Whether you are looking to buy your first guitar, or wanting to upgrade your current git, we’ve got the ultimate guide to buying the best acoustic guitar for your needs. We will walk you through the most important features you need to consider before purchasing your new instrument.
Just in case you want to skip to the juicy stuff, take a look at our Acoustic Guitar Buying Guide Chart to easily find your next musical companion!
Best Guitar Type
Acoustic Guitar for Beginners
Acoustic Guitar for the Intermediate
Acoustic Guitar for the Experienced
Acoustic Guitar for Kids
Jumbo Acoustic Guitar
Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
Orchestra Acoustic Guitar
Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar
Concert Acoustic Guitar
Grand Concert Acoustic Guitar
Acoustic Travel Guitar
There are a lot of aspects to ponder when looking for your new musical companion, which can be overwhelming. The best way to start is by considering three important factors.
How Does It Sound?
You want a quality instrument that will stay in tune and also sound great. Between lessons, long practice hours, and getting ready for gigs, you’re going to be the one that listens to your playing the most, might as well make sure that it sounds good to you. Also, ensure that your new guitar has the ability to project at the right volume. If you’re playing shows, you’ll want an acoustic guitar that is loud enough for the venues you’re performing at.
How Does It Look?
Keep an eye out for an acoustic guitar that is visually appealing to you and fits your unique style. You’ll also want to shop for the right size for your body, we’ll talk more about acoustic guitar sizes and cutaways later in this article.
I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing. They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it. -Jimmy Page
How Much Does It Cost?
When purchasing an acoustic guitar, it’s important to consider your budget. Stay within what you feel comfortable paying. If you find the perfect guitar, but it’s a little bit outside of your budget, perhaps wait a couple months until you can afford it. Keep in mind that this is an investment. You don’t want to skimp on quality. Forking over a little extra cash for a guitar that will grow with your playing ability is worth the time and energy.
On the flip side, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to find your perfect six-stringed companion. The acoustic guitar market has tons of options, which can be completely overwhelming. But the great thing about the number of options, is that the perfect guitar has been created just for you and is waiting for you to find it and bring it home.
You don't want to purchase a guitar on impulse. It’s crucial to review what you find important in a guitar. The perfect guitar for one person, may be completely wrong for the next. We will help you to find that perfect guitar by discussing the best acoustic guitars in the industry based on skill level, shapes, and sizes.
What’s Your Skill Level?
The best acoustic guitar for you must to align with your playing level. If you’re not sure what your skill level is, think about the quality of your playing time over the days, months, or years. Sure, the length of time you've been playing impacts your skill level, but if you've been playing for five years and still struggle to fret basic chords, you're still in the beginner zone.
Also, consider the quality of time you've put into learning the guitar. Consider whether your practice time actually challenges you and pushes you to achieve goals, or are you just playing between commercial breaks of your favorite TV show?
What Should I Look for as a Beginning Guitarist?
If you are just starting out with the basics of the guitar, you don't want to shell out thousands of dollars. Especially if you don't end up using the guitar as often as you hoped. One thing that can keep you on track is by finding a guitar practice routine that's fun, which will help you get in the habit of playing consistently.
When looking for a beginner acoustic guitar, don’t be stingy. If you pick something cheap and low quality, you won't sound great and be less motivated to play. These cheap guitars are usually poorly constructed and some come with cheap tonewood alternatives, run far, far away!
For beginners, I suggest an affordable guitar that is easy to play. Go to your local music store and try a few gits out. Check the neck width on a few models and see what size is the most comfortable for you. If you have small fingers, look for a more narrow neck width and the opposite if you have large fingers. This will make it easier to reach the strings.
You also want something that will support your development as a musician. You won't be a beginner forever, so an instrument that has a high enough quality to support your growth is essential.
What Should I Look for as an Intermediate Guitarist?
If you've been playing for awhile and are ready to kick that old, basic guitar to the curb, it’s time to upgrade to something a bit nicer that's higher quality. Youc an be an intermediate player regardless of whether you play for enjoyment or perform on a regular basis.
As an intermediate guitarist, you should be a bit more picky when it comes to tone quality. You should also consider more sophisticated designs and ornaments for your guitar, and require something that gives you long term play-ability. A few other options to consider include:
- Cutaway options
- Rosewood sides and back
- Different types of lacquer
- Higher quality keys and tuners
When shopping, look for versatility in your instrument and consider an acoustic guitar that can also be plugged into an amp.
