It’s no surprise that guitars are such popular instruments; they have a huge presence in the music industry, are versatile and have an awesome sound. Looking into suitable guitars for children is the first step towards them learning the guitar, and given some time and practice they’ll be able to play and sing songs they like and express themselves with their own creations. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing your children develop their skills and follow their passions.
Learning to play guitar as a kid is highly valuable as not only does it give a wealth of experience on a cool instrument but it acts as a doorway into the world of music theory; knowledge that can be carried on into later life and applied to other instruments and musical ventures. There have even been reports that it can aid cognitive ability and memory.
However, guitars are not the most simplistic of instruments and it does take some knowledge to gauge and understand what the best guitar for children looks like. So what should you look for?
Important Questions and Considerations
When it comes to choosing a guitar, it’s advisable to pay close attention to the many different specifications and characteristics of the guitar models as they reveal a whole lot about the overall quality of the instrument no matter what type of guitar you end up buying.
It isn’t just about build quality though, the specifications and characteristics are also vital in selecting a guitar that is the right size, type and style for the child you are buying for. Ensure they are comfortable with the instrument and it will be more likely that they will stick to learning rather than putting it off until they get a better guitar or quit completely.
Is My Kid Ready to Learn Guitar?
It’s not really a tough call to make, a child will be ready to learn the moment they express their desire to be able to play guitar, and they will usually do this after being inspired when they see someone else play guitar and felt the desire to pick up and play.
However, bear in mind that learning and playing guitar does require some strength in the fingers and hands, and due to it being especially difficult when people first start, the child would need motivation, discipline and plenty of encouragement.
As having finger and hand strength play a vital role, it’s probably best to start learning guitar at ages older than approximately 5 years of age. Children younger than this age group can still get a head start and some experience with stringed instruments though; a great choice for a toddler is the Ukulele!
Are Guitar Lessons Needed?
Guitar lessons are not wholly needed just to learn the guitar basics as people including children can learn guitar from books or from websites, a useful one being Justin Guitar which is where I learned the basics myself!
Teachers are an advantage and are the best way to learn music theory, good posture, pick up hints and encourage good playing habits. Without tutoring, it’s more likely that bad habits will develop, the learning process may also take longer and the resulting player may be less professional and sound clumsier than someone who has taken formal lessons.
If you are going to get guitar lessons for your child, it’s definitely worth having an approachable guitar teacher with a set of engaging lessons. You’ll want your child to meet the teacher first to see if they get along because it’s best to avoid an incompatible teacher which could result in putting your kid off the hobby altogether.
It would also depend on the genre of music your kid likes the most and can see them making music within in the future. Formal guitar lessons would be extremely important for those wanting to learn the methods of classical guitar as music theory and difficult techniques are strongly involved but again, this could still be learned from books it would just be more difficult.
What about Guitar Tabs?
Tabs are a great alternative to formal lessons if you want to start to learn to play the guitar yourself. Through the combination of reading tablature and some online tutorials, guitar techniques such as palm muting, hammer on/ pull offs and fret barring can be learned as you learn songs rather than being practiced separately.
Deciding to start out learning through tabs is not a bad choice for those who do not want to afford guitar lessons and they are commonly used by guitarists who want to focus on punk or metal style lead guitar as you can clearly and simply read and translate guitar solos and power chords.
Tabs can still be used for learning closed chords on the guitar too, which are the standard chords you would achieve by playing a combination of notes at the same time to create the chord sound. The thing about tabs is it’s not a way to learn music theory or to read and write music and if your child is going for a music career one day it would be a huge advantage to have a tutor now.
Types of Guitars
It’s not a straightforward decision on what type of guitar to buy for a child, as the guitar type will be determined by a number of things, including its size, neck width and the type of strings it will use, all of which can impact the child’s experience. The choice would all depend on the child’s musical preferences as the different types also produce different sounds and are used in different genres of music.
