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The best guitars for kids 2021: top electric and acoustic guitars for children

Man shows child how to play something on an electric guitar
(Image credit: Getty)

Receiving your first guitar as a child is a transformative experience - and while that might sound over the top, we speak from experience – your first guitar changes everything! The guitar is the perfect vessel for your child to channel their creativity and develop their coordination skills, all while boosting their self-confidence. So, if you have a little one who is looking to master the six-string, then you've come to the right place, as you'll find our pick of the best guitars for kids right here. 

Unlike some of the more demanding instruments out there, the guitar is relatively easy to pick up, meaning you can make progress quickly. With your first few chords under your belt, you're more or less a functioning guitarist! As a child adds to their knowledge base and builds on their abilities, it's not just musical possibilities that open up. There are social benefits, like the joy of playing in a band with friends or performing for your family. Other benefits are more academic - there's a particular discipline involved in chasing that next level of ability so you can play your favorite songs. 

In this guide, we've picked five electric guitars and five acoustic guitars that would be ideal for a young player just starting out. We've also included some handy buying advice, so you know what to look for when shopping for the best guitars for kids.

Are you looking for a great deal on the best guitars for kids this Black Friday? Check out our Black Friday guitar deals page for the latest news and the best deals around.

Best guitars for kids: Our top picks

Squier Bullet Mustang HH: was $189
Limited Black Friday deal!

Squier Bullet Mustang HH: was $189, now $149
Get the perfect electric guitar for beginners in this unbelievable Black Friday deal. Start playing straight out of the box, thanks to a short 24" scale, which makes your first chords and solos easy, while those dual humbuckers will deliver plenty of output for whatever style you want to play.

Yamaha F335 Acoustic Guitar: $169.99
Limited Black Friday deal!

Yamaha F335 Acoustic Guitar: $169.99, now $127.50
Up until now we'd describe the F335 as affordable, but today a more fitting term has to be 'dirt cheap'. There's no getting away from it, this acoustic is stonking value. Yamaha makes musical instruments that start at a hundred bucks or so and top out at hundreds of thousands (its premium grand pianos are a real treat) but what it doesn't do is make a bad product. Its attention to detail and quality control measures are legendary. This may be an inexpensive guitar, with a laminate spruce top and meranti back and sides, but it's a darned good one. Perfect for beginners, or as a beater for campfire singalongs, open mics and busking. Currently, the F335 is available in Black, Natural and Tobacco Sunburst, but at this price stocks will run low fast. Grab yourself a keeper for the cost of a throwaway.

While any of the entries in this guide would serve as brilliant first guitars for your child, however, there are a couple of options we’d point you towards without question. Our top acoustic recommendation is the Fender CC-60S. Not only is it an excellent starter instrument with a compact and comfortable Concert-sized body, but younger players won’t find themselves outgrowing it quickly as they may with other entry-level guitars.

If your child wants to plug in straight away, the electric guitar go-to is the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J. In terms of build quality and tone, there’s no better value kid’s guitar around right now - not only will it be a solid instrument on which to learn the ropes, but the versatile HSS pickup configuration will help them to explore different sounds, too. We wish a guitar like this had existed when we were first learning to play...

Best guitars for kids: Acoustic guitars

Best guitars for kids: Fender CC-60S

(Image credit: Fender)

1. Fender CC-60S

A great value Fender for beginners

Launch price: $229/£189
Key Features: Solid spruce top with mahogany HPL back and sides, nato neck, 25.3” scale, walnut fingerboard, gig-bag included plus extra pack of strings, and 3-month Fender Play Subscription
Reasons to buy
+An excellent starter guitar with compact body+Solid-wood top+Fender Play to get you started with tuition
Reasons to avoid
-At this price, nothing

The Fender CC-60S is one of the most popular kid-friendly guitars on the market, and it’s easy to see why. Boasting an impressive solid top, the Fender CC-60S offers genuinely unbeatable value for money while also being built to last them to the intermediate stage. 

