Hey guys my 10 year old nephew just bought a guitar and wants me to teach him some stuff. I taught myself so i really dont know how to teach guitar. But the main thing is what can i do to make him stick with it and not get burned out and quit after a week? To make learning fun. So if you could give me some pointers i would appreciate it!
Don't let them turn it into an excuse to come play video games with their uncle. That's what happened to me. The first few times went ok, then one time he asked to play a computer game with me after practice, then over the next couple weeks he started getting bored of the lesson faster and wanting to just play games and he lost interest and the whole thing fell apart. I'd suggest setting a fixed amount of time (maybe 30 minutes or so considering the attention span of a 10 year old, maybe more if he seems up to it) and make sure if he wants to hang out with his cool uncle doing other stuff that that only happens after the allotted time. I'd say you probably don't need to implement that unless you see it starting to turn into a problem. If it doesn't just go for as long as feels appropriate.

Other than that I don't know how to keep them engaged. I guess try figuring out what kind of music he likes and then finding easy songs of that style. When I tried asking my nephew what kind of music he liked he didn't really have an answer, so I just taught him some of the simple stuff I remembered learning when I started out. The times I've tried it I've been very bad at teaching absolute beginners. It's easy to teach someone if they already know a little bit, but it's a pain in the ass teaching someone starting from the beginning, especially a kid.

I'm sure some of the other guys with more teaching experience will have more useful advice.
Last edited by The4thHorsemen at Apr 19, 2016,
Hi Matt,

The most important advice I can give you is make it fun and musical. Here are some ideas I use with my beginner students:

1. Show them just a few notes in a scale - say on the 1st and 2nd strings only, then have them experiment with those notes while you play a cord progression that works with that scale. This usually gets big smiles from students as they realize they can create music and have fun. From there show them the rest of the scale and give them guidance on simple phrasing (hint - the rhythm is often more important than what notes are played). Provide them a simple backing track so they can master the scale while having fun creating their own music.

2. Show them one or two simple cords that can be altered or combined in a musical way. For example (all open position cords):

Em to A9 (each only requires 2 fingers and you simply shift up and down a string set)
Am to A9 or Asus4 (add or remove a finger to create a musical sounding transition)
Am to C (note - C is a bit hard for some students so I wouldn't start with it, but you get the idea - move one finger and you have a new chord).

From there the trick is listening to the student and helping them grow in the direction they want to go.

Good luck and welcome to the world of guitar instruction.

Mark Scrivener
guitar instructor in San Jose

P.S. this is my first post here - hello everyone!
Hey Mark, welcome to the forum!

To the OP:

I'm going to tell you what I have figured out after 20 years teaching now...there's probably very little you can do to make sure that he stays with it.

He's 10.

He either will or won't, but it won't be your fault.

Unless he has parents that will stay on him and MAKE him practice to the point of some initial breakthroughs and payoffs, the only way that he will want to continue and put anything into it, is if he wants to.


1) Don't teach him just techniques. Teach him simple tunes, (and later on easy songs) apart from chords/scales etc. Listening to yourself playing music, no matter how simple it is, is empowering and fun.

2) Focus on his (not your) goals. Talk about them with him and convince him that with the right amount of practice he'll reach them.

3) Record him periodically. That will make his progress evident to him which is a great motivator.

4) Correct him where he's wrong but praise his achievements regularly.

In the early stages it's more about motivation than the music itself. If he believes he cannot do it, he won't do it. If he believes he can learn the instrument and achieves his goals, he probably will.
Ok guys i really appreciate it. I guess i can take all of your tips but its really up to him to stay focus and practice.
Quote by Sean0913

He's 10.

He either will or won't, but it won't be your fault.

Unless he has parents that will stay on him and MAKE him practice to the point of some initial breakthroughs and payoffs, the only way that he will want to continue and put anything into it, is if he wants to.



The most truthful thing you'll ever hear.
Teach him tunes he knows - not chords at first. Chords can be tough for small fingers, and you don't get recognisable songs that way anyway.

At 10 he may be too old for twinkle twinkle, but a simple riff like Smoke on the Water is a good first tune. I've found the Simpsons theme also goes down well with that age group (it's trickier to play, certainly at speed, but I've found plenty of willingness to stick with it).
The point is, they have to recognise the tune, and it has to be cool!

As Sean says, he'll get nowhere if he doesn't want to, so the drive and interest has to come from him. It should be something quite different from school lessons: which are dull things you have to do. Guitar is something cool you want to do. It's his thing, not something adults are foisting on him.
Practice regimes are a big no-no, IMO. Treat it like play, or like sport. Praise every tiny improvement. It has to be fun, some small achievement every lesson, so he looks forward to the next and also enjoys noodling around between lessons. It's OK to set practice times (say 10-15 minutes a day), so he has a framework to follow, but if he has to be made to practice, then you've lost.

He may eventually lose interest anyway, quite naturally. Enthusiasms change frequently when you're that age.
Last edited by jongtr at Apr 22, 2016,
There's obviously the thing that some people that just lose interest in guitar quickly. But to help, the best thing to do is to get him to be able to play something he likes and recognises. Or if he's too young to have something in mind, play him some stuffs and see which song hooks him in.

Find a song that he likes and would love to be able to play and if it's too difficult, simplify it but make sure it's still extremely recognisable. When people recognise bits and pieces of their own playing, they typically try harder to learn the full thing. But then again it varies from people to people, so Good Luck!
Take him to a teacher who is good at guitar and can easily make learn your nephew.
ive recently started teaching a friend (much older then 10, so attention and dedication arent so much an issue). Being older, the first thing i explain is that they will struggle and suck for about the first year. They are re teaching their hand to work again. I often give the comparison of a child learning to use a pencil - you need 3 full lines to make a little 'a' and it still looks like garbage, but you keep at it and before you know it your writing in fancy script. This is the point newbs are at. They don't suck, they need to relearn how to use their fingers. All the greats probably sucked too at 4 or 6 or 10, whenever, but we didnt see that. We get to see the 20+ years of experience playing and we assume its easy or natural for them to be that good. Its not. I was hard work for them no matter how easy it looks now. Do anything for 1hr, 5hrs, 10hrs a day and your going to get a lot better at it.

So, for each lesson what i try to do is introduce a bit of theory- nothing overwhelming, just enough to become familiar over time (not expecting them to understand it all right away, but the familiarity will grow and might help something click later on down the road). Then i go through a few basic chord shapes and show a few songs that use the chords and create a few little exercises to help with getting used to switching. At this stage all this is very hard and maybe a little overwhelming for them but always explain how its going to lead into other areas but need to get fluent at the basics first. At about the mid point (when the "i dont know if i want to do this anymore" face comes out) ill show them an easy bit - come as you are intro, hells bells main bit, blow at high dough rhythm part, down on the corner main bit, intro to satisfaction, just to name a few - so they can feel like they left with some progress made. It also gives them something fairly easy to practice with until the next lesson, assuming they arent doing the 'homework' scales, chords, etc.. that they are given.