By Adam Perlmutter
If you enjoy making music and have a young child, an important question will inevitably arise: What instrument should he or she learn to play? Along with piano, recorder, and ukulele, guitar might seem like a good option; many parents, myself included, play the instrument and imagine how fun it will be to teach their kids. But the truth is, even half-size guitars can be difficult for small children to manage, both in terms of soundbox size and neck width, and that can discourage them from learning the instrument.
To address this problem, Loog Guitars has designed a line of three-string acoustic and electric guitars with small bodies. The company started in 2010 when Rafael Atijas, then a student in integrated marketing at New York University, developed the concept as part of his master’s thesis; the original Loog guitar debuted the following year through a Kickstarter campaign.
In its acoustic line, Loog now offers two different models—the 15.6-inch scale Mini ($79) and the 20.4-inch scale Pro Acoustic ($129)—available in six fun colors, red, green, black, white, yellow, and pink. Each has a basswood body and maple neck, rather than plastic, the more common material choice at this price point. I recently gathered my kids, ranging in age from four to eight years old, to check out the Mini.
The Mini, which is intended for children three and older, wouldn’t necessarily stand up to the scrutiny that review guitars are subjected to in the magazine. Its 15 frets are a little sharp at the edges and the instrument is somewhat lacking in sustain and volume. But the intonation is good, the action is low, the nylon strings are easy on the fingers, and the children didn’t seem to mind the frets or the tone as they eagerly passed the Mini around to try it.
It was immediately apparent that the Loog was a comfortable fit for the kids. They naturally played the Mini in a conventional position, rather than flat on their laps, as they do with the full-size guitars around the house. And they seemed to get greater satisfaction from playing the Loog than their plastic soprano ukuleles.
Loog has a free app that includes a tuner, video lessons/games, chord diagrams, and metronome. I downloaded it on my iPhone and let the kids play around with it. They found the animated tuner easy to use—it says Perfect! and emits a G–B–E chime when a string is at pitch—but didn’t quite take to the video instruction. Using the first few notes in a game designed to teach “Happy Birthday,” my daughter set down the phone and happily figured out the rest of the song on her own. (Admittedly, that could be because she lives in a musical house and has very restricted screen time.)
The Mini comes with a set of flash chords (also available separately) that depict how chord shapes on the Loog relate to larger forms on the six-string guitar. It was fun to reinforce this concept using one of my guitars to demonstrate chords while the kids took turns forming the corresponding shapes on the Loog—not something I’d have been able to do as easily if they were playing the ukulele, as that instrument is tuned a fourth higher than the guitar, presenting transposing issues.
I left the little guitar on the living-room couch for a few days and noticed the kids wandering over to play it far more often than their ukes. They took clear pleasure in figuring out their favorite melodies on the instrument and also learning new chord shapes. While not perfectly executed, the Loog Mini definitely succeeds as a fun and inexpensive first guitar for younger children—a great gateway to the standard six-string guitar.