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Teaching your 8 year old kid how to play guitar


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I'm scared. It's really silly that I'm feeling this way but I don't want to mess it up. I want to teach my soon to be 9 year old daughter how to play the guitar. She's been asking...

 

I've got her a Little Martin beginners guitar for Christmas and we'll start shortly after. Can anyone give me any suggestions as to how to approach this?

 

A good beginner's book? How frequently we work on this?

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First thing I'd do is help her understand that the guitar is supposed to be fun.

 

(Shaolin Priest voice):

 

Festivus3ShaolinPriest.JPG

 

You can choose two paths. Choose wisely...

 

You can choose either the a) academic path or the b) recreational path.

 

The academic path is along the lines of what she would learn in school. Learning from a Mel Bay method book. Learning notes, how to play "Twinkle Twinkle" on one string, ultimately leading up to triads, chord melodies, heavily emphasizing sight-reading. Academic.

 

Also BORING. I've never had a kid stick with that approach for more than a couple of months. Sadly, (to me, anyway) it's how most instructors teach, because that's "the way we've always done it".

 

The recreational path starts on chords, and chord changes, and allows room for more theoretical training once the student's interest is piqued. I teach a method for beginners of "changing chords economically"

 

Picture this...teach a student a G chord. Now a C. Now a D. Tell them to change chords and watch their fingers become a spider dancing on a hot griddle trying to make those changes. It doesn't work.

 

Now teach them the simplest of all chords, Em. Teach them to pick their fingers up from the A and D strings, place them respectively on the D and G strings, and add their index finger to the B string first fret to make an Am. Have them make that change, slowly, strumming quarter note downstrokes for several measures before changing, lessening the measures before the change as they get more comfy with it. Now have them move their third finger ONLY to the third fret of the A string to make a C.

 

Practice those changes ad infinitum until they can do them smoothly. It's not about PLAYING chords, it's about CHANGING chords, and acquiring new motor skills..

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This is great stuff guys, thank you. And Dak, your response is why I started the thread. I'm not sure I'm up for it. I am going to give a go though.

 

Dylan, I love the concept of tapping a rhythm first. Maybe I'll modify that idea to muting the strings and strumming the muted strings in time.

 

Ted, I think your concept of starting with an Em is really good. I tried C with her on my full size, and that's what put fear in me. Em! Yes, that's good. Maybe a G chord on just 4 strings, with 1 finger playing a on the E string, then open B, G, and D strings.

 

Hey! We're making music.

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While we're talking about guitar lessons, btw...it's crucially important, IMO, to be able to distinguish between those who want to learn to play guitar and those who want to take guitar lessons.

 

I asked a buddy of mine, who teaches at a music store in Michigan, and has upwards of 75 students or something...

 

"Greg, what percentage of your students have gone on, over the years, not to become top-notch guitarists, but just good enough to be in, say, a garage band?"

 

His answer was about on par with my lesser experience...probably less than 5%. This indicates something to me...that most folks (kids or adults) who sign up for lessons have no more motivation than to come to their weekly guitar lesson. They can't put it together. They have to be spoon-fed.

 

Most decent guitarists (and the definition of "decent" varies) are to some degree, at least, self-taught. They've had someone point them in the right direction, and they take it from there. If they do sign up for lessons, it's when they're already pretty much at an advanced level, and they want to take their playing further.

 

But, back to the topic at hand...

 

If you teach your 9 year old daughter a little bit, and she doesn't seem all-enraptured...don't worry. A lot of kids pick it up a little at 9...put it away til they're 13, put it away til they're 15, then pick it up and tear into it.

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Point taken Ted.

 

I remember how I did it. My mom took an Adult night class. She had a guitar and a book. I was all over it. "How did you do that mom? Oh I see..." A month later she was left in the dust. My motivation was then what it is now. It's some magnetic pull from God to just do it, and then be awed by the result. 1 chord strummed and that was it. "I did that?"

 

My daughter probably doesn't have that undeniable desire. That's OK. I'm feeling better now guys, thanks. This will be fun.

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As far as easy chords go I usually start off with Em7 (just one finger required), GMaj6 (just like a G but without the G on the 1st string), CMaj7, Am7, etc. Most of the 7th chords work well since you are usually taking something away. Of course, all of the beginner books start off with full major and minor chords, which are more difficult to play.

