When considering the first instrument for a child to learn, traditionally it has been the recorder, and more recently the ukulele, but the guitar is an instrument that all generations can associate with chart music. From The Beatles, where Paul McCartney’s left-handed playing of his bass guitar formed the perfect symmetry with a right-handed John Lennon on lead; to Tom Fletcher and Danny Jones’s riffs in McFly.
- The association with the guitar’s use in modern music as detailed above exists as the draw for most children to want to learn the instrument. If they can replicate their heroes, they are far more likely to put in the practice required to master the songs, and as a result, the instrument. Various sheet music books are available that show the guitar fingerings and chords required to play well-known hits, with some even featuring an attractive cover showing a favorite band as inspiration for what can be achieved from practicing at an early stage.
- The guitar has a versatility advantage over the ukulele in having two extra strings, providing the notes E-B-G-D-A-E, rather than the ukulele’s only four strings of A-E-C-G. This lends itself perfectly to solo playing of a melody line as well as strumming a rhythm. I can recall stretching trying to reach my first chords, and almost giving up, and then discovering that a whole tune can be played on a guitar with just three chords. Then, finding it amusing when Francis Rossi from Status Quo dispelled the myth of their use of only three chords in many of their songs. Three chord pieces were obviously only in my teaching book. But don’t worry about the stretch if you are a child beginner with smaller hands, because smaller guitars are available.
- For learners who wish to sing with their instrument, it is necessary to have an instrument that does not require breathing, leaving the choice of a string or keyboard instrument primarily. Then, depending on the type of guitar opted for, you may have the advantage over the keyboard instrument of not needing electricity to play it.
- From a difficulty perspective, learning the piano as opposed to the guitar would require coordination that you may wish to avoid with your first instrument. That is, the need to learn two musical clefs to play it and have the co-ordination to play bass clef with your left hand, whilst playing treble clef with your right. This makes the guitar a nice starting instrument that does not deter its learner in that respect, as there will just be the treble clef to need to learn, should you wish to progress to a tune after learning the rhythm-strumming chords. For interest, the notes for the treble clef read, from the bottom: E-G-B-D-F (every good boy deserves fruit), and the spaces in-between, F-A-C-E (face).
For the ideal first guitar, it would seem wise to consider an acoustic guitar first, and then think about progressing to an electric one later. The acoustic guitar is made of lighter wood to allow for it to be hollow and have a soundhole. Whereas, the electric guitar consists of a solid piece of wood, which is heavier to handle for a young player who is just becoming familiar with their instrument. For a more mature learner, this is, of course, manageable and does produce a very different sound through a speaker.
So, if you are looking for a first instrument, why not consider the guitar, with its associations to today’s guitar heroes, extra strings, and the possibility of being able to sing along at the same time.