I took a call recently from a mother asking me if i could teach her 4 year old how to play guitar. I have to be honest but my first reaction was “no, sorry that’s too young”, and the honest truth is that it is really too young for a child to play guitar to a good level.
But that’s not to say that it is a waste of time spending half an hour or so a couple of times a week allowing a youngster to explore the instrument, and it can be great fun for you as a teacher or parent too.
At 4, 5 and 6, kids have a concept of music, they have a basic understanding of rhythm, they can count, sing, dance and strum, so I really would encourage anyone to give teaching a young kid a go!
The challenge is keeping kids enthused and interested, but my philosophy is that nothing is a waste of time with kids. Even if they only are interested for a few weeks, the fact that they have heard the sounds of a guitar, strummed the strings, held the instrument etc…gives them something for the future.
Here are 12 tips that I’ve found can help:
1) Don’t expect too much. Even if they can just strum across all the strings in a very basic rhythm to a song then that’s fine to begin with.
2) Play very simple nursery rhymes.
3) Get them to sing along.
4) Just get them to strum open strings in time.
5) Try to get them to strum individual strings if possible.
6) Let them use other props such as cuddly toys and maybe make a game out of it.
7) Get them a guitar strap otherwise they’ll probably just play the flat guitar on its back.
8) When they’ve had enough…they’ve probably had enough, so never force them to play.
9) Leave the guitar in a visible place.
10) Get them a guitar stand. Give the guitar some importance.
11) Give the guitar a name…Gonzo, Gertrude, Groovy…
12) Never force anything or tell the child off. Make it a fun thing to do for however long you can.
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