Typically, I won’t start kids much younger than 6 years of age due to several factors. One factor, notably, is the size and physicality issue. We need to have the size of the guitar match the size of the child. The strings need to be easy to press down otherwise all we’ve achieved is instant frustration. Not all guitars are the same. The fingers may get a little sore, especially in the beginning stages, but this tendency can be minimized. This is an issue for everyone. But with kids they need to know that this is an activity to which they will be successful, and results gleaned soon. The “music making” aspect should happen quickly. The ability to create musical sounds should be observed by the student sometime around the first or second lesson. This is the focus of the first few lessons. If a child is excited about playing, they will be more than happy to demonstrate their new found skill to anyone that happens to be around and perhaps even practice without much prompting. Another issue is attention span. A half hour can be an eternity when you’re 6 and sometimes it just doesn’t work. The ability to conduct practice at home somewhat unassisted and somewhat self - motivated is another factor. Initially, practice sessions of 10 to 20 minutes 5 to 6 times during the week might be a general standard. Ground will be gained if practice is regimented daily even if it’s a short session.
The simple truth is: If they like it they will practice it. This is a concept that perhaps would pertain to all ages but generally carried to the extreme with this age group - 9 to 14. The guitar and its players are multi - media events. Thus, the music has to be hip, cool and happening. Therefore, student requests are quite welcome and if a particular selection is reasonable and can be performed with some measure of success, we’ll do it. Success in this realm basically means: “Will my friends recognize this?” In many cases, the ability to play tunes from one’s favorite artist was the initial motivation to start lessons. Believe me, I spend a lot of time attempting to keep an ear tuned in to the latest and greatest. This is not to say that that lesson plan is haphazard, random, or unorganized. To the contrary, technical enlightenment can easily be achieved if it is demonstrated that a particular technique is required to accurately perform a particular request. So, the overall objective of musical fulfillment can be obtained by way of a combination of the teacher’s desire to instill the necessary skills and techniques and the student’s wish to have musical fun.
The issues entertained by this age group, in many cases, are not unlike those that may pertain to the “Older Kids.” However, the goals and objectives of this age group tend to be more of an assortment. “This is something I’ve always wanted to do…” is a remark I hear often from the adult beginner. “Hey, this is really easy…” is an observation I might hear a few weeks later as the myth and lore formerly attached to a particular artist’s prowess or song is duly dispelled.
Another question I hear often is, “How long will it take to sound good?” The answer to that is purely reflective upon the difficulty of what and perhaps subjectively, defines “good.” Practice time and basic skill of the student would be ingredients in that mixture as well. Most people, regardless of age, are not necessarily gifted. “Gifted” would describe a very small percent of the population anyway. But that’s quite all right as “fun” seems to be universal and so, to enjoy the process of developing and obtaining a new skill perhaps is more purposeful.
Also, there are many students who may have played for a while who perhaps wish to have a weekly “coach” or help in mastering a specific technical problem, style or piece. Sometimes, the advice of friends who play or online tutelage just isn’t enough. It is acknowledged that in many instances for the “Adult Hobbyist,” weekly practice can be more difficult. This generally is not a problem for me as long frustration on the part of the student is kept at bay.
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