6 Best Kids' Guitars - Ultimate Guide for Parents
Whether your child is already interested in playing the guitar, or you’re trying to get them interested, good on you for doing a little research! The guitar is an amazing instrument for your child to learn and play; it’s extremely portable and accessible, and it can be equally enjoyed played solo as it is in a band setting.
We’re glad you’re here. In this guide we’ll give you the ins and outs of buying the best kids guitar for your child, whether he or she wants to go the acoustic route or jam out on an electric guitar - and even if you’re not sure, read on!
Okay, so if you want to jump straight to the best guitars for kids that we recommend and check out their features and prices, feel free to jump ahead to our rankings. However, we recommend you keep reading the next few sections, where we’ll cover the key things you should consider when selecting a guitar for your kiddo.
- Acoustic or Electric?
- What Size Guitar?
- Budget - How Much Should You Spend?
- Other Things You May Need
- The Best Kids’ Guitars
- 3 Best Electric Guitars for Kids
- 3 Best Acoustic Guitars for Kids
Acoustic or Electric Guitar for Your Kid?
We’re going to highlight this because it’s that important:
The most important choice you need to make is whether to get your kid an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar!
There’s no right answer to this question. The answer depends almost entirely on your child, and his or her preferences and music taste. If you’re lucky, your kid told you what type of guitar they want. In that case, lucky you, there’s your answer!
If they didn’t tell you or you’re attempting to get your kid interested in playing guitar, you need to pay attention to the type of music they like, as well as their general personality. Electric guitar gets amplified through a guitar amp, so it’s louder, and generally less “tame.” It can be raucous, and at the same time soulful. You can play powerful chords, or soaring solos. If your kid listens to mostly rock music, pop, punk, metal, alternative, or other similar genres, an electric guitar seems like it would suit them more.
Acoustic guitar on the other hand is more subtle. It’s a beautiful, rich sounding instrument that can captivate an audience around a campfire as well as on stage. Acoustic guitar is more raw, in the sense that you can’t hide behind effects or amplification. It’s much less suited to playing solos than an electric guitar, but for playing chords and songwriting it’s the best tool. If your kid is listening to folk, country, bluegrass, and singer-songwriter style rock, an acoustic guitar would be a better match for them.
There of course are exceptions to the rules above. We’re just trying to give a general sense of what type of guitar might match your child’s music tastes and personality the most. Having said all that, there are some hard and fast rules around electric vs. acoustic, and they’re important to know:
Electric Guitar: Things to Consider
- Electric guitar is easier to learn on and play. The strings are much thinner, and the action (i.e. the distance between the fretboard and strings) is lower, meaning the strings are easier to press down. This leads to less pain in the fingertips and potentially more enjoyment.
- Electric guitar is a little bit more expensive when you factor in that you’ll also need to buy an amplifier (so your kid can actually hear what they’re playing) and a guitar cable.
- Electric guitar can get loud! While it can certainly be played at a reasonable volume, your enthusiastic child can crank up the amplifier pretty loud which might not be the most pleasant thing for everyone around. You could solve this problem by telling your child to use headphones, but then again headphones add more cost to the equation.
Acoustic Guitar: Things to Consider
- Acoustic guitar is cheaper on the whole, since all you truly need is a guitar.
- Acoustic guitar is harder to learn on at first. The action is higher, the strings are thicker and thus harder to press down, which leads to some pain (and possibly frustration) as your kid builds up their finger strength and calluses (don’t worry, after that initial learning curve it gets easier).
- Because acoustic guitar requires more hand and finger strength, it makes transitioning to electric guitar later seem like a piece of cake!
There are other types of guitars aside acoustic and electric. For instance, ukuleles have been gaining popularity as of late. However, unless your child is into the ukulele or mandolin and specifically requests one, we recommend sticking with a traditional guitar for them, since it’s a much more versatile instrument.
What Size Guitar for My Child?
Another important consideration is the size of the guitar. A full-sized electric or acoustic guitar might just be too large depending on how old or how tall your kiddo is, which will cause discomfort when playing which won’t make it as fun for him or her.
You’re probably asking yourself, “What size guitar should I get for my 7 year old?” Well, there is good and bad news. The good news is that there are general guidelines for matching up your child’s age and height with the size guitar that will fit them best. The bad news is that nearly every single guideline and chart we referenced says something slightly different.
First, it’s good to understand how guitars are sized. You can measure the full length of a guitar from end to end. A full size guitar is around 40” long, give or take. A guitar made for younger and smaller players can be somewhere around 36” long, or even smaller. Often you’ll find a guitar’s size referenced as the guitar’s scale length. This is kind of a technical term, and it means the distance between the nut and the bridge.
