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The guitar is one of the most popular instruments that young children tend to gravitate toward. With a rich history and an endless list of legendary players, any 12-year-old is bound to be interested in guitars.
When it becomes time to actually buy them their first guitars, many parents get overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. All of the following guitars would be choice examples for any 12-year-old beginner, with an informational guide to follow.
Ibanez PN12E – Best Overall
When it comes to acoustic guitars in the beginner range, you’ll find an almost infinite number of options. Manufacturers are able to produce these instruments for a relatively inexpensive overhead cost.
However, that also means that the market is extremely saturated with low-quality acoustic guitars that aren’t worth anyone’s time. Such guitars might be attractive for their list price, but their playability leaves much to be desired.
Weeding out these clunker guitars can be difficult if you’re not versed in gauging guitar quality and value. The Ibanez PN12E (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a guitar that exceeds every expectation for its price.
In fact, out of all the firsthand experience I have with different guitars, the PN12E remains a memorable guitar. The biggest thing I noticed was that its performance matches that of guitars twice its price.
Acoustic guitars can be cumbersome for just about anyone to play due to their body designs. However, the PN12E is technically a parlor-size guitar, making it much more narrow in the body.
Not only is the guitar slim in depth, but the width of the top’s hips and shoulders is incredibly comfortable. And while it might be a budget guitar, the PN12E has qualities that could last the 12-year-old into adulthood.
The guitar features a Sapele top with a Nyatoh body and neck, and a Nandu fretboard. This neck has a comfortable C-shape grip that will fit in just about anyone’s hands, including adults.
The PN12E’s scale length is slightly shorter than average, measuring 24.4”. Despite this, the guitar feels like it provides a standard full-size playing experience.
At this price, you’re often lucky to just come out with a decently playable guitar, and nothing more. Yet, the PN12E continues to pack in value with its built-in pickup and preamp system.
That means your 12-year-old could play into an amp, or a PA if they perform live when they’re older. This preamp also comes with a built-in tuner, ensuring its versatility and reducing the need to buy a tuner.
Rounding out the rest of the guitar’s build are features such as:
- Plastic nut
- Plastic saddle
- Nandu bridge
- Chrome die-cast tuners
A guitar like this is ideal because it provides the best of both worlds compared to smaller-sized guitars. This has a smaller body size without compromising the scale length down to 22”, keeping a full-size neck feel intact.
The PN12E is such an excellent guitar that any adult player could find real value in its compact design. Ibanez seems to have succeeded in their aims at prioritizing quality while offering it at an affordable price.
Fender CC-60S Concert Pack – Best Premium
One of the things that many fail to realize is that guitars often require separate purchases of various accessories. This is especially true with the electric guitar, which typically requires at least an amplifier.
While the acoustic guitar requires fewer necessities, some additional accessories can make life much easier. The Fender CC-60S Concert Pack (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a bundle worthy of any first-time player.
For starters, this bundle package features a Fender CC-60S acoustic guitar. This guitar’s body consists of laminated Mahogany with a Solid Spruce top for balanced projection.
One of the things that makes this guitar worthy of a 12-year-old is that it has a Concert body design. Concert acoustics are not as wide or cumbersome as the Dreadnought acoustic guitar can be for many people.
Instead, this guitar’s body will fit nicely against the body of any 12-year-old, no matter their stature. Yet, though it is smaller in design, the guitar provides a full-size playing experience with a 25.3” scale length.
Fender has gone the extra mile in crafting a neck that any beginner would be lucky to play. The neck itself is made of Nato, with the Walnut fretboard’s edges being rolled out for smooth and comfortable playability.
In all reality, the rolled fretboard edges are not a feature typically seen on a guitar of this price. This is something that naturally happens over time with years of play but is definitely noticeable when it’s not there.
The CC-60S does not come with any electronics for amplified performance. However, external pickups can easily be acquired down the road if the need for one arises.
On the hardware front, the CC-60S has components that are pretty typical for a guitar in this price range. This includes things like:
- Plastic nut
- Plastic saddle
- Walnut bridge
- Chrome die-cast tuners
Just the guitar alone is worthy of consideration for a 12-year-old’s first guitar. It’s a basic acoustic that doesn’t feel or sound like a cheap guitar (which many inexpensive guitars fall victim to).
However, it’s really the bundle contents that help to make this package one of the best values for the money. Along with the guitar, the bundle includes items such as:
- 1 package of strings
- 3 guitar picks
- 1 guitar strap
- Allen wrench for neck adjustments
- Gig bag
There’s nothing worse than buying a guitar and realizing you need something else before you can play it. This bundle takes care of that by providing all of the essential items.
Guitar strings and picks are items that are typically purchased on a regular basis. Fender’s inclusion of such items means that your bases are covered should a string happen to break.
Maybe the biggest and best inclusion in this bundle is the gig bag, which provides safe transportation. A gig bag is ideal, especially if your 12-year-old has to travel to take guitar lessons.
Overall, this is a great bundle featuring a solid guitar with essential accessories that doesn't break the bank.
