1/2 size guitar – Review of Best Guitars for Kids

For smaller children learning to play, a full-size guitar is often too much to handle. A 1/2 size guitar is a great option for new guitarists, and it has the added benefit of being highly portable. However, these guitars come in a variety of quality levels, and trying to learn on an instrument that never holds tune or is very poorly made can be a very frustrating experience. In this article, we've gathered some of the best 1/2 size options we could find.

7 Best Half Sized Acoustic Guitars

Make

Model

Rating

Price

Full Review

Yamaha

JR1

Oscar Schmidt

OGHSTBL-A

Cell

Cordoba

C1M

Cell

Cordoba

Requinto 580

Cell

Yamaha

GL1 Guitalele

Cell

Hohner

HAG250P

Cell

Yamaha

CGS102A

Cell

Review of our Top Picks

Yamaha JR1 -- Best Craftsmanship

Important Features

  • Spruce top gives you a bright, natural sound
  • Meranti back and sides are lightweight and durable--two good features to have in a guitar for a child
  • Quality chrome tuners give it great tuning stability
  • Steel-string design makes it a good choice for kids who want to eventually play a full-size steel-string acoustic guitar

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • It has surprisingly good sound for the size
  • It comes from a reputable manufacturer known for great value
  • Spruce and meranti construction offers a better sound than many small acoustic guitars

Cons

  • It's one of the more expensive options on the list
  • It doesn't have a solid top

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

You probably already know that Yamaha produces great-quality guitars for beginners (and their high-end guitars are pretty impressive, too). If the JR1 looks familiar, it's probably because it's modeled after Yamaha's best-selling FG Series of folk guitars. The JR1 has surprisingly big sound for such a small guitar. It can be difficult to achieve a full, natural sound with a guitar of this size, but even this smaller instrument is an example of Yamaha's quality craftsmanship.

Our Star Rating

While it is somewhat expensive compared to some of the other options on our list, this is a well-built and highly playable little guitar. We think it has the best craftsmanship on the list, and we give it five out of five stars.

Oscar Schmidt OGHSTBL-A -- Best Finish

Important Features

  • It comes in natural, pink, transparent red, or transparent blue
  • Fully adjustable truss rod makes it easier to set up and adjust
  • Spruce and catalpa build makes it very resonant for its size
  • Mahogany neck adds some warmth to the tone and is very resistant to warping

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • In terms of price, this is a fairly affordable smaller acoustic guitar
  • Wide range of colors lets kids choose the one that best suits them
  • Adjustable truss rod lets you correct neck issues if they occur
  • Its sound quality is impressive given its size and all-laminate construction

Cons

  • The top is made of laminated spruce, which doesn't have the same fullness as solid spruce
  • Some buyers might be a little wary of catalpa, which is rarely used for guitars

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

For the new guitarist who likes bright colors, this little 1/2 size acoustic guitar is a great option. Oscar Schmidt is Washburn's budget brand, so you'll be able to buy with confidence. It has a select spruce top, and the back and sides are made of catalpa, a lightweight tonewood that is also used for Chinese traditional instruments. Notably, this guitar also has a fully adjustable truss rod--something you don't always see in very small guitars.

Our Star Rating

Having a small size guitar in a color they like may help motivate kids to play. We think the range of colors this guitar comes in means it has the best finish options on the list. We give it four out of five stars.

Cordoba C1M -- Best Tonewoods

Important Features

  • Spruce top and mahogany back and sides mean it has a higher-quality build than many guitars on the list
  • Fully-adjustable truss rod makes it easier to set up to player's specifications
  • Rosewood bridge and fingerboard give it a higher-end look
  • Matte finish makes the neck less "sticky," which can improve playability

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The tonewoods used on this guitar are much better than those on many classical guitars for kids
  • Cordoba is a very reputable manufacturer of nylon string guitars
  • Adjustable truss rod means the guitar is still usable even if the neck starts to warp
  • Given its features, it's fairly affordable and a good value

Cons

  • Like many smaller guitars, the top of this one is laminated spruce, which doesn't offer the same sound as solid spruce
  • Some buyers have reported that the bridge on this guitar either split in half or fell off

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

So far, we've only covered steel-string acoustic guitars. This little classical guitar from Cordoba is an excellent choice for younger players. For kids with sensitive hands, a nylon string guitar may be easier to learn on, and this is a well-built yet affordable guitar for any beginner to classical music.

Our Star Rating

Many smaller guitars use engineered wood fingerboards, but this one has a rosewood fingerboard and is made with excellent tonewoods. We think it has the best tonewood construction on the list, and we give it five out of five stars.

Cordoba Requinto 580 -- Best All-Around

Important Features

  • Solid cedar top gives it full, rich sound despite its small size
  • Torres-style fan bracing is similar to the bracing used in many higher-end classical guitars
  • Authentic Spanish guitar build makes it a great option for children learning classical guitar
  • Hand-inlaid, natural-wood rosette makes it a very beautiful instrument, especially for this price range

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The solid top makes it a step above most 1/2 size guitars
  • Quality build and authentic Spanish-guitar bracing means it has a big sound for a small size guitar
  • Details like the inlaid wood rosette make it a visual standout
  • It's a great-sounding guitar for kids who are serious about music

Cons

  • This guitar is considerably more expensive than some on the list, so it may not be an option for some buyers
  • Some buyers have reported minor quality control issues like poorly-sanded bridges

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Thus far, none of the guitars we've talked about have solid tops. However, this guitar is probably one of the best classical guitars that any child could start on. The top is solid Canadian cedar, which gives it an edge over the competition. The back and sides are mahogany, giving it a beautifully dark, warm sound. This little guitar even won Best in Show at Winter NAMM 2010!

