The Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners - Expert Advice

Guide to Guitars for Beginners

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Having the right starting acoustic guitar to learn on makes for a great foundation for students to build their skills on. For this reason, beginners need a guitar that is fun and inviting to play, nice to look at and last but not the least, it has to sound good.

This is where we come in, a team of 4 guitarists utilizing both experience (decades worth of experience in both playing and teaching guitar) and up-to-date market data (up to September of 2020), to come up with a list of excellent beginner-friendly guitars.

Much like most of our guides, we feature only ones that you can readily buy within the mainland USA. Each one is listed with important information and specifications, along with summaries of pros & cons from actual users.

Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners

The Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners - Detailed Descriptions

Yamaha C40 MkII

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Yamaha C40II

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 note that it has a wide nut width following traditional specs, which maybe a bit too wide for those who are used to slim profile neck acoustics. Also note that the tone of nylon strings is also dramatically different, which can be good or bad depending on the preference of the one who will use the guitar.

While the Yamaha C40 is not overly impressive on paper with its basic specs and laminate spruce top, it trumps others with its legacy and longevity. There are simply so many guitar players who started / studied guitar on the C40, myself included.

Specifications

  • 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"
Editor's Note: I personally began learning guitar on a C40 (original version). The wider nut width of classical style guitars can make them easier to play for people with thick fingers because there is more space between the strings.

Pros
The cool thing about buying this guitar is that because it’s a nylon string instrument you probably won’t have to invest in a set-up. Because nylon strings are so much easier to play, and exert less force on the body, the odds are much lower that a beginner musician will need the guitar adjusted in order to play it easily. Tone is consistently praised, which is quite special considering this is an entry level guitar. Durability is also an important factor that helps keep the C40 relevant, I for one can still play my over two decades old Yamaha C40, and still looks and plays good, albeit a-bit battered because of use.

Cons
We would caution you that if the person playing this guitar doesn’t like classical music, and is at least 12 or older, you should get them a steel string guitar instead. A classical guitar sounds very different than a steel string guitar, and while the Yamaha C40 doesn’t sound bad it won’t give them the tone they’re going to want.

Overall
If you're aiming for traditional classical guitar tone and playability at a modest price then this is your best bet.

Fender CC-60S

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Fender CC-60S 6-String Acoustic Guitar

While the Fender brand is a long-time mainstay, the CC-60S is a relatively new model, but this hasn't prevented it from gaining a lot of traction in the market for its impressive specs and beginner friendly features.

It beats out most of the competition right off the bat with its solid spruce top, which is usually reserved for more expensive models. It's smaller concert size body also makes it a more comfortable instrument to learn on, compared to conventional dreadnought acoustics.

The neck of the guitar is also meant to be student friendly, with its walnut fingerboard that features rolled edges. And since this guitar is from Fender, you can be confident that they keep build quality to a reasonably good level - and this is reflected in the almost perfect ratings that it has been receiving from users across major retailers.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel
  • Body Shape: Concert
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.3”
  • Nut Width: 1.69"

Pros

The Fender CC-60S is highly rated for its combination of good build quality and value for money, and most of the reviews are from students or their parents. It is commended for both how comfortable it is to play, and how good it sounds - two important traits that make it a great instrument to learn on and impressing even experienced guitarists who are looking for affordable beater guitars.

Cons

There aren't any noteworthy complaints, so we'll just note here that its Concert shape, while comfortable, may lack some bottom end and volume when compared to bigger acoustic bodies like the dreadnought.

Overall

If you want nothing less than the best rated beginner acoustic guitar then get the Fender CC-60S.

Yamaha FS800

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Yamaha FS800 - Natural

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 of acoustics, having the same well received features that include solid spruce top and traditional X-bracing support.

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 a bit. In addition to being easier to play, smaller profile and shorter scale affect the tone a bit, resulting in a more mid focused tone.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel/li>
  • Body Shape: Concert
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Nato/Okume
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25"
  • Nut Width: 1.69"

Pros

Coming from Yamaha, it's not surprising to find a lot of reviewers rating the FS800 highly for its comfortable playing feel. The warmer tonality of the instrument is also well appreciated, especially since most beginners will be dealing with fingerstyle playing sooner or later. Reviewers also mention that the guitar feels solid and looks well built.

