Learning The Electric Guitar - Electric Guitars For Kids?

Many children are interested in learning to play a musical instrument. Sometimes they are able to benefit from the experience at school, other times they may be given the opportunity to attend lessons with a private tutor. There is a multitude of intstruments to choose from - flute, clarinet, violin, viola, piano and trumpet are all common, traditional choices. Learning to play a musical instrument is a very worthwhile experience - there is even some evidence to suggest that the ability to play an instrument may even improve a child's skills in mathematics. However, though a lot of children may feel inspired to learn an instrument, some will be turned off by the traditional instruments and the leaning towards classical music. Some children just like being 'cool', developing a passion to try other, perhaps more funky instruments, fuelled by the modern bands they see on TV.

The Electric Guitar For Children?

My son developed an interest in learning to play the guitar when he was just seven years old. And not just the plain old acoustic guitar, mind, but the electric sort. I believe this idea was planted in his mind when he became a fan of a popular boy band. He began asking and asking for an electric guitar.

It was a long time before we actually bought him one. After all, electric guitars do not exactly come cheap, and he was already having violin lessons. But although it had been his own idea to learn to play the violin, after discovering an old one tucked away in his grandmother's house, he was not overly enthusiastic about it.

My son, you see, likes to be cool. He likes cool clothes, cool toys, cool music...and cool musical instruments. And though I am not one to dampen a child's creative passions, my son is certainly a child who is always after something or other....the next big thing, a new five minute wonder.

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Acoustic Or Electric

My idea was that he could begin by learning the acoustic guitar - after all, acoustics are very cheap in comparison so it wouldn't really matter if his interest wore off. He wasn't having that, though. Apparently, acoustic guitars are not cool....well, not enough for him, anyhow. I did get where he was coming from, though. He loved the sound of the electric guitar, the funky, jazzy, cool sound that comes out of it. of course he was right - the two instruments, though played the same, are simply quite different. Another point that should be considered is that the electric guitar has a much slimmer neck than the acoutisc, meaning that it might actually be that much easier for your child to play.

And really electric guitars are not that expensive, when compared to many of the other popular instruments, such as the flute, clarinet, trombone, trumpet and, especially piano. We decided he could have one for his eighth birthday, some months later, if he was still interested by the time it came around.

Which Electric Guitar For Children?

If you are going to purchase an electric guitar for your child, it is important that you buy an instrument of reasonable quality that is also the correct size for your child. Children are unlikely to be able to manage a full size electric guitar, so you will probably need to purchase a 3/4 size. My son observed several electric guitars he liked in the windows of music shops, all apparently good value and obviously geared towards the younger market by the designs embellished upon them. I think the one he liked bore a skull and crossbones. They all came with amplifiers included in the price and this is what we almost bought him.

But then, after considerable research, we realized that the quality of these guitars were just not up to scratch when compared to other makes, so after a great deal of thought we purchased the Fender Squier Mini Strat, which is a 3/4 size guitar.

The Fender Squier Mini Strat

The Fender Squier Mini Strat guitar is perfect for children aged approximately 7 -11. As electric guitars go, it is not too expensive - in fact, only slightly more than the skull and crossbones design which research had swayed us away from. Fender are a well known and trusted manufacturer of guitars, and the Mini Strat means that the smaller hands of children can reach around the neck and play easily. Though it might seem better value for money to purchase a full size, it really isn't, because if your child cannot reach around the neck of the guitar and hold it properly then they will quickly develop a negative attitude towards the instrument. Children want something that they can play right away, not in a couple of years when they have 'grown into it'. However, if your child is around ten or more, or is very big for their age, then you might want to reconsider.

The Fender Squier is a good quality guitar with a great sound. My son's guitar tutor has remarked several times on the exellence of this instrument, and, as both an excellent guitarist and tutor, who plays in a long-standing band, I trust his opinion completely. He compared it to a cheaper guitar used by another young pupil, which was apparently so bad it was almost impossible to get a decent sound out of it. Not so with the Squier. My son has had this guitar for two years now and it has been nothing but great. So it's thumbs up to the Fender Squier Mini Strat!

Finding a Guitar Tutor

For us, finding a suitable guitar tutor for our son was perhaps the most difficult thing of all, albeit the most important. There are many, many guitar tutors in the world - some will teach acoustic only, some will teach electric. However, though these tutors may well be fantastic players themselves, it does not guarantee that they will be at all adequate when teaching children.

In many ways, it can seem harder to find a guitar tutor for children than a tutor for other instruments. I think this is because many tutors simply don't seem to have experience teaching children. Some of them may just be youngish guitarists tutoring alongside playing in a band. Also, a typical student of the guitar is likely to be a teenage boy, looking up to his idols. But teaching a teenager is very different to teaching a child. Children need to be guided in an inspiring but fairly simplistic way, otherwise they may struggle with the lesson, spoiling their enjoyment. Some tutors will not take on children at all, and even if they do, may not know how to construct a lesson for a child. Our first tutor turned out to be a no-no. Though young and cool, he could not put across the lesson in a way that my son understood. Also, he wanted my son to tell him the music he wanted to learn, and as my son was only just eight, he really had little idea.

The best thing to do, unless you have a recommendation,is to contact several tutors in your area and discuss your requirements for your child before you make a decision. The guitar tutor my son has now has his own children of a similiar age, so I knew, at least, that he would be able to relate to my son on his own level. He also displays his CRB certificate, which is always a plus side when children are involved. And I must add that he really is a wonderful tutor - he has inspired my son greatly, and his guitar playing has really come on brilliantly.

Electric Guitar is Not Boring

Indeed, learning to play the electric guitar is definitely not boring. Not only does it have a cool, funky sound which certainly appeals to boys, especially, it is an instrument which may well be there for keeps. So many children take up the violin, piano, flute, etc. yet after a few years suddenly decide that is no longer cool or interesting. So they end up quitting, in most cases never looking back or playing again. It is a very common scenario, particularly when a child starts to approach the teenage years.

The electric guitar, however, is one of those instruments that remains cool, into the teenage years and beyond. A teenager who can already play the guitar will certainly impress his peers, and just think about all those bands teenagers start up, with all the dreams of youth.

Perhaps another point about learning the guitar is that lessons seem to be very adaptable. A good tutor wants to teach a student to play stuff he actually likes, which hopefully means that practising is fun and not a chore.  Of course, ability has to be considered, yet even the most difficult tracks can often be adapted to suit the guitarist.  Even when my son had only just started with the electric guitar, he learned to play the James Bond theme tune.  Actually that is pretty easy, yet he was so happy because it was a tune he knew and loved, and it was his own fingers making the music.  It really is important for children to like the music they are playing, as much as possible - children are rarely proud of tunes they don't much like.

Since the infamous Bond tune, my son has played everything from classics like Oasis, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Guns 'n' Roses, AC/DC and Queen, to modern chart bands, the flamenco, Happy Birthday and Christmas carols.  He has gone from strength to strength and not for one moment do we regret letting him play the electric guitar.  All the boys at school think it's really cool and I definitely think it is here to stay  - unlike the violin, which got ditched after a couple of years complaining the 'boring' songs and tedious practising.  I would certainly agree that the electric guitar is a very suitable instrument for a child.

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