Don’t worry too much about understanding the technical details! Just know that you’ll often see beginner and child guitars be 3/4 scale, and that’s roughly a 36” total length guitar that will be well suited to a 7-11 year old player. If you’ve got a very young kid - 4-6 years old - you might want to look into a 1/2 or even a 1/4 size guitar. These guitars will almost always be marketed specifically to children or toddlers. A kid around age 13+ should be able to handle a full size guitar.
Budget - How Much Should You Spend on Your Child's Guitar?
Fortunately, we live in an age when a good guitar can be had for reasonably cheap. Well-constructed, American-made guitars can easily be $1000 or more, but don’t worry. Manufacturers big and small recognize the need for budget priced entry-level instruments.
If you have a budget of around $200, nearly every one of our picks for best kids’ guitar is available to you (both acoustic and electric). You can spend as little as $130-150 and still get a nice beginner guitar. If you can stretch the budget to $350, our “high-end” recommendation is within reach (a fantastic acoustic guitar from legendary manufacturer Martin & Co.).
Remember how we said electric guitar can be a little pricier because of the “extras” you need to buy like an amp and a cable? Lucky for you manufacturers have made starter bundle packs that include everything you need, and some. For around $200 you can get a bundle that includes an electric guitar, a small amp, cable, extra strings, a pick, etc (you can see an example of this here). If you decide to buy just an individual electric guitar, budget around $50 extra for a practice amp, and $20-50 more for a cable and other accessories.
Technological advances in materials and the way guitars are made these days ensure that a $150-200 instrument will sound good and be a reliable instrument. Be wary of bargain bin guitars, i.e. a $40 instrument you find on shelf of a discount store. While that price point seems appealing, avoid instruments like this! Chances are the guitar will sound bad, or won’t be able to properly hold its tuning. Trust renown musical instrument brands like Fender, Squier, Gibson, Epiphone, Yamaha, Ibanez, and Martin - they’ve been perfecting guitars for a long time!
Other Things You May Need
Just like in most hobbies, there are several accessories and odds and ends that make the guitar learning and playing experience better. Of those, we very highly recommend two things for your child: a tuner and a guitar pick.
Other things your kid may want are a metronome, a gig bag or case to protect the guitar, and a guitar strap to wear the guitar while they’re playing or performing.
- A tuner is a crucial tool to own so your child can properly tune each string on their acoustic or electric guitar (believe us, few noises are as grating as a guitar that’s not in tune). We did hours of research and tested dozens of models in our best guitar tuner guide, and can recommend the Snark ST-8 Super Tight Clip On Tuner as the best bang for your buck tuner. It will cost you about $12.
- There are hundreds of guitar picks to choose from. A tried-and-tested top performer is the Dunlop Tortex Standard .60mm Orange Guitar Pick, great for both acoustic and electric guitar. A 12 pack will run you about $7.
- A metronome isn’t crucial, but if your kid is taking lessons it’s a fantastic tool to drastically improve their playing. The Korg TM50BK Instrument Tuner and Metronome is a best seller for good reason. If you decide to buy it, it also doubles as a tuner, so you don’t have to worry about buying that separately. This metronome will run you about $20.
- For a really good no-frills guitar strap, go for the Ernie Ball Polypro Guitar Strap. It comes in many different colors so your kiddo can pick their favorite, or what best matches their guitar. Perfect for both acoustic and electric guitar. It’ll set you back about $7.
Remember, if you’re getting your child a bundle starter pack, it may already have most of this stuff included. The options we recommend above are in case you need to buy these things separately.
The Best Kids’ Guitars
Normally when we test out and review gear to try and find the best, we test dozens of models, and out of those choose the top 5, from which we name the best overall pick. When choosing the best kids’ guitar, it’s a little trickier since we have to consider both electric and acoustic guitars; it’s unfair to say one is objectively better than the other, they are apples to oranges.
So, we picked 6 of our favorite guitars in total - 3 acoustic, and 3 electric, and selected the best one of each.
3 Best Electric Guitars for Kids
Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package
Guitar size: full-size
Here’s the deal - we’re going to say the Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package is overall the BEST choice for your kid when it comes to electric guitars. This is both because of the quality of the instrument itself, and the fact that, for an outrageously reasonable price, this package deal has everything your child would want to get started.
Now, does this mean this is the best guitar, full stop? No, of course not. “Best” is always subjective. The electric guitar in this package is the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II LE. Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson, who makes the super-famous Les Paul. So essentially here you’re buying a beginner’s Les Paul. The traditional rivalry in guitars has always been between Gibson and Fender, specifically the iconic Gibson Les Paul vs. the iconic Fender Stratocaster.