Cons

There are a few who recommend getting the default strings replaced for best results - we recommend these highly rated acoustic steel strings.

Overall

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.

Yamaha FG800

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Yamaha FG800 Acoustic Guitar

Yamaha's ability to mass produce and release affordable guitars with good quality is really impressive, to the point that its almost unfair for their competition.

This is even more obvious when considering their success across many different instruments and price ranges. As such, it's no surprise to see Yamaha hoarding multiple slots in this guide, thanks to the many positive reviews that their guitars are getting.

The FG800 in particular is as close to a traditional dreadnought as you can get, complete with a solid spruce top not usually found in this price range. Yamaha also implemented scalloped bracing for this model which ups the sonic quality even more. The neck doesn't stray too far off from traditional specifications, the end result being a classic looking and familiar playing instrument that many appreciate.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Spruce
  • Body: Nato Back & Okoume sides
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.692"

Pros
"Money well spent" is a 3-word statement that nicely summarizes market response. Users believe that this guitar is a great deal given its specs, and it also helps that it is backed by Yamaha, a brand that's well known for quality and reliability. Playability is also often commended, even experienced guitarists comment that this guitar is very comfortable to play.

Cons
There are a few who report about high-action / poor setup issues, but that's only from a small number of reports, and there are others who nitpick on minor cosmetic issues.

Overall
Thanks to the Yamaha FG800, beginners and the budget conscious can now own a good quality solid-top dreadnought at a very affordable price.

Ibanez AW54

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$230
Ibanez AW54 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

The Ibanez Artwood AW54 is a classic looking dreadnought with Ibanez' brand of playability and value for money.

Speaking of easy playability, this guitar has a neck that's around 0.83" thin, topped with an ovangkol fingerboard with a 15.75" radius.

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 price point that beginners will appreciate. The body follows the classic dreadnought shape, a nice contrast to the guitar's modern tonewood selection and playability.

Specifications

  • 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"

Pros
Users are simply pleased with the overall performance of the AW54, from its easy playability to its warm yet open tone. Value for money is definitely Ibanez' strong suit in the acoustic market, as reflected by many reviewers who feel that this guitar gives them more than what they paid for. Build quality is also often commended, of which I concur because I am also a proud owner of an Ibanez acoustic that is still very much playable many years after I brought it - it was actually my first "stage" guitar and still holds a special place in my heart.

Cons
Not many complaints about the particulars of this guitar, although there are some who are not too keen on the use of okoume wood over mahogany. Still, there are more people who appreciate the use of alternative renewable wood, even more so when they experience how light it is.

Overall
The Ibanez AW54 should be high on your list if you're looking for a solid top acoustic guitar that's easy to play.

Cordoba C5

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$349
Cordoba C5 Nylon String Classical Guitar

Cordoba continues to be a strong player in the classical / nylon string guitar market, so it's only natural for one of their best rated beginner friendly nylon string guitars - the Cordoba C5 - to make it to this guide.

While the price is quite high compared to other entry level models, it is justified by its solid western red cedar top and the use of traditional Spanish fan bracing, which many prefer for its improved resonance and overall tone.

The body is crafted from mahogany, forming Cordoba's modified classical body design, which features a smaller sound hole and a slightly bigger body, the aim of which is to improve projection.

Other features include having a detailed rosette inlay, Indian rosewood binding, pearl buttons and solid mahogany neck.

Specifications

  • String Type: Nylon
  • Body Shape: Modified Classical
  • Top: Solid Western Red Cedar
  • Body: Laminated Mahogany
  • Number of Frets: 19
  • Scale Length: 25.6"
  • Nut Width: 2"

Pros

Most owners of this guitar are pleased with what they got for the money, and many of them feel that the quality they got more than justifies the expense. While this is not cheap, it is still accessibly priced for students, which makes it a very good nylon string guitar to start with. It also maintains a certain level of quality and specs that even experienced players appreciate, some of whom compare the Cordoba C5 favorably over more expensive nylon string guitar models.

