The Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners

Guide to Guitars for Beginners

When you first want to get into playing an instrument, or you want to buy one on someone else’s behalf, it’s really easy to make the wrong choice. When you don’t really know anything about the guitar, finding an instrument that will make learning fun is a pretty tall order.

Thankfully, the guide you're now reading will give you the scoop on what you should look for in an acoustic guitar. This guide is intended for people who are just getting into the guitar and don’t want to spend a bunch of money, so while it’s not a collection of the best instruments money can buy you’re going to find recommendations for some of the world’s best acoustic guitars for beginners. If after reading through our product recommendations you’re still not sure which instrument is going to be the best fit, check out the section “Things To Consider When Buying a Guitar for a Beginner”

Contents

Best Acoustic Guitars For Beginners

Gearank Sources Street Price
Rogue RA-090 90 1150+ $70
Jasmine S-34C 90 650+ $100
Epiphone DR-100 89 1200+ $119
Yamaha C40 MkII 91 425+ $140
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top 91 350+ $169
Fender CD-60 All Mahogany 93 300+ $230
Taylor Big Baby BBT 93 225+ $429
Seagull S6 Original Cedar Slim 96 400+ $439
Author's Pick
Yamaha GL1 Guitalele 90 700+ $100

Collected below are some of the best acoustic guitars for beginners. All of these guitars are of a high enough quality that they aren’t going to hold anyone back from learning, though many musicians will likely grow out of the cheaper guitars on this list within a couple years of playing.

Before we get started, it is important for you to know that there’s no such thing as the best beginner acoustic guitar. Guitars, and instruments as a whole really, are very personal belongings. So before you commit to buying any of these, think really carefully on the information we’ve provided for you and what you (or the person you’re buying this guitar for) really wants. If you take the time to do this, you’re sure to buy an instrument that’ll be a perfect fit.

Rogue RA-090

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 1150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
Rogue RA-090 6 String Acoustic Guitar

A lot of people are dismissive of Rogue instruments because they’re unabashedly focused on beginners. But even with that being the case, these guitars really do have the potential to perform well in the right circumstances.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Not specified (probably laminated whitewood)
  • Body: Whitewood
  • Number of Frets: 20 - 14 open
  • Scale Length: 25.375"
  • Nut Width: 1.67”

Just about any guitar that sells new in the sub-$200 range is going to require a set-up to play and sound at their best, which on average can generally be done for somewhere between $30 and $60 depending on your area. Guitars that have had a quality set-up, regardless of the initial price, will generally feel the same to play as instruments that occupy the $200 to $300 range. With that in mind, this means that (going by this instrument’s average price of $70) you could pretty easily get a guitar that feels like a $300 instrument for as little as $100 (before tax).

Editor's Note: Many beginners don't get a set-up done and usually don't have any major issues. Occasionally the strings will be a bit too high making them a bit harder to play, or a bit too low causing fret buzz. If you're unsure about getting a set-up done, you can show it to someone with experience, like a guitar teacher, and they'll let you know whether or not a set-up is worthwhile for the guitar you bought.

Unfortunately, this guitar is never really going to sound awesome. It’s not made from a wood (we’ve omitted a section on tonewood from this guide to keep from overloading it, but if you're interested you can read more about guitar woods here) that’s going to give it a rich tone. But really, if you’re buying this for a beginner they’re not going to know enough to worry about it.

The main thing you should consider before you buy this instrument is your size or the size of the person you’re purchasing it for. This guitar is a full-sized dreadnought, which is the 2nd biggest type of guitar body commonly available. So if the person who’s going to be playing it is younger, or has a smaller frame, you may want to look at a smaller guitar on this list such as the Gretsch Jim Dandy, Jasmine S-34C, or the Yamaha C40. The nut-width (how wide the guitar is towards the headstock) is also standard sized, which may make it hard for musicians with smaller hands to play.

Jasmine S-34C

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Jasmine S-34C

Jasmine’s S-34C is a significant step up from the Rogue above. The main benefit it has over the Rogue is that the top of the guitar is made from spruce, which is classified as a tonewood. Tonewood is a wood that has properties that allows an instrument to sound better.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Grand Orchestra
  • Top: Laminated Spruce
  • Body: Sapele back & sides
  • Number of Frets: 20 - all open due to the cutaway
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.75"

This guitar’s body falls into the “Grand Orchestra” category, which is slightly smaller than a dreadnought (the body type of the Rogue). The difference isn’t dramatic, but a Grand Orchestra is definitely more manageable for children or smaller framed adults. This guitar would be a good fit for children age 12 and above, or adults. The body also has a cutaway, which is when a chunk of the body is removed to make it easier to play on the upper frets. This really doesn’t matter on a beginner instrument, but many guitarists will appreciate its inclusion when they advance.

