Halloween is my family's favorite holiday. That is not because we’re crazies. It mostly relates to being from the east coast and growing up around the beautiful shades of orange and brown every year. We look forward to decorating our house in those colors, carving pumpkins, baking pumpkin seeds, and making pumpkin pie. We dress up every year without fail. Even if we don’t leave the house, we’ll still dress up. We have fun playing pretend.
For both my wife and me, this year will be special. Our newborn girls are now just over one-month-old, and we get to celebrate their first Halloween. From the outside looking in, I know what some may be thinking...that the girls are certainly not old enough to care about any of these things. They’re still happiest with a binky and a blanket. While that may be true, we’re happiest when they’re dressed up in cute outfits and our phones are recording every second. This is my segue into our topic. When our children don’t know any better, we do three things. 1) Ask for advice from others. 2) Spoil them rotten. 3) Live vicariously through them. This is what I want you, as a parent, to consider when deciding on the first instrument for your child.
We will be doing a series called “My First” to highlight options for every type of instrument. Every week I am asked for recommendations, whether they be starter instruments or upgrades. Like the Halloween costumes for one-month-old babies, a child will not know the difference between an expensive or cheap instrument, a quality tool or a forgettable toy. It is up to us to ask for advice, decide when and how to spoil our children, and what we as parents would like to gain from the experience.
There are five things to consider when purchasing a first guitar. We will take a brief look at each category, and then I will list some suggestions that my team has agreed on for young learners.
Guitars range in price from $50 to $10,000. This tells us that while guitars can be valuable assets, they can also be silly little toys given as gifts to toddlers. I encourage parents to decide ahead of time what their budget is for a first instrument, knowing that if the student sticks with it, there will be periodic upgrades over time. You will want to spoil your child. The question is when and how. I believe in delayed gratification and have found that it produces wonderful results. With that said, I suggest a $100 budget for a first guitar.
There are two main types of guitars: acoustics and electrics. Acoustic guitars are self sufficient, while electric guitars require an amplifier and quarter-inch instrument cable. Beyond this, there are subgenres that break down the size of the guitar’s body, the type of strings, the type of electronics, so on and so forth. The combinations are limitless. This is where asking for advice comes in handy. It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the options, and the worst thing is to purchase a 1st guitar that is unplayable for the student. I recommend a nylon string acoustic guitar. For students 8 and under, I recommend a quarter-size nylon string acoustic. These nylon strings are soft on the fingers, and because new students do not have calluses, playing guitar can be slightly painful in the beginning.
When we consider what we as parents want out of this deal, it usually comes down to wanting our kids to have fun, learn something new, and look super cute or cool doing it. We want to see our children on stage or rocking out in the living room, and we want to have those pictures to look back on. We also want our young learners to have a personal attachment to their instrument. With an endless sea of choices from color to shape and size, I suggest starting with a blank canvas...a fairly boring guitar...and letting the second instrument be the one that speaks directly to the student. Now, if you just can’t wait that long, then start with color. Pick your child’s favorite color, and then maybe think about your favorite look. With this approach, the student gets a guitar in their favorite color and you get to tell them why that particular look is cool.
As your child develops a serious hobby of practicing music, instruments and accessories can become incredibly expensive over time. In the beginning. I suggest looking for a package deal that includes everything a student will need. If you are going with an acoustic, that means a package that includes the case and some picks. If you are going with an electric, that means going with a package that includes case, an amplifier, a quarter-inch cable, and maybe some guitar picks or a tuner.
If you are an Amazon shopper, then good luck getting the honest truth out of reviews and placement in the search results. Most companies pay top dollar to outreach services to boost those reviews. If you are a Facebook or Google user, chances are the platform already knows you are thinking about purchasing an instrument. It will probably start showing you a million options in every other post on your newsfeed. My advice is to stick with the seasoned veterans. Fender (Electronics only) and Taylor (Acoustics only) are big names that have stood the test of time, and they produce cool-looking, quality beginner and advanced instruments at a reasonable price. Outside of these two juggernaut companies, there are a few other companies that I personally like for starter instruments: Yamaha, BreedLove, and Epiphone.
And the verdict is…
This acoustic nylon string guitar is a quarter-sized, meaning it's much smaller. It comes with a guitar case and tuner.
This is the same style of guitar, but full size for ages 8 and older.
This short-scale electric guitar comes with an amplifier, picks, a guitar cable, and a strap. Although the case is sold separately, it’s a perfect starter guitar. Short scales makes it a perfect fit for ages 8 and under.
This is the same as the above, except that it is full-scale. I would recommend this for ages 8 and up.
Of course, these are only my recommendations, and there are scores of other options out there. These were chosen based on the five factors above. Over the last fifteen years, we have had more success with these starter instruments over all others. We hope this helps make shopping for that first instrument easier, maybe even more fun. You can certainly shop with confidence!
Next month, we will discuss how to properly care for your instrument so that it endures the wear and tear from practice and performance.
As always, if you ever need help deciding or other advice, we are here. Please feel free to give us a call, text, or email. These requests go directly to me, and I love helping to ensure that students are set up for success.
Director, SoundLife Music Academy