Looking for the best beginner guitar?

First of all, here’s a quick but helpful buying guide to help you pick your first guitar. Instead of jumping to recommending the best guitar for beginners right away, I find it more logical to at least give a quick introduction to guide your buying decisions.

Then we’ll take you through our top ten picks of the best guitar for beginners.

But if you’re in a hurry and want a quick answer, here’s the summary of the best beginner guitar recommendations:

Best Guitar for Beginners Comparison Table

PRODUCT NAME RATING JUMP TO CHECK PRICE
Yamaha FG700S Learn More

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Yamaha FS700S Learn More

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Yamaha FG800S Learn More

Watch Demo

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Fender CD-60 Learn More

Watch Demo

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Martin D-28 Learn More

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Martin LX1 Learn More

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Seagull S6 Learn More

Watch Demo

Amazon
Mitchell MD100 Learn More

Watch Demo

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Dean Performer Plus Learn More

Watch Demo

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Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Learn More

Watch Demo

Amazon

Guitar Buying Guide

The best beginner guitar is the one you’ll have the most fun with. In the vast, vast world of guitars, there is no one size that fits all, and that includes your first guitar.

Choosing your first guitar is a personal thing. What could be the best beginner guitar for one person might be the worst for you.

Best Guitar for Beginners Intro

And there are many kinds of guitars out there, so it’s easy to be overwhelmed when shopping for your first guitar. For instance, have you ever walked in a guitar shop? Those beautiful guitars are all screaming for your attention.

The good thing is there are guidelines to follow to help you choose your first guitar. That’s why I made this guide, because I was once where you are right now.

Like I said, the best beginner guitar is the one that’s going to be best for you personally. Here are the most important things to consider when buying your first guitar:

1. Comfort

First of all, your guitar should be comfortable to play. Try to hold the guitar in the playing position and ask yourself, “does holding it feel comfortable, or does it feel awkward?” It should feel comfortable while both standing and sitting.

Don’t be shy to give it a number of strums as well. If you don’t know how to play yet, you could always strum all strings open without playing any chords. Try to get a feel of the guitar.

Now try playing a few chords. If you don’t know any yet, just try pressing against the strings with your fingers as if you’re playing chords and get a feel of that as well. The strings shouldn’t feel too far from the fret board.

You might be asking, “why does it matter if the strings feel too far from the fret board?”

Guitar Action (pay attention, you need to know what “action” is when reading guitar reviews)

Well there’s this thing called guitar action. Basically, the higher the action, the farther the strings are from the fretboard.

And it’s common knowledge that low action (the strings are closer to the fretboard) are best for beginners because there’s less finger tension, making it easier to play.

guitar action

📷 by Frets.com

So make sure the guitar action feels just right based on your personal preference, which is most likely a low action.

Don’t worry about exact action measurements at this point, you just need to get a feel of them and make sure the distance is comfortable for you.

You can even ask your local guitar shop to adjust this for you.

Neck Thickness

Another factor to consider when testing guitars while shopping is the feel of the neck.

Is it too fat? Too wide? Try playing up and down the fretboard (even if you don’t know how to play yet) just to get a feel of the neck.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Guitar Neck Image

One of the reasons beginners stop learning is because their guitar makes playing harder. Guitars can do that? Yes, if it’s not fit for you.

So while shopping for your first guitar, try out as much as you can.

2. Body Size

This is related to comfort, but body size is an important topic that needs its own section. Basically, there are small, medium, and large body guitar sizes.

Small Body Size Guitar (A.k.a. Classic or Concert)

Ed Sheeran with a small body guitar

Ed Sheeran

Also known as Classic or Concert body type, a small body guitar:

  • Has weaker bass sound.
  • Has a more focused tone especially in the middle range.
  • Produce a clearer and more articulate sound.

If the characteristics above fit the style you’re going for, then a small body guitar is a great choice.

A small body guitar is perfect for kids or beginners of smaller stature. This type is also popular among traveling guitarists because of its compact body size.

Medium Body Size Guitar:

Jason Mraz with a medium body guitar

Jason Mraz

Small body guitars are good because of their great articulation, but the volume is lacking. This is where the medium body sized guitar comes in.

Medium body sized guitars:

  • Are not too emphasized on the bass, treble, and higher end.
  • Produce sound that is right in the middle, which makes it the most versatile of all guitar body sizes.

A medium body guitar is a perfect first guitar for anybody because it is the “grey area” of guitar body sizes. So if you plan to do both fingerpicking and strumming, then a medium body guitar is the perfect choice.

