January 14, 2015 by Don Russo
The door opens and, before a mother and her young daughter can turn the corner, I can see the top of a cardboard box (AKA case) containing a new guitar from Christmas. The child is a mixture of excitement and uncertainty. After a short greeting, the mom proudly opens the triangular cardboard case revealing the instrument that “Santa” brought for Christmas. She grabs the small, pink guitar by the neck, holds it up proudly, and asks with a smile, “What do you think?” My heart sinks, as I know that this instrument will surely be counterproductive for her learning. I can’t really blame a parent for their lack of education when buying an instrument, but this happens way too often. So, in this blog entry, I am posting a few reasons why parents should consider doing their homework and buying their kids a quality instrument from the outset.
1. Challenging to Play
Many cheap department store brands have certain characteristics that make them harder to play. For example, the fret edges may not be smooth, causing it to hurt one’s hands when sliding down to play chords. Another common occurrence is for the guitar to have high “action.” Action is how high the strings are from the neck. The higher the action, the harder it is to play. The problem with most cheaper guitars is that the action is playable closer to the nut (which is near the headstock), but it’s nearly impossible to fret a chord past the seventh fret. So, parents are required to spend money getting the guitar “set up” or getting the fret edges sanded down. This extra expenditure makes that “affordable” guitar not as affordable. More importantly, it makes the process of learning harder than it has to be.
2. Easily Breaks
I’ve seen it all: tuners coming apart, input jacks breaking, bad wiring in pickups, saddles coming unglued, and more. Cha-Ching… Before you know it, it costs more to repair your guitar than what you paid for it. Your guitar spends more time in repair than it does in the lesson room. Save yourself some time and money and invest in a decent instrument from the beginning from a reputable local store. You’ll have less chance of it breaking and you’ll be able to take it to the same place to have it serviced when necessary.
“But I don’t want to spend too much money if I am not sure they are gonna stick to it.” Sound familiar? Would you drive your child around in a cheap car seat that has bad ratings, could break easier, making it more probable to fail? Of course not! This attitude sets the tone of the guitar lessons. You are basically saying “I don’t have faith in this and I’m not willing to invest in it.” Not to mention, if you sign up your kid for lessons and buy them a guitar because they said they wanted to do it, then make them follow through. Worst case scenario is that you sell the guitar. Students are more likely to succeed if they start on a decent instrument and have supportive parents. That’s a fact. I’ve seen it over and over again.
The bottom line is this: you get what you pay for. A little extra money spent upfront will get you a better instrument with less headaches and repairs. Students can play it more easily and they will be more inspired; thus, they will learn faster. This investment will make the money you spend on guitar lessons more worthwhile. The attitude starts at the top. Next time you are considering buying an instrument for your child, consider these things and make sure that you are buying a decent guitar for lessons.
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