Should I learn to play the acoustic guitar or electric guitar? Which is better for a child to learn? Which is easier to learn – acoustic or electric? Where can I buy a good child sized guitar?
We get these questions fairly frequently. They’re good questions… with annoying answers…
Ok. Obviously, you should choose an instrument that suits your son or daughter’s style. For example: If your child wants to play heavy metal, a nylon stringed-classical-instrument probably isn’t the way to go… or is it?
No. Probably not.
So – all musical tastes aside – let’s break this down…
The Case for (and against) the Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic guitars are basic and beautiful in their own way. You can pick them up and play them without plugging them in – nice and easy and hassle free…
But they can be really hard to learn, especially at first. And even more especially for beginner-little fingers.
High Action – Action is basically the gap between the top of the fretboard and the part of the string that you push down. High Action = Big Gap. Big Gap = More muscle and strength required to push down on the string. Which can be tough for anyone – especially little fingers.
Too Big – Most full-sized acoustic guitars will be too big for anyone under 13 years old. You can buy a 3/4 sized guitar (which a lot of my students use), that works just fine. The action can be a little lower (a good thing in this case). Sometimes you may have to pay more for better quality. Sometimes, not.
Boring – Ok. Maybe not boring. But when you’re first learning to play the acoustic guitar – there aren’t a whole lot of effects you can add to change the sound and keep things fresh. The freshness and diversity comes with new techniques.
The Case for (and against) the Electric Guitar
Electric guitars are awesome too. With only just a guitar, a cable, and an amp – you can play one little riff a number of different ways… add in some pedals (or even just some nifty iphone apps) and your guitar-playing-world will rip right open.
But there is a downside:
Overload – For kids, sometimes all of the bells and whistles can be daunting (true for adults too). It’s easy to get caught up in the add-ons and miss the actual guitar-playing. For young students with short attention spans, this can be both a blessing and a curse: It can maintain interest in the instrument, but stall progress significantly.
I Like Loud!! – Yeah – it might get loud. However, most amps have an option to plug in headphones – so that’s a nice bonus.
Cost – The cost of an actual entry-level beginner electric guitar is probably pretty close to that of an acoustic… except that you generally need to get an amplifier as well, which can add on another $50 – $75. I didn’t really want cost to be a factor in this Electric vs. Acoustic debate – but when you’re buying something for a child (who may or may not stick with it – you probably don’t want to drop a ton of cash).
So What Should I Get?
Well – physically it seems like an electric is the way to go – but really.. I think it depends mostly on your daughter or son’s musical tastes.
Personally, I started playing when I was about 11 (with an electric guitar). I took a month or two of lessons then promptly quit. It wasn’t until 3 or 4 years later that I picked up an acoustic guitar and actually stuck with it.
You can check out this website. I’ve never purchased anything here. Prices seem a little higher than a lot of the big-box retail music stores, but quality may be okay. At the very least, you can get an idea of what some of the smaller guitars look like.
For kid sized electric guitars – you can’t go wrong with a Fender Squier.
For acoustics – try to find a 3/4 sized Fender or Yamaha (like this child sized acoustic)
Those are my thoughts and recommendations. Drop a comment below if you agree/disagree or have any recommendations yourself… I’d love to hear about them.
If you want more details and suggestions… check out this updated article here.
(Jake Posko does in-home and online guitar lessons in the Annapolis, Maryland area including: Annapolis, Edgewater, Severna Park, Pasadena, Crownsville, Arnold and Kent Island, inquire about lessons by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org).