Large body guitars (A.k.a.Dreadnought or Jumbo):

Kurt Cobain with his iconic Martin

Rest in Peace to one of the greatest of all time

Also knokwn as Dreadnoght or Jumbo, a large body guitar:

  • Has more bass tone.
  • Has less focused tone.
  • Sound louder than their smaller counterparts.

A large body guitar is a good choice if you’ll be doing a majority of strumming, or purely just strumming.

3. Nylon vs. Steel Strings

Nylon stringed guitar

Nylon strings seem to be the answer for a beginners’ first guitar. But that’s a common misconception.

While it’s true that nylon strings are softer so you won’t feel as much pain when you start learning how to play…

Assuming that nylon strings are best for beginners because they don’t hurt is a bad way to decide for your first guitar. There are other important things to consider when choosing the strings you’ll use:

Musical Taste

Nylon strings are used on classical and flamenco guitars. So let me ask you, are you going to play classical, jazz or flamenco music? If not, then don’t get a classical or flamenco guitar.

Steel-stringed guitars are used in popular music like pop, rock, and country because of the tone it produces. It has more power and volume.

Meanwhile, nylon-string guitars are used for lighter and mellower kinds of music like classical, jazz, and bossa nova.

The truth is you should choose a guitar based on your musical interest.

That’s why steel-stringed guitars are best for most beginners because most people want to play popular music.

Guitar Construction

Classical or flamenco guitars have thicker necks, which make it harder for beginners to learn their first chords. You should only get a nylon-stinged guitar if classical or a similar style is what you’re going to learn.

Can I Interchange Nylon Strings and Steel Strings?

No. If you buy a steel-stringed guitar, you CAN use nylon strings (and vice verse) but you SHOULDN’T. It wouldn’t sound so great.

Interchanging nylon and steel strings can also damage your guitar, because your guitar is designed and manufactured to hold only nylon or steel strings (depending on what you got).

Finally, whether you choose nylon or steel strings, your finger tips will feel pain in the beginning no matter what, though nylon strings will hurt less.

But once you start developing callouses, you’ll be playing for hours and your finger tips won’t feel a thing.

So you should really choose a nylon or steel string guitar based on your musical preference, not based on the string that it holds, okay?

Quick Tips for Beginner Steel Strings

Since this is a beginner guitar buying guide, here’s a quick buying guide for the best beginner steel strings: they should be extra light gauge.

Extra Light Gauge Steel Strings are:

  • Thinner than regular strings.
  • More gentler on fingers. Playing will still hurt while you haven’t developed your callouses, but extra light gauge strings will hurt the least.
  • Easier to play chords with because they require lesser pressure to press the strings against the frets.

The Best Light Gauge Steel Strings are D’Addario Extra Light Gauge EJ15 and Elixir NANOWEB Extra Light .010-0.47.

4. Acoustic or Electric Guitar?

Again, it depends on what kind of music you want to play. Do want to play more acoustic music or more rock music?

If you want to play both, or you don’t know what kind of music you want to play yet, then get an acoustic guitar first.

Because it’s harder to make an electric guitar sound right than an acoustic when you’re just learning how to play the guitar. You have to worry about amp setup and other playing factors.

Beginners will spend so much time fiddling with the amp and guitar settings instead of learning. With an acoustic guitar, you just need a guitar and your two hands.

best guitar for beginners

More importantly…

Playing an acoustic guitar makes it easier for you to pinpoint what’s wrong with your fingering, fretting, etc. because you’re hearing everything directly from the instrument.

It can also be argued that starting with an acoustic guitar is better because it will force you to develop greater finger strength compared to electric guitar, which is true. BUT! (Big but)…

If you plan to play a lot of rock in the first place, then an electric guitar is the logical choice.

The advantage of starting with electric guitars is they require less finger strength, and you can practice even at night because only you can hear them when they’re unplugged.

Let me repeat this so it gets stuck in your head – your first guitar is a personal thing.

You’re set up for more guitar learning success if you choose a guitar that you’re excited to play.

So whether it’s a steel string acoustic, nylon string classical, or electric guitar, go for it as long as it’s what you really want to play.

Acoustic Electric Guitar

An acoustic electric guitar is a type of acoustic guitar that includes an electronic pickup. This means you’ll be able to plug it to an amplifier or a sound system for more volume and other sound controls.

best guitar for beginners acoustic-electric

Unplugged, acoustic electric guitars sound the same as acoustic guitars. The only difference is you can plug acoustic electric guitars, eliminating the need to use microphones in order to be heard in an amplified setup.

