Is 9 too young to learn guitar

Chiming in with big-time dittos for all of the above.

I’ve just started taking guitar lessons at a local music school and one of the other mothers laughed at me walking in and said, “Well, my son has to carry his own guitar!” (God, I felt old.) I’ve also been asked if I’m here to pick my child up, and is he going to be in the recital?

Every other student I’ve seen has been a boy between the ages of, say, 7 and 16. Sounds fine to me. The only thing I was thinking is, if he really wants to play, maybe it would be better to have somebody else teach him. You know? He might be more likely to practice, and either stick with it or decide he doesn’t want to. As opposed to making it something you do for Dad. Although on the other hand it could be great quality time.

That’s an interesting subject, Zsofia, but my advice on instruction would be to keep it in the family. I didn’t take a lot of lessons when I started - most of my learning has been from playing along with CDs I liked - but the few teachers I had weren’t very interested in what they were doing. I learned how to play a few songs, but didn’t really learn about the instrument or about music.

Many people here learn the ukulele in elementary school, not untypically in the second grade, as part of the music program.

Oh, I have a great teacher now! I mean, my experience is atypical because I’m coming to it with almost 20 years of classical piano experience, but I’m learning a ton. (He makes me feel extraordinarily old, I might add. Seriously. And I’m only 28.) I’ve only been taking for, what, a month? and already I feel I’m really getting the hang of this guitar thing. I know I ask the kind of questions that no other beginner guitar student asks, but I think he really likes answering them.

The thing is, I think he’s just really good at teaching, and not all music teachers are. I’ve taken plenty of lessons with great musicians who were lousy teachers.

I was really thinking I might get some pretty mediocre instruction at this place, because it’s kind of a teaching farm, but I didn’t know anybody taking guitar to advise me here and they had a nice website, you know? So I had to sign my life away and promise I understood I have to give them a month’s notice to quit and all, and I was thinking, geez, maybe going to some strange guy’s apartment I found on Craigslist would be better, and then I sat down in this depressing little cubicle with the huge ticking clock behind me… but my teacher is awesome and I love him dearly in his cute little scufty three day beard way.

I have to also “ditto” on these points. In my own experience (my father played and I started at age 8 on one of his old, beat-up acoustics, then started my own son at age 9 on a much better quality 3/4 size), and from observations of a number of other kids starting on guitar in that age range, the most common mistake parents make is buying a cheap instrument, thinking “Well, if he doesn’t like it, I’m not out much money.” The problem with the logic is that it’s usually self-fulfilling: a cheap instrument is always harder to play and doesn’t sound as good, so it discourages kids who might otherwise have stuck with it. Then the kid gives up and figures, “I guess I just can’t play the guitar,” when the truth might only be he can’t play a crappy guitar that even an experienced player would have hated playing. You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars, but do get a decent quality instrument.

Also, be prepared for the probability that your son will dabble with it on-and-off, rather than being dedicated and really into it from the get-go. If he messes with it (and takes lessons, another suggestion I heartily agree with), and then loses interest, it’s entirely possible (even likely) that he’ll come back to it again later. So don’t pack up the guitar and sell it the first time he goes a couple months without playing it. At that age, most kids have very wandering interests. (Of course, there are some who just plain have a drive for it, and focus on it right from the beginning, and never let up. But at age 9, they’re pretty rare.) Since you play, that’s a great bonus. I found it to be a pretty good father-son thing, both as the son, and as the father. We’d sit and play together, and share some time, and talk music. Good times. We still do it (my father, me, my brothers and uncles, and my son all play) and it’s wonderful family time.

As for music to begin with, I’ve always been fond of starting kids out with Buddy Holly. His stuff is mostly easy, basic, open chords; mostly bouncy, fun songs. Once a beginner has A, D and E, he’s ready to play a good portion of the Buddy Holly songbook. As others have said, the early Beatles songs are a good reference, too, but then, when they were starting out, they learned by copying Buddy Holly, too.

Good luck, and have fun with your son.

At nine he’s in no way too young to start–my grandkid is eleven and is principally learning drums right now (he just auditioned for and won the drum slot in his school’s rock band–he goes to an arts magnet school) but he also has a cello class every week (which his step dad is volunteer assisting in–he’s a guitarist and is finding the acoustic bass fascinating.) He’s been playing guitar and bass off and on for about three years now, reads music (taught it to his step dad and uncle, they both are wizard players but never learned to read) and dabbles in other instruments as it interests him–usually keyboard.

