Lately, I had many requests for private guitar lessons for children around 6. Usually at that point, the fingers are not strong enough and dexterity is not evolved enough to press down the strings in the right spot with the right amount of pressure with one hand while performing a different action – strumming or picking – with the other hand. Starting to play the guitar is quite tricky and having patience is definitely helpful. Parents expectations for young guitar students can sometimes be a little high.
The young student definitely can have a fun, meaningful music experience and already learn various techniques and play singe string melodies and riffs, though learning full songs and relatively complex chords is usually out of reach for the student at that age. From the age of 8 or 9 onward, the fingers and hands and dexterity in general has developed to a point that the private guitar student can learn full songs and start practicing scales.
The piano is entirely different in this respect. Anyone at any age, regardless if they are 3 or 93, can press down a single note on the piano and make a pleasant sound. Private piano lessons can start at the early age of 3 – I have friends who started playing recitals and competitions at the age of 4 (not that I am a huge proponent of music competitions for most students) and enjoyed the process. Students are able to play melodies, simple pieces and easy songs from an early age on.
The piano brings together elements of rhythm, melody and accompaniment and could be described as the most “complete” instrument, which teaches the student about many aspects of music in practice and in theory. Private piano lessons can focus on playing and also introduce the element of reading music quite early on.
Having said that, the piano requires the student to sit down for longer periods of time and concentrate on small finger, wrist and hand movements. Especially for many boys, a more physical instrument which requires more of the body to engage with the music are the drums. Just to clarify – I have many good female drum students, but speaking from personal experience and taking into account the findings of studies, a greater percentage of boys have have a harder time to sit still and focus on a “small” task.
The drums engage the whole body and bigger movements are needed. They teach the music student about rhythm, tempo and also about listening to music and engaging with other musicians, as the drums are primarily not a solo instrument. Playing songs with recorded music or performing music tracks with other musicians are part of the learning process. Similarly to the piano, hitting a drum or a cymbal produces the “right” sound right from the start, so starting at the age of 3 or 4 is made easier.