What Should I Look for as an Experienced Guitarist?
As a guitarist that knows what they’re doing and what they want in a guitar, it may be time to make a bigger investment in your instrument. If you’re looking for that whiff of lacquer, the aged solid woods, the shining frets, or a git that plays like a dream, you’ve come to the right place.
As an experienced guitarist, you already know what you want in terms of tonewood, sound, and the construction of the guitar, and you're ready to put money towards higher qualities of wood. Consider a higher price tag with all the bells and whistles. I typically suggest musicians to make a list of what they want in their guitar, then order it by importance. This will help determine which instrument is your match made in guitar heaven.
I find that musically, looking back, I have learned much more from those relationships, people I have bumped into that I have admired, that’s the way I feel musically I have learned most in life. -John Williams
What Acoustic Guitar Body Styles Do I Have to Choose From?
The type of body on a guitar will determine the sound and tone projection of your music. Guitars come in single cutaway, or double cutaway to aid in play-ability and make it easier to reach the frets. You also have a number of sizes to choose from, let’s break it down!
You can use the image below for reference of all the acoustic guitar parts and pieces. For full explanations of each piece, check out Guitar's Anatomy.
A jumbo guitar is often called a "cowboy" guitar. The 17 inches of git gives you a very loud, deep sound.
One of the most popular guitar body styles is the dreadnought, which was developed in 1916. This style is ideal for guitarists that play bluegrass, because of the sound quality and projection.
The auditorium guitar (also called "orchestra") is about the same size as a dreadnought, but has a smaller waist. The auditorium style gives you a balanced volume, with great tone and greater comfort with the smaller waist. Even Eric Clapton has used an orchestra guitar!
The grand auditorium guitar has a wider lower bout compared to the classic dreadnought's 16". The body style has more of an hourglass figure (oh la la!) and creates a greater range for volume and balanced tone compared to the previous smaller styles.
The concert acoustic guitars have a smaller size (usually about 13 1/2" from the lower bout), which gives you a bright sounding tone. These classic bad boys date back to the 1800's. The concert acoustics are more comfortable for smaller musicians and it's easier to reach the higher frets.
The grand concert is slightly larger than the concert at about 14 to 14 1/4" from the lower bout. You get a stronger sound and a good mid-range from the larger body.
Travel guitars are ideal for musicians that travel, or camp frequently, and also for children. They are designed to be durable under stress and lightweight making them easy to carry around, because of their compact size. You can buy cheaper models as a backup guitar in case something should happen while you're on the road. Then, you aren't ruining your prized guitar worth thousands of dollars. Check out the laws and regulations for flying with a guitar.
What Additional Features Should I Consider?
Regardless of the style you choose, you can look for cutaways in the upper bout of your guitar. This makes it easier to reach the higher frets of the guitar neck.
Most of your tone quality comes from the top material of the guitar. This is because when the sound is generated from strumming, or fingerpicking the strings, it's sent to the bridge where the sound is amplified. This is also why the type of tonewood you choose will impact your sound. When choosing an acoustic guitar you can choose between a solid and a laminate top.
A solid top is usually made of two pieces of wood, which are matched together down the middle of your guitar, making it more resonate. The manufacturers then match the grains in the middle to make the best quality instrument. This increased quality and difficulty to construct contributes to the higher price in solid bodied acoustic guitars.
I recommend a solid body top for intermediate to advanced players. This is because it vibrates better than the laminate and is a better quality of wood.
A laminate top uses multiple layers of wood, usually with the highest grade on the top. They are pressed together to create a budget option for beginners. Typically you'll find a laminated mahogany on the back and sides of the guitar with a laminated spruce on the top. I don't recommend laminate for intermediate to advanced players, because it doesn't create as rich of a sound, but it's more budget friendly for the novice guitarist.
If you have your heart set on a solid wood guitar, but don't have the budget, I recommend a compromise of both! There are even solid top guitars with laminated back and sides that make a more economical option for budget friendly guitarists.
If you need a little guitar inspiration, watch Tobias Rauscher's video Still Awake.
What Kind of Tonewoods?
Put simply, tonewoods are a magical type of wood that contribute to the tone of your guitars sound. Different types of wood create different tones. Here is a quick guide to the different tonewood options.
Cedar is usually found on guitar tops. A cedar wood is an option that is soft and will create a bright and warm tone. It will respond to movements on the player’s end rather quickly. On the other hand, cedar is usually a bit quieter and has less sustain. I usually recommend cedar for finger-style players.
