Hello to all you parents out there. If you’re looking to get your kid into playing guitar, you’ve come to the right place!
To create your child’s interest in the guitar, you’re going to have to put some work in. You’ll have to find the right lessons, create a practice schedule for them, and find ways to make it fun.
Before you even get into the nitty-gritty, though, you’re going to need to get the right equipment. Whether you’re a guitarist yourself or just taking a shot in the dark at what you think is the best kids guitar out there, it’s essential to know the right things to consider when buying their first mini six string.
Luckily, we know a thing or two about guitars and what makes a great guitar for a little one starting their shredding journey.
Come with us as we explore the best acoustic guitars for kids on the market!
- 1 The Bottom Line
- 2 Let's Begin with Guitar Size
- 3 Classical Vs. Steel String
- 4 Comfort
- 5 Tuning
- 6 Price
- 7 Starter Packs
- 8 Top 3 Guitars for Ages 4-6
- 9 Top 3 Guitars for Ages 6-9
- 10 Top 3 Guitars for Ages 9-12
- 11 Top 3 Guitars for Ages 12+
- 12 Welcome To the School of Rock
The Bottom Line
If we could only choose 1 guitar (for each age group) these are the 4 we would recommend:
Let's Begin with Guitar Size
The size of the guitar that you ultimately choose will depend on your child’s age and/or size. Most children will be comfortable with a ¾-sized guitar or smaller.
¾-sized simply means that the guitar is ¾ the scale length of a traditional guitar.
However, as kids get a bit older (or bigger), they will likely want to transition to a full-scale, 4/4 guitar. The same can be said for children who are a bit bigger than average.
Here are some general rules when it comes to sizing a guitar for your kid:
- ¼-Sized (30 Inches) - Ages 4-6
- ½-Sized (34 Inches) - Ages 6-9
- ¾-Sized (36 Inches) - Ages 9-12
- Standard Size - Ages 12+
Classical Vs. Steel String
Pros of Classical Guitars
Classical guitars are a great budget option when compared to their steel string brothers, which is why many parents opt for classical guitars in the first place.
Classical guitars use nylon strings, which are far different from steel strings. Nylon strings not only have a soft and mellow sound, but they are also softer to the touch and easier to press down and create chords with. Essentially, your child won’t have to work as hard to build up calluses on their fingers before they get comfortable playing.
Pros of Steel String Guitars
Unlike classical guitars, steel-string guitars usually have fret markers in the form of dots or inlays that rest along the fingerboard. These can be incredibly helpful when learning the neck of the guitar and getting your chords and scales down.
Steel-string guitars also have narrower necks, which can make it a bit easier for children with small hands to play who can’t quite stretch far enough for hard-to-play chords.
Which One Is Best?
Neither of these is better than the other - they’re just different. Beyond the playability and size differences, the most noticeable difference is the sound. Classical guitars are great for playing Flamenco, Spanish Guitar, and Classical Music while steel string guitars are great for playing more modern styles of music from bands like The Beatles, Oasis, Jack Johnson, and more.
Because of its popularity in modern music, young guitarists tend to lean more towards steel string.
Whatever type of guitar you get, you should make sure that it is comfortable to play. One of the most important things to look at is the guitar's action.
Action on a guitar refers to the height of the strings above the fretboard. If strings are too low, they can create a buzz that will give you a headache. If they’re too high, they’ll be hard to press down and play with.
You’ll likely want the action to be somewhere around 0.062 inches for the high ‘e’ string and 0.094 inches for the low ‘E’ string. With that said, this measurement can change from manufacturer to manufacturer, so make sure to speak with them if you can.
Beyond the action, you’ll also want to look for terms like “slim neck” or “narrow neck profile”. The smaller the neck, the easier it will be for your kid to play more complex chords and scales comfortably.
When I began playing guitar as a kid, I absolutely hated tuning my guitar. This was because I had a piece of crap, second-hand guitar that would fall out of tune every 5 minutes, completely putting a dent in my practice flow.
Remember, playing guitar is about having fun. If your child has to tune over and over again, they’re going to get frustrated and want to quit.
It’s your job to do some research and check out how well the guitar in question stays in tune. We recommend looking for guitars that have Gotoh or Kluson tuners, as they’re some of the best around. If you’re desired guitar has cheap tuners or is known to fall out of tune often, you may want to purchase some third-party tuners to optimize your child’s playing experience.
Related Reading: The Best Guitar Tuners
Price is a critical factor when you’re buying a guitar for your little one. In most cases, you don’t know whether or not your kid will stick with the guitar for years to come. You don’t want a thousand-dollar Martin to go to waste after a year.
We highly recommend starting out spending a couple hundred dollars max and letting your child grow from there.
Guitars in that price range sound great and will act as perfect beginner guitars for them to learn and grow. Plus, you need to factor in other necessary items that you’ll need to purchase, including a tuner, picks, a strap, a case, some songbooks, and other gear over time.
