At What Age Should My Child Start Guitar?
This has to be in the top 3 questions that I get asked the most, so I thought it would be nice to have an official post about it.
Personally, I don’t take guitar students under the age of 6/7 (depending on the size of the child)
Here is why…
Guitar is a VERY physical instrument. Students of all ages will tell you that. You need to hold the guitar properly, keeping both arms in the correct position, while making sure that left hand & fingers are using the correct posture all before fretting a note. From there, the actual fretting process can be very difficult, as it requires a lot of hand strength that takes time to develop.
More often than not, I see young students who are very inspired to start playing, but lose motivation when they learn how difficult it truly is. They end up quitting, which always breaks my heart. If they wait a few years, and try again, I’m certain the learning process would be far easier, but by then, they’ve lost the inspiration to play.
This is not to say that all young students are bound to have such a hard time, but it is absolutely the majority.
Personally, I feel that to give any young student the best advantage, they should start on piano. From a physical standpoint, it’s among the easiest instrument for young hands. The coordination challenges are still there, but it’s not hard to sit at the bench, and press a key.
Beyond that, it gives the young student a great head-start into the world of reading sheet music, and music theory. Considering that most sheet music stems from piano, this will open the door to any instrument they want to play in the future.
As a music teacher, I can say that the students I have with a piano background tend to have an easier time on guitar, and are often able to learn at a quicker rate. This keeps the inspiration up, as they are able to get to the more “exciting” things faster, such as songs by artists they like.
I truly don’t like being the bearer of bad news, but I want to make sure that potential students are making informed choices, and are aware of what they are getting into. The last thing I want to see is a student with huge inspiration end up quitting guitar 2-3 months in, as it’s too difficult for them. Obviously, there will be some young students who may be able to handle the physicality of the guitar, but I truly believe, to give your child the greatest musical advantage, start them on piano.
If you decide that piano may be a better option for your child, I can provide some references for absolutely great local piano teachers.
If you are absolutely sure you want your young student to start playing (despite what you just read), here is a suggestion.
Start on an electric guitar instead of an acoustic.
There is an old wives tale that students should start with an acoustic guitar, as it will make them “better, faster”. The reason they say this is because the acoustic guitar is far more difficult to play. The body is bigger, making it hard to hold, the neck is generally larger, the strings are thicker, and the strings are further away from the fret board (making it hard to press down). So, by that logic, yes, you’d develop stronger hands on an acoustic. That is to say, if you can play it!
Because of this, it makes it much harder for young musicians. Inversely, electric guitars are much easier. Thinner bodies, necks, and strings all help with the early learning process. Additionally, they make child sized (1/2 or 3/4 scale) electric guitars, which can be even more beneficial for the tiny guitarists. Good options are the Fender Squier Mini, or the SX child sized guitar.