15 Best Steel String Acoustic Guitar For Beginners

Best Acoustic guitars in the market today

Shopping for your first guitar can lead you down quite the rabbit hole. 

For some, this is a welcomed adventure, but it can be overwhelming nonetheless. Others may have no clue where to even begin. 

This guide aims to provide the beginner guitar player with some solid options for their first steel-stringed guitar. To help narrow the field and avoid the overly cheap guitars that bring nothing but headaches and crushed dreams.

Alvarez Regent RF26 Folk Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • The slim, narrow neck and nut makes this guitar easy to fret
  • The smaller body style is easy to hold standing or seated 
  • This guitar is lightweight (2.5 pounds (1kg)), making it comfortable when holding it standing
  •  The curvy body makes it very comfortable to play, especially when seating

Best Suited For

  • Players with a lighter strumming or picking style
  • Beginners who feel a “standard” size guitar is too bulky

Alvarez is an excellent brand with some exceptional guitars in the entry- to the mid-level world of acoustic guitars

Both this guitar and the following RS26 have very similar construction. 

Both have scalloped bracing, allowing the top to vibrate more freely, giving it a better bass response.

The RF26 features a mixture of mahogany and spruce for the tonewoods, giving a good balance of warmth and brightness

The nut and saddle material are a synthetic bone that helps with sustain and clarity and cut down on the costs as it is a less expensive material than real bone.

The Regent series is a great beginner choice as the main feature is comfort with its small curvy body. 

The RF is a “Folk” size guitar that is on the smaller end of the spectrum. 

Most players will find this a very comfortable instrument, except for someone like me, 6’2” with long arms.

The thing to note about the Folk size steel-string acoustic is it projects very well when finger-picked or strummed with finesse

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 7

Feel 8

Price 8
Alvarez RS26 Folk/Om Acoustic Guitar

Key Feature

  • The slim neck makes it easy to fret
  • Comfortable body style

Best Suited For

  • Singer-songwriter style of playing
  • A long-armed player who still want the smaller body style

Another great option with Alvarez is the RS model. 

It is one of those guitars that is a cross between two different sizes – Folk size and Orchestra Model (OM). 

It’s like the Folk guitar but just a little bit bigger with a slightly longer neck.

This guitar is mostly mahogany except for the top. While this gives it a good amount of warmth, it also makes it lose a little bit of brightness compared to the RF26.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you want a guitar with a little less bite and more of a bellowing tone. 

In my opinion, it makes up for the loss in brightness with extra volume.

The OM guitar is still smaller than the dreadnought, which is considered the “standard” size but will not feel as cramped if you are a taller player. 

The primary reason for choosing this slightly larger model will be based on sound preference. 

This guitar will be a little bit louder than the RF when strummed.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 8

Feel 8

Price 9
Dean AXS Parlor Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Very comfortable to hold
  • Comfortable to play as the satin finish allows the hands to move freely. Perfect for those that get sweaty hands when playing
  • Provides for a comfortable grip with the C-shape neck
  • Sharp looking!
  • Great for playing blues and folk music
  • Has a warm and chewy sound

Best Suited For

  • Traditional blues and folk music
  • Players who value comfort slightly over sound quality 

Dean is another good name for entry-level guitars. 

The AXS Parlor is a very approachable guitar due to its comfortable small size

Parlor guitars were trendy in the 30s with Delta blues and folk music and have made a comeback as of late. 

The nostalgic sound is a big draw for many players who are into the earlier genres of acoustic guitar music.

The AXS is mahogany everywhere except the fretboard, so it will be warm and chewy sounding.

The sound may not be for everyone as it can sound a little muffled compared to other acoustic guitars.

Nonetheless, fans of the old Robert Johnson blues music may find this to their liking.

The black chrome hardware mixed with the dark woods makes for a really cool look. 

The satin finish makes playing the guitar very comfortable, as the hands can move more freely. Especially if your hands get a little sweaty when playing. 

The C-shape neck feels really good to the fretting hand as it gives a very sure grip without being bulky.

The thing about Dean guitars, in my experience, is it will probably need a little work after you buy it. 

The frets may need to be filed by a professional luthier as they can be sharp on the edges. 

The fretboard may not feel very smooth either, but nothing a little conditioning can’t fix. 

Conditioning the fretboard is as easy as applying some lemon oil, rubbing it in with 0000 steel wool, and wiping it off with a clean cloth.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 7

Feel 10

Price 9

Key Features

  • More comfortable than other jumbos
  • Big sound

Best Suited For

  • Soloists and Singer-songwriters
  • Rock guitarists with a heavy hand

The first big guitar on the list is the Epiphone AJ-220s, an “Advanced Jumbo” body style.

Like a typical jumbo guitar, it has a large lower bout (the part the strumming arm hugs). 

