How to Choose the Best First Student Guitar

Posted on by admin | in babysitting

Learning to play a musical instrument allows your child to strengthen a wide range of their auditory skills, benefiting her throughout her adult life if she continues to play. Some of those benefits will extend into adulthood even years after her last lesson. Kids that learn to play music tend to score higher on the SAT Reasoning test than their peers who did not take music lessons, according to evidence published by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Your child may be entertaining fantasies of rock super-stardom when she picks up her first guitar, but you’ll know that she’s actively improving her mind and her future with every chord she learns. For your child to reap all of these benefits, however, she’ll have to stick with her guitar lessons, and a big part of ensuring that she does is finding the right guitar.

Keep Your Child’s Musical Preferences in Mind

In the world of acoustic guitars, there are two different types: classical and steel-stringed. Classical guitars are strung with nylon strings, and boast a wider fingerboard with a smaller body than their steel-stringed counterparts. Those nylon strings are softer and easier for your child’s smaller fingers to manage, but they create a much mellower sound and will not lead as quickly to the callous formation that allows seasoned guitarists to play without hurting their fingers. Kids that favor classical music or the softer sounds of folk music may prefer a classical guitar over one with steel strings. Rock, pop and country music sounds, however, come from steel-stringed acoustic guitars. Before you start searching for a student guitar, you and your child will need to decide which is better suited to her tastes and preferences.

Hold Off on More Exotic Instruments

Twelve-string guitars have a full-bodied sound that veteran players love, but they’re too much for a beginner to handle. An acoustic bass, dobro, mandolin or banjo might be an exotic break from the norm for your beginning guitarist, but they’re more difficult to learn than a standard guitar. As your child learns the basics of music and stringed instruments, you may want to consider allowing her to branch into these exciting choices. Until she’s got a bit of experience under her belt, though, it’s best to stick with a standard guitar.

Think Twice Before you Purchase an Electric Guitar

A child with a fondness for rock ‘n’ roll will almost certainly beg for her very own electric guitar, but they’re not ideal choices for beginners. Electric guitars are far easier to play than acoustic ones, so your child won’t have to press the strings as hard or focus on fretting new chords the same way. While this sounds like a bonus on the surface, you’re actually doing your child a disservice by starting her out with an electric guitar because she won’t be building up the strength her fingers would gain from an acoustic guitar. Switching over to an acoustic guitar later will be more difficult and frustrating if her tastes change, and could be discouraging. It’s better to start with a more challenging instrument first, as strange as that may initially sound.

Remember That Used Guitars Aren’t Always a Bargain

Kids are notorious for having a fleeting interest in dozens of activities before they settle on the one they truly love, so it can be tempting to purchase a bargain-basement or second-hand starter guitar until you’re sure that she’ll be sticking with the guitar lessons. Tuning keys can rust, necks can warp and other damages can occur over time, making an old guitar difficult for a child to manage properly. New guitars that are manufactured and assembled cheaply will often cost you more in repairs than the ticket price, so it’s best to consider your child’s student guitar an investment and purchase accordingly. That doesn’t mean that you have to buy a top-of-the-line model, as there are high-quality student guitars on the market that won’t break the bank. You’re just very likely to be better off with a guitar you’ve purchased from a reputable dealer than a pawn-shop special or a battered instrument you found through classified ads.

Keep the Size of the Student in Mind

In order for your child to truly enjoy her music lessons, she’ll need to be able to progress at a steady rate and handle her guitar with minimal struggle. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that her student guitar is the right size and scale for her frame. Depending on her age and height, she may need anywhere from a 1/4-size instrument to a full-size. Your child’s instructor is usually the best source of information regarding guitar size, and can give you recommendations when it comes to choosing the perfect model for your student.

When the discordant sounds of a beginning guitarist fill your house and threaten to drive you to distraction, remember that you’re fostering more than ideas of fame and fortune.

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2 Responses to How to Choose the Best First Student Guitar

  1. David Hart says:

    Great blog. As a guitar teacher for 27 years I agree that its best to consult a guitar teacher before purchasing a guitar. One reason students quit guitar is because the guitar they are trying to learn on is too difficult. This could be because of the action, the physical size of the guitar or the neck size or even just a bad tone can put the student off. Learning to ride a bike is a good comparison. If the bike is too big and the child keeps falling off they will soon give up. Feel free to visit our website for more information or email me at

  2. One of the most important things is not the type of guitars, but rather, the way it is “set up.” Getting the strings as low as possible, the lightest strings, the neck correctly adjusted, etc. The majority of inexpensive student guitars are not high quality, and come from the factory hard to play! This discourages kids! Bring you guitar to a GOOD repairman. Most techs in music stores are not good guitar repairmen. A real “luthier” or guitar builder, will have the insights to really make your kid’s guitar easy to play, so they learn more quickly, with less struggling. It is also VERY important that the neck is not too wide for your child; many are not sized correctly to your child’s hands.