So you are wanting to buy a guitar for your kid? You’ve landed in the right place, as not only have I purchased a guitar for my son, but I used to work at a guitar shop and have helped 100’s of parents pick the right guitar for their child.
Most parents that need help finding a guitar for their kid don’t know much about guitars, and that is ok. Stick with me and you will soon be up to speed.
Before we go on, if you are serious about your child learning to play the guitar, then please do not buy them the cheapest thing you can find. A $30 guitar will not stay in tune, sound good, or last. Nor will your child want to play it. The best first guitar is one that your child will want to play. Who knows, your child could be the next Sungha Jung. If your child is nearing the teenage years, read my guide on guitars for beginners.
Acoustic or Electric?
This comes down to preference. What type of music does your child like? If it’s AC/DC and Metallica, then clearly an electric would be the best choice. Keep in mind that an electric guitar will also need an amplifier. Guitar companies have responded to demand, and now offer electric guitar starter packs which come with a guitar, amp and some accessories. Not a bad way to go in my opinion. A plus to electric guitars is that they are easier to play. The strings are easier to press down versus an acoustic guitar.
If you are getting your child a guitar for a new hobby, and they haven’t expressed much interest in music yet, then go with an acoustic.
Acoustic guitars can have steel strings or nylon strings. The nylon string guitars are typically used for classical music. Some people may encourage you to buy a nylon string acoustic guitar for your child because the string are softer on their fingers. While this is true, the neck is also wider which can be a problem for a child's hand.
If you go acoustic, go with a regular steel string. As your child learns more songs they will be glad you did.
Size can be difficult to nail down. It really depends on the age and height of your kid. Most guitars that you see in shops are full size. Their are some smaller versions like the Taylor GS Mini, but to get any smaller you’ll need to go down a size.
The other size options besides full are 3/4 and 1/2. The half size models would be good for a child that is 3-5 years old. 3/4 size can be good for ages 6-10.
Best Guitars for Kids
So now that we’ve covered the basics, here are my picks for best guitars for kids.
Our Top Pick
Yamaha JR1 3/4 Scale Acoustic
This Yamaha is a great choice as it doesn’t break the bank, but it is quality enough to not be a piece of junk that will be thrown in the corner of the play room within a week. Reading through the reviews you will find mostly happy purchasers. While few are raving about an amazing sound, it’s a great guitar for what it is. The starter pack version comes with a tuner, extra strings, instructional dvd, and polish cloth.
Best Electric Guitar for Kids
Squier Mini Strat
This mini Strat is a great starter guitar. You’ll recognize the classic Fender Stratocaster shape. The Strat is a classic used by players like Jimmy Hendrix, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and John Frusciante. Grab this starter pack and you’ll have everything your child needs to get started rocking the house.
A few of the owners said the guitar required a set up to get it to play just right, but in all honesty most of the cheaper made in china guitars will need a set up. This is a simple fix that your local guitar shop can do for a few bucks, usually while you wait.
The Squier Mini Strat is our top pick for an electric guitar for kids. If your child is a bit older the full size version will be a better fit.
Best Acoustic Guitar for Kids
Our pick for the best acoustic guitar for kids is one that is affordable and good on quality. This is a great option to get your child started on the guitar.
Yamaha JR1 3/4 Scale Acoustic
As I mentioned above, this is a great choice of guitar for kids. It has a spruce top for that classic acoustic sound. It’s 3/4 size, so it is a great fit for younger children. It’s modeled after the very successful and great sounding Yamaha FG series.
Yamaha has a long history of making great guitars. Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins even has a signature model, which he played on his recent Tiny Desk Concert.
Music Alley Half Size Junior
I’ll use this area to show you the guitar you probably should not buy for your child. This Music Alley half size junior guitar for kids. It is super cheap, which is very tempting. Believe me, I have two kids and I’m beginning to feel like an ATM machine. While this guitar does have some good reviews, they are few and far between. Many state that the guitar is difficult to play because of the fretboard, and that it does not stay in tune.
Many mass produced cheap instruments do not come set up very well. This means that the strings are way too high off the fretboard. This results in the child having to press really hard to get the notes to sound correctly. Long story short, it is hard to play. If you want your kid to stick with it, get them an instrument they will fall in love with and want to play every day.
Many people choose to start their toddlers with a ukulele. The problem is a standard ukulele is tuned GCEA. The chords do not transfer over to the guitar. For this reason, many choose to get a baritone ukulele which is tuned DGBE. This is the same as the tuning of the first four strings on the guitar.
So if your goal is to eventually get your kid on a guitar but they are too young for a 1/2 size, a baritone ukulele is a great choice. Here is a great model that I recommend to parents looking to get a guitar for their toddler.
Kala Makala Baritone Ukulele
This is a great value as it comes with a tuner, (required for new players) case, strap, strings, dvd, and online lessons subscription. The ukulele itself features an Agathis body, brass frets, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, mahogany neck and geared tuners.
A few reviewers suggest spending an extra $9 for better strings. At time of writing, this ukulele has over 800 mostly positive reviews. This is a great choice to get your child started on their musical journey. Does it sound amazing? No. Does it sound pretty darn good for $85? Yes.