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Best guitars for beginners 2021: become a star in the making with 9 beginner-friendly acoustic and electric guitars

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Best guitars for beginners 2021: become a star in the making with 9 beginner-friendly acoustic and electric guitars
(Image credit: Getty/John Fedele)

Choosing your very first acoustic guitar or electric guitar is a very exciting time. It can, however, also be a pretty scary process if you don't know exactly what you’re looking for. There’s no point wasting your money on a beginner guitar that you’ll grow out of too quickly, or a guitar that won’t hold up to the job. In this handy guide we've rounded up the best guitars for beginners – whether you're going acoustic or electric – to help you find the perfect match.

When starting out as a guitarist, many players prefer an acoustic guitar. It’s certainly cheaper than an electric guitar as there's no need to buy a separate guitar amp and you can start playing straight away. The acoustic guitar is a little bit harder to play than an electric, but often people find this puts them in good stead for moving on to the electric guitar.

Electric guitars are much more versatile than acoustics, but have more components to get to grips with. Particularly if you want to start playing rock, blues or metal, the electric guitar can be a great guitar for beginners too.

Electric guitars are usually a little bit easier to play than acoustics, down to things like string tension and the size of the neck. It sounds complicated, but it’s important to get something super comfortable that you’ll never want to put down.  

There’s never been a better time to get into playing the electric guitar. You can grab a good quality guitar amp for under $100/£100, or even plug directly into your Mac/PC or smartphone if you're equipped with the right audio interface and guitar VST.

Whether you go for electric or acoustic, we’ve prepared a range of the best beginner guitar options that hit the mark in terms of sound, build quality and playability. All of the guitars on our list clock in at under $500/£500 - and some come in well under that figure.

If you’d like some more in-depth buying advice on the best beginner guitars, click the ‘buying advice’ button above. Keep scrolling if you’d like to get straight to the product guide.

Looking for a great Black Friday music deal? Check out our Black Friday guitar deals page for all the latest news and the biggest beginner guitar offers. 

What are the best guitars for beginners?

In terms of acoustic guitars, the Martin LX1E Little Martin is probably the best choice for beginners. It’s also an outstanding instrument for players of any age or ability. The craftsmanship from Martin is excellent too, meaning the LX1E could easily last your entire playing career (take Ed Sheeran, for example). Yes, it’s slightly more expensive than your typical beginner guitar, but in terms of pure value the Martin LX1E is peerless.

If you're looking for a great starter electric guitar, we’d happily recommend the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster ’50s. At the very entry-level sits Squier’s Bullet range, which are decent guitars, but a few rungs above that sits the Classic Vibe range which is streets ahead in terms of value. The combination of superb build quality, excellent tones and stunning looks make for an enticing package, and one which you're unlikely to grow out of any time soon.

Best guitars for beginners: Electric

Best guitars for beginners: Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

The best beginner electric guitar – style, sound and sophistication

Specifications
Launch price: $399/£299/€379
Body: Pine
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5" (648 mm)
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 21
Pickups: Fender Designed Alnico Single Coils
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup)
Hardware: Chrome
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: 2-Color Sunburst, Black, Fiesta Red, White Blonde
Reasons to buy
+The affordable Strat experience+Excellent value for money+Authentic looks
Reasons to avoid
-'50s neck is a bit of a handful 

The Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster is a sight to behold. It sits above Squier’s entry-level Affinity range but boasts far superior build quality, hardware and tone. We particularly liked the vintage tuners and tinted slim-profile neck, while the range of sounds produced by the Fender-designed single coil pickups are superb.

There is a slight leap in price above the Affinity guitars, but the accompanying leap in overall quality makes this a guitar that shouts value for money. We’d even go as far as to say the Classic Vibe range in its entirety gives many higher priced guitars - including Fender’s own Mexican range - a run for their money. Highly recommended.

Read the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster review

Best guitars for beginners: Yamaha Pacifica 112V

(Image credit: Yamaha)

One of the best beginner electric guitars with long-lasting appeal

Specifications
Launch price: $299/£199/€259
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: Alnico V bridge humbucker 2x Alnico V single coils
Controls: Volume, tone (with push-pull coil-split), 5-way selector switch
Hardware: Vintage-style vibrato with block saddle
Left-handed: Yes (Pacifica 112J)
Finish: Natural Satin, Old Violin Sunburst, Raspberry Red, Sonic Blue, Black, Silver Metallic
Reasons to buy
+Ideal for beginners+Impressive build quality+Modern sounds
Reasons to avoid
-Tremolo action isn't very smooth

The Yamaha Pacifica has long proved a benchmark for quality and specification, and the 112V remains one of the best guitars for beginners. The 112 is far from fancy and simply concentrates on the bare necessities. Yet the construction is of excellent quality. Trust us, if looked after, this will be a guitar for life. 

