My daughter came to me today. At 7 years old she asked if she could learn to play the guitar. She has mentioned it to me before in passing, but never so pointed. So I said, “Of course” …without being too overwhelming with the prospects of her learning something I love. She expressed interest and my goal was to give her as much or as little as she wanted. I wanted her to set the boundaries.
We pulled out the smallest little cheap guitar in the house that will fit her small frame and I grabbed my beginner guitar book that I’ve been slowly going through myself. While I have struggled to work through this book while learning to read music, my daughter has already spent the last nine months taking piano lessons. She easily read the notes on the staff. Then I showed here where the E, F, and G notes are on the first (high E) string. I showed her how to place her fingers on the frets and how to hold her thumb on the back of the neck. She loved playing the “open E” because it was so easy. She could play the G note (third fret on the first string) easily, but the F note on the first fret took some time. She wasn’t pressing at the right angle or hard enough so it just made a clunking noise.
The beautiful thing about this whole experience was that she wanted to learn it. She kept trying. She determined what she wanted to learn and how. She showed me that using the tip of her finger and not the fleshy flat part made plucking the string sound better. I gave her a guitar pick and she sincerely thanked me for it.
She then sat alone trying to play those three notes consistently. To make them sound good. She didn’t try to learn songs. She didn’t try to learn everything…and I didn’t try to teach her everything I’ve ever thought about the guitar. She just enjoyed playing those three notes and we both agreed that she would learn a few more notes (maybe the next string!) next time.
I presume her piano lessons have given her this discipline and patience. She knows that she has to learn one part at a time. She isn’t perfect by any means with the piano. And there are times with her piano lessons when we have to require she practices each day before she can do some “fun” activity. But she can play anytime she wants to (unless it is a delay tactic to avoid going to bed at night). And she does play for fun. Sometimes she gets so emotional that she goes to the piano just to get it out. Her exposure to a long term learning process is going to really help her in the life, whether or not she sticks with the guitar. We could all learn a lot from this.
And when she went to bed tonight she asked if she could keep the little guitar in her bedroom.
“Of course,” I said, “…just don’t play it. You need your sleep because tomorrow is a school day!”