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Last Updated on April 9, 2021.
Gone are the days when fingerpicking was solely associated with folk music. Today, the vast majority of music genres make use of this advanced playing technique, as it allows guitarists to pick non-adjacent strings with ease, which can’t be done using a guitar pick. Fingerstyle playing also makes it easier for guitarists to play arpeggios, and it provides a lot of playing freedom with its impressive range of soft and loud sonic qualities.
You’ve probably noticed by now that fingerpicking your standard acoustic guitar doesn’t really work. Simply, not every guitar is suitable for fingerstyle picking. Things like neck width, string action, and touch responsiveness must be factored in when searching for the top fingerstyle guitar. But don’t worry, we’ll spare you the hassle of learning such intricate particulars by unveiling our picks for the best fingerstyle guitars today.
At a Glance:
- Fender CD-60SCE – Best Overall
- Takamine GD20-NS – Runner-Up
- Martin GPX1AE – Best for Professionals
- Taylor Guitars BBT – Most Compact
- Yamaha LL6 – Best for Beginners
- Fender CD-60S – Budget Pick
The 6 Best Fingerstyle Guitars in 2021
Making a sound buying decision can be fairly hard when it pertains to fingerstyle guitars, considering their comparatively unique anatomy. Instead of wasting your time and effort scanning through countless products, check out our list of the best fingerstyle guitars.
1. Fender CD-60SCE – Best Overall
Not only is the Fender CD-60SCE one of the best fingerstyle instruments on the market but also one of the best electric-acoustic guitars as. Fender is a legendary brand in the guitar-manufacturing industry, so whenever they construct a guitar, you can expect it to be of very high quality. The CD-60SCE might not be the Fender played by Van Halen, Hendrix, or Clapton, but it definitely boasts its very own set of impressive features.
The Fender CD-60SCE flaunts a dreadnought cutaway shape that you can find near the neck and the body’s meeting point. This particular body shape enables guitarists to finger reasonably high in pitch. The fingerboard is also rolled so that the edges are out of the fingering hand’s way for optimal comfort. I admire how the neck sits right in between in terms of width. It’s not too wide, but not too thin.
The CD-60SCE’s body shape is optimal for lead guitarists, but it’s not really to-kill-for when it comes to rhythm playing. The guitar houses the Fishman electronics system, so you can plug it into an amplifier to achieve a much bigger sound.
I loved the fact that the pickup and controls are pretty small because they focus on the guitar’s natural acoustic construction. On the note of construction, this fingerstyle guitar flaunts a solid spruce top that delivers a distinctly bright and clear sound. It sounds pretty good when coupled with chords and solo playing.
Not to mention, solid spruce tops tend to be a lot more durable than other types, so you don’t have to worry about doing maintenance work any time soon. Additionally, the Fender CD-60SCE features mahogany back and sides, contributing to its durability and aesthetic value.
Mahogany doesn’t really affect the sound produced by this guitar, so everything you hear is courtesy of the solid spruce top.
- Comes with a host of accessories
- Bright sound and low string action
- Switching to fingerpicking is easy
- Neck thickness is ideal for comfort
- Durable mahogany/spruce design
- Pickup system is pretty mediocre
- Nut and saddle could come loose
The Fender CD-60SCE strikes a pretty admirable balance between build quality and affordability. It’s not only an excellent guitar for fingerpicking, but it’s also ideal for all playing styles. Both beginners and professionals can enjoy the value that this guitar offers. Not to mention, it comes with an abundance of accessories, from extra strings to a clip-on tuner.
2. Takamine GD20-NS – Runner-Up
While it may come across as just another dreadnought instrument, the Takamine GD-20 offers a lot more than you might think. Unlike most acoustic guitars, the GD-20 utilizes a combination of a solid cedar top, instead of a solid spruce top, with mahogany sides and back. The neck is also constructed out of mahogany, and it’s considerably slim, allowing for easier playing. The fretboard is made of smooth rosewood for added comfort.
