I am fortunate to have just spent an amazing week away with some of the best Music Educators in the country at the Maryborough Music Conference. This year I hired a stall- sharing with Steph Kay of Vibe events with the aim of promoting and educating teachers in the use of the Copy, Play and Learn Guitar book and teaching method. I was enthused by the interest shown from professional educators and was humbled when they purchased copies to engage and educate their own students.
Guitar teaching is my full-time career and has been for thirty years. In it I am often in a position whereby parents of new students need advice. One of the most common questions I am asked is, “What is the best guitar to buy for a young beginner?”
For beginners, I would recommend a nylon stringed, classical guitar. The neck is nice and wide as is the gauge of the string. The strings are soft to touch so the upside is, they’re not going to hurt soft fingers. They come in 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and full size. Children are going to grow so the temptation is to buy something that they will grow into however the child needs to be able to comfortably reach the end of the neck. The shop sales person should be able to assist you when selecting the size.
As far as brands are concerned, if you purchase from one of the local music shops you’ll be ok. I wouldn’t buy anything from a toy store or a supermarket. You get what you pay for and the more you spend, the better guitar you’ll get. Having said that though, Ashton, Suzuki and Valencia make quite a good beginners guitar and they start at about $100. If you’d like something a little better, then Yamaha have an excellent range whose quality noticeably improves as you spend more.
As far as second hand goes, If the guitar you purchase requires new strings (which they all will eventually) you are up for another $20, if the machine heads need replacing (Quite easily damaged by children) you could be up for another $50. You’ll also need to consider fret wear, buzzes and rattles, damage and scratches as well as making sure that the neck is straight. A bend in the neck may be detected by sighting down it like a gun barrel. A slight bend is ok but nothing more. So, unless you know what you’re looking for I would encourage you to by new. A cheap second hand guitar could be a tempting prospect but by the time you’ve replaced strings and machine heads, you could end up not saving any money at all and just end up with an old scratched guitar.