11 Things You Must Know Before Signing Your Child Up For Guitar Lessons
Lets face it, with so many options available, looking for the right guitar and guitar teacher for your child or teen can be very overwhelming. As a parent, you want to know (not guess) that you are making the right choice for your child and that the teacher you are trusting and counting on to help them is qualified to help them and will also get the best results for them. You also want to make sure that they have the right guitar for them.
So where do you begin? If you are like most parents, this is the hardest question to answer. Are you getting the right guitar for them? How can you be sure that you are choosing the right guitar instructor for your child? This guide will help you get a better understanding of the things that you will need to know to make the best choices for you and your child/teenager.
This guide is designed with all of those choices in mind. Once you have finished it, you will have a much clearer picture of everything necessary to make sure that your child or teen is going to start with everything in place for them. You will also know that you have done everything possible to make sure that you are putting your child or teen in the best possible position to be successful.
- What Type Of Guitar Is Right For Them?
If you are in the market for a guitar for your child/teenager, this is the very first question you have to consider. Here is an easy way to answer that question.
What Type Of Music Are They Going To Play?
Rock or Country Rock Music (The Eagles, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Green Day, Van Halen) – Electric Guitar
Blues (B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn) – Electric Guitar
Delta Blues (Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters) – Acoustic Guitar
Country / Bluegrass (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Allison Krauss) – Acoustic Guitar
Folk (Jewel, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen) – Acoustic Guitar
Jazz (Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, George Benson) – Electric Guitar
Pop (3 Doors Down, Taylor Swift, DNCE) – Electric Guitar
- What is the right size guitar for them?
Much like picking the right guitar for the style of music that your child or teen wants to play, you also need to make sure that they are playing the right size guitar for them. Getting a guitar that is too small or too big is going to make playing guitar tougher than necessary for them and could lead to frustration and ultimately quitting altogether
Younger children (ages 5 – 9) will generally find an 3/4 scale guitar easier to play. The smaller scale of this type of guitar makes it much easier for their small arms and hands to play comfortably on the guitar. If the guitar is too big for them, they will have to stretch out to reach for some of the notes on the guitar.
Older Kids/Teens (ages 10 – 19) will generally find a full size guitar easier to play. Since typically their arms are longer and hands are bigger, they will not have a problem playing notes anywhere on the fretboard on a full size guitar.
- Guitar Accessories
After you have purchased the guitar you also need to buy accessories for the guitar. Accessories include: a guitar strap, guitar picks and a tuner.
Guitar Strap – Having a guitar strap is extremely important because it will hold the guitar in place when your child or teen is practicing. A guitar will also allow your child to play the guitar standing up if they choose to do so.
Guitar Picks – Guitar Picks are used to play notes or strum chords on the guitar. Pick are generally made out of one uniform material.
Types of materials:
Plastic (Nylon, Delrin, Celluloid)
Guitar Tuner – A Tuner is used to make sure that the strings on the guitar are tuned to the correct pitch. The guitar will need to be tuned on a regular basis. Their teacher will show them how to use a tuner to keep their guitar in tune. Keeping the guitar in tune will make sure that the notes or chords played on the guitar will sound good.
Guitar Case – A guitar case will help to protect the guitar when it is being transported out of the house. Cases can be either hard cases or soft cases (also known as gig bags). In some instances, the guitar will already come with a case and that should be noted on the tag at the store. If it doesn’t say that a case or gig bag is included with the guitar, you will need to purchase one separately. The store will have them in stock and will be able to find one to fit the guitar you are buying. Another thing to note is that when buying a soft case (gig bag), they come with different amounts of padding on the inside. The more padding on the inside of the gig bag, the more it will protect the guitar while it is in the case. Those cases may be more expensive but they are worth the investment you are already making.
- Buying an Amplifier
If you are buying an electric guitar, you will also want to consider buying an amplifier (or amp). You don’t have to buy one, as your child or teen will be able to practice their guitar without an amplifier but you will definitely want to consider buying one. There are many different types of amplifiers on the market and going into depth about them is beyond the scope of this guide. for beginning guitar players a simple practice amp (small amp with one speaker) will be just fine. Most amps come with two channels (Distortion and Clean) and will be all that your child or teen will need to get started.
