So, my child wants a Guitar for Christmas, what should I buy!?!?!
As a guitar tutor for well over 10 years, I have had the misfortune to play some of the worst instruments ever. Fact. What upsets me more than having to play, or even worse try and tune one, is that I know the parent/pupil who bought the instrument had every intention of buying what they thought was good, and they now have a stinker on their hands. Which at worst will put them off practicing, and potentially learning the guitar for life.
As a parent in particular, it is super tempting to buy a package deal, it seems to come in roughly on budget, with loads of extras, claiming to have ‘everything you need to start playing’. Whilst this can be true, it is often the build quality of the instrument that suffers in order to offer you a cheap strap and a few picks. If you are buying an electric guitar, then it is often the instrument AND the amp that turns out to be less than high class.
After about a year, the guitar/amp or accessories or ALL of these things become broken as they are poorly made, and your poor son or daughter is left disengaged with their instrument. Exactly what you hoped WOULDN’T happen..ArrAG!
So, to help out, I am here to offer some suggestions and help you with your first purchase.
If your child is anywhere between 5-8, and you want to start off with something small (and quiet!), then you cannot go wrong with the Valencia 3/4 size guitar.
These guitars are excellent value for money, and although being more expensive than others in the ‘beginner’ range, they are well built, stay in tune, and above all sound great.
Valencia also make 1/2 size guitars, however, I would try to avoid if possible, as children tend to grow so fast, that the 3/4 size tends to fit most pupils in primary school.
You could also try the Jose Ferrer, another good quality starter instrument.
Lets get loud!
Try to avoid getting a pack from the big retailers. Quite often the extras don’t really stack up. Picks and straps and the additional items they often come with, are cheap, and detract from the quality of the instrument. That said, Squier have obviously read my blog and put together something quite good!
If your son or daughter is looking for something a bit louder, then I have to start by recommending that you avoid (in general) the all in one packs. They CAN be good value IF you choose the right one. However, I would recommend you invest your money into a quality starter guitar made by companies with years of reputation for making excellent instruments.
Avoid 3/4 size electric guitars. 99% of them (particularly from the online retailers) are unplayable.
My number one choice for 3/4 size is always Squier. Endorsed by Fender, these starter guitar really do last and give endlessly back to the pupils. Try the new Squier Mini and comes in a whole host of colours. You are looking at about £150 mark as a standard.
New to my list of recommendations, is the Epiphone Les Paul SL (please note, this a full size guitar!).
Excellent playing instrument for the price (retailing at about £130), comes in a whole range of colours. Simple controls, great tone and importantly for young ones, nice and light. Perfect for your budding Slash wannabe!
The Yamaha Pacifica is another reliable instrument that will grow with the student, I know players that still have these as back up guitars!
Now to amps. Obviously you can pay the world for an amazing (and loud!) amp. However, I think for everyone in the house hold, the Marshall MS2 is the best of all worlds.
If you are happy to pay a bit more, and you would like some more tone, then you can’t go wrong with the Orange Crush. Comes with great tone, as well as a smaller option too with built in tuner. So good, I want to buy one!
A tuner (although some are free from the Apple/Google store), is a must and might save you all from some frustrating moments! Little as £9, you can’t really go wrong.
Spare strings for when it rock goes ….pop!?!? Look no further than Rotosound. A brand with an amazing legacy, and amazing quality! Comes with that all important spare high E string.
This, obviously is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to purchasing a guitar, you could find an absolute mint axe in your local charity shop. However, if you want from new, which most people do for the festive season, I hope this is a great way of guiding you in the right direction.
If you think your little rocker needs a book, then my best recommendation is Guitar Basics. This is a fantastic book for primary aged children, it starts VERY simply using open strings, and teaching pupils how to read music. However, the great thing about this book, is that the backing tracks are varied in genre, and keep the pupil engaged for many, many hours or lessons.
For parents there are sections that explain what is being learnt, in plain English, for kids, there are fun illustrations.
The authors have worked very hard to find engaging and attainable pieces for this age group, and I think they have done it!
For older kids, why not try the Rock School grades? I think the Hot Rocks series is achievable for starters, and uses ‘real’ songs to engage and inspire the budding Hendrix.
The pupils I teach in secondary school enjoy learning songs they have heard, and also their friends know! Therefore, particularly if your son or daughter is thinking of being a self taught player, this is a great book.
When teaching, I tend to lean towards the graded books, and normally start with the Debut Book, which has again achievable pieces in a variety of styles. Pros, are that these books include scales and other skills which support learning bigger musical concepts. Cons, is that they don’t (yet) use ‘real’ songs.
I hope this helps at least to start your search! Good luck!