Guitar is one of the most popular instruments to learn for people of all ages. Almost every perspective student or parent that comes into Pinelands has lots of questions that need answers prior to their first guitar lesson. This is a guide to tackle the more common guitar focused questions our administrators and guitar teachers are asked every day. Please visit our FAQ page for general questions related to the school.
Is my child old enough to take guitar lessons?
None of our guitar teachers currently teach a guitar student any younger than 6 years old. Generally speaking, the ideal time our guitar teachers feel is best for most students to start is anywhere between the ages of 8-15, but some start as young as 6 and many successful guitar players did not start until much later in their lives. Though we’ve heard of students starting under the age of 6 before – and have no policy against doing so – we recommend that any student younger than 6 years old first try ukulele for a year to get used to the core principles of playing the instrument on something smaller and more forgiving before picking up a guitar.
Though we recommend to start sometime between ages 8-15, our guitar teachers believe that adult students brand new to the instrument tend to pick things up considerably faster than kids and teens if they can manage to make guitar an everyday activity. Adult students are encouraged and welcomed at Pinelands as we currently teach many adult students, some as old as 66 years young! Here there isn’t any aspect of age having an effect on the ability to learn an instrument, but our teachers have seen that the heavier load of responsibilities adulthood brings can get in the way of practicing every day. In short – if you can find the time to practice – you can be great in no-time!
My child complains that practicing makes their fingers hurt, is this normal? Is there anything I can do to make guitar hurt them less?
Yes! This is completely natural and expected to happen. No matter what you or your child does- at some point their fingers are going to hurt. In time, if they practice enough, they will get use to it and build callouses on the tips of their fingers that will toughen them up and lesson their pain overall the more they play.
That being said, there are a few things you can do to make playing a bit easier on them to lessen the pain. First and foremost, getting them the right instrument will help them the most. You can find recommendations based on age and skill level farther down on this page. Other things you can do are putting light gauge strings on the guitar and getting the guitar a professional set-up with low “action”.
A guitar’s action refers to how high the guitar’s strings sit off of the guitars neck, meaning a guitar with low action would have the strings sitting very close to the neck and a guitar with high action would have the strings sitting high off of the neck.
What does it mean to get a “professional guitar setup”? Can I get one at Pinelands?
A professional guitar setup is the standard yearly maintenance for a guitar to keep proper intonation, a straight guitar neck, and comfortable playing. A professional luthier would do this by cleaning the guitar up, making adjustments to the neck and bridge, and testing to ensure the guitar is properly intonated and ready to rock. Keep in mind, guitars are made of multiple pieces of wood bearing metal or nylon strings at high tension. Over time this tension causes the neck to move and for the guitar to be a bit off in terms of it’s intonation and playability (or playing comfort).
Pinelands does have an in-house guitar tech who has apprenticed with master luthiers at Bordentown Guitar Rescue. We offer professional setups for $40 for students and $45 for non-students.
Which guitar should I buy? Do you guys sell or rent guitars? What else will I need to buy other than a guitar?
This is almost always the first question everybody asks – and the fact of the matter is it all depends on the student. Our guitar teachers have put together the following recommendations based on age and skill level to answer this question as thoroughly as we can. In short, any acoustic guitar player needs a guitar and a tuner(though if they have a phone a tuner can be replaced with a smartphone tuning app in the beginning). If they are playing electric guitar, they will need a guitar, a guitar cable, a practice amp, and a tuner.
We do sell guitars that one of our guitar-focused co-directors gives his seal of approval. Those with “Our Price” under the photograph of the guitar are in stock and available for sale and rent at the school.
Recommendations for additional accessories can be found below our guitar recommendations.
What NOT to buy a child: Steel String Acoustic Guitars and “Guitar-in-a-box” Packages
First and foremost our teachers have noticed a misconception in the minds of most parents walking into the store inquiring about guitar lessons. That misconception is that a standard acoustic guitar(what our teachers would refer to as a steel string acoustic) is what they believe their child should start out with. The fact of the matter is, standard acoustic guitars are just too big for most children under the age of 12 and the steel strings(even in smaller models) are considerably thicker and more difficult to press down than those found on nylon string acoustics or electric guitars. The steel strings on most acoustics create enormous discomfort in the fingers of young children picking up the instrument and often turn them off of practicing due to the additional and unnecessary discomfort they cause. Many guitar students young and old have been known to quit the instrument very early on due to the pain caused by practicing with a steel string acoustic guitar. Don’t buy them one until they’re at least 12!
As for guitar in a box packages – we are referring to both acoustic and electric guitars that come in a box – usually in an all-in-one package with accessories thrown in. Acoustic guitars in a box commonly come with a guitar bag, picks, strap, and tuner while electric guitars in a box usually come with a gig bag, tuner, picks, and an amplifier. These guitars have little to no quality control and rarely come properly intonated (in tune throughout the neck) or set up to play with any level of comfort. Both the tuners and amplifiers that usually come with these are of the worst possible quality you can get and are a complete waste to buy. Though the guitar-in-a-box packages usually look like a good deal – we promise you they are not. Steer clear!
Beginning students age 6-11 (Acoustic) – 3/4 Size Nylon String Guitar
Carlo Robelli C941N 3/4 (or 1/2) Size Nylon String Classical Acoustic Guitar (below)
Our Price: $99.99
For children just starting out – we recommend these guitars for a number of reasons.
