Buying a Guitar

Jonathan's pointers on choosing the right guitar

When shopping for a guitar for your child, there are three issues to consider:

  • Size,
  • Acoustic vs. Electric , and
  • Nylon String vs. Steel String.

Size

  • Guitars come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Small children (ages 4-7) enjoy success with half-size guitars (approximately 32 inches long).
  • Children between the ages of 8-11 need ¾-size guitars (36 inches).
  • By the time they reach middle school, students may very well be ready for a full-size (but not jumbo-size) adult guitar (40+ inches).

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Acoustic vs. Electric

Acoustic guitars, both nylon and steel string, are easy to play, portable and often affordable. The natural resonance of the open wooden body of the instrument provides a natural, warm tone. You'd play an acoustic guitar in your family room, around a camp fire or at a coffee house.


Acoustic guitars are usually the first choice for beginning students, and classical and folk musicians. Some acoustic guitars also have an amplification pickup (like my Takamine cutaway classical and Epiphone AJ series steel-string). They're called acoustic electrics.

Quality guitars for young people can range in price from $80-120 (Lucids, Amigo) to $500+ (Baby Martin, Taylor). If you have an old family guitar, you may want to trade it in for a smaller model, or wait a few years before using it. If you bring it to your lesson, I can evaluate it.

Electric guitars are usually solid body instruments which require accessories to be heard as intended. They have built-in pickups, so you can plug a cord into an amplifier and project sound electrically(I use a Fender tube amp and effects pedals with my Fender Telecaster). This favors loud, often distorted effects, such as wa-wa, fuzz, etc. Think Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan.


That's why young rock musicians are usually sent to practice in the garage. If your child is practicing with headphones, be aware of the dangers of loud decibels on young eardrums. Students fourth grade and up may play an electric guitar in their lessons; but, in consideration of others in the class, amplifiers are not used.

The general price range for student electric guitars (not including accessories) is: $200 - $600. Look for a moderately-priced student-grade Fender Stratocaster®

Nylon String vs. Steel String

Nylon string guitars have six strings and are the best choice for young fingers. Nylon strings are easier to play than steel strings, and are more appropriate for fingerpicking. Nylon is the modern day version of ancient cat gut material used in Spanish and classical guitars.


Actually, only the top three strings are nylon and the bottom three are wound metal. The sound is more soft and mellow than that of a steel string acoustic guitar.

Willie Nelson, Chet Atkins and Andres Segovia have all used fingerpicking techniques on nylon string guitars. The adult-size nylon-string, classical fretboard/fingerboard is normally wider than the steel string acoustic neck.

Steel string guitars can have six or twelve steel strings. Often easier to keep in tune than nylon string guitars, they supply a ringing, brilliant sound. For young children (ages 4-8) steel string acoustics are often more difficult to play.


Many guitarists (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon) opt for the calluses and choose a steel string. You can use a plastic pick for greater dexterity. Often strings can be reset closer to the fingerboard for easier playing. This is called "lowering the action." The music store can do this for you if necessary.

Going Shopping

Bring your child shopping with you. The most important thing is that he or she should be comfortable holding the guitar and pressing down on the strings. You are investing in a high quality instrument, not a toy. This will encourage joyful music making.

Your purchase may include the following accessories:

  • a carrying case (hard/soft-shell case or padded gig bag)
  • a strap
  • installed knobs to attach a strap
  • some picks
  • an electronic tuner(under $25)
  • a capo (to adjust key)
  • amp and cord

Students normally change their guitar strings at least two or three times per year. Students are responsible to safeguard their own guitars. I'll tune up all guitar strings at the start of each class.

Many of my students shop at Nashville Music Company on Hillsboro Pike in Green Hills. Call owner Dan Montgomery at 615-292-5651. That's his son Nick, in the photo above, showing the children's Amigo guitars.

You could also try Corner Music on 12th Avenue South (615-297-9559); Guitar Center in 100 Oaks (615-297-7770); or Shuff's Music in downtown Franklin (615-790-6139).

