Is there a best age for learning guitar? We asked guitar teacher Linda L., who has taught young children, teens, adults, and seniors for her take…
My opinion on the best age at which to start learning guitar has evolved over the years.
I started teaching myself to play the guitar at the age of 14. The book that I used to teach myself featured photos of a 7-year-old girl demonstrating how each chord was to be played. The author of the book told the readers that he had this young student of his demonstrate the fingerings so that no teen or adult learning from this book could think that their hands were too small to play a full-sized guitar. I was left with the impression that 7 is a good age at which to start learning to play the guitar.
I have been teaching students of a wide range of ages to play the guitar for well over 25 years now. The youngest guitar student I ever had was 6, and, although he might have been old enough to learn to play the guitar, especially given that he was starting with a smaller, child-sized guitar, this particular child was not mature enough to follow my directions or stay focused long enough to learn.
A few years ago, I had a mother tell me that her 5-year-old son was really interested in learning to play the guitar. Remembering my experience with the 6 year old, I told her that I thought her son was still a bit too young for guitar lessons. However, it occurred to me, sometime later, that instead of suggesting that her son wait a couple of years (or maybe start with piano in the meantime), I could have suggested that she get her son a ukulele to start with, as a smaller and easier to learn, but similar instrument.
About a year after that, I volunteered for “Girl’s Rock Camp”, in Atlanta, and I discovered that some of the guitar instructors there taught the beginning guitarists to play with the guitar tuned to an open chord, so that all they had to do, for the purposes of the camp, was learn to strum! It was a brilliant, yet simple way to allow girls who had never picked up a guitar before to learn to play a song with a band, in just one week! These girls were ages 10 through 16, but this would work as a starting point with much younger children too.
And then, just last night, I discovered some videos of a talented young banjo player, now age 14 and performing professionally on a regular basis, who started lessons at the age of 4!
Some older adult students have asked me, “Am I too old to start learning to play the guitar (or banjo)?” My answer to that is, “You’re never too old to learn to play an instrument!” Playing the guitar (or other musical instrument) brings joy to people of all ages. I have taught beginners who were retirees in their 60s, and some of them have become great guitarists! Students who are really enthusiastic and persistent, and willing to spend the time practicing, can learn at any age.
Now, when asked, “What is the best age to start learning to play the guitar?” I would say that there is no universal “best” age; it really depends on the individual child, teen, or adult. A child as young as 4, or an adult of any age can begin to learn, if they are really motivated and have a patient, creative, and devoted teacher!
Looking back, I wish I had not simply told the mother of the 5 year old boy that he was too young to learn guitar. I just hadn’t thought enough about all the ways there are to play the guitar (e.g., percussive guitar, slide guitar, open tunings), or alternatives, such as a ukulele, in terms of teaching young children to play. Also, the lack of hand and finger strength in a small child, that might cause a teacher to look for alternative ways of playing for the youngest beginners, might also be the case for adults with arthritis, in which case the same solutions would apply.
A 4 year old child is not too young to learn guitar, an 84 year-old adult is not too old to begin, and I’m not too old to learn to be a better teacher!
Linda L. teaches piano, guitar, songwriting, and more in Tucker, GA. She has more than 30 years of experience as a music teacher, for both private lessons and classes. Learn more about Linda here!