Best First Guitar for a Child

What kind of guitar is best for a child to learn to play? Discover the surprising truth as a seasoned guitarist dispels the myths about buying a first six-string and makes it real. It may shock you, make sense totally and maybe even surprise you a little too!

Before getting into the reasoning behind this article, I first want to let you in on a little secret that few consider when their young son or daughter comes up and tells them, "I want a guitar for my birthday!" They already have a picture in their mind of what that guitar looks and maybe even sounds like, so don't fall into the trap of doing "just what everyone else does."

What Everyone Else Does

cheap nylon strung classical guitar Here's the general scenario when you're accosted by your young potential musical protégé with that amazing request. "Sure," you tell them with a picture in your head of trotting out to the local music store to buy them a cheap, nylon strung classical 3/4 six-string.

You wrap it up with all due contentment and then wait expectantly for the beaming face to look up at you with endless gratitude as your loved one scrambles to open their birthday gift of a lifetime. The reality is they open the box and the look of horror that crosses their face is enough to turn your heart to stone!

Where Did You Go Wrong?

Your idea for them to go to classes to learn classical scales, chords and arpeggios was sound enough, wasn't it? Yes it was, but from your perspective!

Go back a bit and try and figure out where you went wrong. When they asked you for that most precious of gifts, did you ask them what kind of guitar they had pictured in their mind when they asked you?

You should have done!

Because they probably had an image of the guitar their favourite music star of the moment plays.

What They Really Wanted

For example, it might have been a cool shedding machine like and good thrash metal head would feel right playing. It might have been a classic Strat or other popular electric model. Or it could have even been a nicely inlaid steel strung acoustic that has typified many popular ballads.

The likelihood of a child opting for a classical guitar with nylon strings is pretty low, I can tell you. If that's what my parents had bought me when I was a kid, I might never have played the darn thing!

Don't Diss Classical

OK, before I go any further, I want to say that I have a ton of respect for classical guitarists and their instruments. I own one myself. Now, that is!

But back in my pre-teens, teens and early adulthood, I wouldn't have been seen dead playing one! At that age, classical stuff is for old people (when you're young, anyone over 21 is "old").

Classical music is essential listening as well as learning for anyone who is serious about calling themselves a musician. It goes hand in hand with learning to read music and musical theory.

Yes, beginners should be encouraged to learn how to play their instrument the "right" way and from a young age if they are going to master it before they get too old (their perspective of "old" again). But first of all you must make it interesting for them.

Youngsters want what's being played by young bands and musicians that they see featured on Youtube and on TV. And if they don't get what they want, there is a very strong chance they will lose interest and drift away from the idea of playing a musical instrument of any kind.

On top of that, a classical guitar is hard to play for smaller hands. The neck is very wide, making it hard to fret. And despite popular theory, while nylon strings are easier on the fingers, those fingers will soon toughen up on steel strings and be the better for it!

Interest is Everything

And that's the secret I was talking about. It's not so much about what kind of instrument your child chooses to play or the style they first start learning to master.

It is ALL about keeping their interest in the right place.

And you do that by giving them the instrument they found most interesting to them and letting them learn how to play it in a way that is interesting and gives them a sense of accomplishment that they can show off to their friends.

If you keep the interest, the chances are they will keep playing and learning ever more complicated things. Their own natural curiosity will lead them to want to learn to play all the "expected" stuff as it becomes pretty obvious they can't play those amazing licks and riffs without some serious traditional tutoring!

Before You Decide to Buy

I'm afraid I'm going to hit you with another "don't" before I get into the "do's" which is this:

Don't buy a cheap or "child's toy" instrument. You will regret it when they find they are limited in what they can do on it, or it goes out of tune all the time or it is just too horrible to play!

A cheap guitar is cheap for a number of reasons. This is mostly because the manufacturing process is cheap and corners are cut. Such as:

The list goes on. Bottom line: don't buy cheap! It is false economy (where and how many times have you heard that before?) and you will regret it in the long run!