So if you plan on performing with other amplified instruments in the future, acoustic electric is great option.

This type of guitar also comes with a built-in tuner which is great for beginners. It makes it easier to tune your guitar so you could focus more on learning your favorite songs.

5. Laminate vs. Solid Body Top

A guitar with a solid top produces a more superior quality of sound than a laminate top guitar.

Basically, a solid top is a single “real” piece of wood while laminate tops are layered plywoods that are glued together with a thin top wood finish.

Solid top guitars:

  • Sound better than laminate top guitars
  • Sound even better as it ages

Laminate top guitars:

  • More durable than solid top guitars
  • Cheaper

6. Best Beginner Guitar Budget

Be sure to have a set budget. Decide on how much you’re willing to spend, and then buy the best guitar you can get with your budget.

You get what you pay for. The more expensive the guitar, the better it sounds, especially in the low and middle range price points.

An excessively cheap guitar sounds terrible. They also make playing a chore instead of a delight because they come with problems that cause many beginners to quit learning.

Beginner Guitar Budget

For starters, don’t spend less than $300 on any guitar. Even a $200 budget is okay.

Guitars that fall in the $300-$500 range are a decent start. This is an ideal budget. If you can spend more, then good for you.

$100 is not recommended as you won’t get any decent-sounding brand new guitar with this budget.

  • If $100 is absolutely all you could spend for your first guitar, then it’s way, way better to get a second hand decent guitar than a brand new guitar worth $100.
  • At $100, you can only get crappy options that are as good as kids’ toys if you take the “brand new” path.
  • With used guitars, you can get a decent one with a $100 price because it’s been used. Search Craiglist or local pawn shops and make sure to get help from a knowledgeable friend so you won’t get ripped off.

My advice is if you have less than $100 then it’s better to wait and save to get something better. That’s the best route for this case. Why?

Because buying a cheap crappy guitar is a formula to guitar-learning failure. Like I just said, these guitars sound so terrible and are harder to play that they will drive you to quit learning.

Guitar Buying Guide Conclusion

Finally, it all comes down to the most important thing – how the guitar feels.

I’ve already mentioned this, but this is true for every guitar style, shape, and size.

The truth is, you can get the best guitar on paper. But if it doesn’t feel right, you’re not going to want to play it, which beats the purpose of buying a guitar (unless you buy guitars only to display them).

That’s why it’s highly recommended to test the guitar yourself.

Top 10 Best Guitar for Beginners (Acoustic)

Before we go to the specifics, it’s good to note that Yamaha makes great inexpensive acoustic guitars.

In fact, Yahama acoustic guitars are designed and built to provide the best possible tone for the lowest possible price.

1. Yamaha FG700S

Yamaha’s FG series is the top-selling acoustic guitar series of all time.

The Yamaha FG700S in particular is an excellent pool of beginner guitars. They sound like high-end expensive guitars but only cost around $200.

In short, it’s a level-entry guitar with deluxe features.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Yamaha FG700S

  • Best choice if you want a dreadnought
  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Nato sides and back
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge

Playability

  • Has a nicely curved neck (slimmer than most) that make it easy for beginners to play.
  • Well-adjusted low action
  • Great to play barre chords on

Sound

  • As for playing open chords, strumming on this guitar produces a soothing tone.
  • Precise, smooth, and playful sound
  • Stronger bass sound
  • Very versatile for many music styles and genre

Cons

Not an acoustic electric guitar, so the actual sound when played through a microphone varies depending on the sound system.

Yamaha FG700S in Action:

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2. Yamaha FS700S

Oh good Lord. What’s the difference between Yamaha FG700S mentioned above and this FS700S being mentioned now? Here’s a quick answer you only need to know:

The FG and FS series were introduced at the same time. FS simply has a smaller body than FG. As we discussed in the body size section in earlier in this article, bigger bodies are a bit stronger on the bass which is true for FG, while FS is a bit stronger on the mid-range.

Other than that, this FS700S has the same materials as FG700S in item #1. The only difference the size…

And this FS700S is available on a Tobacco Sunburst finish that isn’t available on FG700S.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Yamaha FS700S

  • Best choice if you want a smaller (concert) body instead of the bigger Yamaha FG700S.
  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Nato sides and back
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge

Playability

  • Just like the FG700S, this one has a nicely curved neck (slimmer than most) that make it easy for beginners to play.
  • Well-adjusted low action
  • Great to play barre chords on

Sound

  • As for playing open chords, strumming on this guitar produces a soothing tone.
  • Precise, smooth, and playful sound
  • Stronger mid-range sound without the roar of the dreadnought FG700S
  • Very versatile for many music styles and genre

Cons

Not an acoustic electric guitar, so the actual sound when played through a microphone varies depending on the sound system.

