My grandson, age 8, has taken to the banjo like a duck to water. He came up to us and asked how someone plays a banjo which ended up with us enrolling him in lessons. He loves it and is sticking with it, going on three months now. He has also asked about learning the guitar. My question to y'alll is, should we wait until he gets a better handle on the banjo? Or would he benefit from learning both instruments simultaneously? I don't want to ask his instructor because I'm not sure I'd get a reliable answer from the one who will benefit financially from the answer!
Thanks for weighing in!
That's great and always nice when another joins the rank and file. Bottom line is that everyone learns differently - but you already knew that. Boils down to a couple of decision points in my opinion: 1. Does the youngster have enough time to dedicate to both instruments? (without being a distraction to either/both), and 2. If you're willing to make the investment, expanding your knowledge and abilities always tend to help the learning along a lot faster. Doesn't mean you can't stop the lessons at anytime if it becomes too much. I'd say look into both and see how it goes. Best of luck.
Having taught young lads guitar and banjo over the years I've seen young players have trouble fretting an acoustic guitar whereas a banjo might be a little easier to play, look at videos of Sleepy Man Banjo Boys ... if he is real dedicated and driven, go for it but if he's got other commitments it might be too challenging. He can always pick up guitar when his hands are larger and adapt easy enough.
Also seen parents push their children to learn just a little too hard and then quit. Encourage him some and see.
At this age, I think the most important thing to do with a youngster is to encourage their love of music and facilitate their learning of same. I'd suggest that he stays with banjo for a while longer before trying guitar, but I'd far rather see him try another instrument than to put down the existing one because he's pining for something else.
If that means trying another instrument, why not - as long as the child is willing to put in the practice time and the family can afford the cost of the additional instrument.
Jethro does raise a good point about the comparative difficulty of the instrument, but that's actually not a deal breaker, as I see it - I was a small kid and started on guitar at 7 or 8, and there are smaller-scale models built for kids.
Your grandson might decide he prefers the guitar. Or maybe he decides to go back to the banjo. Either way, encourage the lad to keep playing - whatever it is!!
I would just go with the flow. If the boy wants to learn some simple guitar chords, just show them to him and let him mess around with them.
If he stays seriously interested in the banjo, that's where the instructor can help the most. As he learns, he's naturally going to be interested in other instruments and how they work, but short and simple things will satisfy his curiosity most of the time.
There's no need for a teacher until the little guy shows a serious interest in anything other than the banjo.
A kid has the most brain flexibility, and time, to devote to learning music. It will never get any easier for him than right now.
I agree that he should get the simplest explanation of guitar chords, and leave a clunker laying around to fool with. Keep up the banjo lessons and encouragement. If he wants to allot some time to fooling with guitar, let him do it. I would not add guitar lessons at this time however.
In fact, you might leave a guitar laying around and forbid him to play it. That will guarantee he'll teach himself to play it!
I started on guitar when I was 8 with my mom and dad showing me all the chords and how to pick a little Mother Maybelle, and was secretly fooling my dad's forbidden banjo at age 10.
Get him a decent guitar (at age 8, he'd probably do better with a smaller body for now), and let him tune it up and start learning chords on his own.
If he's showing musical aptitude with the banjo, and understands chord progressions, etc., I wouldn't be surprised if he does surprisingly well on the guitar without formal lessons. A whole lot of guitar players learned that way. I wonder who "taught" Mr. Rice...?
Thank you all for the awesome advice. I tend to like the idea of letting him "plink" around with the guitar, teach him a few simple chords and see how that goes. I agree that his mind is now open to learning and will probably be the easiest for him at this age. He keeps talking about how he loves music and I am very excited to see where he goes. I have to admit, the feeling of sitting and playing with him is the most incredible, I wouldn't trade it for the world! I also agree that formal lessons right now would probably not be a good idea. He needs to continue with the basics of the banjo before adding on. Luckily, his instructor is proficient at both instruments and when the time is right we can start adding on. I'll keep y'all posted on his progress and hopefully get a video put together soon.
Oh, and right now he is struggling with the idea of playing in front of others. He has a talent show coming up at school as well as a recital through his instructor. He is VERY flip-floppy about what to do. My only advice for him has been, try it and if you find it wasn't a good experience we won't do it again. BUT I feel once he plays for his first audience, he will be hooked and want to do it again. We'll see how this one turns out!
Thanks again y'all!
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