When Children Should Start Guitar Lessons

The Age Guitar Lessons for Kids Makes Sense

Young Mother Showing her Son how to Play Guitar
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Parents of young children often ask me if their child is ready to begin taking guitar lessons. The answer to this question is largely dependent on the child - some kids will be ready to begin guitar lessons at age seven while others might not be ready until they are ten or even older. Here are a few considerations you'll want to keep in mind before signing up your kid for guitar lessons:

Playing Guitar Requires Dexterity

The biggest physical hurdle young kids generally need to overcome when learning guitar is their lack of fine motor skills and hand strength.

Switching chords on guitar strings requires nimble fingers, and many kids don't develop the required level of dexterity until they are eight or nine. Of less importance is overall hand size - there are many 1/2 size guitars available that should feel comfortable for even the smallest hands.

Improving on Guitar Requires Patience and Practice

If your child is enrolled in guitar lessons, they'll invariably be provided with "homework" - chords, scales and songs to memorize and practice. If not worked on routinely, kids will fall behind and frustrate both their guitar teacher and themselves.

Forcing Young Kids to Learn Guitar Doesn't Produce Results

When I was eight years old, my parents signed me up for guitar lessons. After a couple lessons, I lost interest in learning guitar - it was too hard, the guitar was too big, and I wasn't learning any songs I liked. But my parents, having just shelled out lots of money for a new guitar, understandably forced me to keep my lessons up for another year.

As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I quit guitar lessons and stopped playing for five years. Luckily, I rediscovered guitar in high school, but many kids aren't quite so lucky. Developing a negative impression of guitar lessons early in life can sour kids on playing music in general.

Although all kids are different, I'll generalize - here is my opinion of when it is appropriate to begin considering guitar lessons.

  • Your child is at least six years old. This may seem like an arbitrary number, but, from my personal teaching experience, I've found almost all kids under six are too young to benefit from formal guitar lessons, as they require dexterity and levels of concentration children their age can't provide. I wasn't ready to learn guitar until at least age ten, and I probably wasn't in the minority.
  • Your child displays sufficient hand dexterity. If your child hasn't yet really developed their fine motor skills, guitar lessons will be a struggle. Although playing guitar can help develop these motor skills, maintaining a child's interest during this development will be a major challenge.
  • Your child can maintain focus for significant periods of time. If your child doesn't have the attention span to maintain a daily 15 minute practice schedule, consider waiting a while before enrolling them in formal guitar lessons.
  • Your child shows significant interest in the guitar. If they're not showing interest in the guitar, pushing them into lessons may only serve to develop a distaste for something they might have otherwise enjoyed.

Just because a child isn't ready for guitar lessons today doesn't mean you can't make the guitar a part of their lives. On the contrary, introducing kids to the guitar outside the structure of formal guitar lessons can allow them to begin to interact with and appreciate the instrument on their own terms. Here are some approaches I've taken with my own kids.

  • Play guitar with your kids. Engage with your kids on their terms - play them some children's songs that they know, and encourage them to sing along. If they want to strum your guitar while you're trying to play - let them!
  • Leave a guitar out for your kids to play with. I've got a 1/2-sized guitar that my kids can pull out whenever they want. I leave it in open D tuning, so they can bang away on the open strings, and it still sounds good. I don't allow them to jump on or smash the guitar, but other than that, they have free reign.
  • Provide positive feedback on what they play. Your kids will default to banging the strings as hard as they can - show them they can also play really quietly, and that it can sound pretty to play that way. When that doesn't work, just point out that if they play quietly for a while, when they start to bang again, it will be even louder!
  • Point out guitar in the music they like. If your household is anything like mine, you know your children's favorite songs far too well. Make an effort to point out the role the guitar plays in that music.