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Best Yamaha Acoustic Guitars for Beginners

Updated on October 01, 2016
Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The Yamaha FG800 is one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners.
The Yamaha FG800 is one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners.

Yamaha Acoustic Guitars

If you are thinking of learning to play acoustic guitar you should go for it. As a beginner is can be confusing and even a little frustrating, but if you stick with it you won’t regret it. In fact, years from now you will probably look back on it as one of the best decisions you ever made.

But first you need an instrument. So which guitars should you consider? I usually recommend Yamaha guitars, and I think they are the best options for beginners. Their FG Series consists of affordable, quality instruments and they get remarkably strong reviews from beginning, intermediate and advanced guitar players alike.

Of course there are other brands out there, but in my opinion Yamaha is at the top of the heap when it comes to acoustic guitars for a newbie. While Yamaha does have some excellent high-end guitars in their lineup, they have really developed a reputation for building some of the best instruments for new and intermediate players. From guitars for kids to instruments for adults and serious beginners, odds are there is a Yamaha acoustic that’s perfect for you.

There are a few really great acoustic guitars for beginners on the market today, but if you are just starting out on guitar you really ought to take a good look at what Yamaha has to offer.

Why Yamaha?

So, why do I recommend Yamaha guitars for beginners? On reason is because they are relatively easy to play. Many acoustic guitars at low price points have inherent design issues that no setup or tech work will improve. Unfortunately, I've even seen these issues in a few big-name brands that ought to be better. But these problems are especially evident if you go with some no-name guitar because you intend to spend as little as possible.

It comes down to build quality. Poorly made guitars that are hard to play make the learning process frustrating and difficult for beginners. Starting out on a quality guitar goes a long way toward ensuring success. Yamaha acoustics tend to shine in this regard.

Another reason is overall sound quality. Guitars like the FG800 have carved out a strong niche as great-sounding budget instruments that are not only perfect for newbies, but impress veteran players as well. A guitar that sounds good is inspiring to play. If you are just learning guitar it is a lot more fun to practice on an instrument that helps you sound a little better than you really are!

Which Yamaha starter guitar you choose will depend on your goals and budget. As a beginner you’ll find a lot of options in their lineup. This article can help you find the right guitar. I’ve been playing guitar for over 30 years, and I feel confident that the recommendations here will get your new guitar career off to a great start.

So, let’s get with it! Here are some awesome Yamaha acoustic guitars for beginners.

Acoustic Guitar Starter Packs

An acoustic guitar starter kit is smart way for beginners to grab everything they need to start playing guitar in one kit. You get the guitar, plus a strap, picks, gig bag, tuner, extra strings and a DVD with instructions and lessons. This not only saves you from the hassle of having to figure out and then acquire all the accessories you need to go along with your new guitar, but you’ll also save a nice chunk of money as well.

Yamaha has two starter packs you should consider, and both are very wallet-friendly. The Gigmaker Standard is the basic and most affordable package and features Yamaha’s F325 acoustic guitar. The F325 is one of the most inexpensive guitars in Yamaha’s lineup, but it is certainly good enough to start out on, and the price is tough to beat.

The Gigmaker Deluxe starter pack upgrades you to a better guitar in the FD01S. This guitar features a solid spruce top (compared to the laminate on the F325), Nato back and sides and a Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. This instrument is a nice step up in quality for a small jump in price.

Both Yamaha starter packs offer a simple and affordable way to start playing guitar today. Everything you need comes in one box. Does it get any better than this?

Well, yeah, it does. Some of the higher-quality acoustic guitars listed below are also available in "bundles" that come with similar accessories as are included with Yamaha's starter packs. If you find out you are interested in a guitar like the FG800, you ought to be able to find a cost-effective bundle that comes with a hard case, picks, capo and other accessories. These bundles are more expensive than the Gigmaker packs, but also contain high-quality components.

Yamaha JR1 and JR2

These are 3/4-size mini folk acoustics based on the FG design. They are some of the best acoustic guitars for kids or smaller people just picking up guitar for the first time. Learning on a full-sized instrument can be hard for people with small hands and bodies. A 3/4-size guitar is less intimidating, and more conducive to positive practice.

