I remember the first time I ever played a guitar.
After weeks of showing interest, my dad brought home an acoustic guitar that his friend lent to him for me to try. I must’ve spent the entire night strumming that thing. There was even a little booklet in the guitar case that came with some beginner’s licks and chord shapes. I was hooked instantly.
A few weeks later my dad brought home my Baby Taylor for me to learn on. I’ve written about this guitar in a couple of articles, so I won’t be including it in this article.
What it taught me is that a good beginner’s guitar can make a big difference in the staying power of that initial fascination.
Snapshot: Top 7 Acoustic Guitars for Beginners
- Loog Mini Acoustic Guitar
- Hola! Model HG-39GLS Nylon String Guitar
- Taylor GS Mini
- Fender CD60S (Bundle)
- Martin DJR-10
- Epiphone Hummingbird PRO Acoustic/Electric
- Gretsch Jim Dandy Flat Top
What Should Beginners Consider?
When you are a beginner looking for your first guitar (or if you are looking to buy a guitar for someone else), there are so many different options available. So many in fact that it can start to be overwhelming.
In order to cut your options in half, start with the guitar type: Acoustic.
While there are a lot of good electric guitars out there for beginners, I believe that acoustic guitars are the perfect place to start. I believe this because acoustics are “house friendly”, meaning that their volume is tolerable and the tone is usually more pleasing for those around you.
Acoustic guitars are also honest. What I mean by this is that with an acoustic, you don’t have amp distortion or other effects that you can hide behind. Acoustics sound exactly the way you play them. If you mis-fret a note, you will hear it on an acoustic. This gives you the opportunity to self-correct when you are practicing at home.
Acoustic guitars are also fun to strum and play chords on. Once you learn your first two or three chords, there are literally thousands of songs that you can begin learning and you can sound like the record, as many singer-songwriters record on acoustic guitars. This makes beginner acoustic guitars a very motivating guitar choice.
Choosing between Acoustic or Electric is the easy part. Deciding which acoustic model to go for is a bit more challenging.
Steel String vs. Nylon String
Acoustic guitars come with two kinds of string options: steel or nylon. Steel strings are often used in rock, country, and blues. Nylon strings are more often used in classical, jazz, and flamenco style playing. That being said, those stylistic choices aren’t important for beginners. It is more important to pick a string type that feels right and sounds inspiring.
For beginners, Nylon has the added benefit of having a softer feel and a warmer tone. This makes learning much more pleasant because when you are beginning, your fingers need to develop calluses. This process can be a little bit painful at first, especially on steel string guitars. If you are an adult, this may not be such a big deal, but for kids it can make or break whether they continue with the instrument.
Picking the right beginner acoustic guitar size is also very important no matter what stage of learning you are in. People begin learning guitar at varying ages (and therefore sizes), so there are options on this list for every type of guitar size. For more on picking the right guitar size for you, read our article on the subject.
Price and Quality
The quality (and often reflected price) of one’s first guitar depends on who you are buying for. If you are a parent buying for a kid, you may be tempted to buy something cheap so if they decide they don’t like it, no problem. You didn’t lose a bunch of money on something your kid isn’t interested in ever picking up again.
If you are worried about your kid’s interest level, however, I would recommend taking the approach my dad did with me. Borrow a guitar from someone for a couple weeks, then buy a guitar if your kid shows continued interest.
Regardless of whether you are buying a first guitar for yourself or someone else, I think it is best to get a guitar that is of decent quality. This is necessary because learning an instrument can be really challenging, and it is helpful to have an instrument that plays well and is inspiring to play.
Every instrument on this list offers some kind of quality that is fitting or exceeding its price point.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Loog Mini Acoustic Guitar Review
- Real wood, real guitar: perfect intonation, low string action and classical nylon strings
- The ideal first guitar: 3-string award-winning design approved by educators
- Fully assembled and ready to play
- Includes flashcards with chord diagrams and full access to the Loog Guitar app (iOS and Android)
Notice anything odd about this guitar? That’s right, only three strings and a super small body. The Loog mini takes the top spot on this list because I think it is hands down the best option for kids who are wanting to learn the guitar. It’s a fun design with a great learning program including flash cards and an interactive app.
