Many have begun to study guitar at a very young age and some have excelled at the instrument progressing to an advanced stage rapidly as they grow up. There are some who start as young as 5 and 6 and make good consistent progress towards the goal of advanced proficiency in the guitar.
However, there is the story of failure for others who start at a very young age with their guitar studies. How many parents have had a discussion that goes something like this:
“Sweetheart, did you hear Zachary practice his guitar today?
“Yes, I did”
“What do you think of his progress?”
“It sounds like he has been playing that one same tune over and over again the past 3 months. Is that normal?”
“I’m a bit concerned that he isn’t really learning anything with these lessons.”
“Maybe he is too young?”
For a variety of reasons, some start early, make little progress, and they and their parents give up on pursuing guitar. Some pick up the instrument at a later age, others never pursue it again. How does one avoid the quagmire of failure with younger guitar students (ages 6–12)? Here are some recommendations for students and parents:
- Students should pursue guitar studies at their level using appropriate materials. I recommend certain children’s method books for the youngest of students (6–9). Books and materials that are overwhelming can quickly lead to failure and frustration.
- Students should have a guitar that fits their size. Younger students (6–9) should generally have a smaller scale guitar to facilitate learning with smaller fingers and hands. Yet, the danger that exists here is buying such a cheap instrument that playing is not very fun and the sound produced is always unpleasant. I recommend purchasing a nicer small scale classical or steel string guitar for young students. Buy a good instrument that will retain some value and will provide room for growth (both physical and musical growth).
- Discipline, discipline, discipline! A much maligned word for youngsters but an important concept if progress is to be made on the instrument. Without a consistent daily practice regimen, young students will not progress very well. Make it a requirement for practice to take place each day for 30 minutes a day or so.
- What if your son or daughter does not want to practice each day (hint: most don’t)? It seems that it is important that a parent takes interest in what their child is learning and so it is often helpful to sit down with your child and listen to what they are practicing and give them encouragement. Providing rewards is also helpful.
- Don’t expect the Mozart scenario. You weren’t a prodigy and your child probably isn’t either. If your child quickly excels at the instrument, that is a good thing! Yet, progress can be slow and sometimes difficult. There is nothing wrong with that as long as progress continues to be made. Guitar takes a long time, and like any other musical instrument, it cannot be mastered in a semester.
In short, these are my recommendations for younger guitar students and their parents who wish to pursue guitar studies.