Buying a Guitar for Christmas?

Are you thinking about buying a Guitar for Christmas?   A truly great and exciting gift! Here are some thoughts, from a dad that has two teens sons, and has been a guitar player as long as I can remember.

I am assuming if you are buying a guitar for Christmas, that you are doing so for a younger person.  For purposes of this article, I will discuss it as more than a toy, and assume you are buying to support a budding interest.

If you are buying a guitar for a beginner, please read this article A Guitar for a Beginner.

Buying a guitar for an experienced or professional musician tricky.  A guitar is very personal choice and you would really need to know what they would want and enjoy.

Why does the Teen want a Guitar?

As a teenager, the idea of a guitar is about learning an instrument, being cool, and hopefully developing a life long love of music and the instrument.  Part of being cool might be jamming with his friends.  It might even have something to do with a girl 😉

So the first thing, is clearly have an idea of  purpose; is it a passing phase or do they have the motivation to learn, become proficient, and stick with it.

Most people have a budget to consider. A high-end guitar is not appropriate for a new guitarist.  For most, the features and preferences won’t be well known or understood.   I am going to focus on that which is reasonably affordable, and discuss some alternatives.  Remember that  your budget for a guitar must also include a case.  Additionally, if you are buying an electric guitar, you need to have a practice amplifier and cable, as well as a strap.

So with that here are my thoughts on a guitar for Christmas.

An Acoustic Guitar for Christmas

Generally, an acoustic guitar will be the first real guitar that a teen would own.  Real being defined as some level of quality in the guitar.   At this point, there is some level of motivation on the part of the teenager to become proficient at playing.    There is no hard or fast rule, and you should definitely go with their choice of acoustic v. electric.  Just know that if you buy an electric guitar and the teen is still learning to play, that the electric guitar has additional learning requirement around the technology, and how to palm mute the strings that you are not playing.

Acoustic Guitar for Christmas

Haydon with his Yamaha Acoustic Guitar

So assuming you have decided on an acoustic guitar, fortunately, there are some very good options that wont break the bank.  For my teen son Haydon, I chose Yamaha FG720.   It is a great sounding guitar, with absolutely beautiful woodwork.  A great value for the price at $299.
The current equivalent model is this FG830.

Yamaha FG830 Acoustic Guitar

This guitar features:

  • Solid Sitka spruce top
  • Rosewood back and sides
  • White/black body and neck binding
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Die-cast tuners
  • Tortoise pick-guard
  • Limited lifetime warranty

You can read more about this guitar here.

The cases are  sold separately.   I strongly recommend that you get a hard case.  It doesn’t need to be very fancy or expensive.  The reality is that it will get banged around some even if your teen son or daughter is very careful.   There is a case available for this guitar for $79.

If your teenager is looking for an upgrade in an acoustic guitar, or is performing, and you can afford it, you can look at a Taylor, one of the best names in Acoustic Guitars.

This Taylor Acoustic is about $800 and has pickups built in to the guitar.

If you can afford it, and you want to buy a really nice guitar for Christmas for the dedicated musician, there is this Martin D  Mahogany.  You can spend a small fortune on a Martin Guitar, widely thought of as the best acoustic guitar available.  This is “moderately priced” for a Martin, at around $1,400.

An Electric Guitar for Christmas

If your teen son or daughter is ready for an electric guitar, you will need to make the judgment call of how committed they will be to the craft. That, plus your budget will dictate how much you want to spend.  You will need to consider the cost of the guitar, a suitable case, and minimally a practice amplifier, cable and strap.

As a lifelong guitarist, when my teen son wanted a guitar I decided to spend a little more.  We bought my son (Haydon when he was 16) a Fender Stratocaster Standard edition.

Electric Guitar for Christmas

Haydon and his Standard Fender Strat

The cost is around $600. Haydon had chosen a knockoff, being considerate of the cost. I upgraded him because I know the importance of having a guitar that is easy to play, and stays in tune, and the pickups and volume knobs will last a long time.  His original choice was taking chances with those factors.  I  knew that could lead to frustration and discouragement.  Haydon was 16 at the time we bought this for him.  It might seem a little much for a first electric guitar, but I view it as a gift for a lifetime.  This would also work very well as a gift for a teen who had previously been playing an electric guitar and wanted to upgrade.

 You can read more about this guitar here.


Wood options for the fret board

There are two different options maple (light color above)  and rosewood, a dark brown wood.  There are some slight differences in the tone of these woods, but generally when you are playing an electric guitar, the dominant factors in sound come from the pickups, amplifier, and strings.   The sound differences from the neck are slight, but a rosewood will have a softer tone.  The rosewood will also look good longer.  All that said, I think the most important factor is how it looks.  The color matching with body of the guitar is the deciding factor at this level in my opinion.

A Case to protect a lifetime gift

When buying a guitar for Christmas, make sure you include a case that is suitable for the guitar in the budget. If you are spending good money on the guitar, you will want to get a hard shell case. It is a protection of investment. You can get a decent quality hard shell case for around $70. If you want to go with the matching Fender hard shell case, that will cost about $120. In our case, Haydon is left handed, and that limited our choices of good cases, and we had to spend about $160. There are three options for a Stratocaster or Telecaster on the product page here.

A practice amplifier

If you are buying an electric guitar, there will need to be at least a practice amplifier. I already had two, including this Fender Mustang.

Fender Mustang 20w Amp

This amp is great for practice, or a small venue.  The modeling features let you customize the sound for blues, rock, jazz.  There are files available that can produce the sound for a variety of well known guitarists.  The modeling software is available free at https://fuse.fender.com/.

You can read more about this amp here.

Adding it up

Here is the approximate cost of buying a guitar for Christmas:

Fender Standard Stratocaster $600
Hard Shell Case $120
Fender Mustang Practice Amplifier $100
Guitar Strap $20
Cable $20
Total  $860

A More Modest Alternative

If you are not sure about the commitment, or you have a younger person who is really looking forward to a guitar, but you just cant swing the cost, this Epiphone Les Paul with case is less than $400.

epi100

Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson Guitars, that offers a less expensive version of its classic Gibson Les Paul, made in Asia.   The Les Paul 100 is a superb instrument for players looking for an affordable but reliable electric guitar that has the classic look, sound and feel of a Les Paul. The Les Paul 100 is cut to similar specs as Les’ 1952 original.

What about Shipping a guitar?

For the shipping you might have a concern about the condition when it arrives. I can tell you when I ordered both of Haydon’s Guitars, I was in to the box as fast as humanly possible. Not to worry, the guitars were packed well – they arrived in pristine condition.

Dad’s Guitars

My electric guitar is a 1978 Gibson Les Paul Custom.  It has a solid mahogany body, rosewood fretboard, mahogany neck, gold hardware and gold Humbucking pickups. The guitar was $800 new, but the current equivalent guitars are several thousand dollars.  I have seen my guitar advertised used for $3,200.

My acoustic guitar is a Vintage Alvarez 5013 model.  It is an average priced guitar, which you can get today for about $300.  The aging of the wood in the guitar has given it a rich tone that I have only heard in guitars much more expensive. You just can’t buy that.

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