Children’s Guitar Guide
When choosing a guitar for a child, there are many things to consider:
What is the age and size of the child?
What style of music is the child interested in learning?
What style of music is the parent interested in their child learning?
Will the student learn on an acoustic or electric guitar?
First, let’s discuss the issue of age and size of the child:
There are three guitar sizes, ½ size guitars, ¾ size guitars, and full size guitars. Depending on the age and size of the child, certain guitar sizes will fit them better. Smaller children ages 4-7 will fit on a ½ size guitar. Children ages 8-11 will fit into a ¾ size guitar. Children ages 12 and above will usually be big enough to use a regular full sized guitar. These are general estimations, so always have the child try many sizes if you are unsure which will suit them best.
Second, let’s discuss the style of music the child will learn:
There are three different guitar types, and depending on the music style the student will learn, they will choose one of them. All three guitar types can be found in all sizes mentioned above, but some are definitely harder to find than others.
Classical: This is the guitar type used for students interested in learning classical music. Students pluck strings using their fingers on the right hand.
Steel-string acoustic: This is the guitar type used for students interested in learning modern acoustic guitar music of many types: Rock, blues, jazz, alternative, etc. The student uses a pick to pluck strings with their right hand.
Electric: This is the guitar type used for students wanting to learn electrified modern music of all types: Rock, blues, jazz, alternative, etc. The student uses a pick to pluck strings with their right hand. Additional equipment like amplifiers and cables are required.
Third, let’s discuss issues that may arise in the beginning of guitar studies:
Having the correct sized guitar is crucial to make the student comfortable with their instrument. A guitar too big for the student will be harder to play on, so make sure not to overlook this important issue. Keep the receipt of a newly purchased guitar just in case the child feels uncomfortable and needs to change to a different sized guitar.
The issue of pain and discomfort is something to keep in mind, as this issue may make a child disillusioned with the guitar. In the beginning there will always be some sort of pain and discomfort, but if a child complains a lot about this issue, getting a different guitar type may help. Classical guitars have nylon strings, which makes it easier for the student to push down, and thus is less painful. Steel-string acoustic and electric guitars use steel strings, so they are harder to press down on and cause more pain. Getting a smaller sized guitar will also help with the issue of pain, as smaller sized guitars usually require less force to push down on the strings. If a child with a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar complains of pain, either get a classical guitar or a smaller guitar, or both.
If the child is interested in a certain musical style, it would be a good idea to have guitar lessons with those interests in mind. A child interested in rock music will want to play on a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar, as those guitars are used more in those music genres. If the child has asked for guitar lessons but has no inclination to any music style, learning the classical style is the safest way to go.
Mixing and matching different guitar types with different music styles is allowed, and occurs often. If a child wants to play using a pick, which is usually learned on a steel-string acoustic or electric guitar, but his hands hurt too much, switching to a classical guitar for now while maintaining the original playing style is fine. Or perhaps after learning to play in the classical style on a classical guitar, a child now wants to learn a modern music style, the child can continue to use the same classical guitar. In the end, while there are some differences between different guitar types and music styles, there are far more similarities between them all, so switching between them should not be much of an issue.
Lastly, the issue of lesson length needs to be addressed. Children 10 years old or younger will be fine with a 30 minute lesson, as children that age tend to be a bit restless. Children who are older and more mature can handle longer length lessons. A younger child will usually start with the 30 minute lesson length and move up to the hour long lesson length as they get older, more mature, and develop in their guitar and music studies.
It is important to note that no matter what music style or guitar style the child decides to learn on, music reading and music theory will always be a part of their lessons.
Recommended guitar brands: First Act, Excel, Dean Playmate, Squire, Yamaha.