The moment when you choose your very first acoustic guitar or electric guitar is an extremely exciting one. That said, it can also be a daunting process if you don't know what you're looking for. You don’t want to waste your money on a beginner guitar that isn’t suitable, or that you'll grow out of too quickly. In this handy guide we've rounded up the best guitars for beginners – whether you're going acoustic or electric – that are the perfect match for newcomers to the instrument.
Many players just starting out prefer to kick off with an acoustic guitar. It’s certainly cheaper than going electric as there's no need to buy a separate guitar amp and you can start playing straight away.
Electric guitars have more components to get to grips with, but they’re also more versatile than acoustics, particularly if you want to start playing rock, blues or metal – making them great guitars for beginners too.
- Take your pick from the best acoustic guitars for beginners
- These are the best electric guitars for beginners
- Check out some of the best Christmas gifts for guitarists
- Start playing today with our choice of the best online guitar lessons
- Give percussion a go with these great beginner electronic drum sets
Fortunately, there’s never been a better time to get into playing the electric guitar; you can pick up 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.
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. They all clock in at under $500/£500 (some come in well under that figure). Spend any more than this and you’re into ‘serious guitar’ territory, and you may not appreciate the smaller details that make expensive guitars what they are.
Thankfully, the quality available at this price point is better than ever – some of these beginner guitars could well be friends for life, so it’s worth making the right choice.
But before we get into the full rundown of beginner-worthy guitars, we've also provided more advice to help you zero in on the right beginner guitar for you.
What are the best guitars for beginners?
While every guitar featured in this guide is more than worthy of its place, there are a couple that truly stand out above the rest. In terms of acoustic guitars, the Martin LX1E is one of the best guitars for beginners and an outstanding instrument for players of any age or ability. Its smaller size makes it portable, yet this guitar still pumps out some impressive volume. The craftsmanship from Martin is excellent too, meaning the LX1E could easily last your entire playing career. 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 ‘50s Stratocaster. At the very entry-level sits Squier’s Affinity range, which are decent guitars, but just 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: what you should know
It can be hard to know what to look for when first investigating the best guitars for beginners. It’s may be helpful, therefore, to 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 extra peripherals 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.
Everything you need to know about beginner guitars: acoustic
If it’s a beginner acoustic guitar you’re looking for, you’ll want to consider a few factors. Body shape is perhaps the most important. Larger body guitars produce a much fuller, rounder sound with pronounced bass tones. These are great for strummers or anyone looking to fit in with a band. The downside is that they can be cumbersome, particularly to less experienced players.
Smaller-bodied acoustics are easier to handle but don’t project their tone as well. This, however, may not be a problem if you’re playing fingerstyle, for example. 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.
Away from 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 examples of people who want to learn the guitar but have been put off after playing acoustic guitar strings that feel like cheese wire. 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 are versatile, and suit many different playing styles like rock, jazz and blues. Humbuckers, on the other hand, produce a fatter, rounder sound which works well for heavier styles or music.
Electrics also tend to have smaller necks than acoustic guitars, which is good for beginners, and they make the best guitars for kids and small hands – 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.
Beginner guitar gear essentials
Once you've decided on the best beginner guitar for you, you may need to pick up a few extras. These guides should help:
- Just getting started? You’ll need one of the best guitar tuners on this list
- Add one of the best guitar straps to your shopping list
- Protect your investment with one of the best guitar cases and gig bags
- Best guitar cables: guitar leads and patch cables for all budgets
- Explore our selection of the best guitar picks
- Need a budget amplifier? These are the best guitar amps under $/£500
- The best practice amps for sharpening your chops at home
- Best guitar effects pedals: delve into the world of FX
- Restring your electric with a set of the best electric guitar strings
- Restring your acoustic with a set of the best acoustic guitar strings
Best guitars for beginners: Electric
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.
- Explore more of the best Fender Straocasters
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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