Tag Archives: guitar

How To Buy a Guitar For Your Child

Buying A Kid A Guitar

Related Articles:

• How to buy a cheap beginner’s guitar
• How to buy kid’s guitar
• How to buy strings
• Recommended Music Stores and Shops in Portland Oregon: Where musicians in the know buy their instruments, get them repaired, and have them customized

When it’s time to go guitar shopping for a child, parents are often confused about what to buy. This is a guide for how to save money and make sure that your child enjoys his or her time on the guitar.

I recommend printing this list and bringing it to the store with you. If you can’t buy a guitar before your lesson, it doesn’t matter, because I have a ton of awesome guitars that you are welcome to use! 

If you’re in Portland Oregon, I recommend buying at:

  • Trade Up Music, located at SE Division and SE 47th in SE Portland. Tell them Amanda of Whirling Squirrel sent you! 503.236.8800
  • Old Town Music on SE 11th. Talk to Hank. 503.295.6808
  • Showcase Music and Sound at SE 34th and Hawthorne 503.231.7027

Purchasing Options: Ages 3-6

  • Buy the child a small, very inexpensive acoustic guitar, ukulele, or other instrument of deadly unintonated cacophony, and let them pound away at it, making noise. If you’re in Portland Oregon, I recommend signing the child up for Music Together: inexpensive group kids’ music classes at Community Music Center on SE Francis and 33rd in Portland Oregon. I wouldn’t spend time on private lessons until the age of 6. Joy in music is important. Do not expect much of the kid with practice at this time.

Purchasing Options: Ages 6-10

New/Used Small “Child’s Size” Acoustic Guitar: Inexpensive $100-$200, expensive $500-$5,000+

  • PROS: Cheap, easy to buy, no hassle in the store, so things “seem” okay at first purchase.
  • CONS: Much, much harder to play. Much less cool sounds. Kids tend to give up more easily when their instrument is an inexpensive acoustic guitar. You’ll end up replacing it anyway down the road. Kids will be very impressed by my electric guitars and their weird sounds. Inexpensive acoustic guitars are just about the most physically difficult situation a beginner could be placed in.

New Small “Child’s Size” Electric Guitar and Amp Package: $100-$200

  • PROS: Super easy to play! Inexpensive. The electric guitar can make weird sounds, and kids love cacophony.
  • CONS:  He/she will outgrow it. I do not generally recommend child size electric guitars. They have loads and loads of problems, including staying in tune. However, if price is a serious issue, take this option. Just remember that these packages are often new, and the guitar and amp that you just bought for $200 decrease in resale value by about $125 or more as soon as you leave the store. If you went to Guitar Center to buy this package, the price you’ll pay for these packages also goes to corporations that don’t support local musicians. You’ll also get terrible customer service, and chances are, that Guitar Center deal you got doesn’t include the guitar being intonated, so it won’t play in tune, so you’ll need to take it to another repair shop and spend more money and time.

RECOMMENDED: Used Regular Size Electric Guitar and Amp Package: $150-$250 on up

  • PROS: Super easy to play! Inexpensive. The electric guitar can make weird sounds, and kids love cacophony. The child will never outgrow it. It will not have intonation “tuning” issues like the smaller guitars do. The resale value will be great, because you bought used.
  • CONS:  You’ll spend $50-$100 more at the beginning. The child may simply be too small for the guitar (but this usually changes in about 2 months). Thankfully, Trade Up Music has a great refund policy and you can get another instrument at Trade Up for the same value within 1 week.


Once you buy the guitar, you’ll need to know a good “luthier.” A luthier is someone who repairs and/or builds instruments. You’ll need to bring in your guitar to a luthier about once every three months for “intonation” and “adjustments” to keep the truss rod in shape. YOUR GUITAR WON’T PLAY IN TUNE UNLESS YOU TAKE IT TO A LUTHIER EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE. I recommend:

  • 12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont, since 1979. 503.231.1912. I used to work at the 12th Fret for many years. They are fantastic people and luthiers, nationally renowned experts. >>website

  • Ryan Lynn’s EastSide Guitar Repair at 34th and Hawthorne. I have known Ryan for 10 years or more when he was the master luthier at Trade Up. Ryan runs a great shop and he’s a good guy. >>website
-Amanda Machina
503 577 2311 cell

Music Teachers

I get a the occasional email or phone call from other music teachers, requesting information on how to teach music and run a music lesson business.

I’ve received these kinds of calls for years and I’ve finally implemented a solution. Consulting for Music Instructors. Click here to pre-purchase a consultation session. I’ll be contacting you by phone or email to schedule a session, you can also Schedule Online for Free. Students generally visit my studio in inner SE PDX on SE Division and 12th. In addition, I have a recording studio at a separate facility with isolation booths, control bay with window, headphone mixes, and vaulted ceilings, a decent ProTools project studio.

Thanks! -Amanda


What kind of strings should I buy for my electric guitar?


What strings should you buy for your guitar?

Related Articles:

• How to buy a cheap beginner’s guitar
• How to buy a child’s guitar
• How to buy strings
• Recommended Music Stores and Shops in Portland Oregon: Where musicians in the know buy their instruments, get them repaired, and have them customized


String gauge

This is the “thickness” or diameter of the strings. Musicians refer to guitar strings by the gauge of the high E string. A “set of 10’s” is lighter (smaller in diameter) than “a set of 12’s.” String gauge varies widely. You need to consider your guitar’s scale length before you choose strings.

If you’re a geek, click here for more about scale length. Otherwise, it just basically means, length of the string, and you can read on.

Short scale guitars are easier to play. Use heavier strings for thicker tone.

