Playing the guitar is great for children. Not only is it good for their brains, development and mental health, it’s also a way for them to express themselves and even make friends. Having similar musical tastes and sharing a passion for the same instrument can help kids make bonds that can last a lifetime – I have friends who I've made through music who have seen me through thick and thin.
Of course, we live in a world where there are distractions at every turn, and even though playing the guitar is undeniably cool, kids can easily have their attention diverted elsewhere. Video games, TV and the big black hole of social media amongst many other things can distract them, so how do you keep your kids interested in playing guitar?
We have set out a number of different ways you can help keep your kids interested in playing guitar. From live gigs to learning alongside them, there are plenty of things you can try to keep the musical dream alive.
1. Take them to a gig
Learning your major and minor scales might be important, but it’s nowhere near as fun, or cool, as ripping a solo in front of thousands of people. Take your kids to a concert to see the finished product in person. It can help give them an aim or a goal and see that all the practicing they’re doing can eventually lead to this.
Find out what music they’re really into, and if you can, go and watch it live. Ticket prices for some of the biggest acts can be pricey, so do a bit of research into smaller acts that have a similar sound if you don’t want to spend as much. You can even sell it to your kids as ‘these are going to be the next XYZ’. Even if it’s not a traditional rock band with flashy solos, seeing a guitarist live in action, playing to an adoring crowd is a sure-fire way to inspire them. Local venues and open-mic nights can be a great start too, especially if they haven’t experienced much live music before.
2. Buy them a new piece of gear
It’s a trick as old as time. Whenever we’re feeling uninspired, us guitar players tend to gravitate towards a new piece of gear. Usually, we’ll lust after a new guitar or amp, but that’s not affordable every time we’re feeling a little bored. It can be something as inexpensive as a new accessory or set of strings, but something new can help reignite the spark when it dulls.
For example, your first ever capo can unlock so much. Even if you only know a handful of chords, this new piece of gear multiplies that massively, allowing you to play songs that you couldn’t play previously. If it’s for a birthday or special occasion and you want to go big, then a new guitar – perhaps an upgrade from their first one – may be easier to play, sound better or have more features that can help them out of a rut. Our guide to the best cheap electric guitars should help you research their next instrument.
3. Keep the guitar accessible
If your child is having to unpack and pack away their guitar every time it comes to playing, then that’s another layer of something that's not fun to do. Keeping the guitar handy, on a stand for example, means it’s just there, ready to grab. It also means that if inspiration strikes – say they’ve just heard a song they really like and want to learn it, or make something similar up, then the guitar is right there and it’s ready to help keep them interested.
4. Try online lessons
There’s a whole host of online platforms geared towards teaching children to play the guitar. Online guitar lessons can be good for keeping kids interested in playing the guitar as they can be shifted around homework and busy schedules. Simply log on and learn at your own pace. There’s a ton of great content online that covers everything from the very basics to more advanced techniques and songs. Apps like Simply Guitar are really easy to follow, plus it’s there ready on your phone. There’s also some great free stuff on YouTube too.
5. Learn with them
If you’ve got the time, learn with them. You can even share instruments so you’re not having to buy another guitar. Not only will you have shared knowledge about the instrument, you might even discover new music together, or challenge one another to learn certain songs. Depending on their nature, you might even want to turn it into a little competition – see who can learn a particular song first each week.
You learning alongside them will mean there’s someone close by so they can ask questions if they get stuck, plus it will be a great chance for extra bonding with them.
6. Introduce them to other musicians
If you have friends that play, maybe find an excuse for them to come round with their instruments whilst your child is around. Get them talking and see if they can have a little jam together. Or, if you know other parents with kids that play, try and get them to meet up and talk – see if they’re into the same sort of music.
There are fewer things more exciting as a kid than starting your first band! Playing with other musicians is a whole new ball game too, so they’ll feel like they’ve got a completely new challenge on their hands which can help keep them interested in playing the guitar.
7. Set them fun challenges
This will depend on what your child is like, but setting them fun challenges can help them stay interested in playing guitar. Talk about the music they’re really into – even if it’s not what they’re learning in lessons or books. Then, set them little challenges based on the music they like.
You can find the chords to some songs online and get them to try and play along with it. Or, ask them to figure out what key the song is in, or try and figure out the chords to one particular section, or maybe the first few notes of a solo or melody. It might take a little figuring out as to where they’re at if you don’t play yourself, but these sorts of little challenges can keep things fun for them.
8. Find the right amount of encouragement
Again, this depends on what your child is like, and your relationship with them, but gentle encouragement can be a great way of keeping your kids interested in playing guitar. Subtly steer them towards it – if they’re bored, or you can sense they need something to do, casually suggest picking up the guitar. Something like, “What’s the last song you learnt on guitar?” or, “Have you heard this XYZ song – that would sound great on guitar,” isn’t too forceful but points them in the right direction.
With some children (all kids are different after all), too much encouragement can put them off. Playing guitar should be fun and cool – having your parents nag you to practice kind of ruins that vibe. It’s an obvious point, and you’ll know how to approach it with your own kids, but finding just the right amount of encouragement can really help.