Music & Entertainment

Best Beginner Guitars for New Guitar Players

Written by MasterClass

Apr 5, 2019 • 5 min read

MasterClass Video Lessons

Tom Morello Teaches Electric Guitar

Guitars are used in all styles of music, from classical to folk to jazz to funk to heavy metal—and everything in between.

The finest guitars can command many thousands of dollars, depending on the instrument’s design, luthier, and history. But for the vast majority of players, there’s no need to spend that kind of money, and beginners can purchase a quality brand-new instrument for only a few hundred dollars.

There are many instruments within the family of guitars, and they can be divided into two categories:

  • Electric guitars
  • Acoustic guitars

Understanding a bit about each will help you choose the best model for your first guitar.

Close

What Types of Acoustic Guitars are There?

A broad category of acoustic guitars is nylon string guitars.

  • Classical guitars, Spanish guitars, and their various derivations all fit into this category.
  • The guitars are made of hollow wood with a large sound hole. The species of wood used varies from guitar to guitar, but spruce is the most popular material for the top panel.
  • These guitars typically have wide, flat necks that allow the guitar strings to be spaced fairly far apart. Neck materials also vary, but rosewood is a popular material.
  • Nylon string guitars are known for a mellow tone with strong resonance in lower-mid frequencies.
  • Traditionally the strings of these guitars were made with catgut (literally dried cat intestines), but nylon is the prevailing material today.

The other most popular category of acoustic guitar is steel string guitars.

  • This category includes most of the acoustic guitars used in rock, folk, country, and bluegrass music.
  • The body construction is similar to a nylon string guitar, but with more frequent deviations in body shape and size. Spruce tops are almost the uniform standard. Some acoustics (particularly those made by the Ovation brand) feature rounded plastic backs.
  • Some steel guitars are made of metal, such as the resonator guitar. But these instruments are less commonly used by beginners.
  • The necks tend to be narrower and more rounded.
  • The primary difference is that nylon strings are replaced with metal strings. And despite the category name, these guitars may feature strings made of nickel, aluminum, and other metals.
  • The metal strings give these guitars a much brighter, treble-focused sound that projects at louder volumes.

What Types of Electric Guitars are There?

The first type of electric guitar is known as an archtop guitar.

  • These guitars have a semi-hollow sound chamber with a block of solid wood running through the middle.
  • Embedded in the solid block are magnetic pickups, which detect vibrations in the guitar’s strings and transmit these vibrations to an amplifier running on electricity.
  • Because of the magnetic properties of the pickups, these guitars (and all electric guitars) must use metal strings. Otherwise the pickups will not function.
  • The guitars will typically have knobs to control volume and tone, and a selector switch to toggle between pickups.
  • Archtop guitars are known for a relatively mellow sound and a resonant character that combines elements of both acoustic and electric playing. They are most popular in jazz and blues, but can be found in all popular styles.

The other (and most popular) type of electric guitar is known as a solid body guitar.

  • Solid body guitars are solid all the way through and don’t contain hollow sound chambers.
  • Like archtops, they utilize magnetic pickups to amplify vibrating metal strings.
  • Like archtops, they contain knobs to control volume and tone, and switches to select individual pickups.
  • Like archtops, they don’t require electricity (their amplifiers do), although some may contain active pickups, which run on battery power.
  • Solid body guitars tend to be bright and punchy. They make minimal sound when unplugged, but through an amplifier, they can be turned up to ear-splitting volumes. They are particularly popular in rock, pop, and country music.

The Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars

There is an astonishing range in prices for acoustic guitars, but you can find decent beginner’s guitars starting around $200. The best acoustic guitars will be more than suitable for learning guitar, basic strumming, and basic guitar chords in early guitar lessons.

  • Yamaha FG800 - Yamaha is known for value in the world of musical instruments. The FG800 lacks the bells and whistles of fancier Yamaha models, but the construction materials are impressive, starting with a sitka spruce top.
  • Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood - Ibanez is another brand known for quality musical products at reasonable prices. This guitar is in the same price range as the Yamaha (both are roughly $200), and their main difference comes down to aesthetics.
  • Martin DX2MAE - Martin is perhaps the most famous name in acoustic guitars. While some Martins cost as much as a sedan, this guitar can be had for less than $500. It isn’t fancy, but the build quality lives up to the Martin standard.
  • Rogue RA-090 Concert Cutaway - If you’re on a severe budget, Chinese-made Rogue guitars are your best option. This model is only $120, and while it lacks the spruce top of the other models listed here, it does include an electric pickup, so you can also plug it into an amplifier.

The Best Electric Guitars for Beginners

Electric guitars also work well for strumming chords, and they’re the instrument of choice for lead guitar. And like with acoustic guitars, you can find a beginner electric guitar for a truly reasonable price. Consider some of these models as best guitars for beginners:

  • Yamaha Pacifica PAC112 - Once again the Yamaha brand is a very safe bet for merging low prices with quality craftsmanship. The Pacifica line goes from very basic/affordable to much more fancy/expensive, offering quality options that will fit your budget. The style is modeled on a Fender Stratocaster.
  • Epiphone Les Paul Studio - If you want an electric guitar modeled on the Gibson Les Paul (and your budget is a bit higher), check out this iteration from Epiphone. The brand is a subsidiary of Gibson and churns out well-built guitars for a fraction of what you’d pay under the Gibson moniker.
  • Jackson JS32 Dinky DKA - If you’re a metal guitarist, check out this Jackson, which features a 24-fret neck for speed shredders and a locking tremolo. Once you’ve advanced in your playing, you’ll still want to hold onto this guitar for the wide array of sounds it can produce
  • Rogue RR100 Rocketeer - Much like in the world of acoustic guitars, it’s Rogue to the rescue if you’re on a rock-bottom budget. The RR100 is only $100 new, and while it probably shouldn’t be an instrument you bring on a paid gig, it will do the trick for bedroom jamming while you learn how to play.

Discover Tom Morello’s guitars of choice here, and the guitars that Carlos Santana prefers here.