How much do I need to spend to get a quality children’s guitar? This article will cover the different price ranges of kid’s guitars and share my experiences. That way, you can make the best decision for your family and budget.
While you can get less expensive guitars, minimally functional guitars cost around $150. You’ll get a guitar that usually stays in tune and has an adequate, if unremarkable, tone. Prices go up to about $650 for the best hand-crafted, solid wood guitars. These guitars are appropriately proportioned to fit your child’s smaller hands and body.
I encourage you to buy the finest instrument you can afford (this article has no affiliate links). An inexpensive instrument will have a less immersive sound and may create unwanted buzzes that will frustrate your child. They may be demoralized and assume that the mediocre sound results from their deficiencies as a musician.
I experienced a version of this in my late 20s. I used get down on my playing every 2-3 months. Then, I would change strings, and I’d feel much better for a few weeks. I knew that I should replace my strings every month, but it still me a decade of playing to realize that the old strings sounded terrible, not me!
You can avoid demoralizing your child by buying the best instrument you can afford.
What You Get
In my 15+ years of experience as a guitar teacher, working with students who have a guitar of this caliber is one of the most challenging things I’ve done. These guitars can’t stay in-tune because manufacturers can’t put decent tuners on a guitar at this price. Unsurprisingly, their tone is unremarkable and quality-control issues abound.
What your child gets is a guitar that is rarely in-tune for more than a few moments, making an extended practice session difficult. Add to this the mediocre tone from a mass-manufactured factory and you can ensure that your child will have a hard time enjoying making meaningful music.
What You Get
In this price range, you start to get minimally functional instruments. These are still from mass-manufactured shops, but this price range allows for a higher quality control level. The tone from the untuned braces and plywood soundboard is unremarkable but serviceable. I do occasionally see some quality control issues in these guitars. Unsurprisingly, they are usually in the tuners.
You’ll see many fractional (smaller) acoustic and nylon string guitars in this range. Many of them have slightly different proportions than a standard adult guitar. Most typically, the body is either too deep or too wide. You’ll also see fretboards that are much wider than appropriate for your child’s short fingers.
Manufacturers adjust the proportions to compensate for the smaller tone that comes from a smaller guitar. However, it is unnecessary, as a good luthier can build a correctly proportioned guitar without compromising tone. It does, however, cost more.
While the tone on these guitars may be acceptable, they do suffer from a lack of volume. They also commonly lack the protective and decorative binding on the outside edge of the guitar.
I’ve had several students buy guitars in this price range, and generally speaking, they consistently have enough small issues that I try to encourage people to spend a little more money. Sometimes, the string sticks in the nut, making it hard to tune. Others are a little buzzy, needing a setup adjustment that parents are hesitant to make.
What You Get
The two most essential quality upgrades in this price range are a solid-wood soundboard and higher quality tuners. A solid wood soundboard gives a substantial increase in tone because solid wood is much more responsive than plywood to the strings’ vibrations. The solid wood soundboard will also give your child more volume to use.
You’ll still be getting plywood back and sides in this price range, which slightly reduces the guitar’s tone quality. Additionally, you’ll still be subject to some unusual proportion choices that manufacturers make when scaling down the guitar. Upper and lower bouts may be more pronounced, while the waist may look exaggerated. Again, fretboard width may be too large and taxing for your child’s small fingers. These qualities make it more challenging to find a good-fitting guitar for your child. They also make it harder for your child to play well.
While the soundboard is typically a commonly used wood, you will likely get less-common wood choices on the back, sides, neck, and fretboard. Manufacturers use these woods as a cost-saving measure.
One aesthetic nicety that in this price range is decorative rosettes. While these are typically decorative, they also serve a structural role, reinforcing the wood around the soundhole.
What You Get
I only know of one seller who stocks guitars in this price range, and they are phenomenal. You will truly be impressed by the beautiful sound that your child can create with one of these instruments. The volume and variety of timbres they can produce blows all these other guitars out of the window.
These guitars are visually stunning. They have hand-made rosettes and dark, contrasting binding that brings out the top’s rich color and elegant finish. The guitars are accurately scaled-down in every dimension.
Made in Mexico by an excellent and experienced luthier, his 20 years of experience goes into hand-making every guitar. Once he finishes constructing the guitar, he’ll “tune” the guitar by tapping the top and listening closely. Then, he’ll shave a little bit of wood off of the braces. This shaping and shaving makes them lighter and more responsive, producing better tone and volume. He’ll repeat this process until the guitar sings.
The use of solid wood throughout the guitar also helps give these guitars the best possible tone. The larger student models use the most common (and desirable) tonewoods. The accurate proportions make it much easier to decide which instrument is appropriate for your child. They also ensure that your child will play with greater ease.
If you know a Suzuki Guitar Teacher, you can find a place to resell these instruments once your child does outgrow them, as they are highly sought-after in the Suzuki world.
Leave any questions in the comments below!