Odds are that if your child is taking guitar lessons, your child chose to play the instrument. Unlike stringed instruments, piano, and classical instruments, kids usually choose to start playing guitar. Kids guitar lessons are a great start, especially when they are geared to your child’s age, but the only way your child will really progress with the guitar is through regular practice.
Practicing is a unique challenge when it is an instrument that a child chooses to play. People tend to take up the guitar imagining they are going to sound like a rock star in no time. It won’t take long for the disillusionment to settle in, and kids can be particularly susceptible to feeling discouraged by a lack of progress. Also, setting up a strict practice regiment can do as much harm as good. Your child wants to play for fun, so practicing needs to be regular and enjoyable.
The Minimum Recommendation
Your child should practice regularly, just like a student in band or orchestra. Students should average between two and three hours a week. The recommended time is 20 minutes a night, six days a week; however, this can be difficult to fit into your schedule.
If it is not possible to work 20 minutes into a day, students can break it up, spending half an hour to 45 minutes each day of the weekend, then getting in 15 to 20 minutes on three week days.
If there is additional time to spare during the weekends, your child will see better results by practicing closer to five hours a week. Having a day or two every week to get lost in the music and ignore the clock is one of the best ways to both inspire a budding musician and to think of practicing as a pleasant experience instead of a chore.
During your child’s guitar lessons, the focus will be on execution and technical aspects, so they might focus less on the music itself. The best time for your student to get lost in the music is when he or she is alone and practicing.
Steady Practice vs. Practice in Bursts
The thing to keep in mind is that practice is most effective when done regularly. While your child can get a lot done by practicing an hour both weekend days, if they don’t practice the other five days a week, improvements will be slower to show. Like anything else, regular practice is always better than occasional long sessions.
Staying Motivated to Practice
There should be something about practice sessions that makes them fun for children. This is something to discuss after your kids guitar lessons. Their guitar teacher can recommend what would be most beneficial at each particular phase in the learning process. What you can do will depend in part on your own musical skills.
If you are not musically inclined, set up time every week for a “concert” to give your child an audience. Make sure to praise your child’s progress. Point out the things you noticed that showed a better understanding of the guitar, even if it is as simple as playing steadier or not needing the sheet music. Encouraging words can give your child a reason to keep practicing. You can even invite friends and family over occasionally so your child has a real audience.
If you play a musical instrument, join in with your child a couple of days a week. Have a duet session to make it feel more like a band since that was probably what inspired your kid to start playing. If you don’t play but are comfortable singing, you can sing while your child plays. Musical collaboration is something that can really inspire children to keep going with their instrument, because there is an amazing sense of accomplishment.
Signing up your child for guitar lessons is a great first step. Your child will learn the basics and will be given music that is appropriate for his or her current skill level.
Plus, a guitar teacher will offer encouragement and criticism to help your child improve. However, without practice, your child’s skills will remain nearly unchanged. Two to three hours a week is the minimum amount of practice needed to start really seeing results. The practice should span at least four days, but is best when done six days a week. Helping your child stay motivated to practice will go a long way to convincing your child to practice more often.
Photo by Douglas Pimentel