Buying A Child’s First Guitar – Tips

kids first guitar ibanez mikro

Buying A Child’s First Guitar – Tips – Buying the right guitar for a child is the first and most critical step to ensure the child will remain interested in learning the guitar and motivated to keep practicing.

Buying a Child’s First Guitar Tips

Should you buy an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar for a child’s first guitar?
Acoustic guitars are definitely more difficult to learn. Acoustic guitar strings are harder to hold against the guitars neck due to their makeup and proximity to the guitar neck. The strings on an electric guitar are generally thinner and closer to the neck or fret board making it easier for tinier hands to sound notes and chords. There are two schools of thought on which to start with. One says acoustic because they want to strengthen the child’s fingers and teach them finger strength. The other says electric because they want the child to be able to learn quicker in order to avoid overall frustration. Personally, I subscribe to the latter school of thought. If your child is under 14 years old, I’d consider getting a 3/4 size guitar. For the sake of this article, I’ll be focusing mostly on electric guitars for kids.

What about those beginner guitar sets and packages for kids?
We’ve all seen these package deals. You can get an electric guitar, amp, strap, cord, tuner, and picks at Best Buy or a department store for an attractive price. I advise against buying these. “Beginner” guitars (and amplifiers) aren’t meant to be forever. Eventually, and sooner than you’d probably want, you have to step up buy a “real guitar” and/or a “better amp”. Your child’s interest in these poorly made guitars will wane quickly simply because these guitars are difficult to play due to construction and “setup” (see below) and sound poor due to the cheap amplifiers included in these packages. Sure, the price may be right but the money (and interest) will be gone quickly. I’m definitely not advising anyone to plunk down big money on an expensive kid’s “first guitar”, just know that a “step-up” will be needed if a child shows genuine interest after 6 months to 2 years of playing beginner models.

How much should I spend on a child’s first guitar?
This is relative. You can get an electric guitar of suitable quality for under $200 that will be easy enough to play and hold their interest for a long enough period of time. Dean, Ibanez, Kramer, Epiphone, Washburn and Jackson all make quality, highly rated guitars for a smidge under $200. For over $200, the quality and options obviously go up. If you’re going to buy a 3/4 sized guitar, I recommend the Ibanez Mikro.

How much should I spend on a child’s first amplifier?
Buying an amp is equally as important as the guitar itself. A $3000 guitar will sound like a $50 guitar if you go cheap on the amp. I recommend finding an amp of at least 15w. You can find reliable 30w practice amps for under $200 – Marshall makes a great one. If money isn’t a huge concern, I recommend buying a nice Fender or Marshall tube amp.

The Importance of Guitar Set Up
SET UP – The most overlooked and maybe the most important part of the guitar buying experience. Unless you spend over $500 on a guitar, it needs to be set up properly by a trained professional. A guitar tech “set up” includes a tech: restringing the instrument (beginner guitars come standard with awful strings), proper tuning and adjusting the instrument so the string setup is proper and close to the fretboard. Local music stores or Guitar Center offer set ups that range from $25-$50. As I stated earlier, a proper sounding guitar leads to increased interest, ease of play and an overall better playing experience. Many guitar packages, especially the cheaper ones, give the impression that everything you need is in the box and there is nothing else to do upon purchase. Unfortunately, this is not true. If the guitar sounds great and is easier to play, kids are naturally going to be more excited to practice.

Child’s First Guitar Checklist

  • Suitable guitar
  • Suitable amp of at least 15w (preferably 30w & up)
  • Strap
  • Picks
  • Guitar Tuner
  • Professional Set-up
  • A lesson on how your child can change his/her own strings & tune the guitar
  • A plan in place for guitar practice and learning the instrument

Article written by Glen LaGrou. Glen has over 35 years of experience playing, teaching and recording guitar (and has made almost every mistake along the way). If you have additional questions on buying a child’s first guitar, contact him at glen@oaklandcountymoms.com.