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Guitar options for an eight-year-old beginner.


(@arfinwulf)
Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 52
Topic starter  

Hello board,

I want to buy a 3/4 size guitar for my son and had an acoustic in mind--but he wants an electric like one of
dad's guitars. Well and good, but I wonder which is better for a beginner that young. I'll probably get him
the electric as it's his choice and I want to things to be fun for him. However, I want to be prudent. What
are everyone else's experiences with the acoustic vs. electric debate for beginner kids?

Namaste.


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(@alangreen)
Member Moderator
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5366
 

Yep.

I have a six-year old student who turns up with a very attractive purple Strat clone. It's a nice piece of kit. I'm sure it sounds great when it's being belted out at full volume. It's almost as big as she is, steel strung, and it's completely inappropriate for a kid at that stage of learning - she's having to push against something like 30 pounds of tension in the string just to get a sound out, her fingers get sore, and it's a large and heavy piece of wood to control when you're only small.

I really would recommend going for a 3/4 size acoustic, even one with nylon strings as a starting point. They're inexpensive, and maintain some kind of resale value - one of my students grew out of his first guitar during the Autumn and sold it to one of my younger students who is seriously happy about having his own first guitar having hired his from the local education authority previously.

I presume your son plays right-handed? Over here, left-handed 3/4 size electrics are effectively non-existent. Even with acoustic guitars, I found the local shop refused to restring one left-handed for one of my students so I got a call from his mum and had to do it myself, but at least the guitar body shape wasn't a horror story in the making.

A :-)

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
Wedding music and guitar lessons in Essex. Listen at: http://www.rollmopmusic.co.uk


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 Crow
(@crow)
Honorable Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 554
 

I suggest a decent 3/4 acoustic for "serious" lessons, plus a "beater" electric -- something playable but not precious -- as a treat for after he finishes daily scales & exercises.

"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa


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(@preacher)
Estimable Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 128
 

Id say the same as pretty much everyone else. 3/4 sized acoustic. I started on a classical strung up with steel strings, and because of that anything I play now isnt a problem to fret.

I play the guitar, I taught myself how to play the guitar, which was a bad decision... because I didn't know how to play it, so I was a sh***y teacher. I would never have went to me. -Mitch Hedberg


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

It depends on how big he is.

I've taught tons of youngsters from 4 on up. There are a couple things to look for as he tries out an instrument:

1. He should be able to reach the first fret, sixth string F without twisting his wrist. If he can't, the neck is too long for him - while many 8 year olds can handle a 3/4 size guitar, some need a 1/2 size for another year or two.

2. He should be able to comfortably reach over the body. Acoustic guitars vary in depth, and some 3/4 size acoustics are simply too deep for kids to handle comfortably. I've never seen a solid body electric cause that problem.

There are a few things you can do to make a guitar that's just a little too big playable:

Classical position (peghead at roughly shoulder height) brings the most distant frets closer to the player. This can be more difficult to achieve with an electric than an acoustic, because the finish on electric guitars tends to be slippery against the player's leg, and makes it hard to control. Always playing with a properly adjusted strap helps, as does putting a small towel on their leg to increase friction.

If getting the neck at the right angle is an issue, he should sit at the edge of his chair, letting the lower bout hang down below the seat. If you have to do this, a strap is especially important, or it may slip off his lap. Using a footstool to support the leg the guitar is on helps too - it gives him more leverage to wrestle with a guitar that's a bit oversized.

Although nylon string acoustics have less string tension than their steel string cousins, they also tend to have wider necks. That can make it harder to form chords using fretted 6th string notes. Make sure his hand can handle the neck width with properly arched fingers.

If the body depth is fine, but the neck is simply too long, you can capo up. I've done this with students inheriting a too-big guitar... a capo on the 3rd fret brings it down roughly one size (from full to 3/4 or 3/4 to 1/2); a capo at the 5th brings it down a couple of sizes.

