Children’s Guitar: Learning for Life
Children benefit so much from learning to do something well—developing a skill and a passion that gives them confidence, through which they will be able to express themselves and upon which they will be able to build communication skills and relationships and for the rest of their lives.
Teaching them how to trust in their own inspiration, their own tastes, and their own ability to master and excel at something that may seem impossible at first, and to share the joy of music with their friends and family is a priceless gift.
I’m an experienced teacher of children and teenagers in New York, NY, where I got a graduate performance degree from the Juilliard School, and was the faculty guitar teacher for Marymount School (Pre-K through High-school) from 1996 through 2021. Now I teach privately both online and in person from my studio in Tucson.
How do you get children to practice?
Playing music that they love, learning songs or pieces that they are drawn to, get excited about and want to master.gets kids practicing more surely than anything else.
This is true for all of us, by the way.
This is why I believe in inspiring them to practice, not forcing them to do so. Even though discipline and rules have their place for children, pushing them too hard takes the joy out of music.
I give them music they like from the outset, and get them playing music they truly love as soon as possible. Once they have a few rudimentary skills under their fingers, I shift the curriculum to include songs they choose for themselves, providing them with easy versions that they can handle. This is when things really take off for them.
Child’s Drawing of a Guitar
Do you have a curriculum, or a set of standards, with note-reading, music theory, technical exercises, scales, warm-ups, competitions, all of that? I want my kid to measure up to standards, and to progress according to an established, step by step method.
Basics are important. There are steps and stages to learning a musical instrument. I include this understanding in all of my teaching and apply it in each lesson.
That said, over the years, I’ve seen that throwing too many elements and requirements at a budding musician, especially without context, often results in frustration and eventually quitting.
I’m interested in fostering internal motivation. I find that every kind of musical accomplishment comes with time if the student is interested in pursuing it, in which case they will be able to measure up to anything they set their minds and hearts to mastering. Uninspired step-by-step methods turn out uninspired step-by-step musicians. Everyone learns differently, and I only use methods as a framework to inform myself in order to guide each student through their own process on an individual basis.
Jay is a gifted teacher who works with the student and engages them. He develops students as musicians and also develops their confidence in playing in front of an audience. He’s a fantastic teacher.
This happens to all of us, of course—learning an instrument can be difficult. Even seeing your teacher play something that seems impossible to you can feel discouraging. But that feeling o something being impossible is as much of an illusion to children as it is to adults. I’ve seen this over and over! Most of the time all they have to do is try what seems impossible—with a bit of sure guidance— and they find they can actually pretty much do it already, even if it’s a bit rough. All that is needed from there on out is a lot of practicing and repetition to get consistent at it.
Joyful Melodies (drawing © Jay Kauffman)
Good Note (drawing © Jay Kauffman)
Child’s Drawing of a Guitar
What do I teach them, then?
All the rudimentary skills needed to play music they love as quickly as possible. Basics do come first of course, and without them, no miracles can happen.
With each new piece they learn, I make sure new technical and musical skills are introduced and mastered.
With each lesson, I also introduce and go over ways to practice these skills so they can further master anything new that comes their way.
These include counting, playing with others, chords and accompaniment, strumming and fingerpicking, playing melodies and tunes, playing solo pieces, technical principles that help them play with ease, and musical notation of various kinds.
Do you teach them classical guitar?
1 try but I never force. The classical guitar approach is an amazing and rich guitar tradition and can create great guitar habits. If your child wants to play classical music, and shows an affinity for learning to sight-read and play solo pieces, then we are good to go.
But kids are inspired by the musical and cultural context that surrounds them. This means what other children are listening to, as well as what is valued in the home environment. If you, their parents, love classical music, or classical guitar, then they will probably be interested in these as well. Even if they are in their teens!
If you are a rocker, or love a certain band, or music from your home country or cultural background, your child will probably pick up on that and want to learn to play that music too.
And that is what I base my curriculum on.
Will my child learn how to read music?
I start teaching kids to read musical notes as soon as possible. As long as they stay motivated, I keep them on this course, practicing sight reading every week.
