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Children’s Guitar Size Calculator 

 January 27, 2021

By  Kale Good

The importance of a Well-fitted Guitar

The Children's Guitar-Size Calculator will help you find the guitar that best fits your child and recommend some of the best guitars for the money. find a well-fitted guitar for your child. Don't make the mistake of buying your guitar based on your child's age or buying a fractional guitar without further investigation.

Click here to jump to the guitar-sizing calculator.

If you'd like to do the math yourself, there are two measurements to use to find the right size for a child's guitar. The first is the height of their bellybutton, and the second is their finger span. Taking measurements in inches, multiply your child's belly button height by 1.63 and 1.75. Multiply their finger span by 10.82. This will give you a range of guitar scale lengths that will fit your child. The results of these measurements are in centimeters, which is the most common measurement given for children's guitars.

If your child uses an oversized guitar, they'll encounter 3 issues; each compounding the others. First, larger guitars have higher-tension strings. Your child will need to use more muscle to get the notes down. That's never beneficial; any experienced musician will tell you to play with the least amount of force possible. Second, your child's fingers will need to stretch beyond their optimal range, making it even more challenging to apply the force needed. Finally, your child's arm will also need to be held further away from the body, which will compromise the wrist, hand, and finger positions. They'll also end up tensing up their shoulder muscles to support their arm. All of this will make playing a strenuous activity for your child and can minimize their enjoyment.

It's kinda like going for a run in sweatpants two sizes too large. Sure, you can do it, but you won't develop a good technique, improve very fast, or have much fun doing it.

Problems with most recommendations

Again, parents are faced with compounding problems when it comes to most guitar-recommendation charts. 

Age-based Recommendations

Most guitar sizing charts for kids are age-based recommendations. However, age isn't the best determination of what size guitar will fit your child. The best determination of what size guitar fits your child is.... your child's size! Taking a few measurements can ensure a better fit.

Non-Standard Sizing

Another common recommendation is to buy a fractional guitar based on your child's age. Here we get into the compounding problem. First, your child may be large or small for their age. Second, unlike other instruments, fractional guitars are non-standardized. This means that one maker's 1/2 size guitars could be as much as 10% larger than a different maker.

Hand Size

I've been teaching guitar since 2006, and I've seen hands and fingers of all sorts. Long, skinny fingers like my own. Average-sized fingers. And short, stubby, sausage-like fingers.

All shapes and sizes of fingers can master the guitar (see Segovia for sausage-finger virtuosity) examples. However, shorter fingers need a shorter guitar to help them play with ease.

I haven't found a single online chart that takes this into account.

Two Measurements to fit

An image showing where to measure your child's hand to find the correct guitar size for them

Measuring your child's finger span helps determine the proper guitar size for them.

This guitar-sizing system combines two different systems. First, it calculates size based on proportions derived from a sizing chart common among Suzuki Guitar teachers like me. Then, it checks it against the guitar-sizing system developed by Alicia Kopfstein-Penk , in conjunction with Dr. Richard Norris, former medical director of the National Arts Medicine Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

It only takes two quick measurements to get a well-fitted guitar. You'll need a few supplies so grab a ruler, some cardboard and a pin, and a tape measure!

Belly-Button Height

Have your child stand on the floor, barefoot. Measure the distance to their belly-button. That's it.

Finger Span

You'll need a ruler and, ideally, a peice of cardboard and a pin. Put a ruler down on a peice of cardboard and stick a pin at they "0" end of the ruler. Have your child place their hand and wrist flat on the table and their fingers on top of the ruler. Place the ruler on the inside of the index finger (see above image).

 Then, have them  fan their left-hand fingers out as wide as they can on the ruler (if your child will be playing left-handed, measure the right hand). Keep the wrist flat on the table. Do not strain the fingers or stretch them beyond what they do naturally. 

Measure the distance from the left-side of the index finger to the left-size of pinky, at the tip (see above image for reference). 

Which Size do I use?

It is typically best to use the largest size recommended. If there is a large difference between the Finger-Span recommendation and the Maximum Size (by belly button) recommendation, please contact me and let me know the two measurements. I'll give you further guidance from there.

Other Considerations

If you're lucky enough to try out guitars in-person, sit your child down and have them hold the guitar in the proper playing position.

Look out for their right-shoulder rising as your child sits in the proper position. Their shoulders should remain level and well-aligned as they hold the instrument.

Suppose they are taking Suzuki or Classical guitar lessons. In that case, their left hand should remain below their shoulder when their hand in the first position (by the headstock).

If you are unsure of which fit is best, err on the side of the larger scale length.

Best Children's Starter Guitars

One of the biggest hurdles your child will face as they start playing guitar is the development of calluses. Good technique helps to minimize the pain involved and shortens the time it takes to develop the callouses. Unfortunately, the pain makes developing good technique quite challenging!