Lastly, while this guitar is a bit smaller than a dreadnought it’s still not going to be an ideal fit for children. The nut-width is 1 ¾”, which while suitable for older musicians is just going to be too wide for many youngsters. This guitar may also need a set-up, so assume that you’re going to need to spend at least another $30 once you receive the guitar.

From a professional perspective, this guitar’s tone also isn’t anything to write home about, though it’s still functional enough for beginners. It’s better than the Rogue, though it lacks the volume or depth of tone that you’d get from the more expensive instruments on this list.

Epiphone DR-100

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 1200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$119
Epiphone DR-100 6 String Acoustic Guitar

If you’re an adult, or your purchasing a guitar for a teenager, we would definitely recommend the Epiphone DR-100 if you’re on a budget. Entry-level Epiphone guitars, while not known for sounding all that great, are consistently durable and well-made.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Select Spruce (laminated)
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Number of Frets: 20 - 14 open
  • Scale Length: 25.5”
  • Nut Width: 1.69”

Like the Rogue, the only potential drawback of this guitar is that it’s probably going to be too big for younger musicians and smaller adults. Though the guitar does have a slightly smaller nut-width (1.69” as opposed to 1 ¾”) than the Jasmine, so it may end up being a touch more comfortable for those with smaller hands.

Yamaha C40 MkII

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$140
Yamaha C40II

Unlike the guitars previously mentioned, the Yamaha C40 MkII is actually a nylon-string guitar and is specifically designed for beginners. Nylon strings are made from nylon (with the three thickest string being plated with a metal) as opposed to steel. Because of this, they are significantly easier to fret (push down). Because the guitar uses nylon strings, it’s a great choice for younger musicians who don’t have the strength necessary to fret steel strings.

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"

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.

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.

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.

Lastly, if you’re looking at this guitar for someone 7 years or younger I recommend the Yamaha Guitalele over this guitar. This guitar, like other classical instruments, has a wider nut-width than a standard guitar. Because it’s easier to play many younger musicians don’t struggle with this, though really young kids looking to get into the guitar may have issues reaching all of the notes they need.

Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

91
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$169
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top

The Gretsch Jim Dandy is a Parlor Guitar that just so happens to be well-suited to beginners. The guitar is intended to replicate the low budget Gretsch Rex series (and other similar guitars of the time - 1930s, like Harmonys). Because of this, the guitar doesn’t really have a lot of volume or a very deep (bass heavy) tone.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Parlor
  • Top: Laminated Agathis
  • Body: Agathis
  • Number of Frets: 18 - 12 open
  • Scale Length: 24”
  • Nut Width: 1.69”

However, because of the body size and its affordability the Gretsch is well suited to musicians who aren’t quite old or large enough to play a dreadnought instrument but are at the stage where they’re able to play a steel string guitar. As you probably saw from the included picture, the guitar is way smaller than any mentioned before (with the exception of the Yamaha Guitalele below).

As far as overall quality is concerned, there’s nothing really concerning about this guitar. After a good set-up it will perform just as well as any of the steel string guitars above, and many people find it works just fine out of the box. The nut-width is slightly smaller than the Jasmine, at 1.6875”.

Fender CD-60 All Mahogany

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$230
Fender CD-60 All Mahogany 6 String Acoustic Guitar

While Fender is known for their electric guitars as opposed to their acoustics, the Fender CD-60 All Mahogany is actually a pretty good instrument for the price range. Once you start getting into this price tier ($200 and above) you start to see really nice sounding instruments. This guitar in particular represents great value for a full-sized guitar.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Laminated Mahogany
  • Body: Laminated Mahogany back & sides
  • Number of Frets: 20 - 14 open
  • Scale Length: 25.3"
  • Nut Width: 1.625"

The CD-60 All Mahogany has a very rich and woody tone when compared to the instruments above, and has enough volume for whomever is using it to play along with other (acoustic) musicians.

This guitar does offer a dramatic improvement in sound quality over the guitars we’ve already gone over, but cheap guitars that are well set up can still be enjoyed by beginning musicians. Also, just because this guitar is more expensive than those above doesn’t mean it won’t need a set-up. It’s less likely, but not a guarantee.

Taylor Big Baby BBT

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$429
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 1/16 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"

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. It compares really favorably to any instrument in this price range, and there’s nothing about it that suggests it wouldn’t be a quality investment.

And while we have a positive impression of every guitar we mentioned (because if the data shows they suck they don’t make it on any of our lists), we will say that the Taylor Big Baby is a good instrument. Not merely a good instrument for the price, just a good instrument plain and simple. It has a high enough sound quality that, should you decide to, you could easily gig with this guitar. It also has the volume necessary to compete with any dreadnought in the sub-$1000 tier.

The only thing you should be concerned about with this instrument is whether or not you, or the person you buy it for, are going to stick with it. There are much cheaper options available that still sound okay, so unless you’re sure whoever is playing this instrument is going to continue doing so we would recommend looking at budget alternatives.

