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My 6-year old has shown interest in playing guitar when I am playing mine. My guitar is way too big for her small hands. Are half-sized guitars useful for learning? Or should I think about something like a ukelele instead?

This would not be for formal lessons, just for playing with dad.

  • I'd say the small guitars (three quarters, half, etc.) are designed for this sort of thing, so go for it. I vaguely remember a resource or two where scale lengths for different sizes were mentioned, but I can't find it right now. Also, I would buy from a shop so I could check out the neck size in person, before buying it. – Andy Nov 30 '15 at 8:17
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I would go ukulele first, personally. A friend of mine who is a music teacher of primary school children (same age as your daughter) has bought ukuleles for her whole class and swears by them; they all absolutely love them - it's a fun, not too serious instrument that they actively enjoy learning.

  1. They are easy to pick up and put down. You can easily take them anywhere.

  2. The neck is far easier to play for child sized hands than even the small-bodied guitars, and the strings much more forgiving.

  3. Fewer fingers to organise - I got my two and a half year-old (briefly) playing a C chord successfully because it's just one finger :)

  4. Psychologically for the child, I think they seem closer to toys, so they are less intimidating to grab and mess around on.

  5. Psychologically for the parent, they are cheaper and feel more robust than guitars, so if you are a bit of a worrier you'll be able to just let her do what she wants with it rather than trying to make sure it's all put away carefully etc. I think the more ownership she feels, the more she'll play it - my own pet theory only, nothing to back that up :)

  6. You could chat to her close friends' parents and see if you can find one who might like to also get one, then they can take them round to each other's houses and swap tips. Or you could get one for your four year old as well, but I suspect this would cause more arguments than playing with a similar-aged friend!

One final point, as you are intending this to just be playing along with daddy rather than formal lessons - you could treat it as a transposing instrument and teach her the guitar names for the chord shapes - so instead of calling it a C, call it a G etc. Then if she does want to move on to the guitar, she'll know a good few chords already.

(As an anecdotal example of the last point, I did this the other way round when helping my wife, who had learned the guitar years ago, to play the ukulele - we started using the actual chord names, but as soon as we switched to the guitar ones she picked it up instantly as the old memories kicked in.)

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I think it is wonderful that your child is showing an interest in playing an instrument and making music. You should certainly encourage that desire in any way possible.

There are many very good quality smaller size guitars that might be a good fit for a six year old. In order to increase the chances that your child will actually find the experience rewarding enough to stick with it as she gets older, you should get her the best quality smaller size guitar you can afford. Avoid the ones that are sold in the toy department at Walmart.

Name Brand Guitar makers such as Yamaya, Taylor and Martin - all make guitars that are smaller scale. Sometimes they call them travel guitars and they can certainly be used that way. I personally love the Baby Martins because they sound awesome for such a small guitar. Taylor makes the Baby Taylor and Martin makes several versions of their Little Martin such as the LX1. Yamaha makes the Yamaha Junior.

To make the smaller guitar even easier on tender fingers you might consider restringing it with a custom finger friendly string set like the one described here. Custom Finger Friendly String Set for Beginning Guitarist

Of course a ukulele is easier to play and easier to learn. But it is not a guitar. I own a ukulele but rarely play it because I personally prefer the way my guitars sound. My uke is a solid mahogany baritone uke but still sounds thin compared to even my Taylor GS Mini Travel Guitar.

But since ukuleles can be very inexpensive, and even the lower priced ones are relatively easy to play, you could get both a pair of ukes and a good quality short scale guitar. If your child gives up on the guitar, you will have a travel guitar to take on vacation.

Enjoy your time making music together with your child.

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Buy 2 ukeleles, one for you and one for daughter. Then you can have fun together. A few years ago I had to learn to play ukelele to teach a girl, with learning dificulties, having trouble with guitar.I now play it regularly and 2 of my friends now play them as well as guitar. It is great for holidays as you can put it in your luggage.

Having taught children of various ages I think even a half size guitar is to big for an average 6 year old.

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    Maybe I should get one for my 4 year old, too. I'm sure Mom will appreciate the cacophony. :) Seriously, though, I hadn't considered getting a pair of them, though I was leaning towards a ukelele so I could play it myself. – Mike A. Nov 30 '15 at 14:39

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