Even though these guitars are small they are well made and up the standards of the Yamaha name. These aren't toys! They are quality student guitars that will start a newbie off right. And they sound pretty darned good for their size as well. Some advanced guitarists even like to use them as travel guitars for taking camping or to the beach.

The JR1 features a Spruce top, Meranti back and side, a Nato neck and a Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Nato and Meranti are economical replacements for Mahogany, and while they don’t quite have the same richness and depth they work well in budget guitars.

The Yamaha JR2 is an improvement over the JR, with a Mahogany Finish UTF back and sides instead of the Meranti. The JR2 also comes in a really pretty tobacco sunburst finish in addition to the natural top. It won't make a difference for your sound, but it sure does look good.

Both guitars are affordable enough to serve as student guitars for children or smaller-bodied teens. However, for veteran guitarists looking for a small guitar to pack for trips, or a second guitar to stash at the office, either the JR1 or JR2 would be a really cool choice.

Don't forget to look for convenient and affordable "bundles" if you are interested in getting a few important accessories with your new guitar.

Check Out the Yamaha JR2! (Natural Finish)

Yamaha FG800

The Yamaha FG700S was one of the most popular acoustic guitars in the world because of its quality and value, even though it is intended for first-time players. It was a full-sized acoustic with appointments you might expect to see in a more expensive guitar.

Yamaha recently upgraded this already amazing instrument, and released it back into the world as the FG800. In my opinion, this is the best acoustic guitar a beginner can start out on, and it's even good enough for intermediate players looking for a new acoustic.

This is a guitar that gets very strong reviews, which is pretty amazing for its low price tag. As with all Yamaha acoustic guitars, it comes down to solid constriction and sound quality. It’s tough to find a better starter acoustic guitar for under $200.

The FG800 features a Solid Sitka Spruce with a Nato back, sides and neck and a Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. Remember Nato has qualities similar to Mahogany, and will help to provide depth and resonance, where the Spruce top will help with articulation and crispness. And a solid top is really nice to see on a guitar at this price point.

One of the best things about the FG800 is the praise it receives for ease of play. As I suggested earlier in this article, this is where Yamaha student guitars shine, and really separate themselves from the pack. While there are a few really good acoustic guitars in this price range, many budget-level guitars are hard to play due to less-than-stellar craftsmanship.

Learning to play guitar is hard enough without the adding frustration of struggling with a poor-quality instrument. The Yamaha FG800 does not have that problem, and this makes it one of the best acoustic guitars for beginners.

Remember, you can also grab the FG800 in a bundle pack that comes with a nice hard case, a strap, stand, tuner, a capo, string winder, tuner and instructional DVD. You are going to need a collection of accessories for acoustic guitar as you progress in your playing, and this is a great way to start out with everything you need.

Yamaha FG820S and FG830

If you are a serious beginner with a few extra bucks to spend you’ll want to check out the FG820 and FG830. Both guitars are an upgrade from the FG800, and while they are more expensive instruments they still come in at very affordable prices.

These are some of the top acoustics for under $300, and you'll get some mileage out of them before you need to upgrade to a pro-level guitar.

The FG830 and FG830 both feature a solid Sitka Spruce top, but where the FG820 has Eastern Mahogany back and sides, the FG830 has Rosewood. Rosewood is a warm, sweet tonewood and a favorite tonewood among acoustic players.

Both guitars are available in some very pretty finishes such as Vintage Cherry Sunburst and Tobacco Brown Sunburst. So which should you choose? As a beginner you might not care about tonewoods and all that mumbo jumbo, and you may just choose whichever guitar looks better to you. That’s okay. You can’t go wrong with either.

However, if I personally had to make a choice I think I’d go with the FG830 and pick the Rosewood over the Eastern Mahogany. Eastern Mahogany is often called Nato, and while Yamaha makes a distinction here I do think the Rosewood back and sides on the FG830 are slightly better quality.

