I just received my first email about giving a guitar as a gift. The most common situation is an adult buying a guitar for a child. This post contains my thoughts, as a guitar teacher, about what instruments young, beginning students should use.
Most kids have trouble with two things: (1) the strings hurt their left hand fingers (no calluses!), and (2) they struggle to get a good sound with even the simplest of chords.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of classical guitar, but I really think the best overall choice for an instrument is a nylon string, classical guitar. The strings are easier to work with, and the wider neck actually helps students get a bit better sound — I can’t tell you how many students get really frustrated when they can’t get the first string to ring while holding down another string. The wider neck on a classical guitar lets the student have a bit more room to play with.
Another thing to consider is that a child is very much influenced by their instrument. If it’s easy to play and sounds good in their hands, they are going to be more motivated. If it looks the way they want it to look, that might help too.
Before you get that old guitar out from the closet, think about whether or not it’s the guitar the child wants. Will it inspire them to play? Will it be easy to use? My biggest pet peeve as a teacher is seeing a student with a guitar that’s hard to use. If you do want to give a used guitar, take it to a music store and ask them to set the guitar up.
There’s a lot of really great beginner instruments. I don’t really think you can go wrong with a Yamaha C40. If the student is younger, half-sized or 3/4-sized guitars should be used. This largely depends on how big the kid is. Middle school and high school age students are usually find with full sized guitars.
I like my students to have a few things.
- A foot stool. Even my electric/rock guitar students sit classical style.
- A tuner.
- Lessons. Guitar classes (group lessons) are also a possibility. Ask around and see who the go-to teacher in town is.
- A method book (optional). I use the Mel Bay Classical Guitar method with most young students. If a student wants to do rock-style guitar, I have a little booklet I give out along with other materials.
Note: links in the post are affiliate links.