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What to Consider When Buying the Best Acoustic Guitar for Beginners
When looking for the best acoustic guitar for a beginner, price is an important consideration. Cheap acoustic guitars sound like a good idea, but they’re often times not worth the cost. This is especially true when looking for beginner guitars.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a cheap guitar can cost you more in the long term.
There are hundreds of cheap acoustic guitars out there, with low price tags and low quality to match. It may seem like starting with a cheap instrument is a good way to go, but it really isn’t.
Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners (at a glance)
|Epiphone DR-100 Songmaker Mahogany Dreadnought
|Fender Paramount Series PM-1 Standard All-Mahogany
|Washburn Harvest Series WG7S Acoustic
|Taylor GS Mini Mahogany Acoustic Guitar
Alvarez Artist Series AD30
|Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany
Acoustic guitar buying advice for beginners
How much should you spend on a beginner acoustic?
High end acoustic guitars can cost thousands of dollars, but you shouldn’t spend more than a couple hundred dollars on one for a beginner.
The $300 to $500 price range features some of the best quality for the price. You don’t want to go much under $150 though.
Why You don’t want to learn on a cheap guitar
Learning to play on a cheap instrument is frustrating. You end up fighting to keep the instrument in tune, struggling to make a decent sound only to give up feeling defeated.
Instead of learning to play guitar, you learn that you can’t play guitar at all. It’s the wrong lesson. What you really learned is that a cheap guitar makes a poor instrument. Save yourself the headache.
The guitars on this list offer good quality and great value for their respective price tags.
This is what makes them truly the best beginner acoustic guitars. They are affordable, but not cheap. They’re made well enough to make learning to play possible and fun for many years. And in the worst case, you can resell them for most of your money back. The same is not true for cheap guitars!
You can get a good quality acoustic for less than $500 – often much less. Many on this list are even under $200!
Tonewood – Solid or HPL?
One way manufacturers can cut costs and make guitars less expensive is through the use of HPL. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
You’ll notice a lot of the guitars on this list feature HPL back and sides. This is one way manufacturers can provide cheap guitars for beginners that are still good quality. Most all-solid wood acoustics start with $1,000. A good compromise is a solid wood top, and HPL back and sides.
What is HPL and why should we care?
HPL is short for High Pressure Laminate. HPL is formed by layering many thin pieces together to form one stronger solid piece of wood. Like a sandwich! Next, these layers of wood get combined at higher pressure than normal (or LPL) laminate. The result is a more solid and durable composite wood.
What does all this mean for your guitar?
HPL is a cheaper alternative than solid wood. This means manufacturers can keep the costs down without sacrificing too much quality. That’s because HPL is better than traditional laminate. HPL is a compromise that gives you a better sounding, cheaper guitar.
Solid wood is still the best but you’ll pay more. If you want a small body guitar for less than $1,000 or an affordable acoustic for a beginner, then you’ll be getting an HPL body.
Besides being cheap, HPL is more resistant to weather and climate changes. This means that your guitar is more resistant to the wood cracking and won’t go out of tune as much when the seasons change. It also produces a generally brighter sound that can present itself as a “crispness” and is less prone to become “muddy” sounding.
You’ll find some people love HPL and others despise them. Some disparagingly call them “plywood guitars.”
For what it’s worth, I’ve been playing guitar for over 20 years and have both a solid wood body and a newer HPL body and I love them both. If anything, I find the HPL to be lighter and brighter and often prefer playing it to my solid wood body. The HPL also requires less adjustment and care when summer turns to winter.
Which Acoustic Guitar Body Shape is Right for You?
Every acoustic maker has their own unique variations, but here are the basic body shapes that are most common. (NOTE: This list is mainly for steel string acoustics , but may pertain to other kinds.)
This is the most common acoustic body shape. It owes its popularity to crooning cowboys, folk and bluegrass players. It’s a piece of Americana all by itself. In fact, the Dreadnought is what most people picture when they think of an acoustic guitar.
Named after an old English warship, you can feel confident taking this shape into almost any musical battle. In other words, it’s a very versatile body shape.
In fact, it’s only drawback is that it can be too large for smaller players (unless you get a ¾ size). Some people also feel that it has limited access to higher frets. In reality, most acoustic players rarely play the higher frets, so it’s not much of a downside. This is especially true for beginning players.
The Dreadnought shape has a reputation for a big, booming sound. It’s great for strumming chords or picking single-note bluegrass runs.
Auditorium / Concert
The Auditorium and concert body shapes are a classic hourglass shape. It fits comfortably on the knee and is a favorite body shape among fingerstyle players. It’s great for single-note melody playing, but also projects chords well.
