Selecting the Right Guitar

This page is dedicated to helping you find an appropriate guitar for your child.

If you already own a guitar you may not need to buy a new guitar for your child. However, it is important to realize that “hand me down” guitars may not work well for young students.

There are a number of factors to consider when selecting an appropriate guitar, but for young students the two most important factors are size and playability. A guitar that is easy to hold and easy to play  will improve your child’s learning experience.

Of course, price is another big factor, but the good news is that quality guitars can be found at inexpensive prices. In fact, compared to piano, drums, or orchestra instruments, the guitar is actually one of the least expensive instruments for a child.

Also, with the TYKG method, only one guitar is required so there is no need to purchase a second guitar for yourself. Your child’s guitar can be used by both you and your student as you provide demonstrations and instruction. Even small sized guitars can easily be played by adults. In fact, they are quite popular and often considered convenient as “travel” guitars.

Along with the guitar, a guitar pick and guitar tuner are essential items. Additionally, there are several items that can complement the learning process, such as a guitar strap, music stand, and similar items. While helpful, these items are not essential and can be purchased later when required. Our recommendations for specific youth guitars, guitar picks, guitar tuners, and optional accessories are available in our “Equipment Guides”.

Factors Affecting Guitar Selection

Acoustic vs. Electric:

An essential element of success is your student’s level of personal motivation, which can be greatly impacted by forming a bond with the guitar. This bond is encouraged and strengthened when your student identifies with the guitar as an extension of his or her personality.

guitar-selectionThe preference for acoustic vs. electric is often impacted by personality. A high energy person may identify with the “rock star” image and prefer an electric guitar. Someone who has a quiet personality, or who enjoys singing, may prefer the soft strumming associated with an acoustic guitar. Your child can certainly learn to play guitar using either style, but personal preference can be an important consideration.

Note: Electric guitars require an amplifier and cable, but cost of a good electric guitar plus amp and cable won’t be much different than that of a good acoustic guitar. You will find Amplifier and cable recommendations along with our Electric Guitar recommendations.

Playability

It is important that the guitar be easy to hold and the strings be easy to press to create notes. While young kids can learn using acoustic guitars, electric guitars are generally easier for them to hold and to play.

Therefore, for the youngest students (age 5-7) we specifically recommend choosing a short scale electric guitar. This will not only be easier to hold, but easier to press down the strings, which results in less finger discomfort. Older children who decide to play an acoustic should have no problem, but for the youngest students a short scale electric is ideal.

Size:

The size of the guitar depends on your child’s age and physical size. Full size guitars can work great for older kids, but can be too large for younger kids. If the guitar is too big, it can be hard for a student to hold it properly and reach all the frets. Therefore, younger students often require a smaller guitar.

A smaller size guitar is often referred to as a “short scale” guitar. However, it is important not to confuse “short scale” guitars with “toy” guitars. Short scale guitars are real guitars, just smaller in size. In fact, they can still be used as a portable “travel” guitar as your child grows older. Our sizing charts provide general guidance, but the ages can vary depending on the relative size of the student.

Electric Guitars

  • Short Scale - Ages 5-9
  • Full Scale - Ages 9 to Adult

Acoustic Guitars

  • Short Scale - Ages 8-12
  • Full Scale- Ages 12 to Adult

Left Hand vs. Right Hand:

Left hand guitars are available, and since both hands are involved in learning new skills, either hand can learn to hold the pick while the other hand learns to press the guitar neck frets. We believe that a guitarist will eventually reach higher skill levels if the pick is handled by the dominant hand. In contrast, some instructors believe that, for some students, it may be better to learn on a right hand guitar since right hand guitars are more readily available, especially when visiting friends or going to new locations. Again, we recommend the pick be handled by the dominant hand, but ultimately this decision is up to the parent and child–either choice can work well.

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