Playing the guitar

Getting started with the right instrument

The benefits of playing an instrument go further than the enjoyment of music. Here Sally Phillips provides some useful guidance for helping parents and teachers choose the right guitar for their children: “a very good place to start.”

Boosting learning

Learning to play an instrument can be much more than just a pleasurable hobby – it can actually make a huge difference to a child’s overall learning, boosting their memory and certain brain functions. In addition, music lessons could also have a significant impact on the development of a student’s cognitive skills.

Of course, learning to play an instrument like the guitar provides a life-long enjoyment which is reason enough to get started, but there are significant academic benefits too. There has been considerable research into the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument, especially for children. One Canadian study found that students who undertook music classes consistently achieved better grades and test scores across all subjects, compared to those who didn’t.

Benefits of teaching music in school

Studies have found a link between music and maths, suggesting that that musicians process music in the same way that people process algebra. And of course, plucking the strings on a guitar teaches children about basic physics and harmonic and sympathetic vibrations. There’s also been research into how learning to play the guitar at school, can improve a child’s memory and behaviour.

Studies found that learning to play an instrument increases the size of the left side of the brain, helping students remember up to a fifth more information. Furthermore, the parts of the brain controlling hearing, memory and the hands, also become more active. This leads to growth and a positive difference in the structure of the brain.

Getting started with the guitar

Learning to play the guitar can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important that a child starts with the right guitar. Size, type and quality of the guitar are all important for children to succeed in learning to play and enjoying benefits that last a lifetime.

Which size?

It’s important that when a child starts learning to play, the guitar they use is the right size for them. The key thing to remember is comfort. If they are not comfortable, they will have difficulty concentrating and be unable to play properly. Let the child try different sized guitars to see which suits them and which they will be most comfortable playing.

Which type of guitar?

An acoustic guitar is very adaptable and a good instrument for a child to starting learning. There are two main types of acoustic guitars, the classical and the steel-string guitar. Classical guitars are great for smaller hands and nylon strings are easy to play. The steel-string guitar might be more difficult for young children to play, as it requires more strength from the fingers, to hold down the strings. The steel strings can feel quite abrasive too. The steel-string guitar’s sound is louder than that of a nylon string.

A good investment

Whether a school already has a collection of guitars to lend to children or you are looking for a specific guitar for a certain child, it’s important to get it right. Let them hold and feel the guitar and make sure they feel comfortable and confident with it. If they continue to play, as they get older, their first guitar will become something they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Sally Phillips

Sally is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas.  When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, playing music, spending time with her family and travelling as much as possible.

She collaborates with  Guitar Fella – see more about choosing a guitar for children on their website which has some great advice for getting involved in learning and playing a whole range of guitars – acoustic and electric.

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