Inside the Loog Guitar: Not Your Typical Preschooler’s Instrument

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

Most kids these days learn how to play “guitar” by playing their parents’ ukuleles, or strumming off-key notes on a cheap plastic instrument featuring animated characters. But while wielding these would-be guitars makes for cute Instagram videos, much of the time, kids playing with them aren’t actually learning how to play guitar.

I would know. I have two sons ages 4 and 6, and about one zillion videos of them aimlessly strumming my ukulele. And does either one of them know how to play guitar? Unfortunately, the answer is a big, fat “no.” They both think it’s too hard.

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Loog Guitar (shown here in red)

What I’m describing is actually a common scenario in the households of musician parents with the best intentions for their offspring, according to Rafael Atijas, founder and CEO of Loog Guitars. 

“There are ukuleles, and they’re great but they’re not guitars,” Atijas told Rockmommy. “And then there are other guitars that are cheaply made and come apart.” 

In creating Loog Guitars just three years ago, Atijas’ intention was to design something that would be fun, stimulating, simple to play and easy to learn. The result is a bold, cool-looking three-string guitar that’s easy to play. Strings are made of nylon, not metal, and are easy to push down. Designed for ages 3 and up, the Loog is the ideal, personalized “starter” axe. And it’s so fun to play that even adults like it. 

We recently caught up with Atijas, who is now a father of two, to talk about why the Loog line of guitars — which start at about $60 — are a solid investment for burgeoning rockers. 

Rockmommy: So how and why did Loog get started? 

Rafael Atijas: I saw the same gap that you saw. There are ukuleles, and they’re great but they’re not guitars. And then there are other guitars that are cheaply made and come apart. So I thought, you know, what if there were a guitar that was fun to play, easy and stimulating? So we made a guitar with three notes in its most basic form (GBE strings). At first [the guitar] had open tuning, with more of the lower strings. But then we decided that for [kids] to learn, it was good to have standard tuning. 

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Loog Guitar Founder & CEO Rafael Atijas

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about your background? 

Rafael Atijas: I’m a musician – I was in a band when I was younger. I created Loog guitars when I was working on my master’s at NYU, because I wanted to do something related to music. It’s a business, but it’s inspired by the fact that I play guitar and am a musician. When I came up with the guitar idea, I didn’t have kids yet but I had a niece. It was up to me to teach her the basics. And I realized then, because she was 6 at the time, that you can’t teach kids on these [bad] guitars, or even 3/4 size guitars. The six strings is too overwhelming when they’re that young. 

Rockmommy: What was the response from music teachers and the parents? 

Rafael Atijas: Music teachers have been very responsive, which is great, because as you know, some guitarists can be music snobs … there are some kids that can play out of the box with a standard guitar, but 90 percent of kids can’t. In fact, 90 percent of people who learn to play guitar quit. So we are trying to solve that in a way that makes people want to graduate to a standard, six-string guitar. For a five-year-old, six-year-old, eight-year-old, [starting with a Loog guitar] makes it easier for them to learn guitar. We have many music schools using our guitars. Even smaller guitars, like ¾ guitars, are just more difficult – and it’s easier to grasp three fingers than six fingers. We even have some adults using our guitars. 

Rockmommy: What about the argument that it’s better to start with something harder?  

Rafael Atijas: I started with bass guitar – which was something harder – but we’ve found that when learning guitar it’s better to have some sense of accomplishment, or mastery [built in]. 

Rockmommy: What about your own children? 

Rafael Atijas: I have a three-year-old son and he loves it. My six-year-old girl likes it when I play, but I try not to push it on my children. If you push it on them, they will see it as something they are being forced to do. One of my kids is really into music, and the other is, just a normal amount. 

Rockmommy: What’s your advice for parents? 

Rafael Atijas: Be aware of the music they like. As parents and musicians, we like to think we’re really cool, but kids are kids and have their own taste. Don’t force them to listen to Velvet Underground. Let them listen to Disney. 

For a limited time, Rockmommy readers get a 10 percent discount off their Loog Guitar purchase [Use the code ROCKMOMMY at Checkout]. 

