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What is the Best Guitar for Children to learn on


best type of guitar for a child beginner

What type of guitar is most suitable for a child beginner to learn on?


The choice basically boils down to being between three types of guitar The Nylon strung acoustic (classical) guitar, the steel strung acoustic and the steel strung electric guitar

When that choice has been made then pretty mush all that is left to decide is "how big should a child's guitar be?"



Are Steel Guitar Strings or Nylon ones Better for Kids?

I have been teaching children to play guitar for more years than I care to admit and please feel free to discount the following advice if you like and go with the line trotted out by a whole load of people up here in cyberspace that "children should learn to play on a (nylon strung) classical guitar because metal strings will hurt their fingers"

"I played it till my fingers bled" (Bryan Adams "Summer Of 69")

Smaller steel strung guitars are now the best option for child beginners to learn on

The "nylon strings are better" trope seems to have been around since we crawled out of the swamp and in the "olden days" there was a very good reason for going along with it

Steel strung guitars (particularly budget ones) were generally of very poor quality No interview with an old rocker is complete without reference to tales of bleeding fingers (Hi Bryan!) caused by the action on older "affordable" instruments (the "action" is the distance between the strings and the fretboard and the higher the action the more force and effort is required to press the strings onto the neck of the instrument and the more likely your fingers are to bleed when you practice)

Guitars Got Better!

Without turning this page into too much of a history and economics lesson going into more detail than we need to with relation to the outsourcing of manufacture to countries/regions with low labour costs and a high technological capabilities suffice to say that there are far less "bad" guitars around than there used to be even at the budget end of the market It is possible to buy a new guitar (see the material on "Parlour Guitars" later on this page) that will potentially last a child a lifetime and will not need to be replaced as they grow for around $100!

From the 1970's onwards mass market guitar manufacture has shifted from America and Euroupe to Japan and then onto China, Mexico, Korea and Indonesia (among other places) and during that same time period the quality of the "twang for your buck" has gone through the roof This is not to say that there are no poor quality guitars out there (unfortunately there are!) but the reality is that since the rotten ones do not cost much less than the good ones there is no reason to buy a bad one for a child to learn to play on

Nylon vs Steel Stringed Guitars for Children

A whole load of this little bit of cyberspace seems to trot out the following (to me anyway) gibberish.... "we reccomend starting children on nylon strung classical guitars until their fingertips harden a little"

What years of experience has shown me is that this often translates to "we reccomend a course of action that will help to gradually erode the enthusiasm that a child has for learning to play the guitar because even when they are doing it right the instrument does not make a noise that they want and expect to hear" Not such a good call I'd suggest?

..."very few children these days who wish to take up the guitar take it up because they want to be a classical guitarist

This is not an attack on Classical Guitar, Classical Guitarists or Classical Guitar Music! I bow to no man in my regard for the genre and the sound of nylon strung instruments and I feel the appropriate and genuine amount of awe for the greats but the reality is that very few children these days who wish to take up the guitar take it up to be a classical guitarist They want to make a sound like the music that they hear on a day to day basis and that music is played on a steel strung instrument (irrespective of whether that instrument is electric or acoustic but more of that choice later in this article)

Almost all kids want and expect to hear the sound of steel strings

A large part of my job involves teaching guitar to groups of children and one of the most familiar situations that I have to deal with is that when the kids with the (nylon strung) classical guitars complain that their instruments don't sound as "good" as those of their friends who are playing on the steel strung ones



Nobody builds pianos for children with smaller narrower keys closer together to accomodate smaller hands they just "grow into" the instrument as they progress The reality is that in order to play the piano a child does not have to first pick it up and hold it (how scared would you understandably be of an eight year old who could do that?)

Most children dont struggle too much with the fingerboard of a guitar anywhere near as much as they do with holding, supporting and getting their arms around the body size of a "full sized" guitar

best guitar suitable for child

Two of my guitars A "regular" acoustic and my parlour guitar From the front there does not seem to be a great deal of difference but take a look at the picture below to see how the parlour guitar is nowhere near as deep and as a result is much more "child friendly"

Steel strung Parlour Guitars are the best option for beginner children to learn on

There are many fine (and a great many more not so fine) half size and three quarter size guitars aimed at children and a whole load of them do a great job but the reality is that when the child grows physically and becomes better then they will inevitably have to "trade up" to a "proper" instrument and the guitar that they used when starting out will gather dust in a corner before being disposed of

With that in mind I advise parents to spend (just) a little more and buy what is called a "Parlour Guitar" which is essentially just a regular guitar with a particularly curved design and a small body They are ideal for all but the smallest children (for whom a three quarter sized model may be suitable) The parlour guitar will hold its value better than guitars designed specifically for children and because they will not grow out of it the guitar could even be the one they take with them when they go to college in about ten years from now

Parlour Guitars have a whole load of advantages in that they are "real" guitars rather than miniture (half or three quarter sized) guitars that (regardless of quality and price) come to be regarded as "toys" within a very short space of time I have far too many guitars (you can ask my wife who will be more than happy to confirm this) but there is only one in my living room and it is a Parlour Guitar that is just great for playing while sitting down (or more accurately slouching) on my sofa

best guitar type for beginner stage child

The history of the parlour guitar is that they were originally designed and marketed as instruments to be played (mainly by women) in the domestic environment as home entertainment and were smaller (and more crucially as we shall see) not so deep from front to back as the standard guitar models that required more volume to be heard above other instruments/audience noise etc

In time the fact that they were small and thus portable led to them coming out of the home and being being taken up by itinerant Blues musicians such as Robert Johnson (who travelled by rail or hitched rides between gigs and who recorded what is arguably the most important and influential albums of all time on a parlour guitar) As the twentieth century progressed the design fell out of favour a little as fashion and circumstances meant that companies like Gibson and Martin produced huge numbers of the larger and deeper bodied guitars to feed the demand from country, folk and rock performers but the parlour guitar is still around and they dont sound like toys which some kids guitars can sometimes do

I have a general set of "rules of thumb" that have served me well over the years

Do not buy a half sized guitar for a child

This is based on the following reasoning....

The body sizes and scale lengths of half and three quarter sized guitars (see the picture on this page) are not so different as they will give a child much of an actual problem during the early stages of playing and there is more quality available in the three quarter sized section of the market

If a child is old (or actually, large) enough for a three quarter size guitar then give serious consideration to buying a parlour guitar instead

Parlour guitars can be for life! They are "real" musical instruments and tend to be built accordingly Having one of them around the house for a period of years will potentially send other family members (not just the youngest) on a musical path Add to this the fact that children can grow at what may be regarded (by the person responsible for buying their shoes anyway) as alarming rates than something that they will grow into rather than out of has to be the sensible choice

If a child is aged between four and six then a three quarter sized instrument may be the best decision but any older that that then I would definately go down the Parlour route

I have more material on choosinghalf or three quarter sized guitars for children on another page and you may like to take a look at that before making your decision



 Second of a series of kids guitar lessons featuring two new chords for children to learn




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