What will happen in my child's first guitar lesson? This article for parents summarizes what happens in the first guitar lesson for your 3-year-old.
Your toddler's first guitar lesson will consist of 4 segments:
Getting familiar with the guitar and how to hold it.
Learning some rudimentary rhythms that are the building blocks of our first songs.
Getting to know you
The first objective of the lesson is to become comfortably acquainted with your child. Some toddlers come into the lesson full of energy and excitement, while others may be shy and hesitant. Typically, I will try to match your child's temperament while asking them a few questions about themselves to help them feel comfortable.
One of my favorite ways to get kids feeling comfortable and excited is to "guess" how old they are. Usually, I've talked with parents, so I know roughly how old the child is. My strategy is to add one year to the child's age. If the child is 3, I'll say, "How old are you? You look like you're four years old." The child typically replies, saying that they are only three years old. When I tell them that they look real big for a three-year-old, they tend to relax and start to feel more comfortable.
Remember that your child has come into a new building and a new room, with a new person, to participate in a new activity. So many new things can be overwhelming. Letting your child get comfortable will help them learn with much more ease, no matter how long it takes.
If your child is still extremely hesitant, I'll use some games and other tricks-of-the-trade to help them ease into the lesson.
The Instrument: First Touch
One crucial element of teaching toddlers guitar is conveying how delicate an instrument is and how to treat it properly. We will start with the guitar in the case on the floor. We will learn how to open the case, slowly and gently pick up the guitar, and stand up while holding the guitar.
Playing even a single note on a guitar is an act of incredible fine motor skill. Before your child can develop that fine motor skill, the gross motor skills must be secure. Posture and hand positioning need to be secure, stable, and well-developed.
We will start this development by teaching your child how to hold the guitar while standing and walk with the guitar. I'll use some games to encourage a stationary posture. Next, I'll set up an obstacle course around the studio and play "Follow the Leader" as I guide your child through the obstacles, encouraging them to avoid bumping their guitar into the music stands and chairs scattered throughout the studio.
Finally, if it looks like we have enough time, I'll teach your child the first four steps of moving from a sitting standing posture to a seated stance. We will use a modified version of "Wheels on the Bus" to help them remember and have fun while repeating these essential skills. Once your toddler is seated in a comfortable position, I'll place some small animal figurines on their legs and arms and see if they can sit still without any of them falling off. Kids love this game, and it helps them learn how to focus their attention while sitting still.
Alternatively, I may teach your child some of the essential parts of the guitar. This vocabulary will help me communicate clearly with your child and avoid confusion for months and years down the line.
In the coming weeks, we will add a few extra steps to this "Wheels on a Bus" song and begin to talk about hand positioning and preparation for playing your child's first notes.
While playing notes is off the table until your toddler develops the core strength, gross motor control, and awareness to hold the guitar properly, teaching the first songs' primary rhythms is quickly done.
The first songs that we learn are all Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in different rhythmic variations. These rhythms help give enough variety to maintain your child's interest as they continue to develop the fundamental fine motor skills needed to continue. Each Suzuki teacher has their own mnemonic devices to help children remember these rhythms.
The first rhythm I teach is "Pepperoni Pizza." I do this by asking your toddler what their favorite kind of pizza is. If they say pepperoni pizza, I'll say, "Great, mine too! Can you say Pepperoni Pizza with me?"
I'll say "Pepperoni Pizza" with the musical rhythm that we're trying to learn. Children tend to be able to repeat this without any issue. Then, I'll clap while I say "Pepperoni Pizza" and ask your child to do the same. Initially, your child will only be able to clap or say the rhythm. Eventually, they'll be able to both speak and clap the rhythm simultaneously; however, sometimes this takes a few weeks.
We will reinforce this new skill with a game like the race car game or tic-tac-toe. if we have time, and your child seems comfortable, we may try to learn another rhythm like "Butterfly- Dinosaur" or "Jack-Rabbit Jack-Rabbit."
We will end the lesson by learning how to put the guitar away and close the case. This segment frames the lesson very nicely; we start by learning how to take the guitar out of the case and finish by putting it back in.
I'll try to make sure that everything is clear with you and see if you have any questions about what you need to do at home for practice. After that, it's goodbye until next week.
For More Info
If you're interested in trying out lessons for your toddler,contact me! If you'd like to learn more about my teaching style, you can read any number of articles on my blog. If you'd like to know more about the method I use, check out this summary of The Suzuki Method.