Kids benefit from involvement in the arts, particularly kids that are right-brained and gifted in the more creative and idealistic areas of study. Even my one and half year old son, who has no artistic ambition, loves making noise with a musical instrument. Somehow, he knows there's more to it than just causing a raucous, even if that's all he's doing right now.
And as those of us who grew up in the '80s and '90s are having our own kids, we're getting to see them take interest in the instruments that we loved growing up.
The guitar was, and is continuing to be, one of the top choices for both generations, despite what the Washington Post might think.
As far as guitar lessons for kids and young beginners, I'll start with a quick list of what I'm going to recommend:
6 Guitar Lesson & Resource Recommendations for Kids
I've built this article with my own personal touch, to highlight and recommend what I believe are some of the absolute best resources for kids guitar lessons online, without regard to affiliate income or subjective bias.
As a general practice, some of the guitar lesson sites I recommend are affiliates of GC, while others are not. I don't make recommendations based on that distinction.
When it comes to kids, I think it's particularly important that we avoid bad investments in their musical interests. Because a child's mind is fickle and short-tempered. They have little patience when it comes to waiting for something to produce results or entertain them. Thus, it's important that, if you're going to pay for guitar lessons for your child, you pay for the ones that are going to provide the absolute best value and return on your investment.
I'll recommend four paid and two free options. Two of them are affiliate programs of Guitar Chalk that I consistently recommend, and the other four are just resources that I can vouch for personally and recommend without getting any kickback.
All six of these guitar lessons meet the following criteria:
- Beginner-friendly, kid-friendly and easily understood by ages 7 and up
- An "own pace" and online learning model
- Avoids profanity and "PG-13" material, songs or lyrics
- Can be easily accessed online and on a variety of devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.)
What age is this content recommended for?
As I said, it's difficult to get a young child to concentrate on anything for a significant length of time. In my experience, seven years old is the absolute youngest I would want my child to be before I would start investing either time or money in any kind of formal guitar lessons.
Sure, they can engage with an instrument before this age. However, it's difficult to discern the difference between actual interest and fidgeting or fleeting intrigue.
Imaginative play, while present at an earlier age in almost all children, doesn't necessarily transfer into a creative interest in music.
At seven years old, children are starting to build more keen interests and abilities, which means you can start there when you're thinking about getting them involved (or encouraging an existing interest) in an instrument. From that point on, you'll be able to more clearly determine what your child is actually interested in, as opposed to just observing creative or imaginative play.
Though some would disagree, I'd set the bar at the seven year mark, or higher, depending on your situation and your child's personality.
A Disclaimer About Other Site's Content
It's important to point out that all of the sites recommended in this article are outside the jurisdiction of Guitar Chalk and are entirely subject to change at any time and for any reason.
While I've verified the content of each site is appropriate for kids based on my best estimate (I've even emailed the site owners directly, asking for a family-friendly green light) I can't predict your own values as a parent or the possible addition and modification of content these sites may implement in the future.
While I'm committed to giving you the best possible options and recommend products or resources that I'm familiar with, neither I nor the Guitar Chalk brand bears any responsibility for content that you might find objectionable, either now or in the future.
Why We're Looking for Alternatives
The problem with a lot of online guitar lessons for kids is that they're often extremely poor in terms of substance and content quality.
Take the following screenshot, for example:
While the content of the above site is decent, the site itself is fairly uninspiring and not comprehensive. Even as a 10 year old, I would have found this sort of thing somewhat objectionable and uninteresting. It's better to avoid putting your kid in front of something that makes them feel like a kid, simply because it will often make them somewhat less motivated.
As such, I'd recommend avoiding sites that are styled and branded like the above example. They tend to be outdated and lacking substantive material.
This particular site is free, which makes it a bit more useful. Though there are still better free options.
Alternatives to what?
I also want to clarify that we're not just talking about websites or online guitar lessons that are alternatives to other bad websites.
These are also alternatives to in-person guitar lessons, tutoring or grouped kids guitar classes, which tend to be expensive and harder to stick with consistently. While some parents might prefer the personal aid of an actual teacher (more on this later) most kids growing up in the digital age will have an easier time staying committed to something they can access easily on a computer or a phone. It might not be the most wholesome-sounding concept, but it's true.
This is even more true if your child is introverted and more likely to thrive as a self-motivator.
Online educational solutions are better for...
