If we can learn anything from the plethora of pint-sized guitar heroes dominating YouTube's servers, when it comes to guitar playing, it's best to start 'em young. And early learning guitarists are precisely the target market for Gear4music's 3/4 Electric-ST guitar, which, as you might have guessed, is a three-quarter-sized version of the company's ever-popular Electric-ST.
The smaller size doesn't mean diminished quality, though. In terms of hardware, the 3/4 Electric-ST is exactly the same as its bigger brother: chrome die-cast tuners, six-point vintage vibrato system and three single-coil pickup configuration. It's a classic setup that harks back to one of the electric guitar's all-time great designs - but we're sure you can figure out which one for yourself.
The crucial difference between the 3/4 Electric-ST and the full-sized Electric-ST lies in the guitar's scale length: 578mm (22.76 inches) compared with its bigger brother's 648mm (25.51 inches). The number of frets remains the same, though, at a cool 22, while the maple neck bolted on to the basswood body feels robust and reassuringly sturdy.
The neck's unfinished wood won't be to everyone's taste, nor will its weight, which is heavier than that of the body. That said, it's very playable, despite having so many frets crammed into a smaller space; solos up at the higher end of the neck might lead to fretting trouble for us fat-fingered adults, but younger players are unlikely to have such difficulties.
Aside from a rogue untightened vibrato screw and a slightly offset 19th-fret dot inlay, the 3/4 Electric-ST is impressively built, especially given its price. There are, however, a few issues with tuning stability - which can be rectified by tightening the vibrato system's spring tension - so it's probably best to avoid overdoing the divebombs, as tempting as they are.
The guitar's action may need some attention, too: it's slightly higher than a younger player might want, although it does result in minimal fret buzz. Still, after a few bridge and saddle adjustments, your woodshredder-in-training will begin their journey to understanding the basics of guitar setup, which is no bad thing.
Fortunately, no such tweaking is required with the well-fitted frets, which are sure to make learning the basics of bends, slides and hammer-ons a pleasant and satisfying experience.
The guitar's tones, too, will encourage continued study of the electric guitar. The pickups sound fantastic and live up to the ST model name. This has all the spank and sparkle that you could want from a first guitar, and those pups punch way above their weight for the price.
The tried-and-tested five-way pickup selector switch affords great tonal variation. When combined with the two tone controls it allows you to play convincingly just about any genre of music short of brutal metal.
With clean tones, the neck pickup is smooth and makes for a great contrast to the piercing bridge unit. Distorted, they bring the goods, too: Tom Morello grooves at the neck and Simon Neil down-tuned riffage at the bridge. But it's the three middle positions that impress most, yielding the in-between quack that can only come from an ST-style axe - Hendrix and Knopfler tones abound.
With a proper setup, this is an impressive beginner's guitar for the money - it features the same hardware as the full-sized Electric-ST and comes with a free guitar cable and strap. Plus, by saving the pennies now, you can put the extra cash towards an upgrade when your mini Hendrix outgrows their current axe.
There may be compromises in terms of space on both the fretboard and the hardware-loaded pickguard, but for the player at which this guitar is aimed that will be no problem, especially when these tones get them well on their way to guitar stardom.