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Guitar Or Piano: Which Is Best For A Child?

Hip Kid Piano

Most kids are presented with the choice of guitar or piano as their first musical instrument. What are the differences, and which is the better choice? At around six years, many kids will want to start an instrument because they see their friends doing so. The correct choice, actually, is up to your child.

In fact, if they said they wanted to play the bassoon because they saw it in a movie, I’d let them have a shot at it. They will have more fun with it if you let them have their way with this choice at first.

But most kids will want piano or the guitar, anyway. Which might be the better choice for a six-year-old? Here are a few things to consider: The guitar is rather the more glamorous choice, perhaps because of the “Elvis Syndrome”.

You Have To Tune A Guitar Carefully

Tuning is not easy to learn or to maintain, especially for a child beginner. If the child insists, learn to tune a guitar quickly. Or get an electronic guitar tuner and learn to use it. Pianos tend to be more rugged than the guitar, which is really quite fragile. This is because of the guitar’s thin neck and the tendency for six year olds to drop and generally abuse things. It’s fairly hard for a child to abuse a 500 pound piano.

Piano Is Easy

Each Hand At Guitar Does Different Things

The guitar is arranged such that the two hands perform two different tasks, the left hand pressing the strings, and the right hand strumming. The piano is arranged such that the two hands perform largely identical and interchangeable tasks. Thus, in terms of the usage of the two sides of the brain, the piano might seem easier for a child, still building the neuron path between the two hemispheres, the corpus callosum.

And frankly, piano is easier for kids. The piano has the added advantage that it can be played fairly well with an index finger alone, which is easily within the comfortable motor skills of the average child of this age. That’s a big plus for kids who are by this age refining the coordination of their arms and legs, and fingers.

The Coolness Factor

Ultimately, the guitar will win out as the child gets older and there are more and more images of cool guitarists. Many kids, boys especially, who are faithful piano students when younger, drop it when they approach puberty because they begin to see guitar as cooler.

But as far as musical education goes, the piano is a far easier instrument on which to gain a deep knowledge of musical theory. This is because on the piano there is only one unique piano key for each note, whereas on the guitar the entirety of notes must be divided onto only six strings. This makes calculations and motions sometimes beyond the reach of most kids.

Most Pop Music Is Guitar Based

Popular music has been designed around the sound of a guitar. Whichever instrument your child chooses, music lessons and indeed all musical activities have demonstrable benefits for children. Here are but a few benefits I have witnessed from piano lessons:

  • Better math skills
  • Clearer handwriting
  • Improved handling of tasks

Let your child try the instrument they wish, and see the results. Then, move on to another if the child wishes. 


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Origins of the Black Piano Keys

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Why Grand Pianos Are Better Than Uprights

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