Choosing a guitar, whether you’re a beginner, expert or for your child, is a tough choice to make because there are so many options out there. Choosing the correct size is important as a guitar that is comfortable to play, will get used more often! And the more you play, the better you will get.
In this article, I’ll take you through the best size electric and acoustic guitar options for each type of player and age group and how to decide which to choose.
The Quick Answer
Adults and teenagers will usually feel most comfortable with a full-size guitar. Players aged between the ages of 8-12 years old will usually prefer a 3/4 length guitar and children aged between 5-7 years old will likely suit a 1/2 length guitar. Very small children will suit a 1/2 size guitar.
Best Guitar Size for Each Player Type
Here I’ll go through each type of player and identify which is the best average size guitar for maximum comfort and playing ability.
|Guitar Size/ Scale||Average Age Range||Height Suitability||Length of Guitar|
|¼||4-5||3’7 and up||31 inches|
|½||5-7||3’10” to 4’2”||34 inches|
|¾||8-12||4’2” to 5’||36 inches|
|Full-size||13+||5’ and up||40 inches|
Adults who are complete beginners should choose a full-size guitar length, as opposed to any shorter scale such as 3/4. Choosing a guitar any smaller than full-size for an adult will make it more uncomfortable to play as the frets will be too short for the fingers and the small body size will make it more difficult to sit with properly.
4 Year-Olds and Younger
Guitar players aged 4 years old and younger will require a 1/4 scale guitar which measures 30″ in length and suits players that are taller than 3’7″. Very young players may better suit a ukulele.
Guitar players aged between 5-7 years old usually need a 1/2 scale length guitar which suits players that are between 3’10” and 4’2″ tall. You can find acoustic, classical and electric variants depending on the child’s preference.
Guitar players aged between 8-12 years old, usually need a 3/4 scale length guitar. Three-quarter scale guitars come in acoustic, electric and classical variants and will be a comfortable size for most pre-teens. These measure 36 inches overall and suit players that are between 4’2″ and 5′.
13 Year-Olds and Upwards
Players aged 13 years old and above will usually require a full-size guitar which measures 40″ in length and suits players over 5′ tall. Buying a full-size guitar for teenagers is preferred as it means they will not need to purchase a larger size soon and it is comfortable for most players.
Hand size does not matter when choosing the guitar size (scale). Players should choose a guitar based on their height, rather than hand size. Choosing a guitar with a thinner neck, low string height and thinner strings however, may improve overall comfort for players with small hands.
How Do I Know What Guitar Size to Get?
The best way to know what guitar size to purchase, is to try it in the store and feel what is comfortable to you. Here are some things to consider, however it is all about personal preference. The customer assistants in the store should also be able to direct you. I’d advise against choosing a guitar without having sat with it first, especially if it’s your first one.
- You should be able to place your hand on the end of the headstock comfortably without overstretching when sat in a neutral position.
- Whilst holding the lowest fret of the guitar, your arm should be slightly bent (no more than 90 degrees and no less than 45 degrees ideally).
- You should be able to hold the fret where the neck joins the body of the guitar so your arm is pressed lightly against the side of your body without having to change your body position to compensate.
Guitar Type Matters Too
When choosing a guitar for a child, it’s important to consider whether it’s best to get an acoustic, electric or classical guitar.
Classical guitars usually are best suited for young children as they are light-weight and have nylon strings which are more comfortable than the metal strings found on acoustic and electric models. Acoustic guitars have a larger body but are lighter than electric guitars so may feel more comfortable.
Can a Guitar be Too Big?
Guitars can be too big for some players and will lead to discomfort whilst playing. The player should be able to comfortably sit and stand with the guitar for at least an hour without fatigue and be able to access all the frets and strings comfortably.
Other Factors to Consider
As well as the overall size of the guitar, you should also consider the following features to make sure you are comfortable whilst playing.
Action (String Height)
The string height affects how difficult it is to hold down the string on a fret. Higher strings will likely be painful for most beginners who require a low “action”. However, if the action is too low, this will cause the string to “buzz”.
String Thickness and Type
Thicker strings are harder to pluck and fret than thinner strings, however they produce a louder and full sound. Nylon strings are softest and feel most comfortable for beginners, however these are only found on classical guitars. Acoustic and electric guitars will have metal strings which take more getting used to to strengthen the fingertips.
The shape and size of the neck will affect playability. Necks come in three main shapes:
- C-shape: fairly flat and not overly rounded so are universally comfortable.
- U-shape: these are chunkier than C-shape necks and suit players with larger hands.
- V-shape: this is a more pointed version of a U-shape which may be more or less comfy depending on preference.
The width of the neck refers to the front of the fretboard. Players with shorter fingers may struggle with wide necks.
Neck depth refers to the thickness of the neck profile, which is considered separate to width and shape. Thicker necks suit players with larger hands. Thin necks are also known as “fast necks” as it is usually quicker to move around the fretboard on guitars with thinner necks.
The size of the guitar is also related to the weight. Particularly for children, this is an important factor to consider. Sometimes a full-size guitar may be more suitable for the players height, but the weight is simply too heavy. This is why it is always advised to sit and stand with a guitar in-store, even if you have no idea how to play yet, just to get a feel for the instrument.
I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.