The Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
- Bass has less depth compared to dreadnoughts
- Lacks treble zing
- Great value acoustic guitar
- Solid spruce top with traditional X bracing
- Great response, sustain and projection
- Beginner friendly size and neck shape
Yamaha continues to be the brand to beat when it comes to student-friendly instruments, so it's only proper that we feature their best-rated beginner acoustic guitar - the Yamaha FS800.
This concert body acoustic comes from their popular FG/FS series, and for the price, it comes with nice features that include a solid spruce top and traditional scalloped X-bracing support. This makes the top vibrate better, which results in good response, sustain, and projection.
Having a smaller concert body makes the FS800 more comfortable for younger players. It also has a slightly shorter scale length that lessens string tension for easier playability. This comfortable playing feel, together with its nice specs and affordability, makes the FS800 a great choice for beginners.
The smaller profile and shorter scale affect the sound a bit, bumping up the mids without overwhelming other frequencies. This gives it a balanced tone that lets you hear every note more clearly. This is a type of tone that will sound better as you get more experience and learn about tone complexities. On the flip side, it has less of the boominess and treble crispness that you get from dreadnoughts.
Build quality is better than what you'd normally expect in this price range. The body feels solid and does not fall short of Yamaha's expected quality standards. The neck doesn't feel cheap. It feels smooth and comfortable to play.
When it comes to student-friendly instruments, it's hard to go wrong with Yamaha, especially if you're going with their top-rated student-friendly acoustic guitar. When it comes to specs, the FS800 guitar is hard to beat - and specs is a good argument for it being the best acoustic guitar for beginners.
- String Type: Steel
- Body Shape: Concert
- Top: Solid Spruce
- Body: Nato/Okume
- Number of Frets: 20
- Scale Length: 25"
- Nut Width: 1.69"
|Acoustic Life||Tony Polecastro||94/100|
- Sustain is lacking
- Non-traditional voicing
- Solid Okoume top
- Warm mid to upper-mid focused tone
- Musical sounding harmonic overtones
- Student friendly playability
The Ibanez Artwood AW54 is a dreadnought with Ibanez's brand of playability and value for money. It has a neck that's around 0.83" thin, topped with an ovangkol fingerboard with a 15.75" flat radius, both of which result in a comfortable neck profile that is easy on the fretting hand.
The AW54 sports a solid top crafted from renewable wood called Okoume, which lets you enjoy the vibrancy of a solid top acoustic at a very accessible price point. Okoume's warm response is similar to mahogany but with a bit more top-end.
The tone of this guitar is focused on the mids to upper-mids range with lots of nice harmonic overtones.
Being a dreadnought, it has good low and high-end response. But it has a warmer voice because of its Okoume tonewood. It lacks sustain, although not by much.
Build quality is top-notch. All the details are done well, including neck, fretwork, finish, and body bindings.
All in all, the Ibanez AW54 is a great instrument to learn guitar on, it is the best acoustic guitar for beginners who are into folk, ballads, and other musical styles that utilize warmer tones.
- String Type: Steel String
- Body Shape: Dreadnought
- Top: Solid Okoume
- Body: Okoume back & sides
- Number of Frets: 20
- Scale Length: 25.6299"
- Nut Width: 1.69"
Best Beginner Guitars - Acoustic-Electric Guitars
- Too big for younger players
- Lacks low-end
- Plastic nut and saddle
- Budget-friendly solid spruce top
- Good projection and top-end clarity
- Good build quality
- Student-friendly playability
The FGX800C is another excellent example of Yamaha's student-friendly instruments.
While it is priced slightly above the $300 mark, it is still a good value starter guitar. For the price, you're getting a Yamaha quality pickup-equipped solid top guitar.
The response of the solid spruce top will get better as the wood 'opens up') with age. It has scalloped bracings, which lets the top resonate better without compromising structural integrity.
