Choosing the right guitar for beginners

The start of a new year can be stressful for a parent what with all the books that need covering, stationary preparation, homework, not to mention extramural activities… and if you are reading this blog post odds are that one of those extramural activities is of the musical persuasion.

So, in this Three-part series, we will be helping you take the guesswork out of selecting the right instrument for your little or perhaps even not so little one. In this installment, we look at helping you choose the right guitar for your “offspring” (just a little musical humour)

Studies have shown that a child’s tendency to stick with a particular instrument long term depends largely on the first few months of playing. Even more so if your child has a short attention span. This is why it is very important to select a beginner guitar that suites their musical interest as far as possible. If after 3 months or so they are still at it, they may have been bitten by the “six-string bug” and they are much more likely to become a life-long player.

So, if you are looking to up those odds of your youngin’ staying inspired and lower the odds of the guitar becoming a dust collector much like the exercise bike in the garage that you swore you would use every day only to have missed the last 7 or 8 hundred odd days… keeping the following advice in mind can help you immensely.

Choose the right guitar to suit their musical preference.

Taylor Swift or Jack Johnson? Kyuhee Park or Ana Vidović? AC/DC or Metallica?

1.    Acoustic, Classical or Electric?

In most cases, a great place to start is on a classical guitar and there is a very good reason for this, steal strings hurt! A classical guitar with its nylon strings is far gentler on the fingers, compared to the steel strings of an acoustic or electric guitar. That said though, if your child enjoys pop or rock music, then they will be more likely to stick with the guitar that sounds like the music they listen to.

Acoustic guitars are very similar in shape to that of classical guitars with the most notable difference being that they have steel strings as opposed to the nylon strings found on a classical guitar. This gives the acoustic guitar a much bigger, brighter sound. The downside being that the steel strings can be quite harsh on “beginner's fingers” and as a result could play a part in whether they actually stick with the instrument long term or not. Typically, though, for younger players, we would usually recommend starting off with a classical guitar at least until their fingertips have hardened a little.

Electric guitars are much slimmer than steel-string acoustic guitars or classical guitars in terms of the body shape. The neck is also not nearly as broad as that of a classical guitar, so a younger person could potentially be more comfortable playing an electric guitar. Something to keep in mind though is the weight. Some electric guitars can weigh up to 6 Kilograms which can be difficult for younger children to handle. If you think your child would be well suited to the electric guitar, we recommend starting out on the Fender Short Scale Starter Pack which is our lightest and more comfortable to play.

As a norm, guitar teachers would recommend children under the age of 13 learn on a classical guitar before they try their hand at electric guitar. However, this is largely due to the extra weight of an electric guitar, not to mention the extra strain that steal strings tend to place on the beginner players fingers…  Again, no two children are the same, you may find that they “outgrow” the classical guitar faster than others. So, if you consider your child “up for the challenge”, by all means, go for an electric guitar. It really comes down to what will keep them playing.

2.   What Size Should You Buy?

The other factor to consider is the size of guitar to buy. Below we have broken it up into a “Size Chart” taking into consideration both the players age and height which will assist you in assuring you buy the right instrument for your child along with links to the best option in each size keeping both affordability and quality in mind.

Electric Guitar:

Recommendation:

Age

Height (cm)

Recommended Size

5 - 8

80 - 100 

1/2 Size

8 - 12 

100 - 125 

3/4 Size

12+

125 +

Full Size

Pros and Cons

·         Smaller in size than acoustic or classical

·         Good for rock, metal, pop and country music

·         Has steel strings which can be hard on young fingers

·         Can be heavy, depending on the model.

MiChoice: Fender Short Scale Starter Pack

 

Acoustic Guitar:

Recommendation:

Age

Height (cm)

Recommended Size

5 - 12

100 - 120 

3/4 Size 

12 - 15 

120 - 165 

Small Body

15+

165 +

Full Size

Pros and Cons

·         Good for folk, pop, country, slow rock music

·         Has steel strings which can be hard on young fingers

·         Sounds bright and loud, great for strumming chords 

·         Lightweight but bulky

MiChoice: Tanglewood DBTSFCESBL Discovery Super Folk

 

Classical Guitar (Nylon String Guitar):

Recommendation:

Age

Height (cm)

Recommended Size

2 - 5

75 - 100 

1/4 Size

5 - 8 

100 - 125 

1/2 Size

8 - 12

125 - 165

3/4 Size

12+

165 +

Full Size

Pros and Cons

·         Good for classical, flamenco, Spanish music.

·         Available in the smallest size – 1/4 size.

·         Gentle on fingertips - perfect for young children

·         Sounds mellow and soft - not as loud as acoustic

MiChoice: Tanglewood DBT12NAT Discovery Natural 1/2 Size Classical Guitar

 

Learning to play a musical instrument is rewarding in many ways. Through music, kids learn discipline, express creativity and find a healthy way to manage stress. All my life I have heard the sentence “Man I wish I learned to play an instrument when I was younger…” to that I say, you are never too old to learn and that it truly is a privilege to be able to play an instrument. If the seed is there, as a parent, the best thing you could possibly ever do is cultivate it.

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