Squier Mini Strat – Best Budget
Not every kid will be inclined to play the acoustic guitar. In fact, it’s often the electric guitar that catches a 12-year-old’s eye and inspires them to play.
At its core, the Mini Strat is built exactly like a typical Stratocaster with one major exception. The guitar itself has a shortened scale length of 22.75” with a smaller body size to match.
What this means is that your 12-year-old will have a full-size experience without compensating for a larger size. All of the notes that can be found on a full-size guitar can be found on this 3/4-size model.
The Mini Strat features a Poplar body, a Maple neck, and an Indian Laurel fretboard. Traditional dot fretboard inlays provide a clear guide to use when navigating the frets during play.
For pickups, the Mini Strat features a trio of single-coil Strat pickups designed to emulate the Fender siblings. A 5-way pickup selector switch, along with a volume and tone knob, provides standard tone controls for sound.
The hardware included on the Mini Strat is fairly surprising given the fact that this is a budget guitar. This includes items such as:
- Synthetic bone nut
- Die-cast tuners
- Hardtail bridge with block saddles for all 6 strings
Throughout history, the Fender Stratocaster has remained one of the most iconic guitar designs ever created. There’s a fair chance that your 12-year-old is inspired by at least 1 Stratocaster player.
Most authentic Stratocasters are well beyond the price range for any typical 12-year-old beginner. The Mini Strat provides that same aesthetic without having to make a serious cash investment.
This Strat is most appropriate for beginners because it has a hardtail bridge rather than a tremolo system. Keeping this guitar in tune will be much easier because of this simple fact.
If your 12-year-old has quite a bit of growing to do, the Mini Strat is a perfect guitar. As they age, the guitar will become too small for practicality but is still fun to have around the house.
What To Look For When Buying A Guitar For A 12-Year-Old
Buying a guitar for a 12-year-old can be nerve-wracking if you’ve never played guitar before. It can seem impossible to try and ensure that you get the most value for the money you spend.
Keep the following points in mind and you’ll be able to approach the decision with a needed level of calmness. You need to remember that this is meant to be an enjoyable and momentous occasion, not something filled with stress.
What Kind Of Guitar Are They Interested In?
One of the biggest things to discern is the type of guitar your 12-year-old holds the most interest toward. Getting this right can help turn an interest into a lifelong passion, which should be your goal.
Acoustic guitars are usually what parents buy for their 12-year-olds, but this isn’t a set rule. In fact, buying them an acoustic when they want to play the electric can have detrimental results.
Think about it, if they want to play Metallica songs, they’re going to have a hard time on the acoustic. Somebody who’s inclined towards being a singer-songwriter might fare better with an acoustic.
No matter what, keep in mind that each guitarist is an individual with their own interests and needs. The only “right answer” here is making sure that the purchase aligns with their desires for cultivating long-term interests.
Try On For Size
While it’s tempting to just order a guitar off of the internet sight unseen, resist the urge to do this. How a guitar feels and sounds is a very personal thing that differs depending on each person’s tastes.
Even if the 12-year-old has never played before, letting them try the guitar is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is the only way to determine whether a guitar feels and sounds good to them.
If a full-size guitar is too large, consider looking for a 3/4-size one offering the same playability. Gauge where the 12-year-old is in their stage of development and growth to determine if this is appropriate.
During this phase, ask them how the neck feels and how difficult it is to press the strings down. Both of these areas should be of the highest importance when looking for a guitar that is easy to play.
The budget to spend on a guitar is usually the most important deciding factor in determining the guitar one purchases. Many wonder how much they should be spending for a 12-year-old.
For the complete beginner, it’s probably best not to spend more than $300. $250 is likely the maximum range you’ll want to shoot for.
Resist the urge to buy a guitar for less than $100 as it will likely not be worth anyone’s time. If you want to save some money, consider shopping around on the used market.
Best Brands For Guitars Appropriate For 12-Year-Olds
If you’re not familiar with the guitar market, the number of manufacturers is sure to overwhelm you. Guitars from the following brands can be used as a benchmark to measure and compare other guitars.
Squier is a company owned by Fender that produces the iconic Fender guitar designs at an affordable price. Inexpensive parts and labor help to keep consumer costs low while still providing an exemplary playing experience.
If your 12-year-old has their eyes on a Fender, a Squier can make for a reasonable and realistic solution. The company makes guitars for players of all ages and offers bundles for those who need accessories.
Ibanez is a popular Japanese company that has continually innovated the guitar industry with its designs. The company’s penchant for craftsmanship is one reason why so many virtuosos have openly endorsed Ibanez guitars.
Ibanez has a fantastic line of acoustic and electric guitars available for any 12-year-old. Every Ibanez guitar offered stands out among the various other options in each respective price range.
Best Guitars For 12-Year-Olds, Final Thoughts
There’s nothing better than enjoying the fruits of a seed you helped to plant years before. Purchasing the right guitar for a 12-year-old beginner has the reality of providing this very result.
Be sure to take your time and shop around, ultimately letting them try each guitar that catches their eye. Yes, that even means letting them try professional-grade guitars, if only for the sheer fun of it.