The concert-sized body is small enough for most new players, but as it isn’t a ¾ size guitar, it won’t feel like a toy when they are grown. The tone is rather impressive here as well - a lot of that is due to the top - it is full and rich, with plenty of bottom end. 

So, if you are looking for a well-built instrument from the biggest name in guitar, then look no further than the Fender CC-60S.

Best guitars for kids: Ibanez PN12E Mahogany electro-acoustic

(Image credit: Ibanez)

2. Ibanez PN12E Mahogany electro-acoustic

A small, affordable option for budding performers

Launch price: $199/£199
Key Features: Mahogany top, mahogany back and sides, parlor-sized body, 24.41” scale, 18 frets, rosewood fingerboard, AEQ-2T pickup and preamp, onboard tuner
Reasons to buy
+Warm mahogany tones+Onboard pickup and tuner+Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
Reasons to avoid
-Only if a Parlor is too small for your child

With its onboard preamp and tuner, the PN12E electro-acoustic offers a quick route to the stage for any young player. Just having the option of plugging in and delivering a performance on a guitar at this price is incredible.

Now, the pickup/preamp might not deliver the sound quality of an LR Baggs, but that's not an issue for beginners. The main thing is they can be amplified should they wish. The onboard tuner is also hugely valuable, as learning how to tune and (stay in tune) is one of the most important lessons a young guitarist can learn.

Unplugged, the PN12E has a warm tone, an ever-so slightly shorter scale, and a parlor-sized body that’s perfect for children to get to grips with.

Best guitars for kids: Yamaha JR1 3/4-Size Dreadnought

(Image credit: Yamaha)

3. Yamaha JR1 3/4-Size Dreadnought

A more manageable introduction to the classic dreadnought shape

Launch price: $149/£199
Key Features: Spruce top, meranti back and sides, 3/4-size dreadnought, 21.25” scale, 18 frets, nato neck, rosewood fingerboard, gig-bag
Reasons to buy
+Quality build+Sound playability+Excellent price
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing at this price, but spend a little bit more for better tonewoods

The JR1 does well to provide some of a dreadnought’s famous booming mids without the significant bulk of the body. We love this short-scale version; it is far less intimidating for beginners.

The build is pretty great too. There is a classic spruce top with Yamaha opting for meranti – a cheaper material – on the back and sides. Meranti might not be as desirable as mahogany but it's hard-wearing and helps give the JR1 its incredibly attractive looks. Besides, the spruce top is resonant enough to get some good tones from the guitar.

Elsewhere, you’ve got a sturdy nato (eastern mahogany) neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and an all-important gigbag included.

Best guitars for kids: Fender CP-60S

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender CP-60S

Parlor-style acoustic is ideal for fingerpicking styles

Launch price: $219/£249
Key Features: Solid spruce top, Laminated mahogany back and sides, Mahogany neck with walnut fingerboard, 20 frets, 24.75” scale length
Reasons to buy
+Fender quality and tone+Stunning warm tone
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best for strummers

We’ve always been advocates of the parlor style acoustic guitars. For some, particularly kids, a regular dreadnought style can be a tad overwhelming in size, so the slightly shrunken body of the parlor guitar is ideal for playing both standing or sitting down.

The Fender CP-60S is a superb option, delivering the levels of quality and tonal richness you’d expect from a Fender, but with a form factor that is easy to come to terms with. For folk and country players in particular, the CP-60S is a great first choice to learn on.

Best guitars for kids: Martin LX1 Little Martin

(Image credit: Martin)

5. Martin LX1 Little Martin

A quality short-scale acoustic for kids of all ages

Launch price: $499/£515
Key Features: Sitka spruce pattern HPL on top, mahogany pattern HPL back and sides, Modified O-14 body, 23” scale, Richlite fingerboard, inlaid Boltaron rosette with red fiber, gigbag included
Reasons to buy
+Great build and playability+Excellent tone
Reasons to avoid
-A little pricey-A preamp/pickup option is $100 extra

The Little Martin is a little pricier but you are getting an exceptional build and an exceptional instrument. Despite its short 23” scale and compact Modified O-14 body it has a bold, punchy and well-balanced voice.