Seagull S6 Original Cedar Slim

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$439
Seagull Guitars S6 Original Cedar Acoustic Guitar

While Seagull isn’t yet a household name, their guitars are often of a quality that’s almost shockingly good for the price. Just about any Seagull guitar sounds and plays like it should cost twice as much as it actually does, which is why their guitars have a cult following in many circles.

Specifications

  • String Type: Steel String
  • Body Shape: Dreadnought
  • Top: Solid Cedar
  • Body: Wild Cherry back & sides - 3 layers laminated where the center layer is glued cross grain for added strength.
  • Number of Frets: 21 - 14 open
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Nut Width: 1.72"

The guitar’s designation of “slim” is a bit misleading, because the Seagull S6 is actually a full-sized dreadnought guitar. The “slim” comes from the guitar having a thinner nut-width than other guitars produced by the company. However, many of Seagull’s guitars already have a thicker than average nut-width. So while Seagull may call this guitar “slim” it actually has standard dimensions.

If you’re really serious about learning the guitar, the Seagull S6 is a great place to start. You won’t ever have to upgrade it - you may want to as you get a more refined ear, but it’s never going to hold you back.

Author's Pick

This is where we sometimes present options that didn't quite fit into our main set of recommendations, but which you might also find quite helpful.

Yamaha GL1 Guitalele

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$100
Yamaha GL1 Guitalele

The Yamaha GL1 Guitalele is a unique instrument because it combines the dimensions of a ukulele with the tuning pattern of a guitar. Basically, it’s higher in pitch than a standard guitar but the music and technique learned on it can be carried over to a guitar.

Specifications

  • String Type: Nylon String
  • Body Shape: Ukulele Style
  • Top: Spruce (laminated)
  • Body: Changes with availability at time of manufacture
  • Number of Frets: 17.5 - 12 open
  • Scale Length: 17"
  • Nut Width: 1.87"

This makes the Guitalele one of the best choices available for younger kids looking to get into playing the guitar. It’s small enough to easily be held and played by musicians under 7, and because it uses nylon strings and a manageable nut-width it will be within their capabilities to fret it.

While the Yamaha GL1 Guitalele is a great value for younger musicians, when you purchase it you should do so with the expectation that you’re going to have to upgrade in a couple of years. It’s not a guitar that a musician will carry with them for a long period of time, but it is a good way to get them started.

Editor's Note: While I agree with Mason that it's much easier for a young child to play one of these as opposed to a regular guitar, it is pitched a Perfect 4th above a guitar which means you have to play different chords to play along with another guitarist. If you're playing from a chord book and it says to play E Major you need to play A Major instead. However this isn't an issue when not playing along with other musicians or instructional videos, or if you understand transposing between keys.

Things to Consider When Buying a Guitar for a Beginner

Before you buy a guitar there’s some things you’re going to want to know. There’s a few different things you can look for that will help you diagnose potential problem areas or concerns. Even better, all you need to do to figure out whether or not a guitar is going to be a good fit is remember a few terms. Also, if you happen to buy a guitar from a local store or a pawnshop be sure to bring along a ruler (we’ll explain why below).

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

    Collected below are a few key terms that will help you diagnose potential problems with a guitar. We’d recommend reading through the following section once before you buy a guitar and reading it again once you receive it.

    Action

    Action is the distance between a guitars strings 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.

    Every guitar player prefers a different action, though 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 also 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 (there’s a third, but you’re not going to encounter an entry-level priced one): 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), don’t have the strength to push these strings down.

    Nylon strings are obviously made from nylon. There’s also significantly easier to push down than steel strings. However, they don’t sound like steel strings. Most guitarists are eventually going to want a steel string instrument, so if you buy a nylon string guitar either for yourself or someone else do so with the knowledge that you’re most likely going to have to upgrade in the future.

  • Body Type

    Guitars come in different body types, but since this article is just a general primer we’re not going to get into the subject in too much depth. Really, the only thing you need to know at this point is that the dreadnought body style is better suited to adults (the Rogue guitar we’ve listed in the product section is a perfect example of this body type) than children. Classical guitars (like the Yamaha), parlor guitars (the Gretsch), and the grand orchestra (the Jasmine) body styles are better suited to younger/smaller musicians.

    Below 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.

Methodology

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 without electronics that were available from major online music gear retailers in the USA, and which had street prices under $500. There were 19 models on our short list which we then narrowed down to the 8 you see above plus Mason's selection in the Author's Pick section. If you'd like to know how the Gearank scores out of 100 were calculated then please read How Gearank Works.

Although four of us were involved in the planning and research for this guide, most of the research was done by Jason Horton and Mason Hoberg, and final editing was done by Jason Horton.

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.

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