Tips for Teaching Guitar to Very Young Children
Updated: Nov 23, 2019
The Difficulties with Teaching Very Young Children.
Very young students have their challenges. Their brains are developing, and their fine motor skills are fledgling. Most guitar teachers won't start to teach a child till they're at least eight years of age. However, if you understand the way they learn, teaching guitar to very young students can be fruitful, rewarding and enjoyable.
What's Wrong with the traditional Guitar Book.
Most Guitar Books on the market aimed at children can trace their roots back to Mel Bay's, A Modern Method for Guitar published way back in 1948. This book was written to get the student playing guitar and reading music, but, for much older students. That book and books like it work well for older students, but young children struggle with the style of pedagogy being presented.
How Young Children Learn
Whether they are learning to speak, write or perform a physical activity, a young child will naturally imitate a parent, coach or tutor. They will learn to read words through repetition and by associating a word with an object or picture. They are visual learners.
Dealing with a Child's Developing Coordination.
Children spend time in their classrooms cutting out pictures and colouring in (trying not to go outside the lines) to develop hand eye coordination. Guitar teachers need to be aware of this and know that the two different activities - fretting with one hand and plucking with the other (while playing in time) is a skill that takes time to command and can be frustrating to the student if presented with this task too early.
Keeping the Child Enthusiastic while working on Fine Motor Skills.
It's not necessary to use both hands from the outset. A good idea is to work on one at a time. Open string exercises can be good idea to start especially if an exciting backing track is used. The teacher can work on instilling a sense of beat and rhythm in the student and fills a child's need for instant gratification. Once satisfied that the student is managing the picking hand exercises, gradually introduce graded fretting hand exercises.
The Developing Brain.
Young children are very much trying to make sense of the world. They believe in the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny and they are confused by the signs and terms that make up written music. Until they are told and shown otherwise, written music is chaotic. Children need to realise that written music ascends in alphabetical order and relates correspondingly to the notes on the guitar fingerboard and that high pitches are presented high on the stave and low pitches written low.
Reading Music is Hard Work
Reading music requires analysis, thought and concentration. A child may be required to mentally process the pitch and duration of notes, sometimes many times within a short, simple piece. However, if a child can make use of their natural visual learning processes and imitate their teacher, discover patterns in the music and the fingering of the pieces, the burden of reading music is eased.
When learning to read words, a young child learns to associate a word with an object or picture. Repeated exposure to the object or picture with the associated word is an important first step in learning to read. They might not yet know how to “sound out” the word but they know what says. A similar method may be used in music. Repeatedly Exposing a child to a melodic fragment with associated words will trigger a child’s memory to the note names and how they’re played. Like reading words, a young child can learn to read music, but it takes time to be fluent.
Guitar Teaching Program
To achieve the best results and a positive learning experience for young guitar students, a good teaching program is essential. Copy Play and Learn Guitar is the best available program for very young students. It uses modern, child friendly techniques designed for their stage of physical and cognitive development. It addresses the issues and implements the strategies listed above. Using exciting and engaging songs as subject matter, it comes with free backing tracks, teaching resources and teaching points for each piece. As the child progresses through the book, a story evolves of a boy and his friends and family involving racing cars, pets, smelly socks and more.
Below is an excerpt from the library of free online video lessons from Copy Play and Learn Guitar
About the Author
Music Educator, Composer and Guitarist, Bryce Leader, holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree and an A(Mus)A in Classical Guitar. He has been a classroom music teacher and guitar teacher for over thirty years and performs regularly in classical, jazz, rock and country music contexts.