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What is the Youngest Age to Play Guitar? (The 3 Things You Need to Know…)

If you’d rather watch a video… check it out above (otherwise, scroll down and read on).

So… oftentimes when new students approach me about lessons – they ask if their son or daughter is too young to start guitar lessons.  Or they will ask “What is the best age to take guitar lessons?”

And the answer is….

It all depends.

Ok – first off, if your child hasn’t developed fine motor skills (i.e. they can’t pick up small objects) – there is NO WAY they can play the guitar.  So there you go – no babies allowed.

whats the youngest age to play guitar

No Guitar Babies!

Ok.  So now that we’ve ruled babies out.  There are three things I like to consider:

 

1.  What is the motivation and who is the motivator?

 

In other words, does your 5-year old WANT to play.  Or do YOU want your 5-year old to play the guitar??  The quickest way to turn a child off to music is to force it on him or her.  This leads to little progress, no motivation, and quitting the instrument (oftentimes with lasting impacts).

Bummer.

On the other hand, a child who is really excited about learning the guitar can get turned off pretty quickly if they’re not seeing progress.

Bottom line: It’s important do identify motivation and expectation/goals before you start with lessons.

 

2.  Can your child count?  Does he know his ABC’s?

 

On a basic level – a child is going to probably need to be able to count.

Knowing their ABC’s will help too.

Knowing how to read would be ideal.

Here’s why: When learning to play guitar there will be a lot of counting (e.g. counting the frets or the strings).    Kids will also need to be able to identify chords or notes by their letter name. 

This isn’t necessary, but don’t expect a whole lot of progress if your child can’t tell the different between Fret 1 and Fret 5.

Progress may not be important to you right now – but lack of progress can really be frustrating for kids (and adults too).

Bottom line:  It’s really helpful to be able to count (and memorize) the note names and the fret numbers.  

 

3.  What size guitar do you have – and does it fit your child?

 

Playing the guitar is a physical endeavor.

Even for an adult, getting your fingers used to the strings can be painful – it’s even more difficult for little fingers.

And what about the size of a guitar?

A normal/standard sized instrument will most likely be too big.

Another bummer: most of the guitars made for kids are really cheap and crappy (typically if they’re less than $50 and they’re purchased at Walmart, Target, or a toy store….. they’re barely a guitar to begin with).

Bottom line: Make sure the instrument fits your child.  They make 3/4 sized guitars which are great for kids.  They make even smaller ones (if you can find them) that also work.

Note: Check out this article for the best child sized guitars.  Or this article for guitars for really small kids

 

OK!  So how old does my child need to be to play the guitar?

 

The youngest I’ll teach is 5-years old.  Once or twice I’ve taught as young as 4 1/2.

I’ve had parents approach me about teaching their 3-year old son or daughter.

I myself have a toddler (as well as few young nephews), and any younger than 5 years, you’re not so much teaching as you are babysitting (which in itself isn’t a bad thing – and if you spend that time exposing the child to music, that can be extremely beneficial.  But as a parent – understand that there won’t be a whole lot of teaching going on).

Most teachers/schools that I’ve found, generally will not accept students under the age of 7 or 8.  If you think about it, that’s typically the age that a lot of school systems start offering music (i.e. instrument) programs to students.

Make sure you set your expectations when having a young child start to play the guitar.

If you’re going to have them take lessons, make sure you and your child are comfortable with the teacher.  Some guitar teachers won’t bother teaching young kids.  I think it’s super fun!

If you want to teach your child guitar, but don’t know where to start, I suggest:

  1. An online guitar resource like JamPlay
  2. My beginner guitar book (shameless self promotion)

Both of these resources are geared towards absolute beginners.

 

One Last Thing….


(clip above comes from a student of Rob at Heartwood Guitar – an awesome teacher and an awesome resource…check him out)

Kids can do this.

Just not all kids will be ready at a young age.

If you’re child is younger than 3 or 4 years old – you can absolutely expose them to music. 

General music classes are a great place to start.  If your child is particularly focused you can even try a ukulele if the guitar is too big.

That’s it!

What do you think about all of this?  Agree or disagree? Should babies play the guitar?  How young is too young to play?  Feel free to disagree (or agree) with  me below in the comments.  Or your can always e-mail me if you have specific questions about your child.

(Jake Posko does Online Guitar Lessons and Coaching as well as in-home lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at jake@jakeposko.com).

