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What is the best age for kids to start learning guitar
Young kids can be taught from about the age of 5 and my advice is if the child is wanting to learn, then allow them to learn while the interest is there or ‘strike while the iron is hot’! However, the biggest problems that young kids face when starting to learn to play the guitar is that they have poor fine motor skills and fledgling cognitive skills. In other words, coordinating their hands, pressing down on a string or even plucking an open string at a required time can be challenging for them. The act of holding down a chord and strumming it is a nearly impossible task. Similarly, young children have difficulty reading music. Traditionally, music is taught using crotchets, quavers and notes from A to G. The signs and symbols that make up written music is difficult for them to process. Asking them to process notes of different pitches and rhythms several times in the short space of a bar of music is extremely frustrating for them, their teachers and their parents. Often kids who attempt to learn guitar this way this early get discouraged and discontinue their lessons.
There are very small guitars available that cater for young guitar students. Some of my students use quarter size guitars and one small 6-year-old uses a guitar ukulele. It is important that a child learn on a suitably sized guitar. I recommend all beginners start on a guitar strung with nylon strings. They have nice wide necks allowing easier finger placement and the strings are of a thicker gauge and are strung at a lower tension meaning that playing the guitar won’t hurt their sensitive fingers. It has been my experience that retailers will often try to sell a young beginner a guitar with steel strings. These guitars are unsuitable for young children. They have narrow necks and their thin gauge strings are strung at a greater tension. They hurt the fingers of young children meaning that they are less likely to want to play the instrument. I’m not sure of the exact reason why some retailers do this. I’ve heard that some say steel strings sound better but more likely there may be a slightly higher profit margin on the sale of the steel stringed instrument.
So, the young child is keen to learn, there are instruments available for them to play but there is no getting away from the fact that young children have poor fine motor and cognitive skills. In dealing with poor cognitive skills, some teachers use a system of notation known as Tablature to help a child remember what was learnt during a lesson. Often a teacher will show a student a catchy riff or phrase which the student will soon forget unless it is written down somehow. In tablature notation, a series of lines represent the strings and a series of numbers represent the frets at which the string is to be pressed. This system is seen to be easier to understand but still requires the child to work out the string and the fret and then work out where all that is on the guitar.
The thing is, children can develop their fine motor skills and they can develop their cognitive skills though this process happens gradually. The problem with both the traditional and tablature system of reading notation is that teachers require instant cognition from their students. Young children learn differently, they are visual and kinaesthetic learners. They will learn best and most naturally by copying the actions of another and they will learn to read words by associating those words with an object or image…
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There's lots of Guitar Books on the market. What makes Copy, Play & Learn Different?
The books now on the market don’t adequately address the learning difficulties faced by the young beginner. Currently, in order for a child to start enjoying playing the guitar, they must first be able to mentally process pitch and rhythm. This requires thought and analysis and asks the student to process the pitch and duration of a note many times within a bar.
A lot of beginner books make use of nursery rhymes and Christmas carols because there is an argument that if a child knows these songs, they will more inclined to want to learn them. However if you consider the tune, Mary had a Little lamb, it uses notes of four different pitches and three different rhythmic variants plus the student has to consider hand position and posture.
It is hard work, mentally challenging and a young child will often react negatively to this. The Copy, Play and Learn method allows children to learn to read music as they play and in their own time. The method works on one fine motor skill at a time and turns exercises into real, engaging songs. Students learn to play at first by imitating a visually logical pattern of notes as played by their teacher. Students will learn to read partly by associating a series of notes with an aural trigger of previously learned words, melodic or rhythmic phrases.
How does Copy, Play and Learn Guitar work?
I am a Classroom Music Teacher. Is this method suitable for Large Groups?
The kids in my class keep breaking strings. How do I attach a new string?
Watch this You Tube it will show you how to attach both ends of a nylon stringed guitar.
My child wants me to write the names of the notes above them. Should I be doing this?
