Best Fingerstyle Guitar: Our Top Picks to Let You Keep Rocking

If you enjoy hearing uniquely textured songs or want a challenge, learning to play fingerstyle guitar can be a rewarding pursuit. And while you can technically play fingerstyle on any type of guitar, smaller bodies, as a general rule, tend to have the projection ability, clarity, and tonal balance necessary to make fingerstyle playing sound the best it can.

Before we get to our list of top picks for best fingerstyle guitar, it's important to note that you can also easily play fingerstyle on nylon string (or classical) guitars. However, our list covers steel-string instruments, since they are incredibly versatile and are used in most mainstream musical styles.

Our Top 7 Picks For Best Fingerstyle Guitar

Make

Model

Rating

Price

Full Review

Yamaha

L-Series LS16

Taylor

322CE

Cell

Ibanez

PC12MH

Cell

Takamine

GD20-NS

Fender

Paramount PM-3

Cell

Martin

GPC-11E

Cell

Godin

012817

Cell

Review of our Top Picks

Yamaha LS16: Best Value Acoustic - Electric 

Important Features

  • All-solid wood construction
  • Wood is treated for additional resonance
  • Spruce and rosewood are ideal woods for fingerstyle playing, and the concert-style body is also a good choice
  • Comes with quality electronics
  • Beautiful sunburst finish

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • The price is extraordinarily good for an all-solid wood guitar
  • Wood choice and body style are ideal for fingerstyle playing
  • Neck is designed with playability in mind

Cons

  • Passive pickups don't always produce the volume necessary to play live (you may need to invest in a preamp)
  • Some players may prefer an instrument from a more renowned manufacturer

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Yamaha may not enjoy the reputation of guitar manufacturers like Martin or Taylor. However, they are known for making well-built instruments that are available at a reasonable price range. The acoustic guitar has a concert-style body and is made with all solid wood--the top is responsive Engelmann spruce, and the sides and back are made from warm-sounding rosewood.

The wood is treated with Yamaha's A.R.E. treatment, which increases resonance. It comes equipped with an S.R.T. Zero Impact passive pickup, making it easy to play and perform live.

Our Star Rating

The acoustic guitar is an extraordinary value, especially when you consider the quality of the guitar you get for the price tag. We give the Yamaha is a 5-star guitar for fingerstyle.

Taylor 322CE: Best High-End Guitar

Important Features

  • All-solid wood construction with mahogany and blackwood makes it great for fingerstyle
  • Concert body with cutaway make splaying easier
  • Comes with one of the best pickup systems available
  • V-Class bracing lets you get the most out of this guitar

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Excellent build quality produces great tone
  • Ideal wood configuration for fingerpicking or fingerstyle
  • Included high-end pickup lets you play live with ease

Cons

  • Though it's a great guitar, it's too expensive for many players

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Taylor is known for its incredibly high-quality guitars, but they aren't affordable for everyone. Though the 322CE is somewhat expensive, it has a great build quality. It's made with Taylor's revolutionary V-Class bracing, a system that increases sustain and volume.

This concert-style guitar has a solid top, but the back and sides are made of Tasmanian blackwood, which is an unusual choice. However, blackwood is tonally somewhat similar to mahogany, so it's a logical choice for a fingerstyle instrument.

It's also fitted with Taylor's Expression System 2, a pickup system that's uniquely faithful in reproducing an instrument's sound.

Our Star Rating

If you have the money to spare, we think the Taylor 322CE is a guitar worth looking at. We give it four out of five stars.

Ibanez PC12MH: Best Budget Model

Important Features

  • Concert-style body with mahogany laminate construction
  • Quality chrome tuners help keep the guitar in tune
  • Simple, elegant aesthetic includes a tortoiseshell pick-guard and rosette

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • This guitar is very affordable, but it still has a quality build
  • It's made of mahogany, which is ideal for fingerstyle
  • Concert-style body is portable as well as ideal for fingerstyle playing

Cons

  • Some guitarists might prefer an instrument with a solid top

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

When you're a guitarist on a budget, it can be disheartening to scroll through lists where the "budget" offering is close to $1000. We chose the PC12MH from Ibanez because it's a genuinely affordable instrument that still produces a quality tone.

While it is made of laminate wood, this concert-body instrument is made of mahogany, giving it the mellow, midrange-focused sound many players love. It has an understated yet elegant aesthetic that many players will be happy with.

Our Star Rating

This guitar is an excellent pick for those who don't have a lot of money. And it's still a nice-sounding fingerstyle guitar. We give it four out of five stars.

