The journey of beginning and learning how to play a musical instrument is one of joy and frustration, but ultimately will result in a feeling of accomplishment that non-musicians will never understand. I am so thankful that I persevered and that I am now able to help those in a way that was not available to me when I was young.
Today I will talk a little about guitars, their similarities and their differences in order to shed some light on the topic and hopefully make you more comfortable with your decision. I will be focusing on electric guitars only as I will be covering acoustic guitars for kids in another post. Choosing the best beginner guitar for kids is not something that should be done without a little bit more info…Let’s get started!
What makes a guitar “good”?
People have always been told that you get what you pay for and that is true to an extent. That doesn’t mean the most expensive is always the best for everyone. We will get to that more in just a minute.
A “good” guitar is essentially one that is made from quality materials and components. This will ensure the guitar will stay in tune, sound good and inspire the player to want to play more. After all, if you don’t like to play it you probably won’t practice and eventually you will just give up.
Over time, you will find which guitars “feel” better to you. This comes with time and is as individual as fingerprints.
Why buying the most expensive guitar is not always the best decision
As a beginner, the most important thing is to find a guitar that looks and feels good to the player and not just the price tag. Guitar prices range from $59.95 to $10,000 or more. You will find out that neither of these are your best choice.
Typically, if you buy the cheapest one the quality will be so bad that it will rob you of the enjoyment of playing it. It will not stay in tune causing you to have to tune the guitar constantly. That is no fun. You will also find that the quality of the components and the set up will be so bad that the guitar doesn’t even play or sound the way it was intended to. I have literally played new guitars that were virtually “unplayable”. Avoid the urge to buy a guitar based on price alone…trust me.
On the other hand, let’s take a look at what can happen if you buy a very expensive first guitar. Since I’m writing this about beginner guitars, I am assuming you may be purchasing a beginner guitar for your child. Maybe they have expressed an interest or you are looking for something to spark their creativity. In either case, what if they try it for a short time and find they do not enjoy it at all? If you had spent $4000 on that new Gibson “Les Paul” that they wanted, thinking they would be the next rock star, you would now be wondering how you were going to get your money back out of it. Sure the guitar is top quality and a dream to play, however, it just doesn’t make sense…yet. Years down the road it may very well be a great purchasing decision.
Guitar brands and shapes
There are a lot of good guitar companies out there and I will not list them all. Many of them have guitars that fall into a wide variety of price ranges. I will focus on just well known and readily available guitar brands for this article. Here are a few:
- Epiphone – (owned by Gibson)
These brands, as well as others, manufacture guitars in various shapes, sizes, weights and colors. The most common shapes are the “Stratocaster” and the “Les Paul”. Although these are the most popular shapes, any guitar that can easily be played while sitting should be fine. At first, I would steer clear of any radical shapes that do not rest well on your leg such as the “Flying V” guitar.
Guitar neck shapes
As for guitar necks, there are also many different “shapes” in regards to the size and radius of both the back of the neck and the fretboard itself. This is where the player will notice huge differences in the “feel” of different guitars. Remember, personal preference is what matters here and there is no wrong choice, only opinion.
Smaller scale guitars
Some guitar manufacturers build smaller scale guitars. Some of these make it easier to play guitar with small hands while others are made with the same neck radius as their full scale counterparts. Even if the neck radius is normal, sometimes the body size being smaller makes it much more comfortable for very young players. When my son was 3 years old I bought a 3/4 scale Washburn electric guitar for him at Christmas. He still has it 13 years later and it still plays great.
My top picks
Here are some of my choices for best beginner guitars for kids. I will only include electric guitars in the list. I will cover acoustic guitars in a later post. I am doing this for two reasons. First, acoustic guitars are “bulkier” than electric guitars and therefore can be more uncomfortable for smaller people. Secondly, acoustic guitars are notoriously harder to play due to more force being required on the strings against the fretboard. More hand strength will come over time, making applying finger pressure easier.
Squire Strat by Fender – The “Stratocaster” hails as one of the most popular guitars in the world. Whether you choose the “mini” or the full scale “bullet” version, this is an industry standard and a great value. The Squire Strat comes in a variety of colors and is well constructed.
- Epiphone Les Paul – Again, an industry standard and a great bang for the buck. The neck on these is a little bulkier than some of the other choices. The Les Paul is also heavier than some of the competition. The heavier weight helps the guitar have a richer tone with better sustain.
- Ibanez GRGR120EX – This is a great guitar for players who prefer a very flat fretboard. It requires less force on the strings making it feel easier to play. Guitars with flatter fretboards are common among players whose techniques include playing fast.
- Schecter C-6 Deluxe – As you can see, The Schecter C-6 Deluxe is a beautiful guitar. This is a solid choice for beginners or intermediate players. The thin neck and 24 fret fretboard make this a true rock guitar. Overall, this guitar is a great value.
- Squire Affinity Telecaster – Good quality at an affordable price. This body style is very popular in the country music scene. With an Alder body and Maple fingerboard, this guitar has the “twang” that the telecaster is famous for.
- ESP M10 – ESP has been a front runner in the rock ‘n’ roll guitar scene for a long time. The M10 keeps that tradition alive and offers good quality and tone. The thin neck make this guitar another excellent choice for the aspiring rocker.
Many of these guitars can also be purchased in a starter pack which may include picks, a strap, a carrying or “gig” bag and in some cases a complete package including an amplifier and a cord. The complete package does limit your choices and flexibility. These are things that will also need to be purchased, however, often you will not find the best quality guitar and amplifier from the same company.
The start of something special
I have tried to take a lot of the guesswork out of this for you. It’s hard to say what the best beginner guitar for kids is because there is so much of it that is subject to preference and opinion. I would recommend that if at all possible, your beginner gets to hold the actual guitar before purchasing it. Even if they don’t know how to play it there is a kind of bond that happens between the player and the instrument that is an ‘intangible’. They will feel so much more connected to the instrument if they have the ability to be part of the decision.
I wish you the best of luck in your search and I am very excited about the start of this journey you and your beginner are about to take. Music is life changing and can take you places in life that you simply couldn’t have gone without it.
Here’s to your adventure!
Be sure to drop me a line in the comment section below. I am always interested in which other topics people are interested in hearing more about. Thanks!