The Art Of... Learning Guitar | Kids VT | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Alden Ryan at the 2010 Valley Stage Music Festival

Alden Ryan at the 2010 Valley Stage Music Festival

The Art Of... Learning Guitar 

Published March 1, 2011 at 4:00 a.m. | Updated April 4, 2022 at 6:34 p.m.

Since the dawn of rock and roll, if not before, the guitar has been the centerpiece of pop music. As such, it is among the most widely played instruments on the planet, from casual campfire strummers to guitar gods such as Eric Clapton and Trey Anastasio. As the old Radiohead song goes, anyone can play guitar. But should they?

Greg Ryan thinks so. Granted, he's a bit biased on the subject. Ryan is a Middlebury-based guitarist and guitar teacher. He's an accomplished performer, too, having toured for years as a singer-songwriter before forming a gypsy-jazz duo, They Might Be Gypsies, with his 15-year-old son, Aidan Ryan.

"[Teaching guitar] has allowed me to interact with both of my kids in a way I don't know that I would have as a parent otherwise," says Ryan. He also taught his son Casey, now 22, to play.

Of course, not every parent is a gifted guitarist or teacher. Still, Ryan sees lasting benefits for anyone who learns the guitar — regardless of what their parents do.

"Playing together is a great way to learn to interact with other people," he says. "And it can bridge generation gaps, in a way."

Ryan speaks from his experiences with his own children. But he notes that the guitar is a unique tool for finding common ground. Piano is often cited as the instrument that provides youngsters the most comprehensive musical foundation. Because of its ubiquitous nature, the guitar offers something equally important to holding kids' fickle attention: accessibility.

"Music allows us to communicate, to really listen," Ryan says. "And the guitar makes music more easily relatable."

Aidan Ryan took classical piano lessons as a child, which his dad credits as a key to giving him a strong musical foundation. But Ryan also says the guitar kept Aidan interested in pursuing music.

"You can get something out of playing guitar right away that gets you excited to learn more," Ryan says.

—"The Art of..." spotlights creative skills that enrich kids' lives. Got a class or teacher to recommend? Email us at ideas@kidsvt.com. Dan Bolles is the music editor at Seven Days.

What You Will Need

A guitar

Obviously, right? But Ryan points out that not all guitars are created equal, even at entry level. Look for something that is well constructed, the correct size, plays well and maintains its intonation. Ryan's suggestion: a three-quarter-size acoustic Squier. "I bought one for Aiden nine years ago, but I have taken this guitar on gigs as my only guitar," he says. "It was, like, 100 bucks."

A gig bag

"There's just something about being mobile," says Ryan. A safe way for kids to tote their axe around, whether to band practice gigs or to serenade a sweetheart, is essential.

A guitar stand

Out of sight, out of mind. If your kid's guitar is left in its case, he or she may be less apt to simply pick it up on a whim. "There's a lot to be said for seeing it in a corner and, any time you just pass by, maybe you pick it up and play for five minutes," says Ryan. "It's good to have it be accessible."

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Bio:
Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox.

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