Parent article: Best Acoustic Guitars
Updated by Sadie
Recently updated on July 15th, 2020
Updated product links and checked for availability of each acoustic guitar mentioned. Also made minor changes to article formatting.
Best Acoustic Guitar for Beginners: Top Pick
Though hard to choose between the Yamaha FG800 and the Taylor BT2, we'd give the FG800 an edge based on its solid top and value. Its price point is incredibly low, yet with a handful of quality features. It's the best acoustic guitar for beginners primarily based on those two factors.
This is our best acoustic guitar for beginners list, based on first-hand experience, testing, rating, and reviewing of each guitar recommended.
It's also based on an understanding of what a beginner is looking for in an acoustic guitar.
They need quality and a low price, not just the cheapest option.
Many acoustic guitars are cheap, yet few provide a genuine experience of the instrument. This can be frustrating to beginners. Thus, the best acoustic guitar for beginners will accurately represent the feel and experience of the guitar and the fun involved.
In addition to the box above this paragraph, here's a list of what we recommend with our overall rating included, below.
You can also checkout our best acoustic guitar roundup for more broad suggestions.
Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners: Top 5 Picks
Martin LXK2 Little Martin
1. Yamaha FG800
The FG800's main attractions are configuration options, low price tag, and a solid wood top. Options come in the form of an electric and non-electric versions, along with two body types to choose from (concert and dreadnought). Hovering around $200 retail, the FG800 is one of the cheapest acoustic guitars we know of providing a solid top. Besides the spec sheet, we consider this the best acoustic guitar for beginners because it feels like a legitimate instrument and not a toy. You get the experience of a decent acoustic guitar and an extremely low price point.
We'd recommend it for all beginner situations. The smaller concert style version is also great for kids or those wanting a less bulky acoustic. Your tone isn't as good as some of the more expensive solid Spruce top guitars (like the Taylor 114ce), but it certainly outperforms its own $200 price tag.
Read the full review: Yamaha FG800
IDEAL FOR: Beginners and stingy budgets
2. Taylor BT2
Since the BT2 doesn't have a solid top and costs more than the FG800, we have it as our second beginner acoustic choice. A lot of its appeal would be in the body size, which is 3/4 of a full dreadnought, making it a great choice for kids, or those who prefer a smaller instrument. Ed Sheeran uses 3/4 size acoustics almost exclusively when he performs. The BT2 also offers a version with an onboard preamp called the Taylor expression system (though this version is often hard to find).
The BT2 has the feel of professional Taylor quality, even at a beginner-friendly price. Going without the solid top is a bummer, but it's far from enough to ruin the party. Beginners will love learning on the BT2. It also makes a really nice travel acoustic.
Read the full review: Taylor BT2
IDEAL FOR: Beginners, kids, travel guitar, and practice sessions
3. Martin LXK2 "Little Martin"
Martin's LXK2 "Little Martin" is appreciably similar to the Taylor BT2. The main spec sheet distinction is Martin's use of Koa tonewood compared to the Mahogany on the BT2. Both are laminate, though Martin tries to sell it a bit harder by adding the "high pressure laminate" tag (abbreviated HPL). From what we understand about laminate wood, it's all made with high pressure, so we don't see a big difference here. Still, the LXK2 is a great beginner's guitar because of the small size that still manages to capture the warmth and rhythmic depth Martin acoustics are known for. It rates extremely close to the BT2 and we'd have a hard time choosing between them.
Read the full review: Martin LXK2
IDEAL FOR: Small hands, beginners, practice, and performing
4. Fender CD-60s
The Fender CD-60 series offers variations of body type, electronic makeup, color, and cutaway models, giving you a wide range of options to choose from within a single guitar line. Its popularity is due largely to its $180 price, even less than the Yamaha FG800. Moreover, the CD-60 also advertises a solid top. However, we think the tonewood combination of the CD-60 doesn't sound quite as good as the FG800. It doesn't get as much out of the solid top as we'd hope. Tone isn't as full and sounds a little thinner than we'd like. In other words, it doesn't totally spare you from the beginner guitar feel.