Starter packs are an excellent choice for parents who want to get everything in one haul!
Starter packs will typically come with everything that you need to begin, including a gig bag, a couple of guitar picks, a strap, some extra strings, a tuner, and maybe some tablature or a DVD on getting started.
If you don’t want to deal with the fuss of picking up all the little accessories alongside your solo guitar, then we recommend getting a starter pack.
Beware though, as some beginner kits are incredibly low quality. If you’re going to buy a starter pack, we recommend checking out the ones from legitimate guitar brands such as Fender or Yamaha.
Top 3 Guitars for Ages 4-6
¼-Sized Guitars; 30-Inch Guitar Length
Top Pick – Ages 4-6
While not exactly a purist’s acoustic guitar, we believe the Yamaha GL1 is one of the best acoustic options for beginners that are really young.
Though this little thing may look like a ukulele, it has six strings and plays like a standard tune guitar.
At just below 30 inches, it’s perfect for tiny players with tiny hands. It has a gorgeous spruce top and meranti back and sides for a bright tone and durability. It also comes complete with a gig bag so that your little one can take it with them on the go.
Bottom Line: You can’t expect anything less from a company like Yamaha. With an easy-to-play design, excellent intonation, and small child size, it’s one of the best ¼-sized guitars out there for toddlers.
Runner Up – Ages 4-6
The Lucida LG-510 ¼ Classical is an excellent nylon string guitar for those who want a more “traditional” style guitar for their young one. It looks very similar to Lucida’s full-sized models with white woods top, sides, and back, a hard maple fingerboard, and a gorgeous brown finish, though it comes at a fraction of the size.
The Nato Neck adds to the warmth and resonance of the guitar while its rigid character helps to keep the guitar in tune. Pair that with the included Gotoh tuners and you’ll be more than happy with the intonation that it provides.
Bottom Line: The Lucida LG-510 is one of the best traditional-style ¼ guitars on the market hands-down. Most ¼-sized guitars have abysmal intonation, so the fact that they put a bit more care into that aspect is a huge plus.
Best Budget Option – Ages 4-6
The Stagg C505 is a solid ¼-sized classical guitar for parents on a serious budget. It has a gorgeous, traditional look with Basswood top, back, and sides, as well as a solid maple bridge and fingerboard for added strength and resonance.
It’s topped off with a high gloss finish for protection and durability over the years.
The sound on the Stagg C505 is surprisingly great for the price, producing a warm and clear tone. The neck is nice and narrow too, so your little one won’t have a hard time stretching for chords.
Bottom Line: Sometimes all you need is a good budget guitar to teach the basics. While the Stagg C505 might not be anything special, it’s perfect for little kids who need something easy to play.
Top 3 Guitars for Ages 6-9
½-Size Guitars; 34-Inch Guitar Length
Top Pick – Ages 6-9
Oscar Schmidt is widely known for their high-quality, yet affordable, acoustic guitars. The OGHS is a ½-size dreadnought style guitar with a smooth, spruce top, a rosewood fingerboard, and Catalpa back and sides.
Unlike many other inexpensive guitars on our list, it comes with a fully adjustable truss rod so that you can fix the intonation if need be.
In terms of playability, it’s the perfect step up from those who started with nylon strings. It has a comfortable feel, a compact size, and sounds incredible for the price.
Bottom Line: It’s nearly impossible to find a good, handcrafted guitar for this price, let alone one that is great for kids who are just starting out. Luckily, the Oscar Schmidt OGHS falls in both those categories’ making it one of the best ½-sized guitars around.
Runner Up – Ages 6-9
Yamaha is known for making some of the best starter guitars on the market, and their CGS102A Classical Model lives up to their high-quality standards.
This baby comes with a traditional spruce top, dark meranti back and sides, and a smooth, rosewood fingerboard and bridge. It’s the perfect natural classical guitar for purists.
The CG series of guitars have an incredibly rich tone, and the CGS102A is no different. Your little one will love the easy-to-hold neck design and comfortable string height that come with it.
Bottom Line: The Yamaha CGS102A is a mixture of elegance in playability and simplicity in design. It’s a top-notch, ½-sized classical guitar for students of the six string.
Best Budget Option – Ages 6-9
Hohner has a long list of budget instruments, and their HAD250P classical is one of their most popular. It has a simple and natural look that provides a traditional aesthetic while retaining its easy playability thanks to the scaled down size.
For the small price, the intonation on this little guitar is solid. It ships with near perfect action as well, allowing your child to play it right out of the box with a good tune.
The neck is nice and thin as well, allowing kids with small hands to get their chords down with ease.
Bottom Line: The Hohner HAG250P is the perfect step up from a toy guitar to a real guitar. It provides correct intonation and easy playability to get your child started before they eventually step up to a better sounding guitar.