The Loog Mini may look like a toy, but I can assure you that it is a real instrument. Basswood makes up the top, sides and back, along with a maple fretboard. It has a 15.6” scale length and is about 22 inches long, and weighs only 2 pounds, making it about the size of a ukulele. This makes it the ideal size for little kids. The three strings are tuned to be the same as the top three strings on a normal acoustic guitar, therefore everything that is learned on the Loog is directly applicable to when kids move on to a normal six string guitar. Most importantly, the guitar is fun to play and won’t overwhelm beginners like a six string sometimes can.
There are electric Loog guitars, but the Loog Mini Acoustic doesn’t come with any electronics. The bridge is made of wood, though I couldn’t determine exactly what kind from the website. I would assume it is maple, as it is typical for the bridge and fretboard wood to be the same on acoustic guitars. The Loog Mini has 15 metal frets.
The Loog Mini comes with nylon strings that make it easy to play and produce a warm tone similar to a ukulele. What was most surprising to me is that the Loog Mini Acoustic sounds unique and good enough to keep beyond the learning years. It could be purposefully chosen for its fun, tiny sound.
- Body Material: Basswood
- Neck Material: Maple
- Fingerboard Material: Maple
- Pickups: None
- Bridge: Maple
Final Thoughts on the Loog Mini Acoustic
So many kids end up quitting instruments at an early age because learning an instrument becomes boring or tough. I am giving the Loog Mini Acoustic the top spot because I think it successfully combats these teaching/learning challenges and creates a greater chance for beginners to continue playing.
The folks over at Loog have developed a learning program that is extremely fun for kids, while offering an instrument that walks the tightrope between “kid’s guitar” and “specialty instrument worth keeping”.
2. Hola! Model HG-39GLS Nylon String Guitar Review
- Hola! Music Full Size Classical Guitar HG-39GLS features: Spruce top, Mahogany back, sides and neck
- This classical guitar provides the perfect combination of style, sound, and savings
- Small and light, but produces big, beautiful melodies. Nylon strings give you a sound that’s perfect for jazz and classical music
- Glossy finish gives this guitar a touch of glamour. FREE padded gig bag included!
As I mentioned before, nylon strings are a great choice for beginners because they are more comfortable and offer a pleasing warm tone that is perfect for strumming or fingerstyle playing alike. The Hola! HG-39GLS is a great nylon string guitar for beginners for its affordability and for the bonus material that comes with it, including 2 months of online lessons and a padded gig bag.
The Hola! HG-39GLS sports a spruce top with mahogany back, sides, and neck. The fingerboard is made up of walnut. As is typical with most classical guitars, the neck is slightly wider than steel string acoustic guitars. This is a good thing for beginners with bigger hands, as it gives a little bit more room between the strings, so your hands won’t feel cramped. This can be challenging for those with smaller hands, though it can teach you to stretch those fingers out. It’ll pay off in the long run!
This guitar is also great for beginners because it is available in full, ¾, or ½ size.
No electronics here. Just a classical guitar.
The bridge is made of walnut, like the fretboard. The saddle is made of tusq and there is an adjustable trussrod so you can adjust how close the strings are to the frets (also known as the “action”). The tuners are routed through the back, as is typical for classical guitars.
The tone is warm from the nylon strings. The high end often found on steel strings is shelved off and the low end is nice and boomy. I find that nylon strings do not sustain for as long. This is ideal for fingerstyle/classical playing, but may not be ideal for strumming.
- Body Material: Spruce top, mahogany back/sides
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Walnut
- Pickups: None
- Bridge: Walnut
Final Thoughts on the Hola! Model HG-39GLS Nylon String Guitar
Hola! has really been impressing me with their beginner guitars. For a beginner guitar, the HG-39GLS offers a quality of guitar that is worth keeping. The fact that this style of guitar comes in multiple sizes means that any size/age person can use it as their first guitar.
When it comes to nylon string guitars, I think it is and excellent choice. The added bonus of included online lessons for 2 months and a padded gig bag is the icing on the cake.
