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What is the best guitar for beginners?

Updated on November 29, 2014

How To Buy The Best Kid's Guitar for Beginners

I wrote this beginner guitar center page to give you tips how to buy the best kid's guitar when your child wants to start to play an instrument. If you want to buy your child's first guitar you will have many questions when relentless pester power kicks in! As an experienced guitar tutor, I want to help you find the very best beginner guitar for your child, taking into account age, size and the budget.

Are you looking for a guitar for a kid? What really makes a good kid's guitar? As a first time guitar buyer you will be faced with a huge variety of beginner acoustic guitars and budget electric guitars to choose from and lots of conflicting advice.

This is a shot taken today in the storeroom. As you can see there are so many types of beginner guitar These are all old guitars well used by students. Some guitars are more child friendly than others which are not the best beginner guitars!

In this lens I hope to give you some useful pointers to choosing the best beginner guitar and buying that first and all important instrument!

Image of guitars in stockroom is from my own collection, please do not copy, you could visit my website though please.

Best Beginner Guitars - Buy Your Kid's First Guitar with Nylon Strings - Best First Guitars - Soft fingers appreciate soft strings!

My own personal opinion as someone who has taught guitar for over 30 years is that nylon strings are best for little fingers. When you buy a first guitar for a child it needs a low action and soft strings - something that pawn shop acoustics never have. I recommend a Valencia three quarter or half size guitar for parents on a budget. This first guitar has a sweet tone and an easy action. There are many first guitars here, please feel free to browse.

Best Beginner Guitars - Left Handed versus Right Handed Guitar

Should I buy a left handed kid's guitar?

It is of course your right to ignore everything this guitar center says in the next few paragraphs - and some of you will - but I am sharing the experience of many, many years so please think about it at least.

In the 1960s when gear was expensive and lessons virtually non-existent, some left-handed guitarists emerged. Truth of the matter was, if you teach yourself you will choose what seems the most comfortable way to do things. A beginner guitar is not designed to be "left handed" or "right handed" really because both hands are used.

That way is not necessarily the best long term, but in the 1960s it worked. Guitarists and bassists sharing a covetted vocal microphone for backing vocals were less likely to clash if one was southpaw and one orthodox!

Lefties Rock?

The industry soon discovered that where guitar heroes led, young players would follow, and they soon produced "left handed" guitars. The dual advantage was the custom price at point of sale, and a reduced resale value at trade in time. Many manufacturers saw this as a way of boosting profits. You can buy a cheaper left handed guitar though, if that is the way you would like to go.

Meanwhile piano players continued to be ambidextrous - no left handed pianos or keyboards were ever designed or sold to my knowledge. The piano needs a two handed approach - actually, so does the guitar!

Left or Right?

As a teacher who has nearly 40 years experience, I have watched insistent "left handers" often actually fall behind after the first few months. I have had pupils who were initially taught left handed ask if they should switch round because they hit a plateau.

The truth is that the fret hand has the most skilled job so left handers SHOULD have an advantage. Why throw that advantage away because playing the open strings in the first few weeks with your right hand is difficult?

At the beginning EVERYTHING is hard for BOTH hands and everything feels awkward to a beginner. The best players in the world (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Michael Angelo etc etc) can play both ways round. I can a little although I am not in that league. Most musicians if truth be told end up being ambidextrous anyway.

What is the best beginner instrument for a child?

How do you choose the best kid's guitar?

First of all, ask yourself is the guitar for you or your seven year old son or daughter? That is by far the most important consideration. I do have to ask this question and so should you if you want to buy a child the best beginner guitar! I write this knowing there will be some - usually big tough men with a big tough love attitude - who disagree, but I write from the point of view of someone who has seen too many little kids fail because their fingers hurt too much to play! If I had $10 for every time a child had turned up with a guitar that was far too big or unplayable I could take quite a nice holiday. The saddest thing is these children give up before they get used to the grown up guitar!

What should you look for in a kid's guitar? The best beginner guitar for a child will be small. Small people need small guitars. Young fingers are soft and easily hurt and therefore need soft strings. Sometimes well meaning adults, usually men, buy their children steel strung guitars in the belief it will "toughen their fingers up and make them better players". More often than not these children give up very quickly and what is worse, they learn to consider themselves failures. That is not only pointless, but unfair and hurtful! Please help them to succeed by buying an instrument suitable for children.

