Your child wants to learn to play guitar. How do you help them get the most out of it? As a guitar teacher of many kids, adults, and parent-child duos, I compiled a list of all the great things I see parents do to help their kids thrive musically.
I have in mind students age 5 to 13. Tips are divided into four categories:
- Set the Stage: Get them started off proper.
- Inspire: Build the motivation within.
- Encourage: Cheer them on!
- Learn: Speak their language, know their music.
Set the Stage
1. Buy them a guitar. Acoustic or electric? Whichever they think would be cooler. Default to acoustic if they don’t know. If they’re under 10 years old, I usually recommend starting with a 3/4-size guitar or ukulele.
2. Sign them up for lessons. Look for a teacher with a structured but flexible approach, someone who won’t neglect teaching fundamentals of music but will also teach your child any of their favorite songs.
3. Get the essential accessories. Picks, tuner, metronome, etc. There’s a handful of accessories that every student must own if they’re not to be held back. Read more here: Recommended Guitar Accessories.
4. Create a dedicated practice space and time at home. Best results when learning music come from daily practice. Make it easy for them to sit down and play, with everything they need at hand: music stand, books, guitar, etc.
5. Take them to concerts. There is nothing in the world more musically inspiring than experiencing live music. Not a video; the real thing.
6. Take them to music shops. Ogle the prettiest/craziest/fanciest guitar in the house together. There are many types of guitars, and seeing them and actually trying them out gives any player a new perspective.
7. Discuss goals. You, your child, and their teacher might have different visions of your child’s future on the guitar. Discuss often to keep everyone on the same page.
8. Teach them what you know. Not necessarily about guitar, but about the music you’ve spent your life listening to. Listen to all your favorite music together, and help them remember the names of the songs and artists they love the most.
9. Help them keep track of songs they’d like to learn. When you hear a new song you like, ask your child if they can play it, or if they could learn it for you. Ask them occasionally what’s on their list of songs to learn.
10. Get them a subscription to a guitar magazine. What are the latest great guitar albums? What’s the hottest new gear? Which players are breaking new ground? They’ll find out every month. My favorite is Guitar Player.
11. Help them build the daily habit. Encourage them to get the guitar in their lap for at least a few seconds every day, even if you have to nag. (But nagging should probably stop there.)
12. Be generous with your praise. Lay it on thick! Always attribute their luminosity to all the practicing they’ve been doing lately.
13. Put on informal family performances. Give them regular opportunities to prepare and perform for others’ ears. Ask them to play when you have guests over.
14. Give them some responsibilities. Maybe it’s lugging their own instrument, or remembering to practice, or paying for new strings with their own money. They’ll feel more ownership over the guitar and their progress.
15. Know their needs. You know your kid better than some guy on the internet. Maybe what they need most is for guitar to be their very own thing, untainted by the local fuddy duddy.
16. Know what they’re learning. Ask regularly what songs or exercises they’re working on. If it’s music you don’t know well, start listening to it!
17. Learn about the guitar world. Browse a magazine, watch some videos, or charge down a Wikipedia rabbit hole.
18. Try learning guitar alongside them. If you have the time and the gumption, this approach is so much fun for every parent-child duo I teach. If not, familiarize yourself with the basics: ask your child to teach you some things. (Nothing helps a person learn something really well like teaching it to another person.)