3. Taylor GS Mini Review
- "Body Body type: Taylor Grand Symphony Mini Cutaway: No Top wood: Solid Mahogany Back & sides: Layered Sapele Bracing pattern: GS Mini With Relief Rout Body finish: Matte 2.0 Orientation: Right-handed...
- "There's something undeniably inviting about the Taylor GS Mini's scaled-down size, yet a single strum reveals the impressive voice of a full-size guitar
- That mix of portability and musicality has proven to be a winning combination that fits into so many scenarios in life, from the couch to the campfire to the concert hall
- It's not too big, it's not too precious, and it's not too expensive
If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that I am a huge fan of this little acoustic guitar. ¾ size guitars are an ideal option for beginners for their smaller fret size, lower string tension, and transportability. The Taylor GS Mini is the best ¾ size guitar out there.
The GS mini utilizes a sapele laminate for the neck, backs and sides, giving you added stability and also saving you in terms of cost. You have the choice of either solid sitka spruce or mahogany for the top wood. An ebony fretboard pops against the top wood and makes the fret markers easy to see.
The GS Mini is incredibly stable due to its X Bracing design, arched back, and relief route. The scale length is 23.5”, making it resemble more of a ¾ size guitar without sacrificing the feel or a full size guitar. The body doesn’t have any cutaways, which can make playing high up on the neck difficult, but the body resonates fully when played.
While the GS Mini comes stock without electronics, Taylor has made sure that you can install an after-market pickup called the ES-GO. It is a passive magnetic soundhole pickup developed specifically for the GS mini and it can be installed in minutes.
The ebony bridge mirrors the fretboard and is accompanied by a tusq saddle. The die-cast chrome mini tuners do a great job of keeping your strings in tune as long as the weather and humidity don’t fluctuate too much. The GS mini has a fully adjustable truss rod should the neck move on you at all, though it comes set up professionally.
For being a small acoustic guitar, the GS mini projects loudly. Whichever top wood you choose, this guitar has a sweetness and deep resonance to its tonal character that can’t be beat. You won’t find any tinny or offensive frequencies here. It sounds like a full-size guitar.
- Body Material: Sapele laminate backs/side with mahogany top
- Neck Material: Sapele laminate
- Fingerboard Material: Ebony
- Pickups: ES-GO passive soundhole pickup available aftermarket
- Bridge: Ebony
Final Thoughts on the Taylor GS Mini
Just about any travel/smaller guitar is going to be a great option for beginners, but Taylor got the design of the GS Mini right. So much so that I can bet it will be a guitar that you continue to play well into your years on the instrument. It is arguably the best sounding guitar on this list and is expertly crafted at an affordable price.
4. Fender CD-60S (Bundle) Review
- Dreadnought body style
- Solid mahogany top with scalloped "X"-bracing
- Mahogany back and sides
- Easy-to-play neck with rolled fingerboard edges
You need to buy more than just a guitar when you are first starting out. You need strings, picks, a strap, a case, and especially a tuner. Fender has a bundle ready for you with all those essentials and most importantly: a stellar acoustic guitar. The CD-60S is a great option for adults and older kids who are just getting started and who want the classic dreadnought shape guitar.
The Fender CD-60S has a dreadnought body shape, which may be a bit too big for little kids but offers a great option still for adults who are getting started on the instrument. It can be purchased with a spruce top as well, but here I will be looking at the all mahogany model because I think it’s a prettier design and is more likely to keep beginners interested. The CD Series Pearloid rosette really pairs well against the dark topwood, making this one beautiful guitar.
The top is solid mahogany with quartersawn scalloped X-bracing and the sides/back are laminated mahogany. The neck is mahogany accompanied with a walnut fingerboard. The CD-60S comes with “easy to play” neck shape and rolled fingerboard edges, which makes for a more comfortable experience for beginners when grabbing chords.
The Fender CD-60E comes with a pickup, but this model is a traditional acoustic guitar with no electronics, which works just fine for beginners.
Just like the fingerboard, the bridge is all walnut. The chrome die-cast tuners are sure to keep the guitar in tune.
I’m a big fan of mahogany guitars. I think the mahogany top helps to tame the high end, creating a very inviting tone. The CD-60S still manages to project due to its dreadnought body shape. While Fender is known for their electric guitars, I have to admit that I am quite impressed at their ability to create a great sounding acoustic guitar. It reminds me of my Martin 000RS1, which is quite similar in aesthetics and costs about twice as much.
