How to Buy an Electric Guitar for a Child or Beginner

Updated on July 28, 2018
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I have taught guitar and drums for several years. Here is some advice for getting young people started in music.

What's in This Guide

  1. Overview of the key things to consider when buying an electric guitar for a child
  2. Price range—how much should you expect to spend?
  3. Correct size and scale of the instrument
  4. Volume, noise, and ear protection
  5. Lessons: will you have to pay a teacher, and how much?
  6. Some of the best available electric guitars for kids
  7. Package deals—often the best way to go

My Experience With Instruments 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.

  • 35 years as a professional musician
  • Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist; I have played and recorded guitar, bass, drums, and keys
  • 30 years of experience teaching kids as young as 7 on 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

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.

— Maya Angelou

How Much Should a Child's Electric Guitar Cost?

The short answer: A good electric guitar package for a child or young player should cost between $100 and $250. 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.

Electric guitars of all kinds are a standard feature of every recording studio and many bands. High-end electrics, 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.

Fender's Kid-Sized Stratocaster

One of the great electric guitar manufacturers offers a surprisingly affordable package with a 3/4-scale guitar perfect for young players. Leo Fender was one of the pioneers of the electric guitar over 50 years ago, and the company is still one of the greats—the Fender Stratocaster, in the hands of Jimi Hendrix, was an amazing thing. The guitar in this package, the Squier Stratocaster, is based on that classic design.

Why I Recommend This Package

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 Fender customer service team. But the thing that makes it a good idea for a first electric is the package that it comes with. Fender 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 electric 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 package that includes everything from a good little amplifier to an electronic tuner to guitar picks.

Here's what's in this Fender Squier Stratocaster package:

  • Mini Squier Strat Electric Guitar
  • Amplifier
  • Instrument Cable
  • Tuner
  • Strap
  • Picks
  • Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD
  • Polishing Cloth

From the Fender description: "A smaller version of the Bullet Strat, the newly redesigned Mini is a great guitar for beginners, travelers, and players with smaller hands. Features include a new thinner body and a slimmer neck profile for easy playability. Equipped with three single-coil Stratocaster pickups and five-way switching for classic Fender tones, the Mini also features improved tuning machines, a hardtail bridge, smaller strap pins and a side-mounted output jack."

Key Considerations: An Overview

Here is an overview of some things to consider when buying an electric guitar for a child.

Money: How much do you have to spend? A good beginner's electric guitar doesn't have to cost a lot -- there are some really good options out there for under $200.

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 electric 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 electric guitar lessons. For older children, an electric 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!

Volume: This is usually more of an issue with drums than anything else, but I have seen students with potential undone by their parent's intolerance for noise in their house. There are always workarounds, but these need to be thought about in advance.

Amplifiers: All electric guitars need an amplifier of some kind so you can hear what's being played. While professional amps can cost thousands of dollars, a perfectly functional electric guitar amplifier for a beginner can be had for well under $100. But you need to know what to look for, and what to look out for! I have had students whose parents wound up paying for way more amplifier than their kids would ever need.

If you are a chef, no matter how good a chef you are, it's not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others - it's the same with music.

— will.i.am

How Big Should a Child's Electric Guitar Be?

Electric guitars are available in full size and 3/4 size. Full-size electrics, of course, are designed for adults and are all about the same size—differences in full-size 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 electric 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 "mini" electric will be suitable for a year, until they're truly big enough to handle a full-scale model.

Noise and Ear Protection

Ear protection is a major issue with some instruments, especially drums. For my drum students, I always insisted they wear headphones for both practice and lessons. Guitars are a different matter—unless your child regularly cranks the amplifier up to eleven, there's less of a need for ear protection. Keep an eye on the volume, and make sure they don't have the amp at head-level for some reason, and it's unlikely that it will be loud enough to cause damage. If you're still concerned, by all means check in with their pediatrician for a second opinion!

A more common issue as far as noise is concerned that I have encountered is parental noise fatigue or PNF—okay, I made that up, but it's still a real thing. Even the most rock-positive parents have their limits, and it's smart to discuss some basic house rules for rock guitar practice.

Music is love, love is music, music is life, and I love my life. Thank you and good night.

— A. J. McLean

Lessons

If you're buying an electric 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.

This Is Truly Impressive

Check Out These Articles Before You Buy!

Choosing a Child's Classical Guitar -- many parents decide to go with a classical guitar instead of an electric. Here are the things to think about when making your decision.

Chooing a Child's Acoustic Guitar -- The main question here is how to avoid finger pain due to steel strings. This article offers a solution to the finger pain that often derails a child's guitar lessons.

Resources

The following sources were consulted for this guide:

www.guitarcenter.com/Beginner--Guitars

telegraph.co.uk/education/9159802/Music-helps-children-learn-math

naeyc.org/our-work/families/support-math-readiness-through-music

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