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Thread: Buying a Guitar for a 5 year old. Input welcomed.

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    Buying a Guitar for a 5 year old. Input welcomed. 
    #1
    Bluelighter Jackal's Avatar
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    So, for over two years now my son has asked me every now and again to buy him a guitar.

    He's a kid, so at least 60% of his sentences start with "Papa, buy this ****, I need it".

    But he does seem to have a bit of an ear for music, and unlike all the other stuff, he has consistently come back to wanting a guitar.

    So, buy a kid sized cheapo china made guitar and just let him have it?

    or

    Buy a larger one, still cheap, that he can grow into?

    Should I let him hack away it and potentially lose interest quickly as he has a typical modern microscopic attention span?

    Or send him to lessons and risk him being stifled/bored/uninspired by some alcoholic instructor who needs money for that night's pints?


    I can't play guitar myself. I learned a bunch of chords and riffs around seven years ago, but don't have the time to learn now. I remember being my son's age and my foks refusing to buy me a guitar and forcing me to learn penny whistle instead. I don't want to repeat that.

    Players - how did you start. How could your parents have helped/did help?
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    #2
    my parents started me on piano when i was little. i hated it, but i'm glad they made me play an instrument. good for development and whatnot. looking back, i don't know why they didn't let me play guitar instead -- which is what i requested and what i ended up switching to.

    if his hands are big enough, i'd look at fender's intro line, squire, or gibson's step-down line, epiphone. i also haven't played in a long time, but 10 - 15 years ago both made cheap, real guitars that could be used for a good bit before the player advanced to the point of wanting something else.

    seems like it would be really hard to learn guitar at five though. maybe that's why i started on piano. how cheap is a toy guitar? because you can get a real one for about $100. half that or less if used. it could be a toy until he's old enough that it's not. i'd hold off on lessons until he's physically able to hold cords and mentally able to focus for a half-hour to an hour, as those won't be as cheap. i'm sure you could show him mary had a little lamb, a basic scale, and a g cord in the meantime.
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    #3
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    I just happen to help out at a local music shop. There are kids in there all the time. Talk to a few teachers, and see what they have to say. Your kid has massive brain power at this age. Get a few instructors to give there opinon. I've seen scaled down real guitars for kids. The only thing you can do is try. In fact, people try guitars all the time. If you go to a decent music store, you might get away with testing this idea out without investing any large sum of money.
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    #4
    Bluelighter Bella Figura's Avatar
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    I started on the shittiest cheapest electric I could get my hands on - it gave me callouses and pain that eventually helped a ton when I was good enough to get a better one.

    I was self-taught but I tend to be like that with everything I'm interested in. Depending on how small he is, I would go for a kid's size one, otherwise you only need to take a look at the North Korean propaganda vids to see that toddlers can play full size guitars too with a bit of practice (and dictatorial force).

    Also, steel string if he's into blues/rock/folk, nylon if you're going classical/jazz, rough rule of thumb

    As mentioned, take him to a store and let him hold one and see what feels most comfortable in his hands.
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    #5
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    A gift idea from uncle Bella

    Agree with speed king, lots of music shops let you play around with the floor models. Try before you buy and a great way to find out which one works best for him.
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    #6
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    If he is going to have a chance of having a successful career in music, he needs to start learning two years ago.
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    #7
    Bluelighter Bella Figura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sadie View Post
    A gift idea from uncle Bella
    What am I Santa Claus all of a sudden
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    #8
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    All the students at my last school were given high quality Ukeleles and taught to play. It is a fantastic way to go since they are child size and yet the chords are all the same for guitar so it can be an easy transition. And coming from the self-proclaimed Ukelele Capital of the World (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/art...NEWS/100218593 and http://www.coastnews.com/santa_cruz/uke/uke.htm) as well as harboring a true admiration for every five year old in the world I think it would be a happy match. There is also a fantastic little instrument that I just saw played in South America called the Charango that falls somewhere between a guitar and a uke.

