Fiddle or Guitar for Toddler

Updated on July 13, 2010
P.C. asks from Portland, OR
12 answers

My son (almost three) loves to watch and listen to Irish music (tunes and songs), and he always asks about getting his own fiddle or guitar.
(The guitar is used on a lot on the songs that we watch on DVD, although it's not a traditional Irish instrument.)

We often a DVD of a famous concert that the Dubliners did.

On amazon, I cannot find a small fiddle or guitar that is actually tunable.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

I play the whistle, not the guitar or fiddle.



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answers from Portland on

Have you thought of a mandolin? It's a little smaller is tunable, and has a similar sound to a guitar but not quite as full bodied. It plays the harmony lines in most music but does a great job being the melody as well. My Mother started out with a violin at the age of 10ish and then transfered to a guitar as she made it to her teens. Then in her 40's she foudn the mandolin and has been completely entranced by it. I don't recall seeing her as happy with the guitar as I see her with her mandolin. I also recommend the mandolin because the neck is smaller and that allows it to be easier for smaller hands to reach around and make the chords.

Good luck making a decision. It is very hard to decide what to get.


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answers from Portland on

Why not try a ukelele? They are small enough for small hands and will get the same idea as a guitar. We have one that our daughters have gotten endless hours of musical enjoyment from.

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answers from Lakeland on

I found a small guitar for my daughter @ a garage sale. This particular one has a fabric, personalized case - which makes me think that it came from Lillian Vernon - an online and catalog shopping site that personalizes almost everything. It's not the greatest - but it is tunable - and she LOVES it. I noticed after buying it - that Walmart has some in the toy section - not plastic toy ones - but actual wood, with real strings, instructional books & dvds, replaceable parts etc.. In our town - we have a music store - where I took my husband's guitar to be re-strung. I noticed that they had child sized guitars as well. Hoep that this helps. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

We decided to go with a ukulele for our son. We bought it for him when he was 3 1/2. Many guitar players we know said they started with a uke. It's a real ukulele, not a toy so it tunes and everything. And being smaller, it fits him well. When he is older, we may invest in a guitar.

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answers from Portland on

We bought a ukelele for our little guy too, just like D.C. They are small and cheap (ours was under $40), but tunable. I looked at all the small guitars too, but the real guitars were too expense (we worried he'd destroy them) and the toys ones were really poorly made and not really tunable. The ukelele was a great compromise. We don't worry about him being a little rough with it (and they all are because they are exploring what it does, and that's what we want, right?). When we have time, we can tune the ukelele and play little tunes on it for him and then he can play his ukelele while his dad plays guitar. It just worked out to be the perfect compromise for us.

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answers from Seattle on


My DH is a professional musician (guitar) and we have loads around the house. He even bought a couple child sized ones for our kiddo. Kiddo has also been in a general music class since he was 3 (where they get to play all (well most) of the instruments. ALL the toddlers could handle the violins very very easily and NONE of them could deal with guitars. So they all got very delighted with violins and frustrated with guitars.

Guitars (even kid ones) require a LOT of finger pressure and very awkward / unnatural arm positions. So it's exhausting, and difficult. THEN add on the actual positions and movements of the fingerings to make notes and cords and it gets even worse. But wait... there's more... guitars use picks... so BOTH hands have to be doing complex things. The vast majority of toddlers and young children just do not have the fine motor control and the concentration and hand strength in order to be able to actually play anything with a guitar. They can make sounds, but not music, so they get bored and frustrated and ditch them after awhile.

Violins on the other hand (there's no difference between a violin and a fiddle except for how they are held) require less finger pressure, have easier chords and hand positions, and only require one hand to be using a lot of fine motor control because the other hand is using a bow. It's just a FAR more natural instrument.

It's also why you see Suzuki Violin (and Suzuki Piano) for toddlers, but not certain other instruments.

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answers from Seattle on

My son got a First Act guitar when he was two - it is a little big (he is 4 now) but a day has not gone by that he hasn't spent 30 minutes playing his music...

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answers from Washington DC on

I'd go with the guitar for the first instrument. Less to try to hold. Toys R Us sells child-size instruments. Also, Sears and


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answers from Huntsville on

We got our daughter (3 yrs at the time) a guitar from Toys R Us. First Act Discovery 30 inch Acoustic Guitar

First Act also has other instruments for young kids.

I am curious, what Irish DVDs does your son watch? My husband is Irish. We may have to look into getting some of those DVDs too! :)


answers from Minneapolis on

Violins do come in children sizes. Just talk to a local violin teacher and they will direct you. The fiddle (has an accomplished violinist told me) is the way of playing, the instrument is actually a violin. Hope this helps.



answers from Portland on

A fiddle or a guitar might be too difficult for a three year old. My husband suggests you get him a bodhran, an irish drum.



answers from Medford on

I play and teach the violin/fiddle and have had experience teaching students as young as 2, all the way up to adults. I have to say that the violin can be a VERY frustrating instrument for the younger ones! Even my 5 year old daughter (also a lover of celtic music!) wants to learn, but didn't quite have the stamina for holding an instrument or staying focused on a lesson for very long. I had the most success teaching kids over 6 or 7. I guess it depends on how seriously you want them to learn, too. Either instrument would work for just having something to strum on and learn to take care of, but as far as playing one at 3, it'll just be frustrating for everybody.

As far as finding an instrument, your local music store probably has a rental program, which is good for just trying out an instrument to see how he does. I'm not sure about guitars, but I know violins come in many sizes and at a music store they would measure your son to find the proper size. You can also check local pawn shops, and/or Craigslist (which is where I found my daughter's little 1/4 size violin).

Definitely continue to encourage the music appreciation! In the long run, his love of music will be the biggest deciding factor in whether he's able to pick up, and continue to enjoy playing, an instrument!

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