I teach guitar lessons. I see a lot of kids come and go for various reasons, but with these suggestions you can get the most out of the lessons you are probably paying for.
1: Make sure your child is physically developed enough to handle the instrument.
Guitars are kind of bulky and awkward to play. For small kids, it’s even worse. They have a hard time reaching where they need to reach. They have a hard time pressing the thin metal strings hard enough to get a decent sound and when they do, it physically hurts. It’s rough business for their little hands and wrists. Remember, especially for kids, pain will be a huge de-motivator. You don’t want them to give up on guitar for the wrong reasons.
2: Be careful of the instrument “phase.”
Every person on earth has this phase where they decide they want to play an instrument and guitar is a very popular choice (probably because a cherry red electric guitar seems way cooler than the French horn). But not every person that says, “I want to learn guitar” means they want to learn a new skill. You know your kid better than anyone, so if anyone can spot a fad, or a quick-to-fade obsession it’s you. A semester of lessons is good for any child but be careful to…
3: “Encourage” your child to practice regularly.
And by ‘encourage’ I almost mean ‘force.’ Almost. Obviously you have to pick your battles (or so I’ve heard) but you need to make sure practicing becomes a part of the routine, similar to homework. It’s pretty simple: if your child doesn’t practice, he will not improve. If he does not improve he will get little to no new content in his lessons and he’ll be stuck on Ode To Joy from page 20 of Beginning Guitar until he trades in his gear for a new iPod. And speaking of gear…
4: Spend some money.
Many parents make the mistake of sending their child to lessons using whatever old guitar is lying around their grandpa’s attic. While nostalgia may abound, if your child is embarrassed by her gear, she will be less enthusiastic about playing it. You can go the route of buying cheap at first and then upgrading once it seems safe (that she’s going to keep up the lessons), but it doesn’t take long for an interested youth to realize the gear she has is crap. I always recommend to start with *quality (new or used). The better it sounds the more she’ll want to play it. The better it looks, the more she’ll want to leave it out. The better it feels the more she’ll enjoy long hours with it despite the pain of learning a new skill.
5: You are not a bad parent if you don’t stick your kids in music lessons (or force them to stick with it)
I encourage everyone I can to try a musical instrument. It can bring a great sense of joy and fulfillment to your life. But I also recognize that it’s not for everyone. If your child is showing signs of waning interest you need to communicate with them. If they aren’t enjoying it, then something is amiss. Adults always say things like, “I wish I had stuck with piano lessons because I would like to still be able to play.” This is mostly embellishment. The truth is that interests and hobbies come and go and, yeah, it would be nice if you could play piano today, but you can’t because you pursued other interests and dreams. One is not really better than the other (well, I guess playing guitar is better than doing drugs, but you get it) and the passions you choose are simply an extension of who you are. So don’t force it, let your child follow their own dreams and not just yours. Besides, it’s never too late to start!
*For new, quality guitars expect to pay somewhere around $450+ for low-end builds. If that seems steep, I recommend quality used gear.