Which is the Best Kind of Guitar to Learn to Play First?

Now we're into the part you've been waiting for. Apologies there was a ton of stuff to read first, but it's important to know how easy it is to go wrong and potentially destroy the chance of your child's eagerly-awaited and long-standing love affair with their chosen instrument.

I'm going to offer a few examples of what I would have been personally happy to have receives as a budding guitarist when I was a child and will also give you this very important piece of advice:

Run it past your child before you get your credit card out!

Make sure they like what they are seeing and it fits with the picture they have in their mind of the kind of guitar they want to have. The choices available might not be an exact match, but you can get close enough for them to be totally happy when they get to hold it and play it for the first time.

Compare These Top 3/4 Size Guitars:

Click the image to visit the full info page at for more details and latest great value price:

Yamaha FG JR1
3/4 Size Acoustic Guitar

A top brand name you can trust to bring your child a quality acoustic guitar in 3/4 size but with 100% playability and style!
Great starter instrument for first timers.

Squier by Fender
Mini Strat Electric Guitar

A fully playable 3/4 electric with the Fender brand that tells you it's good quality. Perfect size for smaller hands that are learning cool stuff and comes in a range of colours.
Note: It needs an amplifier!

3/4 Acoustic Electric Guitar

Best of both worlds, an electro-acoustic that is amazing quality from a top brand in a range of colours. This 3/4 bridges the gap between acoustic and electric playing and is the perfect size for a child's hands to play.
Note: Play with or without an amplifier.

These instruments are all on sale at Amazon and by clicking the orange link beneath each image (or the image itself), you can open the appropriate page there and get all the details as well as buy it if it is the one you want.

My Own Stumble into Musicianship

I remember that before I learned guitar, I learned to play clarinet - classically. At the tender age of about 9, I remember standing up in front off my class and playing "Abide With Me" solo and feeling so nervous.

The reaction was pretty underwhelming. And I have a feeling that if the kids in my class weren't all terrified that the teacher would beat the crap out of them if they didn't clap, nobody would have.

That was back in the late 1960s when progressive rock music was just coming into its own. Kids like me were listening to amazing music on their transistor radios and watching bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin on the TV.

And there I was playing this dumb pipe with too many holes and keys and a dumb boring tune to kids that would have been rather more excited had I stood there and unleashed the latest Jimmy Page solo on a steaming, screaming Strat!

Or at least a rendition of "Black Mountain" on a nice steel-strung acoustic!

I Wanted a Guitar!

It wasn't long before I wanted a guitar for myself and all credit to my rather disappointed parents, who wanted me to follow in the footsteps of my great-uncle Tommy and play clarinet in the London Philharmonic someday, they bought a steel strung acoustic! By this time I was already into my teens, so a lot of wasted time went under the bridge.

It didn't matter I first learned to play dumb songs like "Way Down Upon the Swanee River" - I was just happy to be playing a cool instrument! I soon learned to play more "popular" songs like those I heard on the radio (Slade, T Rex, The Sweet were my top bands of the early 70s).

It wasn't long before I bugged them into buying me an electric guitar, which was a Les Paul copy (even though I didn't really know that at the time) as a young teenager and I was soon learning to play classics like "Sylvia" and "Hocus Pocus" (by Focus - Jan Akkerman was a big influence on my guitar playing, I might add). I soon found myself getting into Zeppelin and Purple by the mid 70s, which was pretty natural I think because of the guitar-based music it was more interesting to me than the "pop" culture of soul and disco.

I went on to join a band at school, but that's for another article, methinks! Suffice it to say, that decision to buy me the right kind of guitar to begin with meant I kept my interest and fed my curiosity for what I could accomplish by learning and learning some more.

The proof is I still play now, well over 40 years on. So that was a pretty sound, long term choice, you could say!