So, you’re planning on taking up some classical music on your acoustic guitar?
Or simply want to explore a new playing technique?
While you could experiment with a regular acoustic guitar, in order to accurately learn the fingerstyle technique, you’re going to want to upgrade your instrument.
But what makes an acoustic guitar good for fingerstyle playing, and how do you choose one?
With years of experience behind me, I’ve chosen to compile a simple and straightforward guide into the world of fingerstyle guitars.
After reading this, you will be able to easily compare and choose the right fingerstyle guitar to meet your specific needs!
What Is Fingerstyle?
Although the name is pretty much self-explanatory, it’s always helpful to define new terms and words!
Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing a string instrument, a guitar, by plucking the strings not with a pick, but directly, with either the fingertips, fingernails or picks that are attached to the fingers (fingerpicks).
As you’ve probably already guessed, this technique is most commonly used amongst acoustic guitar players. There are some guitarists that integrate this type of playing on electric guitars as well.
However, in this article, we will focus on the best acoustic guitars for fingerstyle, and how to choose them!
Pros and Cons Of This Technique
You might be wondering:
Why would I play acoustic guitars with my fingers when a pick does the job just fine?
What are the advantages?
Well, depending on the genre of music you’re playing, sometimes it’s just easier to achieve the wanted result if you play with your fingers.
Certain genres like Flamenco, Bossa Nova, Ragtime, and even Funk, just wouldn’t have that unique sound and feel if they were played with a pick!
Here are some of the most prominent advantages of this technique:
- You don’t have to carry a pick
- Multiple strings can be played at a time, with more precision
- Arpeggios are much easier
- Muting isn’t necessary, as you play only the strings you want with your picking hand
- Expressiveness in terms of dynamics is much easier
If you still feel like you don’t really understand what fingerstyle is, just listen to some Flamenco guitarists on YouTube, and you’ll get it right away!
Want more info on learning fingerstyle guitar? Check out Greg’s story here: How This 41 Year Old Learned Fingerstyle Guitar In Just 27 Days
What Kind Of Guitar Do I Need?
Now that you have at least a rough idea of the technique in question, let’s take a look at the features a good fingerstyle should have.
- A Cutaway Design Is Very Helpful!
One would argue that having a guitar that features a cutaway design brings only advantages, and makes the actual playing much easier.
This is true for most genres, but when it comes to fingerstyle, it can really make a difference.
Playing classical music often means that you will have to be able to access those higher frets easily. And what better way to do so than by having a cutaway design?
So, going for a guitar with this type of design isn’t a must, but it’s definitely convenient.
- Body Size - Smaller Is More Comfortable
Utilizing the fingerstyle technique means that you will be holding your guitar differently than you would a (flat)picking one.
If you are right-handed, you should place the guitar on your left leg, instead of the right one, and the instrument should sit at a more upright angle than usual.
Knowing this, it’s pretty logical that a smaller guitar will feel more comfortable, as you try to keep everything in reach.
Orchestra sized guitars are a great option, as they offer a good form factor for this playing technique. Learn more about guitar sizes here.
Note that by playing with your fingers, you will be getting less volume and overall projection than by playing with a pick. That’s why certain smaller models offer compensation for this, either by choice of tonewood, bracing, or other mechanisms!
- Neck Width And Spacing Between The Strings – Make Sure Your Fingers Can Fit!
When you play the guitar with a pick, whether it’s an acoustic or electric model, it’s much easier if the strings are tightly placed one next to the other.
On fingerstyle guitars, it’s the opposite.
In order to have a comfortable playing experience, you should look for guitars with slightly wider necks and more space in between the stings.
If the strings are too close to each other, you won’t be able to fit your fingers between them, which will result with unwanted strings being struck and making unwanted sound.
Fretting chords is easier as well in my opinion. Sure, you will have to stretch your hands a bit more than on regular guitars, but it also gives you more room for maneuvering your fingers around the fretboard and making sure you’re not pressing the wrong strings.
- Steel Or Nylon Strings?
Choosing between steel or nylon strings for a fingerstyle guitar is a matter of personal preference, as well as the genre of music you’re most likely to play.
Classical guitars are acoustic guitars with wider necks, more space between the strings, and come with nylon strings.
As we’ve already discussed in previous articles, nylon strings are more comfortable and don’t wear out your fingers as much as steel ones do.
If you plan to focus more on playing slide guitar, funk, jazz, or other similar genres not including classical music, going with steel strings is a better idea.
I’ve decided to include both steel and nylon fingerstyle models in the review part, so you can ultimately decide what works best for your needs.
Reviewing The Best Guitars For Fingerstyle
- Yamaha C40 GigMaker Package (Nylon Strings)
The C40 classical acoustic guitar by Yamaha is one of my favorite models for absolute beginners out there.
And with its features and specs, it fits in almost perfectly in the limits of an ideal fingerstyle guitar!
As you can choose from either a full size or 7/8 body, the C40 will definitely fit your size, no matter how big or small you are.
The tonewood choice for this model is quite interesting. The back and sides are made of Indonesian Mahogany, which brings a nice and unique flavor to the sound. The top, however, hosts Spruce, which complements the Mahogany quite nicely, and rounds up the sound so it is very sweet yet clear.
As the very first guitar I’ve ever laid my hands on, it certainly holds a special place in my heart. However, personal bias aside, I would still recommend this model as the best one for an absolute beginner, due to its above average sound, and amazing playability.