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Originally posted by Dylan Walters

As far as easy chords go I usually start off with Em7 (just one finger required), GMaj6 (just like a G but without the G on the 1st string), CMaj7, Am7, etc. Most of the 7th chords work well since you are usually taking something away. Of course, all of the beginner books start off with full major and minor chords, which are more difficult to play.

 

More good stuff... Thanks Dylan.

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Originally posted by Lee Knight

Hey! We're making music.

 

THAT'S what it's all about!!! :thu: The sooner you can get that "Look at me! I'm playing guitar!!" thing going on, the better it will be.

 

As you can probably tell, this topic touches a nerve with me. Because, while I respect the people who teach from, say, the well-respected Mel Bay method...kids can take lessons for, say, three months, drop out, and never learn a few simple chords that they'd be able to use (for instance) in a campfire guitar situation...

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Easy is the ticket, especially for kids...but anyone, really. And, it's always good to relate it to actual songs.

 

I usually teach chords (purely as a motor skill builder) in the order of Em, Am, C, FMaj7 (F is hard to play for beginners) D7, and G.

 

Once they can to, say, the C to FMaj7, I play it over and over and say "That's 'Band on the Run' by McCartney" (of course, little kids haven't heard it)..

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Hey Lee,

 

My son (age 8) asked to start learning how to play at age 7 and has been taking lessons for about a year now from a "former bandmate of a bandmate" of mine. If we're lucky, he practices once or twice a week (Gameboy/Gamecube tend to take priority....) but he still really wants to play. His teacher uses a combination of formal books (Mel Bay) and hand-written music (both tab and standard notation) of popular songs like "Wake Me When September Ends," "Come as You Are," etc. Since my son has taken a liking to Judas Priest songs (:eek: ), he even wrote out the intro parts to "Metal Meltdown" for him to try to learn.

 

At this point (roughly a year later) he reads music pretty well (both notation and tab), knows quite a few chords (the simplified version), knows proper fingerings, etc. but is still definitely a beginner. I think he's doing quite well and, while I recognize that he'd probably be farther along if he practiced more, the key is to realize that he's still a kid and needs to be a kid. He'll get there at his own pace and time if he wants to (and I think he really does).

 

My two cents (based on my experience): If you're going to teach your daughter, just give her lots of space and have a lot of patience. Let her learn at her own pace, not one you think she should have. If you know of a good teacher locally, I think there's a lot of benefit to having your daughter take from an instructor other than you. You can still work with her during practices, play duets with her (which she'll love), etc.

 

Otherwise, I concur with much of what's said above (particularly Tedster's comments). All good thoughts, IMHO.

 

Have fun!

Mark

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Originally posted by Tedster

As you can probably tell, this topic touches a nerve with me.

 

I thought it might. As I was thinking of starting the thread I wondered if the topic would be relevant, then figured you'd have something to offer.:)

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Originally posted by Red Winger

If we're lucky, he practices once or twice a week (Gameboy/Gamecube tend to take priority....) but he still really wants to play.


If you're going to teach your daughter, just give her lots of space and have a lot of patience. Let her learn at her own pace, not one you think she should have.

 

Thanks Mark, good stuff.

 

What do you guys think of combining "homework hour" with just 15 minutes of chord work? We work on her homework together every night. Would it be overkill to both pick up the guitar right after homework and just run through those chords for 15 minutes?

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Originally posted by Lee Knight

What do you guys think of combining "homework hour" with just 15 minutes of chord work? We work on her homework together every night. Would it be overkill to both pick up the guitar right after homework and just run through those chords for 15 minutes?

 

 

I think that could work fine. Just be sensitive to "burn-out" issues. If she's just come off an hour of homework, you don't want her to be viewing guitar practice like an extra fifteen minutes of "forced labor." If you make it fun (you help, you play backing chords or pick out the melody to her chords, etc.) and maybe give her a break on nights she's really tired, that would probably work great.

 

In fact....geeez...I might even try that approach a bit with my son (since we have something of the same thing in our house re homework).:idea:;)

 

--Mark

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I taught kids that age years ago and it seemed that no 2 were alike.

 

What seemed to work best was teaching a few chords to work towards a simple song. That keeps the recreational part going that Ted mentioned.

Slowly add fundamentals but not at a rate that makes it boring.

Not right away but early on try to get them to use a metronome.(Major Challenge)

It's sometimes hard not to sit there and

rip off some of your fancier licks, but if you aren't careful you can intimidate rather than motivate someone that young.