I teach my students using the Suzuki method, which is classically-based and uses nylon string guitars exclusively. Nylon strings are both lower tension and larger diameter than the steel strings used on Acoustic guitars. The lower tension means that my students don't need to press down as hard to make a note sound. The larger diameter means that the force required to push the string down is spread over a larger portion of the finger. These two differences allow my students to develop their technique without a "breaking-in" period before developing their calluses. Then, when they are ready, their excellent technique allows them to easily transition to a steel-stringed guitar.

Another advantage of nylon guitars, especially for younger students, is that they are available in a much more comprehensive range of sizes. You may find that there are no steel-stringed or electric guitars made that will fit your child. In that case, start them off on a nylon-stringed guitar and transition to a larger instrument after they've grown a bit.

Necessary Accessories

If your child is just starting off on guitar, you'll want a few extra items (affiliate links below):

  • assorted pics, if you'll be strumming chords
  • a guitar amp, if you're playing electric. I recommend the Orange I20 amp. It's got an excellent cabinet simulator that makes it sound like a cranked amp at a rock show, even through headphones. Way better than the boring practice amp I started off with.
  • A case. Make sure is either hardshell or has some padding and is the correct size. Avoid the bags that are just a thin nylon; they offer no protection from the scrapes and bumps that kids put instruments through. 
  • if playing a classical guitar and strumming chords, kling-on soundboard protector

Quick Tips For Parents

I've got a few helpful articles for parents who are just starting lessons. "How to find a Fantastic Music Teacher for your Child and Essential Games and Concepts to Get Kids to Practice are two of my best. You can sign up for my newsletter below to get tips like these in your inbox every month. 

Recommended Guitars

I recommend that you get the best guitar you can afford (or guitar and amp combo, if buying an electric guitar). Take good care of it, and you should be able to resell it to another young student for almost full-price.

You can check out this article to see what you can expect at different price points (this article is geared towards classical guitars).

More expensive guitars sound more beautiful, and your child will enjoy playing them much more. Less expensive guitars are less enjoyable to play, and your child won't understand that they are really good at guitar, but their instrument is holding them back.

The tables below are sortable. You can sort these tables by any column; just click the table header (click "scale size" or "price" to sort by price). Some of these guitars have affiliate links; others don't. They're on the list because they're some of the best guitars you can get for the money (affiliate link or not).

These recommendation lists take up a good bit of room; if you'd like to jump to classical (nylon-stringed), acoustic, or electric, click on the link!

Classical (Nylon-Stringed) Guitars

These are the guitars with which I have the most experience as a teacher.

The Benjamin Garcia guitars are hand-built and will blow you away with their fantastic tone and perfectly miniaturized proportions. The LaMancha and more-expensive Cordoba guitars are well-built and have a pleasant tone.

Note that guitars under $200 can experience quality control issues and may need to be taken to a guitar repair person for minor adjustments.

Please take note that some of these guitars come with cases. Others will require you to buy a case.

Selections marked with an asterisk (*) are travel guitars made for adults. As such, the fretboard will be wider and create unnecessary strain on your child's fingers. Use them only in a pinch.

Guitar

Scale Length

Price (at publication)

45cm

$595

48cm

$595

50cm

$625

53cm

$650

55cm

$675

59cm

$675

62cm

$675

64cm

$850

65cm

$850

61.5cm

$329

63cm

$329

58cm

$155

48cm

$155

61.5cm

$155

58cm

$328

La Mancha cm-41

41cm

$190

La Mancha cm-47

47cm

$275

La Mancha cm-53

53cm

$299

La Mancha cm-59

59cm

$299

La Mancha cm-63

63cm

$299

Acoustic Guitars

Note that steel string and electric guitars usually have their scale lengths measure in inches. I've provided both measurements here so you can be certain your buying the correct guitar.

If you're child is still fairly small, you'll likely need to start off on a nylon-string, classical guitar.

Guitar

Scale Length

Price (at publication)

65cm (25.5in)

$499

64cm (25.3in)

$230

61cm (24in)

$499

58.5cm (23in)

$330

63.5cm (24.875in)

$499

60cm (23.5in)

$550

54cm (21.25 in)

$150

Electric Guitars

Just like with steel-string guitars, there aren't a ton of options out there for smaller kids. Starting off on a nylon-stringed, classical guitar may be your best option.

You will need an amp. I recommend the Orange I20 amp. It's got an excellent cabinet simulator that makes it sound like a cranked amp at a rock show, even through headphones.

Guitar

Scale Length

Price (at publication)

56cm (22 in)

$150

65cm  (25.5 in)

$380

62cm (24.75 in)

$250

56.5cm (22.2 in)

$150

57cm (22.5 in)

$120

57cm (22.5 in)

$100

61cm (24 in)

$180

57.7cm (22.75 in)

$180

65cm (25.5 in)

$250

Conclusion

If you're looking for guitar lessons for your child, check out my info on guitar lessons for kids as young as 3 years old.

Kale Good


Educator and Founder of Good Music Academy.

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