Finding the right guitar books and supplements can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be well on your way!
When your kids begin to study the guitar it might seem challenging to find an appropriate lesson book that works for them. Fortunately, most teachers will be familiar with a variety of curriculum books and should be able to provide recommendations for you. Use them as your point of reference so you avoid purchasing multiple books unnecessarily.
But even as a teacher, it can still be a difficult to find the right books to get your child started, depending on their age and personality. I know many teachers who don’t use standardized lesson books at all, for this very reason. (I’ve been in that camp before. Now I use combination methods to achieve optimum results.) In my experience, the majority of kids do actually end up “feeling” better about their progress when they use lesson books (whether or not they realize it), because the structure allows them to see their marked improvement, which is actually very important for the to want to continue trying.
My students respond best to the following guide books:
Ages 12 and under
Alfred’s Kids Guitar Course is top-notch. The pictures are big and the instructions are clear. I’ve found the same book works as well for a 5 year old as it does for a 12 year old, which is a rare and wonderful surprise. It is a very simple, starter book. But they will feel like they can play something on guitar right away. They’ll also be able to see their progress, which is half the battle.
I start with Alfred’s Kids Guitar Course but I also like to introduce Grant Gustafson’s The Art of Guitar: Beginning Classic Method at the same time. The Gustafson book is not an easy read for children, but with some guidance from a parent or teacher, this is simply a magical learning book for all ages. My favorite thing about this book is that it combines a lot of different types of guitar notation, theory, and it does a great job explaining rhythm better than I’ve seen in done in other books.
Ages 12+ (adults too!)
Working through Grant Gustafson’s The Art of Guitar: Beginning Classic Method is a great place to begin. Your child will likely want to learn popular chords to their favorite songs in addition to a book like this. There is also a basic chord chart in the back of this book which they can use to learn on their own, or I like to give students a “quick wins” with songs they’ve heard by getting them started in Hal Leonard’s Strum & Sing 5 Chord Songbook.
Note: Because neither of these two books aren’t necessarily always available in stores, you will likely have to order them online or ask your local music shop to order them for you.
Additional Tips Getting Started:
Music theory concepts are easier to see on the piano than any other instrument. I advise my guitar students to also take beginner piano lessons or incorporate 10 minutes of piano into their guitar lessons. If the teacher is willing to do this, your child will have a much better comprehension of music theory and utilize those skills faster, even if they are not interested in making the piano their primary instrument of study.
I require all my students to take piano regardless of their primary instrument. And I’m partial to using keyboards with weighted keys for piano lessons because they build finger strength, which is also beneficial for guitar. But, you don’t need to buy anything glamorous. Anything that will work for learning the basics will be suitable for your child’s needs.