Perfect For Older Kids: Yamaha 3/4 size classical guitar

Here’s a full review of Yamaha’s 3/4 size classical guitar: Yamaha CGS103A II model. If you have an older kid above 8 years of age, this is the perfect beginner’s guitar. Elementary school kids up to the 6th grade will find the Yamaha CGS103A easy to learn because the size is a comfortable one. For that matter, if you are an adult with small hands, this can be a great guitar for you too.

At the beginner level especially, Yamaha is famous for its well built, great-sounding, budget-priced classical guitars. Their School Series – called the CGS line of classical guitars – has full size, half-size and three-quarter size variations for child learners. They all feature the same good quality tonewoods, a robust build and an affordable price.

Yamaha has been making them for over half a century so their consistency of quality and the overall value for money is near legendary.

Check out Yamaha CGS103A at Sweetwater.

Check out Yamaha CGS103A at Amazon.

Yamaha CGS103A: How old is your child?

When it comes to classical guitar sizes, the general guide is as follows:

  • 1/4-Size – 4-6 years old
  • 1/2-Size – 6-8 years old
  • 3/4-Size – 8-11 years old
  • 7/8-Size or 4/4-Size – 11 years-Adult

That places the Yamaha CGS103A in the 8-11 year olds bracket. Keep a few things in mind, though.

One, among manufacturers, the size dimensions are not standardized. One maker’s 3/4 size does not have the same physical dimensions as another maker’s. But, as we’ll shortly see, the CGS103A’s dimensions are pretty much ideal for older kids.

Two, the actual choice of a guitar size for your kid will have more to do with how tall or short the kid is rather than age alone. Bear this in mind and ask your child’s tutor when in doubt.

Three, adults who are around 5’ 3” or less may find a 3/4 size guitar comfortable to play and more to their liking, so the Yamaha CGS103A is not meant for kids alone.

An excellent beginner guitar for older kids

With a scale length of nearly 23″ and a body depth of about 4″, the CGS103A serves as a great transitional instrument for players before they step up to a full-sized instrument. The Yamaha CGS103A has a wonderful spruce-influenced tone, with an easily manageable size for kids.

Yamaha CGS103A 3/4-size Classical Acoustic Guitar features:

  • Top: Spruce
  • Back & Sides: Nato
  • Neck: Nato
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Overall length: 920 mm 36 1/4”
  • Body length: 450 mm 17 11/16”
  • Scale Length: 23″ 580 mm
  • Body Depth: 3 5/16-3 7/16“ (84-88 mm)
  • Nut Width: 1.9″ (48 mm)
  • Finish: Natural
  • Number of Frets: 18
  • Strings: Savarez D’angelico Light Tension

These dimensions are very comfortable to hold for an 8 year old. It does not need a strap. Nylon strings are soft and produce a great sound.

Yamaha CGS103A: The basic dimensions that matter

There are three numbers that matter when gauging smaller size classical guitars: overall length, scale length and nut width. These numbers are usually published on a retailer’s or a manufacturer’s site. Check them.

Overall length is what it says: end to end measurement of the vertical guitar. This matters when it comes to holding the instrument comfortably.

Scale length is the distance between the bridge (near the soundhole) to the ‘nut’ which is the white, vertical piece of plastic over which the strings pass to the headstock. Scale length has a direct bearing on the playability. For the small hands of a kid, the lesser the scale length the easier it is to play. The finger stretches will be easier between frets.

The vertical length of the nut is the nut width. Again, smaller the nut width the easier it is to move the left hand fingers across strings up and down.

It is good to compare the dimensions of a couple of other 3/4 size guitars – these ones are from Cordoba, also a popular and trusted brand.

Key dimensions of some popular 3/4 classical guitars

Total lengthBody lengthScale lengthNut widthBody depth
Yamaha CGS103A36 1/4”
920 mm
17 11/16”
450 mm
580 mm
48 mm
3 5/16-3 7/16“
84-88 mm
Cordoba C1M 3/4 size37 1/2”
953 mm
457 mm
615 mm
48 mm
3 1/8-3 1/3”
80-85 mm
Cordoba Cadete 3/4 (Iberia Series)37”
940 mm
457 mm
615 mm
48 mm
3 1/8-3 1/3”
80-85 mm

Clearly, the Yamaha has the shorter scale length as well as overall length. To see a detailed review of the Cordoba C1M 3/4 size model, check out my article Small Enough But Is It Good Enough?

For comparison, a full-size classical guitar (of most makes) has a 52mm nut width and 650 mm scale length. For small hands learning to play, these millimeter differences matter. Incidentally, if you wonder what all sizes and shapes a classical guitar comes in, read my article A Buyer’s Guide to Guitar Sizes.

Quality, sound and playability of the CGS103A

In addition to the size dimensions, there are other factors that influence playability. The 103A is a proper classical guitar and comes fitted with nylon strings. Unlike steel strings, nylon ones are softer on the fingertips and for this reason, it is an ideal instrument for introducing a kid to the guitar.

It is a well-made product from a reputed company. It is put together with a spruce top, meranti wood back and sides and a rosewood bridge and fingerboard. These are decent wood choices for an inexpensive product. And Yamaha is famous for producing solid, good sounding guitars for decades now.

Although the overall size is small, the CGS103A has a traditionally contoured body, making it comfortable when a kid eventually transitions to a full-size instrument. The 23” scale length makes it easy for finger stretches across the fretboard. Like with all Yamaha guitars, the craftsmanship and build quality are top notch. The finish is good and your child will love playing it.

The overall specifications of the Yamaha CGS103A are good. This is a real guitar, not a tinny-sounding toy. It is well made, easy to tune and holds its tuning well. This will not be the case with extremely cheap guitars and that can be frustrating.

Some things to keep in mind about the Yamaha CGS103A

Some people are disappointed that fret markers are missing on the CGS103A. Fret markers are little, permanent dots on top of the fretboard that serve as visual aids to indicate key frets 5, 7, 9, etc. This is a standard feature on acoustic and electric guitars, but classical guitars don’t come with fret markers except for one little dot on the 12th fret.

You can always get fretboard marker stickers or make a homemade solution if your kid really needs help. It’s not a big deal.

Also, the CGS103A doesn’t come with a strap. Classical guitars don’t come with a strap nor do they have a provision for fixing one. You don’t play it standing. You play it sitting and rest it on your lap. At least, such is the case with regular classical posture. If your child is learning acoustic guitar material (but using a nylon string guitar to safeguard the fingertips) then a music shop can always fix a strap for you.

Another feature of the classical guitar – it can be annoying, for sure – is it takes a couple of days for strings to settle and stay in tune. The constant tuning adjustments in the first few hours or days can get to a young player, but that comes with the territory of using nylon strings. They aren’t as quick to stabilize as steel strings.

As long as you are prepared for some minor inconveniences like these, you can’t get much better than a Yamaha CGS103A for your child. It is great value for the money.

To know more about other Yamaha models that make great choices as one improves one’s game, check out my Yamaha Range of Classical Guitars for some ideas.

Check out Yamaha CGS103A at Sweetwater.

Check out Yamaha CGS103A at Amazon.


Happy Yamah-ing!

Narayan Kumar

Narayan Kumar is a passionate classical guitarist and an online research buff. He is also one half of the online classical guitar duo DuJu who put out guitar duets regularly on their YouTube channel. Read more about Narayan.

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