What’s a little different about the AJ is more of a sloped shoulder which helps alleviate some of the comfort issues a new player might face with a guitar of this size.

The top is Sitka Spruce, and the back and sides are mahogany. 

When comparing a guitar like this one to a smaller model with the same woods, you can really hear the difference the body style makes. 

This guitar is big and boomy, but balances well with clear high and mid-range frequencies.

The fingerboard and bridge are made of Grenadillo. This wood is similar in tone to the more expensive Indian Rosewood. But has more of a bell-like ring due to its increased density. 

Some players may find this satisfying, while others with more sensitive ears may find the sound piercing. 

One drawback of this guitar is the plastic nut and saddle material. 

This takes away from the sound more than I would personally like, but that’s what keeps the price well below $300. 

Most beginners may not notice the loss in clarity and sustain because the guitar already has a good amount of both, thanks to its build. 

A solution to this is simply to upgrade the guitar later down the road rather than buying a new one. 

$200 will get you a new custom-made nut and saddle, and you will have yourself one excellent instrument, bringing the sound quality from a 7 up to at least a solid 9.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 7

Feel 7

Price 8
Epiphone FT-100 Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • That big, Dreadnought sound
  •  Affordable price tag without being a lemon!

Best Suited For

  • The budget-conscious
  • Players who want to strum big and often

 If you are like me and don’t mind a larger, slightly bulky guitar, the FT-100 is worth a look. 

It’s the right price, and this guitar booms out some sound

It is a dreadnought guitar, which is actually the most common guitar size. 

It can feel cumbersome to a new player with its broad, square shoulders, but with a bit of practice, just about anyone can get acquainted with it.

Why would you buy a dreadnought if it sometimes feels like you are hugging a tree? 

Simple. The sound. Country, bluegrass, rock – anything that needs a confident and commanding presence from the acoustic guitar benefits from this body type. 

I have the advantage of being tall and lanky, so for me, the size – and sometimes added weight – is a non-issue. I want the boom!

The gloss finish can make things a little tricky if you like to move around the neck a lot, but if you are sticking to good ol’ G, C, and D, you won’t hardly notice.

The guitar is made from “select” spruce and “layered” mahogany, which is pretty generic and unpredictable, but that’s what one can expect for a guitar with this shockingly low price tag. 

One thing to note: Amazon has this guitar as having a “carbon” fretboard, but that’s not true. According to the manufacturer, the fretboard is engineered wood. Carbon tends to be pretty expensive, so that would certainly be a twist.

For $170, you can get it as a complete package with a case and accessories! Not bad for someone who doesn’t want to break the bank and just wants to strum their heart out. 

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 8

Feel 6

Price 10
Fender 6 String CC-60S Concert Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Easy to play and hold 
  • Good quality guitar that will stay in tune and will last a long time

Best Suited For

  • Fingerpicking, folk, singer-songwriter
  • Traveling

Fender is a very trusted brand and well known for its quality and consistency. 

At the entry-level, the sound may not be anything to write home about, but you are getting a solid instrument that will stay in tune and last a long time. 

The features that matter most for a beginner are all three – good tune ability, comfort, and price.

The CC-60S is a compact, concert-sized guitar with a slightly smaller scale length (string length measured from the nut to saddle), at 25.3” compared to the more typical 25.5”. 

I know it doesn’t sound like much, but the two-tenths of an inch makes a more significant difference than one might think. 

For more information on gauge, check out our article “How to identify the gauge of strings on your guitar.”

This guitar is very easy to hold and play, no matter the size of the player.

Laminated woods are used for the back and sides. This allows to keep the price down but makes for a little bit of a weak-sounding guitar. 

It’s a small price to pay for a beginner, but just know going in that the sound will not blow your socks off. 

That’s okay, though, because the feel is excellent. 

Used models of Fender acoustics are all over the place, so you could (and should) shop around a little to save a little money to buy extra strings, a strap, or whatever your gig bag needs.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 6

Feel 10

Price 8
Fender CD-60 Dreadnaught Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Scalloped bracing for resonance
  • Walnut bridge for definition
  • Good quality guitar that will stay in tune and will last a long time

Best Suited For

  • Adult beginners on a budget
  • Country, rock, bluegrass

The CD-60 is like the Fender CC-60S but in dreadnought form. 

It also has cheap laminated woods at the back and sides. 

However, it has much better sound compared to the concert size as it has scalloped bracing for added bass and resonance. 

When compared with the CC model, the player is essentially trading sound for comfort.

This was actually my first acoustic when I was in high school, and it lasted until I upgraded in my early twenties when I started performing more. 

I regret selling it because it would have been a great guitar to keep around the house to just jam with.

The price is fantastic, and it will be easy to forgive some of the cheaper tonewoods as it plays very well and can blast out some sound. 