Takamine GD20-NS: Best Playability

Important Features

  • Pinless bridge helps keep your guitar's intonation perfect
  • Slim neck makes even rapid chord and note changes easy
  • Solid cedar top gives a warm sound that's not overly bright
  • Mahogany back and sides help keep the tone balanced and warm

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Ideal wood configuration for fingerstyle playing
  • Bone nut and saddle improve tonal quality
  • Pinless bridge and easy to play neck improve your playing experience
  • Very affordable, especially considering quality

Cons

  • Some players may prefer a guitar with electronics
  • Dreadnought isn't always the preferred body style for fingerstyle playing
  • Has laminate back and sides

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Takamine has long been a maker of quality acoustic guitars, and this one is uniquely suited to fingerstyle playing. While it's a dreadnought, which may not be the best body style for the job, it has a solid cedar top and mahogany back and sides.

This combination gives the ideal warm tone many fingerstyle players seek. This guitar's pinless bridge gives you perfect intonation (and it also makes string changes much more comfortable), and it's highly playable neck lets you play for hours without fatigue.

Our Star Rating

This guitar's unique playability features are great for those new to the guitar as well as to those who just want to play without fatigue. Because of its unique design, we give it four out of five stars.

Fender Paramount PM-3: Best Bundle

Important Features

  • 000 body with cutaway makes it easier to carry and play this guitar, especially when playing live
  • Solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides create a balanced tone
  • Onboard electronics make it easy to play live

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Fairly affordable given the build quality
  • Spruce/mahogany all-solid construction is great for fingerstyle
  • Comes with electronics and hardshell case

Cons

  • Comes with electronics and hardshell case
  • Smaller size may not be ideal for those who don't need a travel instrument

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

This is a guitar that is especially suited to singer-songwriters. Its 000 body is very similar to concert body instruments.

And with solid Sitka spruce top and solid mahogany back and sides, it produces the ideal tone for playing fingerstyle. It has a Fishman-designed preamp and comes with a deluxe hardshell case.

Our Star Rating

Because it comes with both a custom-built deluxe hardshell case and a limited lifetime warranty, we think this guitar is the best bundle purchase. We give it four out of five stars.

Martin GPC-11E: Best Live - Performance Model

Important Features

  • Solid spruce and sapele construction produces a balanced tone
  • Concert-style body with cutaway is easy to play
  • Quality Fishman electronics make it easy to play live

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • All-solid construction helps create good tone
  • Quality onboard electronics make playing live easy
  • Concert-style body is great for fingerstyle playing

Cons

  • Spruce and sapele body may be too bright for some players

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

Martin is a legend when it comes to acoustic guitar manufacturing, and this no-frills model is perfect for those who want to save some money while still getting Martin playability.

This concert-style guitar is made with a solid Sitka spruce top and Sapele sides and back. While the back and sides are solid, too, Sapele is a cheaper tonewood that may not have the full resonant qualities of mahogany or rosewood. It comes equipped with Fishman MX-T electronics, which will automatically mute playback when tuning.

Our Star Rating

Because it's built to be tough on the road and has performance-focused electronics, we think this is one of the best instruments for playing live. We give it four out of five stars.

Godin 012817: Best For Multimedia Recording

Important Features

  • Solid cedar and mahogany construction help to create quality tone
  • Synth access means you can use it to create unique music
  • Chambered body produces unique, resonant tone

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Unique features make this a good choice for experimental musicians
  • Quality tonewoods help create Godin's signature tone

Cons

  • This guitar may not have as rich of an unplugged tone as some others
  • If you don't want to use the synth access feature, this may not be the right guitar for you

Brief Review & Star Rating

Review

The Godin 012817 is a somewhat unique choice. It has a chambered body and can be played acoustically, but it also can be connected to selected synthesizer models using a MIDI connector.

Its solid mahogany and cedar body mean it has the potential to create a beautifully dark, warm tone, and its slightly wide neck gives you a little more space. If you enjoy recording or making synth-driven music or just experimenting, this guitar's extra features may be a great choice.

Our Star Rating

We think this guitar has an interesting design that's great for those who want to blend different musical styles. We give it three out of five stars.

Buying Guide: What Makes A Great Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitar?

The best fingerstyle guitars might look different depending on who you are. However, it's vital to make an educated decision when selecting your guitar for fingerpicking or fingerstyle playing. Below are some of the broad categories to consider as you choose your fingerstyle guitar.

Size And Body Style

Typically, the acoustic guitars used in fingerstyle playing haven't been your classic dreadnoughts or jumbos. Generally speaking, it's the smaller-sized guitars--like orchestra and concert models--that are used in fingerstyle playing.

