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The best guitars for kids 2021: 10 of the best electric and acoustic guitars for children

The best guitars for kids 2021: 10 of the best electric and acoustic guitars for children
(Image credit: izusek/ iStock/Getty Images Plus)

When you’re a kid, receiving a guitar as a gift can be a truly life-changing experience. And while that might sound over the top, we speak from experience – your first guitar changes everything. So, if you're currently researching the best guitars for kids, you've come to the right place.

The beauty of the guitar is that it is both portable and immediate. Piano lessons are pretty cool, sure, but you can pick up and play the guitar practically anywhere. The clarinet is great, too, but it is less accessible and harder to learn – the gains are further from reach. With the guitar, you can make quick progress. 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 certain discipline involved in chasing that next level of ability so you can play your favorite songs. The feeling of achievement when you hit a new goal is profoundly rewarding.

With more fantastic instruments and resources for young guitarists than ever before, there has never been a better time to start playing. Here 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 buying guidance in this round-up so you know what to look for when shopping for the best guitars for kids - just hit the 'buying advice' button above to head straight there.

Best guitars for kids: Our top picks

Any of our recommendations 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 like they may with other entry-level guitars. What’s more, the Fender CC-60S Concert Pack comes complete with spare strings, plectrums, a strap and a trial subscription to Fender Play online lessons - it’s everything they need to get started.

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 Concert Pack

(Image credit: Fender)

1. Fender CC-60S Concert Pack

A great value, all-inclusive package for beginners

Price: $199.99 | 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

An excellent starter guitar with compact body
Solid-wood top
Fender Play to get you started with tuition
At this price, nothing

One attractive option is to go for a starter pack. It's something that the bigger brands – Fender and Gibson especially – are quite good at. Fender's CC-60S Concert Pack, in particular, is an excellent bundle.

You get a Concert-sized Fender acoustic whose smaller body is more manageable for younger players but won’t feel like a toy when they are grown - plus there's a gigbag for carrying to and from lessons, an extra pack of strings and a three-month subscription to Fender’s fantastic learning platform, Fender Play.

The build quality of the guitar is incredibly impressive, and it’s refreshing to see a solid-wood top at this price. It’s everything you need to get started.

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

Price: $199.99 | 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

Warm mahogany tones
Onboard pickup and tuner
Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
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

Price: $149.99 | Key Features: Spruce top, meranti back and sides, 3/4-size dreadnought, 21.25” scale, 18 frets, nato neck, rosewood fingerboard, gig-bag

Quality build
Sound playability
Excellent price
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

Price: $219.99 | Key Features: Solid spruce top, Laminated mahogany back and sides, Mahogany neck with walnut fingerboard, 20 frets, 24.75” scale length

Fender quality and tone
Stunning warm tone
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

Price: $499 | 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

Great build and playability
Excellent tone
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

Price: $219.99 | 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

Great neck profile
Wide variety of tones
A good candidate for upgrading
Nope…

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)

2. Squier Bullet Mustang

This guitar was sent to rock you

Price: $179.99 | 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

Smaller scale easier for kids to control
Great rocky sound
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.

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

Price: $249 | 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

Bags of vibe
Killer looks
Bundled accessories
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)

4. Ibanez miKro GRGM21

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

Price: $149.99 | 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

Short scale
Small body
Super-cool Ibanez RG-style looks
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.

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

Price: $379.99 | 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

Great value and tone
Thin SG body is excellent for smaller players
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 strings, a 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 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.

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Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005 and is a regular contributor to Guitar World, Total Guitar and MusicRadar.