What makes a beginner child guitar comfortable?
The main three things that makes a guitar comfortable and easy to play are its dimensions, its ‘action’ and its weight.
As for dimensions you obviously want a guitar that will not feel too big for the child. There are three main dimension that will effect that.
First is the size of the body. You want the strumming of picking hand of the child to be able to reach comfortably around the guitar body and reach the strings comfortably. The problem here is mainly with acoustic guitar, which can have big bodies for louder sound. You should be looking at both the width and the depth of the body.
Second there is the length of the neck and and the scale length of the guitar, which is the distance from the nut to the bridge of the guitar that represents the full vibrating part of the strings. The longer that neck is the more difficult it would be for the fretting hand to reach the first few frets positions; and the longer the scale the more distant the frets are going to be from each other making it harder to reach fretting position. Additionally, the longer the scale the more tension there will be in the strings, making it a little harder for young and soft finger tips. A standard full size guitar will range in scale from 24” to 25.5”.
Finally there is the nut width, which is the width of the fingerboard in the zero or open position. Here again, the larger it is the more difficult it would be for small hands to reach some fretting positions. Classical guitars tend to have larger nut width, from 1 3/4” sometimes all the way to 2 1/4”. Full size electric guitars are usually 1 11/16”. When it comes to nut width every 1/16”, though it may look not that significant, makes quite a noticeable difference when playing.
The ‘Action’ of a guitar refers to the distance of the strings from the fretboard – that is, how high the strings are. Low action is recommended for beginner because it makes fretting much easier. More experienced players sometimes prefer higher action because this enables them to use thicker strings and get cleaner sound. Most guitars come these days out of the box with action that is somewhere in the middle. Some beginner guitars come with action that is really too high for a beginner. The thing to know is that the action on any guitar can be adjusted to what ever height you want. With many electric guitars there are a lot of adjustments to the action that could be dome quite easily with a screwdriver or an allen. Acoustic guitars may need a little more expertise. If your child is going to play seriously it is very recommended to take your new guitar to a professional guitar technician to adjust the action of the guitar as low as possible without buzzing. The cost of adjusting the action could range from $30 – $60, but will make playing the guitar that much more easy and enjoyable for the child.
Finally, weight. here the problem is mainly with electric guitars which are heavier due to their solid wood body construction. A standard full size guitar can weigh anywhere between 7 lbs to 9 lbs, – much to heavy for young shoulders. For children I would recommend a guitar that is not heavier than 6 lbs. What makes a guitar lighter is the size of the body and the kind of wood it is made of. Some woods are just lighter than others.