The Concert body guitar is a little smaller than the Auditorium.
Think of the Auditorium shape as the balance between the booming dreadnought, and more delicate sounding smaller body guitars. It has a solid projection and is comfortable to play.
Grand Auditorium / Grand Concert
As the name suggests, the Grand Auditorium or Grand Concert is a larger version of the Auditorium and Concert types. It was originally created by Taylor. This shape features the same comfort as an Auditorium, with a little more low end to the sound and more projection.
This shape is so called because it features a piece of the body that is cut-away. This allow easier access to higher frets on the bottom strings.
Some players can make this work, but most acoustic players rarely use such high frets. The notes don’t ring out as well and it is frankly outside the sweet spot of an acoustic guitar. Still, some players like the look of a cut away, and there’s little (if any) negative effect to having the cut-away. It’s a matter of taste.
Best acoustic guitars for beginners: Our top picks
Check out the Yamaha FG800 in action:
Here’s a demo of the Takamine GD20-NS in action:
Overview of the Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
Best acoustic guitars for beginners: Product guide
Fender is a name most associate with guitars. Electric models like the Telecaster and Stratocaster are likely to come to mind. They also make excellent acoustic guitars. In fact, they make great guitars for beginner because you know Fender means quality. They build instruments for musicians. They wouldn’t put their name on a cheap piece of wood and call it a beginner guitar.
This Fender Paramount is an all-mahogany dreadnought. It’s got solid mahogany back and sides and solid open-pore mahogany top. The open-pore mahogany top lets the wood “breathe” more, allowing for a fuller, more natural tone.
This is a beautiful acoustic guitar with a real natural look and feel. It’s at the higher end of a beginner price range. It’s probably not a great choice for a child who “might be interested” in learning guitar, but it’s a great guitar for the serious minded player.
The PM-1 all mahogany is a carefully crafted, responsive guitar with superior tone in it’s price range. The earthy appearance and lush, warm voice and enhanced dynamic range set it apart from the rest of the pack.
Scalloped X-bracing in the body ensure that each note is well defined and, allows the open-pore mahogany top the perfect amount of ringing sustain.
Fender Paramount Series Standard All-Mahogany sells for $599.
The Washburn Harvest WG7S Series has a solid Spruce top and laminate Mahogany sides and back. It also features a beautiful custom wood inlay rosette.
This is one of the few acoustic guitars in the beginner range to feature such accouterments. The Harvest WG7S is a Grand Auditorium body style. It’s a nice switch from the basic dreadnought style that dominates the beginner acoustic market.
That and the fact that its price is less than $200 makes this a great acoustic guitar for the beginner or a travel guitar.
You could do far worse for $200 than this great looking guitar with a nice bright tone and strong mid range.
The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is the perfect instrument for anyone looking for an easy to carry guitar with a big sound. Featuring an impressive Grand Symphony body shape, this guitar offers a full-bodied sound in a compact size. The solid mahogany top adds brightness and clarity to the sound while the sapele wood adds warmth and complexity. This instrument comes with a Taylor gig bag, making it easy to take with you wherever you go. Get the big sound of a full-sized guitar in a convenient, portable package with the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany!
Solid Mahogany Top: The top of the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is made of solid mahogany, which gives it a warm and rich sound with plenty of character. The bright and clear sound of the mahogany emphasizes the mid-range and upper mid-range frequencies.
Venetian Cutaway: The Venetian cutaway on the GS Mini Mahogany gives you unrestricted access to the upper frets, making it easier to play lead passages and complex chords.
Introducing the Alvarez Artist Series AD30 Dreadnought Guitar, a perfect instrument for beginning to intermediate players. This classic acoustic guitar features a solid Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and sides for a full, warm tone. The 8 mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard combine to create an inviting, comfortable playing surface. Chrome die-cast tuners provide precise, accurate tuning while FST2M, Forward Shifted, Scalloped Bracing enhances the projection, volume and clarity. Crafted with premium materials and quality construction, this guitar comes with a lifetime limited warranty. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to upgrade, the Alvarez Artist Series AD30 is the perfect choice.
Sitka-Spruce Solid Top: The Alvarez Artist Series AD30 Dreadnought Guitar features a solid Sitka-Spruce top for a clear and balanced sound. This top gives the guitar a strong projection which brings out its character.
Scalloped Bracing: The scalloped bracing system adds strength and stability to the guitar’s top. This allows the sound to be louder and more responsive as you strum or pluck the strings.
