How To Pick The Right Guitar For You Or Your Child

by Maurice Richard
Senior Instructor at Halifax Guitar Lessons

Buying a new guitar is an awesome experience if you know what to look for. Getting the right guitar for you or your child will make a huge difference when it comes to learning or playing the guitar.

The good news is that there are many different options available to you. The bad news is that there are so many different options available to you! Why would I say that?

If you are not familiar with all the options available how do you know what is the best fit for you or your child? And trying to figure this out on your own can become very confusing and overwhelming.

You are going to invest money into playing the guitar so you need to have a good idea of what will give you or your child the best return on that investment so you do not waste your money.

do not waste your money on the wrong guitar

Isn’t It Best To Start On An Acoustic Guitar?

I have heard this many times. A lot of people believe that starting to learn to play the guitar on an acoustic is the best way to go. It may make sense on paper but it makes no sense in reality.

After going through the process of learning to play the guitar myself and then also teaching many other people to do the same, I can safely say that this strategy is not accurate and can hurt your ability to learn to play the guitar.

The reality is that learning to play the guitar can be challenging no matter which type of guitar you start with. Then, trying to do this on an acoustic guitar makes it even more challenging because they are more difficult to play.

That does not mean you should not start with one. It may very well be the best option in your specific situation and this will depend on many factors and I will cover some of those below.

For now don’t buy into the myth that an acoustic guitar is the best one to start learning on. In most cases it is not.

What Is The Right Type Of Guitar for You – General Guidelines

In general, the best type of guitar to learn to play on is actually an electric. There are many factors that I would use to determine if this is truly the best option in your specific situation, but in general this is correct. Why?

An electric guitar:

  • Has a thinner body which makes it easier to hold and manipulate
  • Has thinner strings than acoustics so they are easier to press down and require less force and makes it easier to learn (especially early on)
  • Has strings that are closer to the fretboard (called lower action) which makes pressing them down even easier once again
  • Is much quieter than an acoustic guitar as long as it is not being played with an amplifier
    • It’s actually very difficult to for beginners quiet down an acoustic
    • Plus if you have an electric guitar you can always plug in headphones while playing through the amp so you can turn it up as much as you like and still remain quiet to everyone else!
  • You can plug it into an amplifier which gives you many different types of sounds, styles and effects that you can experiment with that tends to increase the motivation to play it and practice
  • Also increases your motivation to play because in general they are seen as cooler than acoustic guitars which means you will be more likely to pick it up and practice
  • Is also cost effective as a good quality electric guitar is typically cheaper than equal quality acoustic guitars
  • Acoustics are hollow and have a thin body so are a bit more fragile than electrics which have a solid body and are much tougher

And because of this you or your child will:

  • Progress faster on an electric than an acoustic so you will reach your goals quicker
  • Experience less frustration so you are more likely to stick with it and reach your goals
  • Be more likely to have fun and enjoy the process of learning to play which means you will not stop
  • Then easily be able to transfer all of the skills learned on the electric guitar to the acoustic once they are properly developed

What Is The Right Type Of Guitar You – Child Guidelines

There are very few exceptions for children as far as I am concerned. Getting kids that are 12 and under to learn on an acoustic is likely to end up in frustration and them quitting fairly early on.

It will depend on each child and the best way to make sure they start on the right guitar is to have a proper assessment done with a qualified teacher. In general the younger and smaller the child the more likely an electric guitar is the best option.

Learning to play the guitar requires very intricate and fine motor skills that most children do not have fully developed. Children also tend to not handle frustration very well as they are not as mature yet and an electric guitar will minimize all of this. If in doubt it is always the best and safest way to start.

There is one more thing to consider with children – the proper sizing of the guitar. You will want to make sure this is done right. The younger and smaller they are the more likely they should start on a junior sized guitar. They are even cheaper than the adult sizes and will be much better suited for them in every way possible.

What Is The Right Type Of Guitar for You – Teen and Adult Guidelines

If there is no preference always go with an electric guitar because it is easy to switch to an acoustic guitar later on when your skills are stronger. Teens and adults will get all of the benefits mentioned already above in the kids section.

However, if you are really only into acoustic music, and if this is what motivates you more than anything else, then buying an electric guitar to start with could be counter-productive.

If you do not like electric guitars then do not get one for yourself or your child!! And yes, this is possible and happens in some very rare cases.

It is always best to go with a guitar that will motivate you the most. You should already have decent motor skills and you should also have enough size and strength and determination to handle an acoustic and probably an adult version.

If in doubt a thin body acoustic may be the best one to get at first. Or in some situations a ¾ sized acoustic could be a good option to start with but make sure this will not dampen your motivation.

Once again I recommend a qualified teacher perform an assessment to make sure you make the best decision possible before you invest any money into a new guitar.

Buying The Right Guitar Will Bump Up Your Motivation

To give yourself the best chance at success when learning to play the guitar, you should invest in as good of a guitar as you can as soon as you are able to. Ideally you want to do it before you start to learn.

I am not saying you need to spend a fortune on a guitar or buy one if you do not have the money, but buying something that is not cheap is good for you and your progress. Why?

The better guitars are easier to play than the cheap entry level guitars. They also tend to sound better and look better too. The hardware they come with is also higher grade so they are much easier to manipulate and they tend to stay in tune better.

The coolest thing happens when one of my students goes out and buys a really nice guitar. They come into the lesson time with a huge smile on their face, they are proud of their new guitar, and they typically say that they have been practicing a lot more than usual!

It’s a huge boost of motivation and the better the guitar they buy the bigger the motivation, the bigger the progress and results that usually follow. It’s an instant shot of massive motivation and you will experience the same thing!

There is another psychological factor in play here as well on top of what I just said that has a lot of science to back it up. When you make a greater investment into something, and in this case into buying a good guitar, you will tend to commit to it more and this will help motivate you to follow through with learning to play the guitar!

invest more in a guitar equals more commitment

How You Should Choose The Best Guitar For You

The best way to pick a good guitar is actually pretty simple and can be boiled down into 3 or 4 words.


I do not recommend specific brands or models. Why not? Because everyone is different and are motivated differently so they may not like specific guitar types. The best guitar for you is the one that will motivate you the most. So my advice is centered on you and what you prefer.

Here are the steps I recommend:

  • Go to one or more local music stores.
  • Look at their guitars and find the ones you are attracted to the most.
    • Yes, looks matter and they matter a lot.
  • Next try out all the ones you like.
    • Hold them in your hands
    • Play some single notes
    • Try some chords if you know some.
    • Pay close attention to how each of them feel.
    • Also pay close attention to how each of them sounds.
  • Once you have it narrowed down to the ones you like the looks and feel best, listen to them all again.
    • If you can’t play well yet get a staff member to play each one for you, they will love to help you.
  • Pick the one that looks, feels and sounds the best!!!

Follow those steps when buying your new guitar and you will want to pick it up all the time! And remember, the more you invest now, the more you will be motivated to not let it sit there and actually play it.

If you are not sure what to do then feel free to contact me and I will do everything I can to help you make the best decision by sending an email to the email address below with the subject “Help Buying A Guitar”.

email address for halifax guitar lessons

To find out how you can learn to play guitar click here.