There are plenty of options of guitars to choose from, with many different budget options, shapes, colors, and points of sale… it can be a little overwhelming. Here are some questions to ask yourself and some recommendations to help you navigate your first purchase in the matter.
Disclaimer: My recommendations are pointing to several recognized guitar brands. One of them is Eastman guitars, just to be transparent I have the delight to have an endorsement partnership with them. These are incredible instruments, handcrafted, and still pretty affordable.
Alright, let’s get back to it!
Which size should I get?
Here is my little graph to help you pick the guitar size you need:
You’ll see here in my list of recommendations that some choices of sizes are restricted to classical guitars, decent electric guitar options start at the 3/4 size. If your child’s height call for a 1/4 size guitar but is close to the 3’9″ gap, I would consider getting a 1/2 size. There is an important step up in instrument quality.
Nylon or steel strings? And what about electric?
Foremost it should be a choice of taste, some prefer the sound of one over the other.
Listen for yourself in those samples:
– here is a sample in which I use a nylon string guitar, it tends to have a warm and dark sound
– here is a sample in which I use steel string, you can hear how brighter it is
– here is a sample in which I use an electric guitar
For children up to 10 years old, nylon strings are often a better option because it’s softer on the top of the fingers than steel strings. Classical guitar necks are larger though which comes both with pros and cons. A little more room reduces your chance of accidentally muting a string while forming a chord, but then you need to stretch your fingers a little more to reach each note.
If you or your child are definitely drawn to an electric then jump ahead, it’s a great thing to be excited about your instrument and your regular practice will benefit from that. With the electric there are also pros and cons, generally electric guitars require less strength for pressing on the frets giving your wrist and fingers some rest, but it makes them more sensitive to imperfections in your playing.
Alright, ready to jump ahead?
Here is a page on Amazon with my different recommendations with various budgets for a first guitar.
To simplify here is a little sum-up for you:
|Up to $250||$250-500||$500-1000|
|Classical||Steel string||Electric||Classical||Steel string||Electric||Classical||Steel string||Electric|
|Full size||Full size||Full size||Full size||Full size||Full size||Full size||Full size||Full size|
|3/4 size||3/4 size||3/4 size||3/4 size||3/4 size||3/4 size||3/4 size|
|1/2 size||1/2 size||1/2 size|
Awesome! I can’t wait to get it! And then what?
A method book would be a great complementary item to get. Here are some methods we use with my students.
Then make sure you have access to a metronome! One of my former teachers once told me “all practicing session without a metronome is just a waste of your time.” Ouch. Get one, either on your smartphone, like the efficient app Pro Metronome (Android and AppStore, and BTW you just need the free version) or better, for a distraction-free experience, a real metronome. You have the timeless mechanical Wittners here, no battery is needed and their sound is almost enjoyable. Or here is a selection of digital metronomes that I gathered with tuners as well, one model is doing both. Yes a tuner will be useful for sure! And the same thing, you can find apps that do the trick well. Like the free BOSS Tuner (Android and AppStore) or Polytune ($5) which is only on the AppStore though.
Do I need a teacher?
Well yes and no, it depends on you or your child. Many music legends were self-taught, those days aspiring musicians are also learning through youtube videos. It’s a possibility! It depends on what kind of learner you or your child are. You can always try (or your child) by yourself for a few weeks and see how it goes. If it’s not going that great, find an experienced teacher in your area. It’s always best to get in-person lessons. Be careful though to find someone that provides structure, someone that teaches you how to sight read music (and not only the watered-down tablature), and someone with whom you feel comfortable. You can ask for referrals to local college music teachers. They might even have some spare time to teach private lessons.
And if you’re in the Seattle area, send me a little message, we might have a common availability.
Can’t I get lessons online?
Yes if nothing seems to work locally, it’s definitely an option. I teach online as well. (Like many other teachers!) I just wouldn’t recommend it for kids up to 14 years old.
I wish you the best in your pursuit of learning a new instrument, enjoy the ride, it’s a lot of fun!