Still, it does have desirable features, including the solid top mentioned and a scalloped X-bracing system. Also, the CD-60SCE comes with a Fishman preamp, pictured here:
We'd consider this a major point of value for the CD-60E. In some cases, we've even thought the plugged-in tone sounded better than the guitar's natural resonance. The preamp has a two-band EQ, volume, a tuner, and a battery life indicator. If you buy the CD-60, we'd recommend grabbing the acoustic-electric "E" version to take advantage of this feature. If you plan to go purely unplugged, look elsewhere in our best acoustic guitar for beginners list.
Read the full review: Fender CD-60S
IDEAL FOR: Plugging in, beginners, and budgets
5. Fender FA-100 or 115
A step down from the CD-60 line, the FA-100 is one of Fender's more popular acoustics without any solid wood. This makes it cheaper and means it almost always comes in a bundle or "package" option. The package comes with everything you need to get started like a strap, gig bag, picks, and even extra strings. We did notice that different marketplaces selling this guitar will sometimes offer variations of that packaging, though it's all similar.
The FA-100 doesn't sound as good as acoustics with the solid top, like the CD-60S and the Yamaha FG800. That's a consequence of an all-laminate tonewood mixture in a super-cheap acoustic guitar. However, it plays nicely and is easy to maneuver. Those looking for gift guitar, perhaps for a child or a pure beginner, should consider the FA-100 and FA-115 bundles. They're both great options for getting started.
Read the full review: Fender FA-100
IDEAL FOR: Pure beginners, kids, and budgets
Why You Can Trust Guitar Chalk
Bobby Kittleberger, Guitar Chalk's founder and senior editor, has been playing guitar for nearly 25 years. He has used the acoustics in this list (owned several of them) and has consulted people that have also owned or played them extensively. In other words, this page has been created and informed by people who have literally played hundreds of acoustic guitars over a period of several decades.
The research and analysis we put together is either firsthand or drawn from someone who has had firsthand experience with the acoustic guitars in question. We do not recommend instruments where we cannot verify our claims about them.
We pool information from people who own their own recording studios, perform live on a regular basis, teach guitar, write for major magazines, and - on occasion - we even get feedback from professional artists and guitar players. A handful of names that we've consulted with include:
We also have contacts at a number of big-name manufacturing companies, including the following:
- Seymour Duncan
- Taylor Guitars
- Paul Reed Smith Guitars (PRS)
- Keeley Effects
These are just a few companies we've worked with. Making sure we have contact with manufacturers helps us make sure we're providing accurate information and up to date product info. All of this is to say that you can trust our recommendations are at least born out of a genuine interest and real-life experience with the acoustic guitar. You might disagree with our ratings or wish we covered something different, but either way you're getting information from real people and actual musicians.
Rating System and Methadology
When we put together a list like this one, we make sure to put all the acoustic guitars included through a ratings system. For individual acoustic guitar reviews there are seven rating categories. For roundup lists like this one, we boil those down into four categories that make the ratings simpler, and more straightforward.
These four categories give you a high-level view of how an acoustic guitar performs compared to similar options. Each one is given a rating on a scale of zero to 100. If you want more detail, individual review pages house the more comprehensive ratings. When analyzing and rating an acoustic guitar we take into consideration how it sounds, how easy it is to play, the natural tone quality, the electronic tone quality (if applicable), the flexibility of the preamp, the quality of tonewood used, and the interior bracing system, just to name a few.
While there are other specs that you can look at, how we rate an acoustic guitar is more closely related to how it performs when it's actually being played. We'd argue it's difficult to rate an acoustic guitar based simply on a spec sheet alone. That's not a review as much as it's a product summary.
To really understand how an acoustic guitar performs, you have to hear and feel it for yourself. That's why our analysis and ratings are based on tangible, real-world experience, and given with as much objectivity as possible.
Since we've taken the time to build out a full ratings system for all these acoustic guitars, we can take those ratings and plot them against the approximate price of each model. This gives us what we call a "value graph" where guitars that land lower and further to the right have higher value (lower price combined with higher quality). Here's how the beginner acoustic guitars in this list stack up to one another:
The tone quality rating we use in roundup articles is taken directly from the same rating category in individual reviews. We give this grade based on how the acoustic guitar sounds in a number of scenarios. How does it sound with a pick? Does it sound full and warm or does is sound thin and weak? What about the high-end notes? How much sustain do you get out of open chords? How does it sound plugged in? These are just a few of the questions you can ask when evaluating the tone quality of an acoustic guitar.