The playability is stellar, too. It's a guitar that adults would embrace as a great travel guitar, and that kids wouldn't grow out of.

The fingerboard is made out of Richlite – a sustainable synthesis of resins and pulps that behaves a bit like ebony – while the top is made from a high-pressure Sitka spruce pattern laminate. Meanwhile, the back and sides are made from HPL mahogany, which can - with its resistance to temperature changes - definitely make for a more consistent, reliable instrument.

Best guitars for kids: Electric guitars

Best guitars for kids: Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J

First electric guitars don’t get any better

Launch price: $219/£199
Key Features: Alder body, bolt-on maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 25.5” scale, 1x Yamaha Ceramic Humbucker (bridge) 2x Yamaha Ceramic Singlecoils (middle and neck), master volume, master tone, five-way blade pickup selector, vintage-style tremolo
Reasons to buy
+Great neck profile+Wide variety of tones+A good candidate for upgrading
Reasons to avoid

The Yamaha Pacifica is a guitar that enters the conversation when talking about the pound-for-pound, dollar-for-dollar best guitar of all time. When you factor in the price, the build, the variety of finish options and the quality of the tone, it’s easy to see why it’s a ubiquitous presence in school music departments.

We love its HSS pickup configuration, especially for new players. With a humbucker in the bridge position, they’ll have access to thicker, higher-output tones that are ideal for rock and metal, while the two single coils offer some trebly snap and precision.

This is a guitar to learn on, but not only to learn to play. With the HSS pickup configuration players can learn about tone, too, and learn what type of player they might like to be. A tremolo bar is always a good option, too – nothing like a bit of wobble to show off once you’ve learned a piece.

Best guitars for kids: Squier Bullet Mustang

(Image credit: Squier)

This guitar was sent to rock you

Launch price: $179/£189
Key Features: Basswood body, Maple neck with Indian Laurel fingerboard, 22 frets, two standard humbuckers, 24” scale length, master volume, master tone and three-way pickup switch
Reasons to buy
+Smaller scale easier for kids to control+Great rocky sound
Reasons to avoid
-Not much wrong here at all

There are guitars which are used to evoke a certain tonal memory. There are guitars which provide versatility across a range of genres. And, there are guitars which are just plain, simple fun to play. The Squier Bullet Mustang is one such guitar, and is almost the perfect guitar for any child or beginner. 

Its slightly shorter scale length makes it easier for small hands to play, while the two humbuckers are ideal for rockier and louder styles. The Bullet Mustang may not have the prestige of a Stratocaster or Les Paul, but for anyone who just wants to enjoy their first steps on the guitar, there are few better options.

Read the full Squier Bullet Mustang review

Best guitars for kids: Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special

(Image credit: Epiphone)

3. Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special

For that sweet child of yours

Launch price: $249/£229
Key Features: Mahogany body and neck, Rosewood fingerboard, 22 frets, two open coil humbuckers, 24.5” scale length, master volume, master tone and three-way pickup switch
Reasons to buy
+Bags of vibe+Killer looks+Bundled accessories
Reasons to avoid
-Alternative color options would have been great

There’s a lot to be said for wanting to emulate your heroes. And, in the guitar world, heroes don’t come much bigger than Slash. The former Guns N’ Roses guitarist has a great track record of collaborating on signature instruments with Gibson’s sister company, Epiphone, encouraging plenty of younger players to start their guitar journey.

The Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special package includes an amazing Epiphone Les Paul Special guitar, with two humbuckers which really help dial in that iconic, raw tone. We also like the fact the bridge humbucker has a tuner built into it so you can ensure you’re always battle-ready. Throw in a few essential accessories and you have a complete package for the little rocker in your life.

