Buying Guide for Children’s Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars are a popular choice as a beginner instrument for children usually because people perceive them to be easier to play and cheaper than electric guitars. Although an acoustic is generally cheaper than an electric (you don’t need to get an amp or a cable), it’s also a bit more difficult for children to play, especially when first starting out. If you want your child to learn on an acoustic you need to determine whether you want your child to learn on a steel-string or a nylon-string (classical). It is generally recommended that younger kids don’t start on a steel string, since painful metal strings may turn them off of playing long-term. Even though many kids begin on nylon stringed,  there are lots of kids who are ready to string who are ready to progress from a nylon string to a steel string or who want to skip playing a nylon string altogether.

Best Acoustic Guitars for Kids 2017 Reviews

ProductPictureAboutReviewPricing
Yamaha FG JR1fgjr1upA 3/4 sized excellent student guitar for kids ages 8 to 11.Read the Full ReviewCheck Pricing on Amazon
Yamaha FG JR2jr2A 3/4 sized very similiar to the FG1, but with slightly better wood.Read the Full ReviewCheck Pricing on Amazon
Baby Taylorbabytaylor2High end 3/4 sized student guitar from Taylor Guitars. Read the Full ReviewCheck Pricing on Amazon
Jasmine S35 jasmine35aInexpensive full sized starter guitar for kids ages 12 plus.Read the Full ReviewCheck Pricing on Amazon
Fender MA-1fenderma1-aQuality full sized acoustic starter guitar from Fender.Read the Full ReviewCheck Pricing on Amazon
Rogue StarterrogueblueBudget full sized beginner guitar for kids ages 12 and up.Read the Full ReviewCheck Pricing on Amazon

Budget

As a parent who is looking for an instrument for your child to learn on, you most likely aren’t going to want to spend a lot of money on anything too high end, luckily the way that instruments are manufactured these days you can get really low to mid-range guitars that are great for kids to learn on. A good price range for a beginner instrument is around the $100 to $150 mark. You can obviously go much higher and get a really high quality instrument or go a bit lower and get something that is fine for a beginner. As with most things, you get what you pay for so if you want to get a guitar that will last, sounds good and be easy to play then you will have to pay a bit more for that.

Read all of our acoustic reviews for kids.

Size

When shopping for a guitar for a child it is very important that you get a make and model that is the right size, otherwise it will be difficult and uncomfortable to play. There are 4 basic sizes (with a few variations) 1/4 size, ½ size, ¾ size and 4/4 (full) size.

  • For a small child, (ages 3 to 6) look for a 1/2 size, or even a ukulele.
  • For a medium-sized kid (ages 7 to 12), look for a 3/4 size.
  • And for a big kid (13 and up) or an adult, a full-size is probably the best choice.

The best way to determine the proper size of guitar for your child is to head down to your local music store and try out a few different sizes. To figure out the best fit make sure your child’s right arm and shoulder can fit comfortably around the body and the left hand should be able to reach the end of the neck.

If you are buying online and you aren’t sure about the size of a particular model, you can check the scale length in the specs.

  • 1/4 size guitars have a scale length of 19″
  • 1/2 size have a scale length of 20.5″
  • 3/4 size have a scale length of 22.75″
  • 4/4 full size have a scale length of 24.75″ or 25.5

Tips on Choosing the Right Acoustic Guitar for your Child

Neck

The best instruments for kids tend to have thinner necks than standard guitars. It is important to have a neck with a smaller width dimension so that kids are able to wrap their hands around it and play comfortably.

Tonewoods

Once you start shopping around you will notice that different models are made of different woods. Beginner guitars are generally made from the same types of wood. The more expensive models the rarer the wood is for the most part. The wood choice affects the sound and tone. The top wood has the biggest impact on tone; spruce is a standard choice of top for most beginner guitars. Here are some of the types of tone woods that you will come across.

