Guitars

Loog Third Man Electric Guitar

Like nearly every musical parent, I have a powerful desire to pass my love and knowledge of music on to my progeny. Doing this successfully can be a complex, pitfall-laden endeavor, though, requiring a lot of light treading, gentle nudging, and subtle encouragement, lest you become the kind of overbearing jerk that forces piano lessons on a disinterested kid for years on end, potentially squashing any innate love they may have once had for music. You really don't want to be that guy.

My favorite method for instilling a love of music in kids without turning them off is to simply expose them to music of all kinds, and try to positively encourage whatever developing tastes they may have. Similarly, if you want them to have an interest in actually playing and creating music, make sure they have ready access to musical instruments, and try to be their guide and jam buddy as they experiment with sounds and follow their curiosity.

This last part can be especially challenging with littler kids like my own, however, as adult instruments don't often fit them and a lot of child-sized instruments are little more than toys. For instance, my daughter has always been interested in my guitars, but as a kindergartner she's barely big enough to hold one on her lap, much less navigate the neck. Her sixth birthday was coming up, though, I really wanted to find a real, playable guitar to fit her. I was considering a lot of less-than-ideal options when my relentless googling led me to what appeared to be the perfect solution: the Loog guitar.

The Loog is a small, simple instrument explicitly designed as an ideal entry point for younger kids interested in playing guitar. It has three strings (basically the D, G, and B strings of a regular six-string) to minimize the intimidation factor while also allowing kids to form one-finger chords and play real songs, and it features a short, skinny neck and a small body. Loog guitars are available in acoustic or electric versions, with the electric model featuring a single lipstick pickup, a volume control, an alder body, a maple neck with an 18-fret rosewood fretboard, a bone nut, and a height-adjustable rosewood bridge. For my daughter I chose an electric model (I'll get her a kiddie pedalboard next year), the Loog Little Third Man. It's a special edition instrument designed in collaboration with Jack White's Third Man Records, and is basically a regular Loog electric with a hip vinyl record pickguard, a matte finish, and a special Third Man logo neckplate.

One of the cooler elements of the Loog experience is that the guitar arrives disassembled, the intent being that the little shredder and their parent build it together, creating a unique bond with the instrument (and hopefully, with each other). The whole assembly process took my kid and me about 15 or 20 minutes. All that is necessary is mounting the tuners, neck, strap buttons, and bridge, and stringing it up with the provided D'Addarios. All holes are pre-drilled, so the only tool necessary is a Phillips-head screwdriver. I've slapped together a whole mess of Frankenstein guitars over the years, so assembling my daughter's Loog was a piece of cake. I let her do as much of the work as possible, just finishing up the tightening of screws myself and providing guidance when necessary. She had fun, and it was a good opportunity for me to explain what all the parts of a guitar are called and what they do. The guitar was assembled without a hitch, and everything fit together much easier than I expected.

By the time we had it all together, strung up, and tuned, my daughter's attention span for guitars was temporarily exhausted, so we decided to let the strings settle and come back to it the next day. For our first "lesson" we basically just jammed and explored the Loog's noise making possibilities. It held its tuning reliably and the electronic bits did their job well. I tuned it D-G-B as recommended, playing along with the kid on my own guitar, and we worked on some basic strumming patterns while the little drumming monkey on Loog's free smartphone app kept time for us. Seeing her eyes light up as it dawned on her, "Hey, I'm really playing guitar with dad!" was pretty cool—she was clearly pleased with herself. The small size and bare-bones simplicity of the Loog negated any feelings of intimidation she might have had, and kept the fun vibes flowing from beginning to end (although she did ask me rather pointedly why my guitar had a whammy bar and hers did not). It was certainly the best first guitar lesson I've ever been to.

Loog helped me fulfill my need for a well made and very playable kid-friendly electric guitar, and I'm sure my kids and I will continue to use it for years to come. From a grown-up guitarist's perspective, though, there is some room for improvement. The primary issue for me is that the intonation isn't great. It's good enough for now and will get better once I file the nuts slots down a little, but it seems like an improved bridge design could work wonders in this area (Loog actually does have a new bridge in the works for the new "Loog Pro" line). Things did sound notably sweeter when I dropped the tuning from D-G-B down to A-E-A to allow for one-finger power chords (perfect for a Helmet tribute band comprised entirely of kindergartners). Besides the intonation issue, I also found the fret ends to be a little sharp, but not enough to affect playability. Overall, our Loog was solidly constructed and everything functioned as expected.

What we like:

The Loog guitar is an ideal first electric for young kids. Building it is a fun and easy kid-and-parent project, and its endearingly primitive design and small size maximizes fun for the kiddos while eliminating a lot of the frustration and intimidation inherent in learning an instrument for the first time. The parts are all of good quality, tuning stability is solid, and the electronics work well and sound good. It's fun enough that you'll probably want one for yourself.

Concerns:

Intonation is the primary bummer. An improved bridge design along with a better factory nut job would improve this situation drastically, but as-is it is acceptable for tiny rockers just starting out.

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