Advice on buying kids first guitar

I get the following question about once a week. 20109 -2010 @foundationRED guitarist, Michael Miyahara, and I lay out a complete answer in print that we can finally refer people to. Great resource!

Question: Hey band guys! My little Johnny has been saving up his money from birthday, allowance, (rarely true) etc and wants to buy an electric guitar and amp and take lessons. We have been doing research to try and find something in his very limited price range and we are getting two different suggestions from the people at the guitar stores:

A. Buy him a youth size/half size guitar for him to learn on and then go full-size when he grows

B. Go ahead and buy him a full size guitar so he won't have a sudden transition to "full-size" in a couple of years.

So my questions for you gurus of guitar are these:
1. Which of these scenarios would you recommend?

2. Do you have any suggestions as to inexpensive brands when it comes to guitars? We are looking at about a $200-$250 budget total (for a cheap amp and guitar). I know this will not be much of a guitar at that price, but any direction you can point us in would be helpful as I know nothing about any of it!

Thanks guys!

We suggest going with the larger guitar body. Unless you are starting your child out on an instrument at 4 years old then these youth style guitars are a sales gimmick. Guitar playing is very much about muscle memory, and he will get use to the spacing between the frets. After a few years of playing you can pretty much find your places on the fretboard without looking, and to change sizes completely when he gets that comfortable would be like starting from scratch. Try and stay away from the all in one packages. The hardware on the guitars is just terrible and his guitar will go out of tune ALL of the time, which can be very frustrating when you're just beginning. This is the most common reason kids quit an instrument. When a guitar will not stay in tune they will never hear the accomplishment being made in practice. It really steals the FUN.

Stay away from companies like Rogue, Fernandes, Laguna, AXL. Sorry sub par guitar companies but in all fairness you have been stealing musical joy from children for years now.

Squier and Dean are decent, BC Rich is pretty much trash, and you MAY be safe with Ibanez, look at the hardware (tuners) carefully.

The best pick would be an Epiphone, they build pretty good products (except for their all in one packs) in all price ranges. ESP LTD isn't a bad brand either, they usually build guitars that look REALLY cool, and a lot more expensive than what they actually are.

  • Stay away from whole package deals with with straps/pics and amp in a box!
  • Craig's list and Ebay are going to get you a better guitar as long as you remember our brand clues from above
  • 15 minutes of practice a day are better than 2 hours the day of your lesson :)

Here are our guitar picks:
Les Paul look a like at 149.00

Here are our amp picks

The first is an ESP LTD EC-10, a single cutaway les paul style guitar. Friends of mine in high school had these and I was always supremely jealous, they are great looking, great sounding, great playing guitars for $150. Plus their sunburst finish looks a lot better than Epiphone's in the low end stuff.

The second is an Epiphone SG Special. Most people would probable recommend a Les Paul, but the SG shape and flatter neck will make for easier access as he is learning. These sound great, and SG is a rock legend! Nobody uses these anymore...it'd be pretty cool to bring them back.

Although they look cool you will want to also stay away from non-conventional shapes. The V shaped, X shaped, whatever guitars are really uncomfortable, and sometimes impossible to play sitting down.

For amps:

There's no way you're going to be able to find a tube amp for your remaining budget, not to mention tube amps need to be turned up to get their purest sounds, and as proud as you're going to be the first time he plays "Smoke On The Water", you're not going to want it taking over the house for two hours per night.

That leaves us with solid state, which opens a world of possibilities. My honest take would be Line 6. Their amps kind of do it all, in a very user-friendly format. He will be able to experiment with different effects and different amp types, which makes for hours of fun per day.

Here's the pic, the line 6 spyder series. You'll have to stretch a little bit...or look on ebay or craigslist...but these amps are a beginners dream. Beware of "mini" amps, as their sound is, well...small. (by "mini" I mean any speaker smaller than 12")
This is the smallest Spyder series they make.

Have more gear or worship questions? Ask @foundationRED twitter account


CIY Jr High Update!

Many exciting new things happening on the jr high front at CIY:

Dates for the 2012 Believe "Word" tour are finalized! HERE

We are finishing promo and will be announcing special artists/speakers in the coming weeks.
Team Believe will be headed to Israel, Rome, Ireland, Germany and England as we tell the story of God's story next year on tour.

We are also pumped about the jr high training and leader gathering event of the year- CAMPFERENCE!!


