Skip to main content

How to Choose a Beginner Acoustic Guitar

Beginner Acoustic Guitars

A solid top is only the beginning of what you should look for in a great beginner guitar.

A solid top is only the beginning of what you should look for in a great beginner guitar.

How to Choose the Best Beginner Guitar

Being interested in buying a guitar for a beginner, you may not know exactly what to get. Some things are generally good to look for and some other things depend on personal taste.

This is a discussion of some of the important things to consider when choosing a beginner guitar including examples of good beginner guitars.

It is o.k. to limit your price range as long as you don't limit your quality by being ignorant. As a beginner, it makes sense to buy a less expensive guitar. At the same time, it is important to get a guitar that will play well and sound good enough so that it is not extra challenging to learn how to play using it.

For that reason, I am putting together this resource, for my friends or anyone who stumbles upon this and wants advice from an experienced guitar player. Get the best valued guitar for the low price range that you can as a beginner.

The following $300 or less guitars are some that I have played in music stores, but I haven't necessarily owned them all. Even though I buy used guitars, I can't recommend buying used if you don't know much about guitars. You could end up with a costly repair to get it in good shape if you don't know what you should look your first beginner guitar.

Best Brand for a Beginner Guitar

Grand Concert Body Style Ibanez

When I played this guitar for the first time in the store, the sales clerk asked what I thought of it. I told him that if I knew of any beginners, I would suggest this as their first guitar. Then I kept playing it for about 30 minutes and decided that I wanted one for myself, but for a different reason than to learn how to play.

Ibanez is impressing me with some of their current models. One model, which is priced like a beginner guitar, plays especially well and sounds like a much more expensive guitar. The Ibanez PC15 is an excellent beginner guitar for a few reasons. Here are my reasons:

  1. Solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides are quality woods for a quality guitar.
  2. The grand concert body style is perfect for anyone who wants to do finger-style playing because it projects the sound well enough to hear individual notes. This would help a beginner develop an ear for each string as it is played.
  3. Ibanez seems to set up guitars a little better than some of it's competitors. I found low action and good intonation on the model I found at a local Sam Ash store.

Ibanez seems to get it right for an experienced player's preferences. Usually sound and playability become more priority as one learns more about the guitar and how to play. Guitars like the Ibanez PC15 are instantly worth their value as a beginner guitar because the quality is higher than the price charged. This isn't always the case with beginner guitars under $200.

I want a PC15 and I've been playing for more than 16 years. I mainly want this guitar to complement my collection so I have a quality playing and sounding guitar to use as a "beater" or "couch" guitar. This one will be great for that purpose, even though I own hand-made fine crafted guitars too.

Ibanez AC240opn

The All-Mahogany Version

For another hundred bucks or so, you can get the all mahogany version of the grand concert, which brings you a little more warmth or depth to your tone. Also, the neck dimensions are a little different. I found the neck to be a little wider when I compared this AC240 to the PC15.

Since Mahogany is a little more of an expensive tone wood, this one will cost you a little extra. I would imagine that this would age with an even deeper sound as the wood seasons. I found the tone to be a little beefier with the mahogany top, but I didn't notice a lack of crisp highs. I would have assumed that that Mahogany may have been too warm to serve as a top. If I had the extra money though, I'd choose this over the PC15. I'd be more than happy with either.

Takamine G Series

Cedar top guitars have a little more warmth than spruce top guitars.

Cedar top guitars have a little more warmth than spruce top guitars.

Beginner Acoustic Folk Guitar

The Takamine GS4303 G Nex Acoustic guitar is a great sounding folk acoustic guitar. This guitar has a warm mid range and is excellent for fingerstyle playing. Think of anywhere between Simon and Garfunkel and Eric Clapton unplugged, and you will be thinking of the tone of this guitar.

The cedar top and the body shape give this guitar a sweeter, less harsh or booming tone. Takamine guitars are made in Japan and are popular in Japan. What makes this a great beginner guitar is the value of craftsmanship and good tone..

An Acoustic Dreadnought

Dreadnoughts are the standard acoustic guitar body shape.

Dreadnoughts are the standard acoustic guitar body shape.

Good Dreadnought Beginner Guitar

Like the previous Takamine guitar, you get good craftsmanship and great tone from this dreadnought. The difference is in the tone of this guitar. The frequency response will be much wider with this dreadnought, and you will generally get more volume from this dreadnought. The top is cedar and the back and sides are nato. Don't worry if you haven't heard of nato, nato is real solid wood, and it sounds great on the Takamine guitars I've played in the guitar stores.

Buy this beginner guitar if you can see yourself as a singer songwriter strumming it in the coffee house or at your friend's house.  This will give you the background reinforcement to sing and use as a songwriting tool.

Epiphone AJ

I should have had mine in a case, but the case cost almost as much as my guitar.

I should have had mine in a case, but the case cost almost as much as my guitar.

Scroll to Continue

Good Beginner Guitar: Epiphone AJ

My first new acoustic guitar was an Epiphone AJ 15.  I still have it.  I've dropped it on the pavement and super glued it back where it cracked.  This beginner guitar has put up with a lot of abuse and mistreatment by me as a beginner. 

The guitar isn't the best I have at this point, but it was a guitar that I used to write songs and play in college, so I'll keep it for sentimental reasons.  The Epiphone AJ has proven to be a good beginner guitar for me, so I put it on the list.


Good Beginner Ibanez Guitar

The Ibanez AC30NT Acoustic Concert Size Guitar is a great beginner guitar.  You will get good tone out of this guitar's body shape.  Ibanez acoustics seem to be set up a little better than Epiphone guitars in the store, so it is likely this one will play well.  As with any new guitar, you might have to do some adjustments to get it playing easy.

Ibanez is better known for their electric metal style guitars, but the company produces some good value lower priced guitars.

Guitar Pakage Deal

This is much of what you need to get started that you probably hadn't thought of.

This is much of what you need to get started that you probably hadn't thought of.

Yamaha is The Beginner Guitar Maker

It's what Yamaha does, they make beginner instruments. Some companies want to be the best at what they make, and then there's Yamaha. Yamaha encourages beginners to own a decent instrument by producing the quality that it takes to enjoy your first guitar.

An added bonus with the Yamaha guitars are the packages, which are extremely valuable for a beginner guitar player. You may not know how to restring your guitar, play simple chords, or even tune your guitar. The Yamaha Gigmaker acoustic guitar package gives you the guitar accessories you will need right away. The guitar won't tune itself, but you get a tuner and picks and a lesson DVD. It is probably a better guitar than the Esteban guitar package offers.

Yamaha Beginner Guitar

Good Beginning Classical Guitar

The Yamaha NTX700 is an excellent pick for anyone wanting a smooth-playing, beautiful sounding, versatile guitar. Here are some of the benefits I see of this guitar, which I currently own and love.

  • Solid Top, giving sweet sustaining tone
  • Skinnier neck for people who are used to steel string guitars
  • Nice electronic pick-up, and built-in tuner with the pre-amp
  • Nylon strings create easy-on-the-fingers smooth playing
  • Truss rod in the neck allows simple adjustments using a hex wrench
  • Perfect volume for not bothering other people, but loud enough to accompany vocals even unplugged

Guilele by Cordoba

A Very Small Beginner Guitar

Some guitar builders offer a hybrid between a guitar and ukulele. These are excellent as beginner guitars because of the ease of playing and the convenient size. I find myself grabbing mine for a quick practice session or to play around while sitting on the couch.

The features of this Guilele make for a high quality instrument. With a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, the tone is very punchy and sweet. I enjoy playing little jazz bebop licks on mine. Also, I like it for strumming folk and country rhythms.

Don't Choose Your First Guitar by Color

Whichever guitar you go with, you might want to have someone do a little set up work on it. The truss rod might need adjusted, you might need new strings, or you might need to lower the bridge. Beginner guitars are generally set up poorly compared to expensive professional guitars, so expect the guitar to be a little difficult to play until you have a friend fix it up for you.

Takamine and Yamaha guitars are usually set up better than some of the other inexpensive guitars. You have many options, try not to choose your guitar based on it's appearance or color. It is an instrument that is meant to be played, not just looked at, so make sure you get something you will play. That way you won't always be a beginner, and you will graduate up to a better guitar some day.

Make sure that you want to learn guitar, and that you are committed enough to put the time into learning that you need. Don't waste your time just trying to be cool. In fact, black guitars can be marketed to beginners because the black paint can hid some of the poor quality materials of the guitar. Here's a lot more information about how to choose the best beginner black guitar.

When buying an electric beginner guitar, it is a little less important to worry about the type of wood used. You will want to make sure that the electric guitar has a straight neck and that the tuners keep the guitar in tune. Also, if the beginner electric guitar you are checking is used, you will want to check for wear on the frets.


mickey66 on September 30, 2014:

recording king

Blake Flannery (author) from United States on January 12, 2014:

Better than a Baby Taylor are the GS mini guitars. You can choose a mahogany or a spruce top for a little variety. They can be bought for as little as 350 used, but they are 500 new.

I think it's important to know that not everyone will fit the dreadnought body shape, and I really like the smaller body guitars for fingerstyle. The GS Mini probably is one of the best beginner guitars, but it's just a little outside beginner price.

I don't like the baby taylors because of the screws in the fretboard and the thin midrange sound you get out of them. That doesn't mean someone else won't like them.

Adam from Dryden on November 23, 2011:

there are some nice yamahas (stay away from the REALLY low end), also you can pick up a baby Taylor for $398, not acoustic/electric but if you dont need that then the baby taylor is an amazing guitar for the price.

rocketeer on February 02, 2011:

Thanks for sharing, great informational Hub!

connelly73 from Motherwell, Scotland on December 08, 2010:

Big up for the Yamaha. I started on a cheap beginners’ one. Now playing a CPX8 mid range and still one of the best makes considering the price. Would recommend for beginners and experienced guitarists.

Used Acoustic Gui from New Zealand on October 30, 2010:

There so many guitars available to choose from today that the mind of the beginner must be boggled (not sure if that's a word?) My first guitar was a hofner that belonged to my dad - bad action for a nine year old - i soon hardened up real quick! Great hub!

kimberlyslyrics on April 23, 2010:

Blake I am dropping you this note having spotted and read this hub and to a struggling musician who wants to learn everything, it wasn't by co-incidence I saw you here today.

Thank you and yes }GMB} is where I am trying to lay down some movements and slowly build and improve them. I also taught myself guitar and have no training in songwriting, educationally, but its all good to me, I fly when I learn a new chord or method and it comes together.

Thanks for giving me a part of that



btw, like most women with shoes, I could never have too many guitars :o)

K Partin from Garden City, Michigan on April 12, 2010:

Good info, well researched. I will pass this along to my son who would like to learn to play. Thanks for sharing. K.

warren6buflet on April 03, 2010:

Nice hub and some good advice. My son wants to learn guitar and this was the perfect article to read before going out to buy a guitar. thanks!

getmyback on April 03, 2010:

I picked mine up at 8, and don't think I've put it down yet. Another great hub, 2 guitar hubs how can I not

Thank you for such a smart hub.

Off to strum


greatipadbuy from Houston on April 02, 2010:

Wish I had time to learn playing guitars. Great guide here for beginners. Thanks!

Related Articles