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Congratulations on your new musician.


When kids start taking music lessons, some parents may have little to no musical background, and often have many questions about their own role in the learning process. Fortunately there is a lot of excellent information available on kids learning music. This page provides some great practical information concerning some of the most common questions, and some links to more information. If you have any other questions please feel free to contact me.

What Is My Child Learning

Experienced musicians and instructors know learning music is enhanced when playing with other musicians. Lessons provide this advantage using material that is both age and ability appropriate. Learning music is cumulative and begins with the fundamentals, advancing through more difficult material. Lesson materials come primarily from a music book, but also exclusive material downloadable on the Student Resources page. Topics include musical time and rhythm, notes, chords / harmony, chord progressions, scales / melody, left and right hand techniques, songs and musical form, style, reading music: standard notation and tablature, ear training, listening, and music theory. Also practical information like tuning the instrument, caring for the instrument, changing strings, and using amplifiers and foot pedals are covered. I also cover songwriting, composition, recording, and music production for interested students.

Parent Resources

Age, Ability, and Expectation

I recommend that your child is at least 8-9 years of age, or older depending on their maturity level. Stringed instruments such as guitar and bass guitar are physically difficult, and given the coordination and fine motor skills of younger children they can be challenging to play. Also consider the nature of private lessons, which require the ability to stay focused and to develop a practice routine. For children, young kids, or those that aren’t ready for private music lessons there are alternatives in the form of group kids’ music activities. Music develops differently from student to student. Abilities vary widely and so does progress. Some kids pick it up easily, some have to work on it. Consistency is important regardless of ability. Good playing habits and a good practice routine are the great equalizer. Everybody likes music, so getting your child, middle-schooler, or teenager interested in some sort of music activity or lessons is pretty straight-forward and easy. Most kids are enthusiastic about lessons. Enthusiasm is important for continued progress. Learning to play guitar can be difficult and frustrating at first, as well as physically challenging, so remaining positive during the process really helps. Learning guitar takes time and patience. Practice and playing should be expected and encouraged. Younger kids may need more encouragement when it comes to developing good practice habits. Older kids tend to develop their own practice habits, as well as playing with friends and other musicians.

What Kind Of Guitar Is Right For Their Age?

The type of guitar depends on factors such as age, size, and what type of music the student is interested in. There are generally two types of guitars, acoustic and electric, and they come in varying sizes, shapes, and colors. Both right-handed and left-handed models are available. The most important factors are age and size. The guitar should be age and size appropriate. If your child is age 6–9, I recommend a child’s guitar or a student model guitar, or a Ukulele. If your child is 9-11 I recommend either a student model or a full sized electric or acoustic guitar. The determining factor for students around the age of 9-11 is the size of their hands, and the size of the guitar. The guitar should feel as comfortable as possible, not too big, not too small. Since different models of guitars can feel quite different, its an excellent idea to try out different instruments to make sure they are a good fit. Ukulele vs. Guitar. The Ukulele is an excellent alternative for some kids and transfers directly to the guitar. The overall tuning on the Uke is the same as the higher four strings of the guitar, although the individual notes are different. So chord shapes and patterns are the same for both instruments. They are smaller than guitars and use nylon strings so they are easier to play. Acoustic vs. Electric. The guitar should be appropriate for what the student’s musical likes are. Ultimately most guitarists play both, as they both have a role in current popular music genres. In general, electric guitars are physically easier to play because there is less tension on the strings. I suggest starting with an electric guitar, unless there is another reason to start with acoustic. The electric and acoustic guitar are tuned to the same standard or non-standard tunings. Chords, patterns, and notation are identical. Although they are different in some ways they share many commonalities in general playing technique. The strings on both come in varied gauges from light to heavy. The heavier the string, the more tension on the neck. Electric guitars use metal plated strings, as well as coated metal. Acoustic guitars have the added choice of using nylon, steel, or hybrid strings. Nylon and hybrid strings reduce tension and are generally easier to play. Acoustic guitars do not require amplifiers, whereas electric guitars are played through amps.

What Do I Need?

Here are a few things you will need to bring every lesson. I’ve also included optional things you might consider for practice. An Instrument. An age and size appropriate acoustic or electric instrument. If you have an electric guitar or bass there is no need to bring an amplifier. I have several. Book. There are many excellent instruction books out there. It should be appropriate for the student’s age and ability. One series that I use consistently is the Progressive series. They publish books for different ability levels and ages, for guitar, bass, ukulele, and mandolin. The book will be a central source of material for beginners of all ages up to intermediate players. Please bring your book to every lesson. I will make notes and give directions in it during lesson. This will help organize practice material. If you have any questions about which book to purchase, I will gladly help. Other Music Materials. Song books, sheet music, and tablature that the student want to learn. Please bring these to lessons. There is exclusive material on my website that you can download at This material is updated and compiled on an ongoing basis. There are some excellent materials here that we will cover in lessons, so please print these as needed and bring to class. There are also Guitar Pro files for use in practice and playing that will really help develop important abilities. These files work with the Guitar Pro software, which is a notation / scoring / playback software available for purchase. I highly recommend it. I use it myself. See the Links page. Folder. A folder to put loose sheet music and transcriptions in. This will also help to organize material and practice. Picks. Picks are important. There are many types and widths. I suggest starting with a standard medium width pick. Thin picks are more difficult to control, and thick picks can feel awkward. A Tuner. You will need something to tune the instrument with. You can download guitar and instrument tuners directly to phones and laptops. There are also inexpensive electric tuners available, and some even clip onto the guitar (my preference). Here are several things for you to consider: Amplifier. An electric guitar will need a small amplifier for practicing and playing. Adapters and software that use devices and computers are available, as well as small headphone practice amps. And also a guitar cable. Music stand. Foot rest for small kids. More Picks. New strings occasionally. Song books and sheet music for learning. Guitar Pro Software.