Mark Oestreicher was here a few months ago at Scott Farms planning with the CIY team to get the word out on this awesome new event. We are working on many details now and can't wait to worship/hang out with our tribe only in Michigan!

and yes, . . . a HUGE announcement is still coming :)


Stuff I'm remembering . . . Again, about speaking

Remembering stuff . . . again -hanging with kids this summer

Concrete & Abstract- I'm trying to live in the middle here resisting the temptation to go with either extreme.  Jr highers are not incapable of abstract thoughts, they are newbies.  If they are beginning to  dabble in abstract thought I hope that they do so first in a healthy faith based environment (Church stuff yo!) .

Yes, it's old to you.  It's not old to them.  Don't do Other stuff that keeps you interested and loses them. 

Kids are afraid of being made fun of in large groups, one mistake can destroy many bridges .  . . Do other stuff

If it takes longer to explain the meaning of a song than to sing it . . . do Other stuff

Aside from the bible, stories from your personal experience connect better than .  .  . Other stuff 

Teach kids to pray, it's more important than . . . Other stuff

Being willing to & even looking for opportunities to laugh at myself,  helps create the attitude I want my fellow workers to share better than any . . . Other stuff

Churchy words can be redeemed.  Do the work to define them.
& don't assume they know simpler words!  Mine last week:  rebellious. Yep, if I hadn't defined it clearly from the beginning #wastedtime #thanksgirlincaf 

Kids are not important only when they show up, sometimes they have . . . Other stuff

Remembering names is more important than . . . Other stuff 

Don't belittle their problems, culture or pain or they will find . . . Other stuff

"It's Friday", as much as we make fun of it, is a great song this summer!  Have your band cover it.


MY kid is in the audience . . . #fear

For years I've looked forward to the day that my sons would be involved in my ministry with great anticipation.  What I didn't expect to happen was the onset of puberty to make MY kid crazy.  I've told many parents over the last 12 years that the swings in mood, growth and friction are perfectly normal.  The words rolled off my tounge so easy.  I'm afraid I even walked away from some of those conversations actually thinking I helped- #sigh #gasp 

Now I'm looking a milestone dead in the eyes this summer.  My son will be at the camp I'm speaking at-as a CAMPER.  As the dates have drawn closer I can honestly say I'm sweating it a bit.  My youngest brother and sister will also be jr high attending campers.  My parents were divorced when I was young.  Mom remarried and had two great kids.  She told us they were pregnant with their first on our wedding day.  When My wife and I were blessed with our first my mother and wife were both pregnant at the same time with boys.  Many of the stories that surface as I speak with kids deal with my difficult Jr high years and my parents divorce.  Both my mother and wife have been questioning me about my talks this summer at camp.  The uniqueness of this situation has pushed me to think differently on some things.

As I've been kicking around thoughts as a  parent of kids going to camp I'm challenging myself on many thoughts I used to have as professional :) camp staffer.  So, as I'm experiencing a middle school kid living in my house I'm mulling a few things over that I'm not done processing yet but would love to throw out there.  Here ya go!

Nothing is more encouraging than positive feedback on my kid from another adult in their lives.

You can do amazing things for me and I'll be grateful, if you do the smallest thing to show interest in my kid I'll NEVER forget the genuine effort!

As a parent I'm confronted with the reality that:  We are scared. We don't want to mess our kids up and we second guess ourselves constantly.  We know we are not supposed to parent out of reaction to our up bringing or other outside factors, but sometimes we do anyway.

I want to land on the side of quanity time not quality time.  Planned quality time seems to blow up in our faces.  With quality, there are better chances that some of it will be quality.

This summer, have fun!  But please challenge my kid, they might be in to more stuff and deeper stuff than we want to admit.

If you are working with middle school kids and don't have kids of your own, don't feel unequipped or without the necessary tools to make HUGE impact.  Be mindful of some of these emotions parents are wrestling through and take them seriously.


Believe Back Stage Pass Staff Video

Nick McNabb, Believe video tech, made this intimate video of our team working, laughing and doing life together on the road. Thanks so much Nick! I love you all and feel so blessed to travel with you on the road. Amazing, cool video. Romans 10:15 says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."

My friends, your feet are beautiful!

2011 CIY Believe NOW Tour Crew from Nick McNabb on Vimeo.