Yamaha FS700S in Action:

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3. Yamaha FG800S

The Yamaha FG700S in particular is an excellent pool of beginner guitars. They sound like high-end expensive guitars but only cost around $200.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Yamaha FG800S

FG800S looks like FG700S mentioned in the first item of this list. The difference is the upgrades inside, which also means there’s an upgrade in sound.

  • FG800S is the scalloped version of FG700S. This means the braces on the inside of the top has some of its material shaved away, making it lighter and more responsive to sound waves.
  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Nato sides and back
  • Rosewood fingerboard and bridge

If you want to know more on scalloped vs. straight bracing:

Playability

  • Has a nicely curved neck (slimmer than most) that make it easy for beginners to play.
  • High action, which is harder to play for beginners
  • Great to play barre chords on

Sound

  • Compared to Yamaha FG700S, you can get more sound out of FG800S without much effort (although the difference can be subtle).
  • Mellow, well-balanced tone.
  • Great projection (loud and focused without dispersing) due to its scalloped braces.

Cons

  • Not an acoustic electric guitar, so the actual sound when played through a microphone varies depending on the sound system.
  • High action, which is harder to play for beginners. You have to get this adjusted to low action if you prefer low action.

Yamaha FG800S in Action:

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4. Fender CD-60

The Fender CD-60 is a great all-around guitar, whether for inside jamming, campfire sessions, and even as an “on the road” traveling guitar.

It’s one of Fender’s most popular models and is known for its affordability that comes with the high-quality tone and excellent playability.

It’s a bit more durable than the first three items, mainly because of its laminated body, though the laminated top is a disadvantage sound-wise. It also has an acoustic electric variant (CD-60 CE), so you can plug it in!

Best Guitar for Beginners - Fender CD60S

  • Laminated Spruce top
  • Laminated Mahogany back and sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Scalloped bracing (notable feature)

 

UPDATE: Fender CD-60 used to be available only with a spruce top. The new Fender CD-60 now has a variant that boasts an all-mahogany body:

Fender CD60S new

Playability

  • Well-adjusted comfortable action

Sound

  • Deep and rich tone when strummed
  • Not as clear when fingerpicked compared to higher quality guitars
  • Versatile

Cons

Laminated top which means a lesser quality of produced sound compared to solid top guitars.

Fender CD-60 in Action:

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5. Martin D-28

This is one iconic guitar. Good news – it’s a great beginner guitar too, if not one of the best.

So many notable artists have played this greatness in their music (Elivs, the Beatles, Marcus Mumford and so much more), and almost every guitar player has played a song with it.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Martin D-28

  • Solid Sitka Spruce or Adirondack top
  • Rosewood back and sides
  • Ebony fretboard
  • Mahogany neck and bridge
  • Scalloped top braces

Playability

  • Well-adjusted action that’s not too low and not too high either.
  • Playing up and down the neck feels easier compared to similar priced guitars.
  • The ebony fingerboard is a very notable feature, makes you feel like a rockstar, playing such a premium guitar *wink

Sound

  • Perfect tone – quintessential, warm, rich, and resonant (compared to its D-18 cousin which has bright, clear, and crisp sound. If that’s the sound you want, you might want to check Martin D-18 instead)
  • Loud, bass-heavy sound (it’s a dreadnought after all)
  • Very versatile (great for any genre in the acoustic category)

Cons

  • Not an acoustic electric guitar, but it can be one if upgraded. (You can purchase this guitar with an option to upgrade it to an acoustic electric guitar)
  • The price

Martin D-28 in Action:

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6. Martin LX1 (Little Martin)

This is an impressive guitar due to the fact that it produces such a powerful quality sound as a small guitar.

It’s great for kids or beginners with smaller body size. It’s an excellent travel guitar, and excellent even for inside jamming or campfire sessions.

It also has acoustic electric (LX1E) and Ed Sheeran signature variants!

Best Guitar for Beginners - Martin LX1

  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Mahogany high-pressure laminate back and sides
  • Richlite fingerboard
  • Richlite bridge
  • Rust Stratabond neck

Playability

  • Has great playability due to its smaller scale
  • Also has well-adjust action
  • Extremely playable for little children and short-fingered adults

Sound

  • Big sound despite the smaller body
  • Deep and rich sound (most guitars of this size sound thin and bright)

Cons

Might come with tiny cosmetic imperfections (it’s meant to be taken everywhere you go and get beat up after all).