Ebony is a strong wood that will create a tone that is just as strong and won’t wear like the common rosewood. It brings definition to your playing. It even works well when getting bass-heavy sounds out of a guitar.
Mahogany is a dense, dark wood which creates a warmer and darker tone than the common cedar and spruce tonewoods. It's frequently found on the back and sides of a guitar, which adds warmth and projection to your tone. Mahogany is great for all musical styles.
Maple has a lower response rate and will create better-sounding high tones. It also has a lower resonance that can be heard carefully even with other tones. You'll commonly find a maple back and sides which add power to your music.
Rosewood is the most expensive material for tonewood. It has a smooth, warm tone with a chocolately color. You'll typically find rosewood on the sides and backs of a guitar, which creates harmonic overtones.
You can find two variations of rosewood, Indian Rosewood and Brazilian Rosewood. Indian Rosewood is recommended and higher quality, which of course makes it a more pricey option. Brazilian Rosewood is a bit brighter than the Indian Rosewood and less complex.
Spruce is the most popular option for guitar tops. You can identify it by its pale color. The reason for it's popularity is that it is all-around a good wood. You'll get a nice sweet and smooth sound, without sounding too thin and have enough projection and volume for performances. Spruce is great combined with any other tonewood as well.
You'll likely find a number of kinds of spruce including Sitka, Engleman, and Adirondack. Sitka is the most common known for it's clear harmonics. Engleman is a spruce usually found in North America that has a warmer tone compared to the Sitka. The Adirondack is least common and has a loud and brash tone.
Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music. -Jimi Hendrix
Why Should I Consider My Playing Style?
For an intermediate to advanced guitarist, your playing style should heavily impact the type of acoustic guitar you choose. For example, if you're a heavy strummer, consider a dreadnought with a spruce top that can handle the louder volumes. If you prefer to fingerpick, a smaller classic style with a cedar top and mahogany, or rosewood sides would be more suitable.
You can also check out our guide to fingerpicking!
Acoustic-Electric or Traditional Acoustic?
If you're still in the beginner skill level of guitar playing, I'd recommend sticking with the traditional acoustic guitar. An acoustic-electric can easily cost twice as much as a comparable traditional acoustic. Also, you need to get a good feeling and understanding of how the acoustic guitar sounds, before venturing into the electronic realm. It's best to get yourself comfortable with the basics prior to adding on all the bells and whistles.
But, if you're ready to take your playing and performances to the next level, consider an acoustic-electric guitar. You will enjoy the versatility of having a traditional acoustic guitar, but have the ability to plug it in and rock out with the electronics. Be wary of cheap electronics though.
Finding the Best Acoustic Guitar for You
We've gone through everything you need to know before making that big purchase and walking home with your new guitar, but are you feeling a little overwhelmed? I thought so. Our team has combined their expertise and knowledge together to find the best acoustic guitars on the market. Now, you just have to narrow it down to one.
Our Pick for Beginner Acoustic Guitar
Yamaha FG800 Acoustic Guitar
The Yamaha FG800 is a great entry level guitar with a variety of available features. This is a quality instrument that you can rely on and expect to grow with your skills and talent. It's rare to find a guitar at this price level with a solid Sitka spruce top and a rosewood fretboard. The Sitka spruce has a thin natural finish that doesn't smudge easily, so it's easy to keep the guitar looking pristine.
Due to the high quality of tonewoods, you'll be able to enjoy great sounds from this reasonably price acoustic guitar. You can choose between a dreadnought or concert style. The dreadnought model has amazing sound and volume projection. The concert style isn't quite as impressive, but a good option for smaller framed players.
Yamaha uses diecast chrome for their tuners, which isn't typically found in entry level guitars. This luxury will give you fine tuning, minus any slippage.
Overall, the Yamaha FG800 is a great bang for your buck. Not only are you getting a quality instrument that will grow with you as a musician, but an instrument that will also sound great for a lower price tag, plus it comes with a left-handed option.
If You're an Intermediate Player, Here's Our Favorite
Seagull S6 Original Acoustic Guitar
The Seagull S6 has earned it's spot as the most loved intermediate acoustic guitar time and time again, and they have the awards to prove it. By the looks of it, you won't see anything extraordinary. No cutways or eye drawing inlays, but once you hold it in your hands you'll see how it easily makes up for the visuals.