Image purple guitar is from my own collection, please do not copy, feel free visit my website though.


My First Guitar

My first guitar was chosen without direction and it was chosen because I liked how it looked! It had steel strings - fortunately the bridge was the type the allowed for restringing with nylon. If my parents could have afforded the big jumbo guitar (like the 12 string in the intro picture) I would have had that and my playing career would have been short!

If I could have had a purple Fender I would have chosen the guitar you see here. It looks nice, but playing it hurts if you are little! Children don't do pain very well. Steel strings hurt their fingers right at the time they find playing most difficult. Children don't rationalize about later - they live in the now.

PLEASE buy your child a nylon strung guitar. They come in quarter, half, three quarter and full size. Choose one according to your child's height and you won't go far wrong. Don't be put off by the words "classical guitar" You can play ANYTHING on a classical guitar including Jimi Hendrix!


My First Very Easy Christmas Carol Book [Spiral-Bound]

Carols for beginners to play. Single note melodies with chord letters. Very easy large font notes with notename noteheads.

Traditional Christmas Carols For Guitar Solo [Paperback]

Easy and intermediate arrangements of well loved Christmas carols for fingerstyle guitar. Includes TAB as well as music.

Best Beginner Electric Guitars for Kids - Good Guitar Deals for Beginners

Fender guitars, Gibson guitars or starter guitar packages - electric guitars are fun!

If your son or daughter is definitely into rock music and a few years older, you can safely consider a beginner electric guitar. Electric guitars are better for beginners because they have lighter strings and an easy playing action.

These days even the cheaper guitars are good enough to take on stage (times have changed). The key advice is DON'T buy second hand for safety's sake unless you want to pay for an electrical safety examination. Teenagers very often customize guitars and change pickups and can hot wire them in a way that is potentially fatal. You don't know that second hand instrument has not been messed about with.

Package deals with a small amp are good value for beginners. A bigger amplifier isn't really necessary unless you are gigging professionally and the same goes for second hand amps. Unless you are an electronics engineer, buy new for safety's sake! I had a friend who was electrocuted and nearly died on stage because of faulty equipment. He needed CPR!

Guitars come in many shapes and sizes. Yamaha have a really good starter package, then there are Squiers. You can go a little more upmarket with mid-range Epiphone SGs or PRS SE models - these cost four times as much but are of professional quality. Gibson and Fender are the big names of course, but Godin are good, so are Hamer and Dean, PRS are the Cream of guitars!

Image of white PRS guitar is from my own collection, please do not copy, feel free to visit my website though please.

Buying A Kid's First Electric Guitar - Buying an electric guitar for beginners

A good electric guitar is easier to play than an acoustic guitar. You also need an amplifier with that first electric guitar though. I recommend a first electric guitar should be a package as these include everything your child will need to learn to play guitar. A good first electric guitar might be a Fender Squier, another good first guitar is the Yamaha Pacifica. Here you can see a good selection of electric guitars for beginners on guitar and intermediate guitarists too.

First Acoustic Guitars for Adults

Best beginner guitars - an acoustic guitar for Dad

These are the guitars Dad's and Uncles who play a little bit aspire to - and often misguidedly buy for beginners. I had a seven year old girl turn up with a full size jumbo acoustic a few weeks ago and this is crazy - she can't fret any notes because it hurts her little fingers to try! Steel strung acoustics come in many sizes, varied shapes for different styles of playing, and usually in 6 string and 12 string versions.

There is an old 12 string guitar in the lens intro picture. It is a pig to tune and a pain to play as both pegs and strings have seen much better days. Oh - sorry - I forgot to tell you steel strings rust! It makes them like barbed wire to play on, so they need cleaning, oiling with fast fret and changing very frequently.

That said and done, they do sound nice. They have a pleasant jingle that neither electric guitars or classical guitars can quite match unless you use an expensive virtual amp! They truly come to the fore as accompanying instruments, sing and play guitars, but check out Candyrat Records for some virtuoso solo performances on steel strung acoustics. These are not the norm but they are great!

The pull on steel strings is at least three times the pull of nylon and for that reason a classical guitar should never be restrung with steel strings. It will destroy the instrument!

