The younger kids are, the smaller their hands and arms. Young kids won’t be even able to reach to the end of the neck of a full size guitar, not to mention wrap their fingers around to play sounds. That’s why there are different guitar sizes on the market. In order to prevent any frustration already at the very beginning you should choose the right sized guitar for your child. Not only the size of the body but also of the neck are a way smaller of kid’s guitars.
How guitars are measured
Small body guitars are either measured based on the overall length (e.g. 30″ guitar) or on the scale (1/4 guitar). The scale is the distance between the nut and the bridge, and so the part of the strings that vibrate when you pluck them (see image below).
Measuring the overall length sounds quite simple and logical to determine the right size. In fact, a guitar that is overall shorter doesn’t necessary have a shorter neck but sometimes just a smaller body (like for travel guitar where the body size is extremely reduced, whereas the neck keeps the same size as a regular guitar). When it comes to kid’s guitars the overall length isn’t the best indicator. A child requires a guitar with a shorter neck depending on his age and height. The best and actually the right way to determine the right guitar size for a child is therefore the scale. A shorter scale results always in a shorter neck.
So for example a 1/4 size guitar means that the guitar measures a quarter scale of a full size guitar. There are basically 4 different main guitar sizes.
Pick the right guitar size for your child
When choosing a guitar for kids there are two aspects to consider: age and height. The following chart below will help you to choose easily the right guitar for your child:
Normally, all kid’s guitars sold are either 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 or full size guitars. Meanwhile, some guitar manufacturers offer even 1/8 size guitars or 7/8 size guitars. The chart gives you just a reference. If your child is for example 5 years old and measures around 4,3″, then a half size guitar would be the right choice. But if, for instance, your child has got larger hands, do not hesitate to take the larger one.
The same applies if your child is close to the next size. Get the guitar that is a bit larger. Why should you buy a smaller guitar if you’ll need to get a larger one in a few months anyway. A guitar that is theoretically just half an inch too large will not cause any problems.
By the way, 7/8 guitars are also often chosen by women with small hands because they just fit better in their hands. Some people pick up a 7/8 guitar for kids but I think you should go already for a full size guitar in that case. The difference is not that huge and since in this age children are growing quite fast, it may take just a couple of months to fit the guitar perfectly.
What when kids outgrow their guitar?
Once your child outgrows the guitar it’s not really necessary to get immediatly the next size guitar. It’s a fact that a too large guitar hinders a child to learn playing the guitar or to have fun with it. However, a guitar that is a bit too small is in general not a big issue as long as your child feels comfortable with it. The best example are ukuleles. They are pretty small but adults play on them without any difficulty.
Nevertheless, it’s not likely that your child would like to play on a 1/4 guitar when he is already 10 years old. The bigger the guitar’s body, the brighter and fuller the sound. So regarding guitar sound it makes sense to make once the step to get a bigger appropriate sized guitar. A good moment for this step is sometimes when kids would like to switch to another guitar type. Many start with a classical nylon string guitar but often they like to swtich to a dreadnought or an electrical guitar once.
Good Kid's Guitars indicates size related to scale
The guitar size is always mentioned in the product description. Some guitar manufacturers mention the overall length, some the scale length. A good guitar dealer or manufacturer always refers to the scale length when it comes to kid’s guitars. Unfortunately, there are also kid’s guitars out there where you find only the overall length in the product description.
You’ll mostly find classical nylon string guitars in kids sizes. There do exist acoustic steel strings and electric guitar in kids sizes but I would recommend you to get a classical kid’s guitar since nylon strings hurt less the fingers. Electric guitars might be also a good choice since they have quite thin strings and a low tension which means the strings are easier to press down. In order to choose the right guitar size for your child, visit our overview of guitar types.
Not often considered, but definitely worth a thought. The guitalele is small guitare with uke sound. Due to its compact format the guitalele can be in some cases a good choice for kids as well.
Attention: Do not confuse kid’s guitars with other types of small guitars, such as the parlor guitar or any travel guitars. The body is also reduced but the length of the neck is adjusted to the adults’ hands.