- Body Material: Solid mahogany top, laminate mahogany sides/back
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Walnut
- Pickups: None
- Bridge: Walnut
Final Thoughts on the Fender CD-60S (Bundle)
As I mentioned before, I never gave Fender much of a chance before when it came to acoustic guitars. What I found with this model is that Fender created a beautiful looking, full sized guitar at a price point that will be attractive to beginners. Since it is a Fender, you know you will get a solidly built guitar that will stay in tune and that sounds great. The fact that it comes with a hard case, tuner, and other starter materials included in the bundle price makes it great value.
5. Martin DJR-10 Review
- 6-string Acoustic Guitar with Sitka Spruce Top
- Richlite Fingerboard - Natural Spruce
- Sapele Back and Sides
- Sapele Back Sides
If you still want a Dreadnought shaped guitar, but the Fender CD-60S is just a little bit too big for you, then Martin has you covered. The DJR-10 is a smaller dreadnought acoustic guitar with a big sound and is made of sturdy materials that are road worthy if you want to take your learning on the road.
The DJR-10 is a 15/16 size dreadnought acoustic guitar, which means that it retains the dreadnought shape, but is easier to wrap your arms around than a full-size dreadnought would be. It comes with a solid spruce top and sapele back/sides, along with a select hardwood neck and Richlite fretboard. If you aren’t familiar with Richlite, it is a manmade alternative that looks, feels and sounds like ebony.
This guitar also comes with a 1 ¾” nut width. Whereas some smaller guitars can feel cramped on the neck, Martin’s DJR-10 gives you some more space between the strings. This makes it a great option for those with bigger hands, as well as a great learning opportunity for those with smaller hands to get a good feel for what full size guitars will be like. The C shape neck is a bit flatter than normal and is easy to play.
The Fishman Sonitone system is available on electronic models. This model does not come with any electronics available.
The bridge is also Richlite paired with a tusq saddle and nut. The tuners are typical chrome enclosed tuning gears that worked as expected.
For being a smaller size dreadnought, the DJR-10 sure does sound big. I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell in a blind test that it is a smaller bodied instrument. The combination of 15/16 sizing over a 24” scale length allows the guitar to be easier to play without compromising the big sound dreadnoughts are known for. It has great bass response and would serve as a great accompaniment to a singer’s voice.
- Body Material: Spruce top with sapele back/sides
- Neck Material: Select hardwood
- Fingerboard Material: Richlite
- Pickups: Fishman Sonitone available on E models only
- Bridge: Richlite
Final Thoughts on the Martin DJR-10
The Martin DJR-10 acoustic guitar occupies a specific niche. It is neither a ¾ size nor full size guitar, but rather in between. It’s a great option for those who are wanting a dreadnaught shape guitar but aren’t quite big enough for a full size one, or for those who want a travel size dreadnought to take on the road with them. It is made of sturdy materials that also save you on the cost. Most importantly, it sounds great and lives up the classic Martin logo on the headstock.
6. Epiphone Hummingbird PRO Acoustic/Electric Guitar
- A Country / Rock Classic Plugs In
- Solid Spruce Top with Mahogany Back and Sides
- SlimTaper "D" Profile Neck
- Fishman Sonitone pickup system
The Hummingbird PRO is a classic design brought back for a whole new generation of guitarists. Used by such players as Keith Richards, Dave Grohl, and Jack White, the hummingbird has been a go-to acoustic guitar for blues and rock musicians. Its standout aesthetics are met with a price point that is hard to pass up.
Underneath the cherry sunburst finish and classic hummingbird scratchplate lies a spruce top with mahogany back, sides and neck. The neck is a D-shape, which makes the neck feel thinner, while still feeling solid and easy to hold onto for chords. The fingerboard and bridge are pau ferro and features a 24.72” scale length.
Besides it being an iconic guitar at an attainable price, the Hummingbird PRO makes it onto this list for its onboard electronics. This is a great option for beginners who clearly want to go to an open mic night as soon as possible.
