What is the best age to start learning guitar or bass? Many parents have emailed in asking if their child is too young to start learning. The honest answer is that the best age to start learning guitar will vary from child to child, depending on their level of enthusiasm to pick it up.
If you are thinking of getting your kid a guitar at a young age, the question should really be ‘is my child too young for guitar lessons?‘. There’s no reason why you can’t get them a guitar right now just to have some fun with, but are they truly ready to tackle lessons and put in the work required to progress?
What is the Best Age to Start Learning Guitar?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to this dilemma. Some tutors will be excited to take on students at ages as young as 4, while others won’t consider students under the age of 10, believing that they haven’t yet developed the physical and emotional skills necessary to properly learn to play.
Realistically, neither camp is right, as it is ultimately down to how motivated your child is to actually put the work in to learn to play. A highly enthusiastic 6 year old is likely to stick with lessons, whereas a 10 year old that just wants to look like a rockstar and pose in front of the mirror probably won’t. The best age to start learning guitar is as young as possible, as long as your child has the drive and enthusiasm to work at the instrument.
Fact – 50% of children give up on guitar lessons within the first 6 months.
A young child sees a guitarist on tv, and they make it seem oh so easy. It isn’t! Many kids will have unrealistic expectations about how long it will take to learn, and when they find out that guitar is difficult their enthusiasm wanes. It’s important to make it clear to them that guitar is an instrument that will take months to achieve a basic level of proficiency at, and a lifetime to master!
Older children do have the advantage of generally having a clearer idea of what style of music they’d like to play, or which artists they’d like to emulate. This is beneficial as they have a clear goal in mind, so they are likely to have the motivation to practice and achieve that goal.
Ability To Learn is Greater At Younger Ages
It’s common knowledge that young children are programmed to act like sponges when it comes to picking up language skills, and there is a prime window of opportunity during which this ability is at its greatest. If you can consider learning music as akin to learning a second language, you will see why it can be hugely beneficial if your child is motivated to learn guitar from a young age.
The graph below plots a child’s ability to acquire language as they develop. As you can see, after the age of 6 this ability tails off dramatically, and all but disappears around the age of 13.
So taking this into account (and assuming that learning music is comparable to learning language), the best age to start learning guitar is as young as possible, as long as they have the motivation to pursue it.
Find the Right Teacher
There are many guitar tutors out there who specialise in teaching children. It would definitely be worthwhile seeking out a teacher who is used to working with children, as they are likely to have a lesson plan specifically designed to keep children entertained and motivated to progress.
When I was around 7 years old my parents signed me up for keyboard lessons after seeing that I enjoyed messing around with my dad’s old Casio. After 6 months of learning to play ‘When the Saints Go Marching In‘ and other incredibly dull songs, I quit. If I’d had a teacher more in tune with my tastes maybe I would be a piano player right now, instead of a guitarist!
Later on in life I had two sessions with a guitar tutor in the hopes that he could inject some fresh ideas into my playing. The first ‘lesson’ was spent talking about how much he liked my guitar, and then he taught me a scale that I told him I already knew. During the final lesson he took an hour to listen to Jeff Beck CDs, explaining to me why he liked his play-style. Needless to say, I didn’t go back.
Finding the right teacher is key!
Lead By Example
As a parent, it’s also important for you to help out where you can, especially with very young kids. If you are a guitarist yourself, make sure to play while your kids are around. Show them how much fun it is, teach them a few things yourself, even let them strum while you finger chords. As I mentioned above, I signed up for keyboard lessons at a very young age after seeing my Dad play his keyboard. Give them someone to look up to!
If you are not a guitar player, it’s easy enough to at least make sure that the guitar is always in tune, and encourage them to practice regularly. Supervise their practice time, or maybe even take this as an opportunity to learn guitar yourself and practice with them! Anything you can do to help keep enthusiasm high.
Music Training May Help Improve Reading Skills
A recent study by Iris Rautenberg indicates that musical education at a young age may have additional positive effects on reading ability. The study, which examined the effects of musical training on the decoding skills of primary school children included 159 German first graders. The students were split into 3 groups, with one receiving musical training, one being training in art, and the final group received no training at all.
The results were recorded over 8 months and can be seen in the graph below which shows single word accuracy at the beginning and end of the study.
As you can see, the group which was given training in music was able to increase their reading accuracy at a much greater speed, and to a higher level than the two control groups.
Other studies show that musical training can also help in other important areas such as social skills, self esteem and self discipline.
Start Lessons Later On?
The best age to start learning guitar will vary from child to child. If you decide that your kid isn’t quite ready to tackle lessons yet, there’s no reason why you can’t make guitar a part of their lives right now. While you wait for them to grow and develop a little more, make a guitar available to them so that they can begin to get used to the instrument. Whatever they manage to play won’t be very musical, but critically, it will be FUN for them. Once you feel that they are ready, then they can tackle lessons.
Picking the Right Guitar or Bass
It’s also important to eliminate any physical barriers to your child’s ability to learn. By this I mean that you should purchase them the correct sized instrument for their age. If a beginner is already slightly lacking in motivation to learn, an uncomfortable, oversized guitar is only going to push them over the edge. Read my guide on selecting the correctly sized guitar for kids.
At the end of the day, every child is different, so the only way to discover how motivated they are to learn is to, you know…get them a guitar! A satisfactory smaller sized guitar can be had for as little as $50-$100, so it’s not exactly going to bankrupt you if their enthusiasm wanes.
Now that you’re (hopefully) ready to pick up your child’s first guitar, head to the menu at the top of this page for buying advice on all types of guitars. Once there you’ll learn which size and style is best for your child, and I’ll also recommend some of my top guitar choices based on your budget.