10 Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners Under $200 (2019)
Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
Your first acoustic guitar should be a quality instrument made by a brand you can trust. Some guitar companies really shine when it comes to making outstanding, budget-level gear for beginners and this is an important market.
These guitars are often a student’s first experience with making music, and when instruments are easy to play and sound good it really jump-starts the learning process.
Of course the opposite is also true. Guitars that are hard to play and sound terrible tend to sit in the corner and collect dust.
So, for your first instrument you want a guitar that inspires you to pick it up and play it, but I'll bet you also want to stick to a reasonable budget. A great guitar for not a lot of money might sound like an unreasonable request, but they are out there.
In this article you'll find my recommendations on the best acoustic guitars for beginners, along with some advice to help you make your decision. I've included a few dreadnought-shaped instruments, a few classical guitars and some other unique options.
Remember that this list is based on my opinions and experiences. Use it as a starting point for doing your own research and drawing your own conclusions. At the time of this writing every instrument here could be found for under $200, but realize that prices can change over time. Always check with the guitar companies for the latest information on their instruments.
When it comes to your first guitar it is important to choose wisely. Let's look at some gear!
Top 10 Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
Here is my list of the best acoustic guitars for beginners:
- Yamaha FG800
- Yamaha FS800
- Fender CD-60S
- Ibanez AW-540
- Cordboa C3M
- Epiphone DR-100
- Applause Balladeer
- Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top
- Yamaha CG102
- Dean AXS Dread
Keep reading below to learn more about each instrument.
Yamaha FG800 and FS800
Whenever I write about budget acoustic guitars, Yamaha is always the brand at the top of my list. This is a company that makes a wide array of quality musical gear, from band instruments to bass guitar and electric guitars. They also have many affordable acoustic guitars that tick all the boxes when it comes to sound and playability, and the Yamaha name is one you can count on.
Yamaha does make some great high-end guitars as well, but the fact that their beginner models are such high quality means a lot. It shows that they know what it takes to make a good guitar that doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and that they are willing to put serious effort into satisfying those looking for a starter guitar. That’s the kind of company you want building your first guitar.
Two Yamaha guitars I recommend checking out are the FG800 and FS800. Both feature a classic tonewood profile with a solid spruce top, nato neck, back and sides (nato is similar to mahogany, and known for warm, rich tones) and rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
However, they have different body shapes. The FG800 is a classic dreadnought-style guitar, which means it will have excellent projection and a strong, full sound. The FS800 has a slightly slimmer concert-style body, which presents a tighter, more focused tone.
As a beginner the difference in sound may not really matter to you. Both guitars sound amazing! However, the body shape might. Smaller players may prefer the FS800, simply because it is easier to work around. For most newbies, I suggest the FG800.
The Yamaha FG800 is my top choice for beginners. The dreadnought shape means rich tone for both flat-picking and finger-picking.
It's a flexible instrument made by a guitar company known for quality.
Also check out the FS800, which has a slighly smaller body.
Note that these guitars replace the very popular FG700s and FS700S in Yamaha's lineup. For years these guitars routinely received five-star reviews for ease of play and surprising sound.
I was a little concerned to see them go, but that didn't last long. The new models feature improved bracing and bass response, and sing with the same clear, strong mid-range tones that impress even veteran guitarists. But more important for a student guitar player is the comfortable neck on this acoustic.
The physical limitations of playing guitar and fretting notes can often frustrate new players to the point of giving up. When the guitar is easy to play it can make practice more enjoyable, and encourage new players.
It also worth noting that Yamaha has a some cool mini folk guitars such as the JR1 in their lineup, which may be more appropriate for very small children.
New FG Series Guitars from Yamaha
Fender is a guitar company even newbies have probably heard of. That’s because they build legendary guitars such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster and Jaguar. These instruments have been played by guitars greats like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
So, what could a guitar company that makes some of the most iconic electric guitars in the world know about budget acoustic guitars? A lot, it turns out. Though they receive much less fanfare, Fender builds some darned good acoustics too, and a handful of excellent starter guitars.
The next spot on my list goes to the CD-60S ,part of Fender's Classic Design Series. This is another dreadnought guitar with a solid spruce top, mahogany back, sides and neck and a rosewood bridge and fingerboard.
This is a tonewood combination that has stood the test of time over many decades. Mahogany brings warm and resonant undertones, where the spruce top brings punch and clarity to the sound.
