“You don’t give kids small pianos,” my friend said as we were chatting about ¾ guitars for beginners. Yet, at the same time, “small hands, small guitar” is the general consensus guitar community. Players of all ages seek guitars that feel right in their hands.
So is it better to buy your child a ¾ guitar that feels better for a child right away, or a full-sized guitar that they can use in the long term? Generally speaking, if your child is 10 years old or older, you should get them a full-sized guitar. It might be a little bulky at the start, but with proper technique, they should be able to play it just fine.
If you’re still on the fence, here’s the main differences & considerations to take in mind between 3/4 sized and full-sized guitars:
1. Size of Guitar
The length of the neck and size of the body are the number one draw to those looking to purchase a ¾ beginner guitar. ¾ scale guitars tend to range between 20-24 inches in length along the neck while full scale guitars range from 24.75 inches to beyond. Likewise, the bodies on ¾ scale guitars are much smaller and fit into a child’s lap more easily.
While a few inches may not seem significant, it makes a big difference when playing. The first few frets on the guitar are the area of the fretboard beginners interact with the most. The shorter frets on the ¾ scale will encourage maneuverability when navigating the neck. This can be very encouraging for the beginner and can avoid some initial frustration that a full-sized guitar can cause.
However, the ease of playing on a ¾ guitar may be a detriment if the beginner wants to progress to a full-sized guitar. Beginners will need to relearn technique and develop their hands more to adapt to the full scale.
Tuning when a beginner is a huge concern. With the lower string tension on the ¾ guitar, beginners run the risk of unwanted string bending and of the guitar falling out of tune. When teaching guitar lessons, I’ve witnessed many ¾ beginner guitars going out of tune within our 45 minutes. The full-sized guitar has a higher string tension than the ¾ size which allows it to stay in tune longer, and hold a more consistent pitch.
For a rich concert-worthy tone, you can’t go wrong with a full-sized guitar. ¾ sized guitars do not sound bad, but they aren’t going to give you the same “big” tone when you a strum a chord or pluck the lower strings. The bigger size simply creates a louder & deeper tone.
SO WHAT AGE IS BEST TO USE A ¾ GUITAR?
Many recommend ages 8-12 to start on ¾ sized guitars before graduating to full-sized guitars. I disagree. If a beginner is 10-12 years, check out a full-sized guitar first. Many beginners will be surprised that they can use a full-sized guitar if they have correct technique.
To check, see if they can comfortably tuck the guitar’s body under their armpit and if their left arm can reach the lower frets with a loose curve in their elbow. If so, they are big enough to start on a full-sized guitar.