If you have been looking for a children’s guitar at one of the big retailers, there is a good chance you will have come across some First Act Discovery Acoustic guitars. First Act is one of the major players in the children’s guitar market, mostly because they sell at mass-market retailers like K-mart, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Sears. They also make regular adult guitars under the First Act brand, as well as having a custom shop that makes custom guitars for some big-name musicians.
Their kid’s line is known as First Act Discovery, and they make instruments for kids’ ages 3 to 9. First Act makes quite a few different types of instruments, but if you are on this site, then you are probably just interested in learning more about their guitars. The feature that kids will love about these guitars is the licensed characters. First Act has partnerships with Disney, Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, One Direction, and Nickelodeon. So you can get almost any type of character that your kids might love.
First Act offers two sizes of acoustic guitars for kids: a four string mini guitar and a six-string 30″ guitar. The mini is more like a soprano ukulele than a traditional guitar, although they still call it a guitar. They are tiny, so you aren’t going to want to get a mini for anyone under around age 4 – depending on the size of the child. The age recommendation on the larger acoustic model is from 6 to 9, which is a little high IMO. If you are going to be shopping for a guitar for a child who is over age 7 or 8 and is serious about learning to play, you might want to look elsewhere.
The obvious thing that will strike you when you pick up one of these models is that it is made of plastic. Most guitars, even budget ones, are made of some kind of wood. The body and neck are molded together, which is fine for a children’s toy instrument because it makes it more durable. You will also notice that it does not come with a strap, pick or any kind of instruction book. A black plastic “fretboard” with plastic frets is screwed on top of the neck, and a plastic bridge is attached below the round sound hole.
The tuners are metal with plastic knobs, and the guitar is pre-stringed with non-nylon strings. To protect fingers from being jabbed by the string-ends, they have added things called string post covers, which are sort of cool in a way. Stickers can be placed on the fretboard to learn the names of the strings. Depending on the model that you get, the paint job or designs can be a traditional looking sunburst color or any number of licensed cartoon characters with a bright color paint jobs.
The small size of both the mini and the 30″ model of acoustic guitar make them easy for kids to hold and wrap their fingers around the neck to reach the strings. They are also very lightweight, which is a no brainer for a kid’s guitar. The makers market the guitars as having ‘low action,’ which means that it is set up to make it easy for kids to press down on the strings. On the models that I tried out, the action was a little high so the strings were hard to press down and there isn’t a way to adjust this on these models, so you may want to test out the guitar before you buy.
Well, uh, most of the First Act Discovery acoustic models are under $30, so realistically the sound you are going to get from these guitars isn’t going to be on a level with a proper student learning guitar. One of the most significant problems with low-cost guitars is trying to keep them in tune, and these types of models are no exception. If your child is serious about learning, one of the most important things to look for in a guitar is that it stays in tune for a reasonable amount of time. You probably aren’t going to get that with any of the inexpensive First Act beginner models.
A wide range of models featuring licensed characters that are very appealing to kids
Good size for children
Readily available (you can buy them at almost any mass retailer)
Durable if you have a child who might be rough with it
Made of plastic
Not the highest quality
Difficulty staying in tune
If you are a parent who plays music or knows about guitars and how they are supposed to sound, this isn’t the guitar for your child. If you don’t know much about guitars or how they are supposed to sound and feel, but you want to get something inexpensive and visually appealing, then First Act Discovery guitars will suit your needs very well. I think these guitars are probably okay for toddlers or younger kids who just want to mess around with something that can introduce them to what is guitar is, and how it works. If you have a child who is serious about learning to play or is planning on taking lessons, these models will not cut it so you should look elsewhere.
What gets confusing about some of the lower cost kids guitar brands is that a lot of them have some pretty great reviews. When reading the reviews, you have to remember that getting a guitar from your grandma at Christmas is different than buying a quality musical instrument that is going to spark an interest in learning to play. When you are shopping for a children’s guitar, you need to remember that a lot of people don’t know how a guitar is supposed to sound. I think some people basically shop for something that looks like a guitar and has a cool looking, kid-friendly paint job and then there are people who play guitar themselves and would never consider buying a guitar at a big box store. The First Act Discovery line are in the former category. Kids are going to love the way these guitars look, and they are small enough that kids will find them easy to hold and mess around with.
My philosophy is that you get what you pay for, so if you want a good quality beginner guitar that you can use to teach your kids guitar, then you will probably want to look at guitars in a higher price range. If, however, you want something inexpensive that your Disney, SpongeBob, or Spiderman obsessed kids can mess around with and you don’t have to worry if they damage it, yes, the First Act Discovery Line is a good option.