Many times when a parent comes to us expressing that they want their child to learn an instrument, it's fairly common for the idea of learning to play guitar to come up.
For a lot of our potential students, this is a fantastic idea. Guitar is a fantastic way to work on focus of attention, independent work skills, joint attention, visual tracking, and of course: fine motor skills.
Ah, fine motor skills. This is where we run into a problem with the guitar. Many parents want their young children (6 and under) to learn the guitar. At this young age, the fine motor skills needed to learn this instrument may have not developed yet.
Now, if this is a situation where the child is dying to learn to play guitar and loves watching guitar videos, I'll usually say "Let's go for it, we'll make it work!" If that's what really motivates them, then that's what they need to learn.
And I get it: guitar definitely has the cool factor going for it.
[caption id="attachment_2911" align="alignnone" width="213"] C'mon, who doesn't want to be this guy?[/caption]
But if the guitar decision is coming more from the parent, I usually try to suggest starting with the piano.
The piano requires far less fine motor strength, dexterity, and coordination to start playing. It's also a much more visual instrument. Perhaps most importantly, it's far less abstract than the guitar.
By that, I mean the piano is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of instrument. This key is the note C. Every time you hit it, it's a C. Doesn't matter how you hit it, how hard, when, or with whom. It's a C.
But the guitar is different. When you play this string, it's a B. But put your finger here and that same string is now a D. Put your finger here, and it changes again to E. That can be a little confusing to a young child, particularly if they learn differently from other students, as our clients do.
All this adds up to frustration.
Frustration is the enemy when it comes to learning a new instrument. Frustration leads to losing interest and quitting. It leads to not practicing and not getting any better. It leads to music becoming a chore and not something fun and exciting.
We want our new students to be instantly successful. When I work with a child learning an instrument for the first time, I want them to be able to play something, no matter how simple the very first day.
That kind of success is addictive! They want to come back for more!
So if a student is not developmentally ready for the guitar, that might not be the best choice to start on.
Have a student that wants to learn an instrument? Let's talk about where they can start and what they can learn!
Image credit: Flickr user www.charlesthompsonphotography.com