Top 3 Guitars for Ages 9-12
¾-Sized Guitars; 36-Inch Guitar Length
Top Pick – Ages 9-12
If you want to go for a more premium guitar option, we highly recommend checking out the Martin LX1 Little Martin. It may cost a bit more than you’d want to spend for a kid who’s unsure about their playing longevity, but the differences are incomparable.
Martin is a pretty iconic name when it comes to acoustic guitars. Not only is this guitar an absolute joy to strum, but it also sounds incredible and stays tuned in all kind of conditions.
The solid Sitka spruce top ages nicely too, meaning the guitar will only sound better the more and more that it’s played.
Bottom Line: The Martin LX1 is a great guitar for kids who are starting to show more enthusiasm in their guitar playing. Thanks to the pro sound, easy playability, and quality construction, it’ll have your child feeling like a rockstar.
Runner Up – Ages 9-12
The Yamaha JR1 has an excellent sound thanks to the genuine spruce top and meranti back and sides. It’s almost identical to the full-sized Yamaha acoustic guitar, though scaled-down for first timers or players with small hands.
The Nato neck and rosewood fretboard combination gives the guitar added warmth and resonance as well, meaning your child will be enamored with the sound they can create.
Many seasoned guitarists say that it plays just as well as the Baby Taylor for nearly half the price. It also has terrific intonation and comes complete with a little gig bag so that they can take it with them to practice or on vacation.
Bottom Line: It’s no surprise that the Yamaha JR1 is such a great value, as that’s what Yamaha is known for. If you’re looking for a solid, mid-range, 34-sized steel-string guitar for your child, it’s the best around.
Best Budget Option – Ages 9-12
If you’re thinking about going the classical route, the Yamaha CGS103 should be your first choice. This warm and mellow-sounding guitar comes with your standard spruce top and meranti back and sides.
It is slightly glossed on top for added protection, but not so much that it ruins the sound of the wood.
The machine tuning pegs work pretty well, and the action sits nicely between buzzy and hard-to-play.
Bottom Line: If your child is looking to play classical music in recitals or school, the Yamaha CGS103 provides the best mix of quality and price. It looks and sounds fantastic at a fraction of the cost of top-tier classical guitars.
Top 3 Guitars for Ages 12+
Standard Sized Guitars; +36-Inch Guitar Length
Top Pick – Ages 12+
If your child is in it for the long run, we recommend getting them something nice like the Martin DX1AE. Even with the full-size build, this acoustic-electric guitar provides smooth playability with a reasonably compact size.
The solid Sitka spruce top and mahogany HPL back and sides provide warmth and roundness while the low-oval neck profile allows even little hands to play comfortably across the fretboard.
This baby comes equipped with top-notch Fishman electronics that give you an outstanding tone when plugged in. It will encourage your child to get out of the bedroom and start performing around town when they’re ready.
Bottom Line: A Martin guitar is a rite of passage for every acoustic guitarist. The Martin DX1AE has an incredible sound and is built with serious craftsmanship, yet still has an easy-to-play design that will keep your child wanting to play more and more.
Runner Up – Ages 12+
The Fender CD 60S is a very popular full-size guitar for kids due to the low price and easy-to-play design. Thanks to the Mahogany build, it has a warm and mellow tone very similar to that of the Martin mentioned prior.
The rolled fingerboard edges and thin neck make it the perfect guitar for young players with smaller hands, as they’ll be able to move up and down the neck while playing complex chords with ease.
As for the tone, you get a substantial amount of projection thanks to the full-bodied, dreadnought design, great for playing unplugged.
Bottom Line: Many young guitarists start out with Yamaha steel-strings for a reason. Like most beginner Yamaha acoustic guitars, the CD 60S provides the perfect mix of value, tone, and playability.
Best Budget Option – Ages 12+
The Rogue Starter Acoustic is pretty unique in that it’s a ⅞ scale, right below a full-sized guitar. This makes it great for tweens and teens who still can’t quite play a full-sized guitar comfortably.
Though it comes in a wide variety of colors and styles, each Rogue Starter is made with a Maple neck and rosewood fretboard and comes complete with high-quality Martin strings.
Don’t let the small price fool you, as this guitar plays surprisingly well and has a clear projection for the size. We would highly recommend lowering the action out of the box, as it’s the only thing that makes it a bit more difficult to play right off the bat.
Bottom Line: For those who are on a tight budget, need something just smaller than full size, or are just looking for a good beater guitar for their kid to bring on vacation, the Rogue Starter is an excellent choice.
Welcome To the School of Rock
Buying your child their first guitar is an introduction to a lifetime of fun, discipline, growth, and possibly a career in music.
If you get the right one, you could change your child’s life forever in the best way possible.
We hope that our guide helped provide you with all the information you need to get the best starter guitar possible.