Learn to play the guitar. The guitar is a great take anywhere kind of instrument, and as your child grows, playing the guitar is a great way to break down social barriers.

What is the Guitar?

The guitar is a fretted and stringed musical instrument. Guitars are used in a wide variety of musical styles, and are also widely known as a solo classical instrument. They are most recognised as the main instrument in blues, country, and rock music. Guitars generally have either six or twelve strings.

There are several types of guitars, including the acoustic (steel strings), classical (nylon strings), semi-acoustic (acoustic with built-in amplification) and electric.

Where do you learn the Guitar?

While you can try teaching yourself, a guitar teacher is essential, from both a tutoring and encouragement angle.

Most towns have a guitar teacher. This person could be someone who has a good knowledge of chords and several years playing experience, and is ideal for the learner.

Alternatively they may be a professional tutor, with many years band experience who prefers to take on a pupil with several years playing experience themselves, and who is now wishing to develop their technique.

Some of the larger centres have music schools or academies, where the beginner is taught in a class environment. This type of teaching can be less expensive than private tuition.

Many primary and secondary schools now also offer individual and group guitar tuition.

What age can your child start learning the Guitar?

You can start at school age up, from 5 or 6 depending on the child. Most teachers suggest 5 being the youngest, as the pupil requires reasonably well-developed hands and fingers. An ability to read is also helpful, in order to progress more quickly.

How do you progress over time?

When first starting out, the beginner will experience sore hands and especially sore fingertips. The sensitive tips of the fingers playing the fine steel strings will need to harden up, but this doesn’t take long. The muscles in the hands, while sore at first, will soon develop as the playing moves along.

As the learner progresses over time, they will develop a greater range and knowledge of chords. After learning the basics, guitarists tend to next learn ‘bar chords’. This technique uses more of the fret board and allows the guitarist to play a greater range of chords, including minors, 7ths, 6ths, major 7ths and more.

As the player progresses they soon begin to develop their own style, often reflecting that of a professional guitarist they have studied or emulated. They also tend to focus on one or more genres of music – e.g. rock, metal, country, jazz or classical.

Many young guitar players aspire to joining a band or group. Joining a band with other musicians is another great way of learning and progressing, and is an excellent form of practice as well as fun.

What equipment do you need to learn the Guitar?

Most beginner guitarists will start off with an acoustic guitar. There are several reasons for this; acoustics come in a variety of prices and music stores usually have a selection of secondhand models. Consequently it can be relatively inexpensive to get started. Acoustic guitars can be played without the need for an amplifier, as in the case of the electric guitar.

It is a good idea to purchase a guitar case – either hard or soft. Guitars don’t come with cases, these are an extra. A case will protect your investment from dust, knocks and scratches, even if the instrument is just kept at home. The case is essential is you’re carting the guitar around to lessons or band practice.

A strap is also a good idea, especially when learning. It fits around the guitarist’s neck and holds the guitar up, allowing the player to concentrate on the actual playing rather than trying to hold and play the guitar at the same time.

Picks or plectra aren’t essential when first learning, but as experience grows most guitarists use picks to help them develop different strumming techniques.

A guitar tuner is most helpful for beginners. It helps to tune the guitar, which can be daunting when you’re first learning. Tuning a guitar requires a lot of practice. Many experienced players use tuners.

A capo is fitted to the guitar’s neck and makes it easier for the guitarist to play in more difficult keys. This is not necessary until the player has a good knowledge of chords.

Guitar strings: your guitar – new or second hand – will always come with a set of strings. However, over time (and hopefully heaps of practice) the strings will lose their shine and therefore their sound quality. It’s at this stage they need to be replaced. There’s a huge range on the market, so you will need to see you teacher or local music store for advice.

Guitar Stand: is a good idea to help keep your guitar off the floor to reduce the risk of damage, but it is not essential.

Amplifier: this is essential when playing an electric guitar. There is a huge range of amplifiers on the market from beginners to professional models. A major purchase in itself, you will need to visit your local music store for more information.

How much does it cost to learn the Guitar?

For a new beginner’s acoustic guitar you’re looking at $100 – $250. For the next level up – mid range – expect around the $450 – $950 price range. For higher quality models $1500 – $2500+ is not uncommon.

While they all look the same to the beginner, the difference in price is reflected in the quality of wood used and the overall craftsmanship. However, the lower priced beginner’s model is more than adequate to start with and will last for several years.

Second hand models come in a range of prices, but your local music store will usually only stock the mid – upper range second hand guitars. Generally expect very little second hand under $250+, unless you buy privately.

While there are advantages to buying privately, via the Internet and through a retail store, the beginner needs to be careful. Unless you know what to look for, it pays to talk to an experienced retail salesperson or your teacher first. They can fully explain the guitar to you, tune it and make sure it’s in A1 condition before you leave the store.

How much time does it take to learn the Guitar?

Learning any instrument, and the guitar is no exception, is a life-long journey. However, after the soreness of the hands has gone, a young beginner can be playing the basic chords and some simple songs within a few weeks. After 12 months regular practice, the guitarist should be able to begin performing with others.

Regular practice is essential, especially for the beginner. A good ground rule is a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week. This not only helps develop technique, but also keeps the hands and fingers strong and flexible.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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