How to Buy a Child's Acoustic Guitar
What's in This Guide
- Overview of the key things to consider when buying a child's acoustic guitar.
- Price range—how much should you expect to spend on your child's guitar?
- Correct size and scale of the instrument (acoustic guitars for children are different from acoustic guitars for adults)
- Strings and finger pain: steel versus nylon
- Lessons: will you have to pay a guitar teacher, and how much?
- Some of the best available children's acoustic guitars
- Package guitar deals—often the best way to go
My Experience With Guitars and Lessons for Kids
My experience with children's musical instruments and lessons goes back many decades. Over the years I have had plenty of first-hand experience with instruments of all kinds, and students of all ages. Here's a short version of my musical resume:
- 30 years as a professional musician
- Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist; I have played and recorded electric and acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and keys
- 30 years of experience teaching kids as young as 7 on electric and acoustic guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, and keyboards
- 15 years of experience as rock band coach with kids as young as 8, including stage performance, arranging, and gear
- A songwriter with 14 complete albums to my credit
- Worked as a jingle writer and studio musician; clients include Budweiser, 7-11, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and many more
How Much Should a Child's Acoustic Guitar Cost?
The short answer: A good acoustic guitar for a child or young player should cost between $100 and $200. Less than that, and it's probably either just a toy or a really cheaply made instrument with poor customer service. More than that, and you're getting into the next-level guitars, those intended for more serious, established players. It's unnecessary to buy a $600 guitar for a child!
Acoustic guitars of all kinds are a standard feature of every recording studio and many bands. High-end acoustics, especially vintage guitars, can cost thousands of dollars. Of course we're not talking about those models here, so let's begin with a good option for families with a budding guitar hero and not a ton of cash to spend.
Steel Versus Nylon Strings and the Issue of Finger Pain
Acoustic guitars can be strung with either steel or nylon strings. Some styles, chiefly classical guitars, are traditionally strung with nylon (a hundred years ago, this would have been catgut!). As I discussed above, nylon strings are much more comfortable for beginners. Your child may not want to practice once they feel the steels strings push into their fingertips.
I learned how to play guitar when I was about ten years old. I learned on my mom's folk guitar, which she had strung with nylon strings for comfort. Based on that experience, I always recommend that my child students consider having an adult get nylon strings and put them on whichever guitar they own. This can make a big difference in how enthusiastic a child is about daily practice. Getting them to practice can be nearly impossible if their fingers hurt from the steel strings.
A Great Fender 3/4 Acoustic With Nylon Strings
This is an excellent option for those who decide to go with a nylon-string folk guitar for their child. Fender is one of the great names in electric guitar culture, and their acoustic instruments are also known for their durability and style. This package is an excellent example of the hybrid folk/nylon string arrangement discussed above. This guitar is the right size for a child and has comfortable nylon strings already strung on the instrument.
This is the same combination that I learned to play on, and the one I have recommended to my beginning acoustic guitar students. From the legendary Fender guitar company, this is a 3/4-scale folk guitar pre-strung with nylon strings. Better than wire, nylon strings cushion the impact of learning how to make and hold chords before callouses protect tender fingertips. Recommended for beginners.
Yamaha's Kid-Sized Acoustic Guitar Package
I'm a big fan of Yamaha instruments, from keyboards to drums to guitars, both electric and acoustic. This is a brand that is known for quality products across a wide range, and they also have a reputation for excellent customer service. Yamaha products are typically fairly expensive and very high quality, but even a lower-end Yamaha acoustic guitar, keyboard, or drum set will play better and last longer than a comparably priced instrument from another manufacturer.
It's no surprise, then, that I recommend . The 3/4-scale feature means that it's smaller than a full-sized guitar for an adult; this reduction in size is standard in both electric and acoustic guitars for young players (or petite adults). There's no difference in quality, sound, or durability in Yamaha's small-scale guitars. this 3/4-scale Yamaha acoustic guitar package
The reason I like this particular acoustic guitar is that it comes with a very complete package of accessories and necessities that every guitar student will need at some point. I recommend this package based on years of experience with my guitar students. The guitar itself is solid and dependable, and it's backed by the full support of the Yamaha customer service team. But the thing that makes it a good idea to choose it for a child's acoustic guitar is the package that it comes with. Yamaha includes everything you'll need to start playing right away—and trust me, you do not want to go through the process of finding and paying for a good beginner's acoustic guitar and then find that you're missing some essential part. That happened to me with a drum set I bought for my kids one Christmas when we realized that it didn't include drumsticks. Avoid that tear-filled scene by getting a guitar package that includes everything you'll need to start playing right away.
