There are many benefits to the travel or mini electric guitar. It can go just about anywhere without taking up much space. And the size alone makes it an optimal choice for beginners, in particular children as it fits their hands far better than a regular sized guitar.
As there are a number of travel/mini electric guitars, to narrow things down to what may be the best, if not the most recommended, I used a general criteria meant for young, novice guitarists: price, comfort, and simplicity.
Buy from Amazon A mini guitar designed with age in mind, with 20 frets and ¾ scale for much shorter reach, strings requiring less tension to play, and a wide range of sound. It also comes in many colors so your child can choose their favorite.
Top Pick: Squier Mini Strat Electric Guitar
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A mini guitar designed with age in mind, with 20 frets and ¾ scale for much shorter reach, strings requiring less tension to play, and a wide range of sound. It also comes in many colors so your child can choose their favorite.
When it comes to choosing a starter instrument for your budding musician, you want them to have the best, but you probably don’t want to break the bank. With that said, you are most likely wondering why you should put your faith behind my top choice. The answer is simple: I have done the research so you don’t have to.
I have spent countless of hours browsing music stores both in-person and online to find the best reviewed and most recommended instruments for young players just starting out. In addition, I have had numerous of conversations with professionals and even students to discover just what they like and don’t like about certain travel guitars.
How to Choose the Right Mini Electric Guitar
There are a number of factors to consider before diving into the world of mini guitars. Since these are designed mainly with mobility in mind, I recommend not emptying out your wallet for one. Although they are durable, they tend not to be as sturdy as larger guitars, so you don’t want to pour hundreds of dollars into one. This review is intended to help novice, young players that I suspect will move onto regular sized guitars in the future. Go on and save your money for the bigger ones later on.
Still, even though you aren’t shelling out hundreds to thousands of dollars, you should be sure not to sacrifice quality. Look into a few things before deciding to purchase a mini electric guitar.
What Exactly is a Mini Electric Guitar?
A mini electric guitar is a type of travel guitar. Travel guitars live up to their name: they’re portable, compact, and serve as stand-ins for regular sized guitars. These types of guitars aren’t only electric. They can be acoustic or electric-acoustic as well. Mini electric guitars perform just like the larger ones. Some even have built-in headphone outputs for silent playing. A design such as that can be a good idea when in the car with a practicing musician.
Why You Should Choose a Mini Electric Guitar
Now, I know some of you may still be debating on why you should purchase a travel guitar over a larger one when you can get a regular sized guitar and call it a day. More so, as this pertains to young players, you may be thinking about that cheaper instrument you passed in your local toy store. Choosing a travel guitar over either a larger one or the toy store ones is based on factors such as budget and quality.
To first address toy stores, guitars found there will always be toy-like in quality. If your little one is truly devoted to learning how to play, then you should think about providing for this hobby properly. After all, a hobby can easily transform into a career. Those cheaper, toy guitars are not meant to hold up as well as the real deal. They are low-quality and are not usually dependable.
You don’t want to throw away money at a toy-like product, but you also may want to think about how much you truly want to invest depending on the guitarist and how likely they are to keep up with playing. Larger, more expensive electric guitars can often break $2,000, so for those on a budget, those are typically not on the table to begin with. Although some mini electric guitars sell for hundreds, there are plenty below $200.
Size is another consideration when purchasing a mini electric guitar. The larger instruments tend to not fit smaller hands, which can make for an uncomfortable playing experience. Comfort is key to learning any instrument. Travel guitars are easy to carry and reach around. They can fit in a car or even on a plane. Your young player can take it anywhere from a road trip to heading over to their grandparents’ house.
Some Drawbacks to Travel Guitars
Despite the fact that I personally feel the benefits outweigh the cons concerning these instruments, it is inevitable that something will come with negative traits. One of the biggest negativities concerns overall quality, more so when compared to larger guitars. Travel guitars are just that: travel guitars. Many musicians opt for using them in place of their more expensive gear that they either can’t bring with them or don’t want to damage on the road.
Due to that, mini electric guitars may not be as sturdy as their larger counterparts. It’s rather simple to cycle through them as they can get bumped, scratched, or damaged in other ways when carrying them on the road so often.
Also, it may not always be easy to tune some mini electric guitars. The strings aren’t always the best in terms of quality either. Veteran and beginning players alike can find some frustration in the possibility of less-than-stellar strings and having to re-tune frequently.
Understanding Tuning and Proper Set Up
Regardless of size, not every guitar will sound great from the get-go. It is important to understand not just general tuning, but also how to modify your mini guitar to make it sound as best as it possibly can. This is also an excellent part of teaching novice guitarists how to care for and maintain their instrument.
