What Is The Best Fingerstyle Guitar? (REVIEW)
I think you'll agree with me when I say:
Fingerstyle is one of the MOST enjoyable ways to play a guitar.
But it turns out that not every guitar is suited to this style.
Yes, you can fingerpick on any guitar and it will sound ok, but we want to know what is the best fingerstyle guitar. Let's take a look.
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 5 Best Fingerstyle Guitars On The Market
Martin GPCPA5K Performing Artist Series Acoustic Electric Guitar (Editor's Choice)
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5 Best Fingerstyle Guitars
Ok let's look at each product in more detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action.
Also check out our buyers tips for X section further down the page.
#1: Martin GPCPA5K Performing Artist Series Acoustic Electric Guitar
Martin guitars have long held the throne as the king of acoustic guitars, and they work hard to keep it that way. In terms of tone, notes in all ranges resonate well, and mid tones have a nice sustain for helping to keep your harmony sections flowing all the way through.
- acoustic-electric, so you'll be able to play in crowded venues with plenty of other noise just as easily as you whip it out around the campfire.
- Sitka spruce top gives a bright resonance.
- Cutaway for those high frets
- Bass notes are noticeably weaker than in other guitars to avoid creating feedback when playing plugged in.
- Use of Koa veneer over a high pressure laminate for the back and sides rather than genuine Koa.
- Very high action makes it harder to pull off fast arrangments or flamenco without adjusting it first (don't try to do this yourself unless you've done it many times successfully.)
- The price - quite a bit higher than the rest on this list.
#2: Taylor BBT Big Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar
Taylor are another range of guitars renowned for their quality. The Big Baby is larger than most guitars you would normally consider as a fingerstyle player, but it's still among the best fingerstyle guitars. The ebony neck is great for speedy playing and has an aesthetic quality which shouldn't be overlooked.
The body uses Sitka and layered Sapele, which combined with the ebony gives a very bright sound that makes this guitar great for solo playing, which you'll like if you prefer to do your own thing rather than play with a band like many fingerpicking guitarists do.
- High quality tonewoods produce some great sounds.
- The price tag is lower than what you would normally expect from a guitar with such high quality materials.
- Very strong mid tones will help to carry your harmony that little bit further.
- Doesn't feature a cut out.
- Acoustic only, so you'll need to rely on a mic if you're playing larger venues.
- The larger body is fine for most needs, but isn't ideal for fingerstyle.
#3: Fender CD-60 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
This is a very affordable option if you aren't willing to spend more than a couple of hundred. There's nothing particularly brilliant about this guitar, but in the hands of a talented musician it will perform just as well as a more expensive option.
- Much cheaper than many other high quality guitars, but plays quite well in comparison to those with much higher prices.
- Rosewood fretboard helps to absorb some of the tinnier high tones.
- Hard shell case included which means it'll arrive in one piece and make it safer to bring along wherever your muse takes you.
- The tones are a little unbalanced, with the high being too bright in relation to the mids and bass.
- Rounded fret board means that it's not as slick for playing fingerstyle, and would be better suited to other styles of play.
#4: Takamine GD20-NS Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar
The Takamine is a little different from most of the other guitars on this list. Aesthetically it's very pleasing and understated, giving it a 'secretly luxury' appearance, whilst maintaining a low end price.
The guitar is all solid woods (cedar top, mahogany back and sides) which brings a resonance to the guitar that can't be achieved by more expensive models using laminates.
- Dirt cheap for the quality.
- Solid woods bring your tone to life, the cedar/mahogany body and the rosewood neck work together beautifully to bring out the full range of tones.
- Beautifully designed, it works just as well as a home decoration when not being played.
- no cut out, limiting easy playability to the 12th fret and below.
- The slim neck certainly makes it easier to play, but if you've never used one of these before it make take some time to overcome the muscle memory of using a thicker neck.
- The full bodied dreadnought size helps to give a more powerful sound, but is less suited to the needs of a fingerstyle player.
#5: Washburn WD7S Harvest Series
This guitar boasts a spruce top and mahogany back and sides, so has a strong combination of tone woods with no low quality materials. Visually very appealing, with a similar understated finish that's similar to the GD20-NS.
- Can handle low action without buzzing, which will make it much easier when you're trying to hold down strings four frets apart.
- Full sound thanks to the use of only solid woods for construction.
- Narrow neck makes it easier if you have small hands, or need to play arrangements with dramatic distances between the notes on melody and harmony lines.
- No cut out.
- Dreadnought sized.
- No plug in options.
So which should I buy?
There are two real choices here for a serious guitarist who is looking to find the best fingerstyle guitar they can. Firstly, I would suggest the Martin, purely for the cut out and also because it is an electro acoustic, which can really make a difference when you're not playing at a gig where the crowd is quietly focussed on the music.
However, if these are not your top priority then you should consider either the Taylor, or Takamine depending on your budget.
Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying a fingerstyle guitar
- The first thing you'll want is a guitar with a cut out in the body. Being able to access those high frets is really useful if you play classical music, and you don't want to have to break your wrist when you're trying to play triplets on the 15th fret and beyond.
- Secondly, the size of a fingerpicking guitar is typically one that is slightly smaller than a standard guitar, and is know as an 'Orchestra Model'. As a finger style guitarist you'll be able to produce less force with your picking hand than guitarists who use a plectrum, so a smaller body helps to off-set this by making the guitar more responsive. They also tend to have better balance between the bass, treble and mid tones, which you'll need for complex arrangements.
- Another feature you should look out for is a slightly wider spacing between the strings than you would commonly find on a normal acoustic guitar. This will really help you to get your fingers in between for rapid arpeggios. Combine this with a very light gauge of strings and you'll be able to play even extremely complicated melody and harmony with the required speed. Be warned that a light strings and low action will quickly ruin your playing with buzzing if you go for tunings lower than DADGAD.
- The best fingerstyle guitars are also defined by the choice of wood in their construction. The majority of your tone comes from the top board of the body, but the choice of wood for the neck also makes a significant contribution. Unfortunately, it's impossible to say which particular wood or combination of wood is the best, as this will depend heavily on personal taste and the style of music you play. With that in mind, you'll want to experiment with rosewood, ebony or combination both for the neck and consider using a maple/mahogany body. These are just some starting suggestions, so feel free to find one that suits your own taste (and budget!)
For more information on how choosing tonewoods for your guitar here's a good read.