The Improved Yamaha FG Series

Yamaha FGX800C

Some guitar players want to start out on an acoustic-electric guitar. These are acoustic instruments you can plug into an amplifier or PA system to reinforce your sound. Most performers use acoustic-electric instruments, so if your ambition is to play guitar for a crowd of people this may be the way to go.

It's important to realize that choosing an acoustic-electric guitar won't alter or hamper the way you learn to play acoustic guitar. Unplugged, these instruments have the same characteristics of purely acoustic guitars.

So, until you plan to "go live" and plug your guitar into an amp or powered board, you can learn the instrument just as you would with any acoustic guitar.

The FGX800C is similar in build to the FG800 above, with some key differences. The first thing you’ll notice is the single-cutaway design. This is typical of many acoustic-electric guitars, and intended to allow you to reach the higher registers of the fretboard easier.

The other major difference is the electronics system. Acoustic-electric guitars require both a pickup and preamp to send their signal to the amplifier. In this case, Yamaha employs their System55T with a Piezo 3-band EQ. This allows you to adjust your tone and volume right on your guitar.

Not every beginning guitar player is brave enough to consider performing in front of an audience before they even strum their first chord, but for those who do Yamaha presents a quality, affordable instrument in the FGX800C.

Yamaha JR2 3/4-Size Folk Guitar
Yamaha JR2 3/4-Size Folk Guitar

Which Yamaha?

So, you've read about a bunch of great Yamaha acoustic guitars. Which one should you choose? It may be obvious. If not, here is some general advice.

  • The FG800 is one of the best student-level acoustic guitars on the market. If you can play a full-sized guitar without issue, in most cases this is your best choice.
  • If you want a full-sized student acoustic but you are a bit concerned about budget, the Yamaha starter packs are excellent choices.
  • Yamaha's JR1 and JR2 acoustics are great for kids and smaller players. Once they grow out of these little guitars and move up to something full-sized they can keep them around as travel instruments.
  • Serious beginners will gravitate toward the FG820, FG830 and FGX800C. These are still very affordable instruments, but they will give a new guitarist an instrument they can stick with for years.

If, for some strange reason, you are not impressed with Yamaha you can find great starter acoustics from brands like Fender, Epiphone, Ibanez and Washburn. The most important thing is to get a guitar you are really happy with, so if you find that in another brand go for it. But when people ask for my recommendation I always point to Yamaha as making the best acoustic guitars for beginners.

Going beyond this article, you can find many other great guitars in the Yamaha lineup. While the dreadnought body style of the FG Series is outstanding when it comes to playing comfort and sound projection, there is also the FS Series of smaller-bodied guitars with a Grand Auditorium design.

If you are a super-serious beginner you may want to check out the Yamaha L Series. These are pro-level guitars for players who aren’t messing around.

Whatever instrument you choose, you will never regret the decision to learn to play guitar. Having music in your life is a wonderful thing, and being able to create it yourself is priceless.

Good luck getting started with your first acoustic guitar!

Your Opinion: Which is the best Yamaha acoustic guitar for beginners?

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© 2015 Guitar Gopher


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    • profile image

      DebMartin 21 months ago

      I have a lovely Yamaha Acoustic Guitar. And yet I struggle to learn. I'm sure it's not the guitar. Any advice for those of us who just can't get started?

    • Guitar Gopher profile image

      Guitar Gopher 21 months ago

      Hi Deb! Don't give up! My best advice is to find an easy chord songbook for beginners that has popular songs you like. You'd be surprised how many popular songs (even some classic ones) incorporate mostly easy chords even beginners play.

      Learning songs you like makes practicing guitar much more enjoyable. You'll learn the important chords, and whenever you are presented with a chord you don't know you'll be forced to learn it (if you want to play the song).

      You can graduate to harder and harder songs as you get better. Of course this does not take the place of learning the basics of guitar playing, but it is a powerful supplement that will keep you interested and progressing.

      Hope this helps. Good luck!

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 21 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Some really good advice for the new player.

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