Acoustic Virtuosi - Candyrat showcase players

Listen to these guys. If you are an experienced player you might consider trying to copy some of these tricks but don't let it influence your choice of FIRST guitar! Now there's a project for the holidays - working out Andy McKee's tuning for Drifting! I have it on excellent authority that it is DADGAD and it sounds right to me.

Buying Bass Guitars for Young Players

Bass - the root of any band

Everyone knows the bass player jokes don't they? You give the bass to the big guy whose fingers are not quite so nimble, three notes later and he is ready to rock and roll!

I don't actually subscribe to that! I played bass professionally and loved it. Bass is easier if you take up regular guitar first (especially for children). In my experience, bass players tend to be very serious about their music and really get to grips with jazz and theory pretty early on. Maybe it's the jokes that make us that way.

I have taught bass to many young people, but coming to it from guitar or cello gives students a head start. Generally speaking, small basses are not good. The shorter scale compromises the sound and sometimes the tuning.

My advice to parents of children wanting to play bass? Get them guitar lessons with a teacher who is sympathetic to bass playing. When they get a little taller and can manage the longer scale and their fingers are tougher from lots of practice then they can move up (or down perhaps?) to the lower range and the bigger instrument.

Bass Guitars - Low life? Bass guitars for sale.

Do you play? What kind of guitar do you play? What was your first guitar like? I'd like to hear from you! Thank you!

Guitar Talk

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    • profile image

      getguitar 3 years ago

      When you buy a first guitar for a child it needs a low action and soft strings - something that pawn shop acoustics never have.

    • Scindhia H profile image

      Scindhia 3 years ago from Chennai

      Great info!

    • profile image

      drcarl 5 years ago

      I pretend like I play. I've got an Ovation. My personal opinion on what's the best first ANY kind of instrument is to get the best one that they can. A really cheap guitar (for example) will never sound good whereas a martin or a nice Gibson can sound good even if it's just a cat walking on the strings. OK, a dogs wagging tail while it's on a stand? You get the idea. Plus, the spendy instrument will hold more of its value in case it needs to be sold. That's my opinion. Now I have to go figure out what my second lens will be about; I just made my first one.

    • BrainDroppings profile image

      BrainDroppings 5 years ago

      My first guitar was a Memphis - cheapy department store electric. Never did learn to play much on it. Wasn't till I got a Fender was I was 18 that I actually learned to play. Now I have a Jeff Beck signature Stratocaster, a Dean Les Paul (quilted maple top), an early 80's washburn electric, and a Takamine Acoustic. Don't get to play as often as I would like to these days. -Great lens!

    • profile image

      Pascal_h 5 years ago

      Lots of good points! By the way: don't be afraid to buy a used instrument for a beginner, as long as they're jazzed up to play it! There's a saying about getting kids to read: "let them read whatever they want...eventually they're going to read more sophisticated books." Don't try to force them into something too fast, but let them try out a couple of different ones. And again: make sure they're excited about doing it! As a teacher, a student that doesn't want to be there is pretty obvious within the first minute.

    • profile image

      agungsolusi 5 years ago

      i need to buy new guitar since the old one is already destroyed by my nephew :(

      thanks for the info #thumbsup

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow. wicked lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hop. Interesting to know. Thanks for sharing. Great lens.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I have to agree with Tom Maybrier to an extent most Yamaha`s are ready to play, but my own needed a fret adjusting before it stopped buzzing, but after that it had better tone than my tutors expensive hand made German Guitar!

      The thing is that cheap or non name instruments can often be a waste of money. I found your guidelines excellent and honest a well deserved Squid liked lens!

    • Tom Maybrier profile image

      Tom Maybrier 5 years ago

      Great lens - it's hard to buy an instrument for someone who hasn't learned to play yet, especially if you're not a musician yourself.

      Choosing the right guitar is important and so is having the intonation and action set up by a qualified luthier before you start to play it - most of the mass-produced instruments out there are not set up correctly and some are practically unplayable. It makes all the difference in the world!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      nice lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      as interesting read

    • EbooksFreeWeekl1 profile image

      EbooksFreeWeekl1 5 years ago

      This is a very nice and informative lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I don't play guitar but I can certainly see how you are clearing up a lot of problems before they happen with your expert advice based on your experience with guitars since your first as a child. It just makes sense that children should have guitars fitted for their size and its good news that even cheap guitars are up to snuff these days and are a good starting point that can go with you to the stage. I had never thought about left handed players being at an advantage, that makes sense too and something to "play on" for sure! Excellent and blessed!