No, he’s not a musical prodigy, although he shows real talent as a drummer, he’s just been surrounded by music, people who play and encouragement and access since he was small. It’s never too early to start a kid on music and it’s something they’ll thank you for all their lives. Go for it, and make sure you play together a lot because kids love to jam and it teaches them far more than any lesson could. It gets cacophonous when my family gets together because we’ll inevitably end up with every instrument in the house being played, in varying degrees of competence, for a long jam session. It’s fun–sure wish we could get my brother in law and nephew up here for a visit, then we’d have a brass section too!

I teach guitar to kids. Obviously, YMMV and grain of salt and all that…

It’s very rare that a student who starts on acoustic sticks with it. It’s difficult. It sounds awful at first. Tender fingers are in constant pain, which leads to limited practice time, which leads to no callouses.

Kids who start off with electric guitar, in general, stick with it longer. (No guarantees on whether or not a kid will stick with it permanently.)

I beg and plead parents of my beginners to let them start on electric. Most parents, in my experience, want their kids to start off on acoustic.

So there’s my $.02 worth.

Runs With Scissors, I’m with you on starting on electric. That’s how I started, and I’ve never been an acoustic player except when playing on someone else’s instrument.

SqueegeeJr seems pretty convinced he wants an acoustic, but I may try to jolly him onto an electric if he’s willing. I’ve told him repeatedly that electric is easier to learn and play, but he’s made up his mind for some reason. I’m definitely going to try that option on him again before we buy something, but ultimately I want to honor his wishes if that type of instrument will motivate him musically.

I agree with you. I want to get something that sounds nice and is playable for him. OTOH, I don’t want to shell out $3k for a Martin or equivalent if my son isn’t going to play it or take care of it. I’m trying to find the right balance of a worthy instrument that fits him and costs a reasonable amount. Luckily, I am a guitar player, and intend to take several instruments for a spin and find something workable. I started on the crappiest electric possible, and luckily my teacher sold me his Fender (with my mother’s help) shortly after I started playing, and I well remember what a difference that made for me.

Yeah, yamaha, talkamine, and epiphone are what you are most likely looking for. The baby taylor is nice too, but more pricey and not really a better guitar for his purposes.

Also, the last poster reminded me, get the action lowered and change the strings to a lighter gague before you give it to him. 11s (maybe even 10s) will sound fine and make his life much easier.

Motivation is certainly a strong factor in this decision. I know it’s really easy (and relatively inexpensive) to rent electric…what about acoustic? I imagine an issue would be quality. It’s much easier to learn on a good acoustic…but a good acoustic might be a bit large for him. I shudder at the thought of nylon strings (unless he wants to learn classical).

I learned on acoustic, and although I own an electric…I never got the hang of it. (Purely my fault…not enough practice). But I still get it out and jam loudly, if badly, now and again :slight_smile:

I hope you’ll give us an update now and again…especially if he keeps up and keeps learnin’. I tell my students: every hour you practice is like me practicing ten hours!

So, news flash – I was talking with SqeegeeJr this evening, and he confesses that he really wants an electric guitar. I ask him why, and he says because its easier to play, like I told him. Ok, says I: what I think you really want, SqeegeeJr, is an instrument that plays the kind of music you like… and I don’t think you’re very sure what music you like yet. And he laughed and agreed that this was probably true.

And then he tells me how awesome the music on Guitar Hero is, and how he wants to play “metal”. I ask him what he means by that, and he admits he’s not sure. I think he really, honestly isn’t sure what kind of style of music he’s interested in. He listens to rock, rap, all kinds of stuff, but a really limited play list because I or my wife or the TV are what feeds him music, and myself and spouse have limited time to feed him songs, where the TV is endless recycled stuff. So Guitar Hero is what he has right now. (I knew we should have taken him to the Nutcracker last Christmas :slight_smile: )

OK, so I’ll let that ride, and I’ll go scope out some electrics and acoustics at Guitar Center soon. I guess I can rent him an electric, or acoustic, I’m not sure – I haven’t done this before. I’m sure if I rent something it’ll be total crap, but its a good stopgap as he figures out what he likes. Or it will discourage him, which would be unfortunate. Hmmm.