Our Star Rating

Because of its solid top and overall great build, we think this guitar is the best all-around option on the list. We give it five out of five stars.

Yamaha GL1 Guitalele -- Best Novelty Option

Important Features

  • Laminated spruce top and meranti back and sides give it fairly balanced tone
  • The sound is closer to that of a baritone ukulele than a guitar
  • Tuning is pitched up slightly from that of a steel string acoustic guitar; it's tuned to A/D/G/C/E/A
  • Very small size makes it especially portable

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Unique configuration gives you ukulele sound while playing a small guitar
  • It's more affordable than many options on the list
  • Spruce and meranti construction gives it great sound for its size
  • Its compact build makes it an ideal travel instrument

Cons

  • Since the tuning is different from that of a guitar, it isn't an ideal learning instrument for kids who want to play guitar
  • All-laminate construction means it won't sound quite as full as an instrument with a solid top

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This is an interesting little instrument--while it sounds like a baritone ukulele, it plays like a standard six-string guitar. It might not be the best option for kids who are serious about learning guitar, but it's a fun and highly playable option. It's also a great choice for adults who want to achieve ukulele sound without learning another instrument.

Our Star Rating

This is an interesting novelty instrument, but it probably isn't the best choice for players looking to learn guitar. We give it three and a half out of five stars.

Hohner HAG250P -- Best Budget Option

Important Features

  • All-agathis build is durable, lightweight, and affordable
  • Nylon strings make it a good choice for kids just learning to play
  • Despite the low price, many buyers have reported that this is very playable for a small guitar
  • Accurate intonation and low action make it easy to play, even for younger children

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Intonation and action are excellent for such a small guitar
  • It is much more affordable than many options on the list
  • The sound quality is remarkably good for the price
  • Light-gauge nylon strings are easier for kids to work with

Cons

  • This classical guitar is made of agathis, which generally isn't known for great sound quality
  • Some buyers have said this guitar has trouble holding tune

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Some of the guitars with nylon strings that we've discussed are high-end instruments for smaller yet serious players. For parents who are just looking for an affordable small guitar for a child to play around on, this little Hohner just might fit the bill. It's made with agathis top, back, and sides. Agathis isn't the best tonewood, but it's commonly used for affordable guitars. The nylon strings also make it a great option for kids whose fingers might be too sensitive for steel strings.

Our Star Rating

Given its affordability and playability, we think this classical guitar is the best budget option on the list. We give it four out of five stars.

Yamaha CGS102A -- Best Affordable Classical

Important Features

  • This guitar has the look of a true classical guitar
  • Spruce top and meranti back and sides keep it lightweight and affordable while still delivering decent tone
  • Rosewood bridge and fingerboard are higher-end touches
  • Given its build quality, it's very affordable

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • As a scaled-down classical guitar, it's a great choice for kids new to the genre
  • Nato neck is comfortable to play and also resists warping
  • It's fairly affordable compared to many options on the list
  • It comes from a reputable manufacturer of affordable beginner classical guitars

Cons

  • All-laminate construction won't sound as good as a solid-top instrument
  • Some buyers have reported that the action is too high or that the intonation is off

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Yamaha has been featured somewhat prominently on our list, but it's well-deserved. Yamaha is known for crafting playable instruments that can stand up to options that are many times the price. This smaller classical guitar is a great option for kids learning classical guitar, and it also won't break the bank. While the construction is all laminate, the spruce top and meranti back and sides give it fairly decent tone.

Our Star Rating

Given its quality build and fairly affordable price, we think this is the best affordable classical guitar on the list. We give it four out of five stars.

What Should You Know Before Buying A Half-Size Guitar?

Half sized guitars are ideal for young children learning to play guitar, but there are a few things to think about before you make a purchase.

Is This the Right Size?

If a small child tries to play a full size guitar, they will likely become frustrated quickly. Smaller kids usually can't reach all the way down the neck, and they may not be able to fret notes and chords on a standard guitar neck.

Generally, it's recommended that kids from ages five to eight use a half size guitar. By about age nine, many kids can comfortably handle a 3/4 size guitar. Once they reach about age 12, most kids can comfortably play a full-size guitar, but some may still be comfortable on a 3/4 size instrument.

Steel String or Nylon String?

If you play guitar yourself, you probably remember how painful your fingertips first became when you started playing. This is why some guitar teachers recommend that kids start playing on a nylon string guitar. While the string tension on any half size guitar will be less than that on a full-size instrument, nylon strings aren't as hard on fingers as steel strings are.

For an older child who is confident in their ability to handle, starting on a steel string guitar may be fine. For children who aren't trying to play classical music, introducing a steel string instrument early in their playing journey means they won't need to make the transition later on.

Considering Tonewoods

For more advanced guitarists, tonewood choices play a major part when it comes to choosing an instrument. For kids just learning to play, it may not be necessary to spring for higher-end tonewoods. However, an acoustic guitar with a solid top will almost always have a fuller, better sound than one made with all laminated wood.

Solid-top half-sized guitars are fairly hard to find, and the ones with solid tops are sometimes expensive. In most cases, an all-laminate guitar is perfectly fine for a starter instrument--just be prepared to upgrade to a solid-top model if your child shows a real interest in learning guitar.

In Conclusion

If you're in the market for a 1/2 size guitar, you already know that there are plenty of options out there. We think the Cordoba Requinto 580 is the best option on the list--its solid top makes its sound much better than that of most laminate-top half sized guitars, and the Torres fan bracing gives it authentic classical sound. If you're looking for something a little more affordable and also have a child who would rather learn on a steel string guitar, the Yamaha JR1 is a great runner up. While its top isn't solid, it's still a quality smaller guitar that sounds great for its size.

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