What are the "best" easy songs for a kid to play on guitar?
When teaching kids to play the guitar one of the first and most obvious things to consider is "what songs should I help them to play?" At this very early stage the temptation might be to not worry too much just as long as they are playing something and learning to move their fingers around the instrument but the reality is that the choice of material studied at this stage can make the difference between a child developing what could turn into a lifelong passion for the guitar (a good thing!) and the guitar being something of which they come to say "I tried to play when I was young but didn't get very far with it" (a bad thing!).
Before we take a closer look at why children should learn a particular eight chords and then go on to play a whole load of songs based on those chords it might be an good idea to take a quick listen to a backing track designed to help kids to play guitar in time to music
The track is actually included in an update to our guitar teaching materials aimed at teachers who might be interested in using guitar backing tracks that go beyond the basics but it works equally well for kids in the early stages of guitar playing who can get around the eight chords that they should learn first. I must stress that this backing track is not suitable for a child's first guitar lesson as the chords change too quickly for kids in the very early stages of learning to play guitar
There is a song by a Southern Rock band about a state that they love and another song about werewolves to be found floating about in a major European capital city that seems to fit with the three chord groove here and it can be fun to get kids singing along to those songs while working on this
The Best Guitar Chords for Children
Before we choose the best easy songs to play we should maybe look a little deeper and consider what we are really trying to do here. If we are trying to help children to become guitar players and not just fill in some time before the next "craze" comes along then it would seem to be a good idea to tailor our choice of material presented to them to help us to achieve that goal. This does not mean that the lessons will be less any enjoyable for the kids (far from it) but that they will be presented with a set of challenges that will help them to progress as musicians as well as having a whole load of fun.
Kids are not fools! They all do drawings that we stick up on the fridge and for a while they believe us when we tell them that they are "great at art". What usually happens is that over time they come to believe (rightly or wrongly) that they are not as "good" as some of the other kids that they go to school with who make their drawings look a bit more realistic. They know that we love them but they stop presenting us with pictures because they come to believe that they are not making any progress as artists. If you want confirmation of this just think about your own childhood experience or talk to an older kid who used to draw continuously but who now does not bother at all and you will probably get a story closely related to the circumstances outlined above. If you think about it too deeply its tragic. A child closing off an entire area of artistic expression (probably for life) because they come to form the opinion that they are "not good enough" at it to make their continued efforts worthwhile. By the time a kids are old enough to want to pick up a guitar they have probably been through the "no good at drawing" thing and the last thing that we want to be part of is helping them to convince themselves that music, too is beyond them.
So how do we help them to start out on a journey that will be a whole load of fun and which will also help them to become "good" at something in the longer term (like the kids at school who were seen as "good" at drawing)? Well how about we forget that they are kids and teach them how to play the guitar "properly"?
The best guitar chords for a child to learn
There are eight chords (shown above) that guitar teachers the world over use to help beginners (not just children) to play the instrument so a question we should be asking is "which songs would a child like to play that features some of the eight best chords to master"? If they learn some songs (or fragments of songs) featuring the "right" chords then they will be in a position to take those chords and use them in other songs. I dont want to get all academic and start to throw educational theory about the place but if I did I would be writing about "the development of transferrable skills" which is one of the most important elements of developing a high level of knowledge and capability in any discipline (not just guitar)
Three of The Chords (Em G and C) have reduced "one finger" versions which are used for the first few lessons to get kids off to a flying start on guitar. The reason that one finger versions are used with children is that two of the chords (G and C) have full shapes that stretch across the fingerboard of the instrument and in the very earliest stages of playing these shapes can seem a little daunting to a beginner who may have smaller hands.
Easy Guitar Songs For Children
Without delving too deeply into the world of music theory at this stage the chords under discussion (C A G E D Am Dm and Em) are very well suited to playing songs in the key of G so it is logical to look out for a bunch of easy songs (or fragments of songs) that are either already in the key of G or which can be easily moved into it.
If you take a look at the range of published material out there designed to help you to teach kids to play guitar you will see that a lot of it features songs like "Merrily We Roll Along" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" This music is not featured in those materials because kids have a burning desire to play it but because the folks who make the materials do not have to pay copyright royalties on it. Children typically want to play songs that they hear as part of their everyday lives. Pop songs from now and the classics that they have heard during their upbringing. Present those songs in the (beginner friendly) key of G and you are more than half way there.
Easy Guitar Songs for Kids: "Budapest" by George Ezra
Only three chords (G C and D) in this one and the chord changes dont come too quickly so not a bad one to have a go at during the early stages
Verse = 4 bars (16 beats) of G, 2 bars (8 beats) of C, 2 bars (8 beats) of G
Chorus ("Give me one good reason" etc) = 1 bar (4 beats) of D, One bar (4 beats) of C and two bars (8 beats) of G
Easy Guitar Songs for Kids: "Stand By Me"
This is a nice one because like the song above the chord changes do not come along too quickly
2 bars (8 beats) of G, 2 bars (8 beats) of Em, 1 bar (4 beats) of C, 1 bar (4 beats) of D, 2 bars (8 beats) of G (repeated)
Easy Guitar Songs for Kids: "500 Miles" by The Proclaimers
500 Miles: The Proclaimers
This song was recorded by The Proclaimers in the key of E and in that key the chords would be E A and B. The chord of B is not a beginner friendly one so it makes sense to move it into the key of G where all of the chord shapes required are within the capabilities of the novice. Although this song is a good one to present to kids when they have been playing for a while it is not a great one to give them when they are at the very early stages because even though the chords are easy to play they do change relatively quickly (particularly during the verse section)
Verse = 2 bars (8 beats) of G, (2 beats) C, (2 beats) D, 1 bar (4 beats) G
Chorus = 2 bars (8 beats) of G, 1 bar (4 beats) of C , 1 bar (4 beats) of D
The songs above are nothing more than an almost random sample of a few of the many harmonically simple hit songs that can be used to help a child learn to play guitar. The songs themselves are not important but the logic that lies behind their suitability is very important. They are all playable using a few of the Eight Guitar Chords that any beginner (not just kids) should learn first on the guitar and the chords dont change too quickly. It really is as simple as that. All that you need to do is find a suitable song (or a section of a song) that a child likes, move it into the key of G if necessary and encourage them to play/sing it.
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