17 comments… add one
  • Rob Hampton March 5, 2013, 3:32 pm

    Thanks for the props, Jake! I start around 5 too. Great to see another teacher working with the little ones.

    • admin March 5, 2013, 3:45 pm

      You got it Rob! Keep up the good work… Can’t wait to see the new video lessons.

  • Luke August 12, 2013, 9:56 am

    Hi,
    I have a 2 and half years old, I know is out of question for him to learn. But I have a different question:
    He likes guitars: wants to touch them wherever he sees them displayed, play around street musicians who often let him touch it, things like this. Would be a bad thing to get him one of those “crappy” small guitars just to toy with? Can this make him loose interest rather then keep him interested? Also, as long as noone aground house know how to play a guitar nor even tune it right.
    Thanks

    • jposko August 13, 2013, 6:48 pm

      Hey Luke – Great question. (FYI – I have a 2 and a half year old daughter who loves to bang on my guitar). The youngest age that I usually teach is 5 years. In my experience, any younger than that and kids generally haven’t developed the dexterity/motor skills to really start to play the guitar. However, I would recommend doing other activities to help cultivate an understanding of music (which will make it all the more easier for him to transition to the instrument as he gets older).

      At his age, a little toy guitar is probably fine and won’t really hurt anything.

      Activities could be things as simple as sharing the music that you enjoy with him. There are tons of iPhone/iPad apps that can help as well. It may not be a bad idea to expose him to other instruments that may be easier to play (like kid-sized xylophones). If you’re really serious about getting him started, you may want to look into something like a Montessori school or the Suzuki Guitar Method. I don’t have a lot of experience with either of these, but they generally start working with kids as young as 3 years.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions – or if I need to clarify anything.

  • Jenn January 27, 2014, 5:29 pm

    Hi!
    Would it be good for a young child (mine is 5) to start on a ukelele first…and then go to guitar if she likes it and gets older. While my daughter has good fine motor skills…she is physically on the tiny side and I wonder if she will struggle with a larger instrument.
    Thank you!

    • jposko January 29, 2014, 5:36 pm

      Hey Jenn!
      That’s not a bad idea at all! Ukulele’s are about as close to a guitar as you can get (for such a small size). I’d suggest starting your child with some very basic melodies/songs that can be played on one string (Mary Had a Little Lamb is a good example). One-string songs will translate easily to the guitar. If you want your child to strum chords – start off with some one or two-finger chords and progressively move to more fingers (i.e. more complicated chords). One word of caution: Make sure you get a fairly decent Ukulele. Expect to spend about $60 – $100. Check out this website for some great info: http://www.ukuleletricks.com

  • Kara April 30, 2015, 10:01 pm

    My son just turned 2. He’s obsessed with music in general, loves to play any instrument, but is absolutely obsessed with guitars. His dad plays. We have 4 guitars, a base, a banjo, a upright piano and an ukulele. He plays them all. At 9 months we got him a small wooden guitar which he plays constantly. He can stand up, hold it, strum and sing simultaneously. He also can strum with a pick (which my husband doesn’t usually use) and he strums properly (all wrist). He will play for hours and hours. We are excited to see where this passion takes him but he’s taking ukulele lessons this summer. They don’t usually teach kids under 3 but the instructor met him and said he’s definitely ready.

    • Jake May 1, 2015, 4:08 pm

      Hey kara – that’s so awesome! I’m glad you found an instructor who will work with him. Keep me posted on the progress (and how he likes it). Uke is a great start… he’s gonna be a famous rockstar someday!

    • Claire August 10, 2016, 8:12 pm

      Our guy is 8 months old and is plucking his dad’s guitar strings. He loves music and sings along. I’m wondering what type of small wooden guitar you found for your 9 month old?

      • Jake August 12, 2016, 3:12 pm

        Hey Claire – Have you tried a ukulele? For an 8 month old I’d suggest a soprano ukulele (even just a little toy one would probably be ok to start).

  • Adam June 7, 2016, 7:29 am

    I think it’s good to expose your child to music, my nephew who’s turning 3 soon loves to sit on my knee and ‘play’ with me. I get him to do the strumming while I do chords.

    I’m buying him a small 1/4 size guitar for his birthday, I don’t expect much but even if I can get him to recite numbers with me while playing notes I’ll be thrilled. I think using stickers as an incentive will help, every time he does well I’ll put a sticker in his book.(by ‘well’ I mean counting to 5 successfully or playing the right frets.)

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