By design, it's an altogether more modern, brighter and lighter take on a hot-rod Strat. But when we say brighter that doesn't mean overly shrill. In fact the bridge humbucker will surprise some; it's beefy without being too midrange heavy, and features a coil-split - which essentially transforms its bridge humbucker into a single coil - for increased versatility. 

The solo single-coils impress - there's plenty of percussion and with a little mid-range beef added from an amp, these get you to the correct Texas toneland. Neck and middle combined produces a fine modern Strat-like mix - the added brightness will cut through a multi-FX patch nicely.

Read the full Yamaha Pacifica 112V review

Best guitars for beginners: Squier Bullet Mustang HH

(Image credit: Fender)

This affordable short-scale model is one of the best electric guitars for beginners

Specifications
Launch price: $179/£120/€115
Body: Basswood
Neck: Maple
Scale: 24"
Fingerboard: Laurel
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x high-output humbuckers
Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector
Hardware: Modern hardtail bridge, standard tuners
Left-handed: No
Finish: Imperial Blue, Black
Reasons to buy
+Short scale length is great for beginners+Lightweight body+Comfortable neck and fingerboard
Reasons to avoid
-Pickups will need upgrading eventually-Short scale might make it feel a bit toy-ish

The original Fender Mustang is something of a cult classic. It was loved by alternative bands and players - including Kurt Cobain - in the '90s for its short scale, affordability and potential for modding. The Bullet Mustang is the most affordable version of the model yet. In keeping with Squier’s other entry-level models, it features a basswood body, which gives it an incredibly lithe, lightweight feel. This, combined with its 24-inch scale length, makes it a great choice for beginners.

The two humbuckers are the most obvious departure from the original, providing angular grit in the bridge position and a pleasing, earthy warmth in the neck. The bolt-on maple neck and six saddle hardtail bridge feel reassuringly rigid, while the tuners did a sterling job in our tests of holding their pitch without too much hassle. 

Read the full Squier Bullet Mustang HH review

Best guitars for beginners: Gretsch G2622 Streamliner

(Image credit: Gretsch )

The budget semi-hollow with authentic Gretsch vibe

Specifications
Launch price: $449/£350/€459
Body: Laminated maple, semi-hollow
Neck: Nato
Scale: 24.75"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x Broad'Tron humbuckers
Controls: Neck volume, bridge volume, tone, 3-way pickup selector
Hardware: Adjusto-Matic bridge, 'V' stoptail tailpiece
Left-handed: Yes: G2622LH
Finish: Walnut Stain, Black
Reasons to buy
+Build-to-price ratio is very high+Hotter pickups broaden sonic potential+Centre block widens use at higher gains/volumes
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly sponge-y tuners

The Streamliner concept is simple: to create more affordable Gretsch guitars without losing their specific DNA. This particular example is a semi-hollow design, which means it puts out more volume when unplugged and offers an earthier, less aggressive tone than a solidbody design when plugged into an amp, which is great for blues and country music. It does, however, have a slightly thicker neck than the other electric guitars in our guide, so it's not one of the best guitars for small hands. 

The G2622's construction gives a different response and resonance to other new releases from Gretsch and, with these pickups, moves further from the Gretsch sound, approaching the character of Gibson's classic ES-335 design. The beefier Broad'Tron humbucker pickups broaden the sonic potential, while staying close to the classic iconography. If you want a great-value semi-hollow, this is among the best sub-$500 electrics around.

Read the full Gretsch G2622 Streamliner review

Best guitars for beginners: Epiphone Slash ‘AFD’ Les Paul Special-II

(Image credit: Amazon)

The best Les Paul for beginners – Guns N' Roses approved

Specifications
Launch price: $249/£249/€279
Body: Okoume w/ AAA flame maple veneer
Neck: Okoume
Scale: 24.75"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x Epiphone Ceramic Plus humbuckers
Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector
Hardware: 14:1 ratio tuners, Tune-O-Matic bridge and Stopbar tailpiece, Shadow E-Tuner on bridge pickup mounting ring
Left-handed: Regular Les Paul Special II only
Finish: Appetite Amber only
Reasons to buy
+It's an unmistakable, iconic look+Simple control system will suit beginners+Built-in tuner!
Reasons to avoid
-Dark-sounding neck pickup-You could probably get more for your money from other brands

Aimed at guitarists taking their first steps in rock, this Slash-approved beginner model certainly offers the look of the Guns N' Roses guitarist's preferred instrument. It also features two of Epiphone's exceedingly powerful Ceramic Plus humbuckers; plus, built into the bridge pickup ring is a Shadow E-Tuner, activated via a small push- button on the ring – it's incredibly useful for first-timers to have a tuner close to hand at all times. 

