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.
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).
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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org).