  • Ebony  – Ebony is strong dark wood, often used as a fretboard material.
  • Mahogany  – Mahogany is a dense, hard wood,  often used for sides and backs as well as in necks and bridges.
  • Maple – Maple is very commonly used for sides and backs especially on more affordable makes and models.
  • Rosewood Is a very popular wood used on acousti. It is used on most parts but is very common on fretboards and bridges.
  • Sapele – Sapele is similar to mahogany and is often used for sides and backs.
  • Spruce –Spruce is a standard for acoustic tops.

Action

You may have come across reviews where player talking about the action of a guitar. The action just refers to how far the strings are from the fretboard. If an instrument has high action then the strings are far away from the fretboard. If it has low action it means that they are close to the fretboard. For kids, you will want to look for a guitar that has low action so it is easier to play. If you think the strings are too far from the fretboard (or the action is too high) you can have this adjusted at a music shop or you can do this yourself if you know how. When the action is too high it is difficult to play especially for kids. If you are shopping in a store try to find models with a low (strings are close to the fretboard), even action.

Intonation and Tuning

Intonation is the tone or pitch or your guitar as you move up the fretboard. If you have tuned your guitar and it still sounds like it is out of tune then your guitar has poor intonation. You can fix the intonation by doing adjustments to the guitar or having it set up at a Music shop.

How well a guitar stays in tune is a big consideration for anyone who is shopping for a new instrument, but it is especially important for beginners, because it is incredibly frustrating to learn to play on something that is constantly going out of tune. All guitars go out of tune depending on all kinds of different things, but if you find one that won’t stay in tune or has a lot of reviews saying intonation is a problem, it is best to avoid it because it will be useless to play on.

Accessories

Gig Bag

If you want to help keep the instrument protected you can get a gig bag or case. They are usually a nylon fabric with padding, you can also get hard shell cases but the nylons cases are a good option for beginners. It is handy to get a gig bag with a pocket to put picks and music sheets.

Picks

There are a few different types of picks available; Standard, Teardrop, Equilateral, Finger and Thumb, Shark Fin are a few types you may come across. For a child you can probably just stick with a standard pick, they will use this to pluck or strum the guitar strings. When their skills develop they can try out some of the other types of picks.

Strings

It is useful to have extra string on hand in case any break or need changing. When changing a string on an acoustic you should change all of their strings at once even if it has just one broken string. Most strings are made from phosphor bronze with a thin plastic coating that protects the strings against the natural oils on a player’s fingers. If you are selecting you strings you should know what gauge of string to look for. String gauge is just a measurement of the thickness of a guitar string in thousandths of an inch. When describing gauges, guitarists generally leave out the decimal and only say the number. So a .010 is ten gauge. The larger the gauge, the heavier the string, for example extra light strings would be 10 to 47s (.010 to .047) while heavy would be 14 to 59s (.014 to .059). For kids you want to choose a lighter gauge like a 11 or 12.
Acoustic Tuners
Having a good tuner is pretty important for beginners. It will help them keep their instrument in tune day to day as well as help them retune if they have to change the strings. There are a few different ways to tune a guitar you can do it by ear or use an app. There are also lots of tuners you can buy that are made especially to tune guitars. Types of  tuners include LED Tuners, Orchestral Tuners, Clip-On Tuners, Strobe Tuners that all have different functionally and features.

What are the brands to look for? Brands to avoid?

There are so many different types of brands to choose from, it is sometimes a little difficult to know where to start. You can buy pretty much any kind of guitar in any price range, but in most cases you will get what you pay for so if you want an amazing sounding instrument that is easy to play you will need to pay a bit more for that. I personally would avoid brands like First Act or Schoenhut that are generally available in toy stores. I would pay slightly more money and head over to a music store and look at a student model from Hohner, Jasmine or Yamaha. These brands make guitars that are much better quality for the price than some of the toy store brands.

If you are shopping for a child who is taking lessons and you are looking for something that will last for a number of years and you want high quality and great sound, I would look at models from Fender, Epiphone, Huntington, Guild, Martin or Taylor. The Baby Taylor and the Martin LXM Little Martin are nice models to check out.

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