The walnut bridge is excellent for sustain and clarity as well. 

It’s an excellent guitar for most adult beginners. 

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 9

Feel 6

Price 9
Ibanez PC18MH Grand Concert Guitar

Key Features

  • Grand Concert size provides comfort with added projection
  • Okoume wood for a warm sound

Best Suited For

  • Fingerstyle
  • Light-handed strummers

Ibanez not only make great electrical guitars, they also make quality acoustics guitars. 

The PC18MH is an entry-level model which is a “Grand Concert” size. 

It’s a compact guitar like the concert size but is boomier and sounds similar to a Dreadnought.

Comparing side-by-side, the grand concert has more of a tapered waist than the regular concert, making it very comfortable to play while seated.

This guitar is more suited to finger pickers as it has a slightly wider neck. 

The scale length is a comfortable 25”. 

The wood used is Okoume, a type of mahogany on the softer side, providing a warmer sound

It’s very comfortable and delightful to play. But it may not be for the more aggressive strummer. 

If you have a lighter touch and/or more of a fingerstyle player, this is a great option.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 8

Feel 9

Price 9
Jasmine 6 String Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Advanced X bracing adding openness and definition
  • Dense, bright-sounding Sapele wood

Best Suited For

  • Country, rock, bluegrass
  • Students looking for a brighter tone

Jasmine is an offshoot of Takamine and serves as their entry-level line of acoustic guitars. 

Jasmine guitars use the “Advanced X Bracing” method of construction. 

X Bracing is a standard method where the braces inside the body form an “X.” 

Jasmine’s Advanced X Bracing places the bracing pattern closer to the sound hole, adding openness and definition.

The dominant wood used is Sapele, an all-purpose West African wood that translates to a brighter mahogany version. 

Paired the wood with the advanced X Bracing, this will be a guitar that will have a brilliant shimmer to the sound.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

JB Player (JB18) Auditorium Style 6-String Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Auditorium size for comfort
  • Great sound for the price

Best Suited For

  • Finger-picking and singer-songwriter styles

JB Player is a guitar that I came across in my teaching days. 

They are a great-sounding guitar for a low price.

The JB18 is an Auditorium size guitar that is comfortable. Compared to the Dreadnought, auditorium guitars are more shallow and not as wide. 

The shallow body brings the guitar closer to the body, and the narrow waist makes it easy to hold

But the guitar has less boom to it than the dreadnought style. 

This makes it more favourable to finger pickers and more light-handed strummers.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 8

Feel 9

Price 9
Rogue RA-090 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Very low price for an ultra-low commitment
  • Dreadnought body for big sound

Best Suited For

  • The budget-conscious
  • Rock, Country strumming
  • A tremendous backup guitar for traveling or “just in case.”

Holy cow, is this a low-priced guitar! 

For the price (around $75 on Amazon!), the Rogue RA-090 is actually a decent guitar. 

It’s pretty generic in look and sound, but it does the job. 

The body is “whitewood,” which is a generic term used for a number of softwoods such as various species of pine, spruce, or fir.

The other woods used – maple for the bridge & fingerboard, nato for the neck – are all abundantly available budget woods, keeping the price of this guitar microscopic. 

The woods used keep the sound rather generic, but hey – this is a fantastic buy for a beginner who really just wants to test the waters. 

Often these guitars can have a bit of high action, but it’s easy enough to have a repair tech lower the strings down. 

With the price of this guitar, it can be an excellent guitar to buy for some DIY tinkering. 

Just check out some of the StewMac videos to help you out.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 6

Feel 7

Price 10
Takamine GN11M Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Loud sound
  • Unique NEX/mini-jumbo shape making it comfortable to play sitting down

Best Suited For

  • The seated guitarist
  • Fingerstyle, Blues

The Takamine GN11M is a mini-jumbo guitar that packs a punch with the sound.

It looks really cool, too. 

I say “mini-jumbo”, which is essentially what it is, but it is a proprietary size known as the NEX shape. 

Takamine developed this guitar size which is a jumbo guitar that has been scaled down to a Dreadnought size. 

Jumbos are enormous with a huge lower bout to give out a big sound

Dreadnoughts are the most common size and comfortable enough for most players. But it can be a little uncomfortable when playing seated. 

The NEX has the curvy waist of the jumbo style but not quite as big, so it is more comfortable for a wider range of players.

The body style yields some big bottom end to the sound while the Sapele tonewoods give a notable brightness, so this guitar gets pretty loud

The natural satin finish feels and looks good, and the price is very affordable. 

It’s a bit of a niche guitar with its unique shape, but if you are like most people and play sitting down, you will notice this one is more comfortable than other big-bodied guitars.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 9

Feel 7

Price 8
Washburn 6 String Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Scalloped bracing for a louder sound
  • 2-way truss rod adjustment allowing you to adjust the neck

Best Suited For

  • Wide range of musical taste
  • Fans of the dreadnought body shape

This Washburn 6-string Dreadnought is starting to get up there in price for most beginners but is still under $300 for a solid axe. 

