Picking up a guitar for the first time is exciting! It can also feel overwhelming. There are countless guitar tutorial videos online, endless articles about the best gear to buy, and so many music lesson suggestions that it can be difficult knowing where to begin. This article will help narrow down that information, so that you can make more informed decisions as your child begins their guitar journey.
Which guitar should I buy?
The big question is: acoustic or electric? Both types of guitars have the same 6 strings and can be played essentially the same way. The biggest difference is that an acoustic guitar does not require an amplifier, while an electric guitar should be plugged into an amp to make clear, audible sound. I often suggest that students begin on an acoustic guitar. There are less parts needed, making it easier on the parents as well as the students. All they have to do is pick up their guitar and play! An acoustic guitar also lends itself well to open chord shapes, which are often the first chords that a child will learn. Below is a link to a beginner guitar made by Best Choice Products, which can be ordered online with free shipping and comes with other necessities like a guitar case and tuner! The 30 inch design and nylon strings are perfect for new students, especially in the 5 to 10-year-old range. You really can’t beat this price point.
If your child aspires to be a future rock star, a beginner electric guitar would provide them with the volume and tone that they want. Below is a link to a Squier Stratocaster set that can be ordered online through Guitar Center and includes everything your child needs to begin playing, like a practice amp and a cable to plug in.
While there are many free tuning apps and websites, I suggest that every student uses a clip-on tuner, which is easier to read and clearly shows the name of each note. Below is a link to a Snark tuner on Sweetwater, which is a great online resource for music gear.
What can I expect from private lessons and group classes?
When students begin their guitar journey, there can be a certain level of impatience they experience, born out of wanting to sound like a pro on the first day. Learning through simple games and recognizable songs helps to keep students engaged and allows them to feel instant gratification. However, in beginning lessons, fundamentals such as learning the names of the strings, how to count the frets, and how to effectively press down on the neck will be covered before any chords or melodies. After this foundation is set, there are two main areas of focus.
Beginning students often start by playing chords, which involves multiple notes and strings being played simultaneously. There are 5 main “open chord” shapes that will be introduced in early lessons. Many open chords can be simplified to one-finger versions, allowing students of all levels to begin playing songs as soon as their first lesson or class. These simple chords can be put into endless patterns and easily connected to songs that the students might know. An emphasis on switching back and forth between chords smoothly, as well as using a song-based approach can help beginners recognize their own progress, making them more eager to practice.
New students will also learn how to play single notes in their beginning lessons. This skill is different from playing chords, as it requires them to play only one string at a time, with one finger pressing down on the guitar. Simple recognizable melodies like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are perfect for introducing this concept. This melody in particular can be played using only one string, simplifying the process even more for that instant gratification that can inspire the student.
How much should my student practice?
The amount a student should practice depends on what their goals are, as well as what type of lesson they are taking. Group classes are designed so that students who might not be motivated to practice every day can still grasp the material presented during class time. The expectation with private lessons is a little higher, as the one-on-one learning and goal-setting is tailored to each student’s needs. Encouraging your child to practice frequently and in small intervals is often more effective than one or two longer practice sessions a week. Practicing every day, or even every other day for just 15 minutes can help your child grasp skills through repetition.
Wishing everyone the best on their guitar journey, and I hope to see you in a future lesson!
Guitar & Bass Guitar Instructor