Don't assume that being introverted is a negative. This just means your child will be energized by being alone and working by themselves, as opposed to being thrust into a social environment where they 're already uncomfortable before even having to think about learning an instrument.
We'll look at alternatives to the more conventional tutor and guitar teacher-style learning methods, in addition to the poor-quality kids guitar websites.
Paid or Timed Free Trial Options
One of the best ways to get your kids started with online guitar lessons is to use a time-limited free trial from an established guitar lesson website. While some of these websites are better-suited for advanced or older guitar players, many of them are better-equipped to teach children than the child-specific sites, simply because of their scope and broad catalog of content.
Almost all of them provide some kind of time-limited free trial that will allow your kid to get some experience with professional-grade lessons without you having to spend any money.
Again, some of these sites are Guitar Chalk affiliates, while some of them are not.
Here are the ones we recommend:
Guitar Tricks Beginner Courses: Fundamentals Levels I and II
Guitar Tricks is the largest online guitar lesson depot in the world. Having got their start back in 1998, they are still leading the way in this arena. I've worked for them before and after being an affiliate of theirs, I continue to recommend them personally as the absolute best in terms of video-based guitar courses and individual lessons.
They're also particularly strong in the area of beginner content, offering two programs in their course catalog that were written and developed specifically for beginners.
These courses are both taught by Lisa McCormick, who has an excellent teaching presence and a calming, friendly demeanor.
She covers everything from the bare basics, all the way to reading music, power chords and the more advanced beginner topics..
The Core Learning System starts with Lisa McCormick's two guitar fundamentals courses. (View Larger Image)
These two courses are, without a doubt, two of the most complete and child-friendly guitar courses in existence. Here are a few of the topics that Lisa covers, between the two levels:
I've had absolutely no hesitation about recommending this material, both from a value and content-quality perspective.
Note that membership to the site unlocks everything, not just the two beginner courses. Moreover, you can access a free trial that will give your child two weeks, which is plenty of time for them to go through Lisa's courses and get a feel for the instrument. This means you'll give your child an opportunity to "test out" the guitar and a few lessons without you having to pay anything.
If your child decides it's not their cup of tea, just cancel within the trial period and you won't be charged.
Moreover, you've got 60 days after the trial period to cancel with a full refund.
There's a good chance that if your child is truly interested in the guitar, they'll want to keep the membership so they can continue into the more advanced content.
Guitar Gate Courses
Michael Palmisano built his guitar gate courses from scratch, drawing on years of teaching experience and a degree from the Guitar Institute of Technology at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood California.
His content covers everything from the most basic beginner topics, to highly advanced theory material that may or may not apply to your child's interests or skill level.
However, you have a number of different ways to try and/or purchase lessons that make Guitar Gate a really solid option for kids and parents. They include the following:
- Free trial (access to everything)
- Monthly membership ($9.99 per month)
- Purchase individual courses (usually around $25)
If you prefer to avoid the monthly membership, you can just do the free trial and then purchase a full course for around $25.
You can do a free trial, monthly membership or buy individual courses from Guitargate. (View Larger Image)
For example, the Blues Guitar Fundamentals course - shown in the above photo - contains the following resources:
- 22 Lessons on Blues Chords, Scales, Forms, And Tone
- 1.5 Hours of HD Video
- Downloadable Jamtracks, diagrams, and PDF's
If the blues genre is a known interest of your child, you can purchase this course and avoid a recurring fee. Benefits of a monthly membership include feedback from Michael directly, which might be helpful if your child is more of a social learner.
This description is quoted straight from the Guitargate home page.
Post videos and get real feedback on your playing from your instructor. Unlike most online learning tools, you receive personal attention. This is as close as you’ll get to having a teacher in your home. - Michael Palmisano
I like the options Guitar Gate gives you in this regard, and can vouch for Michael personally.
He's a good guy and an excellent guitar teacher. His feedback makes the monthly membership worth keeping for at least a few months, since it would give your child a more direct connection to a teaching presence.
Either way, he gives you some great options via Guitar Gate.
Little Kids Rock (TrueFire Course)
TrueFire houses a massive reserve of standalone guitar lessons and courses that are submitted from a wide variety of organizations and teachers. Steve Vai, Tommy Emmanual, Andy Timmons and Johnny Hilland are just a few of the big names that have contributed to the TrueFire database.
I trust just about anything published under their brand.