    I'm a fan of giving kids the best quality materials possible (within reason). One of my favorite art teaching jobs was in a little private studio financed by a wealthy guy with a love of children's art. His philosophy was, "why introduce the frustration of shoddy materials to someone just starting out?"
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    #9
    Bluelighter Bella Figura's Avatar
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    Ukelele also a good choice, but they're tuned differently aren't they? Still easy to pick up (no pun intended).

    Just stay away from 5 string banjos, such a pain to play!
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    #10
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    I agree. Get him somethign high quality. If you buy him some piece of crap from Walmart, it won't even be tunable. It will be miserable to try to play. He won't learn anything and will end up hating it. I say this from the experience of having been given a junk guitar to try to play when I was a kid. It is better to have nothign than to have a piece of junk that will ruin the experience.
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    #11
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    I also really like herby's idea, that was how I was introduced to sketching/painting/etc and other mediums as a kid and it has seemed to pay off

    When it came to music I was given a shit guitar that was so incredibly uncomfortable to play and wasn't able to get into it. As a young adult I got to experience a higher quality bass that blew my mind. Totally different experience.
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    #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bella Figura View Post
    What am I Santa Claus all of a sudden
    Did I stutter uncle Bella. Seems like quite your kind of item to gift. Either that or your time. Sadly jackal isn't exactly around the corner.

    Nice idea herb. Never even crossed my mind.
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    #13
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    ...and in case you are not sold by what Bob Brozman said about the Charango, listen to this guy:https://youtu.be/0-yCgpckMSs
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    #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bella Figura View Post
    I started on the shittiest cheapest electric I could get my hands on - it gave me callouses and pain that eventually helped a ton when I was good enough to get a better one.

    I was self-taught but I tend to be like that with everything I'm interested in. Depending on how small he is, I would go for a kid's size one, otherwise you only need to take a look at the North Korean propaganda vids to see that toddlers can play full size guitars too with a bit of practice (and dictatorial force).

    Also, steel string if he's into blues/rock/folk, nylon if you're going classical/jazz, rough rule of thumb

    As mentioned, take him to a store and let him hold one and see what feels most comfortable in his hands.

    ^^ another great example.
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    #15
    Bluelighter Bella Figura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sadie
    Did I stutter uncle Bella. Seems like quite your kind of item to gift. Either that or your time. Sadly jackal isn't exactly around the corner.
    The cost of shipping an acoustic guitar to his abode far outweighs the cost of my advice. That being said, I did gift a right handed guitar to someone for their birthday (i'm a lefty and had no use for it). So maybe I am Sss ss santa after all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Speed King View Post
    ^^ another great example.
    Thanks man
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    #16
    Start small man. He's 5. He's small, and would probably break a bigger one pretty quickly. Will probably break a smaller one, but still.
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    #17
    Administrator spacejunk's Avatar
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    ^ i agree

    Quote Originally Posted by bella
    I started on the shittiest cheapest electric I could get my hands on - it gave me callouses and pain that eventually helped a ton when I was good enough to get a better one.
    same here, my first guitar was a piece of junk. cost $300 AUD brand new with an amp.
    as i got better, i slowly accumulated better instruments - which i both appreciated, and used to help me become a better player

    i now have a very high-end gretsch electric guitar and a vintage early 60s acoustic - and i think if i'd not started with basic, cheap instruments, and upgraded when i could afford to (or when i needed something better because the sound of my cheap strat-copy didn't cut it onstage in a decent band) - i may not fully appreciate their quality. but that's rather subjective i guess.

    a friend of mine got a really nice fender jazzmaster for his first guitar - and he turned out to be a prolific songwriter with several different bands and international recording deals....

    but anyway, i think herby's suggestion of a ukulele is a great idea for a 5 year old.
    kids that young can't really be relied upon to take good care of a more expensive instrument, plus a full-size guitar would most likely be too big for him to properly hold and play.

    you can tune the 4 stings of a ukulele to guitar tuning (DGBE) for playing abridged versions of guitar chords - or if you stick to ukulele tuning, the chords are pretty easy to pick up, and not as much of a handful as open chords in standard guitar tuning.

