The 7 Best Kids’ Guitars, According to a Musician
I was 9-years-old the first time I stepped into a music store. Timid but excited, I carefully made my way through the doorway, immediately taken by the sights and sounds. Racks and racks of sheet music filled the front of the store; on the right sat the shop’s owner, Jerry, improvising on the upright Wurlitzer piano that sat in the corner; and as far back as your eye could see there was one thing: guitars. My mouth dropped: if this was a cartoon, this is the part where my eyes would’ve popped out of my head. “So,” Jerry said, as he sauntered over with a chuckle and a knowing look in his eye, “Looks like someone’s here to get their first guitar.”
Yep, after months and months of begging, my parents finally caved in and took me to get my first guitar. What followed (alongside years of lessons, tons of marked-up tablature books, and the occasional YouTube cover that you’ll never see) was a lifelong love affair with music and the magic that is the guitar. One of the easiest instruments to pick up, it’s not hard to understand how this instrument can bring so much happiness. But alongside that joy, there are many developmental pluses to playing the guitar.
According to a study conducted by the Brain and Creativity Institute at USC, children who have been exposed to music training early on in life show faster brain development, particularly in the areas of the brain responsible for processing sound, language development, speech perception, and reading skills.
Now, as someone who’s been playing the guitar for close to 20 years, you can bet that I’ve had friends, family members, and acquaintances reach out for advice on how to get their kid started, so if anyone can help out on this subject, it’s me. Below, I answer some of the most common questions about kids’ guitars and share seven of my top picks for your budding rockstar.
What age should my kid start playing guitar?
While your child is never too young to be introduced to the guitar, they can be too young to play it. If your child is still working on developing their motor skills, chances are they won’t be able to grasp the concepts of notes and chords. This is why when friends and family ask me this question, I give an age range of 7-10. At these ages, children are developed enough to actually be able to retain the information they’re learning and will likely have a genuine interest in the instrument. For children younger, there are a lot of toy guitars out there that rock.
What is the best guitar size for kids?
When shopping for a kids’ guitar, size is one of if not the most important factors to take into consideration. Why? It’s simple: for most kids, a full-size, full-scale guitar is physically impossible to play. Because of this, most kids will benefit from a short-scale guitar (this means the distance from the guitar’s nut to the bridge is shorter than average; think 20″ instead of a traditional 25″). This design feature makes the frets much easier to reach, making playing both easier and more comfortable for hands just learning to stretch across the fretboard. Short-scale guitars also feature a smaller body and lower string tension, which will also make playing a lot easier on those small fingers just building baby callouses. However, it is important to note that there’s no age requirement to play a full-scale guitar. At the end of the day, it’s all about what feels the best in your little ones’ hands.
Should I get my kid a toy guitar, an electric guitar, or an acoustic guitar?
If you’re simply looking for something to introduce your child to the guitar or they are too young for a real guitar, a toy guitar is the way to go. Bright and colorful, these guitars are all about fun, hitting some buttons, and making noise (plus, they’re a lot harder to smash).
As for choosing between an electric or acoustic, there are a couple of pros and cons to think about for each. With acoustic guitars, you benefit from their affordability, portability, and playability: they’re typically cheaper than electrics, are easy to take anywhere, and don’t require an amp. However, with a higher distance between the strings and the fretboard, they can a bit harder to play as they require a bit more pressing down on the strings to make a sound (nylon strings can help this hurt less). With electric guitars, the biggest plus is that they are a lot more comfortable to play (I personally learned how to play on an electric). However, keep in mind that you will need to invest more in an electric as they typically have a higher price point and require accessories like an amp.
How much should I spend on a kids’ guitar?
Of all the questions I’m asked, this is the one I’m probably asked the most. So, how much should you spend on a kids’ guitar? My advice is to not go over $200. There are plenty of great starter guitars out there that fall well below that price range. There are only two instances in which I’d say going above the $200 price mark is okay: if you’re buying a bundle that comes with things like an amp and a case or if your kid has been playing a while, and shows no sign of stopping so you’re looking to invest in a higher quality find that they can use well into adulthood.
What do I need besides the guitar to get my kid started?
Well, this depends on the type of guitar you get your child. If you opt for a toy, you probably will be set with some double-As. If you go for an acoustic guitar, you should be set with a couple of picks, a tuner, and a strap. Now if you’re going with an electric guitar, you will need all of the above products as well as an amp and a cable to connect the guitar to the amp. Luckily, no matter which kind of guitar you’re looking for, many companies also sell kits that come with everything from the guitar to all the essentials you need to get started (I’ve included two of my favorite options below.)
How do I make sure my kid sticks with the guitar?
Sigh. Unfortunately, this one is out of our hands. Like anything, the way to make sure your child doesn’t quit playing is to make sure they have a genuine interest in the guitar. If your kid has been asking for a guitar for a while or seems truly excited by the idea of playing, chances are they’ll stick with it. If it’s something you’re encouraging more than they are pursuing, you may want to be a bit more gentle with your approach to see if they warm up the instrument first. My biggest advice? Don’t force your child to play. The last thing you want is a child who comes to hate the instrument because it’s no longer seen as something fun.