In this Guide
If you’re just starting to play guitar, you’re probably not an expert on tonewoods, equipment, or even the manufacturers. Chances are, you’ve heard of a few big name brands, and are starting your search without a lot of prior knowledge.
The good news for you is there are plenty of brands that have models specifically aimed at new players. The bad news is, there are so many that it’s hard to tell which ones are worth your money.
So, which ones really are best for beginners? We did the research to find out. As fellow players, we brainstormed all the basic features we’d want in a first instrument, and then set out shopping ourselves.
We read expert reviews in magazines like Acoustic Guitar, we compared features and prices, and most importantly, we took the time to comb through hundreds of reviews from your fellow beginners who actually own these models!
Below, you’ll find our full reviews of our three favorites for beginners. We chose them based on playability, buyer satisfaction, and overall value. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a quick guide on how to choose the best first one for you.
Keep reading to find the right one for you!
Why it’s important to start with a great guitar:
It’s especially important to have a good first guitar, since a shoddy first instrument will give you a poor sense of the musical experience. A badly made, cheap-o model will give you a cheap-sounding tone, be hard on your fingers, and could turn you off of playing for good.
The best acoustic guitars for beginners are playable, affordable, and have solid tone, which allows you to grow and sound better and better as your abilities are strengthened.
You should be able to start playing some basic chords and scales out of the box. The action should be easy enough on your fingers without feeling like it’s cheap, and the fingerboard should be manageable for untrained hands. If you’re killing your fingers just trying to hold the strings down, you can’t get playing easily. After all, you want to be able to hear some results quickly, to give you the motivation to keep going.
We also think it’s important to start with a rich, full tone, even if you’re not playing a $1000 guitar. You shouldn’t settle for anything tinny or weak, because you want to be able to sound like your favorite artists! You want to be able to bask in the sounds you’re creating, not cringing at how inept you sound!
As you can see, a quality instrument is the difference between someone sticking with learning, and someone dropping it after a few weeks, never to play again. So, make sure you invest in something nice when you’re starting out! After all, learning to play guitar should be a rewarding experience!
Our Top Entry-Level Acoustic Guitar Reviews
1. Ibanez Jampack
Ibanez is one of the leading names in affordable, high-quality instruments. Their Artcore electrics are a popular standby for low-cost alternatives to Gibsons and PRSs.
Their acoustics are just as good! This intro pack pairs a basic, tuneful dreadnought with everything a beginning player needs, including a case, tuner, and more. It’s our favorite low-cost bundle for people who want the look, sound, and feel of a real guitar.
The dreadnought guitar that ships in this pack ticks all the boxes for a basic, high-quality instrument. The body is built from agathis, and there’s a spruce top. The combined woods produce a full, bright sound that has a remarkable projection.
Many players who reviewed this one online complimented the tone, as well as the projection. They said this one sounds absolutely fantastic for the price. It’s loud, full, and has smooth action for precise intonation. This certainly doesn’t sound like a toy guitar, even though it costs as little as a junker!
For a full-size dreadnought, it’s extremely playable. Several reviews from previous buyers cited the slimmed down neck as a great feature. We also love it, since it makes it feel less like a budget model, and more like a Martin.
It’s equipped with simple but durable equipment, with chrome-cast tuners and composite bridges. There’s nothing fancy, but these parts will serve all your basic needs.
It’s incredibly popular among other players. When you read online reviews for beginner models, you’ll usually find a pretty mixed bag. However, the vast majority of reviews for the Ibanez are glowing.
The Jampack comes jam-packed with everything you’ll need to get up and playing! There’s a clip-on tuner, strap, and a set of picks. You also get a gig bag, and an additional bag for the accessories.
A few reviewers said they received instruments with a couple frets that needed a bit of sanding. That’s pretty normal for models at this price point, and is an easy fix if you’ve got steel wool around the house.
The tuners are fairly cheap, and some previous buyers said they had to tune it again after a day or so.
As with pretty much any factory strings, the ones on the Ibanez are fairly lackluster.
Hear more from the Ibanez:
2. Fender Squier Bundle
This comes from one of the most recognizable names in guitars. Squier is Fender’s accessible, budget partner brand. They offer very inexpensive but highly serviceable instruments designed to cater to new players and experienced players on a tight budget.
This bundle includes a no-nonsense, solid dreadnought acoustic with all the accessories you need to get started playing. It’s one of the top selling acoustic packs on the market, and we think it’s easy to see why!
The Squier acoustic is a full-size dreadnought. While many combo packs aimed at new players provide a sized down version of a dreadnought, the Squier is the real deal. We like that it gives new players a real sense of the feel of a guitar, and eliminates any transition between “beginner” models and traditional acoustics.
It looks a lot more expensive than it is. While the design is simple, and there aren’t many appointments, the finish is solid and shows off the bright spruce top. It feels solid and well-built. Reviewers said they were pleasantly surprised by all aspects of the construction, from the intonation to the aesthetics.
The tuning equipment is also high-quality, with machined tuning knobs and an adjustable truss rod. Previous buyers said it stays in tune for days at a time.
With that said, this guitar is designed to be very playable. The action is kept low, which helps new players get used to the feel of the fretboard without fingers hurting afterward.
