The Yamaha CGS102A is a popular 1/2 size beginner guitar for kids, probably the top-selling one in the category. For some reason, there aren’t that many 1/2 size classical guitars available. There is a lot of small-sized, tinny-sounding playthings that go by the name of nylon-string guitar but they are very difficult to take seriously.
Coming from a reputed company, the CGS102A is certainly not a toy. It is a good guitar from a big name. But how good is it for a beginner, really?
For all its small size and inexpensive price, the 102A holds up solidly well in terms of build, playability and overall sound for a young student. It is a proper guitar, not a uke or less.
I must mention that there is another model from Yamaha which is very close in name, the CG102 (note the missing ’S’ and also the missing final ‘A’.) It can be a source of confusion. The CG102 is a full size guitar whereas the CGS102A is a half-size guitar primarily meant for kids and it’s the one we are discussing.
Check out Yamaha CGS102A at Sweetwater.
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Yamaha CGS102A: 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 CGS102AA in the 6-8 year old kids bracket. Keep a few things in mind, though.
One, among manufacturers, the size dimensions are not standardized. One maker’s 1/2 size does not have the same physical dimensions as another maker’s. But, as we’ll shortly see, the CGS102A’s dimensions are pretty much ideal for 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 1/2 size guitar comfortable to play, so the Yamaha CGS102A is not meant for kids alone.
And four, if you are an adult traveler or backpacker, leaving your full size guitar at home and carrying a compact, inexpensive 1/2 size guitar instead makes a lot of sense!
Yamaha CGS102A: 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 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 instructive to compare the dimensions of a couple of other 1/2 size guitars – these ones are from Cordoba, also a popular and trusted brand.
Key dimensions of some popular 1/2 classical guitars
|Total length||Body length||Scale length||Nut width||Body depth|
|Cordoba C1M 1/2 size||35.25”|
|Cordoba Requinto 1/2 (Iberia Series)||35.5”|
|Cordoba Mini II MH||34 3/8”|
It’s easy to see the Yamaha has the shorter scale length. Yamaha believes its popular CGS102AII’s 21″ scale length provides a “comfortable platform and easy finger stretch for the entrant learner.”
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, those 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 CGS102A
In addition to the size dimensions, there are other factors that influence playability. The 102A is a proper classical guitar and so has 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 has been famous for producing solid, good sounding guitars for decades now.
Although the overall size is small, the CGS102A has a traditionally contoured body, making it comfortable when a kid moves up in time to a full-size instrument. The 21” 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 to an audience.
The overall specifications of the Yamaha CGS102A at a glance are good.
- Body depth: 3.15″“3.3″
- Scale length: 21″
- Fingerboard width (Nut/Body): 1.9″
- Top: Spruce
- Back: Meranti
- Sides: Meranti
- Neck: Nato
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Bridge: Rosewood
As noted, this is a real guitar, not a tinny-sounding toy. It sounds quite good and full for a beginner guitar. Because it is well made, it is 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 CGS102A
Some commenters have said that they were disappointed that fret markers were missing on the CGS102A. Fret markers are little, permanent dots on top of the fretboard that serve as visual aids to indicate key frets like 5, 7, 9, etc. This is a standard feature on acoustic and electric guitars, but the thing to note is that classical guitars as a category don’t come with fret markers except for one little dot on the 12th fret. The CGS102A just follows the usual classical guitar convention, so don’t take it personally!
You can always get fretboard marker stickers separately or rustle up a suitable homemade solution if your kid really needs help. It’s not a big deal.
Others have noted, with similar disappointment, that it doesn’t come with a strap. Again, 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 the 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 CGS102A for your child. It may not be among the cheapest classical guitars available but it isn’t very expensive either for the quality it offers.
Overall, It’s difficult not to praise an excellent beginner guitar such as this. For a serious young student wanting to build their skill, it’s pretty close to an ideal choice. It’s a top-selling Yamaha model for that very reason. For maintenance tips of a new guitar, read my article Cleaning and Polishing Your Classical Guitar.
To know about 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.