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

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