So, why are we telling you this? Well, some guitar players identify more with a Fender, and some with a Gibson. If your child has no clue and just wants something to get started, we suggest going with this starter pack. If instead they’re already enthusiastic about guitar and have expressed a preference, they might prefer the Squier Strat simply because of style or what they’ve seen their guitar heroes play. The Squier Strat is the 2nd electric guitar we recommend on our list. As always, listen to your kid and let them steer you in the right direction!
Ok, back to the Epiphone Les Paul Package. You can get the guitar in a variety of finishes including Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, or Vintage Sunburst (we saw all three at a store and Vintage Sunburst definitely looks the coolest). The guitar itself is good quality, and in fact we’re quite surprised at how well made an instrument this inexpensive is. Right out of the box the guitar plays pretty well, and comes outfitted with light D’Addario strings which are easy to play and bend. It also sounds good. Les Pauls are known for having a more chunky, warm tone because of the humbucker pickups (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, your kid will dig it).
Is it the same quality as a multi-thousand-dollar Gibson Les Paul? No, of course not. The wood it’s made out of is cheaper, are as most of the guitar’s components. Still, for a beginner, this is a fantastic guitar that will serve your kid from beginner well into intermediate phase.
One of the reasons the best kids’ electric guitar crown goes to the Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package is because, well, of the package. It comes with a decent little 10 watt practice amp, a 10ft cable to hook the guitar up to the amp, a guitar strap, some picks, a clip-on headstock chromatic tuner, and a gig bag. You don’t have to worry about buying anything else for your kid to have a blast playing. For this price, that’s a crazy good deal. As a bonus, the Epiphone Electar-10 Amplifier this package comes with has a headphone out jack, which means your kiddo can jam away into the night without waking up the entire house (you will need some headphones if you want to go that route).
Bottom Line:The reviews around the Web of this starter package speak for themselves. For your kid that’s just starting out on the guitar, owning a Les Paul will be an amazing thrill. As for the parent, spending this little cash and getting absolutely everything that’s needed is an even greater thrill. With no major flaws, a good feel, and a good sound, we highly recommend the Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package and name it the Best of the Best electric guitar.
Don't Need the Bundle? You can find info and pricing on the Epiphone Les Paul Special-II here.
Squier by Fender Mini Strat Electric Guitar Bundle
Guitar size: 3/4-size body
Just like Epiphone is to Gibson, Squier is a subsidiary of Fender which basically means you get the basic feel and sound of a Fender guitar for a fraction of the price. The Squier by Fender Mini Strat Electric Guitar Bundle includes everything you need for your kid to get jamming, and is a fantastic choice for a budding guitar player. The electric guitar in this bundle is a Squier Mini Strat (Strat is short for Stratocaster, Fender’s most iconic guitar).
This Squier Strat comes with some fun color options including black, pink, red, sunburst, and white. One advantage this guitar has over the Epiphone Les Paul is the size is a bit more kid-friendly. It’s a “mini” Strat, meaning it has a 3/4-size body. Typically that’s most appropriate for a 7-11+ year old child. Here are some quotes we gathered from buyers of this guitar to help you decide on size per your kid’s age:
“Got this guitar for my five year old. It is a little big for him, no doubt about that. A half size would have been a better fit.”
“i bought for my niece when she was 6...it was a tad big but she has already grown into it 1 year later...she loved it...big enough for her to think she had an adult guitar but just small enough for her to handle it and use for 5-10 years.”
“I gave it to my 7-year old and it fits him perfectly.”
“I have an 8 year old and it's good for her. Not sure it would work for five, but not sure there is a smaller guitar either that is actually a real guitar.”
“The total length is 35” from the tip of the head to the bottom at the strap post. My 10 year old son is 54” tall and this is the perfect size for him. And the sound is fantastic!”
As you can see, this is a good size guitar for a 7 to 11 (and beyond) year old kid. In our test, we were satisfied with the guitar’s look and feel (we got the sunburst finish), and playing it felt good enough. The initial setup right out the box wasn’t quite as good as the Epiphone Les Paul, but some variation in setup quality is to be expected from such an inexpensive instrument. Worst case, before handing it over to your kid, take it to any guitar store in your area and ask for a setup. For a few bucks they’ll get it to where it plays beautifully.
