guitarboy
Child playing guitar

If you have been thinking about teaching your child to play guitar yourself and aren’t quite sure where to start this is the post for you. There are some great resources around that can help you teach your children to play without having to shell out for costly music lessons. Here are some of the best books, free online lessons for kids, DVDs and software to help get you started.

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What age can kids begin learning?

It depends on the child. If your child has shown an interest in learning to play, there are lots of great ½ and ¾ size instruments (both acoustic and electric) for very young children. If you are teaching your kids yourself you will want to make sure they want to learn, they are able to sit and concentrate and they have a guitar that is an appropriate size for their age. If they are playing something that is too big it will make it very difficult for them to play comfortably.

Where to Start

Many introductory lessons for kids follow the same basic outline listed below. If you don’t play yourself, skip down to the free lessons listed in the next section, both cover most of these topics.

  1. Go over all the parts of the instrument with your kids. Explain to them what everything is called and what it does.
  2. Show your kids how to hold the guitar. Where should their hands be positioned and how to hold and use a pick. Pretty basic, but you want to get this right at the beginning.
  3. Tuning- Show your child how to tune the instrument. This might be a little intimidating for some kids, but it is a skill that they need to learn and again there are lots of great videos online about how to do this with or without a tuning machine.
  4. Explain what chords are, why they need to learn them and show them how to read chords.
  5. Once they understand chords, you can begin to teach them simple songs.

Free Online Lessons for Kids

  • Little Kids Rock put up some handy free online lessons for kids that you can check out. The instructor goes through some of the basics including tuning, and some of the chords. Little Kids Rock is dedicated to making sure every kid gets a first-rate music education, so they have lots of really good free resources that you can take advantage of.  This organization is supported by a tonne of huge names in music like Metallica, Slash, Steven Van Zandt, Lady Gaga, the list goes on and on.
  • Kids Guitar Zone has lots of free lessons that go over everything that kids need to learn to get started playing. Lesson 1 alone has videos on: parts , the proper holding position, tuning, how to read tablature, and how to practice. It’s a fantastic, well organized site that is super useful for parents and kids.

Best Books to Teach a Child Guitar

If you are old school like me, you will want to have a couple of method books to refer to and to help your kids learn a bit of theory. There is a great selection of method books that are written specifically for kids, so they are easy and fun to go through. Here are a few of the most recommended:

  • Kid’s Guitar Course, Book 1 is a method book for kids ages 5 and up. Apparently it is the number one selling kids method book. People like it because it uses simple language that kids can understand and it has a few different cartoon dogs and an alligator (who likes the blues!) It goes over how to play cords and melodies and how to read music. It also includes a CD. This is a great choice for parents who are looking for a beginner book to teach kids at home, since it covers all the basics and you the CD and DVD that are super helpful.
  • Another very popular beginner book is Guitar for Kids for Ages 5-9 (Hal Leonard Guitar Method. It is an easy course that teaches children to play quickly. It has lots of sixties songs that your kids might already know like Yellow Submarine, I’m a Believer and Hound Dog. This method is good for electric or acoustic and is also okay for teacher or parents, even if they’ve never had any musical training themselves. The CD that comes with it contains more than 30 tracks for demonstration and play-along.
  • My First Guitar: Learn To Play: Kids by the very prolific author Ben Parker is a very kid friendly introduction especially for parents with no musical background. The lessons cover: how to hold it, how to use a pick, tuning, chords and strumming, how to read chord diagrams. Then it shows kids how to play some of the childhood favorite songs like Wheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy and You Know It, Old MacDonald had a Farm, etc.

DVDs and DIY Courses

If you are looking for a bit more instruction or a more complete package type course, there are a few around that are good for beginners.

  • Kid’s Guitar Course Complete This course for kids has a book, enhanced CD and a DVD and it is for teaching the basics to 5-9 year olds. It also contains activity worksheets to help learn how to read music.
  • My Guitar  is a decent DVD that has an animated character named Gary, who helps children go through through over 50 lessons written by a professional instructor. This DVD goes over all the basics, like how to hold and tune the instrument, it also shows kids how to strum chords, read tablature, and also goes over how to play a few simple songs. The DVD includes a link to a bonus download tool kit wih an automatic tuner, metronome, chord dictionary, and digital recorder that can be used on your computer.

Software

Rocksmith is a learning music game that is designed for adults, but some older kids might find it a good tool to help them learn. It is kind of like Guitar Hero, but you use a real guitar that you plug into the game console using a cable that comes with the game. I’m not sure what would be the youngest you can go with Rocksmith, probably no younger than 10 years old depending on the child. My nine year old just couldn’t get into it but I have seen reviews and comments where people have said they had kids ages as young as 8 playing it. Some of the lyrics are a bit PG-13 so it isn’t for everyone. The game has over 50 rock songs to play along with, along with as well as lessons and mini-games.

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