I find that some children just are not motivated enough to focus on reading music until much later in their musical journey—they want to play the music, not figure out what each note is called. So I’ve learned the hard way to back away from it until they are ready. Suzuki method is based on this sequence as well, by the way. Continually trying to pull them back into note-reading they don’t want to deal with introduces frustration and lack of confidence.
Note reading is easy enough to learn once they are ready for it. I keep going back to my own experience as a guitarist—I started out playing and singing songs from chord diagrams and by ear, and started learning classical guitar and note-reading only when I fell in love with it.
An Armchair Melody (drawing © Jay Kauffman)
I discovered my love of music while taking part in a NY Philharmonic composition program through my high-school, and I knew I wanted to be able to make beautiful music through play of my own——to express my own musical style and taste effortlessly through play and composition.
Finding Jay really was the key for realising those goals.
Jay has plenty of curriculum to go through in the beginning phases and he is patient and helpful throughout that process. The real gift of the lessons came once I could hold my own a bit. At that point every lesson was packed full of pieces I wanted to learn and little compositions I was writing. We would find etudes I liked the sound of and use those to advance my play. We discussed what I was picking up on most and Jay was always there adjusting my technique while I found my way musically.
Lessons with Jay isn’t about strict, tedious work. Jay listens and collaborates to make learning your own instrument a brilliant experience. Towards the end of our time together, when I was really able to express myself, we would workshop pieces I was able to write and sometimes improv for ideas. Thanks to Jay, I’ll play guitar my own way for the rest of my life.
Child’s Drawing of a Guitar
My daughter has been taking guitar lessons with Jay Kauffman since September of 2017. Over these past few years she has enjoyed learning to play many different styles of music on guitar. Jay has always made lessons fun and always presented an array of song choices for her, so that she could focus on a piece that she was interested in. My daughter has always said that Jay is a very patient teacher, taking time to explain different notes, chords, and techniques, so that she really has a handle on it.
In the spring of 2020, during covid, we transitioned from our in person lessons to Zoom based instruction, and Jay continued to give the same quality attention in this new format. He was flexible with his time, and emailed music sheets for her to practice with between lessons. He went above and beyond sending multiple music files for my daughter to listen and practice along with during the week. They even moved beyond acoustic guitar and explored playing some songs on the electric guitar, which was really fun for her.
Overall, Jay has been a wonderful teacher for my daughter. He has made the learning experience fun and enjoyable for everyone. It’s great to watch her learn and master new songs. Jay is easy to communicate with, and responds to any questions we might have between lessons in a prompt manner. We feel lucky to have Jay as Molly’s guitar teacher!
At first I thought guitar was too hard and took too much time and effort, but then I decided to give it another shot. Now I find myself looking forward to my guitar lessons every week. Over the past year I have seen myself improve at guitar. I’ve learned to play a lot of my favorite songs like Hey Jude and Don’t Let Me Down. I love how I get to learn how to play the songs I love on the guitar, and learning has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. Mr. Kauffman is a great teacher
Children’s Drawings of Guitars
All Images and Artwork ©Jay Kauffman
Unless otherwise noted. Please inquire about purchase or use.
Lessons are taught online and in person. My current asking rates are based on Tucson pricing norms. I want you to be able to afford ongoing lessons on a consistent basis, so my pricing is somewhat flexible, based on what you honestly feel you can afford and on your commitment level. In order for you to get a sense of how I teach and what you can learn working with me, our first lesson will be half of our initial agreed-on price. Please contact me directly for a price quote.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s talk!
- Classical Guitar and Composers/Songwriters — 60 minutes or 45 minutes recommended
- Acoustic Guitar —60 minutes best, 45 minutes works well
- Kids ——45 minute lessons are best for most kids. 1/2 hour works for the youngest
For now, I don’t have a cancellation policy—until my schedule fills up, it’s too much trouble for me to act like a doctor’s office or a corporation. I appreciate it, though if you let me know in advance about a lesson you need to cancel, and I prefer to try and reschedule it to another time in the week..