Just like the Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package, this Squier Mini Strat Electric Guitar Bundle comes with just about all the things your child will need to plug in and play - the electric guitar, a small practice amp, a 10ft guitar cable, a clip-on tuner, a few picks, and a strap. Unlike the Epiphone it does not come with a gig back which is slightly disappointing, but if you need one you can get something like this for under $20. The guitar amp is admittedly pretty underwhelming, but for a child whose guitar journey is just beginning it should serve its purpose. Luckily the amp does include a headphone output for silent playing and practicing.
Bottom Line: If we’re being extra picky, we like the Epiphone Les Paul slightly more than the Squier Mini Strat. However, the Strat has several advantages - for starters, the mini-size body is much more suited to smaller children between the ages of 7 and 11. Also, a Stratocaster is a better instrument for someone who wants to play blues, jazz, or rock with a “brighter” tone than what a Les Paul can emit. And finally, as of time of writing the Squier Strat bundle cost a bit less than the Epiphone one. With the Squier Mini Strat your kiddo can feel completely comfortable playing the iconic Stratocaster, and when you consider all the accessories included in this package it’s an absolute steal.
Don't Need the Bundle? You can find info and pricing on the Squier by Fender Mini Strat here.
Ibanez GRGM21 3/4 Size Mikro Electric Guitar
Guitar size: 3/4-size body
Next up is the Ibanez GRGM21 Mikro Electric Guitar, a 3/4-size guitar that’s a great choice if your kid is looking to really rock. Unlike the Epiphone Les Paul and Squier Mini Strat, this one does not come with a bundle. What you get is just the guitar. That said, it’s an impressive guitar considering it’s beginner price-point. As one reviewer said, The Ibanez Mikro is a “beginners bargain set up.”
In the guitar world, Ibanez guitars have more of a following from players who gravitate towards hard rock, progressive rock, and metal. Ibanez guitars have super fast fingerboards for ease of soloing, and that feeling translates well to their little brother the Ibanez Mikro. This is a great guitar for small hands, and your child will really appreciate how easy it is to glide across the fingerboard. The 3/4-size body measures about 35” from end to end.
The color options are nice - you can choose from black, blue, white, metallic purple, walnut sunburst, and yellow (there’s even a left-handed version). The one we received was set up fairly well, and the fit and finish was very good for a guitar in this price range. We did read some reviews that indicate the quality control is hit and miss, particularly when it comes to the finish on the frets. If you happen to get one that needs a little TLC, head to a local guitar shop and ask them to do a basic setup, or you can always ask the store you got it from to send you a new one.
The Ibanez Mikro sounds pretty good. It feels right at home played with high levels of gain and distortion, and the humbucker pickups can sound pretty huge. Again, the pickups aren’t stellar, but we say that with much more expensive guitars in mind, so it’s not quite a fair comparison. Several owners of this guitar have had success swapping out some parts for superior ones, turning it into somewhat of a project guitar. In our tests, the Ibanez Mikro tended to go out of tune more often than we’d like, but supposedly this is a typical grievance of 3/4-size guitars.
Bottom Line: The Squier and Epiphone guitars we recommend for your kid have more of a mainstream feel to them, whereas the Ibanez Mikro is a little more specialized. If your child has a tendency towards the electric guitar and listens to metal or prog rock, you should seriously consider this one. Again, like the Squier Strat, the smaller body makes it suitable for children in the 7 to 11 age range.
3 Best Acoustic Guitars for Kids
Fender MA-1 3/4-Size Steel String Acoustic Guitar
Guitar size: 3/4-size body
This is the type of guitar that makes our job easy. The Fender MA-1 3/4-Size Steel String Acoustic Guitar is a no-frills, great sounding, easily playable acoustic guitar that’s perfect for the 7 to 11 year old kid. It comes with a soft gig bag, though the bag is not padded so it won’t be as protective against bumps and drops as a padded gig bag would be.
Fender is one of the most famous names when it comes to guitars, so even with their low-priced instruments they have a reputation to uphold. The Fender MA-1 is a perfect example that a great instrument can be had on a budget.
It’s an acoustic guitar with no electronics, so the things to focus on are the fit, finish, and playability, and the sound. Quality-wise, we’re impressed. The setup is good enough. The action (distance between the fretboard and the strings) was a tad high for our liking, but that can be solved by taking it in to your local guitar shop and asking for a good setup with lower action. Less expensive guitars tend to be more hit-or-miss with the action, so we can’t fault this guitar too much considering how inexpensive it is.
Another plus is the Fender MA-1 stayed in tune throughout our play test, attesting to the build quality and the quality of the tuners. Tone-wise, this guitar certainly delivers. Despite its smaller size, it has a big, warm sound. Aside from being a perfect acoustic guitar for a kid, we wouldn’t mind owning it ourselves for ease of portability.