There are a few reasons that these smaller bodies are preferable. One of the most important ones is responsiveness. A "responsive" guitar is one that doesn't need a lot of force to create a sound. An acoustic guitar makes a sound when string vibration displaces air inside of the instrument. Since smaller-bodied guitars have less air inside, they can pick up the sound even from very gentle picking.

Smaller-bodied guitars also are generally better at projecting individual notes. Larger acoustic guitars tend to have a more overtone-rich sound. The rich sound isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it challenging to pick out individual notes. For a pure, clear tone, the smaller bodies of the grand concert, concert, and orchestra guitars are an ideal choice.

Lastly, a relatively distinct advantage of these smaller bodies is that they're easier to carry and play. Many also include cutaways. While a cutaway does reduce the overall volume of a guitar, it does offer the advantage of making frets further down the neck easier to access.

Tonewoods

Typically, when you're selecting a fingerstyle guitar, you want it to be made of a tonewood that's well-balanced or midrange-focused. The material used in the construction is because some woods tend to emphasize either bass or treble response. If you're strumming a guitar, this sort of imbalance may not matter as much. But when you're picking individual notes, it's much easier to tell if your guitar over-favours one end of the sonic spectrum.

Below are some of the common tonewoods seen in guitars meant for fingerstyle playing:

Mahogany

Mahogany is a tonewood that's known for favouring the midrange. It's less bright than spruce while still being responsive, so you do sometimes see it used for soundboards as well as for back and sides. Mahogany is slightly less sensitive than spruce as a soundboard material (since it isn't quite as hard), but most players seem to think the mellow warmth it adds to your tone makes it worthwhile.

Sapele

This tonewood is typically seen used for back and sides. It's a commonly-chosen "budget" tonewood because it's fairly affordable and readily available. However, while it's a slightly harder wood, Sapele is sonically similar to mahogany. While it's rare, you may occasionally see a guitar with a sapele soundboard as well.

Spruce

Spruce is a classic when it comes to tonewoods, especially those used for soundboards. While Solid Sitka spruce is the most common, some fingerstyle guitarists prefer Engelmann spruce, which is lighter in weight and often more responsive.

Rosewood

The spruce top/rosewood back and sides acoustic guitar is a classic in terms of design. That's because rosewood is a very dense wood that also is very resonant. Warmth and resonance are two sonic characteristics that you likely want your guitar to have, and rosewood is an excellent choice to help that happen.

Cedar

Especially when used as a soundboard material, cedar is often favoured by guitarists who play fingerstyle. The content is favoured likely because it has many of the desirable characteristics of spruce, but without the extra high end that most fingerstyle players dislike. It's also a little warmer, which helps it produce a balanced tone perfect for fingerpicking or fingerstyle playing.

Playability

"Playability" means different things to different guitarists. Your specific definition of playability may be different. However, for many fingerstyle players, low action is desirable. When a guitar's action is low, the strings sit close to the neck, making it much easier to fret chords and individual notes.

Especially if you have larger fingers, paying attention to the fretboard width and the spacing between strings may be helpful. Many classical guitars have wider fretboards, and some steel-string guitars have wide fretboards compared to others. When you have more space, it becomes easier to fret chords and notes without accidentally causing other strings to buzz.

Electronics

Lastly, you probably know that you don't need an installed pickup to enjoy playing fingerstyle. But if you want to play live (and want to avoid the hassle of playing into a microphone), it can be beneficial to have a built-in pickup with an onboard preamp.

If you perform live regularly, be sure to check the quality of the installed pickup before you buy. Cheap electronics are disappointing, and it's even easier to notice them when you're fingerpicking as opposed to strumming. Of course, you can always purchase a better pickup and have it installed, but this involves more hassle and money than many people are willing to spend.

In Conclusion

You can't go wrong with any guitar on this list, but we think the winner is the Yamaha L-Series LS16. The Yamaha L-Series LS16 guitar is well under $1,000, but it's made with all-solid wood and specially treated for extra resonance. The acoustic gives you lasting, excellent tone with more of the resonance that most fingerstyle players are after. It is our top pick of the best fingerstyle guitar.

We also think the Takamine GD20-NS is a great choice. We designated this one as runner-up because its back and sides are laminate. However, it has a slim, easy-playing neck, a solid cedar top, and a pinless bridge for great intonation. It has plenty of features that most fingerstyle players want, but it's also extraordinarily affordable.

As you shop, remember that you can play fingerstyle on any type of guitar--there's no one type sold exclusively for playing without a pick. However, our list has gathered acoustics with many features that optimize them for fingerstyle playability. Take your time, do your research, and enjoy developing as a fingerstyle guitarist.

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