Really Young Kids Are Already Playing, Is It Too Late For Me?

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girl playing acoustic guitar

I fell in love with guitar at a school assembly in 3rd grade and instantly knew that I had to learn to play and that one day I would. But it was 7th grade before I got a guitar. Looking back, I think the delay was good for me. I’d waited so long that no one had to tell me to practice, I wanted to learn so badly. Maybe that will be true for you too.

Some tips that might help you:

Don’t worry about talent. Much more important is this- will you do the work? Will you practice? Don’t compare yourself with others, 10-year-olds, whatever age. Age is nothing. I’ve taught seniors who’ve learned to play.

Follow that strong impulse if it means something to you. Focus on what you’re learning, not on what other players can do. Practice a lot. Encourage yourself and keep at it. Be patient and treat yourself with kindness. Remember the music that made you want to play in the first place.

If you haven’t yet put your fingers on the strings, your first impression will be one of awkwardness and pain. Not horrible pain, but there’s definitely a 2–3 week “Ouch!!” phase while your fingertips toughen up and you get used to pressing down the strings.

This is usually easier on an electric guitar than an acoustic, but it means you need an amp and guitar cable, too. I started on an inexpensive nylon string guitar, which is also easier on the fingers than a steel string acoustic. But no matter what kind of guitar you play, you’ll need to toughen up your fingertips.

If you practice 15 minutes a day for 2–3 weeks, really practice, with your fingertips on the guitar most of that time, you’ll be out of the “ouch” phase soon. It’s important get it behind you fast. Don’t let it drag on through lack of practice. I’ve taught a lot of people to play. In my experience, if that phase gets stretched out past a few weeks, your enthusiasm drops off. You’re discouraged, your fingertips are sore, and eventually you won’t pick up your guitar anymore. Get past the ouch as fast as possible. It gets massively better after that.

Do you have long nails? If you do and you want to keep them, you’ll have to learn to play differently than the usual approach. That’s because long nails interfere with your ability to press down the strings. They force you to play flat-fingered instead of on your fingertips.

I finally got tired of dealing with the long nail issue in my teaching and decided to offer an alternative approach for my students who insist on keeping their long nails- learning in Open D tuning (D A D F# A D) instead of standard (E A D G B E). You should realize that you’ll be able to do LOTS more on guitar with short nails. But there is a decent workaround if you feel you need it. Here’s a link to my YouTube channel that you might find useful for either tuning- Lesley Diane Guitar on YouTube.

A big early hurdle for me was the cost of a guitar and lessons. This was a very long time ago, though. That picture is so much better now. If you don’t yet have a guitar, you’ll need to decide on acoustic or electric. Electric guitars are usually easier to play, and if you prefer that sound and enjoy effects, that’s a good choice. I’m an acoustic player, primarily, and that’s what I learned on. I love the sound of acoustic guitar and the singer-songwriter genre. If you go the acoustic route, check out this website- Orangewood Guitars. I stumbled across them on YouTube and have bought two of their low end instruments- one for $125, one for $175. (Edit: sorry, was $195 minus a 10% promo code.) Excellent price, set up is great right out of the box, and a nice gig bag is included. They don’t offer electric guitars yet. But I’ve never seen as much value for money anywhere else in low end guitars.

Many excellent ways to learn anything now, including YouTube. If you can work with a good teacher, at least in the early days, it will be a big help. If it’s a good match, you’ll have someone encouraging you through the early challenges, plus you’ll have someone keeping an eye out so you don’t develop bad playing habits you’ll have to change later. Use the best resources you have available and can afford. That includes good YouTube content available for free, online instructors, or an in-person teacher when it’s safe to do in-person lessons. Many great options for learning!

You’re young. You’re so young that if you start now, do the practice and get past the early challenges, you’ll have the gift of music-making to enjoy for almost your entire life. It’s a priceless gift. I wish you every success and much joy in your guitar journey!