Fender (Squire) has been selling Made in Mexico strats with amps for around $300. for a couple of years here in Canada. They’re a good deal for the money, and if I’m remembering correctly, some of them are 3/4 instruments as well.

Runs with Scissors - I’m astonished more parents don’t go for the electric idea. Once I tell them that the amp comes with a headphone jack and a pair of RCA inputs so the student can plug in an iPod or discman and jam with recordings for hours without making a sound in the house, they’re usually all for it :stuck_out_tongue:

FWIW, my seven year old started learning classical guitar a few months ago and it hasn’t been a raging success. He likes the idea, but getting him to take it seriously enough to practice is another matter. The general consensus from speaking to music teachers is that nine is a better age to start.

If you are going to go the electric route, you are going to get a lot of people suggesting Fender Squires.

You will have to decide what is best for yourself, but I want to caution you that Squires are not really very good guitars and that (if he sticks with it) he is going to outgrow a squire quickly.

I am going to again suggest a Yamaha or an Epiphone as they are both solid entry priced electrics that he will be able to keep playing for years to come.

Also, if he is going to go for an electric, I don’t think you need to go for a downsized guitar. He should be able to fit around a full sized solid body electric wothout problems.

If you can, try to get him a guitar with double coil pickups at least in the bridge position. It will stop a lot of frustrating buzz. (its the pickups that make me dislike the squire.)

Good luck and let us know how it goes. I think GC is having one of its big slales this weekend, so you might want to check that out.

Okay, I can’t believe no one has suggested second hand yet. You can get a decent guitar for half the price even if you factor in taking the instrument to a shop for an overhaul. May I also suggest semi-acoustic, something like a Gibson?

I just picked up the darndest thing. It’s a mini traveler’s bass, made by Beaver Creek. The thing is semi acoustic with a built in pickup and it’s really tiny but sounds like a full bass. My guy has borrowed it to play gigs and it worked just fine. It’s loud enough to hear unplugged too. They also put out six and twelve strings versions. It would be a great child’s guitar and awfully handy for bike and bus riding adults. I paid $249 Cdn for mine with case included.

Good luck to him!

I don’t think it’s too young at all. Lots of people start music lessons much earlier.

I would say to make sure you get a good teacher who is both technically good and has a compatible personality. That has made a lot of difference to me.

I took group lessons as a kid and it was a total waste of money. I should have been doing private lessons and then I’d be a lot better now than I am, and am now back to private lessons at quintuple the cost of what I could have paid when I was 10. Or rather, what mum could have paid. Now I have to shell out the bucks myself!

I have an acoustic-electric but all this talk of electrics is making me want to hit up the music store … you are all a bad bad influence on me. :slight_smile:

I’d forgotten I have an old 70’s SG in the closet. I hauled it out, and plugged it in, and SqueegeeJr and I sat down where we both could play. I tried to show him a few things, but he was going freestyle banging the strings and whatnot and didn’t pay much attention, since he’d seldom played any guitar with an amp hooked up. He told me he wants a “real” guitar teacher, and I agree – I’m obviously not going to get much respect as a teacher :slight_smile: and I don’t really know how to teach someone who knows literally nothing yet about guitar and little about music. So perhaps my best role is cheerleader for now.

So maybe SqueegeeJr can play my old SG as his first instrument – its really beat (which is good, he can’t damage it much), but it plays quite nice, and has a slim neck that’s easy to finger, and easy action. He was less than enthused about the instrument, mainly because of the beat-upedness, but I don’t think he realized how much better it would be than any entry level instrument we’d get him. So maybe I’ll string it with 9’s and get a little practice amp (or a headphone amp!), and go dig him up a teacher for him.

My son had his first guitar lesson today! It went well, but he’s really clumsy and has a good deal of difficulty pressing the strings and holding his hand position. The instructor recommended that I get him a guitar strap, which I guess he’ll shorten way up and my son will use it sitting down to maintain a good position for the instrument. He also recommended something to strengthen my son’s left hand, either a squeezable ball or one of those little spring-loaded hand exercisers. SqueegeeJr is supposed to learn the open chords C, Am, Dm this next week, and know the names of things (all the strings, parts of the guitars). So I’ll help him with that, and nag him to practice if needed.