The S6's super high quality wood, small details in the headstock, ergonomic neck shape, and bright, beautiful sound will make you fall head over heels for this acoustic guitar. The pressure-tested high quality cedar top gives you a bright and smooth tone. The responsiveness of the wood will keep you loving it for years to come.
The fretboard is made of the traditional rosewood, but the rest of the fretboard and headstock is filled with surprises. You'll see that the headstock of the S6 is a bit smaller than your typical acoustic guitar. This is because the machine heads are specifically aligned to make for quick tuning that will stay, causing increased stability.
As the wood of the S6 "opens up" throughout the years, you'll grow to love it even more. If you're considering an acoustic-electric version, the Seagull S6 Acoustic guitar gives the option with just a slightly higher price tag.
Experienced Guitarist? Right Here!
Martin continues to create new guitars for every guitarist, this git is coined the ultimate 12-string stage acoustic. The Martin GPC12PA4 sure has a long name, but it'll find it's way into your heart on first sight. This beautiful guitar is built with the performer in mind.
This 14 fret cutaway design features a high performance neck that allows you to dance your fingers up and down the fret board. The nut, saddle, and end pins are Tusq, so you can be guaranteed you're getting quality hardware.
You'll enjoy a bright and balanced sound because of the high quality solid sitka spruce top and solid sapele back and sides. Not only is it great for performing, but ideal for recording too.
My favorite part about this guitar is the subtle ornamentation. The fretboard inlays feature a simple arrow and square design. The pearl rosette around the soundhole is wrapped in black accented double ring.
The Martin GPC12PA4 will fill your heart with beauty, make your fans swoon, and your at-home listeners smile.
Our Pick for an Acoustic Guitar for Kids
Little Martin Koa
The Little Martin Koa Acoustic guitar is actually a 3/4 sized guitar, but I recommend it for learning children, because it's a guitar they can grow with, instead of a product marked specifically for kids. This smaller version of the full size Martin still gives you the deep sound that packs a punch.
This guitar is perfect for children to begin their guitar journey with. The compactness makes it easier to reach the neck. The Little Martin is made from laminate, not solid wood, which makes it much more affordable.
If you're a parent with a fickle child when it comes to hobbies, this guitar has enough quality and sound, that it's great for adults to play as well. It can easily double as a travel guitar, or a guitar for children to begin learning on and a padded gig bag is included!
Our Favorite Jumbo Acoustic Guitar
If you're looking for amazing volume, or you need an instrument that fits your larger frame, sometimes a dreadnought just won't do. You need to advance to the next level, a jumbo acoustic guitar. Ask and you shall receive with the Guild F-150 Jumbo Acoustic.
Built with a Sitka spruce top and solid Indian rosewood sides, gives you a combination of warmth and articulation in your notes. You'll get strong and clear sounds regardless of where you're at on the fretboard.
Your first chord on this bad boy will leave you speechless. The Guild F-150 takes projection to the next level and is more affordable than other jumbo guitars (think $1,500+). At just under $1k, you get a quality, projection, and a jaw dropping instrument.
Coustii's Recommended Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
A dreadnought that has great sound quality, crisp clarity, and an excellent price tag? We've found it in the Martin DX1AE. It sounds almost identical to it's older and wiser brother, the Martin D-35 Dreadnought. Going between the two, I could only hear a minute difference and was absolutely floored.
The Martin DX1AE packs a solid Sitka spruce top with laminate sides to give you a rich, loud sound at an affordable price. The Sitka spruce seems to be a bit thicker than most guitars, giving you extra volume! The action is great right out of the box and has plenty of resonance and acoustic sustain.
For under $600, you're investing in a durable instrument that will withstand all the usually bumps and bruises you may encounter along the way. You're also getting a great sounding dreadnought acoustic guitar that will make your fellow musicians question how much you spent on it. It can be our little secret.
The Orchestra Acoustic Guitar For You
Guild comes in first again when it comes to orchestra acoustic guitars. The Guild F-130 comes with vintage styling and Guild's award worth craftsmanship. This guitar's steel-strings give a fantastic tone and takes you back to a more traditional style guitar.
The spruce top and mahogany back and sides give you smooth and warm sounding tones. The slim, satin finished rosewood neck makes for easy play-ability. The projection on the F-130 even allows you to do bluegrass flatpicking, but works well with all musical styles.