Bottom Line: For the 7-11 year old child, the Fender MA-1 makes a perfect acoustic guitar to start out with. In addition to this guitar we recommend you buy some picks, and a clip-on tuner for the ideal setup. We’ll leave you with a quote from a user review that sums up the Fender MA-1 perfectly:
It sounds great, is easy to play, cheap, and allows me to play most of whatever I want to. 10/10 would recommend.
Best of the Best acoustic guitar.
Yamaha JR1 3/4 Scale Guitar with Gig Bag
Guitar size: 3/4-size body
The Yamaha JR1 FG Junior 3/4 Size Acoustic Guitar is another one of our favorites perfectly suited to the 7-11 year old child. It comes in a natural finish and a tobacco sunburst finish, so your kiddo can pick out the one they like best (you’ll have to shell out a bit more cash for the sunburst). It also comes with a gig bag which lets you transport and keep the guitar safe from the elements (though like the Fender MA-1, the gig bag is not very padded so exercise caution).
In trying to determine the best acoustic guitar for kids, it was a very close call between this Yamaha JR1 and the Fender MA-1. There’s a lot to like about the Yamaha JR1. The 3/4 scale means the smaller sized body and neck will feel very comfortable in the hands of your kid. Despite being smaller, it sounds good. We thought the bass response of the Fender MA-1 was slightly better, but the Yamaha JR1 sounds nice and rich and does not disappoint.
In terms of playability, we found the guitar we tested to be set up nicely right out of the box. Another pleasant surprise is the quality of the tuners; it held its tune quite well throughout our test. Looks-wise, the fact that you can choose between natural and tobacco sunburst finishes is a nice selling point, especially if your kid has a particularly strong preference for one or the other.
Bottom Line: The Yamaha JR1 FG Junior 3/4 Size Acoustic Guitar should definitely be on your shortlist of contenders for your child. It’s similarly priced to the Fender MA-1 3/4-Size acoustic guitar, and both offer great playability, sound, and value for the money. Both brands are trustworthy, though Fender has a little more credibility when it comes to guitars. That said, this Yamaha has very nice craftsmanship and we like the choice between two colors. This is an acoustic guitar your kid will find easy to play and cherish for many years. If you’re interested in this one, for a little more money you can upgrade to an accessory bundle (seen here) which includes a clip-on tuner, capo, guitar strap, peg winder, picks, extra guitar strings, and an instructional DVD.
Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar
Guitar size: 3/4-size body (34” total length)
Rounding out the list of our favorite acoustic guitars for kids is the Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar. This is admittedly a slightly more premium option, costing a couple hundred dollars more than the Fender and Yamaha we recommend. So, why the price premium? Quite simply, this is a lovely 3/4 scale guitar that lives up to the Martin name, a legendary brand when it comes to exquisite acoustic guitars.
This guitar is worth the splurge because it’s a cut above small acoustic guitars in the $100-200 range. Being the famed instrument maker they are, Martin would not put their name on an instrument that wasn’t worthy of it. Martin characteristically makes guitars that sound big and warm (as opposed to other manufacturers like Taylor, whose guitars sound decidedly brighter and more treble-y). The Martin LX1 Little Martin definitely has a sound we would describe as warm, mellow, and beautiful. Sure, it’s not going to sound as big and loud as a full-size guitar, but we’re taking into consideration guitars that are going to feel great in your kid’s hands.
Speaking of feel, this guitar is a joy to play. The quality of the setup just feels better out of the box than the hit-or-miss setup we’ve seen on the Fenders and Yamahas. The action on the model we tried is nice and low, and from the other reviews we’ve read it seems this is pretty consistent. The Martin LX1 is well-constructed, and stays in tune perfectly well. It has a solid sitka spruce top, which means the guitar will sound better and better over the months and years as the wood ages. It even comes with a gig bag that’s well padded to protect the guitar.
Bottom Line: The Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar is admittedly pricey compared to the Fender and Yamaha options, especially if you don’t know if your kid is going to stick with practicing and playing guitar. Our recommendation would be that if your kid is showing tons of enthusiasm for playing, getting them a Martin is a great way to make them even more excited. If you’re in the mood to splurge a little, or if you’re the parent play guitar yourself, we would also recommend the Martin LX1. At worst if your child doesn’t play it, you’ll add a fantastic little travel guitar to your collection. If that’s not reason enough, Grammy winning artist Ed Sheeran uses a guitar nearly identical to this one when he performs live all over the world. Yes, it does cost a little more than your average entry-level instrument, but the sound and quality will blow you away.