Acoustics: These guitars usually have steel strings, and a wooden neck, body, and fretboard. These guitars are certainly the most popular and have been used in rock, pop, and country since the early 1960’s. They are a good choice for the budding guitarist but they will be a bit tougher to learn due to them requiring more pressure to push down the strings which can hurt.
Electrics: Electric guitars can be plugged into an amplifier or computer with guitar effect software such as Guitar Rig using a jack lead. Electric guitars are extremely diverse and can have all sorts of effects applied to them via computer software or the combination of effect pedals to alter the sound. Electric guitars will also use steel strings.
Classics: The classic guitar type is technically acoustic but they differ from the acoustic type in many ways. Firstly they have a wider fretboard with the frets usually unmarked, unlike other guitar types. They also create a much softer, resonant sound than the others due to having nylon strings and a larger hollow interior.
Semi-acoustics: Very similar in appearance to acoustic guitars except they have a jack input for plugging into an amp and a lot of modern semi-acoustics feature an inbuilt LED display tuner and volume control which are very handy. Semi-acoustics can vary greatly in quality between models and tend to not be very good value for money at lowe price margins as a lower priced will reflect on the lower quality components which go into the electrical aspect of the guitar.
There are other various guitar types here and there but these are the main four that a beginner guitarist needs to be concerned with but which of the four types are best suited for a child just starting out?
Classic guitars would be a tempting choice to recommend and the reason is that they have softer strings causing less pain and agitation in the fingers of early players. It only benefits the player to have a wider necked guitar to stretch their fingers which enhances their playing capabilities and also classical guitars are the only type available in 1/4 size and so it may be the only choice for the youngest and smallest of learners.
General Anatomy of a Guitar
The illustration below should give you a general idea of the exterior components of an acoustic guitar which is very helpful to know when shopping around.
It’s key to point out that with an electric guitar you would typically not have a soundhole or scratchboard and would have a jack input, pickups, pick up selection switch and volume/tone controls.
With a classic guitar, you will notice they tend to not have a scratchboard as you would not likely play with a plectrum, and the strings attached to the tuning pegs a little differently. Guitars may also differ in how the strings attach at the bottom, most classic guitars tie on the bridge whilst electric guitar strings can be fastened with a mechanism or threaded through the guitar, acoustic guitars as you can see in the diagram are usually secured using pegs.
It’s also worth noting that the following terms can be used interchangeably and it’s really only a matter of preference except in certain circumstances:
⦁ Fingerboard – Fretboard
⦁ Scratchboard – Fingerplate
⦁ Music Board – Top (manufacturers refer to as the top in specifications)
⦁ The sides, back, and top of acoustic and classic guitars – The body
⦁ Plectrums – Picks
What Size Guitar Should You Choose?
There is a general guide for what guitar size is appropriate for the age of the person but it doesn’t have to be followed strictly and if you get stuck deciding between two sizes, take your kid to a local music shop and have them try a couple out.
Full Size (100cm x 38cm): Recommended for adults and children over 12 years old.
3/4 Size (92cm x 34cm): Recommended for children aged between 8 and 12 years old.
1/2 Size (86cm x 30cm): Recommended for children aged between 5 and 8 years old.
1/4 Size (77cm x 27cm): Recommended for children aged between 2 and 5 years old, only classical guitars available.
The maximum age on these recommendations does not mean those who are older are restricted to their designated size at all, as adults buy smaller guitars all the time for travel or just because it suits them to have a smaller fretboard.
Guitar Brands we Recommend
Choosing the first guitar is an important decision when it comes to quality as guitars are a saturated market with many brands on offer, some being highly recognizable for good reason: their guitars are high quality and please their customers with clear sound, beautiful look and strong build.
It’s highly recommended that you stick to the following brands to ensure you’ll be getting a guitar that’s going to benefit the kids learning as a poor quality guitar will really show with an offputting sound which can result in the child blaming themselves and eventually giving up on the hobby. Ultimately the cheaper guitar with a lesser known brand is not actually a good value for money choice.