The string height is plenty low for beginners, and the pickups are high-output enough for a decent rock guitar tone, even though the neck pickup is a little dark and underwhelming. However, any misgivings you may have will be more than washed away by the great price.

Read the full Epiphone Slash 'AFD' Les Paul Special-II review

Best guitars for beginners: Acoustic

Best guitars for beginners: Martin LX1E Little Martin

(Image credit: Martin)

A great beginner acoustic for open-mics

Specifications
Launch price: $449/£449
Type: Modified 0-14 Fret
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: High Pressure Laminate
Neck: Stratabond
Scale: 23"
Fingerboard: FSC Certified Richlite
Frets: 20
Tuners: Gotoh nickel
Electronics: Fishman Sonitone
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Hand Rubbed
Reasons to buy
+Solid build and neat finish+Impressive electro performance+Good value
Reasons to avoid
-Small body means a slightly less fat sound

The Ed Sheeran-favoured Little Martin has a shorter scale length than many of the other acoustic guitars in this guide, which makes it one of the best guitars for small hands. It does feel a little industrial, but from the first strum its more conventional spruce-top voice will have you captivated. It's serious fun. 

The material may be man-made, but the fingerboard and bridge look like dense ebony, while the dark-hued HPL back and sides ape a dark, rich mahogany, giving it a classy feel. Like its acoustic voice, the Martin sounds very 'conventional' plugged in and that's no bad thing, especially for beginners. It's really easy to dial in, making it open-mic ready – when the time comes!

Read the full Martin LX1E Little Martin review

Best guitars for beginners: Taylor GS Mini

(Image credit: Taylor)

Serious quality at a very good price

Specifications
Launch price: $499/£459/€599
Body: Layered sapele with sitka spruce top
Neck: Sapele
Scale: 23.5" (597 mm)
Fingerboard: Ebony
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome
Electronics: N/A
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Satin
Reasons to buy
+Compact size+Superb build quality+Supremely playable
Reasons to avoid
-You're paying extra for the name

As one of the ‘big two’ in acoustic guitars - along with Martin - there is a level of quality and excellence that can be reasonably expected from Taylor. This is, after all, a brand which produces guitars that cost as much as a family car. Yet with the Taylor GS Mini, they’ve produced a guitar which packs in all that high-end know how and experience for a price that sits a shade under $500. 

The GS Mini is small enough for anyone to feel comfortable with, yet produces the kind of tone that will make your knees go weak. Build quality and overall playability is superb, making this the perfect guitar for anyone, no matter where they are in their playing career.

Read the Taylor GS Mini review

Best guitars for beginners: Fender CD-60S

(Image credit: Fender)

One of the best guitars for beginners, with a low, low price tag

Specifications
Launch price: $229/£160/€189
Type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid Mahogany
Back & sides: Laminated Mahogany
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 25.3"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome Die-Cast
Electronics: N/A
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Gloss
Reasons to buy
+Superb value for money+Great intonation+Excellent for beginners
Reasons to avoid
-Looks may put some off-Dreadnought body can be unwieldy for new guitarists

The entry model of the Classic Design Series is a good reminder of just how much guitar you can get for your money at the more affordable end of the market. Here, we're offered a solid-wood mahogany top, laminated mahogany back/sides and an inviting rolled fretboard edge, which makes playing comfortable for beginners. 

The CD-60S's action is great out of the box, too. The mid-character of mahogany is certainly here, bringing some meat to a brightness usually associated with spruce tops. The result is something that’s genuinely inspiring to play and chimes in chord work. Why should new players settle for just okay when they need to be comfortable and inspired?

