PROS: High quality for the price. Fender is a highly regarded brand.
CONS: Some kids may find the steel strings hard on their fingers at first.
SUMMARY: The Fender MA-1 is an inexpensive, fun to play and generally all around great starter guitar for kids. It looks and sounds fantastic for the price you are paying. The size is a 3/4 of a full sized guitar and so is comfortable for kids (and parents!) to hold and play.
The Fender MA-1 is a pretty great option as a starter guitar for kids aged around 8 to around 12. It is a 3/4 size, so it’s a more comfortable instrument for kids to hold and play than a full size. It is an acoustic guitar, so the strings are steel rather than nylon that a lot of people tend to prefer to start kids on. Steel takes a little bit of time to get used to and can be a bit painful at first until your fingers toughen up. The MA-1 has a great sound and stays in tune well, which are important things to look for when shopping for a children’s guitar.
If you like the MA-1, but would prefer to get your child a classical (nylon string) guitar, Fender has a very similar model that is a classical style called the Fender MC-1.
One of the things I like about this model is that it comes in 5 different kid-friendly colors (Black, Blue, Pink, Red, and Natural) – for younger kids that can be a huge plus. The top is laminated agathis, which is a very common material for guitars in this price range, with a beautiful looking laminated sapele on the back and sides. The rosewood fretboard is also pretty cool.
The MA-1 is a treat to play; the size and the low action make it easy for kids to learn to play on this guitar. I enjoyed playing this guitar, it is light (which is also great for kids), yet has a solid, durable feel to it. On some lower end kids guitars you pick them up and instantly feel like it will be a chore to play; the MA-1 is the complete opposite of that.
3/4 sized guitars don’t have the same full, deep sound as full-sized, so if you are particular about sound, you should be aware of that. Having said that, the sound on the MA-1 is excellent. It has a smooth, mellow, warm sound with the right tone and resonance. If you are a parent who plays guitar, you won’t find much to complain about with the quality of sound of this model.
People love Fender, and rightly so. They have a reputation for producing high-quality well-crafted guitars. It is one of the cheapest Fenders that you can buy; so many people will buy it purely on the name alone – which in this case is okay because it is a great guitar. Yes it has a laminate top and sides, which many will argue takes away from the sound, but for the price what you are getting is pretty decent. The quality for a guitar in this price range is outstanding.
Things to look out for with the Fender MA-1
As I mentioned above, you should be aware that a lot of people don’t like to start kids on steel string guitars. To me, it isn’t the biggest deal to get an acoustic guitar as a child’s first instrument, but your kids may get sore fingers for the first little while until they can build up some callouses by playing for short amounts of time each day.
The other things about the MA-1 are the standard bag that comes with it may not be padded enough to adequately protect the guitar, especially if kids are banging it around. Depending on where you purchase the guitar from, make sure you clarify what bag you get with it – if any. If the bag is canvas and not padded, you will probably want to invest in a padded gig bag.
The bottom line is that the MA-1 is a great value, primarily as a starter acoustic guitar for a child. The 3/4 size makes it comfortable and easy for kids to play, the light weight of it also adds to the playability. If you are worried about sound and that it isn’t a solid wood top, you will have to spend a bit more money and invest in something like the Baby Taylor or Martin LX1. The fit, the look, the color options, the great sound and the fact that it stays in tune well all add up to making this an excellent choice as a beginner guitar for kids.