So, your child wants to play guitar?
I guess you had better go out there and get one for them. After all, a love of music should be fostered, even if there is a chance that they will give it up seven minutes after you have bought the instrument.
Wait, you are not leaving to buy one already, are you?
Before you go out the door, there are some things which you should think about. Buying a guitar for a child is a lot like buying a guitar for an adult, but there are some subtle differences. To give your child the best chance at becoming a music superstar, you should get the guitar which is best suited to their needs.
As always, we are here to help. We have bought numerous guitars through the years, and through our mistakes, we have grown to learn how not to repeat them.
Here is our expert buying guide on how to select a guitar for your child.
1. Should I Start With An Acoustic Guitar?
When you think about buying a guitar for your child, an acoustic seems like a great place to start but is it?
The truth is, only your child knows the best place to start.
Choose the guitar which they are interested in and give them the best chance of staying interested for longer.
Which Type Of Guitar To Choose?
There are three types of guitar available to you: acoustic, classical, and electric. While many people will recommend starting with one over the other (usually classical or acoustic), we recommend starting where your child’s interest lies.
If they want to learn electric guitar, then an electric guitar is the best instrument to learn on. If they want to play acoustic music, then a classical guitar can only do so much. Of course, if you start with the guitar they want, it also saves you from having to purchase multiple guitars.
If your child does not know which type of guitar they want, then there are some subtle differences between the three, which make some a better starting point than others.
Classical guitars have soft nylon string which is easier on smaller fingers. Acoustic and electric guitars have steel strings and can be harder to pluck, especially for younger kids.
A classical guitar is great for young kids to learn on, but your child can be put off if they listen to a lot of pop music and want to sound like their idols.
Acoustic guitars are very similar to classical guitars. The strings are the main difference (there are also other differences, like the position of the guitar and more).
An acoustic guitar is louder and brighter in sound and is more recognizable when compared to the classical. Your kid may like to start on this one if they listen to a lot of current music. The only downside is that the strings are hard and can be hard on little fingers. If your child does not persevere as fingertips are growing callouses, then they may be put off before they get to grips with it.
Electric guitars look and sound a lot cooler than acoustic guitars and are usually smaller. This makes them easier to handle for smaller children, but it should be noted that electric guitars are usually heavier than acoustic and classical guitars. We recommend having a strap to take a lot of the weight.
Electric guitars also have steel strings, so electric guitars may be better suited to kids who have experience playing or who will persevere even if their fingers are a little uncomfortable.
Electric guitars are better suited to older kids due to them being heavier and the strings tougher, but we do not see why younger kids cannot learn on them too. Just be prepared that they are not for everyone.
2. Size Matters
Children are smaller than adults. That is an undoubted fact. For that reason, a guitar for a child should be smaller than one for an adult. As your child grows, you will also have to upgrade to bigger and bigger guitars. Here are the best sizes for your kids.
What Size Of Guitar Should I Buy?
Guitars come in different sizes, and most will match up to your child’s age, though you may have to opt for a size up or down if your child is extremely short or tall for their age.
4-6 Year Olds
You need a 1/4 size guitar for this age. It is around 20% smaller than an adult guitar and measures in at around 30”. The guitar is easy to hold for small children, and can even be used for children under 4 years old, though the strings can be sharp for little fingers.
6-9 Year Olds
You need a 1/2 size guitar for this age. This size of guitar is still smaller than an adult guitar, making it easy for younger children to hold and play. The guitar measures in at around 34”.
This can be a tricky age to buy for as children do not often fit neatly into this range. Have your child hold a guitar of this size and do not be afraid to move up or down a size if needed. The guitar which feels right is the correct one.
9-12 Year Olds
You need a 3/4 size guitar for this age. These guitars measure in around 36” and are close in size to a full-size guitar but are a little easier than an adult guitar to handle for a child. This size of guitar is very popular as this is the age where many kids start to play or become more interested in playing.
When your child reaches this age, unless they are very small for their age, they can start using a full-sized guitar. Don’t make the mistake of just buying an adult guitar, hoping that they will grow into it. If they cannot play it properly, they may lose interest and give up playing. The correct size of guitar is the one which is easiest for your child to play.
Try Before You Buy
The best way to size a guitar for your child is to have them try it before you buy it. Most, if not all, music stores will let your child try out the guitar in store before you purchase the instrument.
When your child is trying out the guitar, there are two people you should consult.
The store staff will know what size works best for your child and if they are holding the guitar correctly. The other person to consult is your child. The guitar may be a perfect size, but if it is not comfortable for your child, then it is the wrong guitar to buy.
3. Why You Need A Budget
You can only spend what you can afford (or, at least, you should). When you set out to buy a guitar for your child, you should have an amount in mind and then not be afraid to spend that amount.
How Much Do Guitars Cost?
You get what you pay for. When buying a guitar, not only is a high-quality guitar going to last longer, but it is going to be easier for your child to play too. If you invest in quality, you are going to pay less in the long run. You will not need to replace or repair a high-quality guitar as often as a cheap one.
So, how much can you expect to spend?
The sky is the limit when it comes to guitars, and you can spend as much as you want on your child, though there is no guarantee that they will stick with it, and you are likely going to have to buy a bigger guitar at some point anyway.
If you are looking for something which will last and sound good, then expect to pay at least $100. Anything less, and you are not going to get a great guitar.
Go With A Name Brand
How do you know that you are getting quality?
Talking to a staff member in store will go a long way to getting an appropriate and quality guitar for your child. If you are ever in doubt, then you can choose a trusted brand. Recognizable names such as Yamaha, Fender, and Gibson craft quality guitars. Do a little research and know a little about what you are buying.
4. Why You Need To Think About Accessories
Buying a guitar is about a lot more than just buying the guitar. You need accessories to go along with it, and that should also be factored into your budget.
So, what else do you need to buy?
When you buy a guitar, you should always buy extra strings. You never know when a string is going to snap, so you should always have extras on hand to re-string your guitar.
If you are buying an acoustic or electric guitar, you may also want to buy a set of strings to replace the ones on the guitar. The strings which come with the guitar can be hard on little fingers. Medium or light-gauge strings may be better for little hands, and you might want to swap out the strings until they begin to build up calluses.
Along with strings, there are lots of accessories to buy, and the accessories may even end up costing more than the guitar.
One essential accessory is a guitar tuner. If your child is starting out, or even if they have some experience, a guitar tuner is essential to keep the guitar tuned.
If your child is playing a tuned guitar, they are going to get better results. A badly tuned guitar can put anyone off.
A pick is also an accessory you should buy, especially with an electric guitar. Guitar picks are inexpensive and can help to protect little fingers.
If your child is small, then they might have trouble lifting a guitar into the correct position. With a good strap, the weight can be taken off their arms, and they can focus more on hand position. A strap is almost essential for electric guitars.
A guitar case will help to protect a guitar, and we know how helpful that is when a child is looking after it.
If you are buying an electric guitar, then you will also need an amp and cable. You may also want to purchase this for an acoustic guitar too.
If you do a little research, you can get the best guitar possible for your child. After doing some research or if you have some experience with guitars, it can be tempting to think that you know what guitar is best for your child and, while you can help guide your child and give them information, it is your child who ultimately knows best.
Try out some guitars and trust their choice. They are the one who is going to be playing the guitar, so it should be comfortable for them.
Buy the right guitar, and they will be playing like a pro in no time.