Rockmommy Renee Stahl Shares How She Balanced a Baby AND a Music Career (and How You Can Too)

By Renee Stahl

One question many women ask themselves is, “How can I have a career and a baby?” That was something going through my head almost 13 years ago.

I didn’t think I would be able to balance the two. I didn’t think it was possible. I was clearly wrong.Renee Stahl

I had just finished making an album entitled hopeful.romantic that was picked up by Barnes & Noble, and was asked to go on tour playing all over the country in their stores. My solo career was going well; the thought of interrupting that didn’t feel good to me.

As soon as I decided that it might be OK, and with a little help from my level-headed husband that I could indeed have both . . . POOF, I was pregnant.

My career opened up in a way I never imagined.

Before I became a mother, a friend had suggested that my voice would be a nice fit for singing lullabies, so I reached out to friends who had written a few originals. Jeremy Toback was one of them. He came over and played “Welcome to This World,” a love song he had written for his oldest son. I told him there was no way I could sing that as it was perfect the way it was.

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Renee Stahl with daughter Amelia

We decided to work on some songs, most of which ended up being written while I was on unexpected bedrest at 35 weeks with my daughter, Amelia.  When I was free to move around, we recorded them in her nursery two weeks before she was born. That was the album It’s a Big World, a collection of unconditional love songs to our children.

I know that sometimes as mothers, we feel guilty and selfish when we take time out for ourselves. Making my music and self-care are musts for me. I have to do both in order to come back and parent more fully, more present, and fulfilled.I hope to be an inspiration to my daughters, not only with the music, but also in how I approach it and my life. It’s not as easy for me to parent if my creative cup isn’t full. Like they say on a plane, “Make sure your oxygen mask is on first.”

As I was working on Kindred, my latest album for my Renee and Friends project, I pulled out some songs I had written a long time ago that I was considering“Superfragile World” was one of them. Amelia heard me singing this and began to sing along with me. It occurred to me that it would be better for her to sing this as a solo; the song started to take on a different meaning coming from the voice of her generation. Her voice and phrasing really amaze me on this song.

Along with this, she sings a duet with her sister, Isadora. They cover a song from our Renee and Jeremy album C’mon, called “Rely” with strings, and it’s one of the sweetest  things I have ever heard.

I am beyond excited to share their voices and talent along with other special guests we are featuring on the album. Kindred will be released in early 2019.

Renee Stahl’s next album, Kindred, will be released in early 2019. The record features guest artists Lisa Loeb, Elizabeth Mitchell, Chris Stills, and Ziggy Marley.

Kids Imagine Nation Gives High-Energy Vibes to ‘Christmas Time’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

I’m a HUGE friend of Christmas music, and have heard probably every popular Christmas song ever made, from the likes of Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee to Mariah Carey and — of course — Alvin and the Chipmunks. I love hearing all of the cool versions of the classics; every song takes me back to when I was little and my dad used his analog cassette recorder and handheld mini microphone to make annual carol recordings.

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Kids Imagine Nation’s ‘Christmas Time is Here’ 

And so it was with a caroling lover’s ear that I listened to kindie rock trio Kids Imagine Nation‘s new collection of seasonal ditties. And I was definitely not disappointed! ‘Christmas Time is Here,’ available for download on iTunes since Saturday, is filled with high-energy songs inspired by the trio’s high-energy live shows, plus a dose of holiday mirth.

[RELATED: The Most Danceable Kiddie Record for Ska- and Punk-loving Parents is Coming in September] 

The much-anticipated follow-up to Kids Imagine Nation 2 is infused with the ska-meets-surf-pop spins on classics like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Deck the Halls” that you’d expect from Aaron, Rachel and Beatz (incidentally, Rachel sounds a lot like Brenda Lee). I thought I was revving up for a Mighty Mighty Bosstones tune during the opening riffs of “Up on a Housetop;” I thought I was hearing Ziggy Marley’s opener while listening to “Gift of Giving,” a song about kindness tucked within a cool ska guitar rhythm. 

Download it now for the road trip to Grandma’s (or the mall) with the family. Or jam out solo with your bad self.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.