The bundle provides a lot of bang for your buck. In addition to the guitar, you’ll get a lightweight gig-bag style case, a spare set of strings, a set of picks, and an instructional DVD. There’s also a small tuner and a cleaning/polishing cloth.
This package is all-inclusive and aimed specifically at beginners. It’s designed for people who have never touched a guitar before. We think it makes a great gift set for young players, and is also an easy way to get into guitar playing later in life.
As with many entry-level acoustics, the Squier has a mixed reputation for playability out of the box. Many people said theirs was set up perfectly and needed no adjustment, but some people said they had to adjust the action or compensate for buzzing. That’s all to be expected, and won’t cost you more than $10-20 to fix at a local shop.
If you’re shopping for a younger player, the full-size design might not be the best choice.
The gig bag is a good case, but won’t protect your guitar against serious bumps.
Want to hear it in action? Give this a listen:
3. Jasmine S35
This entry-level acoustic is made by Takamine’s budget partner brand, Jasmine. It’s simple, no nonsense, and has quickly earned a reputation as a great budget acoustic for new players. With great tone and quality woods, it’s no surprise to us that the S35 is now Amazon’s best-selling acoustic guitar!
It’s extremely inexpensive. At about half the price of the Squier set, this Jasmine guitar is the ultimate in affordability. It doesn’t look or sound like it’s on the cheaper side, though.
While many budget guitars are plain, and have borderline white finishes on the top, the Jasmine has a warm, rich color that just looks nicer than other entry level options. In terms of fit and finish, it can compete with acoustics at the $200 level.
It sounds good, too! The top is laminated spruce, while the back and sides are made from nato wood. The combination provides strong, bright tone with a full range. It’s great for new players to explore and find their own sound. It’s priced at the toy level, but sounds as good as the $100+ models.
It’s designed for playability. The full-size dreadnought body provides full, bold sound that’s great for strumming your first chords. The neck is slim, for fingers unused to playing, and the action is set low. However, it’s a full-size 25.5” scale, so you can grow into the guitar!
Our favorite feature is that even though this is one of the cheapest options out there for a good-sounding guitar, it comes with a lifetime warranty! That’s better value for the money than many guitars at the $500 mark!
Most beginning players won’t already have any useful guitar accessories. Since this one only ships with the guitar, we’d recommend shopping around for some picks and a tuner.
The strings included on this model aren’t particularly great.
Hear the Jasmine’s great, affordable tone now:
How to Choose the Best First Guitar for You
Buy from reputable brands:
While you’re probably not going to start out playing on a Taylor or Martin, you’ll want to find an established brand with a high reputation for quality.
A few of our favorite budget little-sibling brands are Squier (made by Fender), Epiphone (made by Gibson), Seagull, (made by Godin) and Jasmine (made by Takamine). A few of the major brands make budget guitars under their own name, such as Yamaha. Others like to keep their product lines separate, so they have partner brands under a different name, which is where you’ll find the best budget options!
While these budget offshoots aren’t going to be quite as high-end as their partner companies, they do have a level of quality control and design innovation that’s superior to cheaper “budget” brands like Rogue or First Act. So, make sure you’re buying from a guitar maker that makes premiere guitars as well as really cheap instruments! That’s how you know you’ll still be getting a quality piece!
Look for bundles!
If you’re starting out playing acoustic guitar, you probably don’t have all the necessary equipment knocking around your house. Here are a few essential items you’ll want to have with your guitar:
- picks (most players use medium)
- string winder/cutter (so you can restring yourself without getting the toolbox out)
- extra strings
- case (either a hard case or a padded gig bag)
In most cases, it’s cheaper to get everything at once in a convenient starter package.
Quick pro-tip: you can save money on a tuner by using your smartphone! Apps like Guitar Tuna and others give you free, precise tuning anywhere–no Wi-Fi necessary. Plus, many tuning apps offer inexpensive tutorial programs for improving your playing and technique.
Don’t skimp on wood:
If you want a beginner guitar that doesn’t sound cheap, the most important thing to look for is high-quality wood. While the beginning guitar player won’t need to worry about telling the differences between fancier tone woods like cedar or koa, you’ll want to know what you’re getting.
Even the most basic acoustic guitar should have a bright-sounding spruce or pine on top, with a deeper-sounding wood like mahogany, nato, or agathis for the back and sides. Look for rosewood fingerboards, and matched neck and headstock woods. These help preserve the overall tonal integrity of the guitar, which can get muddy if a manufacturer cobbles together many types of wood.
That’s one of the primary reasons we aren’t recommending any guitars under $75. They’re usually made from either cheap woods, or poorly-bonded laminates of spruce or pine.
Look for warranties:
A surprising number of budget guitars come with long warranty periods. All the models we’ve recommended here come with warranties of at least two years. If you’re a beginning player, you don’t want to have to worry about your guitar letting you down.
Check out the Amazon best sellers list to find even more great guitars that people love! You can also read more on the top acoustic guitars in the market!
P.S. Ready to get playing? Here are some easy songs that you can play with just a few chords! You’ll find full, free chord sheets and lyrics on Ultimate Guitar or eChords.
Free Falling, by Tom Petty
Wonderwall, by Oasis
All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan
Out on the Weekend by Neil Young