Children have special needs when it comes to the size and shape of their first acoustic guitar, so here are four reasons why a parlor sized guitar is the best option...
You can skip straight to the bottom of this post if you want to see which ones I recommend as the best kids acoustic guitars.
1. Smaller Neck
Small hands and fingers can find it quite difficult to reach all the way round the neck, kids find it particularly hard to reach all the way up to the bottom E string on full size guitars.
There are two ways in which parlor guitars help with this problem:
- Smaller Nut Width: this is essentially the width of the neck across the fingerboard at the nut. Parlor guitars typically have a nut width of 1.69 inches while standard steel string guitars range from 1.7 to to 1.75 inches - this might not sound like a big difference but it really is and the smaller nut width makes it much easier for small fingers to move around the fretboard. Classical guitars are even bigger with nut widths up to 2 inches.
- Thinner Neck Profile: this is the distance from the top of the fretboard to the back of the neck and it's also typically smaller on parlors than on standard acoustic guitars.
2. Shorter Length
This is technically referred to as a "shorter scale" which means the distance between the bridge and the nut. A full sized guitar typically has a scale length of 25.4 inches while several parlor guitars go to down to 24 inches as indicated in this picture:
The big advantage of this is that the frets are closer together so it's much easier for your kids fingers to reach all the frets they need to in order to form chords.
3. Lower String Tension
Another benefit of the shorter scale is that the tension in the strings is lower than on regular acoustics making it easier for kids to press the strings down to the frets.
When children are learning to play, in fact this applies to adults as well, the tips of their fingers tend to get sore due to the pressure of the strings on their finger tips. When the strings have less tension this problem is reduced - it doesn't go away completely, but it does make it easier to spend time practicing in the early stages of becoming a guitarist.
4. High Quality - Lower Cost
Although we have the highest hopes when we give musical instruments to children, it doesn't always work out. Sometimes they don't look after them as well as they should and sometimes they lose interest after a short while - that's why I feel it's best to start with a low-cost option.
There are many big brands which make affordable parlor guitars which are built to high standards - they might not have the high-end woods at the lower price points but they are generally built with much more care and precision than no-name brands.
My mother made the mistake last Christmas of buying a couple of cheap small acoustic guitars for her grand children made by companies in China which didn't specialize in quality guitars and the regrets began almost immediately as the neck warped on one of them and the bridge lifted on the other - it's best to stick with well known brands in my opinion.
My Recommended Acoustic Guitars For Kids
Here are what I consider to be the 3 best parlor sized guitars for children...
At only $169 it's amazing that you can get such an inexpensive guitar from such a famous brand. This particular guitar is a replica of one that Gretsch used to make over 80 years ago and it's a design which has stood the test of time. It's one of the most accessible for children with a 24 inch scale. Click here for further details.
This is a bit more expensive at $399 but the larger price tag is due to high quality woods including a solid sitka spruce top with a striking high gloss finish. Click here for a full description.
This has the small 1.69" nut width with a slightly longer scale at 25" and I feel it's one of the best for 10 to 12 year olds and up. It has a solid spruce top and it's overall solid construction makes it durable enough to handle the kinds of mishaps that children can sometimes have - click here for full details.
For a full range of options see our complete parlor guitar roundup.
If you have any questions about acoustic guitars for kids then please ask in the comments below and I'll be happy to answer.