This guitar will last you for years to come, because Guild didn't skip on quality. A few have said that the sharp nut corners are a little irritating, but with just a simple fix with a file, you're on your way to guitar playing heaven!
Voted Best Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar
A wise man once said that Taylor guitars are like the BMW's of the world. Well they were right, especially when it comes to the Taylor 214ce. When you buy a Taylor, you're also buying into the faultless standard the company upholds, along with a sleek, stylish guitar that plays like a dream.
The 214ce gives you artistic appeal with the Sitka spruce top finished with a high quality gloss. The Indian rosewood sides have a beautiful satin finish. Your fingers will be impressed as they slide across the ebony fretboard. Even though it's a grand auditorium size, you'll be surprised to hear volume similar to a dreadnought. The slimmer body ads definition to your notes which makes it great for any musical style.
This moderately priced Tayor is a steal when you factor in the brand, the quality of products used to make this impressive git, and the versatility of the instrument no matter what type of music you're into.
Our Favorite Concert Acoustic Guitar
Breedlove Acoustic-Electric Concert
The Breedlove Acoustic-Electric Concert guitar was designed and built for performing. This Breedlove shape with the single-cutaway is one of the company's best-selling models, because it allows for compact and comfortable play. This design will have you playing for hours! The instrument is great for accompanying a vocalist, or nicely accommodates a fingerstylist. You'll get this Breedlove concert guitar to sing at full strum.
The solid spruce top and mahogany back will give you a well-rounded sound. Expect great sustain with a good bass response. You'll enjoy an even response from the highs to the lows accompanied by sustain, and clear note projection.
Breedlove knocks the competition out of the park with their affordable pricing. You won't find a Taylor or a Martin with this level of quality and play-ability, let alone the price tag.
Editor's Choice for Grand Concert Acoustic Guitar
Ibanez AVC4 Grand Concert
The Ibanez AVC4 Grand Concert Acoustic makes you feel like you're holding an expensive vintage guitar in your hands, but in fact it's a brand new git! Ibanez eloquently puts it as a "modern approach to acoustic guitar tradition."
My favorite part about this guitar is what makes it stand out from the rest. It's all mahogany body gives you all around warmer and deeper tones, but also projection. Ibanez didn't skimp on the details either. The looks also match the vintage sound, with the mahogany sunburst finish you'll feel like you may have stepped back in time.
This is a great guitar to help you stand out from the crowd. You can't go wrong with the rosewood bridge, bone nut saddle, and chrome open gear tuners.
The Best Companion: The Travel Guitar
Dean MAH Fly
If you're looking for a guitar to accompany you on roadtrips, travels, or camping, the Dean MAH Fly is perfect for you. It's actually 3/4 the size of a normal guitar, but with a solid mahogany top, sides, and back you get the best projection for the size.
The compact size of your travel guitar can be a huge benefit when traveling on planes, trains, or automobiles. If space is an issue, a travel guitar's lightweight structure makes it easy to store in overhead storage, or in the trunk of your car.
The Dean MAH Fly is also incredibly affordable as a travel guitar. It's a great supplement when you don't want your expensive guitar to be rocked around and worry about damage while on the road.
Our Favorite Hybrid: Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Taylor Big Baby
Quite a few acoustic guitars offer the acoustic-electric option, but if one of the top items on your list of "must-haves" for your next guitar, look no further than the Taylor Big Baby. This is the guitar that you can strum around a fire singing campfire songs, plug in to play in your garage, perform in front of your biggest fans, or just have a quiet jam sesh.
The Taylor Big Baby has the new Expression System Baby pickup built in. With a high quality Taylor guitar, the under-saddle pickup and the preamp chromatic tuner, you're in for a wild ride!
The Taylor Big Baby is smaller than the classic dreadnought. It has the same quality, but less sound projection, which is where the electric option comes in handy. They didn't skip on anything when creating this masterpiece, even with the affordable price for a Taylor, you still get a solid Sitka spruce top.
With these recommendations, you're sure to find the perfect guitar for you. We recommend checking out your local music shop and giving a few a test run! Make sure to compare prices online to ensure you're getting the best deal.
Remember, no guitar is perfect for everyone, but with all of the styles, sizes, and brands out there, you're sure to find the one that's just right for you. If you're on a budget, look into shops that sell new and gently used guitars, like this one in Seattle!
If you need a little inspiration, watch this kid play Hotel California. If Sungha Jung can rock it, so can you!