The first few months of playing are most important for a child learning the guitar, so it can be extremely effective to choose a beginner guitar to suit them. If your child is comfortable with his or her instrument, this can make their first steps of learning a lot more easier and enjoyable, making them much more likely to continue playing throughout their life.
Children are known to have shorter attention spans than adults. If their first experiences with an instrument are too difficult or uninspiring, they will most likely become disinterested in learning.
A great way to start off right in helping your child maintain their interest is to find the right guitar to suit their musical preferences, find the right size guitar that will be comfortable to play, and to also make sure that the guitar is setup correctly which will enable them to get the desired sound from the instrument with ease, right from the start!
Which Type Of Guitar, Acoustic, Electric, or Classical?
For children the most recommended guitar for beginners is a classical guitar. The reason for this is that a classical guitar has nylon strings which are a lot easier for children to press down as the strings are gentle on the fingers. Many children during their first guitar lesson don’t press down on the strings as hard as they should in order to make a sound and need to be encouraged to do so. Using a nylon string guitar makes this a lot easier as the strings feel more comfortable than the steel strings of an acoustic or electric guitar.
In some cases your child may have specifically asked for an electric guitar, in this case it is definitely worth considering starting out with this instrument. Electric guitars have a much smaller body than acoustic guitars and classical guitars so can be more comfortable for a younger or shorter person to play. One thing to consider is the weight of the guitar, as electric guitars are typically on the heavier side. Although an electric guitar uses steel strings, these strings are typically lighter and closer to the fretboard than on a standard acoustic guitar therefore making the electric guitar a great choice as a beginner guitar for those children that have specifically expressed interest in the instrument.
In my experience as a guitar teacher I have worked with students who start with the classical guitar, the suggestion of working towards being able to attain an electric guitar can be very effective for providing motivation for the child to practice regularly.
Acoustic guitars are a similar shape to a classical guitar but slightly larger and come with steel strings. I personally don’t recommend children starting with this guitar as the strings are commonly thicker than the other two types and require more force to press down, many children find this painful and may become discouraged. If you child is interested in playing acoustic guitar I would recommend for them to start with the classical guitar and build up their finger strength before moving to the acoustic. It is commonplace for guitarists to build hard fingertips in order to increase their ability on the guitar, this is something that is slowly built over time.
Finding The Right Size Guitar
The younger your child is, the smaller their hands and arms.
Most young kids won’t be able to reach the neck of a full size guitar, this makes it extremely difficult for them to wrap their hand around the instrument in order to play sounds. The solution to this problem is that guitars come in different sizes. In order for your child to get the best start when learning guitar, choosing the right sized guitar will help a considerable amount.
Guitars commonly come in three different sizes, half size, three quarter size, and full size.
When choosing a guitar for your child there are two main aspects to consider, age and height.
The chart below offers my recommendations on which guitar will most suit which child.
The Option Of Starting With A Ukulele.
If your child is below the age of 5, I recommend starting with a soprano ukulele, ukuleles are generally much smaller in size than guitars and also only have 4 strings compared to a guitar's 6 strings. Ukuleles are also a nylon stringed instrument, this makes it a great starting point for young children as they will have much more success starting with this instrument as they develop their motor skills in order to progress onto the guitar. The skills learnt on a ukulele are easily transferable over to guitar, some of the chord shapes are exactly the same! Ukuleles are also widely becoming the most popular beginner instrument for children, overtaking the recorder.
When Your Child Outgrows Their Guitar
If your child outgrows their guitar, it isn’t necessary to immediately purchase the next size guitar, if a guitar is slightly too small it won’t have much of a negative impact on their playing, compared with if the guitar is too large. Through experience it is better to wait until your child expresses interest in moving to a different style of guitar, such as perhaps moving from classical to acoustic guitar or classical to electric guitar. This would be the perfect opportunity to reassess the correct size guitar for your child.
Setting Up The Guitar
If you purchase your guitar in-person from a guitar shop this is often something that will be offered to you. Having the guitar correctly setup can definitely help make playing a whole lot easier. Generally the most important part of setting up the guitar is adjusting the height (referred to as “action”) of the strings from the fretboard.
This has an impact on how much pressure will be required to play a note on the guitar. The closer the strings, the less pressure, the further away, the more pressure, however, if the strings are too close to the fretboard, this can often create a frustrating buzzing sound when the guitar is being played, this is why it is important to be aware that the setup of the instrument can have an impact on the guitarists ability to play. Most guitar shops will offer a setup service at a small cost if you take your instrument in for service.
Price Of The Guitar
Another aspect to consider is the price of the guitar. If you child is just starting out you may not want to spend a lot of money on an instrument as you may feel unsure as to whether they will stick with it.
If you go too cheap the lack of quality of the instrument could make the action of fretting notes more difficult, therefore discourage your child from playing. I have used very cheap instruments in the past only to find out that they may break easily or not stay in tune well therefore creating more problems and resulting in costing more in the long run. However if you look around it is possible to find a great beginner instrument without breaking the bank. If you stick with well known guitar manufacturers such as Yamaha, Fender, Ibanez, Stagg, Valencia and Epiphone you're likely to find a reliable instrument.
Now that you have an understanding of how to choose a great guitar for your child, here's some of my recommendations.
Half Size Guitars
Classical Style Children's Guitar
Scale Length: 21.8"
Total Length: 35/4"
Available In Various Colours
Cost: £53 - £60
This 1/2 sized classical guitar suitable for 5-8 year olds. With a linden body and nylon strings, it is a great starting point for any budding player and all without breaking the bank.
The guitar has a lot of positive reviews and is recommended as a great guitar for children, looks and sounds well and functions exactly how it needs to.
Valencia VC202 200 Series Classical Guitar
½ Size guitar for children aged 5 to 8 years
Ideal for beginners
Domed Back for better sound projection.
A number of my students have Valencia guitars and I personally think they sound brilliant. They are well made, feel light and have a great smooth finish, they also tend to stay in tune quite well.
Stagg S300 Electric Guitar Black
Great quality and affordable electric guitar
Classic design in classic black finish
Rosewood fingerboard with 21 frets
Class ST style whammy bar
Available as Right Handed or Left Handed
Pure Tone Kids Electric Guitar Pack
Solid body half size electric guitar with high gloss finish.
Ideal for kids ages 8-13
Volume, tone and overdrive amp
Includes amp strap and guitar lead.
Three Quarter Size Guitars
Valencia VC203 200 Series Classical Guitar ¾ Size
¾ size guitar for children ages 8 to 12 years
Ideal for beginners
Domed back for better sound projection
Includes gig bag
This guitar is very popular among students extremely reliable, easy to play and stays in tune really well.
Mini Strat V2
Well known & trusted manufacturer
Maple Neck with “C” shaped profile
Three Single-Coil Stratocaster pickups
Five-Way Pickup Switching
Vintage-Style Hardtail Stratocaster Bridge.
LA Electric Guitar & Amp Starter Pack - Gear 4 Music
Includes 10W amp, spare strings , strap, tuner and more.
Smaller size guitar is light and easier to hold for children
Guitar awarded 4 out of 5 stars by Musicradar.
Full Size Guitars
Yamaha F310P2 Full Size Acoustic Guitar Basic Start Pack
Spruce Top Finish
Rosewood Fingerboard and bridge
Open chrome tuning machines
Includes DVD, strings and strap
Epiphone AJ-100CE Cutaway Acoustic
Select spruce top
25.5 inch scale
Advanced jumbo cutaway body
Fender FA-125 Acoustic Guitar