The Yamaha Acoustic Guitar Package
Yamaha Acoustic Guitar Set
Here's what's in this Yamaha package:
- Clip-on tuner electronic tuner (a must)
- Capo (a small device used to clamp onto the neck to change the key)
- Guitar strap
- Peg winder (very useful for changing strings quickly)
- Legacy picks
- Yamaha folk guitar strings
- Instructional DVD
Key Considerations: An Overview
Here is an overview of some things to consider when buying an acoustic guitar for a child.
Money: How much do you have to spend? A good beginner's acoustic guitar doesn't have to cost a lot—there are some really good options out there for under $100.
Age: How old is your child? This is a more important question that it is for some other instruments, such as music keyboards and drum sets. For those instruments, children as young as four or five can have a good experience, and there are models that are designed specifically for little ones. With an acoustic guitar, however, the child needs to be old enough to make the experience worthwhile. With a few exceptions, children younger than 8 or 9 years of age will lack the hand size, coordination, and patience necessary to get started on even the most basic acoustic guitar lessons. For older children, and acoustic guitar is an excellent choice. However, in many cases, they will still need a 3/4-scale instrument to make sure that they can appropriately play chords and reach all of the frets.
Lessons: You need to consider how your child is going to actually learn to play the instrument. Do you have someone to give your child lessons? Many music keyboards for young people include a "tutorial mode" that can be very effective, but this is not possible for electric guitars. The more serious you and your child get about their instrument, the more appropriate it is to consider finding a guitar teacher. A good teacher can change a child's life!
Strings: This is an issue that many parents overlook when selecting an acoustic guitar for their child. Wire or steel strings are standard on most guitars, except for classical-style guitars, which have nylon strings. Steel strings are very hard on young fingertips and can cause blisters and pain, so you want a guitar with nylon strings, like a classical guitar. Unfortunately, classical guitars also have an extra-wide neck, which is really challenging for little hands to deal with. So what you really want for your child is an acoustic like a folk guitar strung with nylon strings. I have seen this issue completely derail beginning players, so be prepared.
Durability: Acoustic guitars are among the most fragile of instruments. They are also sensitive to heat, cold, and humidity. A very cheap acoustic guitar can quickly become worthless, especially when a young person is in charge of taking care of it. The best acoustic guitars for beginners are therefore those that are both affordable and built to last.
I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it.— Jimmy Page
How Big Should a Child's Acoustic Guitar Be?
Acoustic guitars are available in full size and 3/4 size. Full-size guitars, of course, are designed for adults and are all about the same size—differences in full-size acoustic guitars are due mostly to the design and are usually not very noticeable. It's unusual for an adult to play a short-scale guitar by choice, although there are exceptions. Bill Wyman, former bass player for The Rolling Stones, regularly played a short-scale bass with the band.
For children and kid-sized players, a 3/4-scale instrument is the way to go. It can be nearly impossible for them to form chords on a full-sized fretboard, and even if they manage to, the weight of a full-size guitar will make playing really uncomfortable. A "scaled-down" acoustic guitar will be suitable for years until they're truly big enough to handle a full-scale model.
Sometimes you want to give up the guitar, you'll hate the guitar. But if you stick with it, you're gonna be rewarded.— Jimi Hendrix
Children's Guitar Lessons
If you're buying an acoustic guitar for a child or beginning player, then you'll need to consider getting them lessons of some kind. Your solution will depend on several factors, many of them specific to your family or your children. In general, a good guitar teacher will cost about $50 an hour; if you have two kids in one family taking lessons, you may be able to arrange a package deal. I used to charge $60 an hour for music lessons, and never had a shortage of students, but I was a bit more experienced than other teachers in terms of rock and roll and recording experience.
Although electronic drums and music keyboards often have a lesson or tutorial mode that can get things started, this is obviously not a feature of guitars, and that increases the chances that you'll need an actual human teacher. However, you don't necessarily need to arrange in-person lessons—there are good online courses and YouTube tutorials that are often a great way to learn the basics without spending much money.
My own children used to turn to YouTube tutorials to learn songs on both piano and guitar, and they spent much more time with virtual instruction than they did with me teaching them.
An Example of a Video Guitar Lesson for Kids
Choosing a Guitar for a Child -- Many parents decide to go with an electric guitar for their child. This article gives you the pros and cons.
Is a Classical Guitar the Right Choice? -- A classical guitar has nylon strings, which can alleviate the finger pain that often derails a child's guitar lessons. Here's what to consider.
The following sources were consulted for this guide: