How to Choose the Best Guitar For Kids

A Definitive Buyers guide for Parents and Guardians.

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Deciding on the best beginner guitar for a child is tough task with the huge range of instruments available today. 

You may have a future guitar hero in the making, so it’s important to nurture that spark of interest, as talent can flourish quickly when given the chance. Here at Tunelectric, we want you to be prepared for this exciting purchase and help you to make a more informed decision and choose the best guitar for kids.

Contents

The list includes some of the big name companies such as Fender, Gibson and Yamaha as well as some lesser known but highly praised makes.

Fortunately, over recent years the quality of budget friendly guitars has improved greatly and there are many fantastic bargains to be had, if you know what to look out for! 

This post aims to provide you with useful information and comparisons all in one place to help you make the right decision. 

By the time you’ve done you should be able to choose a guitar they won’t want to put down! 

FAQ's

So, when we think about what the term ‘best guitar‘ actually means, we start to realise that describing anything as ‘best‘ is, of course very subjective.

Every child and young adult is unique –  they’ll have different goals and needs – there is no one size fits all for a purchase like this.

If your child is very young (4 to 6 years old) I’d recommend a small scale nylon string guitar or Guitarlele. It’s a great introduction to the instrument and a fun way to grab their attention and get them interested.

If your child is 6 years and over, they will be developing their own personality and likes/dislikes when it comes to type of music. Traditionally music stores and guitar teachers would recommend classical guitars to begin with due to their cheaper price and range of sizes available.

I think this still stands true to some degree, although nowadays, there’s a greater range of shorter scale electrics and acoustics to choose from, so choose a guitar type that reflects the style of guitar music they enjoy listening to most.

Although every child is different, the following diagram will give you an insight into the most suitable sized guitars based on the average age and height of the child.

 

1/4 size guitar – For children aged 4 – 6 years old with an average height of 110cm and over. This size is very compact and similar to Ukelele sizes. It should be comfortable for most in this age range

1/2 size guitar – For children aged around 6 to 9 years of age with an approximate height of 120cm – 140cm. If your child is tall for their age, they may find a 3/4 size guitar more comfortable

3/4 size guitar – For children around 9 years and over with an approximate height 134cm to 150cm. Good for children who struggle to hold a full size guitar comfortably.

Full size guitar– For children aged 12 and over and adults with a height of around 150cm and over.

When it comes to size, classical guitars have the greatest range which is why they are often recommended for children by guitar teachers and music stores. Depending on the age and musical interests of the child, you may want to choose a short scale electric or acoustic.

Spend a moment to think about how this interest in the guitar came about. Does your child have an older sibling who plays or was it a video clip of their favourite band on YouTube that sparked their imagination? 

Perhaps they found a parents old classical guitar in the closet and decided they wanted to play too? (the latter was the case for me!)

It’s important to think about this as it will give you some idea as to what they want to get out of learning to play. It may be out of boredom or curiosity but having an idea as to how serious they are about learning, will help you decide on the right budget.

Once they have acquired their first guitar, finding a great local guitar teacher is a must – as the first few weeks and months hey will need lots of support to ensure the correct posture and technique is consistent. Having an enthusiastic teacher will also help them to stay motivated and eager to learn more. 

 

Childrens Tastes in Music

It’s important to think about the genre of music your child enjoys listening to. It will give you a head start as ultimately they’ll want to learn songs from their favourite bands and artists. 

Having some background info on the brands and types of guitar their hero’s play will give you a greater chance of making the right choice for them.

Ed Sheeran with his Martin acoustic

It’s important to think about the genre of music your child enjoys listening to. It will give you a head start as ultimately they’ll want to learn songs from their favourite bands and artists. 

Having some background info on the brands and types of guitar their hero’s play will give you a greater chance of making the right choice for them.

There’s little point in buying a classical guitar if they just want to scissor kick off the sofa and rock out! The classical guitar is just not designed for rock in mind, so suit the guitar to their musical tastes from the get-go!

If they’re into guitar bands like Green Day, AC/DC or Guns and Roses for example then I’d suggest getting them kitted out with an electric guitar and practice amp.

 

Slash

They may want to learn guitar to accompany themselves singing and have an interest in writing songs – in which case an acoustic guitar may be more suitable.

It’s quite rare to my knowledge that a child will be into classical music and will want to play classical guitar straight away – although classical or nylon stringed acoustics are a very common choice for young children due to their availability in smaller sizes as well as being easier on the fingers. 

Whatever the type, the very first guitar a child receives should be a thing of wonder! 

It should be something that they will cherish and want to pick up over and over again – this paired with lots of encouragement and quality teaching, will give them the best possible chance of sticking with it and developing into a great player.

Another point to remember is that the vast range of guitars on the market today are just variations on one of the following types:

The Four Main Types of Guitar

Solid Body Electric Guitars

Electric guitars use magnetic pickups to capture the string vibration which is then fed down a cable and to an amplifier.