Finding The Right Guitar Teacher
This is the most important section of the book. After you’ve purchased the right guitar, the right accessories and an amp (again, the amp is not necessary to get started) you are going to need someone to teach your child or teen how to play guitar. Without knowing what things to look for in a potential guitar teacher, you run the risk of choosing someone based on the wrong criteria. Here is a list of the right criteria to use when choosing a guitar teacher.
- Does this teacher teach the style or music my son or daughter is going to be playing:
Most parents don’t realize how crucial it is to find a teacher that specializes in teaching the style of music that your sone or daughter will be playing. Many will simply go with the first teacher that they speak with, regardless of what style they play. Some will decide to go with a “Jack of All Trades” kind of teacher. Both choices are bad choices and here is why:
If you go with the first teacher you speak with, regardless of the style they play, you may end up sending your son or daughter to someone who can’t relate to them and won’t be able to help them reach their goals. Also this teacher simply may not be qualified to teach anyone to play guitar. Why would you want to let them use your child or teen as a guinea pig to gain teaching experience
Sending them to a “Jack Of All Trades” guitar teacher might sound nice on the surface but the truth is that no musician has mastered every style of music and they may not be able to really dig in to what you child or teen needs to learn to be successful at their chosen style of music. To put it another way, if you needed to have heart surgery, would you go to a general surgeon or would you go to someone who specializes in heart surgery? You would choose the specialist, why not do the same for your son or daughter?
- The Price Myth – Most parents, when shopping for guitar lessons think that price is the only consideration when determining who they are going to hire to teacher their kids to play guitar. Much like choosing the first teacher you speak with or hiring a jack of all trades guitar teacher, this is a major mistake. To use the surgeon analogy again, if you or your child/teen were going to have surgery, would you go with the cheapest surgeon you could find or would you go with the BEST surgeon that you could find?
Do you want the cheapest teacher or the teacher who is going to get the best results for your child/teen? Cheap teachers often don’t have a lot of experience teaching, aren’t certified to teach anyone and use a lot of cookie cutter, one size fits all teaching methods. They can’t guarantee results and more importantly, they don’t care enough about getting the best possible results. Also, the amount or progress a typical student makes is extremely slow as the teachers tend to just load them up with a bunch of new stuff each week. Ironically, in the long run, cheap guitar lessons will cost you a LOT in terms of both time and money.
- All Guitar Lessons Are Not the Same – Even before the price myth, the mistake most parents make is thinking that all guitar lessons are the same, meaning that they are run the same way, last the same amount of time and students are all given the same information. This is the wrong way of thinking about guitar lessons. All guitar lessons are not created equal and all teachers are not the same. If you want proof of this, ask every potential guitar teacher this one question:
Asking A Potential Teacher The Right Questions
When you talk to any potential guitar teacher, here is a short list of excellent questions you should be asking, as well as the answers you should be expecting to hear.
- Are you qualified to teach guitar?
You will be shocked to find out how many guitar teachers aren’t qualified to teach guitar. Many will answer this question by telling you how many years they have been teaching, some will talk about having degrees from music schools. The amount of years they have been teaching isn’t a qualification, it is a statistic. If they state that they have degrees, ask them how many of those degrees are for teaching guitar.
- Do you teach guitar in a linear, step by step fashion?
Teaching in a linear fashion is the method that most guitar teachers use and this also falls into the cookie cutter guitar lessons way of teaching. This is the most expensive way to learn guitar because you will only work towards one goal and spend a lot of time in doing so.
The best teachers will answer this question with “no” but so will the worst teachers. The difference between the two is how they follow up their “no” answer. The best teachers know that getting the best results for their students and getting them to improve in a shorter amount of time requires a completely different strategy and they will tell you about that strategy when you talk to them.
- What do you tell your students about practicing?
The truth is that there are more than one correct answer for this question. Kids (ages 10 and younger) are going to require a completely different practice strategy than Kids (ages 11 -12) and Teens.
The Benefits Of Studying With A Great Teacher
- You save time and money! Your child/teen will struggle less with their playing
- You will know, before you even talk to them, that this person is the best possible person to teach your son or daughter
- Your child/teen will make progress faster and will stay inspired to play guitar more
Don’t make the mistake of reading this guide and then doing nothing with it. You are now ready to go out and find a great teacher for your child/teen. You know all of the things that they will need in order to be successful and enjoy a skill that can last them a lifetime.
About the Author: Byron Marks is a professional guitar teacher who teaches kids guitar lessons in Manchester, New Hampshire.