It has all the usual trimmings of a solid Sitka spruce top and mahogany back and side, but it is also one of the guitars with the scalloped bracing for a desirable resonance.

The engineered wood of the fingerboard is one of the compromises, but it’s a small price to pay to keep the cost down. 

The engineered wood takes away some sustain and may feel a little rough under the fingers, but that roughness can be sanded down or will go away with time as it’s played.

It has a two-way truss rod, meaning the metal rod in the neck can be adjusted at two points, making it easy to adjust the neck to the player’s desired straightness. 

Some players like their neck dead straight, others like a slight bow in it. The two-way adjustment is great for the DIYer.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 8

Feel 8

Price 7
YAMAHA FS800 Small Body Acoustic Guitar

Key Features

  • Small, comfortable body
  • Great construction

Best Suited For

  • Singer-songwriter, blues, soloist
  • Players who prefer a more petite guitar body

 It’s hard to go wrong with Yamaha, especially for a beginner instrument. 

They are so well built that it’s almost unfair that they are priced so low. 

The FS800 is a folk/concert size guitar with scalloped bracing for a small guitar with a punch.

The guitar – like most Yamaha guitars – is simple and basic, but that is a good thing when you are first starting out. 

The walnut fretboard feels really smooth to the fretting hand, making for easy movement when changing chords or playing lines. 

The FS800 also comes in a dreadnought size for those who want a little more bang.

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 8

Feel 10

Price 9
Yamaha JR1 3/4 Size Acoustic Guitar

This is our one and only ¾ size guitar on this list. The JR1 is The perfect guitar for a child or an adult with small hands. 

Sure it’s tiny, but it actually doesn’t feel as cramped as I would think for my long arms. 

It would make a great travel guitar

The advantage to owning a smaller guitar is to be able to see your hands better so you can concentrate on learning the neck.

The sound is a bit muted, but it’s still clear and certainly doesn’t sound like a toy. 

The nut and saddle are a plastic called Urea, and with the small size and low price, it is not advisable to spend the money to upgrade. 

The guitar feels great and, most importantly, stays in tune!

The table below provides a quantitative measurement of how we think this product measures up in various performance categories. 

The purpose of this table is to help you make a quick decision (0=terrible, 10= the best). 

However, all numbers are subjective based on our experience and what we think of the guitar. 

Ultimately the best way for you to know if this is the guitar for you is by playing it.

Sound 7

Feel 9

Price 9

Choosing your string gauge and material is a matter of sound preference and comfort. However, the regular lights and medium strigs made of Pospher Bronze or 80/20 bronze are our recommendations.

Most beginners are pointed to the Silk & Steel strings with silk interwindings for a warmer tone and a comfortable soft feel when fretting. They are a favorite of folk guitarists as well.

As for the string gauge or thickness, “regular lights” are what most steel-string acoustics come equipped with. These are known as .012s (read: twelves) because that is the thickness of the high E string. 

Going lighter reduces tension on the neck, which can create a back-bow. 

If that happens, you will want to visit a repair shop to have that alleviated. That will likely need to be the case if you select the Silk & Steel strings.

To light of a string can also cause a drop in volume and a loss of tone, particularly in the bass and mid-range responses. 

Medium strings (.013s) sound amazing but can be very hard on the fingers for those who have yet to develop calluses.

Pospher Bronze is a preferred material for its durability and brightness but is more expensive. 

80/20 bronze – is 80% copper and 20% zinc. These are the basic strings which are usually around $5/pack. 

It’s recommended to get the basic 80/20 at first while you are learning. 

It’s not as painful to the wallet if you break a string.  

The 80/20 bronze strings begin to lose their strength and tone after about a month, whereas the Phosphor bronze can last 2-3 months. To help the strings last longer and keep a good sound throughout their relatively short life, give them a good wipe down after playing. 

The oils from a human hand are quite corrosive, especially when playing with non-coated 80/20 strings.

Once you change your strings, you’ll notice that they may de-tune quite quickly and easily. 

Not to worry, they will just need time to adjust. 

Our article “How Long Do New Guitar Strings Take To Settle” goes more in-depth on this issue and provides you with practical tips on what to do.

I hope this has been a helpful guide to buying your first steel-string acoustic guitar. 

It’s essential to have a guitar that you are comfortable with as you start your journey into learning to play guitar. 

It’s also crucial that you buy an adequately constructed guitar so that it will last and play in tune. 

Over the years, I have seen some great beginner guitars and some absolutely terrible ones. 

Stick to this list, and you are sure to find the guitar for you.

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