Buying Your Child's First Guitar


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    By: School of Rock

    If you've never bought a guitar before you may be a bit overwhelmed by all the choices, the options and the price points. Before you go shopping for your child's first guitar, consider these points.

    Most guitarists have a brand preference and the two most purchased brands are Fender and Gibson. If your son or daughter has been researching guitars they are most likely looking at the Fender Strat or the Gibson Les Paul. Both are fabulous guitars but you don't need to spend that much money to get started. I would, however, encourage you to buy a brand carried in authentic music stores like Guitar Center. I'd suggest you plan to spend $400-$500 on your first guitar.

    You can certainly get them cheaper but cheaper guitars tend to fall out tune more frequently and they just don't give you a true sound. If I were buying a first guitar for someone today I personally would select between Epiphone Les Paul 100, Fender Standard Telecaster Ash or the Gibson Melody Maker. If you consider buying a used guitar, consider Music Go Round, but be sure you take someone with you that knows something about guitars. You need to know how high the strings should sit off the neck, you need to be able to identify any warping and hairline cracks can be hidden without a finely trained eye. All of these have the potential to make the guitar un-playable. 

    Price and brand seem to be the most obvious considerations when buying a guitar but here are other features to factor in your selection.

    1. Guitars come in many shapes and a lot of kids think the odd shaped guitars are cool. The challenge with the odd shapes is that it is difficult to rest the guitar on your leg while you're sitting down so you have to always stand up to play.

    2. The thickness of the neck of the guitar is also important. Every guitar is different so be sure your rocker can reach around the neck to easily finger EVERY string. If you’re buying it as a surprise, find a child about your child’s size in the store and ask them to put their hand around the neck.

    Now you have the guitar figured out, you need to select an amp. An electric guitar is worthless without an amp.  There are two types of amp. Tube amp and Solid State. Big time rockers use tube amps but they also have techs that travel with them. You do not want to buy your beginner guitarist a tube amp. They are high maintenance, finicky and expensive.

    You want to go with a solid state amp with about 15 watts. I recommend the brand "Line 6" and the model "Spider 3" practice amp. It's loud enough to practice with and has a lot of effects beginning guitarists will enjoy playing with. Now you have the guitar and the amp, but you aren't finished shopping yet! There are six more "must haves" for your rocker.

    1. You need a tuner. I recommend a Korg tuner. It's about $20 and lasts forever.

    2. You'll also need guitar cables. Monster cables are the best. They have a lifetime guarantee so if you do get one that quits working, you just take it back to Guitar Center - or wherever you purchased it - and they replace it; no questions, no hassles.

    3. You'll need a pack of picks too. There are many shapes and thicknesses of picks. Start your rocker with.88 millimeter Dunlop picks and then let them experiment from there.

    4. Straps are more difficult to select than you would imagine. You definitely want your son or daughter to try the strap on the guitar at the store. In terms of length, the top string of the guitar should be at the level of his or her belly button. It should also feel comfortable both over the shoulder and across the chest. Straps come in different materials which have different weights so be sure to get something that is comfortable. The strap is NOT just for looks.

    5. The guitar will come with strings but you'll need to buy replacement strings. When strings no longer hold their tune, it's time to replace them. Like straps and picks, strings come in a lot of different brands and sizes. I recommend you start off with 9 gauge D'Addario strings. Anything heavier will be difficult to play until the muscles in the fingers strengthen and the finger tips toughen up.

    6. Finally you need a guitar case to protect your investment. You can choose between a soft shell, a semi hard shell or a hard shell. I don't like the soft shell because all it protects from is dust and scratches. I love the semi hard case because of its lighter weight combined with its rigidity for protection of the guitar. The most protection will come from the hard shell case but they are heavy for kids to carry.

    Once your child has a guitar, you'll want to enroll her in lessons.  Look for specials that might be available the last week of December to get him started and then you can find the right ongoing lessons for him after the New Year.

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