhaps a capo for simplified chords. Gather these accessories and let your child help you choose them.
- For example, you could choose cool colored fun picks that have cartoons or images that you like. Fun accessories will help your child feel motivated to play.
- You can download metronome and tuner apps for tablets or smartphones. In case you are going to use these applications, you must take care that the child has unlimited access to the device every time they want to rehearse.
Step 4. Try a starter kit
Several of the major guitar manufacturers, such as Gibson and Fender, produce beginner kits that contain all the accessories necessary for a child to start playing guitar.
- In particular, the beginner kits will help you if you opt for an electric guitar, as they contain an amp and everything else you will need.
- Also, in many cases, these kits contain a workbook or DVD that includes some beginner lessons as well as some songs.
Step 5. Buy the guitar in person
There is no amount of research that can replace picking up a guitar and trying it out yourself. You don't have to spend a lot of money, but if a child really wants to learn to play the guitar, the instrument you buy should be a quality instrument and not a toy.
- Take the time to examine the guitar and chat with the store staff. You should do your research beforehand to get a general idea of what you are looking for, and then head to a retailer that specializes in musical instruments.
- You shouldn't buy a child's guitar at a low-priced store or pawn shop, as this could save you money, but nothing guarantees that the instrument you get will be of quality. Also, you will not be able to benefit from the help of an educated and experienced staff.
Method 2 of 3: Get started with the basics
Step 1. Establish a space dedicated to rehearsal
The child's guitar and accessories should be kept in a specific place that has a sturdy and comfortable chair and other materials that are necessary for rehearsal. This is an easy way to help make the guitar a regular part of your child's life.
If possible, set this space away from distractions (for example, television or video games). You should find a place where the child will not receive frequent interruptions and where he can always have time alone to practice the guitar
Step 2. Tune the child's guitar
When your child is just beginning to play the guitar, you should avoid overwhelming him by trying to teach him to tune it. To start with, you can tune it to the child, explaining what you do and emphasizing how important it is that the guitar stays in tune.
You can find videos online on how to tune a guitar and play them back by tuning the child's so that he can understand what you are doing
Step 3. Teach the child the correct way to hold the guitar
Probably the easiest thing to start with is for your child to learn to play the guitar sitting down, not standing up. Get a sturdy chair with a straight back and low enough that your child can sit up and both feet are firmly on the floor.
In order for your child to be able to hold his hands and fingers correctly, a little practice will be necessary. However, if you emphasize it at the beginning, this could prevent the child from developing injuries due to repetitive movements later
Step 4. Help the child establish a friendly relationship with the guitar
This can be an intimidating instrument. Therefore, you should encourage the child to experiment with the guitar, hitting the body so that echoes are heard and plucking the strings randomly.
- Playing the guitar in this unstructured way will help your child become familiar with its sound.
- Your child may not be ready to start playing real music right away, especially if they are very young (4-6 years old). So you just have to let him experiment and maybe come up with his own "songs." Encourage them to pay attention to what they are doing and to repeat the sounds.
Step 5. Be patient
A child may not be able to grasp the concepts you want to teach as quickly as a teenager or an adult. Younger children may even be unfamiliar with some basic knowledge. Therefore, you must remain calm and be prepared to explain even the simplest terms and phrases.
For example, when teaching a 5-year-old, they may not know which is the ring finger and which is the index. So you can instead assign numbers to the child's fingers and let the child write the numbers on their fingers with a washable marker
Step 6. Work on individual notes and basic scales
If you spend too much time on scales and theory, your child could get bored. However, you should still spend some time explaining how the notes are on the strings and how they relate to each other.
- Avoid spending more than a few minutes per class on instruction of this type. Otherwise, the child will get bored and the instrument will begin to dislike him.
- Most children have an attention span in minutes equivalent to their age. For example, if you are teaching a 6-year-old, the instruction of this type should last 6 minutes and then you will have to move on to something else.
Step 7. Teach the basic strumming patterns
One of the most difficult things for any beginning guitarist (especially children) is left and right hand coordination. The basic down strum is the easiest pattern to teach and children can play a large number of songs with it.
- When the child can perform the basic down strum on a consistent basis, you can move on to the bottom up pattern.
- If your child is more interested in plucking the guitar and playing melodies with individual notes rather than chords, it is still necessary for him to master the strumming techniques. You need to show him that a note has a slightly different sound on the down strum than on the up strum.
Step 8. Simplify the chords
In many cases, the chords are too difficult to be played consistently with small, uncoordinated fingers. Therefore, you should use simplified versions of the chords for which only one or two fingers are needed. In this way, the child can easily touch them.
- Get a chord guide or download an app so you can find the simplest chord patterns that you can teach younger children. You should focus on a pattern that only requires one or two fingers.
- Pay particular attention to chords for which the little finger is needed because this is the weakest finger and, in a young child, it may not be developed enough to be able to pluck the string cleanly.
Step 9. Show him the correct way to store the guitar
If a child knows the correct way to maintain his guitar, he will feel more ownership and responsibility for it and for his musical education.
- Have a soft cloth or pad (for example, an old T-shirt) handy and teach your child to clean his guitar after each class or practice session.
- You want to make sure your child has a quality case and get him into the habit of storing his guitar there when he's done playing each day.
Method 3 of 3: Teach Fun Songs
Step 1. Skip the traditional songs
Don't try too hard with traditional songs, like Estrellita, where are you? that contemporary children are not likely to be interested. Instead, opt for songs that are familiar to the child and that they already like.
- While some songs are great for beginners, even more complex songs can be broken down to simpler melodies.
- Ask the child what kind of music he likes. Ask him to make you a list of some of his favorite songs. It will be easier for the child to learn to play if you can include more songs than they already like.
Step 2. Use simple riffs from classic rock songs
In particular if the child wants to play the electric guitar, classic rock songs are recognizable and will also make the child feel like a rock star even if he only knows a few notes.
- For example, the riff for the song Smoke on the Water is a very simple classical progression that requires only one string. If the kid plays electric guitar, you can increase the distortion so that he can really rock to this song.
- Encourage the child to sing the fret numbers by playing. This will help you mentally establish a connection between pitch and finger placement on the fretboard.
Step 3. Look for free videos and resources online
You could spend money on professional apps or teachers, but this is not necessary. You can find a large number of resources online that will help you teach children to play the guitar.
- For example, you can search for instructional videos on YouTube, taking care to preview them to make sure they are kid-friendly and of good quality.
- You can also find websites run by professional teachers that post free online short lessons. For example, on Coursera, you can find free beginner guitar courses in collaboration with the Berklee College of Music. However, these classes may be too complex for younger children.
- Another free website where you can get introductory and beginner videos that help kids learn guitar basics, like simple chords and how to tune the guitar, is Justin Guitar.
Step 4. Hold concerts at home
When your child has started to play a few riffs, a home concert might give him an opportunity to show off, as well as to feel more comfortable playing his instrument in front of a group of people. During the hottest time of year, you can hold the concerts in your backyard and invite the neighbors.