The Takamine GD20-NS is one of the most finger-friendly guitars on the market, thanks to the neck’s attachment to the guitar’s body with the aid of a traditional dovetail joint. This design has been proven to achieve supreme wood-to-wood contact between the body and neck of a guitar, which does an outstanding job of promoting efficient energy transfer between guitar parts and improving sound quality.
Another strong selling point is the neck’s ultra-comfortable C-shaped profile, which you’ll find extremely convenient for your fretting hand. This unique profile shape will allow you to play for long periods before experiencing any form of strain. And even though the nut width on this guitar is on the narrower side, fingerstyle-playing it doesn’t feel challenging whatsoever.
The GD20-NS feels quite responsive and dynamic. When it comes to playing arpeggios, I can’t think of another guitar that can beat it. A lot of fingerstyle guitars tend to sound murky and bleak when tuned down to settings like double-drop D, but not this guitar. It’s very effective at maintaining a bright and warm timbre. To make the deal even sweeter, the GD20-NS comes equipped with D’Addario EXP 16 phosphor bronze strings.
- Excellent tonewood construction
- C-shaped neck for ideal comfort
- Notably responsive and dynamicIncredibly finger-friendly guitar
- Sounds excellent on lower tuning
Neck lacks a guitar strap button
Could’ve used a better bone nut
The Takamine GD20-NS is every beginner’s dream axe. This is a solid and comfortable guitar that will help you transition from the beginning stages of playing the guitar to more advanced levels. It’s also featured at a cost-effective price tag, so you won’t be breaking the bank by buying it, and it just sounds incredible whether it’s tuned up or down.
3. Martin GPX1AE – Best for Professionals
The GPX1AE from Martin’s X Series is considered by many to be the prime Martin guitar for fingerpicking. This electro-acoustic guitar has the first Grand Performance shape in Martin’s X Series and is also the first non-cutaway guitar to flaunt the Grand Performance shape.
For starters, the guitar has high-pressure laminate sides and back. The texture of the exterior might look a lot like mahogany, but it’s not. The same applies to the colors. Further, it features a multi-laminate neck composed of 37 slices. All in all, the entire shape of this guitar undeniably resembles Taylor guitars. It’s also quite similar to the GPCPA5 from Martin, except for the cutaway shape and Fishman’s F1 analog pickup.
In terms of sound quality, the GPX1AE has a lot in common with the Martin 00X1AE, in the sense that its highs and upper mids have a beautifully shimmery quality to them. It’s fairly larger than the 00X1AE, and so it feels a bit chunkier, and it sounds more rounded when it comes to lower frequencies. Considering the neck’s notable thickness and the overall chunky feel of this guitar, it’s better suited for professionals with larger hands.
Room-filling projection is one of the guitar’s strongest selling points. It delivers plenty of volume with ease while maintaining a decent share of sound representation. You can also roll off the guitar’s zingy tone with a bit of onboard help. Per contra, you can utilize some outboard help to thin out the mids to your liking. While not as perfect as the Martin Dreadnought, which costs twice as much, the GPX1AE delivers superb sound quality.
While the guitar comes with a USB recording output, it’s not backed by as many accessories as most other guitars on this list.
- Includes a convenient USB output
- Compact despite its chunky feelS
- turdy, long-lasting construction
- Mid and high tones are shimmery
- Ideal for live and recording duties
- Plastic strap button and jack’s mount
The GPX1AE is intended mainly for intermediate and professional guitarists. Beginners will find its chunky feel and thicker neck a little too much. Nonetheless, this is an absolute all-rounder that’s well-equipped to tackle live or recording duties right out of the box, thanks to its utilization of a handy USB output.
4. Taylor Guitars BBT – Most Compact
The Big Baby Taylor from Taylor Guitars is a scaled-down instrument that sits between a full-sized guitar and a travel one, which helps it hold on to a bit of the volume and bass response of full-sized guitars while maintaining the convenience of travel ones. This is a non-cutaway guitar that flaunts a scale length of 25.5 inches and a body depth of 4 inches. In other words, it’s small, but with a lot of richness and projection.
The Big Baby Taylor looks and feels exactly like what you’d expect from a Taylor, featuring a solid Sitka spruce top and laminated sapele for the back and sides. To add, it boasts a matte finish that gives it a very refined and attractive look. Also, the guitar boasts an attractive tortoiseshell pickguard and a single-ring rosette. Similar to the back and sides, the neck is also made from sapele.