The Little Kids Rock course is hosted and sold on TrueFire, though it was created by a non-profit organization called "Little Kids Rock" that focuses on the arts and childhood education in a broader sense.
Little Kids Rock educator organization logo (View Larger Image)
You can checkout the Little Kids Rock page for more of their story.
TrueFire provides a couple of different ways for you to purchase the course. First, you can do an instant download with a streaming option for $9.99, which gives you permanent access to the content.
Your second option includes a physical disc with the download and streaming, which ups the price to $29.99.
The Little Kids Rock course contents include the following:
Little Kids Rock course contents. (View Larger Image)
The videos are a bit on the short side, totaling only 96 minutes of instructional content. However, the $9.99 price tag is an extremely generous offering, when you consider the breadth of information covered, even if it is a short time period.
Anyone who wants a quicker solution and the steeper discount should go this route, using the download/streaming option.
I would recommend avoiding the temptation to buy a disc. It's unlikely your child will want or need to use it in favor of streaming or watching it on a computer anyway.
What about other TrueFire courses?
At the time of writing this, Little Kids Rock is the only course on TrueFire that is explicitly designed for a younger audience. That's not to say kids couldn't benefit from other courses in TrueFire's catalog, though I will caution that many of these courses are fairly advanced in their topical makeup.
There are beginner courses that you could consider, though I haven't personally had a lot of experience with TrueFire's beginner content, simply because they're known more for their nuanced and more advanced material.
If you feel that the Little Kids Rock course is a bit too juvenile for your child, you might try one of these as an alternative:
- Learn Guitar 1: In-House TrueFire Course (free)
- Play Blues Guitar 1: In-House TrueFire Course (better for those with a basic understanding of guitar already)
- Hands-On Guitar: The Beginner's Guide by Susan Mazer
These three courses are all presented in the style of "play quickly" and "avoid music theory" which isn't always a method I recommend.
However, for kids with short attention spans who might struggle to stay focused on something that feels academic, these courses might be a better option because they get you to application right out of the gate.
As with the Little Kids Rock course, they can all be purchased as a standalone product for a one-time fee.
Nate Savage's Guitar Lessons Academy
Nate Savage has been in the guitar lesson game for a long time and, at one point, provided nearly all of his content for free.
He has now moved his site over to a paid membership platform called the "Guitar Lessons Academy" with the following pricing model:
Nate Savage's Guitar Lessons Academy pricing model. (View Larger Image)
It's pricey, and not my first recommendation for those looking to get out with a deal. However, I know Nate's content is extremely well done and palatable for the beginner's mindset. Even his free content (much of which you can still find on YouTube) is quite good and worth money in and of itself.
His teaching style is also conducive to kids as he's slow and patient, but also engaging and easy to follow along with.
Currently, his course includes over 60 hours of content covering the following topics:
Guitar Lessons Academy course content and topics covered. (View Larger Image)
The volume of Nate's content feels more closely inline with Guitar Tricks (though Guitar Tricks is still way ahead in this area) which helps to justify the higher price tag and the fact that you can't purchase anything outside of a monthly membership.
Membership includes community support, live Q&A sessions and all of the site's content.
It's probably a better option for a child that you're already certain is interested and invested in the guitar, since you're paying on a time scale and not a one-time fee. You'll want to be sure that your kid will stick with the guitar and actually make use of Nate's resources.
While it's disappointing to be forced into a membership situation, the quality of content that Nate covers is undeniably broad and worth the investment, if you have a child that's certain to take advantage of it. Keep in mind, Nate gives you a 90-day money back guarantee, where you can recoup 100% of your investment if you find that your child isn't sticking with the guitar or simply not using the content. 90 days is one of the longest money-back time periods I've seen among guitar lesson membership sites.
Nate gives you 90 days to try out the courses. (View Larger Image)
It feels like a bit of a dice roll because of the upfront cost, and I must concede that it would be nice to see a monthly price that dips under Guitar Tricks' $19.99 per month option.
Then again, Nate's yearly price is cheaper than Guitar Tricks and he gives you a longer period to cancel, if need be. His teaching style and broad topical knowledge make him a good option for kids who might want a more comprehensive and involved approach to the guitar.
The Completely Free Options
There are a massive amount of guitar lesson sites that are completely free to use, many of which don't even require an email signup. While getting something free is usually perceived as a good thing, there are a few problems that tend to crop up with free guitar lesson sites, particularly in the context of teaching kids guitar.