The body of electric guitars are machine cut usually from one slab of wood and routed out to hold the electrics, pickups and bridge

Examples: Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, Gibson Les Paul Standard and SG’s

Great For: Rock, Blues, Pop, Indie, Jazz, Soul, Funk, Metal, Country, 

Classic Key Players: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Jimi Page, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Brian May

Current Players/Bands: John Mayer, Slash, Derek Trucks, Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge) The 1975, Vampire Weekend, Biffy Clyro, Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)

Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitars

The Gibson ES 335 with dot inlays

These guitars feature a solid centre block along with chambered or hollow sides with ‘f’ holes. They are generally more resonant and produce a warm and thick tone.

Examples: Gibson 335, Epiphone Casino

Great For: Rock and Roll, Blues, Pop, Indie, Rock, Jazz, Country

Key Players: Chuck Berry, George Harrison, BB King, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, T-Bone Walker, Charlie Christian

Current Players/Bands: Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Richard Hawley,

Acoustic Guitars - Steel String

Acoustic guitars use specially selected tone woods which resonate when the strings are sounded. These guitars feature a hollow body/chamber in which sound resonates along with the top of the guitar (sound board) then projected through the sound hole

Great For: Folk, Country, Finger picking, Singer-Songwriters

Key Players: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Bert Jansch, Nick Drake, David Bowie, John Lennon, Tommy Emmanuel

Current Players: Mike Dawes, Richard Thompson, Gregory Alan Isakov, Vance Joy, Jon Gomm, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift

Classical / Spanish Guitar Nylon String

The classical, or Spanish guitar has a smaller body than the steel stringed acoustics and produces a soft, mellow tone due to the nylon strings. These guitars are usually played with the fingers rather than plectrums

Great For: Classical, Spanish, Flamenco, Folk, Finger picking, Singer-Songwriters

Key Players: Andreas Segovia, John Williams, Julian Bream, Leo Brauwer, Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson

Current Players: Lauren Hill, Nick Mulvey, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Sun Kil Moon, Mark Eitzel, First Aid Kit (acoustic duo)

Solid vs Hollow Body Electric Guitars

The electric guitar features in virtually every musical genre, it’s extremely versatile and can produce a huge range of different sounds. It’s inspired countless players of rock, blues, metal, country and many other genres.

There are many great manufacturers of electric guitars and smaller electrics for kids are available in a range of different styles.

Electrics work well as beginner guitars as the strings are generally thinner than steel string acoustics so need less pressure when holding down notes. There will be less pain for the soft fingertips of new players although over time the fingers will toughen up – (this is unavoidable and something all guitar players have to endure!)

Semi-hollow body electric guitars (also known as semi-acoustic electric guitars) vary slightly to solid body electrics as they feature a solid centre block but chambered or ‘hollow’ side sections. The guitars themselves usually have a larger body size so may not be the best fit for smaller youngsters, although there are a few smaller hollow body models out there like the Gibson 339.

Semi-hollow bodies generally have a warm, full sound and have the benefit of producing a louder sound without plugging the guitar in, which can be useful if you need to keep the noise down when practicing.

Related Video: Teenage guitar band recieves golden buzzer on Britain's Got Talent in 2019

The necks on electric guitars are narrower than acoustics so less stretching is needed, making them easier to play for smaller hands. They’re also  A LOT of fun to play! particularly as there are many different tones you can achieve with electrics through amplifiers and effects. They’re available huge range of shapes, colour’s and sizes to suit every taste.

Unlike the sound hole on acoustic guitars, electric’s use magnetic pickups to amplify the sound, so you’ll need to factor in the cost of a small practice amplifier to make the sound heard.

To cater for new players, there are many electric guitar starter packs out there from various companies – these can be a great option as you’ll save money buy purchasing everything you need in the bundle.

Steel and Nylon String Acoustic Guitars

Classical or ‘Spanish style’ acoustic guitars use nylon strings and have long been regarded as the most suitable guitars for children from age 4 upwards. They produce a soft or mellow tone, are lightweight and are available in a range of smaller sizes.

Nylon strings are easier on the fingertips as the material used is plastic rather than metal. They require less pressure when holding notes down, although they do feature wide necks/nut widths so very small hands may find it tricky to stretch for some chord shapes.

Classical guitars are less versatile than electric and steel string acoustics. They are designed to play traditional classical and Spanish guitar repertoire. Having said that, as a beginner, the chords and scales you’ll be learning will be the same regardless of the type of guitar you go for.

Steel string acoustic guitars can be hard work for kids and there are generally fewer small scale steel string acoustics. 

Most fall under the category of travel guitars, although there are a few notable models which shot to popularity with Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift both having signature small scale acoustics.  

Choosing the Right Size Guitar for Kids

It’s important to choose the correct size for your child’s first guitar as something large and bulky will be uncomfortable when learning and there is a greater risk of them loosing interest which should be avoided at all costs!

Fortunately, electrics and acoustics come in smaller sizes to accommodate for this. Classical guitars have the most size choice, this along with their reasonable price make them a popular gift for smaller children.

 

Image shows Guitarlele next to full size acoustic guitar
My 4 year old sons Stagg Guitarlele, a 1/4 size guitar and my full size acoustic

You’ll find 7/8 size, 3/4 size, 1/2 size and even 1/4 size classical guitars. The latter refers to Guitarlele’s which are a great option for the smallest of hands!

By the time your child reaches their teenage years, a full size guitar should be comfortable enough for most and depending on how serious they are, it could be a better investment and last them much longer.

So now you have some background info, check out the review round ups below…