How to Find the Best Fingerstyle Guitar – 2018 edition
When I was researching different guitars, I was amazed at how difficult it was to determine which model was the best fingerstyle guitar for me. It can be overwhelming trying to narrow everything down. That’s why I’m here to give you some tips, so you have an easier time than I did.
Best Fingerstyle Guitar
Valuable Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Fingerstyle Guitar
When you’re searching for the best fingerstyle guitar to buy, you’ll definitely want to consider the wood type. The type of wood that a luthier chooses for a guitar will affect both the sound quality and the aging process of the guitar. Spruce and cedar are both really common in fingerstyle acoustic guitars. I love spruce guitars because the wood improves with age, and I know that if I buy a guitar with a spruce wood top, it will only sound better as I break it in more and more. That’s what I call an investment.
I also love guitars that use mahogany wood because of the warm sound they emit. If you’re looking for a deep sound that will resonate nicely, mahogany is a great choice. As you might have guessed, I often recommend guitars that combine spruce wood tops and mahogany sides. That being said, there will always be guitars made with different types of wood that blow me away with their sound, so be sure to stay open minded to different types.
Although I don’t believe there are certain types of wood that will always produce a low-quality sound, basswood is typically used on lower end guitars because of its affordability. Basswood won’t give you that impressive warm mahogany sound, or the bright sound that spruce wood will. This is definitely something to consider when you’re exploring different wood types. If you want to read more, check out this article on different types of woods for guitars
Depending on what type of musician you are, there are many additional characteristics that might determine the best fingerstyle guitar for you. If you’re a guitarist who tends to use the upper neck of the guitar, then you might want to consider a cutaway. On the other hand, a cutaway might not be the best choice for you if you don’t think you’ll be using that area of the guitar’s neck.
Some musicians say that a cutaway will detract from the power of the sound. I personally believe that if a guitar is made with great quality wood, then the cutaway won’t compromise the sound very much.
The action on a fingerstyle guitar will really affect the quality of sound you get. Next time you’re at a music store, take a look at how high the strings are from the guitar’s neck. If the strings are quite far from the neck, then you’ll find that the action on this guitar may make it hard to play certain music with a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs.
Guitar compositions in the style of Andy McKee or Don Ross will contain a lot of these techniques, so if you’re hoping to pursue this style of music with your new guitar, I’d be sure to investigate and experiment with the action on the guitar you are considering.
A guitar with a nice finish will both shine beautifully and also stay in better condition for a long period of time. Guitars without a finish on top may get dented and scratched much more easily than guitars that have a protective coating.
This is something to consider if your guitar’s appearance means a lot to you, or if you think your guitar will be exposed to conditions that might damage it (i.e. a lot of travel between performance venues). You’ll know if a guitar has a finish on it if it feels smooth and even rather than raw and dry.
If you’d like a second opinion on what to look for, check out this video
In my opinion, you should consider the Martin GPCPA5K Performing Artist Series Acoustic Electric Guitar if you’re searching for the best fingerstyle guitar in a medium quality range.
This model is more affordable than other great sounding fingerstyle guitars, but you won’t lose much in terms of sound quality. This guitar has a sitka spruce top, which will give the guitar a bright sound that will sound even better as it ages.
This guitar has a pickup already installed, so if you’re a performer, I’d be sure to consider a guitar with this electronic component. This guitar also has a cutaway installed, which may be either a pro or con for you depending on what type of musician you are.
The cutaway may be unnecessary if you don’t plan on using the upper registers. This guitar has a very little finish on it, meaning it may get damaged more quickly than other models.
This may not be an issue for some guitarists, but if you’re planning on playing around the campfire, then expect your guitar to lose its new-looking quality pretty quickly. Cons of this model may include the high action of this guitar.
High action can make hammer ons and pull offs more difficult. Consider the type of playing you will be doing before you buy this guitar. Are you planning on doing a significant amount of strumming in between your picking passages?
- Has a pick-up which is ideal for performance
- Sitka spruce top
- Little finish
- Higher price
- High action
If you’re willing to invest in a more expensive fingerstyle guitar, then I’d suggest the Larrivee LM-40 Legacy Rosewood Acoustic Guitar. Larrivee Guitars are excellent quality, so you can be sure you’re investing in something worthwhile when you purchase this model.
Like the Martin PCPA5K Acoustic Guitar model, this guitar also has Sitka spruce top wood. You’ll, therefore be able to hear your guitar’s sound improve with age as the spruce opens up.
This guitar will have the excellent, balanced tones that Larrivees are renowned for. This guitar also has wider string spacing than other fingerstyle guitars, which can be a huge plus if you’re looking for a guitar that will allow you to play intricate picking patterns.