I absolutely love the aesthetic boost that the genuine African ebony fretboard delivers alongside its simple dot inlays. Not to mention, the guitar’s slim profile already makes it extremely easy to play.
As far as the hardware, the BBT features a set of chrome die-cast tuners that you can find on the Taylor-branded headstock. Below the headstock, you’ll notice a Nubone nut, which is very close in terms of quality to Tusq nuts, and that’s a pretty major plus.
Looking at the other end of the guitar, you’ll notice a Micarta saddle on top of the African ebony bridge. The BBT is different from the original Baby Taylor in the sense that the original offers a fairly small guitar voice. In contrast, the BBT benefits from its near full-size construction in producing a better-projected voice while remaining as compact as the original Baby Taylor. The sound quality can be described as sweet and well-balanced.
- Compact, lightweight construction
- Ideal for beginners and pros alike
- Produces a well-projected sound
- Notably easy fretboard navigation
- Comes with a convenient gig bag
- Not very convenient for strumming
- Doesn’t feature a one-piece neck
The Taylor BBT packs a whole lot of punch in a relatively tiny package. It’s smaller than your standard acoustic guitar, making it compact and excellent for travelers, but it doesn’t compromise on projection and power. We love the bright and crisp tone that it’s capable of delivering. It’s not that great for strumming, but it shines with fingerpicking.
5. Yamaha LL6 – Best for Beginners
Yamaha is a Japanese company that has established an excellent reputation for putting out some of the best guitars on the market at cost-effective price tags. The LL6 is one of the most popular Yamaha releases for beginner guitarists, and it might very well be the best acoustic-electric guitar for fingerpicking. The guitar is immaculately built and offers a bold and articulate tone enhanced by Yamaha’s very own ARE technology.
This acoustic-electric guitar for fingerstyle playing has a dreadnought body shape capable of delivering a wide range of rich and full sonic qualities. The top is built from hand-selected Engelmann spruce that’s pretty durable. The top is where Yamaha’s ARE technology resides and also where you can find a visually appealing tortoise pickguard. None of this guitar’s components feel grainy or non-polished. It’s notably pretty.
The back and sides are made out of solid mahogany and have a natural urethane finish that adds to the guitar’s aesthetics value. The LL6 is equipped with a 5-piece mahogany neck with a scale length of 25.5 inches. Further, it features a rosewood fingerboard with white dot inlays and a nut that spans 1.73 inches wide. Hardware-wise, the guitar is equipped with die-cast TM-29G tuners, which can be found at the headstock’s top.
As far as electronics, the LL6 is internally equipped with a passive SRT Zero Impact pickup system, which does an excellent job of catering to each string individually without manipulating the guitar’s authentic sound. The guitar is very comfortable, easy to play, and is backed up by excellent tonal sustainability. It has never been easier to play a dreadnought guitar, so if you’re a beginner or an intermediate, this one’s for you.
- The top features ARE technology
- Aesthetically pleasing construction
- Comfortable and very easy to play
- Available in multiple sizes and colors
- Impressive electronics for the price
- Plastic capo and saddle
- Doesn’t come with a hard case
I’m having a hard time believing how this electric-acoustic fiddle is capable of offering such a fresh playing experience at such a cost-effective price tag. Everything from the aesthetics and hardware to the electronics and sound quality screams high quality. I can’t praise this guitar enough despite incorporating a couple of plastic components.
6. Fender CD-60S – Budget Pick
We started this list with a Fender, and we’re ending it with another. The CD-60S is your best bet if you’re on a tight budget but looking to land a quality acoustic guitar for fingerpicking. Now, there’s nothing too fancy about this guitar; it’s pretty plain and simple looking, but that’s exactly what gives it its charm. Its simplicity makes it a minimalist’s dream guitar. Not to mention, it produces a big booming voice and outstanding projection.