It has a dreadnought-cutaway body, with easier access to higher frets. Tone is as good as you'd expect of a good solid top dreadnought. It has loud projection, full-sounding lows, and crisp highs. Chords ring well and sustain nicely, and it will sound better as the solid top ages.
There is an over-emphasis on attack, which can result in a scratchy tone. Being a full-size dreadnought, it is quite big for kids.
It has built-in electronics that make it viable for stage use. This makes it great for recitals and for other performances. Its nato neck and fretboard also follow conventional specs for familiar playability, built to Yamaha's high-quality standards.
The Yamaha FGX800C is a quality guitar that can grow with you as you develop your playing and start performing on stage.
- String Type: Steel String
- Body Shape: Dreadnought with Cutaway
- Top: Solid Spruce
- Body: Nato/Okoume back & sides
- Number of Frets: 20
- Scale Length: 25.5"
- Nut Width: 1.675"
- Electronics: Yamaha System 66 Electronics
|YouTube||The Underemployed Guitar Guys||94/100|
- Not as full sounding as bigger acoustics
- Built-in preamp had issues after 3 years
- No solid wood on the top or body
- Student-friendly playability
- Vintage style square tapered slotted headstock
- Mid-focused voicing great for blues
- Reliable tuning and intonation
- Proven beginner-friendly durability
I was initially drawn to the GY11ME's square tapered slotted headstock, which matches its "New Yorker" parlor-style body nicely. But after finding out that it doesn't have a solid top, I was initially hesitant.
What made me ultimately decide to take it home was its easy playability. The mahogany neck has a flat fretboard radius, short scale length, and narrow nut width. It was very easy to play, even for my son, who is used to playing a short-scale nylon string guitar.
Getting GY11ME made perfect sense. My son gets a student-friendly acoustic-electric, and I can finally get a nice-looking parlor guitar as a beater instrument at home.
My son transitioned into steel string smoothly, thanks to the GY11ME. We both ended up loving it. Fast forward to today, the GY11ME is still our go-to practice guitar at home. It survived hours and hours of practice and has also seen plenty of stage action in church services, school events, and gigs.
Here is my GY11ME after the pickup system was replaced; the original preamp is still intact but no longer used.
Because of its mahogany construction and parlor-style body, the GY11ME has a warmer tone. And it fits nicely with old-school musical styles like blues, gospel, rock, and the like.
It doesn't have the fullness and clear sound of bigger acoustics. But it is compatible with the type of songs that younger students prefer. It would've been nicer if the top was solid mahogany, but it probably would probably be more expensive.
It comes with a TP-4T pickup and preamp system, which has a 3-band EQ, gain, and a tuner. But it went bad after around 3 years of use, so I ended up replacing it with a Fishman Sonitone pickup. My luthier explained that this is a common problem with preamps that have a tuner button. The button can sometimes go bad and mute the preamp intermittently or totally cut the audio off.
All in all, the GY11ME is the proverbial stone that can hit two birds: easy playability that's great for beginners, plus old school vibe that even an experienced guitar player will appreciate. Even after many years of use, my expert review of the Takamine GY11ME is still very much positive.
Note: There is a new version of the GY11ME with Takamine's regular headstock and slightly different specs. You can only get slotted headstock versions like mine in the second-hand market.
- String Type: Steel String
- Body Shape: New Yorker Parlor
- Top: Mahogany
- Body: Mahogany back & sides
- Number of Frets: 21
- Scale Length: 24.8"
- Nut Width: 1.67"
- Electronics: Takamine TP-4T
Best Guitars for Beginners - Classical / Nylon String Guitars
Yamaha C40 MkII
- No solid wood component
- Not for non-classical players
- Most popular beginner classical guitar
- Time-tested build quality and reliability
- Good clarity and balanced sound
- Student-friendly playability
The Yamaha C40 MkII is a nylon-string guitar that's widely used by beginner and classical guitar students.