- Nylon string guitars are extremely comfortable to play
- Nylon String Guitars cause considerably less pain in the finger tips when strings are pressed down than any other guitar
- 3/4 size guitars are the appropriate size for most younger students picking up the instrument
- Averaging between $80-$150 from Amazon and other online retailers they are extremely affordable
- Besides a guitar tuner and strap – they do not require any accessories such as amplifiers or cables
A 3/4 size nylon string guitar is built to be smaller for those with smaller hands (namely children in this age group). 1/2 sizes are also available for children age 6-8 with very small hands. The nylon strings – being a much more forgiving material – also come with considerably less discomfort than any other guitar on this page.
Beginning students age 6-11(electric) – Ibanez Mikro and Squier Mini-Strat
Both of these 3/4 size electric guitars come highly recommended from our teachers for their playability, low price, and high availability. We recommend to put light gauge strings on these guitars such as Ernie Ball Super Slinky (gauge .009 – .042) strings to make them as easy to press down on the neck as possible, minimizing the discomfort felt when pressing the strings down. These guitars are available online from Amazon and from retailers like Guitar Center as well.
Quick note: The Squier Mini-Strat is often sold as a guitar-in-a-box package. Get the guitar on it’s own – avoid the package. What they pack it with is of the worst possible quality and the guitars packed in with them completely skip quality control and often spend too much time sitting on pallets in warehouses without temperature control – warping the necks and worse. SKIP THE PACKAGE!
All Skill levels – Students over age 12(Acoustic) – Fender FA125ce Acoustic Electric Guitar
Our Price: $174.99 (Best Price you’ll find anywhere- guaranteed!)
This guitar has everything you need built into one acoustic electric guitar. With a built-in tuner and fishman electronics allowing you to plug this acoustic into either an amplifier or PA-system – this acoustic electric has everything you need to study guitar. This particular model is more comfortable that your average steel string acoustic according to our teachers, and is one of the most affordable guitars with a cutaway allowing access to the higher frets.
All Skill levels – Students over age 12(Electric) – Used Fender Standard Telecaster (MIM, MII, or MIK), Used Gibson SG Faded, and Ibanez RG450
Quick note on used instruments: when it comes to mid-price point and higher priced electric guitars – our teachers all recommend to go with used instruments. You will save hundreds of dollars without losing any functionality or sound quality. All of our teachers currently own (and regularly teach with) guitars that were originally purchased used online or in person. Guitars aren’t like cars – don’t be afraid to buy used!
Fender Standard Telecaster MIM, MII, or MIK(Made in Mexico, Made In Indonesia, or Made In Korea)
These are extremely comfortable and versatile electric guitars for any player over the age of 12. Great for country, rock, blues, and more. Standard telecasters from Fender are excellent affordable mid-price point instruments, usually ranging from $250-$500 in used condition. One of our co-directors currently uses a Korean model Fender telecaster to teach with on a daily basis and highly recommends these as great guitars that are simply great sounding instruments for the experienced player without too many confusing bells and whistles for the beginner.
BUYER BEWARE – we specify three different countries of manufacture as our teachers have played telecasters made in all three with no complaints. In recent years – Fender has began making certain standard telecaster models in China. Our teachers have found many problems with these guitars- not to mention them to be considerably over priced for what you get in terms of quality. Make sure you check to be sure it is not made in China when looking for a Fender Telecaster.
Gibson SG Special – Faded
One of the few affordable Gibson guitars out there and one of the best! One of our co-directors has owned one of these guitars for 15 years and still holds it in high regard as one of his favorites for both recording and playing live. The faded SG special is one of the most comfortable guitars on the market. Great for many styles but famous for its use in Rock music – the faded SG special provides a world of warm tone that can handle lots of distortion for heavier music as well. Can be found used for $300-$500 online from retailers such as Guitar Center or private sellers on Ebay and Facebook marketplace.
Ibanez RG 450 (or any RG series guitar for that matter)
These guitars are on this list due to how incredibly comfortable and forgiving they are to the player. Few electric guitars if any are easier on the hands for the guitarist than these. Made famous by heavy metal guitar players and 80’s rockers – the Ibanez RG series is known for being built to play fast and efficiently for an affordable price. This consequently makes them an ideal guitar to learn on- as there are few guitars on the market with a lighter weight and a more comfortable neck than an Ibanez in the RG series. Though our teachers believe they leave some room to be desired in their sound quality – there are few better electric guitars for a student to learn on. Can be found brand new for around $400 and used from $150 – $350.
Other guitars in the RG series can come a bit cheaper – and hold many of the same qualities as the RG 450 – so don’t shy away if you happen upon another Ibanez RG series guitar.
Snark Headstock clip on tuner
Our Price: $14.99
The snark is an easy to use tuner that clips right on to the headstock of any stringed instrument, acoustic or electric. We always have them in stock and our teachers swear by them.
Fender Mustang 1 Combo Guitar Amp
The fender mustang 1 combo amp (available online new for $119.99 and used for as low as $50) is everything you need in a practice amp due to the following features:
- Built in Tuner
- Aux audio input to play along with your phone/ipod/tablet
- Built in headphone jack
- Built in effects
- 18 built in amp models
- 24 factory and user presets
- USB output
Our teachers single this amp’s versatility out as being able to replicate almost anything a student is trying to learn better than any other practice amp. The headphone jack allows for silent practicing (you’re welcome mom and dad!) and the ability to experiment with effects and make and save your own presets is unheard of at this price-point. There is no better practice amp on the market today than the Fender Mustang 1.
Lessons are available for the following rates and times:
*Monthly Prices shown for standard 4 week month. For additional lessons add one lesson at discounted rate to total for 4 week month. For months where one less lesson occurs for any reason, subtract one lesson at discounted rate