All About Practice

Establishing good practice habits and a good routine from the beginning makes all the difference to progress. If musicians don’t practice, they won’t improve. Coming to lessons once a week without practicing is not enough to progress at a pace that will hold the student’s interest. Musicians learn that they need to come prepared, so practicing between lessons is essential. It can take months to accomplish the basics, and years to become an accomplished player. So the questions are “how much practice is enough?” and “what are the most efficient and effectives habits?” Before we get into those questions I’d like to make a distinction between three types of ‘playing’. Practice, Playing, and Performing. You can think of these as the amount of mistakes a musician is willing to make. When we practice we are willing to make all the mistakes we need to in order to improve. When we play we are willing to make some mistakes. When we perform we strive to make little to no mistakes. Practice is where most learning occurs, at least when it comes to fundamentals and basic concepts, techniques, and new material. Playing is where we enjoy music the most whether we’re playing alone or rehearsing with a band, and this is where musicianship is established. Being able to play through an entire piece is an accomplishment, even if we make mistakes. Performing is difficult and requires a lot of work and discipline. Whether performing for a small group of friends or a large audience, or recording, this is where nuanced control of playing is mastered. Age is an important factor. Young kids need to practice less but typically require more structure and supervision. Older kids and teens tend to need less supervision and should practice more, based on their musical level. However, this is not always the case and some older kids and teens need to be encouraged to practice. In both instances and with all instruments, its important to spend time with the instrument. Even students who don’t have good practice routines will benefit greatly from just spending time with it. Typical daily practice times range from 15 minutes to several hours. Young students should play a minimum of 15 minutes a day, every day. A daily routine of 20-30 minutes is optimal for all beginners regardless of age. For more advanced students 1-2 hours should be the goal, again with a minimum of 30 minutes. Is there such a thing as too much practice? The answer is yes and no. No, you can’t practice too much in terms of trying to progress, the more musicians practice the better they get. However, physically yes there is a limit to how much time you should spend practicing. Too much repetition can result in injury to the hands and joints for some people. So it’s a good idea to break up practice by mixing it up with different types of playing. Musicians practice so they can learn to play songs and pieces. Some of their time needs to be spent playing, just making noise, learning songs, playing with others or recordings, and having fun. The following information focuses more on younger kids. There is a section on the Student Resource page that focuses on practice routines for older kids, teens, and adults. I suggest reading both. Some younger students pick up music very quickly. In these cases most of your work comes in the form of setting practice times and organizing materials for your child. Others require more guidance. If your child is unsure what do, the book is the best guide. The lessons in the book should be the main focus of what kids practice, as this is what will be covered in weekly lessons. Its important to bring the book to each lesson, so we can mark where we are and what we did in that lesson and add any instructions. Since your child may not be able to read yet, you will need to read any directions or material that is new. Most kids will be able to tell you where they’re at and what they need to work on, and I also make notes in their books. Establish a routine by setting a practice time every day. Its best if its the same time every day, but that’s not as important as practicing every day. Organize materials for your child. If their materials are disorganized it will be difficult for most kids to know what to focus on. Get them started. If they already know what they’re working on, let them guide the way. If they are unsure what to work on let the book be the guide. The simple routine should look something like this, dividing the practice up evenly to begin with: 1. Warm ups and exercises. These are designed to help specific basic hand motion and technique, as well as increase accuracy, speed, coordination, and finger independence. These can be downloaded on the Student Resource page. 2. Lesson materials from the book. For young players this will comprise the bulk of practicing. Following the lessons in the book is fairly easy, even for parents with little to no musical background. If you have a musical background, this is especially straight forward. 3. Other materials. Older kids and teens will have material they are working on outside the book, including advanced exercises scales, chord progressions, and more advanced musical concepts. Advancing young students may be using these materials as well. They can be found on the Student Resource page. 4.Repertoire / Songs / Playing. At some point younger players, older kids, and teens will begin working on specific pieces of music. These can range from short solo guitar pieces to current popular music. Time should be spent playing through these, focusing on playing through the entire piece. Hopefully this helps. If there are any questions or specific things I can help you with concerning practice routines, organization, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Fives, Guthrie Govan

Ciro Manna Dorian Etude

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