Rosewood Back and Sides: The rosewood back and sides of the guitar deliver a warm, smooth tone with great sustain. This gives the guitar its classic acoustic sound that is perfect for fingerpicking or strumming.
Gloss Finish: The natural/gloss finish of the Alvarez Artist Series AD30 Dreadnought Guitar gives it a polished, beautiful look. The finish also enhances the tonality of the instrument and helps protect it from scratches and dust.
The Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany Acoustic Guitar brings beautiful, warm tone to your music. With a solid mahogany top and laminated mahogany back and sides, this dreadnought body style provides full-bodied sound with a generous amount of volume. The 12″ fingerboard radius and 25.5″ scale mahogany neck with 20 fret rosewood fingerboard allows for smooth playability and accurate intonation. The scalloped X-bracing also increases resonance for a boost in volume and clarity. And for precise tuning, the guitar is outfitted with chrome die-cast tuners. Play your music with the classic sound of the Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany Acoustic Guitar.
Solid Mahogany Top: This acoustic guitar features a solid mahogany top, providing a rich, full sound with plenty of dynamic range. The top also provides great resonance, helping to ensure a warm, vibrant tone.
Scalloped X Bracing: This acoustic guitar uses scalloped x bracing to increase its body’s volume and projection. This design also helps to make sure that the guitar’s sound is balanced and natural in all registers.
Mahogany Back and Sides: The guitar features mahogany back and sides, giving the instrument a warm mid-range and full-bodied sound. The mahogany wood also adds great resonance to the guitar’s sound.
Dot Position Inlays: The CD-60S features Pearloid dot position inlays that offer a classic vintage look. The inlays are easy to see on the fretboard, making it easier to find the right notes.
Taylor is also a very well respected name. They haven’t been around as long as Martin, but they have a reputation for innovative designs.
One of their most successful innovations is the Baby Taylor.
The Baby Taylor is another ¾ size dreadnought. Like the Martin LX1, it’s perfect for younger players and those with smaller hands.
It’s in the same price range as the LX1 (under $350), and while it’s good quality, it’s not as good as higher end Taylors.
That’s also true of the Martin LX1 though.
It’s difficult to provide a high quality instrument at the lower price point. Don’t get me wrong, the Baby Taylor is a great ¾ Dreadnought.
It’s got a solid Mahogany top, and laminate Sapele back sides. It’s also got a Tusq nut and saddle for great tone in such a tiny package. A gig bag is generally included also, since it’s a non-standard size.
Great for beginners or anyone looking for a travel guitar.
Here’s a nice demo of the Baby Taylor:
The best acoustic guitars under 500
It’s true that Seagull isn’t as well known as Fender or Martin when it comes to acoustic brand recognition. Don’t let that worry you though. Seagull guitars are made in Canada and are highly regarded. They offer a beautiful sound at an excellent value.
The Seagull S6 has mahogany back and sides, and a solid cedar top for excellent sound projection.
The Seagull S6 blends the warmth of mahogany with the crisp definition of maple. The rosewood fretboard is easy on the fingers, while the Tusq nut and saddle provide good tone and stable tuning.
A double action truss rod helps keep the S6 in tune over the years.
At $421 it may seem a bit pricey, but it is well worth the money. It’s not a cheap guitar, but it’s good and one of the best acoustic guitars in the under $500 price range.
The Seagull S6 is an excellent choice for beginners and a great investment. For the beginner willing to put in the practice time needed to play well, the Seagull S6 will last a decade or more.
Here’s a demo/promo video of the Seagull S6 in action:
Martin is well known and respected in acoustic circles. They have a rich history in bluegrass and early roots music. They’re also known as being expensive as hell!
Not so with the Martin LX1!
The Martin LX1 is a ¾ size acoustic which features a solid Sitka Spruce top with laminate Mahogany back and sides. It’s Stratabond modified low-oval neck makes moving up and down the fretboard a breeze.
Being ¾ size it’s perfect for a travel guitar as well as a practice guitar for beginning students or younger students with smaller hands. The LX1 retails for around $350 and includes a gig bag.
That might seem like a lot for a ¾ size, but it’s a very good quality. It’s not cheap, but it will last.
Besides, you won’t get another chance to own a piece of the fabled Martin history for less than $400.
Here’s a demo:
Owner / Operator / Guitar Nut
Welcome to my corner of the web. My name’s Mike and I’m avid guitar junkie.
I’ve been playing guitar for over 20 years, since I got my first acoustic from the local music store. Times have changed, but my love of the instrument hasn’t.
I’ve played solo, in bands and for an audience of enraptured dogs & cats.