I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
When it comes to your first acoustic guitar, it is smart to choose a brand you can trust. Quality guitars that sound great and are fun to play really encourage beginners to pick up the instrument and practice. Learning guitar is tough work.
The right starter instrument can mean the difference between a newbie sticking with it when things get tough, or getting frustrated and throwing in the towel.
So, if you don’t know much about guitars, how are you supposed to know which guitar brands you can count on? This article can help.
You may have seen a lot of cheap acoustic guitars on the market, aimed at first time players. In my opinion, it is a bad idea to go with a low-budget guitar as a first instrument. Far too often beginners get stuck with crummy guitars that are too hard to play to be any use. The strings are too far away from the fretboard and can't be adjusted correctly, and the darn thing won't stay in tune. That's no good, and it's no wonder so many newbies hang it up before they even learn ten chords.
Just like with anything else, you get what you pay for. But that doesn’t mean you have to empty your wallet if you want to land a quality beginner’s guitar. You just need to look in the right places.
Some brands have proven themselves, and over my thirty years of playing guitar a few companies have stood out to me. These are the companies that make some of the best acoustic guitars for beginners. To make my list a guitar brand has to meet three criteria:
- They must produce affordable guitars. I think around $200 is a good price range for a starter guitar. But, since you don’t need an amp if you choose an acoustic as your first instrument, you may consider going as high as $300.
- They must produce quality gear at a budget price point. Many guitar companies make great pro-level guitars but come up short when it comes to satisfying beginners. That’s not what we’re looking for here.
- They have to make guitars that sound and look good. Remember, the most important thing is for a student to be inspired to practice!
So, let’s look at some gear! Here is my list of the best acoustic guitar brands for beginners.
Yamaha is my #1 pick when it comes to beginner acoustic guitars, and this is the brand I always recommend. That’s because they have several affordable instruments in their lineup, and it’s easy to find one perfect for the guitar student of any age or size. They also have a reputation for building inexpensive guitars that sound and play fantastic.
For newbies, I recommend checking out the following guitars:
- Yamaha FG800: This is the instrument I recommend for most beginners. The FG800 is a dreadnought-style guitar known for outstanding sound and playability. Dreadnought guitars have a deep, resonant tone and excellent projection.
- Yamaha FS800: The FS800 is a guitar similar to the FG800, and it is made with the same tonewood profile. The difference is in the body shape. The FS800 features a slightly smaller folk-style body. Sound-wise, this will mean a little less bass and a tighter midrange as compared to the FG800. More practically, a smaller guitar body may appeal to teens who don’t yet feel comfortable with a full-size dreadnought guitar.
- Yamaha JR2: For children and smaller teens, I recommend checking out the Yamaha JR2. This is a 3/4-size acoustic guitar made with many of the same great attributes as the FG Series. Thanks to its smaller size, the JR2 also makes for a great travel guitar!
Yamaha FG Series Guitars
Fender not only makes some of the finest pro-level guitars in the world, but they are also a company that does a great job of satisfying players of every budget and ability level. Of course, that includes beginners!
There are a few Fender acoustic guitars I suggest checking out, depending on your budget and goals. They are each a spin-off from the same great design.
- Fender CD-140S: My top recommendation is the CD-140S. This is another classic dreadnought-style guitar with a solid spruce top, laminated mahogany back and sides and rosewood fretboard and bridge. It’s a solid choice as a first guitar for serious beginners, and like the Yamahas above gets great marks for sound and playability.
- Fender CD-140S (mahogany): For those looking for something a little different, there is a version with a mahogany top as well. This guitar looks amazing and has a slightly different tone compared to the base model. All-mahogany guitars sound a bit warmer than traditional spruce-top guitars, and a little more bassy. I've owned a few and, personally, I really love the sound!
- Fender CD-140SCE: Thirdly, there is the CD-140SCE. This is an acoustic-electric guitar with a similar build as the CD-140S. In my opinion, it is wise to go with a basic acoustic as your first instrument. However, if you have your heart set on an acoustic-electric guitar this is a great choice.
Fender CD-140SCE Acoustic-electric Guitar
Ibanez is one of the best guitar brands for just about everything: Acoustic, electric and even bass. They know how to build quality gear that doesn’t break the bank, and this really shows in their lineup of guitars for beginners.
