1. Are you willing to invest in a good guitar?
Most likely, you’ll be paying anywhere from $80-140/month for half hour lessons. If you are going to spend good money on guitar lessons then it’s worthwhile to invest some money in the instrument. You can pay $30 for a First Act guitar or you can invest $179 in an Epiphone Pee Wee Zakk Pakk. It’s a $140 difference that can make all the difference. Whether your going the electric or acoustic route, you need to look for reliable brands or their subsidiary companies. Fender, Gibson, Martin and Taylor are all quality companies that have excellent guitars for children.
While there are many reasons to invest in a good guitar, the most obvious reasons are these: a poorly constructed guitar goes out of tune easily and the action (the distance between the strings and the guitar neck) tends to warp so that a student has to press the strings with more force than would be necessary on a well-crafted guitar (I’ll be going into more detail about this in a future blog).
2. NEVER. EVER. buy a First Act guitar.
(This point could probably be called 1b) Simply put, these guitars are toys. They don’t stay in tune. Five minutes after tuning one of these “guitars” they are completely out of tune again (especially the “Discovery” series, which is actually intended to be a toy, I think, but I can’t even count the number of parents who signed their kid up for guitar lessons with these toys as their “instrument”).
When your child tries to practice on a First Act guitar (or ANY cheap guitar) they’ll notice that it doesn’t sound right but they’ll think they aren’t executing or remembering what they learned in lessons correctly. They’ll eventually stop practicing and feel defeated. PLEASE! Don’t kill their musical career before they even start!
3. Is your kid too busy to learn an instrument?
I’ve had students who are not only taking guitar lessons; they are also in karate, baseball, soccer, tennis, Spanish lessons, religion class, and Boy Scouts. I kid you not.
If your kid comes home from school at 3, rushes off to sports practice at 3:15, gets home again at 5, scarfs down dinner and does homework until 7:30 and has a bedtime of 8 pm… when is she going to practice guitar? Is she really going to give up the last 30 minutes of free time left in her day? Should she?
I’ve had kids beg to have a week with nothing to practice because they are so tired… and they mean it. They don’t hate guitar. They don’t hate lessons. They are just too busy. Any addition to their already full plates overwhelms them.
4. It’s gonna hurt, literally.
Truth is, playing the guitar makes the tips of your fingers hurt… but just for a while. Some kids find the pain to be too much. This is probably because their dreams of guitar-stardome never included this pesky little detail. It doesn’t hurt when you play Guitar Hero, right? And Taylor Swift never looks like she’s in pain!
The pain is inevitable; however, the length of time during which a kid feels pain can be decreased. The more a kid practices, the sooner he’ll develop calluses on his fingertips… the sooner he can play guitar pain-free! All the more reason to encourage your kid to practice!
5. Yes, a 5 year old can learn guitar!
Countless parents have said to me “such-and-such teacher told me my kid can’t start guitar until he’s 8 or 10. While this may be true for some children, others have a long attention span and a pretty decent pain tolerance and are perfectly capable of beginning guitar when they are young, even very young.
I started teaching 5-year-old Nathan guitar lessons last March, 2011. At his first recital he performed The Beatles’ “Day Tripper”. At his second recital he performed Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line”. A few weeks ago he was practicing and his neighbors overheard through an open window. When they asked his mom about the lovely guitar music coming from the house, they were shocked to discover the guitarist was Nathan, now 6 years old.
Did I forget anything? What do you wish you knew before starting guitar lessons? Do you have any questions about starting up guitar lessons?