- In many cases the content is far less predictable and "regulated" like a site that you pay for would be (more chance of profanity, inappropriate content, etc.)
- Lessons tend to be poorly organized and not properly ordered by topic
- Content tends to be of a lower quality standard, poorly presented or both
The old adage that you "get what you pay for" tends to hold true in the area of online guitar lessons.
However, that is not to say that there aren't some free guitar lessons sites available that are of a decent quality and ideal for kids or younger beginners. They're a little harder to recommend over the paid sites, but they can be extremely helpful for kids who aren't sure about their instrument or who just want to get their feet wet before making a more permanent investment.
In this category, I'll cover the two free sites I most commonly recommend.
Justin Sandercoe's Website (justinguitar.com)
JustinGuitar.com has been around for a long time. Interestingly, the site has changed very little over the years, sporting the same basic layout that it did back when I first stumbled onto it in 2011.
Still, Justin has published over 1000 video lessons all broken up into courses and song tutorials.
It's well organized and very comprehensive, to a point that few other free guitar lesson sites can compete with. Some of Justin's accolades include recommendations from Steve Vai, Mark Knopfler and Tommy Emmanuel.
Justin's Beginner's Course
The first item in his left sidebar menu is a beginner's course, which contains the following content:
Justin's beginner courses covers a ton of material. (View Larger Image)
Each one of the red links you see takes you to a lesson page with a small amount of written content and a YouTube video embed. Videos are lengthy and cover the topics in full, with plenty of demonstrations and explanations from Justin himself.
Here's a look at the video page for Justin's minor pentatonic picking lesson for beginners:
Justin's videos are all YouTube embeds. (View Larger Image)
Since Justin's content is already sorted and broken into stages (stage 1, 2, 3, etc.) it's easy to navigate from start to finish in a reasonably ordered list of topics. I especially like that there's usually just one video per lesson, which makes it easier to figure out where you are in relation to other lessons and topics.
While there is no progress tracking system (typically a feature of paid sites), it's easy to just start at the top of a course and work your way down.
As you can tell from the moving image above, Justin covers a massive amount of ground in his beginner course, getting you involved with nearly every possible aspect of early guitar playing and even touching on topics related to basic music theory and technical improvement.
You could spend a ton of time on Justin's site and never make it through all the material.
While Hub Guitar hasn't been around for nearly as long as JustinGuitar.com, what it lacks in brand recognition it makes up for in production quality and topical organization. It's the diamond in the rough of this list.
Lessons are structured similar to JustinGuitar, with single videos and some written content, broken up into courses and sections.
You can sort through video lessons two different ways:
- Topical (fretboard, technique, musicianship, etc.)
- Skill level (introductory, beginner, etc.)
The topical sorting pane breaks lessons up into seven different categories, which aren't as ideal for beginners, though gives you a nice broad overview of what the site covers:
Topical lessons on Hub Guitar. (View Larger Image)
For your child, I'd recommend starting with one of the "guitar level" sections, which are broken up into the following options:
Guitar skill levels available in Hub Guitar. (View Larger Image)
For most kids, you'll want to start with either the introductory or basic categories. If you click on the Introductory option, it'll take you to the following screen:
Some of the content in the introductory lessons. (View Larger Image)
As you can see, the content is organized quite well, making it easy for a kid to start at the top and just work their way down through each video.
When you click on a lesson, you'll have one video and a written section to go through.
Some lessons, particularly the ones that cover simpler topics, don't have a video, but just a written explanation, like this one:
Written lesson on Hub Guitar. (View Larger Image)
Most lessons have a written and video component, where you can go through the video then use the written material as needed. Hub Guitar's "Guitar Chords for Beginners" lesson is a good example.
Here's what you'll see initially:
Video content from Hub Guitar will usually be supplemented with written and graphical content. (View Larger Image)
You click the small video images to play the full-size video, which fills up most of the screen and streams from a video hosting service called Wistia. Grey Arney, who is the brains behind Hub Guitar, is a friend of mine and I know that he's put a lot of work and investing into the production quality and presentation of his videos, which really shows through on these lessons.
Audio is crystal clear, while the content is presented in HD, often with multiple camera angles.
As far as production-quality goes, it's some of the best I've ever seen for a free site.
