Monday, July 14, 2014

The ADHD child and buying their first guitar

There are a lot of post on the internet about buying your first guitar. Things to think about and what to know. I'm going to start off with the good news. Today's cheap guitars are built better than they were fifteen years ago. A lot better. And there are a lot of options for someone who wants to getting into playing. But those options can be overwhelming for someone if your not sure what your looking for. So you've spent some time reading various post on what to look for. I'm going to cover some of that today, but I'm going to focus on special considerations when dealing with ADHD kids.

I'm going to assume your a parent of an ADHD child or teenager who has told you he or she has an interest in playing guitar. Of course last month it was tennis and before that it skateboarding. Do you want to spend a bunch of money on something that they are going to play for a month and then let it sit there? A guitar can be an amazing investment or a costly liability. Part of this is a child's natural search to find "their thing", part of it is curiosity. First tell them you'll think about it. Then take them somewhere quiet where the two of you can spend some time together maybe over lunch and really listen. Ask your child or teenager what is interesting about the guitar. If it's because their friend has a guitar it seems cool, maybe they can spend some time with that friend learning a couple of songs before you plop down your hard earned money. Or maybe you have someone in your circle of friends who is patient who could show them a few chords. This is a great place to start because those first few chords are tough (it gets easier). If that doesn't scare them off keep talking. Maybe you've noticed that your child loves music and is always trying to find away to express themselves through music then that seems like a safer bet. With younger kids this can be a tougher decision, I played several different instruments before ending up on a guitar. With a teenager you might see if they can split the cost, put some of their allowance towards the guitar each month. Also talk to them about committing to lessons for at least a couple of months. If they can get through that, they can learn a lot on the internet once they have the basics down.

Acoustic or Electric? There is a horrible piece of advice that floats around that says kids should learn on an acoustic guitar (or a real guitar) first. This is almost always from someone who doesn't play or maybe only played a little. First there is NOTHING less real about an electric guitar. If a child or teenager is dreaming of being a guitar hero and their hero doesn't play acoustic 100% of the time they are less likely to stick with playing an acoustic. Also electric guitars are easier to play, the necks tend to be thinner so you can wrap your hands around it easier, and you can put lighter strings on them which also makes them easier to play. A big plus for someone with ADHD is that you have more sound options. There are normally at least two pickups and they sound a little different, plus a tone knob. They are also quieter! Surprise! They don't "have" to be plugged in, an acoustic is a lot louder if neither is plugged in. "But then I have to buy an amp thingy too?" Yes but they have even more sounds to explore and many starter or practice amps have headphone jacks built into them (So you can watch a movie or a game while your kid is practicing). The one thing I would suggest for anyone starting out is a fixed bridge. This is where the strings connect with the body and on cheaper guitars if it has a wammy bar (also called tremolo) the guitar will go out of tune easier. Now the flip side is that if they are inspired by an acoustic, by all means get one, they are straight ahead without a lot of different things to take into consideration. So go to a store and find a friendly salesperson to show you a few options in your budget and see which one sparks your kids interest. 

Next talk to players or sales people, and find a Tech who they recommend for getting the guitar setup. Most shops have someone they use, often in house. This next part is crucial. You want to find a guy who knows how to set up a guitar with the strings "on the board". The reason the guitar is not set up this way is that it's easier to set the strings up a little higher at the factory. The closer the strings are to the board the more details you have to get right. Warning! This can take a couple of days, it can be very involved and can cost even more money. If a guitar shop has someone onsite that does setups ask if they will throw in a setup for free. Some shops will, most won't but expect it to run $40-60 bucks. It can easily run close to $100 for someone off site. Why pay another $60 for a guitar you just payed $199.99 for? It helps the guitar stay in tune better, and makes it easier to play. Advanced players often want different setups on their guitars, just remember when your talking to the tech, ON THE BOARD. Also get lighter gauge strings. On an electric get 9's on an acoustic 11's or 10's if they have them. Also pay a little extra for coated strings, I don't care for them but they will last longer for someone starting out. Yep strings wear out, some guys change their strings after each gig, I change mine out every other month. 

I personally care nothing about brand names, but in this case I'm going to make an exception. Recognized brands have a better resale. If your worried your child might not stick with it buying a Fender Squire over some cheaper off brand will help you recoup some of your money. If you can afford it, a lower mid priced guitar ($200-600) will probably be better built, stay in tune, and have a better resale value than something under $200. 

So now you've done all of this. You want to be encouraging and help your kid but maybe you don't know anything about the guitar. There are two things can do that will help your child keep going. First, have their teacher, or maybe a friend of yours who plays, show you how to tune their guitar. Write down the instructions, this can be very frustrating for a younger player and a lot of young players spend a lot of time tuning. But once they have it down they will be fine. (hint, clip on tuners can be had very for $10 and they work great). Second have someone show you how to read a chord chart. Once a kid learns those first five chords and gets comfortable switching between them everything after that gets easier. Yep I just gave you homework. Learning to play an instrument can be a very rewarding experience for anyone and like many things can seem daunting when your first getting into it. But if you keep at it there is a lot of rewards.

Click the Random ADHD tag under Post on Topics to see other post on ADHD

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