Compared to steel strings, nylon strings are significantly easier to fret, making this guitar ideal for new players. However, it has a wide nut width following traditional classical guitar specs. This may be a bit too wide for those who are used to slim profile neck acoustics.
It has to be said that nylon strings are also dramatically different, which can be good or bad depending on the preference of the one who will use the guitar. I got the C40 for my classical guitar lessons, and for that purpose, it has served me really well. It has good clarity, which is important for learning different techniques, and has balanced bass and treble.
On the other hand, the C40 is not a good fit for playing modern songs, let alone rock songs. While it can technically be used to play non-classical songs, they will end up sounding different, so carefully consider your preferred style of music before getting this guitar.
The Yamaha C40 is not overly impressive on paper, with no solid top and no premium cosmetics. But it easily trumps others with its legacy and longevity. There are simply so many guitar players who started/studied guitar on the C40. I, for one, can still play my over two decades old Yamaha C40, which still looks and plays good, albeit a bit battered because of use. When I was taking classical guitar lessons, I used to carry it all over the city where I live, and I never had any serious issues with it.
Many teachers, myself included, ranks this as one of the best guitar for beginners - outranking popular beginner electric guitars.
If you're aiming for traditional classical guitar tone and playability at a modest price, then this is the best beginner guitar for you.
- String Type: Nylon String
- Body Shape: Classical - a little smaller than a Grand Orchestra
- Top: Laminated Spruce
- Body: Meranti back & sides
- Number of Frets: 18 - 12 open
- Scale Length: 29.5625"
- Nut Width: 2.0625"
|YouTube||5 Minute Music||95/100|
- Slightly modified body
- Solid Red Cedar Top
- Good projection and bass/treble definition
- Bone nut and saddle
- Quality craftsmanship and hardware
Cordoba's fast rise in the nylon string guitar market is undeniable. And it's all thanks to their combination of good quality build, modern production, and affordable price tags.
A case in point is the Cordoba C5, an accessibly priced classical guitar with good specs, including a solid red cedar top supported by traditional Spanish fan bracing.
The Cordoba C5 has a slightly modified body. It has a smaller soundhole and a slightly bigger body, both of which help improve the guitar's clarity and projection. These subtle differences also make it viable for other styles of music, like bossa nova and flamenco. While these small changes may not appeal to those who are into strictly traditional classical guitar design, the C5's tone is still as classical as it gets - with more bass and treble definition. I can hear note separation clearly, which makes this a great instrument to learn on.
For the price, the C5 comes with bone for the nut and saddles, which is another step up compared to its entry-level counterparts. This ups the sustain and resonance of the guitar by a lot. Cordoba is also known for good workmanship and aesthetics, hence the use of eye candies that include Indian rosewood binding, gold tuners with pearl buttons, and detailed wood rosette inlay.
It may not be entry-level cheap, but all these features add up to make the Cordoba C5 a great value nylon string guitar. More importantly, these upgraded specs translate well in real-world playing, with a tone that works well with various Spanish music styles.
This reasonably priced nylon string guitar is a great student-friendly instrument that is more than capable of appeasing even advanced players.
- String Type: Nylon String
- Body Shape: Classical
- Top: Solid Cedar
- Body: Laminated Mahogany
- Number of Frets: 19
- Scale Length: 25.6"
- Nut Width: 2"
|This is Classical Guitar||Bradford Werner||96/100|
|YouTube||Florentin Tise Plus||94/100|
Things to Consider When Buying a Beginner Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic guitars, like all musical instruments, are meant to bring out the musician's distinct style. This is the reason why there really is no one guitar to fit everyone perfectly. Rather, there are many different guitar designs to cater to personal playing styles and expressions.
People will usually gravitate towards beginner guitars that are similar to what their favorite musicians use. So the safest choice is to start out on an instrument that looks and sounds familiar. But this is not a strict rule because some experts will advise beginners to learn non-familiar instruments like a nylon string guitar to expand their sonic and playing palette right at the start.
