My 6 year old daughter’s big Christmas gift this year was a Loog guitar. Before ordering it, I had considered whether or not to buy one for months. For one thing, I had a hard time finding actual guitarists reviewing the Loog as a guitar. All the reviews were positive, but lacked depth. After a week with the Loog, I figure I may be able to help others in similar situations. In short, I have some complaints and cautionary notes, but in general I love this little guitar. My daughter’s having a blast with it so far, and so am I.
My daughter already had a toy guitar, and it was terrible. It was an acoustic with six steel strings a mile off the fretboard that were impossible to tune. It was exactly like all the toy guitars you’ll see in the toy aisle, and these exist solely so that little kids can strum out-of-tune open chords, pretending to be rock stars while annoying everyone within earshot. This is no way to introduce anyone to actual guitar playing.
The promise of the Loog is that it was designed to be a real guitar that kids can actually make music with. Not a “toy guitar”, but a “guitar for kids”. It has only three strings on a short, thin neck perfect for small hands. It uses classical guitar strings, which is a great choice: classical strings require a lighter touch to play and are easier on callus-free fingers. Additionally, once you stretch them out—and you do really have to stretch them out—they stay in tune really well. It takes more turns of the tuning peg to change the pitch, which means it’s much harder to knock them out of tune on accident.
There are three choices of body styles. We picked the II, a funky shape that reminds me of a mini acoustic version of a Carvin V220 or an Ernie Ball Albert Lee model. It’s the perfect size for a kid. Here’s my daughter trying it on for the first time here after opening it on Christmas morning (hence the PJs):
The Loog comes unassembled. The company recommends that you and your kid assemble the guitar together as a fun learning and bonding experience. I opted not to take this heart-warming advice, however, and I’m glad I didn’t. Our Loog actually required quite a bit of work to get into good playing shape.
My first impression was very positive: the guitar comes in a cool little cardboard box that can serve as a simple case for the assembled guitar. The wood and the hardware are solid. The assembly itself is not hard and the instructions are clear. However, upon stringing up the guitar, I was not pleased with the action (the height of the strings off the fretboard). You can see here that the neck angle is off:
I actually emailed the company and asked for advice. The response was fast and polite. Fortunately, because the Loog is a bolt-on neck guitar, a simple neck shim can do wonders. The person at Loog recommended a washer, but even the thinnest of washers I found were too extreme. Instead, I cut up a few pieces of card-stock paper (in my case, old D’Addario string wrappers) and placed them in the neck pocket:
I’ve played bolt-on neck guitars my entire life but had never had to do this before. I was a little disappointed about it — it was a brand new guitar after all — but the truth is that this worked perfectly. The neck still fits tightly in the pocket and the action is much improved:
In addition to the shim, I filed down the nut quite a bit and also filed some grooves into the bridge to further lower the action and stabilize the strings. The nut in particular helped a lot. I bought a set of nut files years ago and they’ve proven to be very useful. Off the shelf, guitars almost always have their nuts cut too high. The string only needs to come out of the nut high enough to pass over the frets — look at what happens when you play a note on one of the frets! — and having the nut cut properly makes a huge difference in how easy it is to press down on the strings.
So it didn’t surprise me filing the nut was worth doing on the Loog, but obviously most people are not going to do this. And most people are probably not going to shim the neck either. They’ll just put together their Loog following the simple instructions in the box and then tolerate whatever level of playability they end up with. The guy at Loog who responded to my email about the action made it sound like the high action was only a problem on some guitars. The sticker inside our Loog says “Batch #1” so hopefully there is just more variation in these early batches that they’ll take care of in the future.
The good news, however, is that the Loog plays pretty great now. I just think they over-sell the ease of building it yourself. The Loog is $150, and like I said, they use quality parts. It’s worth it. But it’s probably also worth it to take it to a local guitar tech and have them adjust the neck, and the nut and bridge saddles for you if you’re not comfortable doing these things yourself. And hopefully Loog will improve the out-of-the-box experience by improving the angle of the neck joint and filing the nut lower from the start.
I do have a few other nits to pick: intonation, for example. We have ours tuned to Open A tuning (A-E-A), which is what they recommend. Getting the two A strings to stay in tune with each other all the way up and down the neck is not possible (i.e. tune them at the 3rd fret and they’re slightly out of tune at the 9th). This isn’t a huge deal: it certainly won’t bother my daughter at this point, but as I said, I wanted to review the Loog as a real guitar. It’s the first string that has the problem, so maybe a slanted bridge would help?
Ok, that concludes the negative portion of this review. Now I get to gush:
Open A tuning is perfect for this guitar. Basically it means you can play an A “power chord” by just strumming all three open strings. To play a C? Just press down all 3 strings on the 3rd fret. Basically I told my daughter to start by playing around with the frets that have the dots and, sure enough, things always sound in tune that way.
And that’s the best part about this guitar: she can just play around with it and actually make music. We’re working on really simple stuff at this point, obviously, but with the old toy guitar we never made any progress at all. The Loog is solid, stays in tune, and is easy enough to play that my 6-year-old can just pick it up and play actual chords. Here’s her first song with the Loog, a tribute to one of her other Christmas presents:
I’ve played the guitar my entire life, and obviously I would love it if my daughter falls in love with the instrument like I did. This may or may not happen and I don’t want to be one of those parents that pressures her either way. However, at least with the Loog I feel that if she likes playing the Loog, she’ll like playing the guitar. This simply isn’t true of the other kid’s guitars I’ve seen that really don’t give a kid-friendly version of the guitar playing experience. This thing does.