On the other hand, if you plan on doing a significant amount of strumming, this model is very sensitive and can sound a little too harsh when strummed with a lot of force.
You might want to consider other guitars if you plan to do a lot of strumming during your playing. Additionally, this guitar does not have a cutaway, which can be either a pro or a con depending on your playing style.
Cutaways will help you play in the upper registers, but keep in mind it’s still possible to do so without a cutaway. (It might just take some extra practice, which is never a bad thing if you love guitar as much as I do.)
- Wide string spacing
- Balanced tones
- Great sustain
- Very expensive
- No cutaway
- No pick-up
The Fender CD-60 Acoustic Guitar is the best fingerstyle guitar to consider if you’re planning on purchasing a low-end, affordable guitar. I’d recommend this guitar for beginners who are looking to experiment with fingerstyle playing.
If you’re a professional performer, I’d recommend investing in a higher quality instrument. The sound quality on the Fender CD-60 will not be as impressive as the Martin or Larrivee guitars that I mentioned above.
This is simply because guitars that are more expensive are typically made with better quality wood. That being said, you can still make a great sound on this guitar. This guitar also has a spruce top, but unlike the Martin model, does not have a pick-up.
If you’re a beginner and you plan on using your new fingerstyle guitar to play in quieter settings, such as in your home or around the campfire, then this guitar might be a great fit for you.
If you’re hoping to perform in big, loud venues, then you may want to consider a guitar that comes with a pickup already installed.
Additionally, because this guitar is less expensive, don’t expect the same balanced tones that you will get if you invest in the Larrivee. Some owners of this guitar say the higher strings contrast a little bit too much which their lower sounding strings.
- Spruce top will lead to nice aging process
- Great for beginners
- No pick-up
- Sound quality is poorer than the more expensive guitars on this list
- Unbalanced tones
If you’re interested in classical or flamenco style music, you might want to consider a different type of guitar altogether. The Antonio Hermosa AH-15 Flamenco Guitar might be a good fit for you if you’re less interested in acoustic fingerstyle music.
This guitar has nylon strings instead of steel strings, which create a softer, less resonant sound than guitars with steel strings.
These guitars are also not as easy to tune as acoustic guitars, so if you want to play in alternate tunings, like DADGAD or open C tuning, I’ll stick with an acoustic model.
Additionally, while this great model quality for a lower end flamenco guitar, don’t expect it to project as loudly as upper end classical or flamenco guitars.
Also, these guitars are not built to be strummed with a pick, so if you plan on strumming chords, I’ll consider the other acoustic models I’ve listed. In terms of size, this guitar is smaller than a dreadnought acoustic guitar, which may be a plus if you have a small frame.
Overall, owners of this guitar have expressed that they’re blown away by how great it sounds considering its reasonable price. If you aren’t looking to spend a lot on a classical or flamenco guitar, this is my top pick.
For more information, take a look at this article about the difference between classical and acoustic guitars
- Spruce top
- Great intonation
- Good wood quality
- No pick-up
- Less projection than higher quality models
- No cutaway
Taylor’s 114 Acoustic Guitar model is another great instrument to consider. This guitar is a dreadnought but does not have the traditional booming sound we so often hear from dreadnought models.
This can be a pro or a con depending on what type of music or performance settings you prefer. Some musicians find dreadnoughts too loud, which can drown out their voice when singing.
If you’re looking for an acoustic that you can sing along with clearly, I’d recommend this model. This guitar has a solid sitka spruce top with a sapele back and sides.
Sapele sounds similar to mahogany, so you’ll still get that warmth that so many of us want in our guitars. Additionally, sapele wood is known to produce a sound with more complex overtones and clearer treble voices than mahogany wood.
Therefore, this guitar may step things up a notch if you want to emphasize notes in the upper registers.
This model is known to feel very comfortable and easy to play, making it a great fit for you if you’re a beginner who wants a high-quality instrument, or if you’re an advanced musician and you simply want your next guitar to be easy to play.
This guitar also has a durable varnish finish, so if you’re worried about your guitar getting dented or scratched, you may want to consider this model.
- Easy to play
- Sapele sides which lead to complex overtones
- Varnish finish
- Softer sound
- No pick-up
- No cutaway
My Top Pick
In my opinion, the best fingerstyle guitar is the Martin GPCPA5K Performing Artist Series Acoustic Electric Guitar. This guitar is great quality, has a cutaway, a pick-up, and is pretty affordable. Martin’s model is performance-friendly, and the cutaway will give easier access to the upper registers.
This is a great model to invest in if you’re looking for an instrument that will allow you to dive into the world of fingerstyle music. If you’ve decided a fingerstyle guitar isn’t for you, take a look at this article on the different types of guitars