Both the sides and back are built from solid mahogany. By now, we know that it’s one of the most popular materials used in the construction of acoustic guitars due to its superb resonance, attractive look, and great durability. The best thing about mahogany is that it ages like fine wine, meaning the quality of sound for which it’s responsible for producing will continue to improve the more you play the guitar, especially in the lower mids.
The CD-60S features a scalloped X bracing system on the inside, which helps protect it from damage and enhance sound projection. Similar to many guitars on this list, the top is built from solid spruce. The reason why many guitars utilize spruce for their tops is its natural tone that’s suitable for all genres of music. Just to give you some perspective, a spruce top ensures greater projection, whereas a cedar top tends to radiate the sound.
This guitar’s neck is made out of mahogany, so it’s fairly durable and less likely to warp. I got hooked to the CD-60S’ ultra-smooth action, courtesy of the rolled fingerboard. The guitar is also insanely comfortable, thanks to the near C-shaped neck, which isn’t too broad, making it easier for the user to reach the fretboard. Considering this is a budget fingerstyle guitar, it plays very nicely. The sound quality should be satisfactory for most novice guitarists.
- Neck profile is beginner-friendly
- Offers warm, well-balanced tones
- Design is simplistic and elegant
- Ideal for fingerstyle and flat-picking
- Listed at a budget-friendly price
- Unclean finish beneath the hood
- Hardware is subpar
The CD-60S is an excellent fingerstyle guitar for guitarists restricted by a tight budget. For its price, it’s hard to envisage another fingerstyle guitar that offers better playability and sound quality. The hardware isn’t that impressive, but the guitar is very sturdy and attractive, thanks to solid spruce and mahogany.
Fingerstyle Guitar Buying Guide & FAQ
How does one determine whether or not a guitar is suitable for fingerstyle playing? You need to consider four main factors when looking for a fingerstyle guitar, namely the guitar size, top wood, nut width, and action height. The following paragraphs break them down so that you can make an informed buying decision. Also, I’ve tackled a couple of frequently asked questions that make a difference!
For the majority of fingerpicking guitarists, lightweight guitars with smaller bodies are the most favorable. Why? It has more to do with comfort than it does with sound quality. Fingerpicking isn’t easy; your hand is constantly busy, and the last thing you want is to experience problems with reach. Even professional players who are used to full-size guitars tend to opt for smaller axes for fingerstyle playing.
A light and responsive top goes a long way when it comes to fingerstyle playing. This is because lighter guitar tops tend to provide a great deal of resonance and are capable of capturing the clarity of each note without sounding isolated. Ideally, you should go for a solid wood top, as it’ll sound a lot better than a laminate top. Two of the most popular guitar top materials are spruce and cedar.
The nut is the bit of bone (preferably) or plastic found at the top of the fretboard. It serves as a means of spacing the strings in a way that allows for comfortable picking. For fingerpicking, a 1¾-inch nut, which is fairly wide, is ideal. A wider nut width grants the guitarist ample room to comfortably use more complex chord voicings, especially when coupled with a C-shaped neck with a thin profile.
The action is simply the distance from the fretboard to the strings. Generally speaking, if you lower the action, it’ll be notably easier for you to fingerpick. However, this is entirely based on how the guitar feels when you play it. A classical guitar will usually have high action, which gives you enough room to change the action height. But if the guitar has a lower action from the start, there’s really no point in changing the action height.
Is Fingerstyle Guitar the Hardest?
Yes, fingerpicking is more challenging than strumming because you’re required to pick every note individually. The more advanced you are as a guitar player, the easier the fingerpicking becomes.
What Is the Difference Between Fingerstyle and Fingerpicking?
It’s the same thing, really. Fingerpicking is the technique, whereas fingerstyle is the guitar playing style that utilizes fingerpicking as its primary playing technique.
There are plenty of terrific fingerstyle guitars on the market, but we assure you that the above-reviewed products are the top of the heap and that one of these guitars will meet your requirements, skill level, and budget.
Even though we coronated Fender’s CD-60SCE as the best fingerstyle guitar overall, others may find the GD20-NS from Takamine to be the superior option. It all boils down to your current skill level and preferred playing style. Feel free to let us know which fingerstyle guitar you think is the best.