A lot of parents sign their kids up for piano lessons, believing that music lessons will help their children learn discipline and fine motor control while helping them develop an appreciation for music. All of this is true; individual music lessons correlate with increased IQ, higher test scores, and improved language development, not to mention the joy of mastering a skill and playing familiar tunes for family and friends.
It's just that parents pick the wrong instrument. Don't start your kids on piano. Instead, start them on guitar.
Size, cost, and portability
The average piano costs thousands of dollars, and those are the low-end instruments. A decent baby grand piano costs as much as a car. You can get a high-quality Fender acoustic guitar, on the other hand, for $200 - and there are plenty of less-expensive, used guitars available for only $50.
Although it's adorable to see a tiny child try to play the piano when his feet can't reach the pedals, the truth is that the piano is constructed for a specific size of person and not all children fit that size. Believe me - I was a piano student for 15 years, stopping only when it became evident that my hands were never going to grow large enough to reach the octaves comfortably. Guitars, on the other hand, come in multiple sizes and are built to fit the child, not the other way around. (Even as an adult, I play a 3/4-size, or "parlor" guitar. My hands aren't big enough to fit a full-sized guitar, but unlike the piano, that hasn't stopped me from playing.)
Lastly, portability. The guitar travels with you, meaning that kids have no excuse not to practice. Take your guitar on vacations, to Grandma's house and anywhere your kids want to go. Pianos, on the other hand, often require a professional moving team just to get them in and out of the house.
A lot of kids become bored with piano music because they don't connect to what they're playing. They spend years working through method books, playing simple tunes like "Ring Around the Rosy," and then graduate to easy works by Mozart or Schumann.
Guitarists, on the other hand, can start playing favorite tunes - and yes, I mean pop music - right away. This means that your child can leave her first lesson ready to play and sing to her favorite Justin Bieber song.
If you find yourself balking at this idea, ask yourself why. If you think that classical music is somehow "better" than pop music, remember that Mozart was literally the Justin Bieber of his day, traveling as a teen musician and playing to sold-out crowds. Your child gets the educational and social benefits of music regardless of whether she plays One Direction or Donizetti. Don't be the stick in the mud who insists that only classical music is appropriate.
Internalizing music theory
How often do you see a guitarist reading off a piece of sheet music? Hardly ever. The guitar demands that you internalize the music - that you learn to feel chord progressions and rhythms in your fingers and your body. Piano, on the other hand, lets you read the notes on the page. You don't experience the physical understanding that comes when you discover the I-IV-V chord progression, and you don't learn how to transpose that chord progression to accommodate different groups of singers. Piano students rarely compose their own music; guitarists, with their innate understanding of music theory, do it all the time.
If you want your child to learn how to read music and follow notes, start piano lessons. If you want your child to internalize music, start guitar.
Ready to talk to a teacher about guitar lessons? Ask your elementary school music teacher for options, post an ad in your local newspaper, or sign up with a service like Takelessons, which gives online guitar lessons via videochat. Then take your son or daughter to a music store, fit your child with a guitar and watch as a love of music develops.
Posted by Jenna | Wednesday, September 04, 2013