If you are a beginning guitarist this might sound like a bunch of mumbo jumbo. What’s important is that this guitar is put together to sound good, even though it comes in at such a low price.
I like this guitar for its playability and sound, and I think it gives the Yamaha FG800S a run for its money. There is also a version with a mahogany top. This means warmer, more resonant tone, and it offers an attractive and interesting alternative to the spruce top.
Because of its size, sound and ease of play the Fender CD-60S is one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners you’re going to find on the market today. Because it is a Fender you know it is high quality, made by a company with a name you can take to the bank.
The Fender Classic Design Series
Ibanez makes my list for a couple of reasons. First, Ibanez builds good guitars at reasonable prices. I have owned and played many Ibanez instruments, and never been unhappy with a single one of them. That includes acoustic guitars, electric guitars and bass guitars. This is a guitar company that knows how to deliver value and quality.
Secondly, they offer a huge number of choices in their budget acoustic guitar lineup. To me this means, like Yamaha and Fender, they put a lot of thought into satisfying this demographic. If you are a newbie looking for your first acoustic guitar, Ibanez is a guitar company that wants you to be happy.
Ibanez offers three-quarter size guitars, parlor guitars, a range of acoustic guitar starter kits and even some very cool acoustic-electric guitars. My recommendation: Check out the Ibanez Artwood AW54OPN.
The Ibanez AW54OPN features a solid mahogany top, mahogany back and sides, a mahogany neck and a rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Mahogany is a warm, rich tonewood and this guitar has a beautiful depth to its sound.
If you don't quite grasp the tonewood thing just yet that’s okay. Just know guitar makers choose combinations of woods that sound good together. Solid woods are cherished by veteran acoustic guitar players, but in guitars at this price range we generally see laminates.
All-mahogany guitars like the AW54OPN have a warm, rich sound.
That's why a solid-wood top, as on the Ibanez AW54OPN, is a very nice attribute in a beginner's guitar, as is an all-mahogany construction. Personally, I love the sound of all-mahogany guitars, and to find one for under $200 that sounds this good is pretty impressive.
Hear the Ibanez AW54OPN
So far this article has discussed the best steel-string acoustic guitars for beginners. However, some new players might prefer to start off on a classical guitar with nylon strings. If you intend to study classical music this is the kind of guitar you want. But nylon strings are also a bit easier on the fingers, so those with sensitive hands may prefer them as well.
Before you make your choice, you may want to take some time to learn about the difference between classical and steel-string acoustic guitars. Both have their place, and one or the other is likely right for you.
If you do decide a classical guitar is best for you, I recommend checking out the Cordoba C3M.
I always recommend Cordoba guitars for beginners looking for a nylon-string instrument. They make excellent acoustic guitars for intermediate and pro-level players as well, but I think their beginner guitars offer outstanding value for very reasonable prices.
The C3M is part of Cordoba's Iberia Series. It features a solid western red cedar top with a mahogany neck, back and sides and rosewood fingerboard. I like this tonewood combination in general, but especially for classical guitars.
Classical guitars like the Cordoba C3M are meant to be played finger-style, but there is no reason you can’t strum them like steel-string guitars, and many players do. Besides classical music, this guitar would work for folk music, jazz, flamenco and even certain style of rock. Let your ambition be your guide.
The Cordoba Iberia Series
I’m a big fan of Epiphone guitars. I don’t know how many I’ve owned over the years. When it comes to quality, affordable instruments they are one of the most respected brands out there. And, more importantly for you, they make a bunch of excellent starter guitars.
The DR-100 is one of those guitars, and it also happens to be one of the most affordable options on this list. In fact, that’s one of the reasons it made my top 10 of best acoustic guitars for beginners.
I used to recommend the Epiphone Hummingbird Artist, which is also an outstanding guitar. Unfortunately, the price increased and I had to remove it from my list. It's still a great beginner guitar, but it will push you slightly over our $200 budget.
On the other hand, the DR-100 comes in well under our budget, and it’s an amazing instrument for what it costs. This is a dreadnought-bodied guitar with a spruce top, mahogany body and an okoume neck. In addition to Natural and Ebony finishes, it also comes in a very cool Vintage Sunburst.
I recommend the DR-100 for beginners on a tight budget. However, don't let the low cost fool you. This is an excellent instrument made to high quality standards, and it sounds really good.
