Did you know that April is International Guitar Month? Tenney Grant does; she’s our newest contemporary character who plays guitar, sings, and writes her own songs. To mark this month-long celebration of guitars and music, we’d like to share some of the intellectual, social, and even health benefits of playing a musical instrument. We’ve also included a few tips to help encourage your girl to pick up—and stick with—an instrument (or instruments) to fit her personality.

WHAT YOUR GIRL GETS OUT OF IT

Learning how to learn

Playing music is very much about pattern recognition, which has long been valued in academic and social development. Learning to comprehend musical patterns at a young age can help children better understand math problems, increase memory skills, and help with reading and decoding symbols.

Developing motor skills and a healthy body

Playing a musical instrument demands as much physical coordination as does any sport or dance. Guitars, other stringed instruments (violins, cellos, etc.), and piano all require different actions from both hands simultaneously. Drum kits throw feet into the mix! And vocalists know that proper breathing is essential to a great performance. The best musicians understand the importance of physical conditioning.

Cultivating creativity and self-esteem

Playing an instrument is a wonderful creative vehicle for self-expression and provides a healthy outlet for processing emotions. Beyond that, learning to play music with and for others can lead to tremendous personal and social growth. Earning praise for music well played (or even a good try) helps children understand that practice, patience, and discipline have their own rewards. In a more formal environment, when playing or rehearsing with others, girls can to learn to accept and give constructive criticism. Using such feedback to promote positive changes can help build and sustain self-confidence.

HOW TO HELP HER GET THE MOST OUT OF IT

Support imitation

Many well-known musicians began playing primarily because they were fans of other musicians. Taylor Swift speaks frequently of her love of the Dixie Chicks’ instrumental skills. Hayley Williams, vocalist (and keyboards) for the hard rock band Paramore, has mentioned R&B artists such as Chaka Khan and T.L.C. as influences. Mandolin sensation Sierra Hull counts fiddle virtuoso Alison Krauss among her musical idols. So feel good about encouraging your girl to emulate her favorite musician, as well as exposing her to as many different styles of music as possible.

Emphasize fun

There are as many different approaches to musical practice as there are parenting styles, but emphasizing the fun aspects of playing versus the chore of practicing is a great way to sustain interest. Scales and sight-reading have their place, but focusing on songs, melodies, and playing with others reinforces that playing music is a social and joyous activity.

Promote the positive

Many beginner musicians expect instant gratification. But playing music well takes time and patience; the more beginners are reminded of this the better. Along the way, rather than criticizing meager progress, praise incremental improvement. Sometimes simply remembering the names of the strings on the guitar, learning to play a simple chord progression, or playing one note, in time, on the beat, is a huge leap forward for beginners. Point it out. Positive feedback goes a long way with musicians: Why do you think performers bow at the end of a performance? To show their appreciation for the applause!