It's important for beginners to be able to analyze this rating because we believe tone quality matters a lot, even in cheaper models. Because if you end up with something cheap that has terrible tone, it's going to ultimately discourage you - as a beginner - and make it hard for you to progress and become a better player.
Here's how the tone ratings square up for the beginner acoustic guitars we've reviewed on this page:
In the above graph, you can see we rated the Taylor BT2 higher in this category, despite the fact it doesn't have a solid top. We just thought it sounded better than the FG800, and was able to handle a wider tone range at a higher quality standard.
Once you get into the Fender guitars, you lose a fair amount of tone quality, though we still like them for beginners. Anything rated 80 or above we'd consider passable for at least semi-professional use and performing. Going into 60s and 70s we'd limit those recommendations strictly to simple practice sessions.
Preamp and Features
For the preamp and features category we look at the electronic mechanisms and how well they perform in each acoustic. If an acoustic doesn't have this feature, we'll omit the rating or (if we're able) test it with a microphone. We look for preamp features, EQ flexibility, and how well an electronics system mirrors the acoustic's natural tone and resonance.
Of the acoustic guitars we've recommended in this list, the Fender CD-60S has the nicest preamp and pickup system. It's a Fishman outfit, which provides a two-band EQ, volume control, battery life indicator, and a chromatic tuner. Its effectiveness will depend somewhat on what it's plugged into. But we found it to be one of the nicer acoustic preamps we've tested and actually sounded better - in most cases - than the guitar's natural resonance. Though most beginners don't prioritize a preamp, those that are prioritizing it should seriously consider the CD-60S. A lot of what you're paying for in that guitar is the nicer electronics. Keep in mind, this only applies to the "E" version, which means you'd be looking for the CD-60SE or CD-60SCE.
Moving down the list, the Yamaha FG800 and the Martin LXK2 both have similar "E" versions that provide a built-in preamp and pickup. In the FG800 you have the System 66 preamp that's built by Yamaha with a three-band EQ and a piezo pickup installed under the bridge. On paper, this is the most functional preamp of the three guitars, though we didn't think it sounded quite as good as what the Fishman preamp was able to produce, even on a cheaper guitar. Still, the System 66 gets you a lot of versatility, throwing adjustable mid-range and a tuner on top of the three-band EQ. Had it performed better in the tone department; we'd rate it closer to the Fishman in the CD-60SE.
We rated the Martin LXK2's electronics based on a version of the acoustic that usually shows up in the form of the LX1E. That guitar uses a Fishman Sonitone pickup and preamp, where the preamp is installed under the sound hole of the guitar. It's only a volume and single EQ knob, which we don't like as much as either of the other two systems represented in this list. It gets you plugged in, but there's little versatility there without an additional pedal or external preamp to help control your tone.
The Taylor BT2 and Fender FA-100 do not have electronic versions that we were able to test.
Even the nicest beginner acoustic guitars don't score great in this category. An acoustic's build is the most straightforward ways for a manufacturer to cut costs. This means that things like tonewood, construction, bracing, and other physical aspects of the guitar's body will take a hit in quality. When assessing this category, we're looking at all those factors, particularly whether or not there's any solid tonewood in the guitar. In some cases, even with cheaper acoustic guitars, you'll find a solid piece of Spruce for the top. Here's how these acoustics scored in our build quality rating:
As you can see, one of the first things we look for to determine build quality is a solid top. Of the five beginner acoustic guitars we've recommended here, only two of them have it, the FG800 and the CD-60s. This is definitely a source of disappointment for the Taylor and Martin options, especially because they're more expensive. Though you can have different grades of wood, which is often harder to determine. You also need to consider how the tonewood projects the sound of the guitar, which isn't necessarily better just because it has a solid top. That's a good starting point, but not the only consideration.
In almost all of these categories, not to mention our value graph, the Yamaha FG800 is a major standout.
We'd consider that an easy best acoustic guitar for beginners pick, even among strong plays from the Martin and Taylor acoustics. For folks that want a beginner acoustic with a good preamp, we'd recommend the FG800 or the Fender CD-60SE or SCE.
For travel or easier playing, the Martin LXK2 and the Taylor BT2 would be our top choices.
Questions and Comments
Do you have questions about our list or review process? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and we'll do our best to help out.