Read the full Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany review

Best guitars for beginners: Yamaha FG800M

(Image credit: Yamaha)

A low-cost beginner acoustic guitar that punches above its weight

Specifications
Launch price: $199/£219/€222
Type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Nato
Neck: Nato
Scale: 25.6"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 20
Tuners: Chrome die-cast
Electronics: N/A
Left-handed: No
Finish: Matt
Reasons to buy
+Great dreadnought sound+Lived-in look+Won't get outgrown in a hurry
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best choice for younger players-Yamaha brand isn't quite as 'cool' as Martin or Taylor

This affordable model from guitar giant Yamaha is a typically classy, clean acoustic build with a matt finish that gives a lived-in working guitar appearance. There's little ornamentation, the fingerboard dots are small and lack contrast but the white side dots are clear and bright – great for beginners. 

The three-piece neck, with a roomy full C profile, immediately engages. The tuners are quite generic but more than up to the job, while the nut and compensated saddle are well cut with a sensible, get-on-with-the-job string height. Dreadnoughts, of course, come in many different tonal shades but we should expect plenty of roomy lows, 
a strong thump in the lower mids, crisp highs: a big projecting sound. Well, the FG800M ticks those boxes and some.

Read the full Yamaha FG800M review

Best guitars for beginners: What you should know

Man shows boy how to play the acoustic guitar

(Image credit: Getty/South_agency)

When you’re looking for one of the best guitars for beginners, it can be hard to know what to look for. It may be helpful to take a look at some of the options you have - and examine how they’ll best suit your needs. 

Acoustic vs electric guitar?

First and foremost, the choice you need to make when choosing a beginner guitar is whether you want to go acoustic or electric. While both will offer the experience you’re looking for, there are some fundamental differences. Most obvious is the sound; acoustic guitars are designed to work without amplification. This means they are much louder, and require no extras to work. 

Electric guitars, on the other hand, will play without being amplified but you’ll find them much quieter. Plug one into an amplifier, however, and everything changes. Playing-wise, you’ll probably find electric guitars easier to handle on account of their thinner necks and smaller form-factor.

Man with acoustic guitar teaches another man with an electric guitar

(Image credit: Getty/John Fedele)

Everything you need to know about beginner guitars: acoustic

There are a few key factors you should consider if you're looking to start your guitar journey on an acoustic. Perhaps the most important is body shape. Larger body guitars are great for strummers or those wanting to fit into a band, as they produce a much louder, full sound with pronounced bass tones. The downside is that the bigger body size means they can be uncomfortable and cumbersome, particularly to less experienced, younger or smaller players.

Smaller-bodied acoustics are significantly easier to handle, but don’t kick out as much volume or tone as their larger-bodied brethren. However, if you want to play fingerstyle, or have no intention of joining a band, then this probably won't concern you. 

The famous dreadnought shape – arguably the most common – offers a good balance between size and projection, and is a good place for most beginners to start. Some acoustic guitars will have electronics built-in, which means it can be amplified for those occasions where you’re playing with others. 

Aside from the guitar's body shape, you’ll want to look at the guitar’s neck and fingerboard, and the distance between the strings and frets. We’ve heard countless tales of people who want to learn the guitar, but have been put off after playing acoustic guitar strings that feel like suspension bridge cables. For this reason, electrics are often a better bet for many learners, particularly those with smaller hands. 

Everything you need to know about beginner guitars: electric

If you’ve decided to start with an electric guitar, the choices are far wider and more varied. Electric guitars come in many different shapes and sizes, but there are a few fundamental points which are common across every guitar. Assuming you want to play plugged in, you’ll want to look at the guitar’s pickups. These are the devices which translate your playing into an electrical signal that an amplifier turns into sound. 

Single coil pickups (found on most Stratocasters and Telecasters) are versatile, and suit many different playing styles like rock, jazz and blues. Humbuckers (found on most Les Pauls and Gretsches), on the other hand, produce a fatter, rounder sound which works well for heavier styles or music. If you’re planning on using distortion, it’s worth noting that Single coil pickups will make a bit of background noise, but Humbuckers won’t. It’s all because of some clever science-y stuff - but we won’t bore you with that right now. 

Electrics also tend to have smaller necks than acoustic guitars, which is good for beginners. They make great guitars for kids and those with small hands too – particularly ‘short-scale’ models, where the frets are closer together, making it easier to play chords.

At the start of your playing career, some factors that more experienced players favour – like different woods for bodies and necks – are less of a concern when it comes to choosing the best beginner guitar for you. The important thing when starting is to find a guitar which is comfortable, sounds good and has that all-important lure to keep you coming back to it. As with anything, you get what you pay for, but with the list of the best guitars for beginners we believe we’ve found the sweet spot between price, performance and playability.