I’m a huge believer in finding the right tool for the job.
As a HVAC technician, this motto has served me well, and I stress it to all the young guys who’ve done their apprenticeships with me.
But finding the right guitar for a certain style of playing is anything but simple, as you probably already know.
With different specs and features to look for, it’s easy to get lost in the numerous models you can find online.
But here’s the kicker:
I’ve compiled a list of the most prominent features you need to have in mind when picking a guitar for flatpicking.
After reading this article, you will be able to easily navigate through various models and find the right one for your needs.
So, let’s get right to it!
What Is Flatpicking, And Who Uses This Technique?
Flatpicking is defined as the technique of strumming/striking the strings of a guitar with a pick.
While this may sound too obvious at first, it’s important to note that there are many different styles of playing one can use with an acoustic guitar.
This method of playing appeared in American music around 1930 and soon became very widespread amongst guitarists no matter the genre in question.
However, flatpicking is most commonly associated with the American southeast and genres such as bluegrass.
Now, while many would argue that flatpicking is simply playing guitar with a pick and that this technique doesn’t really require anything special when it comes to the guitar itself, there still are a couple of things that can truly add to the sound.
As we’ve discussed before, the actual shape and style of the body impact the overall sound.
Having that in mind, when looking for the best flatpicking acoustic guitar, your best bet would be going with a Dreadnought style.
The sheer volume and tonal characteristic of this style add to the sharp sound you’re looking for.
On the other hand, smaller guitars, commonly marked as OM, or Orchestra, will do a fine job as well.
This gives you a choice, which is especially practical if you have smaller hands, or simply prefer a more compact guitar.
Tonewood Choice – Accentuate That Sharp Picking Sound!
If you’ve read any of our acoustic guitar guides, you know by now that various tonewoods contribute to the sound in different ways.
So, what’s your best bet when it comes to flatpicking guitars?
Mahogany is a perfect choice, with its unique tonal characteristics.
The sound it provides is pretty warm and natural, with a focus on the crisp trebles.
The fact that it offers slightly less bass and overtones than other tonewood types makes it very suitable for flatpicking.
Rosewood, however, offers somewhat of a different sound.
Making for a darker and more resonant approach to flatpicking, it’s a choice of many famous bluegrass guitarists out there. It provides loads of resonance and a strong and deep low end, in contrast with Mahogany.
As for the guitar top, it depends on what you’re looking for:
Red Spruce is a common choice, due to its natural stiffness, as well as high volume and tonal clarity.
Because it gives the guitar the ability to produce a very clean sound no matter how hard or soft you go on the strings, it makes for a great combination with either Mahogany or Rosewood on the back and sides.
Sitka Spruce is a great alternative to Red Spruce, with its amazing lightweight characteristics and great sustain.
These are, of course, rough guidelines you should follow when it comes to the tonewood.
As with any guitar, it’s up to you to actually decide which combination of tonewood does the job best!
What About The Strings Captain Obvious?
With a general rule that using a pick for guitar playing requires a guitar with steel strings, there’s not really much to think about here: You obviously need steel strings.
With bluegrass and similar genres that you might be playing with your flatpicking guitar, you can start to get familiar with which type of guitar is best for a particular genre.
We’ve talked about the general differences between nylon and steel strings in our article on acoustic guitars for beginners, and it’s a good idea to try and figure out what kind of strings a guitar has based solely on listening to its sound.
This way, you will soon be able to train your ear, and know exactly what sound you’re looking for!
So, with all of the details out of the way, let’s take a closer look at my pick of the best guitars for flatpicking on the market!
And Now For The Reviews! The Top 5 Guitars For Flatpicking
- Fender FA-100
As one of the most commonly sold acoustic guitars from Fender, the FA-100 is a great option if you plan on flatpicking, but don’t want to spend too much money.
Design-wise, this is probably one of the best looking guitars in this price range. The natural Basswood finish shines through the glossy finish pretty nicely, and a black pickguard not only complements that, but keeps the body from accidentally getting scratched.
Going for Basswood as tonewood of choice is definitely the result of Fender looking for a way to lower the price of this model, but still retain very good overall quality.
Even though there definitely are better options when it comes to tonewood and flatpicking, the fact that Fender went with X bracing with this budget models definitely compensates for that.
What makes the FA-100 really special is the fact that it plays so easily! It’s very comfortable, the strings are set to a good height, and it just feels great in the hands.
- Fender high-quality build
- Good projection and sustain
- Very easy and enjoyable to play
- It could be a bit louder
- Some fret buzz may occur
All things considered, the FA-100 by Fender is probably the cheapest flatpicking guitar that still makes sense to buy.
- Dean AX DCE
Although Dean is most famous for their electric guitar line, the acoustic models they offer don’t fall far behind in terms of quality. Their AX DCE model is a great example of their craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Starting with the design, the lack of contrast definitely gives the AX DCE a unique look. The Rosewood fingerboard pretty much blends into the all Mahogany body making for an overall sleek look.