Playability is a very important factor to consider when getting beginner acoustic guitars. Below are the main factors that make a guitar easy or hard to play.
Action is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. If it's too high (above the fretboard), the strings are hard to press down. If it's too low (close to the fretboard), the strings will buzz when you play them. So guitar manufacturers aim to set it at just the right height.
Generally, the thickest string on a guitar should be 3/32 inches away from the fretboard, and the thinnest string should be 1/16 inches away at the nut (the part of the guitar closest to the tuning pegs). The height of the strings at the twelfth fret (which is in the middle of the neck) should be roughly double the height they are at the nut. As long as the string height is somewhat close to the measurements above, you shouldn't have too many issues. If it's significantly higher (like ¼"), you're either going to want to get a set-up or buy a different guitar.
As previously mentioned, a guitar's nut is what the strings pass through before the fretboard starts. It's on the end closest to the tuning pegs and has six grooves for the strings to sit in.
Nuts come in different widths. Guitars with wider nuts have the strings spaced farther apart, and the opposite is true for guitars with thinner nuts. The two most common nut widths are 1.69" and 1.75". Younger musicians, or those of you with smaller hands, may prefer something even thinner (though they won't necessarily need it!). Note that classical guitars usually have a wider nut width of about 2".
There are two main types of acoustic guitars: steel string and nylon string. Steel strings, which are steel-plated with a bronze alloy, are harder to press down. Younger children (generally under 7) often find it difficult to push these strings down. This is the most familiar configuration and is widely used in a majority of music styles.
Nylon strings are obviously made from nylon, a material that gives them a different sound and makes them significantly easier to push down than steel strings. This is the most common choice for students who want to learn classical guitar music but is in no way limited to that, especially popular artists like Jason Mraz using them. Younger players find these strings much easier to press down.
Acoustic guitars come in a variety of body shapes and sizes, and the general idea is that bigger-bodied guitars have more volume and bottom end, making them sound fuller. Smaller-bodied guitars lack low end, which emphasizes the mid and high frequencies, which works great with fingerstyle playing and other similar styles. Big-bodied guitars like the dreadnought can be too big for smaller players, so guitars with compact bodies will be ideal. The type of finish on the body and neck also impacts playing feel and comfort. Personally, I prefer satin finish, but it's not very good at protecting the wood. Speaking of protection, the body style and size of your guitar will also dictate the gig bag or guitar case you'll need.
Here we've ordered the most commonly found body styles in order of biggest to smallest:
- Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought
- Grand Orchestra
Most of the guitars featured here have 1.69" nut width, which is a standard specification used by many guitar manufacturers and is known to be good enough even for young players. Still, we have to mention that at 1.67", the Takamine GY11ME has the narrowest nut width in this list, although it only wins by a tiny fraction.
Guitars with narrow nut widths and flat fingerboard radius are easier for those with short fingers. 3/4 size guitars and parlor guitars usually fall into this category, but not always. Classical guitars (and nylon string guitars in general) usually have wide nut widths at around 2", which may make fretting some chords harder for those with short fingers. But this does not mean that classical guitars are impossible because while it may be hard at first, the wider string spacing opens up the fretting hand better, improving stretching ability and strength. This is the reason why I've taught many young guitarists on classical guitars, and other guitar teachers do the same.
The simple addition of a compact piezo pickup and preamp system can turn your acoustic guitar into a stage-ready instrument. And this added function makes them the best deals to get for serious students of the instrument.
These days, there are many beginner acoustics that come with pickups right out of the box. This is the reason why we added a section that features the best beginner acoustic-electric guitars, so you can take your starter guitar with you on stage. Acoustic-electric guitars are highly recommended for fast learners and serious guitar students, so they won't have to buy another guitar for their performances when amplification is needed.
Big-name brands are aware of this and have been offering student-friendly guitars with built-in pickups, like the Martin LX1E.