Whatever guitar you choose, make sure it's decent quality. There are plenty of 1/2 size guitars, and some 3/4 size, that are unplayable. Unfortunately, some manufacturers figure they'll be used as toys instead of instruments, and put no care into quality control. High action, sharp frets, frets not seated properly, neck warps, and bad tuners are all pretty common at the low end. Be sure YOU can get a good sound without too much effort on any instrument you expect a child to learn on!

As far as technique goes, there's little difference. Students starting on electric tend to develop speed a bit sooner than kids starting on acoustics (because of the lower string tension, it's easier to get a good tone with less hand tension, which is a must for getting faster); kids starting on acoustics develop control over dynamics sooner, because they learn to use their hands rather than the volume knob. But eventually they all need to develop both skill sets.

The only other factor I can think of is that young kids tend to present a lot more pick to the strings than they should. In a few cases, I've seen kids' picks strike the pickups while they're playing, which gets in the way of developing a good sense of rhythm. But that's something you can solve with a bit of instruction.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@arfinwulf)
Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 52
Topic starter  

Wow guys, thanks for the advice! Here's what I had in mind for options from a local
music store (where I got my Seagull S6, a good guitar, a few years ago):

http://www.tomleemusic.ca/main/guitars.cfm?details=1&id=241&inv=142867
http://www.tomleemusic.ca/main/guitars.cfm?details=1&id=241&inv=124907

The above being said, I was planning on buying as a gift to present to him on his birthday this summer, however
instead I'll take him to the store to measure out reach per Noteboat's advice. The one thing decided up on is that
he wants whatever he gets to be black. 8)

Namaste.


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(@blue-jay)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1638
 

Wow guys, thanks for the advice! Here's what I had in mind for options from a local
music store (where I got my Seagull S6, a good guitar, a few years ago):

http://www.tomleemusic.ca/main/guitars.cfm?details=1&id=241&inv=142867
http://www.tomleemusic.ca/main/guitars.cfm?details=1&id=241&inv=124907

The above being said, I was planning on buying as a gift to present to him on his birthday this summer, however
instead I'll take him to the store to measure out reach per Noteboat's advice. The one thing decided up on is that
he wants whatever he gets to be black. 8)

That would be a hard choice! Yep, they're both black and good quality. I think that Jay Turser's lineup have always been good, and am familiar with the Squier Mini's. If he wants electric, man they're so coooool, and he might play more?

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


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(@kent_eh)
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1885
 

It partly depends on how big a kid he is.
Here's my son (who is a bit tall for his age) with his 9th birthday present
He started playing guitar in September (after 4 years of piano) using a Yamaha 3/4 acoustic that we rented from the music school.

I wrapped a newspaper ’round my head
So I looked like I was deep


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(@kingpatzer)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 2198
 

buy them a quality full size guitar and don't worry about it.

Kids can do quite well on a full size guitar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk9qNOQVqhI

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST


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(@blue-jay)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1638
 

I guess that teachers know best, not always parents? It would really depend on the size of the child.

Yes, I looked at the youtube videos of little Jimmy doing Django Rheinhardt. No problems.

My sister started at age 7 on a full size Yamaha steel string concert body FG-180.

My son (no pictures - all 35 mm.) picked up full-size electric Superstrat at 8.

But he never took lessons on a big bass till 11, and after that, guitar.

I hope I've got these small pics in order, resized and seen before.

I believe I have age 5-6, then 7, then 8 and again at age 8.

Oh it's my daughter of course, the Tele girl, not my sis'.




Maybe the last pic wasn't such a good example. The Strat looks as if it is crushing & pinning her.

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


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(@arfinwulf)
Trusted Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 52
Topic starter  

Thanks for all the advice and pics fellas!

Namaste.


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(@blue-jay)
Noble Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1638
 

Hey, Gary Bramwell is going to be at one of your local Tom Lee music stores on Friday Jan 22.

http://www.tomleemusic.ca/main/music.cfm

Good luck with your son, I'm all for him getting into it! Try a few guitars out at the store and see what he likes. :D

Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.


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(@yamahaguitar)
New Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 2
 

nice video on youtube and picture gallery there...

yamaha electric guitar | best home theater systems | bose computer speakers


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