Here are some short scale guitar manufacturers and models.

  • Gibson
  • Epiphone
  • Gretsch
  • Fender Duosonic
  • Fender Jaguar, Mustang, etc
  • Gibson basses

Long scale guitars are harder to play. Use lighter strings in general.

Here are some long scale guitar manufacturers and models. Remember, the long scale makes it more difficult to play, but also produces a different frequency and/or signal quality due to the extra length in scale. Why is this? Well, think about a ukulele, and then think about a guitar. Now think about a bass guitar. Now, think about a cello. Is a cello larger than a ukulele? Yes, it certainly is. Transitively, a bass guitar is larger than a guitar, and a guitar is larger than a cello.

A cello makes lower sounds than a ukulele or a guitar, right? Yes, that’s definitely true! So every time you think of “long scale,” think of a “longer neck” and “deeper sounding tones.” Bass frequencies oscillate at a much lower rate. This means that the waves are longer. Without getting too much into physics, I will leave it at this: longer scale guitars are harder to play, but often can produce deeper sounding tones with more clarity.

  • Fender
  • G&L
  • Parker Fly 
  • Most Fender basse
  • Fender Bass IV, a baritone instrument
  • Most baritone guitars are long scale

Strings and tone

  • Lighter strings = lighter tone (generally). Best for more finesse players.
  • Heavy strings = bolder tone/harder to play (usually). Better for heavy hitters.

Don’t know? Ask your luthier or guitar shop. A reputable shop will know. Click here for Portland Oregon shops I recommend.

Geeky details

One of my favorite sites, frets.com, explains it as such, here:

Scale Length
© Frank Ford, 2/9/01; Photos by FF

The “scale length” or “scale” is a tricky bit to define. Generally, it’s understood to be the vibrating string length, from nut to saddle, measured like this:

As far as I can tell, most luthiers measure from the nut to the center of the 12th fret and double that measurement for the “scale length.” The only thing is that it doesn’t seem to fit a lot of manufacturers’ stated specifications if you do it that way. I like to measure to the 12th, double that distance, and call that the scale length, just to be consistent. Then, adding compensation for various strings, I’ll call each of those lengths “compensated scale length.” That way, at least I don’t go crazy right off.

Now, just to drive us all nuts, some builders shorten the distance between the nut and first fret to improve intonation in low positions. That, of course, messes with our ability to measure the scale length on a given instrument.

Precise measurements are critical in building an instrument, but for the practical purposes of comparing instruments as to their tone and performance, approximate measure is just fine. I don’t think 1/8″ one way or the other will have much effect.

article link FRETS.COM

How do I know?

I was trained in these matters by Chris Brandt, owner of the 12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop in Portland, when I worked there for about 3 years. Not only are they a great bunch of guys, but they are very knowledgeable luthiers, and kind individuals as well. They do everything from string changes, to refrets, to steaming apart necks of old Martin guitars and doing who-knows-what in there. Saul Koll of Koll Guitars, also used to work there and Saul is an amazing luthier as well (and a fabulous electric guitar player). The 12th Fret is a little shop who does repairs for the likes of Robert Cray, and Saul builds guitars for Sonic Youth. I think I was taught by the best (or close to it).

Since I didn’t know the scale length of Parker Fly guitars, I googled it. I found out that the scale of the parker fly has a 25.5″ scale. This is a long scale.  So my student should use lighter strings. I have taught this particular student for quite a few years, and he’s more of a delicate technician than a heavy hitter. Light strings work best for players who are more finesse focused. Hard and heavy hitters, use heavy strings.

And remember, if you’re having issues with buzzing strings, make sure not to hit your guitar too hard! That “buzzing” sound comes from the string whacking against the frets. The force you use with your pick, as well as the angle of the pick, all comes into play. Before you take your guitar in to be repaired, take a lesson or two with a good instructor to verify your technique isn’t causing the problems. 
Rock on and good luck!

– Amanda


Recommended Music Stores & Repair Shops In Portland

There are a lot of great shops, here are the shops run by my good friends (they also happen to be the best). 🙂

Trade Up Music

oodles of great, cheap, mostly used gear, with some new – guitars, amps, basses, synthesizers, pedals, ukuleles, PA systems, drum parts, drum kits, melodicas, harmonicas… friendly service, right next door to Stumptown Coffee. >>website

Trade Up Music 4701 SE Division St., Portland, OR 97206  *503-236-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map
Trade Up Music 1834 NE Alberta St., Portland, OR 97211 *503-335-8800* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm daily Google Map

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop

nationally renowned lutherie and repairs of stringed instruments of all sorts, serving the general public and prominent artists since 1979… friendly service, wonderful people who really go the extra mile. >>website

12th Fret Custom Guitar Shop 2402 SE Belmont St., Portland, OR 97214 *503-231-1912* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm Tue-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Saturday Google Map

East Side Guitar Repair

Guitar repair, amplifier repair, custom instruments >>website

East Side Guitar Repair 3341 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, OR 97214  *503-232-0838* 11:00 am – 6:00 pm daily Google Map

Portland Custom Shop and Sour Sound

Amplifier repair, synthesizer repair and synth restoration; PA system repair, Pro Audio repair facility   >>Custom Shop Website  ::   >>Sour Sound Website

Portland Custom Shop + Sour Sound 1115 SE Morrison St. Portland, OR 97214 *503.227.9260* 11:00 am – 7:00 pm Mon-Fri and 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm Sat-Sun Google Map
Related Articles:• How to buy an inexpensive guitar
• How to buy a child a beginning guitar
• How to buy strings