Having your child learn a musical instrument early on is an excellent way to improve their sense of music as well as keeping socially active. And they end up having lots of fun along the way as well!
A guitar can be a wonderful musical instrument to gift to your child, especially if he or she happens to have discovered a new-found interest in music.
Once your child has understood and practiced the basics using an acoustic guitar, he or she can later move on to other guitar types such as an electric guitar or a bass guitar. For now, we'll stick to the basics.
Guitar Lessons for Beginners
Let us begin with tuning an acoustic guitar before we move on to strumming patterns, chords, playing leads, etc.
Tuning an Acoustic Guitar
There are two important things to understand about tuning: a beginner cannot (or shouldn't) do it without a tuner. At least not for kids who are just learning the guitar. Having a tuner with you is an absolute must. The other thing is to never play an untuned guitar.
It is imperative that a guitar always be tuned properly before practice. Children can easily pick up single notes when they are played, so if one starts learning on a badly tuned guitar, the learning curve will be set back quite a few paces.
As the lessons progress, the child grows a tolerance (even a liking) to full notes played on the open strings and can eventually differentiate between natural and flat notes.
A digital guitar tuner is a pocket-sized device that you need to attach to the end of the guitar neck (between the tuner knobs). Almost all of them are powered by a simple CR 2032 battery. After you turn the tuner on, play the 'e' string, ie. the thinnest string on the guitar.
Starting from the thinnest string and moving towards the thickest one, the six guitar strings are named E, B, G, D, A and E respectively. Play each string and observe the light on the tuner.
A green light indicates that the string is accurately tuned. Slightly adjust the string tuners until the light turns green. Repeat this procedure for each of the strings.
It certainly is interesting to teach kids the guitar. As beginners, it is important that they learn the proper technique for holding the guitar, picking the strings and moving along the fretboard.
But since they're kids, this needs to be done while having a lot of fun. It's also important to keep the learning curve steady. There's no hurry in teaching children a musical instrument.
We agree that classical guitar would require a lot of discipline, but if the child is not having fun and doing things mechanically, it can affect the ability to 'imagine' sounds, something that helps a lot in composing when they grow up.
We keep the guitar-holding part simple for now. Just the casual method will do. For this, the player can sit down with the guitar resting on the right leg (left leg for lefties). The fretboard is held almost parallel to the floor. Remember to keep both hands relaxed.
The pick will rest in between the thumb and the index finger, while the hand is curled into a loose and comfortable fist. Holding the neck can be kept subjective to a limit. Kids, with their small hands, will find it difficult to hold barre chords and keep the thumb wrapped on the fretboard while playing along a scale.
As their skills develop (after about a month or so into learning) you can introduce new ways to hold the guitar and the neck. Keep it flexible but still within the technical boundaries. The child can easily pick up a bad habit while learning and once it sets in, it's very difficult to get rid of.
Chords and Strumming Patterns
Most children below 10 years of age will have problems holding a barre chord because their index finger won't be strong enough or long enough to cover the entire fret. Two things can be done here.
One is sticking to the open string chords like D major, C major and G major. They are the most commonly used chords and provide a lot of flexibility in playing.
Another thing that you can make your child do is to hold a barre chord with the index finger either holding the fret on the B string or barring the B and the high E, leaving the low E open. The child can then strum selectively, leaving the open E, plucking the other five.
It pays to maintain a solid strumming and picking pattern while playing. It's a little difficult to get it at first, but it really helps on later stages.
Playing notes is usually done with alternate picking. You start playing the first note with a down-stroke, then the next note on an up-stroke and keep alternating. This needs to be done even while changing strings. It helps the strumming hand get into a good rhythm and allows it to pick faster and with more efficiency.
Playing chords can be subjective, but it usually follows an alternate strumming pattern as well. Keep it alternate in the beginning; having fun and keeping both hands moving as naturally as possible is the best way to learn the guitar.
Keep on practicing until your hand and your fingers get acquainted with the different finger positions and strumming patterns. Once you gain a little bit of confidence and skill, you can then consider moving on to some advanced guitar lessons.