Introducing the world of music to guitar students is exciting! Seeing the look on their face as they play their very first chord is a special feeling. But an important point to remember is that students of different ages require different types of lesson. Read on for tips on teaching kids guitar lessons.
When it comes to guitar lessons many teachers make the mistake of teaching kids the exact same way as they go about teaching adults.
If you’re going to teach children, you’re going to have a much better time if you adapt your approach to suit the needs of the child in front of you.
After all, it’s easy to forget that kids are at a much earlier stage of their development and that their brain works differently.
There is even a huge difference in the memory capacity, cognitive function and fine motor skills of a seven-year-old compared to a ten-year-old, and no two kids of the same age are ever at the same level of development.
Many guitar teachers refuse to teach kids for various reasons…
I’ve personally had great success teaching children in the early stages of development and know many other guitar instructors who run kids guitar lessons for kids in the 4-7-year-old age bracket.
If you try to teach kids this young the same way you teach adults then you are setting them up for failure.
Instead, you need to ask yourself “what does success look like at this stage of development?” and adapt your teaching style and guitar lesson plan to suit accordingly.
If you want kid-friendly guitar lessons then you need to put yourself in the kids’ guitar zone mentally and create a program that meets their needs at their level, not your desire to have them match the curriculum or lesson plan you usually use.
Many guitar tutors overlook this but if the children you are teaching can’t read or write English yet then you are going to have a hard time teaching them how to read music.
Likewise, if they are just developing their fine motor skills then complex chord changes are going to be beyond their level too.
You need a much simpler approach
Instead of playing complex scales, play them on one string.
For example, you can reduce a minor scale to the number 0 2 3 5 7 8 10 12 and have your students play the E minor scale along the high E string.
Not only will they remember this pattern very easily but it is well within their skill level to play and will let them play up and down using one finger.
You can take this idea of playing guitar on one string and adapt it to learning any scale, riff or melody quite easily.
In fact, playing any sort of scale starting on the high e string is good because the guitar is naturally tuned to E and the student can accompany themselves by playing the low E string.
One of the best things you can do for your kids is to teach them simple riffs on the low E string.
Riffs are great because they are instantly recognisable and will make your beginners feel like total rock stars regardless of what skill levels they actually are.
They also help them develop a solid sense of rhythm and sound like real music almost straight away.
If you can find out their favourite songs and favourite guitar players and create a mini setlist that they can play along to then they will have so much fun learning guitar with you and will eagerly look forward to their next lesson.
You want to create a social environment where the kids learning guitar with you are having lots of fun while getting to make music.
Once you’ve taught your kids a handful of riffs you can even get them to jam with other musicians (drummers are especially good for this) so that they get the feel of what it’s like to play in a band.
If your trying to teach kids how to play guitar then the last thing you want to do is try to teach them traditional standard open guitar chords
These chords often require the child to coordinate the use of multiple fingers which is very hard in the early stages of their development.
The G chord for example requires at least three fingers and most kids will struggle to strum and change chords in time.
A much better approach is to teach simplified versions of the chords that only use three strings.
For example, if we look at our G chord again, we can play it by using our 3rd finger on string one fret three and strum the first three strings.
This is much easier and allows them to play chords with just one finger.
This way students can more easily co-ordinate their fingers when they change from chord to chord while keeping rhythm.
You will have to create new chord diagrams that show them how to play these new guitar chords.
Now you’re not going to find these chords in any content created by music publishing companies for formal guitar lessons, but if you create your own written material or create your own video lessons then your kids will have everything that they need.
I like to create my own chord diagrams for both major chords and minor chords. You can even use power chords or triads.
It’s much better to have your kids move the shapes up and down a single string instead of them trying to memorise dozens of chords.
One of the most common questions that I get is “what is the perfect age for kids to play guitar?”
The answer really does depend on the student and where they are in their development.
I’ve taught and had great success with ages 5-7 who are total beginners and do really well in guitar lessons.
Other children need a bit more time to develop.
Regardless of their age and skill levels, the key with teaching young learners at these ages is to make lessons fun and to help them experience the joy of playing an instrument.
You can create a special course or program where kids will be learning the absolute fundamentals.
If you can help them focus on their basics then can make great progress and build their skills regardless of what stage of life they are at!
When it comes to teaching kids guitar lessons you can explore a variety of lesson formats.
I find that group guitar lessons for kids work really well for children no matter what age they are.
If kids do struggle to keep up with the group then you can explore private lessons as another option for learning.
This will allow beginners to develop their skills at their own pace and experience the joy of lessons without the pressure of comparing themselves to another child.
These days it’s becoming increasingly popular to teach kids guitar using online guitar lessons. You can deliver these guitar lessons live or you can create a course with pre recorded videos for them to work their way through.
Learn more about how to teach guitar online.
Regardless of which option you go with aim to make learning fun and interactive!
Here are some additional tips when it comes to teaching a better kids guitar lesson:
It’s unfortunate but not every child is going to want to play guitar.
In these instances don’t be afraid to recommend ukulele or piano lessons if the guitar doesn’t work out for them.
A ukulele is a great alternative because…
You can also teach them the same songs on both instruments and get them playing together in a band.
Lastly, it’s worth talking about practice! Many children are put off guitar because their teacher forces them to practice. Don’t be too strict and remember to make lessons as fun as possible.
Take a casual approach with your students.
Teaching children is one of the most rewarding elements of teaching music in general.
whether we’re helping them strum along to a few minor chords, playing along to their favourite songs or jamming in a band there is a special magic in the appreciation a child has for music.
I’m sure you’ve seen their face light up when you strum a chord on your instrument and their whole face lights up when they hear the sound.
We teachers have the power to change our students’ world by helping them learn an instrument.
It’s a special responsibility and can shape their whole life.
We all remember our favourite teachers from our school days, as do we remember our least favourite teachers.
Which one do you want to be remembered as?
If you’re looking for more resources to help you become your students’ favourite teacher, check out TopMusicGuitar
Michael Gumley is a guitarist and musical educator from Melbourne, Australia. He is the owner and head teacher of Melbourne Guitar Academy whom are known as the provider of the best guitar lessons in Melbourne. He’s also the author of the Guitar Ninjas Curriculum and the Head of Guitar at TopMusic.
Michael aims to share his passion for guitar with each and every one of his guitar students and wishes to help other guitar teachers from all around the world find their own rhythm and teach better lessons.
Check out the number of great resources that you can use to teach better lessons at TopMusic!