Martin LX1 in Action:

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7. Seagull S6

This is another guitar than makes it a sin if it’s not included in the list.

It has won many awards through the years due to its overall quality sound and construction. It’s one of the best budget-friendly guitar that produces a premium feel and tone. It also has an acoustic electric variant!

  • Solid Cedar top (a notable feature)
  • Canadian Wild Cherry back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard and bridge
  • Silver Maple Leaf integrated neck

Best Guitar for Beginners - Seagull S6

Playability

  • Low action which makes it easy to play
  • Short scale that also contributes to great playability
  • A bit thick in the neck, but the difference can be subtle. Your hand might not wrap around the neck as easily as you would with the rest of the guitars in this list, but the difference is not too big that you can easily get used to it.

Sound

  • Produces a unique tone due to its unique materials
  • Quality clean, bright, and warm
  • Smooth sound that gets even better as it ages.

Cons

Has a bit wider neck than the rest in this list.

Seagull S6 in Action:

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8. Mitchell MD100

This is a dreadnought with a traditional laminated spruce top and mahogany body. It produces rich low end tone,  noteworthy mid range and bright trebles.

To put it simply, this guitar sounds like it’s in the 3,000 – 4,000 price range.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Mitchell MD100

  • Laminated Spruce top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Mahogany neck
  • Rosewood bridge

Playability

  • Low action, which makes it easy to play.

Sound

  • Crisp, bright, full tone with excellent sustain
  • Sweet balanced tone throughout the ranges
  • Perfect intonation (accurate sound between open strings and their something 12th fret tone)

Cons

  • Its bass sound is not as deep as other dreadnought guitars
  • Default strings are better off to be changed with new, better ones

Mitchell MD100 in Action:

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9. Dean Performer Plus Acoustic-Electric

This is another excellent all-around guitar. It’s great around the campfire, jamming with family and friends, practicing alone, playing with others, and performing to an audience.

It’s an excellent acoustic electric guitar offered by Dean:

Best Guitar for Beginners - Dean Performer Plus

  • Solid Sitka Spruce top
  • Mahogany back and sides
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Mahogany neck

Playability

  • Extremely playable action
  • Slim, comfortable C-shape neck, that’s great for beginners

Sound

  • Rich, full acoustic sound
  • Quality sound that gets better as it ages

Cons

  • Default strings are better off to be changed with new, better ones.
  • Gets out of tune faster than the rest of guitars in this list, but the built-in tuner compensates for this.

Dean Performer Plus in Action:

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10. Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat

This is one of the best beginner guitars out there, deserving a spot in this list.

It’s a signature guitar that pays tribute to Tim Armstrong, the frontman of Rancid. This guitar is designed to look vintage, and it managed to look amazing while doing so. Just look at this beauty:

This is a great option for people looking for a concert body type instead of the dreadnought that dominate this list.

Best Guitar for Beginners - Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat

Overall, this is a decent quality acoustic-electric guitar that can’t be beat within this price range.

  • Solid Mahogany top
  • Laminated Mahogany back and sides
  • Rosewood bridge
  • Scalloped top bracing

Playability

  • Perfect action for playability
  • Concert body size is very comfortable
  • Smooth neck, making it smooth to play
  • Perfect neck thickness (not too fat, not too thin)

Sound

  • Sweet, bright, and warm sound
  • Clean, well-balanced tone

Cons

Frets are decent, but not as high quality as the frets of other guitars in this list.

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat in Action:

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UPDATE: On December 2017, Fender announced a Sapphire Blue variant:

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Sapphire BlueFender Tim Armstrong Hellcat Shappire Blue

Click here to view it on Amazon

Conclusion

Just like searching for the best strings, selecting the best guitar for beginners is a personal thing, and this buying guide and top picks is here to put you on a great starting point on your journey to picking your first guitar.

Soon, we’ll make another buying guide and top picks for the best electric guitar for beginners.

For now, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below.

Hope this guide helped you, and don’t forget to share the love using our share buttons!


1 Comment

  1. I Bought a New Guitar – Karlaland

    December 19, 2017 at 2:51 am

    […] hours of searching and asking around, I finally came across the perfect guide on buying a guitar. This saved me days of swimming across a sea of web pages if I manually researched on my […]

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JamPlay - The Best Way To Learn Guitar
JamPlay - The Best Way To Learn Guitar

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