The Hummingbird PRO comes stock with a Fishman Sonitone pickup system, which I am a big fan of for its slim design. It isn’t always the most accurate representation of how the guitar sounds, but for its practicality, combined with Epiphones’ onboard E-performance preamp, the tonal control is great. You have control over the treble, bass, volume, mute and phase switch to battle any unwanted noise on stage.
Overall the sound of the Epiphone Hummingbird PRO is okay. It certainly won’t stack up against the vintage hummingbird guitars. I don’t think it is the most unique or resonant sounding guitar. The low end, for a dreadnought, sounds a bit thin. That being said, it is still a good enough sounding guitar to get started on and would even sound good on stage with the Fishman system.
- Body Material: Spruce Top, Mahogany back/sides
- Neck Material: Mahogany
- Fingerboard Material: Pau Ferro
- Pickups: Fishman Sonitone
- Bridge: Pau Ferro
Final Thoughts on the Epiphone Hummingbird PRO Acoustic/Electric
The Hummingbird PRO is an affordable recreation of a rock n’ roll classic. It is a good option if you are looking for a guitar that will stand out. It is also a great option to take out gigging, if that is a goal of yours in the near future. You won’t have to worry about beating up an expensive guitar. The neck is also well crafted with a good action, so it is easy to play and overall a great beginner’s guitar.
7. Gretsch Jim Dandy Guitar Review
- Parlor-size agathis body
- Screened white purfling and rosette
- "C" shaped neck
I have been really into what are called “parlor” guitars as of late. These guitars are typically smaller than an O shaped Martin classic. Basically, these are smaller bodied full size guitars, similar to what you would find in the hands of blues’ musicians 20’s and 30’s. I was thrilled to find an affordable parlor guitar from the always great Gretsch: The Jim Dandy Guitar.
The Gretsch Jim Dandy acoustic guitar is a parlor shaped all agathis body with a noto neck and rosewood fretboard and bridge. The neck is C shaped and will feel familiar to just about every guitarist. Parlor guitars are great for beginners because they have a smaller body but are still full-sized guitars. The finish on this guitar is very reminiscent of the 20’s and 30’s and would be a great choice for anyone interested in learning the blues, among other genres.
There are no electronics on this model. Perhaps the most period correct aspect of this guitar is the open gear tuners, which not only look cool but work well too. Beyond that, this guitar is straight forward and won’t distract you too easily, allowing a beginner to do what is most important: play.
While I am a fan of parlor guitars, I have to say that I have heard better models. This is the only guitar on this list that sounds like it fits at its price point. It’s a small sound and not the most resonant. In the hands of the right player, however, the Jim Dandy guitar can sound like it has a unique voice. It’s all in the fingers!
- Body Material: Agathis
- Neck Material: Noto
- Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
- Pickups: None
- Bridge: Rosewood
Final Thoughts on the Gretsch Jim Dandy Guitar
Though not the best sounding acoustic guitar on the list, the Gretsch Jim Dandy guitar offers a unique and fun body shape that would work well for kids and adults alike. The build quality is solid as always from the folks at Gretsch, while maintaining a super low price point. This is a great starter guitar parents can use to gauge their kids’ interest in the instrument. The guitar looks awesome and will have you wanting to play the blues all night long.
Starter Guitars Can Stick Around with You
Not everyone starts to play the guitar for the same reasons or under the same circumstances. That’s why there is no one “starter” model guitar. I think the key to picking out a starter instrument is to pick a guitar that inspires you to play. You should enjoy the way that it feels in your hand, how it sounds to your ear, and how it looks strapped over your shoulder.
Learning an instrument is challenging and rewarding all the same and if you have an inspiring instrument to play while you learn, your chances of sticking with it are going to be much higher.
Acoustic guitars seem to not only influence the person playing them, but they take on the personality of the player as well. Just because a guitar is labeled as a “beginner’s” guitar doesn’t mean it can’t be used for decades. All of the guitars on this list will be able to serve one kind of beginner or another and are worthy of keeping around for a lifetime.
After all, even when you have been playing for years, you will always be learning. When it comes to guitars, the learning starts and if you’re lucky it never ends.
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Last update on 2020-04-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API