Please call me at 615-383-8516 if you have any more questions. Happy strumming!

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Testimonials

You are such a resource and inspiration to my being.

- H. S.

I got a book a while back: "A Classical Approach to Jazz Piano." I looked closely at it in the store, to be sure that I could deal with it, and thanks to my brief tenure with Jocelyn Kasper, I saw that I could.

- B. T.

I loved my lessons with Ms. Kasper. She always made me feel like a good piano player, even though I wasn't!

- A. J.

Thank you so much for teaching Jackson. He loved you as a teacher and he learned so much. He loves the instrument as a result and you were great with the kids! Thanks again,

- L. S.

Many thanks for your great teaching ability!! Carter very much enjoyed your class!

- A. C.

Glad to see that Graham enjoys this and is actually learning something (thanks to you!). I'll need to be better about helping him stick to a practice schedule. Thanks again,

- R. I.

Thanks for a great year. Kiran really enjoyed it and… is keen to buy an electric guitar.

- M. T.

Thank you so much for working with Mack this year. He has improved so much and he loves guitar! You do a great job with him. He needs direction and consistent discipline and he repsonds VERY WELL to you! It is amazing to see his interest and focus as you…

- B.F.H.

Thank you for a wonderful year!

- K. H.

Thank you so much for teaching my son… the guitar. Will loved taking lessons and I enjoyed watching his growing appreciation for music. I enjoyed the recital and appreciate all the hard work you have done. Thank you so much for all you added to our lives.

- J. H. H.

Landon loved his first lesson. I was amazed how much he learned in a 30 minute lesson. :)

- M. C.

You are the best teacher ever and if I am doing well it is due to YOU!

- S. M. R.

Ethan would love to continue guitar lessons with you in the Fall. Thank you for all that you've done. I am amaized at the results, considering how little Ethan practiced at home! Thanks again,

- M. T.

Thanks so much for teaching Henry this past semester. He really enjoyed it.

- J. Mc.

Thanks for a great lesson today… just when you think you have a piece down pat, there are so many more ways to improve it and make it ever more musical!

- D. N.

Thanks for your very clear explanations and instructions and your encouragement and great enthusiasm for life and MUSIC!

- H. S.

Thanks for teaching Will. He loves your class.

- C. M.

After one short lesson, MacGregor jumped into the car and played the theme from Mission Impossible ALL THE WAY HOME! Thank you for opening the world of music to him - by teaching him the guitar!

- J. M.

I am a former voice student of Jocelyn Kasper. I can say without a doubt she helped me to become a more confident singer. I wholehearted recommend her to anyone.

- T. W.

I sang some this morning for the first time since my last lesson and it was so relaxing, it is amazing what singing and music in general can do for one's psychology!

- D. N.

Jolie really loved music class and absolutely loves to sing.

- C. S. G.

I have enjoyed seeing olivia progress over the year. she's more confident, she sings from her diaphragm, proudly projecting! it's great to see her enthusiasm. i'm grateful for your instruction and guidance.

- A. N.

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- N. M.

Thank you so much for all your support and understanding yesterday, it helped very much to just be able to talk to you about it.

- D. N.

I've learned so much from you, not only about singing and music, but about life! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

- H. H.

Thank you for teaching me how to sing better! I've had so much fun during voice lessons.

- J. M.

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- G. F.

I enjoyed our summer lessons with Schubert. You opened up a treasure trove for me I never even knew existed.

- D. N.

Jocelyn, you've taught me so much. You're a great teacher and I'm going to miss you.

- M. W.

I asked him yesterday if he wanted to keep taking guitar and he said "yes mam' as long as I can I want to!!" That is very encouraging!

- B. F. H.

Thank you for never giving up on me! You are the best :-)

- A. S.

... a wonderful voice lesson ... I feel I am learning so much ... about what singing really means!

- D. N.

Thank you for your encouragement. I feel like I have a voice after your excellent, precise, professional instruction. You are a master ...

- S. M. R.