While exciting and enjoyable, learning to play an instrument can be quite challenging, especially for a child. That said, it’s important that your child starts off on the right foot to ensure a smooth and pleasant learning experience.
If you’re in the market for buying a guitar for a child, you’re probably overwhelmed by the wide variety of options available. Fret not; this post is going to help you pinpoint the perfect guitar for your youngster, so stick around.
Choosing the Right Guitar Type
There are three main guitar types you can pick from; classical, acoustic, and electric. There are also hybrid guitars that combine acoustic and electric playability, but these are a bit too complex for a child, so don’t bother considering them.
If the child you’re buying the guitar for is a true beginner, then you should certainly go with a classical guitar. Classical guitars utilize nylon strings, which happen to be softer than other string types; therefore they’re easier for a child to manipulate. Not to mention that they won’t hurt your kid’s fingers.
Since we’re on the topic of guitar strings, no matter what guitar type you pick for your child, make sure it doesn’t use metal strings. Metal guitar strings are a bit too rigid for a child’s fingers and can actually cause calluses as well as literally making their fingers bleed before the calluses are formed.
It’s also worth noting that finger-picking softer strings, like nylon, is a lot easier than finger-picking more rigid steel strings. The same applies to alternate picking. You can even use a plectrum with soft nylon strings.
Another thing that makes classical guitars excellent for true beginners is that they’re pretty lightweight, which makes them easier for children to handle. In terms of weight, classical guitars are the lightest, whereas electric guitars are the heaviest, with acoustic guitars lying somewhere in between.
If the child you’re buying the guitar for has some playing background, you should consider buying an acoustic guitar. Unlike classical guitars, acoustic guitars utilize steel strings, which, as we already established, can cause some discomfort. So, they’re not ideal for pure beginners.
One of the reasons why acoustic guitars are so popular among musicians is that they sound fuller than their classical counterparts.
Ideally, you should buy your child an acoustic guitar once you’ve made sure they’re capable of manipulating the soft nylon strings on classical guitars.
If your child’s fingers are hurting as they’re playing softer strings, then it’s definitely not time to get them a classical guitar. Also, if your child has a music teacher, refer to the teacher before upgrading from a classical to an acoustic guitar.
If your child wants to rock and has enough guitar playing experience to handle some heft, then the obvious choice is an electric guitar. Similar to acoustic guitars, electric guitars make use of steel strings. The difference, however, is that electric guitar strings aren’t very taut, which makes them easier to play.
The downside of electric guitars, including the ones that are available in child sizes, is that they’re heavier than acoustic and classical guitars, which makes them harder to hold. Nonetheless, if your child is old and experienced enough, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
When in the market for the best electric guitar for your child, it’s recommended that you shop online, as some music shops don’t carry child-sized electric guitars.
Also, keep in mind that if you’re going to buy an electric guitar, you’ll need to buy an amplifier and some cables as well, as it’s hard to hear an electric guitar when it’s not plugged to an amp. This, of course, will cost you more. A great starter amplifier is the Roland JC-22.
Choosing the Right Guitar Size
Now that you’ve settled on the type of guitar you’re going to buy your child, it’s time to determine your child’s ideal guitar size. The following paragraphs highlight the different child-friendly guitar sizes with respect to different age groups.
4-6 Years Old
For children between the ages of 4 and 6, it’s recommended to go for a 30-inch (1/4-size) guitar. Such guitars are small enough for younger children to handle with ease.
30-inch guitars are about 20% smaller than standard-size guitars. They’re pretty lightweight, which makes them easy to carry around.
If your child is under 4 years old, you should opt for a toy guitar instead of an actual guitar, as the strings on the actual guitar may hurt their fingers.
6-9 Years Old
If your child is between the ages of 6 and 9, we recommend buying them a 34-inch (1/20-size) guitar. Compared to 30-inch guitars, 34-inch models are readily available in most music shops.
34-inch guitars are still considerably smaller than standard-size guitars, which not only makes them ideal for children aged 6-9 years old but also makes them perfect travel guitars.
When in the market for a guitar for a child between the ages of 6 and 9, you have to take the child’s height into consideration. If your child is taller than average, consider opting for a 36-inch guitar instead.
Ideally, you should have your child hold the guitar and try it out before you make the payment to make sure it feels right. If that’s not an option (online shopping, maybe), make sure there’s a clear return policy on the guitar.
9-12 Years Old
For children between the ages of 9 and 12, a 36-inch (3/4-size) guitar would be ideal. It’s actually the most commonly sold child-friendly guitar size.
36-inch guitars are suitable for children who have ample experience and who are just a few steps behind being able to handle a full-size guitar.
Such guitars are readily available in most local music shops, which makes it possible for your child to try the guitar before you pay for it.
Older Than 12
If your child is older than 12, they’re most likely ready to handle a full-size guitar unless they’re physically small for their age.
If your child is small for their age, we recommend opting for a smaller guitar. Don’t buy a full-size adult guitar thinking that your child will grow into it. That may be true, but as we said in the introduction, the child has to start off on the right foot in order to learn properly and enjoyably.
Ideally, the child should hold the full-size guitar to get a feel for it and make sure it’s comfortable before you buy it.
Choosing the Right Guitar Brand
Even though children aren’t very picky about the quality or brand of their guitars, we don’t recommend opting for poor-quality options just because they’re cheap.
You can get an idea of the different brands in my article on the best bass guitars under $300.
Cheap guitars sound awful and have a hard time staying in tune. Also, they’re not the most durable, so why waste money on something that isn’t reliable or long-lasting?
We’re not saying you should go for a premium-priced guitar, but you should certainly go for guitars that are manufactured by reputable brands like Gibson, Fender, Guild, Taylor, and Ovation, to name a few.
If you’re on a tight budget, brands like Cordoba and Yamaha offer excellent options that are highly affordable. Of course, you should do your research before you purchase the guitar.
Buying a Guitar for a Child – Final Thoughts
Choosing the perfect guitar for your child may seem daunting considering the vast variety of options on the market. Hopefully with the aid of the information shared in this article, it should be a walk in the park. We’ve also got another article covering the Best Bass Guitars for Small Hands and Kids that might be helpful. Good luck!