    • sheilamarie78 profile image

      sheilamarie78 5 years ago

      This lens will be very useful for those needing to choose a guitar. Great info!

    • profile image

      BrianLamacraft 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. I love Andy Mckee!

    • best dog shop profile image

      best dog shop 5 years ago

      I played a yamaha bass for years. good fun :)

    • JulieJohnson3 profile image

      Julie Johnson 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      My kids play electric guitar. They have taken lessons for the past two years. Right now we are in the market for an acoustic for my daughter. Very helpful info. in this Lens.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I never learned to play but always wanted to. Great info

    • RichLeighHD profile image

      RichLeighHD 5 years ago

      I play bass... Mainly Fender's. :) Enjoyed the lens!

    • profile image

      Gail47 5 years ago

      I did take guitar lessons my senior year of high school, but never did get into it. I was more into piano and accordion. Great lens - you really covered the bases.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      Incredibly badly! I'm a piano girl, but I'm trying to think who are favourite guitarists...Phillip John Lee is up there, Roy Harper, David Gilmour...actually, now I come to think of...all oldies...(showing my age now.)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Good lens. I agree with electric's being easier to learn on.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      I tried guitar and violin when I was young, but have settled on the autoharp:-)

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Great tips and love your photos!

    • profile image

      coolmon2009 lm 5 years ago

      Nice lens on guitars

    • MrDrood profile image

      MrDrood 5 years ago

      Good lens! Instructive :)

    • Matejg LM profile image

      Matejg LM 5 years ago

      I don't remember but i think the most important is practice;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      first act is were i got my guitar it is awesome

    • profile image

      zauberhut 5 years ago

      @nrallstars: This is about picking the right guitar for childrens! Did you go once in a music shop with a kid and see what they like most? Usually ether a crazy formed guitar, Gene Simmons axe or so... or then the most beautiful 10 top PRS - just because it is pretty :-)

    • profile image

      zauberhut 5 years ago

      Great lense. As a player and sometimes teacher i really like what you said about lefthand guitars! Absolutely correct. I just have a 12 year old, lef handed boy taking beginner lessons. He has a big advantage playing single note lines and easy power riffs. Never saw somebody learning this faster. But yes - his right hand motoric needs longer. It is a two handed instrument :-)

    • profile image

      timathee1 5 years ago

      i play myself i love the guitar,i now play an ibanez,this is a great lens keep up the good work

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I used to play. Great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i play an electric guitar. My first one was a cheap Epiphone Les Paul. My 2nd guitar is an Epiphone explorer. Nice lens btw.

    • profile image

      nrallstars 5 years ago

      @anonymous: The strings shouldn't hurt for too long.. After a while they feel fine.

    • profile image

      nrallstars 5 years ago

      This is complicated, but I like the lens, I imagine it could be put into three sentences. Go to a guitar store. Try guitars. Pick one you like. I wouldn't suggest this for anything besides a starter guitar though.

      I really do like this lens!

    • BFBDfans profile image

      BFBDfans 5 years ago

      Really good lens, thank you! My first was an Ovation Celebrity, a nice sounding and beautiful acc./elec. for a reasonable price. Unfortunately I'm a lefty and it's not but stringing it backwards works fine for a beginner. Now I play a Fernandez Digi-Zo Hyper (japanese) one of the coolest little things out there!

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 5 years ago

      I bestow upon you my 1000th squidlike! ;o)

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 5 years ago

      I'd like to learn, perhaps will one day

    • profile image

      BeyondRoses 5 years ago

      I've never had a guitar, but I would loved to have had one and been able to play, even if it were only one song. My Grandson has a pick guitar, and an electric one. My son got my Granddaughter a pick guitar on her 11th birthday, and she was given some lesson. It was lovely, but seemed huge for her, and I don't recall seeing her with it again. Maybe my son will take up playing it. Great info for choosing a guitar for beginners.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Well said, for kids it should be a small guitar. I hope with the advent of technology, they come out with a guitar whose strings do not hurt.

    • LiannaT profile image

      LiannaT 5 years ago

      Very nice lens. I think the pain thing is the hardest thing for kids to get over when they start playing. My first guitar was a small electric with very low action so the pain wasn't as bad and I was able to get a basic tune out of it, which encouraged me to keep trying early on.