Here is a great demonstration of a quick set up of a ¾ mini electric guitar:
Be Aware of Accessories
As you decide on which mini electric guitar to choose, be sure to remember the accessories that go along with playing one. To be frank, it needs just about everything you would get for a regular sized guitar. In addition to fulfilling a necessity, accessories are a good way to personalize the guitar so your amateur musician can feel like the instrument is truly theirs alone. I’ve listed some of the more common accessories to consider:
Case/Gig Bag – When not in play, it is important to keep your mini electric guitar protected. A secured guitar will not only look better in the long run, but it will maintain its sound.
Straps – For anyone that wants to stand and play, a strap is a necessity. More so, they are the ideal method for customizing a look and showing off personality. They come in dozens of colors and designs, and they are relatively inexpensive.
Amplifier – A mini electric guitar can hook up to an amp just like any other electric guitar. Now, although some do come with built-in headphone amps, not all of them are designed with that feature. In that case, you may want to invest in a travel amplifier to keep on-the-go. Over at Musician’s Friend, there are many available with some priced as low as $19.99.
Picks – Picks are a given as a needed accessory. They are cheap as well, so you can purchase a pack of them in the event young players just so happen to misplace one.
Tuner – In order for the guitar to have the best sound possible, it needs to be in tune. There’s an endless variety of tuners to choose from designed for each type of play-style and artist.
Strings – It is important that the guitar sounds as best as it can, so you need the right strings. Sometimes, the guitar itself may not have the right ones, so you have to think about replacing them. Also, strings break, so think about buying in bulk. It isn’t something a novice guitarist will understand right off the bat, so consider this accessory on an as-needed basis. Your budding musician will come to learn how to restring in no time.
After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.
|Designed with age in mind||Out of stock|
|Fully-adjustable fixed bridge not only adds sustain, but it allows for an easier time changing strings||Check on Amazon|
|Remarkably affordable, and it easily combines an excellent module with onboard playing pads||$109.62|
|Has good tones and pick up||Out of stock|
|Three single-coil pickups give dynamic tones, and it has a single volume and one tone control||Check on Amazon|
|It gives off clean tones thanks to the basswood body and ceramic magnet pickups||Out of stock|
|Designed with only three strings so young players can focus purely on scales||Out of stock|
|Designed with left-handed players in mind||Out of stock|
My Recommendation: Squier Mini Strat Electric Guitar
In my opinion, the best mini electric guitar for young beginners is the Squier Mini Strat by Fender. This is a mini guitar designed with age in mind. With the 20 frets and ¾ scale, there is a much shorter reach needed. Young guitarists have more comfort with a shorter scale.
Less tension is needed when touching the fret notes. Smaller fingers sometimes cannot produce the pressure required to play note properly, so this low action design eases that strain for a relaxed playing experience.
Additional convenience is seen with the vintage C-shaped neck profile. This oval-like shape is suited for smaller hands. Along with the thin body and lightweight feel, young ones should have no problem holding and reaching over the instrument.
Another quality I enjoy about the Squier Mini is that maintaining it is made simple. It has a hard tail bridge, vintage-inspired, that provides many benefits for novice players such as the restringing process.
As brought up earlier in the review, it may be necessary to replace the strings on these as they are not always the best sounding and may drop tune from time-to-time. Making that process simpler is a good idea when it comes to players just learning.
The Squier Mini also has a rather nice sound to it, and all in a small package. It uses a traditional three single-coil set up. This gives it a greater dynamic and bright sound. In addition, it has a versatile 5-position switch so you can have an even wider array of sounds to go from. The rosewood fingerboard aids with adding warmer tones.
To go back to the hard tail bridge, that gives the Squier Mini greater sustain as well. Also, the guitar has master volume and tone controls. You can plug in and jam out as you would with larger-scale guitars. If you want to, hear the Squier Mini in action on this short, but comprehensive video (on YouTube).
A nice addition to the Squier Mini is the personalization that young guitarists are sure to enjoy. At Musician’s Friend, you can find this instrument in either black or Torino red. Amazon has those two colors with the addition of pink. Other places may sell it in colors not listed here, so feel free to shop around.
The Runner-Up: Epiphone Les Paul Express Electric Guitar
This choice almost tied with the Squier Mini Strat. It landed in the runner-up spot instead due to things concerning quality that I feel doesn’t match up well to it being priced over $100. It can sometimes have intonation issues that can be difficult to fix, especially for beginners. Otherwise, it is close with my top choice.
The Epiphone Les Paul Express manages to capture the power and sound behind the larger version. It is made in a mirror-like image of the classic Les Paul with the mahogany body. However, the neck is hard maple instead. This change in neck design gives the mini guitar brighter tones. Give the Les Paul Express a quick listen (video on YouTube) and decide for yourself if you like the sound.
It also has needed comfort for younger players. The fully-adjustable fixed bridge not only adds sustain, but it allows for an easier time changing strings. String tension has been loosened due to the shorter fret scale, and the recessed bolts that secure the neck makes the upper fret more readily accessible.