Best guitars for kids: Ibanez miKro GRGM21

(Image credit: Ibanez)

An entry-level shred guitar that’s great for small hands

Launch price: $149/£199
Key Features: Poplar body, bolt-on maple neck, treated pine fingerboard, 22.2” scale, 2x Ibanez PSND humbuckers (neck and bridge), master volume, master tone, three-way blade pickup selector, six-saddle hard-tail bridge
Reasons to buy
+Short scale+Small body+Super-cool Ibanez RG-style looks
Reasons to avoid
-Fretboard is uninspiring

The miKro GRGM21 is a serious choice for aspiring young shredders with a bit of growing yet to do. It's a small-bodied, short-scale guitar with a thin neck and smooth feel that should forgiving for small hands and fingertips yet to be hardened with fretboard miles.

With two humbucking pickups, it's ideal for those whose interest in the electric guitar was piqued by heavy metal. 

They're not super high-output but they do offer plenty of crunch. You can also play a wide variety of other styles on the miKro GRGM21, so it shouldn't inhibit a diverse musical curriculum for wide-eyed novices just starting to make their way in the six-string world.

Read the full Ibanez miKro GRGM21 review

Best guitars for kids: Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90s

(Image credit: Epiphone)

5. Epiphone SG Classic Worn P-90s

A quality doublecut inspired by the Gibson US range

Launch price: $379/£389
Key Features: Mahogany body, Mahogany neck, Indian laurel fingerboard, 24.72" scale, 2x Epiphone P-90 PRO, 2x volume 2x tone, 3-way selector switch
Reasons to buy
+Great value and tone+Thin SG body is excellent for smaller players
Reasons to avoid
-Bit more pricey

Okay, this is a little more expensive than the others in our recommendations but here is why this might not matter for you: if your child is super-serious about the guitar, and maybe has been playing for a few months on a hand-me-down cheapo electric, this SG from Gibson’s sub-brand Epiphone might present better value, as it is still south of 400 bucks and is good enough to play into adulthood.

What you get is a guitar based on Gibson’s SG, in two classic finishes (Worn Inverness Green, Worn Cherry), with two excellent-sounding pickups, a thin mahogany body that’s ideal for players with a bit of growing to do, and, ultimately, an instrument they won’t want to put down.

Best guitars for kids: Buying advice

Best guitars for kids: Grandad and granddaughter play guitar together

(Image credit: Getty/Jose Luis Pelaez Inc)

What makes a good guitar for kids?

Well, the easy answer is: any guitar that keeps them enthused about the instrument! What that looks like in reality will vary depending on a number of factors worth considering. How old is your child? How much growing have they still got to do? Have they played before or have they been playing for a while now? Do they seem serious about the instrument? What inspires them to play guitar?

What’s a good age for my child to start playing guitar?

Your child is never too young to be introduced to the concept of the guitar and exposed to guitar music, however we’d suggest around 6 as a good age to introduce them to playing. Any younger than this and the concepts of chords, strumming, picking, rhythm etc may be too advanced and put them off before they’ve given it a good go. Of course, every child develops at a different rate and if they show an interest there’s no harm in showing them the basics.

The size of the instrument is also a consideration when it comes to age. The guitar’s body may feel too large and unwieldy for smaller children, while a standard neck could be a stretch for smaller hands. ¾ size and shorter scale guitars are a good option here - like the Squier Bullet Mustang and Yamaha JR1 3/4-Size Dreadnought featured in this guide - if you’re keen to get them started and size is an issue, but your child could potentially outgrow the guitar in a shorter time. More on this below...

Best guitars for kids: man teaches son how to play acoustic guitar

(Image credit: Getty/Rebecca Nelson)

What size guitar is right for a child?

