Throughout my son Felix’s life, he has been surrounded by music. Even as a baby only a few months old, his enjoyment of music was evident when I thought he was sleeping in my arms. I quietly turned off the music and he began to cry, so I turned it back on and he stopped! As a toddler, he preferred noisy and musical toys and his favorite was a bright yellow and offensive sounding plastic guitar. From two years old, he used to hang around the control room of my old studio, watching my band rehearse. I asked him what instrument he would like to play and he said drums, so for his third Birthday, I gave him a junior size drum kit purchased from Arties Music in Aspley.
His First Drum Kit
For the first few months, he would give that little kit an absolute flogging, with me trying to play the guitar to accompany his erratic blast beats. It was endearing to watch and I never pushed him, only ever gentle encouragement and heaped on the praise when he did play. These sessions never had any structure, I just let him do what he wanted hitting the drums. I did this because I wanted him to enjoy music the same way I do, something that should be fun and a positive experience. His interest in the small drumkit waned in favor of the Pearl Export 6 piece kit. He couldn’t even reach the kick pedal from the drum stool but that didn’t dampen his enthusiasm. He would patiently wait in the studio for the opportunity to jump onto the Pearl kit when my band was on a rehearsal break.
I had to move out of the house after leaving the Army at the end of 2016, and the studio was out of action for a couple of months. Over this period, Felix seemed to have lost some interest in drumming but not his interest in listening to music.
During car rides, he would demand, “Put some music on Daddy”, showing a preference for Hard Rock. His favorite song is my band’s Simple Child – Pig Mouth, written by Sam Menzies. Almost every time I play music in the car, he requests that song. It isn’t exactly family-friendly due to the strong language in the lyrics but he absolutely loves it, reciting the lyrics in front of my bemused bandmates, swear words and all. He is highly intelligent and knows that swearing is only appropriate when singing at home (never at school), and will correct me every time I curse by saying, “Don’t use those bad words, Daddy!”
Over the past year, he is drawn to the studio when I am editing or tracking songs, doing nothing more than simply playing quietly with his toys on the control room floor. Almost two weeks ago he celebrated his 5th Birthday. The day after his party, I was driving him to school with some heavy metal playing and he said to me, “Daddy I want to play guitar.” If he is showing a desire to play the guitar, then he is old enough to start learning.
Choosing A Guitar
That evening, we searched for a small scale guitar with a fast neck that would be easy to learn on and fun to play. I am an avid Ibanez fan, having many high-end electric Ibanez guitars, so I tried to find a local Ibanez dealer that sold the GRG Mikro. Arties Music is my nearest authorized Ibanez retailer, so I contacted them. They told me that they couldn’t get it but they might have another option. That other option was the Jackson JS Series Dinky Minion JSX1. On paper. it seemed to be a fair substitute. Rosewood fingerboard, satin-finish neck, nice and playable. So I paid for it and waited for them to get one in for me.
Picking It Up
Felix was excited to be going to a music shop and didn’t know why we were there, but as you will see in the video, he worked it out pretty quickly. He loved it from the outset and he even picked out a guitar strap with a flame on it, a rock star in the making! I had a quick look in the shop and the build quality looked good. Solid scarf joint neck and good sustain. The strings were very thin gauge and a bit old so I swapped them out for 10-52 Elixirs when I got home. After restringing it and giving it a tune, I plugged it into my Kemper to see what the guitar sounded like. The neck pickup sounded good but the bridge pickup sounded very dull. If he keeps playing, I’ll put a set of Bareknuckle humbuckers in there!
He seemed much more engaged with the guitar than just treating it like a toy. He even seemed to relish in the fact that he now had his own guitar. After I put the new strings on and gave it a quick setup, I plugged it into my Kemper and handed it over to him for his first shred. It was just noisy strumming but he loved it. I then let him loose on the Mesa Dual Rectifier. He played non-stop for about 20 minutes then went back out to his other toys. Even 5 minutes is an eternity to the attention span of a 5-year-old!
Yousician and His First Guitar Lesson
I waited until the next day before I would give him his structured first lesson. There is an app called Yousician that I have used with other young guitar students to great effect. The software has an image of a fretboard, similar to how tablature is laid out. The notes are indicated by a bouncing ball that lands on a number that corresponds to which fret you need to play. The interface is extremely user-friendly and Felix tore through the first 3 lessons and still wanted more.
I was super impressed with his attentiveness and his emerging technique, absolutely stunning for a first timer. So that he didn’t tire of playing prematurely, I ended the lesson after 30 minutes even though he was eager to continue.
Future Rock Star
He is excited by playing the guitar and I really enjoy making him happy. I will never push him to play the guitar, it will remain a fun activity and a fantastic way for us to bond over music.
Maybe years from now, he will be fondly looking back over this post as a successful musician. Who knows where his musical adventure will take him. Maybe a Jackson endorsement? As long as the journey is fun, that is all that matters.