Yamaha: A highly recommended beginner’s first choice brand for making high quality but affordable instruments. Yamaha has a vast array of instruments in their catalog, starting with keyboard instruments in 1897 they included guitars into their range in 1942 and have built a trustworthy reputation since then.
Fender Squire: Squire being the more affordable, beginners range of Fender. Fender is a well-celebrated brand worldwide as a legendary guitar manufacturer of solid body electric guitars. It certainly didn’t hurt Jeff Beck, Buddy Holly, and Jimi Hendrix among heaps of other successful guitarists who swear by Fender.
Gibson Epiphone: Gibson (founded by Orville Gibson) is another majorly recognized guitar manufacturer who is most famous for their hollow body Les Paul electric guitar models. Gibson is renowned for very high-quality craftmanship whilst also being relatively affordable.
Stagg: Another well known yet highly affordable and good value for money brand, Stagg make strong sounding acoustic and electrical guitars as well as other instruments. While they may not be the most famed brand out of the four mentioned, they really do have a great range of parents on a lower budget.
There are plenty of other respected and well-known brands out there outside of these four that I have mentioned, for instance; Ibanez, Tanglewood, Cordoba are also widely loved. The market is bursting at the seams with guitars to buy, it’s unlikely you’ll run into any bad eggs if you have some brand awareness and do a bit of research before you buy if unsure.
Our Top Picks
Guitar Reviews by Size
Not all types of guitar are available in all sizes, as indicated earlier, the smallest electric and acoustic type guitars available are 1/2 size, therefore for your ease of use it is best to arrange the reviews by size, starting with smallest first. Full-size guitar reviews will not be featured as they are recommended for ages that are entering the tween years and this guide is focused on the best guitar for kids.
1/4 Size Guitar Reviews
77cm x 27cm Ages 2-5
Stagg C505 Classical Guitar
Starting the reviews with a Stagg mini classical guitar being only a 1/4 size its fitting for children from 2 years and older. This guitar has a good sound quality for its price as it is a great choice for parents who do not want to spend top dollar but still get the best budget guitar for kids.
The guitar is very light in weight and has an extremely narrow fretboard. The body is made from basswood, with a lot of different choices of style too ranging from cartoon images to a cute solid pink making this one of the best guitars for girls who are wanting to learn some riffs whilst expressing their personality!
Cordoba Acoustic Nylon String Guitar
Cordoba offers a small classical guitar made from high-quality spruce and mahogany wood which is why the sound produced by this guitar is rich and resonant. Without any need for paint, the guitar is naturally aesthetically appealing with its charming light brown coloration of the body.
Due to its top-notch build and fantastic sound quality, the Cordoba 1/4 size classical guitar is really giving you your money’s worth and would certainly be an instrument your child can only be proud of showing off their skills on.
1/2 Size Guitar Reviews
86cm x 30cm Ages 5-8
Yamaha JR2 1/2-Size Acoustic Guitar
The Yamaha Acoustic 1/2 Size Guitar pack featured makes a perfect gift for a kid wanting to get started out in learning the guitar. The guitar itself has a sturdy build with a body composed of a spruce top and mahogany back/sides, the fretboard and bridge being rosewood keeping a vibrant sound.
You have an ok choice between natural spruce or tobacco sunburst in color and it would be easy to complain about the lack of color options but with all the included extras this guitar comes with, it does make the best guitar kit for kids. A protective gig bag which has extra pockets, a clip-on tuner, spare strings, a string winder – handy for turning the machine heads quickly when restringing, some picks and a DVD which teaches how to play guitar are all of the extras with this pack, extremely good value for money considering you could be paying the same amount just for the guitar.
Oscar Schmidt 1/2 Size Acoustic Guitar
Oscar Schmidt is a company owned by the reputable Washburn guitars company, and this beautiful sounding guitar does also look sophisticated but also quirky; I particularly like the design of the guitar head.