    my suggestion would be to get a short-scale acoustic guitar - probably a half-scale, or maybe a 3/4 sized classical.

    at 5, i don't think his tastes in musical styles will be developed enough to worry about style or sound too much - when you're learning the basics (some open chords and a scale or two [depending on what type of guitar player he might be - that's all i ever learned, because i'm just a rock'n'roller, not a jazz or classical guitarist]) that's all that matters IMO - we all sound like crap at first, and the essential elements are all there

    i'd recommend a classical guitar, simply because nylon strings are easier on the fingers for a beginner (especially a little tyke)


    Funnily enough, my folks gave me a ukulele when i was about 5 because i wanted a guitar.
    Problem was, though, i was never taught how to play it. it was a 'toy' in the way a tonka truck or a plastic dinosaur is - i never got any sort of musical learning from it (except i may have tried to smash it, pete townshend style when i got a little older )

    i wish they'd made some kind of effort to teach me a chord or two - and keep the thing in tune - when i was a little kid, because that ukulele was basically a waste of their money.
    my ambition to play guitar had to wait another 10 years, when i picked it up in high school, and really took to it.

    with a little patience, ukuleles can be strummed by almost anyone, with just a tiny bit of musical knowledge. it's a great starter instrument - but you may just want to skip that and go for a guitar.

    as for lessons - if you can find a good (and fun) teacher, i think that's the way to go.
    when i was trying to learn guitar as a teenager, my old man showed me a few open chords - but i couldn't really get my head around how they applied to playing the sort of guitar music i was interested in; they just seemed like clunky, folky abstract sounds to me, and i didn't get too far with them.
    a few months after that attempt went nowhere, i enlisted the help of one of my friends' guitar teachers.

    he was a cool, slightly shifty older guy who had been playing in rock'n'roll and blues bands for decades.
    he showed me some basic chords, and a scale or two - but he would also say to me "you got a song do you want to learn?"

    i would then stick something on the stereo that seemed reasonably playable, and he would show me how to play the riff or whatever - and write down tabs for me to practice it and play for him the following week.

    i never learned how to read music, and i still know very little about formal music theory - but i'm a reasonably accomplished musician in a very minor way. i mean, i've been in lots of bands, been a working musician for about 15 years and released 4 or 5 albums.

    however you go about teaching a kid music, they'll either take to it, or they won't. and if he doesn't now - that's no reason he won't in future.
    i actually had to battle my parents to get any sort of support in learning guitar, because they sort of dismissed it as something that wasn't worthwhile - perhaps because the earlier (half arsed) attempts to teach me to play something didn't work out - but fortunately i was pretty determined.

    i think teaching a kid to play music is one of the best gifts you can give them - i can't overstate how much joy i get from playing music, or how much it has enriched my life.

    quite a few people i know had bad experiences with overly formal music classes in their early childhood, which held them back from ever learning an instrument again. most people i know seem to say it was piano lessons that did this - but i'm reminded of the other instrument i failed to learn as a kid (which is funny because i'm a multi-instrumentalist nowadays) - the recorder.

    i don't know if it's something done mainly in Australian schools, but we were forced to play recorder in early primary school - and i've since heard that it is this experience that puts a lot of people off ever learning an instrument, because recorders are actually very difficult instruments to play well.

    when you hear a trained musician competent with woodwinds playing recorder, it's a beautiful sounding instrument - but in the hands of a dribbling 7 year old, they almost always sound like absolute shit!
    guitars are much more forgiving instruments than recorders (and pianos) - and you don't need a great deal of technical music knowledge to strum a couple of chords and feel the wonderment of making music.

    i think your best bet is to get the kid a basic guitar, and a teacher that isn't too dry, intimidating or serious (even if the teacher is you - aided by youtube tutorials or something if need be)

    when he starts selling out stadium gigs, be sure to put my name on the guest list ok?



    edit - aw dang - this thread is ancient !

    did you end up getting the lad an instrument?
    Last edited by spacejunk; 10-04-2017 at 08:56.
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