Cons

Aside from a few nitpicks on minor cosmetic issues, there aren't any notable concerns about this guitar. Note that those who are looking for a strictly traditional classical guitar instrument may not agree with the modified body design.

Overall

This is a good quality nylon string guitar that will help you develop your skill from beginner to intermediate even to advanced level of playing.

Taylor Big Baby BBT

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$449
Taylor Big Baby Acoustic Guitar

As you probably guessed from the name, the Taylor Big Baby is smaller than your average guitar. However, it’s only 1/16th smaller than an average dreadnought.

While the difference between a full-sized guitar and the Big Baby will be readily apparent, it’s not dramatically smaller. The neck is slightly thinner than the industry standard, so it will be more comfortable for those of you with smaller hands.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought (15/16 size)
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Sapele Laminate back & sides
  • Number of Frets: 20 - 14 open
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"

Pros
The main draw of this guitar is that it’s a bit more comfortable for younger musicians to play but still has the tone and volume of a full-sized instrument. Many compare it favorably to other guitars in its price range, in terms of quality and investment value. Playability and attention to detail is also often commended.

Cons
While there are no complaints about its build quality, not everyone is pleased with its smaller body shape and the brighter tone that results from it, especially when considering that regular size Taylor acoustics already sound a bit too bright for some.

Overall
It's hard to go wrong with Taylor's brand of build quality and tone, you sure will be the envy of other students if you start your guitar playing journey with the Big Baby BBT.

Seagull S6 Original

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$479
Seagull Guitars S6 Original

Seagull continues to rake in high ratings for their quality acoustics, and the S6 Original is easily one of their best.

This guitar features a solid cedar top and comes with a modified dreadnought shape, which cuts some of the boominess while retaining good projection. For the back and sides, this guitar features wild cherry, a staple wood used by Seagull and its parent company, Godin.

Another standout feature of this guitar is the use of pressure testing for their tops, which ensures structural stability and resonance. It also sports a silver leaf maple set-neck, that helps with overall tone and sustain. The guitar's nut and compensated saddle are made of TUSQ, a high-grade composite material that many consider as good for sustain.

Finally, it has a distinctly shaped headstock that allows the strings to lineup better with the tuners for improved tuning stability,

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel
  • Body Shape: Modified Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Cedar
  • Body: Wild Cherry
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.8"

Pros

Starting with a Seagull S6 Original will definitely make you an envy of experienced players, especially when considering that the S6 Original is one of the highest rated acoustics in the sub $500 price range. Users can't help but describe it positively in almost all reviews, even those who have some minor qualms with it. Most of the commendations point to its build quality, which many describe as being superior over others of the same price range. The use of a solid cedar top gives this guitar a distinct voicing that many appreciate, coming from guitarists of different experience levels, styles and backgrounds.

Cons

Not everyone is happy with the distinct shape of the headstock. Those who are used to, are looking for traditional sounding dreadnoughts may also find this guitar outside their preference.

Overall

If you want to seriously hone your acoustic guitar chops and have the funds to invest, then the Seagull S6 should be high in your list.

Things to Consider When Buying a Beginner Acoustic Guitar

  • Perfect Fit

    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 perfectly fit everyone - rather there are many different guitar designs to cater to personal styles and expressions.

    Beginners will usually gravitate towards guitars that are similar to what their favorite musicians use, so the safest choice is to start them out on an instrument that looks and sounds familiar. But this is not a strict rule, because some experts will advice beginners to learn on non-familiar instruments like a nylon string guitar to expand their sonic and playing palette right at the start.

  • Things That Make a Guitar Easy (Or Hard) To Play

    Playability is an important factor to consider when getting guitars for a beginner. Below are the main factors that make a guitar easy or hard to play.

    Action

    Action is the distance between the guitars string and the fretboard. If it’s too high (far away) the strings are hard to press down, and 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” 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.

    Nut Width

    As previously mentioned, a guitar’s nut is what the strings pass through before the fretboard starts. It’s on the side 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 1-11/16” and 1-3/4”. Younger musicians, or those of you with smaller hands, may prefer something even thinner (though they won’t necessarily need it!).

    String Type

    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 widely used in majority of music styles.

    Nylon strings are obviously made from nylon, a material that give 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.