- Ibanez Artwood AW50: If you are looking for a standard acoustic I recommend the Artwood AW50. It’s a dreadnought guitar with a solid Sitka spruce top, sapele back and sides, mahogany neck, and rosewood bridge and fingerboard. Sapele is another alternative tonewood with similar tonal properties as mahogany.
- Ibanez Artwood AW54OPN: If you think you’d like something a bit off the beaten path, consider the Ibanez AW54OPN. This is a guitar with a mahogany top, back and sides. It’s a gorgeous instrument, and I really love the sound of all-mahogany acoustic guitars. I think I already said that, though!
- The AW54OPN also comes in an acoustic-electric model called the AW54CEOPN.
For smaller players, Ibanez offers a handful of very pretty parlor-size guitars. With smaller, slimmer bodies, these might appeal to newbies looking for something more manageable than the traditional dreadnought shape.
Acoustic Guitar Value Packs
Yamaha, Ibanez, and Fender all have some excellent acoustic guitar starter packs for beginners. Starter kits are a smart choice because they contain everything you need to launch your guitar-playing career in one handy box. You don’t have to figure out which accessories you need. It’s all there, and you’ll typically spend a lot less compared to purchasing everything separately.
I recommended checking out these three kits:
- The Yamaha Gigmaker Deluxe Acoustic Guitar Pack: This includes a quality guitar in the FD01S, as well as a tuner, strap, gig bag, extra strings, picks, and even an instructional DVD. As with the FG-Series, Yamaha is always the top brand I recommend when it comes to starter packs.
- The Fender DG-8S Acoustic Guitar Pack: Another starter kit featuring a great guitar and all of the accessories you need. You also get a free download of Rock Prodigy guitar instructional software to kickstart the learning process.
- Ibanez Jampacks: There are three to choose from. The IJV50 features a dreadnought-style acoustic guitar. The IJCV50 comes with an acoustic guitar with a slightly smaller concert-style body. The IJV30 features a 3/4-size guitar perfect for kids.
Starter packs are the simplest way to get into acoustic guitar, with minimum hassle and expense. Thanks to brands like Yamaha, Ibanez, and Fender, you don’t have to sweat it out finding all the accessories to go with your guitar. All you have to do is learn to play the thing!
A Few Final Words
It is worth it to put some time into learning how to choose an acoustic guitar as a beginner. I’ve given you what I think are your top options when it comes to acoustic guitar brands for beginners, and I’ve recommended some great starter guitars. So, are there other brands you might consider when choosing your first acoustic guitar? Of course!
Some of my honorable mentions here include:
- Recording King
When you assess a guitar, I encourage you to consider its construction. Good guitars in this price range should have solid tops. The sides and back are likely laminates and may be made of alternative tonewoods.
Alternative tonewoods are cheaper woods that do the same job as more expensive woods like mahogany or rosewood. It’s a cost-saving measure, but also helps alleviate some of the strain on natural resources brought on by over-harvesting certain wood species.
A little quick research on the internet can tell you if the woods used in a guitar are legitimate or not. Beware of any strange woods or materials that have a reputation as cheap or inferior.
This is all the more reason to consider a quality brand name for your first acoustic guitar. You know you’ll end up with a great instrument you don’t need to question. You can’t say that about the no-name guitars you find in big-box stores!
Good luck and I hope you found this article helpful!
Your Opinion: Which Acoustic Guitar Brand is Best?
Michael James (author) on May 05, 2020:
@Steve - If budget is a main concern you may want to go with the Fender. It's a bit less expensive and it also has more of a classic tonewood profile. The Ibanez is a gorgeous guitar but it is made with some alternative tonewoods. There is nothing wrong with that (I might choose the Ibanez if it were me) but if "budget" and "classic" are your keywords it is tough to beat the Fender Classic Design Series. I'd also checkout out Yamaha guitars if you haven't already. Good luck making your choice!
Steve on May 04, 2020:
I’ve done some research and settled on either the Fender CC60SCE or the Ibanez AE245 but would like a recommendation between the two. I’m most interested in playability and true, classic acoustic tone. Not necessarily concerned with how it sounds plugged in. Would you be able to comment on either of these guitars reputation for playability and tone? I’m trying to keep my budget as low as possible.