Screenshot of the Wistia video player on Hub Guitar. (View Larger Image)
While Grey's site hasn't been around as long as many of the others in this list, he has put a lot of work into the quality of his content. I also like that his user interface is linear, simple and doesn't pander with gimmicky graphics.
It's straightforward, good-quality guitar teaching that your kids can engage with and benefit from.
I'd recommend having your child go through two or three lessons a day, then spend some time applying what they've learned from Grey's instruction (the videos are usually around five minutes long). You can have your child go through each level, top to bottom, as they advance and get into more skilled areas of study.
What about YouTube?
Keep working, YouTube.
First, I am not part of the chorus that claims YouTube lessons are not as good as other guitar or music lesson resources. That's far more of a competing tactic than anything else. In fact, many YouTube guitar lessons are quite decent. However, there are several problems that come into play when you're talking about guitar lessons for kids.
We'll cover what are, in my opinion, the three biggest drawbacks to sending your kid to the University of YouTube for their music education.
Problem #1: Filtering Content
For every guitar YouTube channel I recommend that keeps things PG and under, there are two that don't. While it's usually not overt or graphic, strong language can pop up without warning and is generally unpredictable in terms of how you would assess a rating, from a parent's perspective. Aside from Justin Sandercoe's content, it's hard to say with certainty which channels you would be comfortable allowing your child to watch. Even Sandercoe isn't always entirely above reproach.
Problem #2: Organizing Content
YouTube is good at providing quick access to help with a specific question. What they're not good at is providing broad solutions across multiple topics within a specific area of study. In other words, YouTube videos (and channels) are not courses.
They're rarely comprehensive.
Even the best guitar YouTube channels are scattered, unorganized and impossible to decipher from a topical perspective. YouTube publishers take one topic and they address it in a single video. And while playlists can help break things into categories, they are still generally bad at proper topical ordering.
Problem #3: Distraction
At work, I use a Window's host file to block YouTube in all my browsers, whereas the process to unblock it is just tedious enough that I go without it most of the time.
The reason I did this is that YouTube is infinitely distracting and time-consuming, regardless of how old you are. My concentration is far better at 30 than it was at 10, yet I'm still at the mercy of the "Recommendations" section of YouTube to not suggest something like "20 minutes of angry NHL goalies." I would have to watch all 20 minutes.
And young kids are even worse. Thus, sending them to YouTube in the hopes that they'll learn about the topic you actually sent them there to learn, is a bad move almost every time.
The Value of YouTube
Where YouTube has real value is when your child wants to address a specific problem with the guitar that might not be immediately covered by a teacher or a full course. Learning songs, setting up your guitar gear or nuanced music theory topics are all good examples of how YouTube can provide a lot of value and actually save time.
But as far as an academic solution with any kind of structure or order, that's simply not what YouTube is.
For kids, being as distracted and scattered as they are, I can't recommend it as a good alternative to guitar teachers.
Are tutoring and private lessons over-priced?
There are a lot of ways to actually meld the concepts of online guitar lessons with in-person tutoring and private instructors. Companies like Bold Music and Take Lessons specialize in providing online instructors that range from $20 to $60 per hour, depending on the time arrangement and their own credentials.
The question of whether or not this is over-priced is dependent on several variables.
Value would go up or down, based on your answers to the following questions:
- Is your child a social learner?
- Is your child a self-motivated or introverted learner?
- Does your child need the motivation or perceived authority of a teacher to stay committed to a topic like the guitar?
- Are you confident you're paying for a good-quality guitar teacher with verifiable credentials?
Some kids need the authority and motivation provided by a teacher that they aren't totally comfortable with. In fact, some children can only learn that way and wouldn't make much progress in front of a computer screen because they simply wouldn't be able to pay attention.
In that situation, a teacher becomes far more valuable. You've also got to consider that you're paying for a form of consultation, or a person's time.
This is, inherently, more valuable than buying a recording that you stream from a computer or phone.
Whether or not it's ideal for your child will depend on how you answer the aforementioned questions.
It's true that I've largely avoided kids guitar lessons that are billed or branded as kid-centric. Namely, the bright colors, gimmicky pediatrician-style artwork and cheesy presentation.
And while those aren't all bad or poor quality, I'd much rather provide my child with something that can motivate them and serve them as they grow in their instrument.
Like I said, if you're going to invest in your child's artistic interests - even if it's just an investment of time - you want to make sure your child is getting a good return. There are other options available, but I believe the six I've covered here give you the best odds.