The first month of guitar playing is going to be the hardest. The reason for this is that when you start playing, you don't have any calluses, so playing your guitar for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a stretch is going to hurt the tips of your fingers. Though if you stick with it, by the time you've been playing for three or four months, you'll have a few good calluses built up.
Your main concern should be overplaying. We know it's tempting, especially when you first get your guitar, to play for long periods of time. However, if you do this before you've built up the proper musculature, you can actually cause permanent damage to your body. So when you're just starting, take a 15-minute break for every 30 minutes you play. You can extend these times when you've been playing for a longer period of time, though make an effort not to exceed two hours in one sitting.
Both have their merits. The electric guitar has thinner strings that make it easier on the fretting hand. It is ideal for learning bending, slides, hammer-on, and other intermediate to advanced-level techniques. On the other hand, an acoustic guitar is perfect for learning basics like strumming and plucking.
The main reason I normally recommend acoustic is its accessible price. Acoustic guitars are usually cheaper and do not require extra expense for an amp. This also makes it easier to just grab and play.
There are times when I do recommend electric guitar, like when a student has already learned the basics on a borrowed instrument or when he has a strong preference for electric guitar.
Everyone learns differently, so it's hard to suggest a one-size-fits-all approach to practicing the guitar. With that being said, the most important thing to remember is that learning the guitar is a process. No one is awesome at playing an instrument when they first start. In fact, most musicians struggle for a while before they really start learning. So even though it may be difficult, just keep working at it.
Also, if you're not going to invest in guitar lessons, most musicians have a pretty good experience with Hal Leonard books. The company also publishes books on different styles for more advanced musicians. There are also a ton of great YouTubers creating lessons. Literally, all you have to do to find them is type "Beginner Guitar Lessons" in YouTube's search bar, and you'll find what you need to get started.
We didn't want to include a lot of additional information which could be confusing for beginners and which isn't necessary for anyone just starting out. However, if you'd like to read more advanced information about things such as Tonewoods, Scale Lengths, or Acoustic-Electric Guitars, then please read Tips for Acoustic Guitar Buyers.
Things That Make Beginner Acoustic Guitars Easy (Or Hard) To Play
What is the Best Guitar for Short Fingers?
Buying Advice on Acoustic-Electric Guitars
What To Expect During Your First Few Weeks of Playing the Guitar
Which is better for beginners, Acoustic or Electric Guitar?
Tips on Practicing
Beginner Acoustic Guitar Selection Methodology
The first edition was published in 2017. The current edition was published on August 1, 2023.
All the Gearank.com staff and this guide's author play acoustic guitar, so between us, we decided that the main criterion for our selection of the best beginner acoustic guitars is that they should be relatively easier to play. With that in mind, we created a list of good guitars for beginners. Featuring guitar candidates that had suitable nut widths, scale lengths, body types, and string types, which we know from experience will make learning to play as painless and enjoyable as possible. A good beginner guitar can help beginners get through the first few weeks of learning and practice.
For this 2023 edition, there are three main sections that feature regular acoustic guitars, classical guitars, and acoustic-electric guitars. We've also increased the price range to $500 to account for market price changes. This still limits the list to budget-friendly options, but if you have extra dough, you can go for beginner acoustic guitars from premium brands like the Taylor Academy 10, Martin D Jr-10, and the like.
As always, only those that are available from major online music gear retailers in the USA are included. If you'd like to know how the Gearank scores out of 100 were calculated, then please read How Gearank Works.
About the Author and Contributors
Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.
Lead Author & Researcher
I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.
My first acoustic guitar was a cheap Ovation knock-off that had ridiculously high unplayable action. It was not until a few years later when I was given a Yamaha C40 that I actually started enjoying playing. After having gone through this frustration, I've made it my personal mission to prevent other students from suffering the same fate.
Main/Top Image: based on a stock photograph in the public domain.
The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.
Image Credit: The individual product images were sourced from their respective manufacturers' websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation.