Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for someone else, finding the best beginner guitars can be challenging if you’ve never looked for one before and you’re not quite sure what makes a guitar “the best choice” – so to make things easy for you, we’d suggest starting by looking at the Yamaha FG820 Dreadnought if you’re looking for an acoustic. Yamaha guitars are renowned for their incredible quality, and the FG820 is no exception. Despite its low price, it comes with a solid spruce top – considered by many to be the gold standard, in terms of tone, and the quality of the fit and finish is unmatched at its price point. It’s a handsome guitar with scalloped bracing, which lends heavily to its superb projection and volume, and its slim neck, and well polished frets make it extremely comfortable, too. With a spec sheet like this, it was the clear choice for our Acoustic Top Pick of the best beginner guitars.
If you’re planning to shop for an electric guitar, it’s really hard to beat the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS when it comes to performance and price. This guitar is derived from the flagship Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass, and offers many of the same features, including a beautifully carved neck, and clear, articulate single coil pickups. The balance and feel of this guitar is absolutely outrageous when you consider the price point, and the build quality is unmatched, too. It’s not a guitar that you’ll see everybody playing, too, so if you like to stand out, the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS, which we named as our Electric Top Pick for the best beginner guitars, is a great choice.
Features: Duncan Designed Alnico pickups, Vintage tremolo, C Profile neck
Benefits: Superior ergonomics, Authentic '60s tones, Comfortable short scale length
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Features: Wheel truss rod adjustment, Asymmetrical neck, Fulcrum tremolo
Benefits: Exceptional playability, Easy setup and adjustment, Extremely reliable
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Features: Mahogany body, HSS Alnico pickups, 12" Radius
Benefits: Fast playing, Extremely affordable, Great tonal variety
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- Quick Rundowns!
- Individual Reviews
- How To Choose The Right Guitar For You
- Final Thoughts
The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS is our Top Pick Electric guitar for this list. It gives beginners versatility, a nice tone, and good playability in a classic S/S/S pickup configuration with a five-way switch.
The Kramer Focus VT-211S is our Budget Pick Electric. It features a versatile HSS pickup configuration, with two Kramer single-coil pickups for the middle and neck positions, and a custom Kramer Alnico V humbucker for the bridge position.
The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang is our Editor’s Choice Electric. This guitar offers the beginner superior features like a punchier sound thanks to a pair of Duncan Designed alnico pickups, and fantastic playability at its price range.
For beginners looking for their first acoustic guitar, the Yamaha FG820 Dreadnought is Top Pick Acoustic. With a solid spruce top and a well-rounded tone, this guitar offers excellent projection and articulation.
For maximum affordability, the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top is Budget Pick Acoustic. This parlor guitar offers a unique vibe and tone with a vintage flair with a vintage construction and looks, as well as a nice projection for such a small and inexpensive instrument.
Finally, the Fender CD-140SCE Dreadnought is our Editor’s Choice Acoustic. This guitar is for folks that want superior quality in a beginner’s instrument. Besides good tone and playability, this guitar also comes with Fishman electronics so you can plug into an amp or PA when need be.
An ideal beginner guitar that delivers.
Sterling by Music Man has developed a strong reputation based on years of offering great products to musicians. This guitar is a great choice for beginners looking for versatility, nice tone, and good playability as well.
The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS features the classic S/S/S pickup configuration with a five-way switch like in most Stratocaster copies. Once we were plugged into our Fender Twin Reverb, we started to test how these single-coil pickups sounded.
The bridge pickup gave us a very present and bright tone, just as you’d expect from a Strat. With distortion dialed in via our Tube Screamer, we got a forward and piercing growl that can work well for solos in a dense band mix.
We also liked position two, where the bridge and middle pickup produced a musical tone that works great for blues and rock solos, especially with some growl added. For clean, our favorite was position four, which can nicely handle your funk-like rhythm parts. We found this to be the most balanced clean sound on this Cutlass.
Moving on to the neck pickup, we got a warm and rounder tone with a bit of overdrive, great for lyrical solos. In clean, the neck pickup gave us a sweeter tone that can work nicely for some clean strumming, especially with open chords.
Besides being versatile, this guitar also plays nicely. We enjoyed the feel of the maple neck with the laurel fingerboard. We particularly liked the variable neck thickness, going from 1.65″ at the nut to 2.24″ at the last fret.
This guitar also gave us a familiar feeling, as it features a 25.5″ scale length (like in Fender guitars) and a 12″ fingerboard radius. In short, a fantastic instrument for beginners that want to start off with their right foot.
Verdict: The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS gives you nice versatility with a poplar body and an S/S/S pickup configuration. With a comfortable neck that greatly favors playability, this guitar is a great deal for the price.
Versatility and comfort for the beginner.
Kramer has been around for a long time and is seem by many as a go-to guitar for rock. The VT-211S is a very affordable option that also gives the user versatility and comfort, making it a great choice for beginners.
The Kramer Focus VT-211S features a versatile HSS pickup configuration, with two Kramer Alnico V SC-1 single-coil pickups for the middle and neck positions, and a custom Kramer Alnico V humbucker for the bridge position.
We started by putting the humbucker on the bridge position to the test. When distorted, we got a bold attack and bite with pronounced midrange, great for power chords and heavy riffing. This was our favorite pickup for distorted sound, perfect for rock and even blues.
For lighter overdrive, we preferred the middle pickup, as it gave us a rounder tone that can work well for blues and other contexts. For clean, our favorite was position four, as it gave us the most balanced frequency response for rhythm parts.
This guitar comes in your typical Strat configuration, with a five-way switch and individual tone and volume knobs. The neck is very comfortable for such an inexpensive instrument, with a slim profile and made of maple. It also features a 25.5″ scale length with a nut width of 1.679″ for greater comfort. Additionally, the 12″ radius and 21 medium jumbo frets make it perfect for beginners, by providing comfort at a very affordable cost.
With a mahogany body and features like knurled chrome knobs, and deluxe-covered tuning heads, this Kramer guitar also looks the part. In short, a guitar with features that are better than its price suggests, and one of the most affordable options for beginners out there.
Verdict: The Kramer Focus VT-211S is a versatile guitar that features a humbucker on the bridge position and two single coils for the middle and neck positions. With an S-type body and electronic arrangement, this guitar is a great choice for beginners that want to keep it truly affordable.
An iconic guitar with superior features to start out right.
The Mustang guitars were popular in the 60s and had a resurgence in the 90s among grunge, punk, and indie-rock guitarists searching for punchier sounds than you typically get with single-coil pickups. This Squier Mustang brings that same vibe and tone in a perfect instrument for beginners.
The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang features a pair of Duncan Designed alnico pickups, in a simple yet effective Mustang design that remains beloved to this day. These pickups are routed through dual pickup switches located on the upper side of the instrument, adding to the uniqueness of this guitar.
We put this guitar through our Tube Screamer and into our Fender Twin amp and got an aggressive and penetrating growl on the bridge pickup. With the tone knob rolled back a bit, we went through some Nirvana riffs and loved the gnarly and Cobain-like tones that this guitar gave us.
For clean tones, we preferred the neck pickup, as it was warm and rounder. We even ventured into a few jazz chord solos and Bebop lines and were impressed by how well this guitar responded. It gave us a warm tone that can work well for playing Standards with a bit of a more modern flair.
This guitar was also comfortable to play. We liked how lightweight it is, with a body made of poplar. Running through riffs, chords, and scales was comfortable thanks to the C-shaped maple neck featuring a responsive Indian laurel fingerboard. With a 9.5″ radius and a shorter 24″ scale, this Mustang will be a joy to play for beginners.
In short, a great guitar for folks that are starting out but want a versatile instrument with nice tones and playability, and that is affordable.
Verdict: The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang comes with two Duncan Designed alnico pickups, giving you fantastic flexibility with in- and out-of-phase single-coil sounds. With great tone and playability for a beginner’s guitar, you also get a unique look and flair with this fantastic instrument.
Renowned quality and playability on a well-designed acoustic.
Yamaha has provided quality solutions for musicians with several instruments, for many decades. The FG820 is further proof of that, and a great option for beginners that want a quality acoustic guitar to start on.
The Yamaha FG820 Dreadnought features a solid spruce top that gives it a natural and elegant look. More importantly, from our first strum, this dreadnought gave us a well-rounded tone, with excellent projection and articulation. Open chords sounded great and sustained nicely, in part because of this guitar’s scalloped bracing construction, as well as the resonant spruce top.
Besides giving us great results for strumming with a pick, we also liked how the FG820 sounded with fingerpicking. With back and sides made of mahogany, this instrument gave us warmth while enhancing the midrange frequencies.
This Yamaha acoustic guitar also gave us a nice top-end clarity while remaining gentle-toned. This makes it great for vocal accompaniment, increasing the versatility of the FG820.
One of the best features of this guitar is its low action, which is great for beginners. With a comfortable nato neck, 15.75″ radius, and 25.562″, this Yamaha guitar offered us a comfortable playing experience. From open chords to extended voices and fingerpicking patterns, we liked how our hands felt while playing it.
Another great feature that you get with the FG820 is access to Yamaha’s Player Port app. You can install it in your mobile device to get a vast amount of tips, advice, tricks, and videos, as well as a built-in instrument tuner. This app is a perfect companion for beginners that want to start their journey right.
In short, a great acoustic guitar for beginners that want a sweet tone with nice playability, all with Yamaha quality.
Verdict: The Yamaha FG820 Dreadnought offers a comfortable playing experience with a full and projecting tone. With a solid spruce top for natural sound and looks and excellent projection and articulation, this guitar can be a solid first step for beginners that want to play acoustic.
Unique vibe and tone with a vintage flair.
Gretsch is one of the most legendary brands in music, as they have provided the market with quality instruments for generations. This acoustic guitar provides good tone and playability for beginners and comes with a unique look from a long gone era.
The Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top is a parlor-size guitar with a vintage type of construction, where the neck is jointed to the body at the 12th fret. By doing so, Gretsch not only emulated a typical design from guitars in the 30s and 40s but also produced an instrument with a stronger projection and volume than its size suggests.
We first tried the G9500 with a pick, and it gave us a crisp tone with a well-balanced voice. The body of this guitar is made of basswood, which helps it produce a warm tone associated with vintage acoustic guitars. These guitars used to be made of pine. However, basswood ages much better than pine, yet provides a similar warm tone, particularly when fingerpicking.
This Gretsch also gave us a comfortable playing experience. We were able to easily play open chords, some riffs, fingerpicking patterns, and even a bit of soloing comfortably. It was easy to maneuver just about anything with this guitar’s 12″ radius, and we also loved the familiar feel of its walnut fingerboard.
This parlor guitar features 18 frets on a 24″ scale length, perfect for beginners. There is no cutaway on this instrument, but that is a great choice by Gretsch. Not only is a cutaway unnecessary for starting out, but it also diminishes the overall volume and projection of the instrument as you reduce the acoustic cavity.
With a nut width of 1.6875″, this guitar is ideal for smaller hands and children. In short, a nice and very affordable acoustic guitar is a good option for beginners.
Verdict: The Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top features a vintage parlor-size construction, and provides warmth with nice projection and volume for its size. This guitar is perfect for beginners with smaller frames and children, as it is much easier to access than regular-sized instruments.
Craftsmanship at the beginner level.
In the eyes of many, Fender is the ultimate guitar company. This dreadnought brings that level of quality and reputation and offers great tone playability for a beginner-level acoustic guitar, as well as electronics so you can plug into an amp or PA when need be.
The Fender CD-140SCE Dreadnought is a classic dreadnought built with a solid spruce top and ovangkol back and sides. This classic blend of tonewoods gave us a nice midrange with detailed high-end as soon as we started strumming it.
The projection and volume are just what you’d expect from a dreadnought, with a forward voice that sounded just right. Everything from strummed chords to soft fingerpicking sounded good on this Fender, which is a versatile acoustic.
We also liked how responsive the mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard was. This is also a tried-and-true combination for necks, as evidenced by the nice warmth and good response we got.
With a 12″ Radius and 20 frets on a 25.3″ scale length, this Fender acoustic had us playing comfortably for a while. This playability is also great for beginners, and this guitar can last you for quite a while.
Another great feature of the CD-140SCE is the Fishman Presys pickup system. We plugged into our Roland JC-120 amp to test out how well it sounded connected. The tone we got was really good for an instrument at this price range.
We had nice tonal flexibility with this Fishman system, as it features bass, mid, and treble tone controls as well as a notch filter. These options give you enough control to deal with different amps and rooms. Additionally, you also get a brilliance control to ensure you cut through the mix. In short, a fantastic choice for beginners looking for a great acoustic to start out.
Verdict: The Fender CD-140SCE Dreadnought is a traditional dreadnought built with a classic blend of tonewoods that provide a nice midrange with detailed high-end as well. With great playability at this price range, this guitar also comes with a Fishman Presys blend system so you can plug in and play when necessary.
A beautiful semi-hollow to start your journey in style.