    • BestRatedStuff profile image

      BestRatedStuff 5 years ago

      Very informative lens, never tried playing, wish I would.

    • hippiechicjewelz profile image

      hippiechicjewelz 5 years ago

      A wonderful lens! I can play somewhat, however my son plays very well.

    • TriciaLymeMom profile image

      TriciaLymeMom 5 years ago

      Great lens! Will be coming back to re-read...just about time for my little guy to start :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow, very informative lens and Nice article!

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 6 years ago

      Very helpful ~ Blessed >*

    • Paperclip LM profile image

      Paperclip LM 6 years ago

      I played many many years ago. But I have to say you presented some really cool stuff here, some of which I've never given any thought to. I learned a lot.

    • profile image

      Edutopia 6 years ago

      Nice lens. When you are buying an acoustic for a kid you should stay away from dreadnaught cut guitars because of their large size making them difficult for smaller kids. Orchestra cut guitars can give you just as good a sound profile (with slightly less deep bass) at a much more manageable size for the budding guitarist.

    • Richardryder profile image

      Risteard O'Marcahain 6 years ago from Wales

      Nice Lens Thank you

    • Richardryder profile image

      Risteard O'Marcahain 6 years ago from Wales

      Nice lens

    • profile image

      Nemissis3 6 years ago

      nice lens, wish there was a bit more detail on electric guitars. Maybe a bit more detail for teens buying their own first electric guitar (me).

      Great lens though.

    • DigitalSoundMagic profile image

      DigitalSoundMagic 6 years ago

      Nice article!

      I remember my first guitar was a nylon classical. Had no clue how to play it!! Still don't really ;)

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image

      Alfiesgirl LM 7 years ago

      Ooops i almost forgot to mention how much I am enjoying reading your have given me so much inspiration today and for that I Thank you...Inspiration is a thing which has no price tag nor something which money can buy...if so I'd bottle n tin you n sell you to the rest of the world needing aspiration to make their dreams come true and Give All Proceeds To You To Pay For What You have Given Me Today x . Brightest Blessings To You 5*****

    • Alfiesgirl LM profile image

      Alfiesgirl LM 7 years ago

      Is it really possible to teach myself how to play the a total novice?. I play the guitar for hours almost every night and make hairs stand-up upon listeners skin when they hear me play...unfortunately I then wake up not knowing an acoustic from a bass to an electric but with such a longing inside of me which I know not how to quench alone. it possible that I might have hairs standing one day which aren't on my cat's arched back due to my guitar screeching...I don't expect or want to learn overnight and am prepared to have a lifelong task ahead of me...Hallelujah indeedy...what a wonderful, wonderful life ?

    • mbmusgrove lm profile image

      mbmusgrove lm 7 years ago

      I have a BT-3, which is a maple baby taylor, that I would recommend for anyone looking for a quality guitar for the kids. (Maple part doesn't matter, of course-they have mahogany and sitka as well.)

    • LisaMarieGabriel profile image

      Lisa Marie Gabriel 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      @ajgodinho: Thanks AJ, and thanks for your other comment too. It is good to see you drop in! Yes, you can get quarter size guitars for little ones with nylon strings - they work well :) See you around :)

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great lens based on your personal, professional experience. I play the guitar, but more for relaxing and not in front of an audience. I have a classical guitar with steel strings. I'm going to be buying a small guitar for my friend's 4-yr old son, so reading through this lens was very beneficial...thanks! :)

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 7 years ago

      Great lens on guitars. I don't play, but my son does. He has an Ibanez electric guitar that he loves. I did a lense on Ibanez beginner guitars that I am lensrolling you to. Thanks!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      (Also featured on Blessed by WordCustard) :)

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      I don't play guitar, but can see that this lens is full of invaluable advice that will make learning the guitar a much happier experience and may save parents quite a bit of money too. I really enjoyed the honest opinions and entertaining way in which they were presented, and I'd love more people to see this! *~*~ Angel Blessed ~*~*

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Great lens with great advice! My first guitar was a used classical, it actually had really good tone much better than the same price new ones (like the one my sister got). I loved it! Unfortunately it got damaged at some point in its life and never recovered. Completely agree that nylon strings are the way to go for young kids - my fingers would have died on steel strings!