 

Keep it Fun

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With young kids I start them off by tuning the guitar to a chord. DADF#AD. One finger plays all your major chords. I, IV, and V are easy to find and they can have the satisfaction of making music really easily and quickly. After a while of this they're hands and fingers are stronger and can make the standard chords easier. Works really well. I've been teaching guitar for a number of years and started using this method with younger kids after several turns of trying to teach the kids standard fingerings, having them get really frustrated and then quit.

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I recommend taking it easy if you teach her yourself.

 

 

My folks really tried to encourage me in music, they were very supportive, even buying an electronic organ (a two manual Thomas/Silvertone that could be switched in and out of "one finger chord" mode).

 

My old man was a moderately accomplished old school parlor keyboardist; he could sight read (moderately). And he really tried to help me out.

 

(It should be noted that I was 'certified' as having "absolutely no musical talen whatsoever" by two different educators, the neighborhood church organist/piano teacher, and the music teacher at my grammar school. Hard to believe there was a time when a public grammar school in a working class town had music programs, huh? Anyhow, I was bitter then, but I understand now, why they felt that way.)

 

Even after that, my folks tried to support my musical aspirations, and my dad kept trying to get me to pogress at reading music (to this day, it looks like chicken scratches -- I can parse it out because I know what the chicken scratches mean -- but I still find myself going through the "every good boy does fine" business... really. I guess I'm just musically dyslexic.)

 

Anyhow, it was a source of great frustration to my old man that I kept playing the organ in "1 finger chord mode" and a source of frustration to both of us, every time he sat down and tried to show me what was up.

 

I give my folks high props for trying -- but I was never really able to get anywhere at all on any instrument (including the $18 guitar my dad helped me pay for [i was gonna buy the $13 model but my cousin -- who had a sweet little D18 Martin -- talked me up to the vaugely playable $18 one] until after I left my folks' house.

 

 

So, you know, I guess, just... take it easy and keep it enjoyable.

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Originally posted by Frantag

With young kids I start them off by tuning the guitar to a chord. DADF#AD. One finger plays all your major chords. I, IV, and V are easy to find and they can have the satisfaction of making music really easily and quickly. After a while of this they're hands and fingers are stronger and can make the standard chords easier. Works really well. I've been teaching guitar for a number of years and started using this method with younger kids after several turns of trying to teach the kids standard fingerings, having them get really frustrated and then quit.

 

I'm getting my really young grandson (not quite four) a little Squier mini Strat for Christmas. That's what I plan to do...just tune it to an open chord and let him wail on it.

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Not a bad idea at all -- as long as you don't let the student 'hide' in an open tuning.

 

I'm sure we all have our personal horror stories about either ourselves or our friends and compatriots refusing to force their hands into the (admittedly unnatural and uncomfortable) barre position way too long...

 

(Me, it was me... I was playing lazy F's for at least a year and a half... OTOH, that taught me a lot about what I used to call "partial chords" (no music ed here, folks)... ie, familiar fingerings of 'first position' chords moved elsewhere up the neck -- but playing some open strings [without a full barre].)

 

 

That said, the first time I saw Gatemouth Brown I had this Aha! feeling when I saw that this icon of sophisticated, hard-rockin' guitar (and a talented big band arranger in his own right, as I understand) used a freakin' capo!

 

After that, I figured whatever I did was OK... (And I went out and bought myself a nice capo, too.)

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3 ideas to consider that i think are of paramount importance;

 

Learn yourself and have a clear understanding of how people learn to play music.

I speak specifically of how our muscle memory works and how we internalize music.

 

The #1, uno, "don't mess with it" rule is "PRACTICE SLOW!!!!(underlined) AND PRACTICE PROPERLY(play the part neatly and correctly) AND PRACTICE REGULARLY!!!!"

Even if only for 15 minutes a day.

If you can get the kid onto this, a lot of problems will solve themselves because the kid will feel improvement and that creates motivation.

 

Start ear training at a young age by getting them to sing. Tell them it doesn't matter what they sound like. And it doesn't btw, anyone can improve their ears, the sooner they start the better, and the better their ears get the more they will enjoy music.

 

Something else that may or may not apply, but could make or break the whole deal is how the kid feels about the parents involvment in his/her music.

Consider that it may be something slightly rebellious or an avenue for the kid to get away from "them man" and feel some freedom. Allow that to happen by staying out of the way and getting a seperate teacher. Let the kid have it for themselves and do it their way.

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