  • Body Type

    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 mids and highs, 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 more ideal.

    Here we’ve ordered the most commonly found body styles in order of biggest to smallest:

    • Jumbo
    • Dreadnought
    • Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought
    • Grand Orchestra
    • 000
    • Classical
    • 00
    • Parlor
  • What To Expect During Your First Few Weeks of Playing the Guitar

    The first month of playing the guitar 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 to not exceed two hours in one sitting.

  • Tips on Practicing

    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’s also a ton of great YouTuber’s 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.

  • Advanced Topics

    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.

What is the Best Guitar for Short Fingers?

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 1.68", the Taylor Big Baby BBT has the narrowest nut width in this list, although it only wins by a small fraction.

Beginner Acoustic Guitar Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in July of 2017 written by Mason Hoberg while the most recent edition was published on September 14, 2020 written by Alexander Briones with contributions from Mason Hoberg.

All the Gearank.com staff and this guide's author play acoustic guitar, so between us we decided that the main criterion for the guitars to be considered for this guide is that they should be relatively easy to play. With that in mind, we created a list of candidates that had suitable nut widths, scale lengths, body types, and string types, that we know from experience will make learning to play as painless and enjoyable as possible to help beginners get through the first few weeks of learning and practice. We only included 6 string guitars that were available from major online music gear retailers in the USA, and which had street prices under $500. There were 29 models on our short list which we then narrowed down to those you see above. If you'd like to know how the Gearank scores out of 100 were calculated then please read How Gearank Works.

Further Advice

If after reading this guide you still have some questions about buying a first guitar that isn't answered above, please feel free to post your question in the comments section below and we'll try to help you as best we can.

Comments

I am also a senior person

I am also a senior person considering learning how to play the guitar for the first time. There is a small music store in my neighborhood that I am planning on purchasing my guitar. The store only carries two companies and Teton Guitars is the larger of the two. My question is do you recommend Teton Guitars? How do they compare to the companies/models you recommend for beginners. The model suggested by the store is STS10NT. What do you think of this model? Thanks for any recommendations you may have.

Teton is a brand that isn't

Teton is a brand that isn't sold by any of the major online music gear stores so they don't feature very prominently in our research.

The handful of ratings and reviews I've seen for the brand are good, but we have no rating data on the model you asked about.

Our recommendations are the ones you see listed above for beginner guitars.

I recently purchased an

I recently purchased an Ibanez SGT130 for my husband for his birthday. How does that compare to the Ibanez AW54 listed above?

I am a singer and want to

I am a singer and want to learn guitar. I want to sing solos with my guitar do you suggest the Yamaha FS830 or FS800. i know there's a cost difference, but i prefer to have the better sound for solo. R&B, Soul, Gospel.

The main difference between

The main difference between the two models you mentioned is the wood used for the back and sides, which is laminate okoume for the FS800, and laminate rosewood for the FS830.

While laminate rosewood will definitely look better, the difference in tone between these two laminate wood is not going to be enough to justify the price increase. And with the FS800 having substantially higher ratings, market response seems to agree with my opinion.

So, if forced to choose between the two, I'd go for the FS800.

Interesting question!

Interesting question!

We haven't created one, but we do list the nut widths of all the guitars above under Specifications in their individual descriptions.

Hi. A senior beginner here.

Hi. A senior beginner here. I appreciate your advice on guitars for beginners. I am considering some steel-string acoustics from Yamaha, specifically the FS800 series(Concert body type) and The Yamaha FG800 series (Dreadnought body type). I have also come across the Epiphone Hummingbird Artist acoustic, and am interested in that as well. Just wondering if you would have any thoughts on any or all of the above. Thanks very much for your time. Matt

The Yamaha FG800's edge is

The Yamaha FG800's edge is its solid spruce top, while the Epiphone Hummingbird's advantage is its aesthetic appeal. Note that we don't have data for the FS800, but being from Yamaha, I wouldn't be surprised to find it doing just as well.

Although outside the scope of this guide, the guitars you mentioned are reasonably priced and similarly rated. So it'll mostly boil down to your preference: either you want to go for a solid top with conventional appearance, or a premium looking guitar with laminate top.

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