You should expect nothing less from Epiphone! This is a brand that really excels when it comes to giving new and intermediate guitar players what they need to succeed.
If you can spare a few extra bucks you may want to look to the Epiphone Hummingbird Artist or even the Epiphone Hummingbird PRO. However, if you are really counting your pennies, of if you just don’t want to spend too much on your first guitar, you may want to consider the DR-100.
More on the Epiphone DR-100
Applause by Ovation Balladeer
Here's a guitar that will take you a bit off the beaten path. Having trouble choosing between acoustic and electric for your first guitar? Ovation might be the brand for you. These are super-innovative guitars with thin necks and comfortable, shallow bodies. While the top is made of wood like a normal acoustic guitar, the back and sides are replaced with a bowl design.
The Applause Balladeer has a spruce top with Ovation’s patented Lyrachord mid-depth bowl back. This is part of what makes these guitars so unique. The back and sides aren’t wood; they are synthetic material designed for maximum sound and durability.
An Ovation guitar is certainly a unique choice for a newbie guitar player, but some guitarists are just unique from the beginning. If you like the idea of an acoustic guitar with the feel of an electric, Applause may be just what you need.
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top
I don’t typically recommend parlor guitars for beginners. However, as an experienced guitarist I can also tell you how much I really like the sound of parlor guitars. They have a nice crispness to their tone, and in a small group setting they can really shine. I especially like them for blues.
If you are a beginner who has come to the same conclusions the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top is a great choice. Gretsch is a pretty strong brand in the guitar world, and like most guitarist I think pretty highly of them. This guitar is meant to replicate the classic Gretsch “Rex” parlor guitars of the mid-20th century. It has the small O-sized body you’d expect in a parlor guitar, and a short 24-inch scale.
I already mentioned how I think Yamaha steel-string instruments are the best acoustic guitars for beginners, but Yamaha comes through on the classical guitar front as well. The CG102 is a nylon-string instrument built to the same quality bar as the FG and FS Series. It features a spruce top with nato back, sides and neck and a rosewood fingerboard and bridge.
As with the Cordoba above, this guitar is the perfect choice for beginner who knows they will be studying classical music, but it can fit other styles as well. Nylon-string guitars are meant to be played finger-style, but you can certainly strum if you want, and new guitarists with sensitive fingers may prefer the softer strings.
My final recommendation is the Dean AXS. Dean is another guitar company I think does a really good job of producing quality gear for affordable prices. This is a simple, no-frills instrument without fancy appointments, but it does have everything a beginner needs to succeed.
There are actually a bunch of acoustic guitars in the Dean AXS Series. I recommend one of the dreadnought designs, and there are versions with spruce tops, mahogany tops and quilted ash. There are acoustic-electric guitars as well, though they may take you over your $200 budget.
I’d choose the Dean AXS if I were looking for something just a little different than the typical dreadnoughts beginner guitar. That quilt ash looks amazing!
How to Choose a Beginner Guitar
Here are a few final points that may help you make a decision.
The guitars listed in this article fall around the $200 mark, and that’s not a bad budget for a first instrument. However, unlike with electric guitar, when you start off on an acoustic guitar you don’t need to worry about an amp and a bunch of other accessories. Though you certainly don't have to, you may want to increase your budget, perhaps considering acoustic guitars around $300. Each of the guitar brands listed here have some great instruments to choose from at that price point too.
While you will be tempted to do so, I always caution against going with a cheap instrument as a first guitar. You can find starter guitars for under $100, but in the guitar world, like everywhere else, you get what you pay for.
This is especially true when it comes to acoustic instruments. By the nature of their build, it is generally a little tougher to play notes on an acoustic guitar than it is an electric. They are also larger instruments and a little more unwieldy for newbies not used to holding a guitar. Cheap, badly made guitars just exacerbate those issues.
You’ll often see alternative tonewoods such as nato and sapele used in guitars at this price point, and that is nothing to be concerned about. It is just another way companies make awesome guitars that are also affordable. It is also a way they are helping the environment by using more abundant woods for some of their biggest production instruments.
However, what you will never see is guitars made of mystery woods, strange plywood or cheap plastic. That’s just one of the reasons it is smart to go with a respected brand name instead of some no-name guitar from a department store.
Good luck choosing an awesome first acoustic guitar!