Guitar gear for Suzuki students (and parents)

You don’t need a lot of gear to teach a child to play guitar. But it helps to have the right gear. On this page and the linked pages, I will be sharing my thoughts about guitar gear for Suzuki students.

Basic gear

At a minimum, you will need:

  • Guitar for your child, discussed in detail here.
  • Foot stand for your child.
  • Chair or stool for your child.
    • The best small stool I’ve found is this one by Stagg. I’ve been using it with no problems for almost a year (since my daughter was 6 1/2; it would have worked well earlier). One Amazon reviewer said that his was poorly made, but mine is fine. The reviewer may be right that the stool is too small for a 9-year-old (unless he’s pretty short). At its lowest setting, the seat is 12 3/4″ from the floor (at its highest setting, the seat is 15″ from the floor). That’s the lowest low setting I’ve found, and I wish I had had it much earlier. I expect to use it until she’s at least 8.
    • This stool from Percussion Plus is a little taller than the Stagg stool. I used it with my daughter from about age 5  1/2 to age 6 1/2, but to make it short enough, I couldn’t screw the seatpost into the base as you’re supposed to. Doing this gets the seat down to around 12 or 13″, but it allows the seat to spin around, and it causes the top of the base to get bent outward by the pressure of the seat bottom. If you use it as it’s designed, the top of the seat is more like 14″, which is too high for most young kids.
    • The chairs in Ikea’s LÄTT set have a seat height of 11″. They’re good, cheap starter chairs ($20 gets you two chairs plus a table!). We used one when M started playing at 4 1/2, and it worked well. We used it for at least a year, maybe a year and a half. One nice thing: You can dissasemble it to fold flat for travel, and it doesn’t take up much space in a suitcase.
  • Guitar and foot stand (or guitar support) for yourself.
  • Nail-care kit.
  • Electronic tuner.
    • I’ve had several of these, and my favorite by far is the Snark, a clip-on tuner that is under $15 at Amazon. It’s easy to read, and it always detects a plucked string. It also has a metronome that you can set by clicking a button to a beat, which is handy for figuring out the tempo of a recorded piece. I love these things so much I bought another more-recent model so I could have one for my guitar and one for my daughter’s.
      • Note: A clip-on tuner is far superior to the tuner apps for smartphones. Those apps rely on a microphone, so you can’t use them reliably in a noisy room (say, a group class or a concert).
    • In a comment on another post, another Suzuki parent reports good luck with the Intelli iMT500 clip-on tuner (and bad luck with one Snark). The Intelli is only $15 on Amazon, so it’s another good choice.
    • I was very disappointed in my Sabine Zoid Z-3000M. It’s pretty good as a clip-on metronome (nice feature: you can select different beat patterns, such as triplets, for a given tempo), but it’s a terrible clip-on tuner, at least for my small guitar. It had great difficulty sensing when I was plucking one of the top 3 strings, particularly the G string, which made it very hard to tune those strings.
    • The Korg CA-30 is a pretty good tuner, but it’s not a clip-on. Also, it’s too easy to accidentally change the reference pitch. It might work okay if combined with a Korg CM-100L clip-on microphone, but it’s a lot easier to just get a clip-on tuner in the first place.
    • Note: Some musicians look down on people who use electronic tuners; they think that real musicians tune by ear. And maybe that’s true (though lots of working musicians use electronic tuners). But I’ll trade the ease and accuracy of tuning with an electronic tuner for the musical purity of tuning by ear any day — particularly because you can’t tune by ear unless you have really good ears to begin with!
  • Metronome.
  • Multiple CD players or MP3 players.
  • Music stand (not essential at first).

Extra gear

I’ve found these items helpful:

  • Guitar stand. I love this fold-up Fender guitar stand, which is inexpensive ($14), folds easily for transport, and fits even a 1/4-size guitar.
  • Capo.
  • Rhythm sticks.
  • Digital camera for stills and video.
  • LED light stick.
  • Audio recorder. I have a Sony PCM-M10that I love; I plan to review it at some point.
  • Tripod.
  • Blindfold.
  • Ukulele.
  • Computer and Noteflight account.

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