Squier is a respected brand when it comes to beginner guitars. They are under the umbrella of the mighty Fender and produce similar instruments but at a much lower price point, making it a popular brand among those starting out and more.
The Squier Affinity Starcaster is made from laminated maple and features a contoured body that provides comfort and a slick look. With two Squier Standard humbucker pickups, this guitar is a very unique breed within the Fender-type of guitars.
We plugged into our Twin Reverb amp and started with the neck pickup on clean. We like the warm and darker tone that it produces, particularly with the tone knob at a low level. The sound we got here can work well for some jazz contexts or even indie rock clean accompaniment.
With a bit of overdrive via our Tube Screamer, we like the sound we got with the tone knob all the way up. It had a beefy quality to it and was nice for some blues-inspired soloing, and had more sustain than we’d expected.
On the other hand, the bridge pickup gave us a more aggressive tone with bite, but still had that semi hollow flair to it. We liked it best with overdrive as well as more pronounced distortion, where it sounded good for rock and blues. From power chords to riffing and all the way to fast solos, this humbucker got the job done.
We also liked the C-shaped neck profile with a typical Fender 25.5″ scale length. We did feel that the frets were not as smooth on the edges, but that is to be expected at this price range.
In short, a classy guitar that gives you the semi-hollow Starcaster’s sound, and is a nice option for beginners.
Verdict: The Squier Affinity Starcaster is a semi-hollow guitar with laminated maple and stylish F-holes. It features two Squier Standard humbucker pickups that give you nice variety and make for a nice beginner guitar.
How To Choose The Right Guitar For You
It is common for folks starting out to opt for an acoustic guitar. This is usually because acoustics tend to be a simpler and more straightforward proposition. More importantly, acoustic guitars tend to be cheaper. This is because buying an electric guitar also means you’ll have to incur extra costs like an amp, cable, etc.
That said, it is important to know whether you really want an acoustic or if you prefer an electric from the start. Below we give you some pointers.
If you want to learn basic chords, accompany yourself while singing popular tunes, or write some songs, then an acoustic guitar is ideal. This is particularly true if you don’t want to play rock or a genre that requires distortion or effects.
Because they don’t need any accessories or tools to produce sound, acoustic guitars are typically a cheaper purchase than electrics. You can take them anywhere, from your room to the beach or a cafe, and they are ready to play. That is a major advantage over electrics, particularly when you’re starting out.
If you want to play rock or any other style that relies on distortion, then an electric guitar is a must. Besides getting a beginner electric guitar, there are also plenty of beginner amps that can match nicely with your new instrument.
Electric guitars also allow you to do the basics, like songwriting, learning chords, etc but go a step beyond. There are several techniques that are inherent to the electric guitar that do not work well on acoustic.
Another advantage that electric guitars have is that they are a bit more comfortable to play than acoustics. They usually feature thinner necks and make for an easier learning experience. Simply said it is easier for most people to learn chords, melodies, and more on electric than on acoustic.
The best of both worlds?
Some folks and parents opt to start out with an acoustic guitar and then move to an electric. Although this is understandable, if you really want to play electric you should just go for it.
Buying your first guitar can be a very exciting endeavor, which may come with a series of challenges. In this guide, we’ve provided you with a road map to help you make the right decision.
The main decision is the choice between an acoustic guitar or an electric. Both have advantages, but in reality, it comes down to your personal preference. In case you are not sure which to start with, check out a few acoustics and electrics at your local music store in order to help you decide.
To recap our choices, the Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS is our Top Pick Electric guitar for this list, providing versatility, a nice tone, and good playability in a classic S/S/S pickup configuration.
The Kramer Focus VT-211S is our Budget Pick Electric. With a HSS pickup configuration, you get versatility and punch on a truly affordable guitar.
The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang is our Editor’s Choice Electric.
It comes with superior features at the beginner-guitar price point and includes a pair of Duncan Designed alnico pickups for greater punch.
For beginners interested in an acoustic guitar, the Yamaha FG820 Dreadnought is Top Pick Acoustic. Featuring a solid spruce top, this guitar offers a well-rounded tone, as well as excellent projection and articulation.
The Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top is Budget Pick Acoustic. This parlor guitar comes with vintage construction and looks, as well as a nice projection, and is especially comfortable for smaller hands and arms.
Finally, the Fender CD-140SCE Dreadnought is our Editor’s Choice Acoustic. Besides superior tone and playability for a beginner instrument, this guitar also comes with Fishman electronics that allow you to plug into an amp.