As a result of the “new normal”, more and more young people are taking up guitar tuition through online courses and lessons to fill the extra time they are spending at home. Whilst there is no pursuit more noble for budding musicians to take up, getting them to focus on the task at hand is easier said than done, especially with all the distractions that come from learning at home when all the family are all home too.
So in this blog, I want to show you how you can set up a focused, productive practice space for your child to learn in, plus all the equipment they need to get the most out of their guitar playing.
- Guitar (duh, obviously)
- Comfortable chair or stool: they should be able to reach their feet to the floor when sitting and ideally the chair shouldn’t have arm rests – they can obstruct the natural playing position
- Laptop or tablet: necessary for displaying their interactive music
- Guitar stand (one like this is just fine)
- Amp and lead (if learning electric)
- Tuner (I can recommend a Unitune – the screen is bright and the battery lasts ages!)
- Plectrums/picks – I started with 0.46mm or 0.7mm. Thinner picks make it easier to strum as a beginner.
- Spare set of strings
Optional Extras That Might Be Useful
- Guitar Strap
- Foot rest (can make the playing position more comfortable, especially for short legs. Some old books or a box can do the job too. For fidgety feet, opt for a smaller chair instead.)
- Pen and paper for making lesson notes, writing questions etc.
- Printer for printing their song checklist/tabs
- String cutters and winder (you can get a handy tool that does both in one)
- Headphones (most practice amps will have a socket for these)
- Guitar Capo
- Small mirror for checking hand positions
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Neat-freaks will always be tempted to store the guitar somewhere out of the way, out of sight – like under the bed, or in the back of the cupboard. But the single best way to encourage your child to practise their guitar is to keep it out where it will be seen, picked up and used. This is where the guitar stand comes in very handy.
The first rule of forming a new habit: Make it easy to start.
How many actions would it take for your child to start a practice session right now? Do they need to get their guitar from another room first? Do they need to collect all their accessories? Basically, the more steps they need to take to begin playing, the less likely they are to keep doing it.
Top tip #1: Keep the guitar out of its case, on the stand with the tuner clipped on top and plectrums nearby (you can slide one between the strings for easy storage).
Finding the Right Space
Ideally, we’d all have dedicated music rooms with soundproof walls so we could play as loud as we liked, but alas, that’s not always possible. But allocating a specific space for learning guitar, away from distractions and potential sources of procrastination, is hugely beneficial.
For example, if there are siblings and dogs running around the room where your child usually practises, how focused can they really be? Having a parent in the room with them is ok, possibly even advantageous for concentration, but too many people watching over them can be stressful and uncomfortable for children or teenagers, particularly whilst they’re trying to build their confidence.
It’s worth thinking about other forms of potential distraction too. For example, building a practice space in the same room as a games console is a sure-fire recipe for procrastination, making it much easier to pick up a controller than the guitar. Likewise, having a TV on in the background or nearby is only going to create another barrier to 100% focus.
If lack of focus is a particular problem, you might find my previous blog here pretty helpful.
Consider somewhere with ample power sources too, especially for electric guitarists, as well as proximity to WiFi signal if they need a laptop for displaying their music or video-call lessons
Top tip #2: Avoid rooms that are prone to temperature changes, such as conservatories. It’s not a great idea to leave guitars in spaces like this as the wood that they’re made of can warp and even crack with drastic fluctuations in temperature and humidity. You may also find that the guitar goes out of tune because of this too. As a general rule of thumb, don’t leave a guitar anywhere you wouldn’t want to be left. For the same reason, definitely avoid leaving your guitar next to a radiator, and definitely avoid storing it in an attic or unfinished basement.
I absolutely don’t expect people to be able to tick all the boxes here, especially with so many of us working from home at the moment, but these are just a few ideas that you can experiment with to help find the best space for your child.