One of the biggest challenges when playing guitar as a kid is dealing with sore fingertips and wrestling with full-size, full-scale guitars. Young hands with some growing to do might benefit from a shorter-scale guitar – that means that the length from the guitar’s nut to the bridge is shorter, typically below 25”, and even as low as 21.25”, making the upper frets easier to reach.

One of the many benefits of a short-scale guitar is that the string tension is looser, making the strings easier to bend. The ergonomics of the instrument might be more suited to smaller frames, too. For the under 12s, a short-scale guitar, and one with maybe a 3/4-sized body would be more appropriate.

But you certainly shouldn’t rule out a full-scale guitar for your child. There's no age minimum for a full-scale guitar - what's most important is that it feels right. One big benefit of starting out with a full-scale guitar is that there's no sizing up after they're grown. If budget is tight, this should definitely be a consideration.

Many of us learned on full-scale instruments in our early teens, and if there was a struggle it was more that those instruments were not that playable in the first place – even as adults we’d find some of those hand-me-down firewood acoustics intimidating!

Is an electric or acoustic guitar better for kids?

This is a difficult one, but ultimately it comes back to what we are looking for in any instrument for children: what's going to keep them enthused and keep them playing the longest.

If your child’s interest in guitar was sparked by heavy metal or rock, it’s best to lead them down the path of least resistance and straight towards an electric guitar. The answer would be the same if it was funk, blues, punk or whatever. It’s vital that the guitar inspires the player to do what inspired them in the first place.

There are, however, practical considerations to take into account. The acoustic guitar is the most immediate and portable guitar. You don't need a guitar amp and cable, just a guitar pick – or even your fingers. Indeed, your child might be inspired by someone like Ed Sheeran, and you don’t need an electric guitar for that. Far better to pick one of the smaller-bodied acoustics we recommend in this guide.

And if your child is yet to really form any strong opinions on musical taste, the acoustic guitar’s immediacy makes it an ideal blank-slate for budding young players to find their feet and develop their tastes alongside. You can play any genre on an acoustic guitar.

How much should you pay for a kid's guitar?

The biggest fear most parents face is that their child will fall out of love with the guitar and pick up something else. It happens. There is so much else to attract their attention! If you're unsure that your child will stick it out - and only you know best - we would advise against spending anything north of 200 bucks. As this guide demonstrates, for that money you can certainly get a more than decent entry-level guitar, but it won’t be such a huge loss if it’s ultimately a short-lived hobby.

But say they’ve had a few lessons on an old guitar, and their passion is evident, we’d maybe push the budget to $350 or thereabouts. For that money, you'll be getting a guitar that will definitely last them through to adulthood, and one that will offer a better playing experience overall.

There's an economic trade-off here. With a guitar such as the Epiphone SG in our list, you won’t be under pressure to upgrade it a few years later, but it does cost a little more.

Best guitars for kids: Dad and son play electric guitar

(Image credit: Getty/Georgijevic)

What else do I need to get them started?

Once you've chosen the right guitar, you're going to need some guitar picks, a spare set of acoustic guitar strings, a guitar strap, a guitar tuner, a gig-bag for carrying it around, and if you get an electric guitar you'll need an amplifier and a guitar cable, too. 

For those crucial items, we've included links to some handy buying guides below. As with electric guitars, there is a huge array of beginner guitar amps - many with a host of smart tech features - at a similar $200 price point. The other essentials will set you back around $50 to $70.

Does my child need guitar lessons?

Lessons are another consideration. Good guitar teachers are hard to find, but there is no substitute for excellent one-on-one tuition. That said, there is a wealth of online guitar lessons platforms to help steer your child in the right direction. The likes of Fender Play, Guitar Tricks and Justin Guitar offer excellent tuition for beginners. Of course, if you’re a player yourself, the bonding experience of passing on your skills can be just as fulfilling for the parent as it is the child. But remember, keep things light and fun initially at the start. They’ll thank you for it later.

More beginner guitar gear guides

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.