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What You Need to Know About Buying a Guitar for a Child

Updated on May 20, 2017

If you would like to teach your child to play an instrument but you don't want to spend a lot of money, the guitar is probably your best choice. Guitars are affordable to buy and if you can't afford to hire a teacher, you can teach a child to play without having to invest in lessons.

If you don't know anything about guitars there are a few things you need to consider before buying. One consideration is nylon strings versus steel strings. You have to also think about size. You will definitely need some accessories to go with the guitar. You will also need some guitar teaching materials aimed at young children, if you don't want to pay for lessons.

There are a few things you need to consider before buying a kid's guitar
There are a few things you need to consider before buying a kid's guitar

Nylon Versus Steel Strings

If you're buying a guitar for a child under 12, I would recommend nylon strings. Holding down steel strings to play chords can be very painful. A child may not want to practice if it hurts them too much. Calluses will develop on the fingers after a while but a younger child may be turned off playing before that happens.

Steel-string acoustic guitars are used in most pop and rock music. A teenager may not like the sound of a nylon string classical guitar because they are more mellow. Their favorite rock songs won't sound right with nylon strings. So, steel strings are probably a better option. An older child will understand that the pain is something temporary and will be more likely to play through the pain.

What Size Guitar to Buy?

Size is another important consideration. Sizes are 1/2 (30 inch) and 3/4 (34-36 inches). You will sometimes see age ranges for guitars. Be careful with these. I have seen 1/2 size guitars recommended for ages 3 to 6. But our 1/2 size guitar was way too big for my 4 year old and perfect for my 7 year old. It's your child's height that actually matters. It's a good idea to test the appropriate size in a music store first.

How Much to Spend

It isn't a problem to buy an inexpensive guitar to begin with for a younger child. If your child is really serious about learning to play, you can always invest in a higher quality instrument later on. I spent $50 on my daughter's first guitar to see if she liked it. It did go out of tune a lot but it was fine as an introduction to the instrument and she was only 7 at the time. Because she showed an interest in it, I invested in a $200 steel string guitar when she was 9. A quality guitar will cost at least $150.

Accessories You Will Need

Guitar Picks - buy about a dozen guitar picks for strumming. They're small and get lost easily. Get a pick holder that attaches to the guitar. It can help prevent the loss of picks.

Strap - if the guitar has a strap button at the back, you can buy a strap to put on the guitar.

Extra Strings - strings break, so always have a backup pack.

Guitar Tuner - if you have an iPad, the GuiTune Lite app is an excellent guitar tuning app. If not, you can buy a tuner for around $10.

Teaching Materials

If you are going to teach your child to play or they want to learn to play themselves, you will need some teaching materials and perhaps a simple song book. eMedia My Guitar learning software is one excellent learning option. Another is Kid's Guitar Course, Book 1 (Book and Enhanced CD).


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    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California

      I didn't know this could be an issue so much with steel strings. When I upgrade to a steel string guitar for my kids, I plan to spend quite a bit more. Hopefully, that will avoid the problem. Once they are more serious and probably taking lessons, I feel they will need something that sounds really good.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Even steel strings can be problematic sometimes. I have a 3/4 steel-string, bought used for $30, for which this is the Achilles heel. It's a (modest) name brand, and is fairly attractive for the price in other respects. I even tried changing the tuners out, but to no effect. Using ultra-light strings helps some--enough that I can stand to take it to the beach or other casual settings. Still not great, though!

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California

      Yes, and holding a tune seems to be a bit more of a problem for nylon strings. It takes time to break them in. That was a reviewer criticism on of the guitar I bought but luckily the one I got holds it tune really well. I tune it everyday and it usually isn't much out of tune.

    • Doc Snow profile image

      Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA

      Excellent advice. I'd only add that in considering the quality of the guitar, make sure that it tunes properly and holds tune at least for a few minutes. Some really cheap guitars don't--and it's easy to find guitars at $100 or less that do fine in this regard.