Rocking a Dreadnought design, this model is sure to deliver some mean volume and presence. Going with an all Mahogany build means that it’s rich with warmth and sounds very natural. With sharp yet clear highs, it’s more than perfect for flatpicking.
From a playability perspective, however, it’s slightly beneath the previously mentioned Fender FA-100. Although the guitar itself feels very sturdy and solid, the finish could have been better. No, there were no sharp edges or unpolished surfaces, but it just gave off an unfinished vibe altogether.
Maybe it’s just me, and my obsession with perfection, but then again, you can’t really expect that much from a guitar that costs around $150.
- Very unique and sleek looking
- Warm tone, rich with highs
- Could be a bit more comfortable
If you are a beginner, chances are that you won’t really notice or mind the flaws I’ve found with this model.
That being said, the AX DCE by Dean is a good starter flatpicking guitar you should consider buying.
- Yamaha FG840
Going with Yamaha is pretty much a no-brainer, and their FG840 is no exception!
Good flatpicking guitars tend to be pretty expensive. However, this model manages to provide musicians with all the most important specs and features at an affordable price point.
You can choose between mahogany and rosewood when it comes to tonewood, depending on your personal preferences.
Whichever tonewood you go for, amazing tonal quality and durability are guaranteed!
Even the bracing stands out with this model, as Yamaha decided to include their new scalloped technique. This means that the FG840 delivers a natural tone, as well as a very sturdy build.
There are two options regarding the body type and size. This way, if Dreadnought doesn’t do the job, you can always go for the noticeably more narrow concert design.
Although that choice may not be ideal for bluegrass or similar genres, it will still perform quite nicely.
- Warm and open sound
- Very good tonewood combinations
- Great value for the money
- Doesn’t always stay in tune
For its price tag, it doesn’t go much better than the FG840 by Yamaha.
This model clearly shows that you don’t have to sacrifice good performance or looks when you’re looking for a good budget flatpicking guitar!
- Seagull S6 Classic Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric
The S6 by Seagull is a great example of an acoustic-electric flatpicking guitar that is sure to meet every expectation when it comes to flatpicking.
If you’re looking for a guitar that you can play alongside a band, or simply need one to run through an amp, the S6 is an excellent choice.
Boasting a Dreadnought body design, it’s bound to have serious projection and volume. The tonewood of choice is the heart of Wild Cherry, giving it a unique and stable audio signature.
The top wood is pressure tested solid Cedar, making for a sturdy build, that’s going to last you for a very long time.
Even the neck strays from the standard wood choices, as it is made of silver leaf Maple. This guitar is very easy and comfortable to play, which makes it more than suitable for beginners as well as more advanced guitar players.
The most prominent feature of the S6 is the sheer sustain it offers. You will be able to truly let your creativity run wild without any worries.
The 4- Band EQ lets you tune in just the right sound on the spot, without having to even touch the amp.
- Unique and interesting wood choice
- Amazing projection, volume, and sustain
- Easy to use and handy onboard controls
- A bit expensive for some
For the price, you will be getting a very nicely built and versatile acoustic-electric guitar. The S6 by Seagull is a great guitar you should definitely consider.
- Martin DRS2
Martin is responsible for one of the best acoustic guitars models on the market. Their DRS2, although relatively expensive, is their take at “budget-friendly” flatpicking guitars.
With the price at around $800, it’s definitely not cheap, but is considered as so, given the fact that their most popular models go for a couple of thousands of dollars!
Most musicians talk about Martin guitars when asked about the best flatpicking/ bluegrass acoustic guitars. Let’s see what makes them so special and unique.
Once you actually pick one up, you can really tell that each and every detail is taken care of. The finish simply feels premium, as well as the wood chosen for the build.
The Dreadnought style body design is coupled with the X style bracing and a solid Sitka Spruce top in order to make for a top-notch playing experience.
The back and sides are made of solid Sapele, adding a unique flavor to the tone.
It simply wouldn’t be fair to the cheaper models if we compared the DRS2 to them, but it just sounds like a professional guitar. The whole range sounds crisp, with the highs having a slight and tasteful boost.
All of this is backed up by Fishman Sonitone electronics, in order to guarantee a high quality of sound when played through an amp.
- Premium feel and build
- Great tonewood combination
- High-quality electronics
- High price point makes it exclusive for professional guitarists
Sure, there are definitely other, more expensive guitars out there, but the DRS2 by Martin manages to capture all of the flatpicking essentials a guitarist may need.
If you’re feeling like you’re ready for a premium guitar, definitely go for this model!
Conclusion Time! Let Me Try And Pick A Winner
As we’ve explored the different options when it comes to the best flatpicking guitars, it’s time to choose one model that is as close to perfection as possible!
Personally, I would recommend the FG840 by Yamaha, as the model that managed to balance build, sound quality, and affordability in the best possible way.
Although some people reported that it doesn’t hold the tuning that well, as a beginner, that won’t be that big of a deal.
I hope that you found this article useful and that it helped you in finding the right flatpicking guitar for your needs.
As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one!