The Les Paul Express comes available in either Vintage Sunburst or Ebony.
Other Products to Consider:
This is a rather decent starting guitar for younger players. It has a master volume control built-in, which is always a nice touch. The body is basswood while the neck is maple. The RR50 is a nice, budget-friendly mini guitar for novice players or even professionals who are in the mood for a compact instrument to carry around.
With the placement of the frets, however, it can have some intonation problems that can make it sound out of tune even if it is tuned. Strings are not the best, but if replaced, the Rogue should play fast and effortlessly. It has some appealing finishes (Wine Burst, Red Burst, Black, and Red), and it even comes with a strap, picks, a cable, and both a carrying and gig bag.
Since the 1980s, Hofner has been designing the electric travel guitar. Features include a basswood top and back with a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. It has good tones and pick up. There are 22 frets, and both the neck and frets are full-scale length at 24.7 in. The overall body of the Shorty is small enough for a young player.
However, as the neck and frets are full-scale, some smaller children (under the age of eight) may have some difficulty stretching their fingers across the neck. Also, the body may be a bit too compact as you tend to have to use a strap to keep it from moving around. For the price, it makes for a good travel guitar. For the price, it makes for a good travel guitar. It even comes in nice finishes of Blue, Black, or Red.
View on Amazon Current Amazon.com price: Check on Amazon
This is yet another mini electric guitar designed purely with beginners in mind. It is ¾ in scale for comfortable playing, yet it has traditional construction to still give off the feel of a regular sized guitar. The fingerboard is rosewood, and it has a fast bolt-on maple neck. Three single-coil pickups give dynamic tones, and it has a single volume and one tone control.
Action is very forgiving for beginning players as well. It has a sleek design offered in Classic Black or Metallic Silver that young guitarists will love picking up to rock out with. Some issues come into play concerning the bridge. It can do with being mounted a bit away from the pickups in order to properly correct the intonation.
For a first guitar for younger players, there isn’t much wrong with the Laguna mini electric guitar. It has a shallow C-shape body much my top choice, and the slim-tapered maple neck makes for easy playing for smaller hands. It gives off clean tones thanks to the basswood body and ceramic magnet pickups. There isn’t much personalization given as it comes with only one finish.
Still, the black satin finish does give it an overall polished appearance. As the frets can be a bit unleveled, however, the action can come across as rather high, in particular for beginners. Nevertheless, for what it offers, it can be worth giving your young, novice player this guitar to try out while they plan for a more high-quality one in the future.
Out of every mini electric guitar mentioned in this review, the Loog is perhaps the one most designed for children players. It is designed with only three strings so young players can focus purely on scales and understand exactly what they are playing before diving into more advanced work.
When you purchase it, you have to first finish building it, which is something parents and children can enjoy doing together. The neck is ultra slim and the bridge is adjustable to allow for the action to be raised or lower depending on preference. It has a single, clean pickup even if the sound may come across as rather basic. Look-wise, it comes in five colors that children are sure to like.
One of the things I like the most about this is the app that comes with it. This app has free songs and video lessons to further aid the beginning guitarists. My main issue comes with the price tag, however. At Amazon, you can find it priced at Out of stock. For a three-string guitar that young players are going to move on from quickly, the price doesn’t match up too well in my opinion.
What caught my eye with this mini electric guitar is that it is designed with left-handed players in mind. It is a nice touch, I feel. The body of the guitar is contoured for relaxed playing, and the dual cutaway and solid basswood gives you access to high frets.
This can be found on Amazon where it also comes with an amp, carry bag, strap, cable, and an instructional DVD. It is just about everything a beginner can want or need.
The amp has a master volume control with a headphone jack so your budding guitarist can practice without disturbing anyone else. Sliding across the fret is smooth as well. It doesn’t exactly sound like a professional guitar, however. The quality is meant for younger players just starting out. Still, it is a rather decent deal considering everything it comes with.
- Musician’s Friend. (2016). Fretted Instrument Accessories & Parts. Musician’s Friend. Retrieved from http://www.musiciansfriend.com/fretted-instrument-accessories-parts
- Sweetwater. (21 Nov. 2016). Best Guitars for Kids. Sweetwater: Music Instruments & Pro Audio. Retrieved from http://www.sweetwater.com/insync/best-guitars-for-kids/
- The Hub. (22 June 2015). Beyond Toys: Choosing a Great Beginner Guitar for Kids. The Hub. Retrieved from http://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/guitar-buying-guides/beyond-toys-choosing-a-great-beginner-guitar-for-kids
- The Hub. (1 July 2015). Good to Go: Finding the Best Travel Guitar. The Hub. Retrieved from http://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/guitar-buying-guides/good-to-go-finding-the-best-travel-guitar