What turns a young guitarist into a rock star and alternatively what stops kids progressing with learning music. In this article, I focus on guitar for kids, the benefits it can offer young minds and the contributing factors for progression in learning music.
In today’s modern age, a lot of parents are looking for new ways to stimulate their child’s development, that is away from modern media. It can be so easy for parents of this age to hand their kids an ipad with youtube streaming hours upon hours of Pepa Pig or the Octonauts, something I myself have been guilty of. But for activities that involve your kids not being stroppy child demons for the hours afterwards then Music and sport seem to be the best choice as both can offer benefits in kids social and mental development. Music in itself is proven to improve cognitive functions, as it utilised both the right and the left side of the brain. In doing so children will building important brain functions and connectivity to help them develop socially and academically.
Guitar and the brain
Okay this next bit may be a bit boring for some, so I will summarise it for those not interested, Music is good for kid’s brains (please skip down Stumbling blocks). For those of you interested I will attempt to try and explain the benefits that music can have on people if taken on at a younger age.
In recent studies, neurological scans on people who play music regularly or as a profession have shown interesting results. Not only are more areas of the brain active, but the overall balance between the left side of the brain (responsible for logical thinking, mathematics and language), and the right side (responsive for creative thinking and rhythm) is much more symmetrical. The other interesting fact is that musicians also have larger Corpos Callosum which is essentially a band of nerve fibres that are responsible for communication between both hemispheres of the brain. So, it makes sense to assume that music can build communicative function both sides of the brain. (Please forgive me if that was not explanatory enough, I did unfortunately start music a bit later in life) To Read more about the benefits of music on the brain click here
When you think about this in relation to the guitar, you start to get an understanding on how this can be beneficial in a child’s development. In music, you not only need the logical thinking required in learning musical structures and compositions, but also the creativity, rhythm and emotive expression present in most popular music pieces. Site reading for example you need strong comprehensive skills (left side) but have the motor function (right) to play and construct the piece.
Music is also a proven mood elevator and can relieve stress in an individual. This can lead to less aggressive behaviour in children and also to better emotional development.
When a child is learning the guitar, there are a number stumbling blocks that can halter or stop progression, but the underlining cause for the majority of these can be identified as lack of sense of achievement. This actually makes perfect sense when you think about it. If a person is finding it too difficult to complete a task, they can become agitated or bored, which that will create a higher possibility of them giving up and not completing the task. (Anyone that has seen me with a piece of Ikea furniture can verify this to be true) This is the same in children and learning instruments. Learning the guitar, especially for younger children can be an overwhelming task and up to 40% will quite before reaching the sixteenth birthday. (ABRSM Report)
There are so many things in life that can occupy a child’s attention these days that it is near impossible to focus a child in any one activity or have them concentrate for any length of time. I mean day in, day out, we are neuro-programming our brains not to concentrate or hold focus for any length of time. As sit on the lounge at home with our laptops working, while watching Netflix and chatting to our friends on whatsapp, should we expect our kids to be any different?
But as in most parts of our life, a parent’s role in a young musician’s life will be critical. To let’s try and see if we can give focus, and perhaps gain some ourselves. Simply put, we should try do things for our kids that would motivate ourselves in a positive way.
Step one and this is a difficult one. Listen (even though it seems beyond your kids). If your child feels like you are engaging with them and their music, then they will want to continue to improve and impress you. For young children to progress with guitar or anything there needs to be this sense of achievement and enjoyment. This will ultimately drive them forwards and help them in making musical and emotional milestone’s in life.
How to pick a guitar that is right for your child?
When parents select things for children, first and foremost they want to make sure that their children will get enjoyment out of it and for an extended period of time. If a parent can pull off these two factors not only will they be happy that they have finally not wasted their money, but also have them lined up outside the Vatican to ratify their first performed miracle of sainthood. But for the stars to align when picking a guitar for your child you have to consider a number of factors.
Simply by considering your own child’s hand size can be a big determining factor in whether your child will be successful in learning guitar. For example, if your child has smaller hands or is much younger then it will be harder for them to grip a classical guitar as the neck is thicker than a standard acoustic or electric guitar.
What does your child like?
What kind of music does your child listen to? If you, like me, had your teen spirits in the 90’s then you will more than likely want to buy your kids a left-handed Fender Mustang strung upside down. But that probably wouldn’t suit your kid who is interested in one direction. Buy them a guitar that will help them play music that they like. You want them to become passionate about learning and they are more likely to do so if they are playing music that they love.
Let them have fun
In all forms of life and parenting we want our children to be the best reflections of ourselves. Music and especially guitar for kids will help them develop and hopefully become exactly that.