The guitar body is constructed with catalpa sides and back and a spruce top and it also has a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard. The uncommon shape of this guitar enhances your comfort whilst playing by just being less bulky, and this does not affect the sound in any way that’s noticeably bad.
The free tuner, strap and cleaning cloth are nice bonuses that come with this already good value deal, it really is a nice guitar starter kit that goes beyond being just for beginners and so there’s no doubt this choice will be used for practice, sing-alongs and provide entertainment for years to come.
AXL Headliner Electric Guitar
There’s certainly going to be a guitar out there for the mini rockstar, and that guitar is the snazzy AXL Headliner Electric Guitar. This guitar will have your kids rocking out for hours at a time as they experiment with sound and the versatility an electric guitar can bring.
It has maple wood neck, the fretboard is rosewood and the body is basswood but colored in an awesome red to really bring out the intensity of this instrument. It’s the best small electric guitar for kids you can find and a great opportunity for a youngster to get some early experience with an electric guitar so that they’ll be shredding before you know it.
3/4 Size Guitar Reviews
(92cm x 34cm) Ages 8-12
Rise by Sawtooth Electric Guitar Pack
The options for electric guitars open up when you reach 3/4 sizes and there certainly are some interesting choices on offer, including this heavy metal style electric guitar by Sawtooth. Let your kids unleash their inner Kirk Hammett as only the best electric guitar kit for kids would include an amp and other goodies so you can plug in and play right out of the box!
This pack includes an amplifier, strap, some picks and a whistle tuner; the tuner not entirely being that helpful for an electric guitar, a tuner which you can plug the guitar into via the jack is much more accurate and simpler for anybody! The sound that this guitar produces is not as amazing as I expected when combined with the included amp, it sounded a whole lot better when connected to a spare amp I had.
Squier by Fender Mini Strat Electric Guitar
A highly recommended electric guitar bundle for kids, this kit from Fender Squier really stands apart from the other electric guitars in this size range for having great sound quality, high build quality, and superb Stratocaster design. It’s also available in red and pink so that you can personalize this guitar gift to the recipient’s taste.
This pack includes a clip-on tuner, which can be used perfectly fine with electric guitars but still not as good as a plug-in tuner. The amplifier that’s included is ok, not the best, you may still want to think about purchasing a better one in future. This pack also includes some spare picks, a strap, cleaning cloth, jack lead and a learn to play DVD an overall fantastic electric guitar option for kids.
Yamaha Half-Size Classical Guitar
If you have a child between 8 and 12 who really would be interesting in taking up producing elegant sounds from a classic guitar, then this Yamaha guitar is a perfect choice! With a spruce top and meranti side and back, the sound of this guitar is very pleasant barely having much difference from a full size.
The guitar also comes with a clip-on tuner and a cleaning cloth; both are really handy to have, especially the cleaning cloth because giving the strings a wipe down after playing is a good habit to encourage in the kid to reduce build up on the strings affecting the sound and just looking nasty.
Are All the Accessories Needed?
You will probably have noticed plenty of accessories included in guitar packs, and if they weren’t included you would need to purchase some of those things separately, but not all are necessarily vital.
Plectrums are to be used with acoustic and electric guitars whose strings are designed to be strummed somewhat aggressively in comparison to classical guitars. They are not needed but should be invested in, as using a plectrum to strum and pick strings is a completely different skill from using your hand and fingers therefor its good to learn both to diversify.
You will most definitely need an amp with an electric guitar unless you have an alternative method such as using computer software to process and output the sound. Other accessories like gig bags, DVD’s and straps are completely up to you, they do make learning and playing easier, especially when it comes to books.
As a final note; when looking for a guitar that best suits your kid be sure to consider their age and height, the rest is just a question of looking closely at the available options to try and get the most out of the money you spend. When it finally arrives, I’m sure the child who receives a brand new guitar is going to be over the moon, just give them plenty of encouragement and praise to bring the most out of them and they’ll master it in no time!