- Good tonewood combination
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Very easy to play, the strings are set apart perfectly
- A bag, tuner, and DVD included!
- The tuning pegs aren’t that great
- A bit on the fragile side
- No cutaway
If you don’t mind the mediocre tuning mechanism, and the fact that you will have to take good care of it so you don’t chip away the wood or break it, the C40 by Yamaha is an easy and fun beginner guitar that makes playing fingerstyle a breeze!
- Takamine GD20-NS (Steel Strings)
Though Takamine may not be as popular as some other acoustic guitar brands, it still has a lot to offer.
Their GD20-NS model is an awesome guitar for fingerstyle, with surprisingly good tonal characteristics.
For the price, you will definitely get great value.
In terms of build quality, the GD20-NS is very sturdy and feels like it can take a punch yet last for a long time.
The back and sides are made of Mahogany, and the top is high-quality cedar. The fact that Takamine went with a solid wood build and not laminate, means that you will be getting a lot more resonance and overall presence, alongside the solid build.
What makes this model so fun and easy to play is the slim neck. While it does take some time getting used to, after just a couple of days, if not hours of playing, you will definitely feel the advantages of this design.
Style-wise, this model is perfect for playing retro songs, with that country vibe written all over it.
- Very sturdy build
- Amazing playability due to the slim neck profile
- Good sustain and projection
- No cutaway
- The E string went out of tune for some people
All things considered, the GD20-NS by Takamine is an acoustic guitar that offers great playing experience at a more than reasonable price.
- Fender CD-60CE (Steel Strings)
If it’s a Fender, it must be good, right?
Even though the CD-60CE is a part of Fender’s budget line, it’s still one of the best guitars you could get right now without busting the bank.
Focusing on absolute beginners, the CD-60CE offers a very comfortable and enjoyable playing experience, both with a pick or with fingers.
The Dreadnought body design features a cutaway, which, as we said, is very useful for reaching those few last frets down the neck. An all laminated Mahogany tonewood choice may not be ideal, but then again, it’s only around $300 retail.
The sound is balanced, warm, and gives enough projection, especially considering that it’s a model focused mainly on beginner guitarists.
The fact that it’s acoustic-electric, and that you can play it through an amp is a very neat feature for fingerstyle. With sore fingers, you will soon find out that you can either stress your fingers more, or simply pop this puppy in an amp, and give yourself a break, as you don’t have to pluck that hard.
- Affordable considering it’s an acoustic-electric model
- The neck is comfortable and just wide enough for fingerstyle
- Solid electronics, great sound when played through an amp
- Tonewood choice could have been better
- Rounded fretboard may seem a bit quirky for fingerstyle at first
When it comes to acoustic-electric models for fingerstyle at this price range, the CD-60CE by Fender is an excellent choice!
- Taylor BBT Big Baby (Steel Strings)
Taylor has taken over the market of mid-priced guitars by storm for the last couple of years now.
The balance between quality and price makes for some of the best acoustic guitars out there, and their BBT Big Baby model is no exception.
Sitting somewhere in the middle between full-sized and smaller, travel guitars, the BBT by Taylor offers great volume and response but is very convenient and practical to handle.
The tonewoods for this guitar not only offer great durability but a crisp and balanced tone as well. The top is Sitka Spruce, while the back and sides are made of laminated Sapele.
It’s this combination of materials that helps the mellow fingerstyle sound really come through as clear yet strong. Projection, resonance, and sustain is what the BBT is all about. What’s really nice about the Sapele is that it is not that affected by temperature or humidity changes, meaning you can easily play it outside as well, without major differences in terms of sound.
- Smaller and more comfortable form factor
- Good combination of tonewoods
- Punchy mids
- Great price for this level of quality
- No cutaway
- Maybe a bit too small for some
For around $400, the Big Baby BBT by Taylor offers great tonal characteristics at a convenient form factor.
It’s even better than a majority of competitor models at the same price range.
- Cordoba F7 Flamenco Guitar (Nylon Strings)
And finally, at number 5, we have a true gem for those looking for a great flamenco guitar.
The F7 by Cordoba is a relatively inexpensive nylon string acoustic guitar that offers a sound like no other model at this price range.
While Cypress is definitely a rare choice for tonewood, it offers a unique sound. The F7’s sides and back are made of this wood, while the top is solid European Spruce. It’s right here that you can already hear that flamenco overtones in the distance.
With this wood combination, you’re getting an amazingly lightweight guitar, which also makes for great playability. The low string action is something beginners find as very helpful, but many brands forget about.
The F7 provides a warm, yet very versatile tonal signature, giving it to the guitarist to drive the dynamics and emotions through strumming and picking.
- Optimal tonewood combination for flamenco
- Super lightweight and comfortable
- Versatile, rich in volume and sustain
- Practically no cons, though it may be too expensive for some
If you’re ready to spend a few hundred dollars on an acoustic guitar, spend it on the F7 by Cordoba, as you won’t be disappointed.
Revealed: Which Guitar Should You REALLY Buy?
What’s the bottom line?
Which of the mentioned 5 models is the best one?
While every model brings something unique and useful to the table, if I had to choose one, it would definitely be the Takamine GD-20NS.
Its slim neck is something that beginners will find as helpful when just starting out. Overall quality is very good, and for the price, it’s well worth it!
So, now that you know what to look for, and have seen some of the best acoustic guitars for this style, it’s up to you to find the perfect one for yourself!
I hope that this article was of help, and thank you very much for reading!