No!! Writing the names of the note above or below the note doesn’t encourage the child to read music. Make use of the prompts Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit and F A C E to encourage your students to work out the note names for themselves. Get your children to discover that as the note moves up by step its name advances in alphabetical order and that as the notes move down by step the note names go backwards. There are flash cards in the back of the book that you can make use of too. Ask your student to identify the note or phrase on each card and then play it.
What sort of guitar should my child start on?
It is recommended that a young child start on a half or three quarter size nylon stringed guitar. The reason for this is that nylon stringed guitars have a nice wide neck facilitating easier finger placement and the strings are of a thicker gauge and are strung at a lower tension which means that the fingers don’t get as sore.
How come the kids don’t use picks?
Children don’t use picks or plectrums at this early stage as they are just one more distraction and can just ‘get in the way’. Children need to be able to feel the string to locate it.
Most guitar teachers use tab now days. It is much easier to understand. Why don’t you have tab alongside the music?
Getting the child to read notes is important. Reading music enables the student to communicate effectively with other musicians and eases the stress on school music teachers who are trying to involve their guitarists in ensemble playing where the guitar part is written in music. Like writing the note names above the note, if tablature existed alongside the written music most children would focus solely on the tablature.
Why doesn’t this book introduce note values or use any key or time signatures?
Minimal musical terms have been used in this book in an effort to simplify and ‘de-clutter’. Children can understand ‘taas’ and ‘tee-tees’ but anything more complex is left to the next book from which the children will study.
Why can’t I start my child with a regular Guitar Book?
Regular guitar books require thought and analysis asking the student to process the pitch and duration of a note many times within a bar plus the student has to consider hand position and posture.
Most guitar books have a lot of information about posture and technique. Why doesn’t this one?
There is a lot of information contained in the opening pages of a guitar book that a teacher will normally impart to their students anyway. As a result, this information is rarely, if ever, read by a student and is consequently unnecessary.
Should I be using the backing tracks when I teach?
Absolutely. Singing the words to the songs or naming the notes to the backing tracks give the child an immediate sense of beat and rhythm.
Most Guitar teachers won’t teach anyone under the age of about eight or nine. My child is six. Can I teach her using this method?
Yes. The reasons why most Guitar teachers don’t teach the very young is because young people have poor fine motor skills, limited concentration and a developing mental capacity that is unable to adequately process pitch and rhythm and apply it to the instrument.
Copy Play and Learn Guitar isolates and drills one skill at a time. It takes finger exercises and turns them into real songs that kids can relate to. Musical phrases are short so children have time to gather their thoughts. The children imitate a visually logical series of notes as played by their teacher which eases the stress of having to mentally process pitch and rhythm.
My child’s first guitar teacher taught my child bits and pieces of songs on scraps of paper and the lessons didn’t seem to go anywhere. We had quite a negative experience with the teacher and the lesson content. Can you guarantee that we won’t be repeating the same experience?
Unfortunately, a lot of guitar teachers aren’t trained as teachers and regard their teaching as something that they do in between their own professional performance engagements. Most of the time a guitar teacher will have nothing planned for the young beginner and will only think of something in the time it takes for your child to take out their guitar. Fortunately the Copy, Play and Learn Guitar system provides a fun, easy and graded solution to learning to play the guitar and read music that anyone with a little musical knowledge can use to teach young beginners.
When are the children able to read music by themselves?
This will vary from child to child but there are many songs in the Copy, Play and Learn system that challenge a child’s ability to read independently. Often the notes in these pieces will move in a logical and predictable manner and may only require the student to analyze one note every couple of bars.
How does this book remain exciting and relevant to the young beginner?
The songs contained in the Copy, Play and Learn method ensure enthusiasm for learning by being humorous, contemporary and exciting. The songs make use of themes based around childhood experiences such as; sleepovers, surfing, skateboarding, x boxes, football and personal relationships.
Children enjoy linking the themes of the songs and may delight in telling you that they’ve figured out why the sister of the main character, Simon is trying to suffocate him with her pillow in the song, Dorothy’s Revenge. They may also tell you that that’s the reason why Simon is dreaming about being low in oxygen in the song, Lost in Space. To make certain that children are amused there is a lot of Andy Griffiths style humour featuring dog farts, ear wax and snot.