It can be a difficult process trying to get the best guitars for your fingerpicking playing style, because there are so many choices available.
Regardless of whether you are an experienced player or a complete beginner to guitars, it is challenging when you are looking for a suitable instrument because of all the noise, yet a good fingerpicking guitar is essential to helping you hone your craft.
This humble instrument has shaped many legendary guitarists over the years, so you owe it to yourself to choose one that works for you.
Fortunately, my own experience with different fingerpicking guitars leads me to making this guide for you.
The love for this instrument has allowed me to experiment with different options, and my top 5 options will hopefully help you know where to look and what to look for.
Best fingerpicking guitars of 2021 – Comparison Table
Sides and back material
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Yamaha FG800 solid top acoustic guitar
Solid Sitka spruce
MIMIDI 6-string acoustic electric guitar
Koa pattern HPL-texture
Taylor BBT Big Baby acoustic guitar
Fender Squier acoustic guitar
Cordoba Dolce classical acoustic guitar
Best fingerpicking guitars of 2021 – Top Picks
This guitar is proof that you do not need to spend a fortune to get a good guitar that will last you many years. It has the signature of Yamaha – excellent tone and playability, and very good build that comes at a budget-friendly price.
- Solid Sitka spruce top
- Adjustable truss rod
- Diecast tuners
- Fingerboard and bridge are comprised of rosewood
- Nato sides and back
Affordability is among the reasons I like the Yamaha FG800, and its build allows it to play a variety of music styles. The scallop bracing aims to bring out sounds that are as natural as possible, and also helps to strengthen the top board. You can also select between the grand concert and dreadnought body types – the dreadnought is better if you plan to do plenty of strumming and fingerpicking, while the grand concert type is better for complete beginners.
The fretboard is made from rosewood, which the Nato neck also contributes to superior sound quality. Note that this is not a guitar that you should give to young players, because it is a full-size guitar type. The six strings increase the sound properties, though their steel nature will hurt your fingers until you get used to them.
- Very good sound quality
- Durable build and very strong
- Unsuitable for young players
- Vulnerable to scratches, though this does not affect its performance
This guitar is a great option if you want affordability, though you should use it if you are an older player as it is quite big and cannot accommodate younger players.
It is hard to go wrong with Martin guitars, and this guitar proves it. It stands out in many aspects, but this is particularly true with its low action and the unique Koa that shows off the matte finish on the spruce top.
- Spruce top with Koa pattern sides and back
- Does not include a case
- Chrome tuners, compensated saddle, black Richlite bridge, and white corian nut
- It has 20 frets on a brown stratabond neck
- Fishman F1 analog electronics
This guitar is surprising because of its treble and bass ranges, although it will disappoint you if you are a rocker and want to achieve a kick out of your instrument. It makes up for this though by increasing the difficulty levels, so a beginner can easily have an enjoyable experience using it as a learning guitar. However, an expert guitarist might overwhelm the materials and construction of the guitar if you decide to pick it up.
The use of the Fishman F1 analog helps to filter out plenty of feedback the amp is receiving, so it does not take much to produce a good sound. It also allows you to change up the phases, tuning, tones, and volume, so it is a good instrument for those wanting to transition to using electric guitars. Keep in mind that it does not lack bass, but it does not have the same lower frequencies you would expect from standard acoustic guitars – trying to push its lower ends will likely create feedback on the amps and result in a muffled sound.
- Already has pre-tuning done
- Great action
- It has both acoustic and electric guitar properties
- Its case is sold separately
- Expensive compared to other options
Even though this is relatively pricey compared to the other picks on this list, there are plenty of things to like about it. It is rarely susceptible to dents and scratches due to the placement of the Koa patterns on layers of pressured wood, which makes it among the best fingerpicking guitars on this list.
The manufacturer describes this as a ‘travel companion’ guitar, but it is surprisingly bigger than you might assume – it looks similar to a regular guitar. The back has a unique arched design that serves to strengthen it, while the layering of the wood reduces chances of issues occurring due to humidity or temperature changes.
- Sides and back comprised of layered sapele wood, African ebony fingerboard
- Right-handed orientation
- It has 20 frets on a 25.5-inch scale length
- 4-inch body depth
- Arched back to help in tonal quality
Even though there is a distinct lack of elegant finish, it is on purpose – you cannot achieve a good sound from your guitar if it has a thick layer of hard polyurethane as its exterior, so this makes it suitable for the fingerstyle method.
The body does not have top wood, though it has a very attractive sapele brace pattern. The rich sound is due to the solid Sitka spruce top, while it is quite easy for your fingers to reach the higher register due to the unorthodox method of the neck attachment to the body. Additionally, the action (distance between the strings on the 12th fret) is very simple compared to other guitars made for beginners, so it is suitable for younger aspiring guitar players.
- Relatively affordable compared to most options
- Includes a gig bag
- Very good sound quality
- Easy playability
- Lacks efficient sound projection
- Lacks a smooth and durable finish
If you have a young player aspiring to pick up the instrument, then this is a good guitar to start them off because of its friendly design.
Fender is quite famous among guitarists for their premium-quality guitars that produce some of the best melodies and tones, but this is not expensive by any means – it is actually among the most affordable options you can get.
- Full-size acoustic steel-string guitar to offer big sounds
- Slim neck that is easy to play
- Maple fingerboard that has scallop X-bracing, alongside a mahogany neck
- All-laminate construction
- Full-body dreadnought tone
This is among the most reliable budget guitars you can get, despite its minor compromises. It offers the guitar alongside a whole package of useful items, making it a good value deal. The accessories include a free trial Fender membership, strap, new strings, picks, a gig bag, instructional DVDs, and a clip-on tuner.
The top is exclusively solid spruce, which makes it sound like a high-end guitar and instantly sets it apart from other similar picks because of the stronger acoustical properties. The body is a dreadnought design with a specific neck, which reduces any issues you may get if you are a beginner. With that said, most of the complaints are directed to the laminate fingerboard, which makes the guitar heavier compared to solid wood guitars and gives it a dull sound.
- Very good for beginners
- Excellent value
- Solid top and general construction
- Excellent sound quality
- Includes useful accessories
- Laminate fingerboard
If you are looking for a value buy that provides multiple benefits to your playing sessions, then the Fender FA-115 Squier guitar is definitely one to keep on your list. It does not just include the guitar itself, but also a host of other items like picks, strap, instructional DVDs, and the tuner – all aiming to make it easier to adjust to its use.
Dolce guitars are great for people looking for easy and comfortable instruments too use, and they have plenty of advantages – particularly their lightweight design.
- Canadian cedar top with mahogany sides and back
- Lightweight design
- 7/8 size classical guitar with a scale length of 630mm (24.8 inches)
- Nut width of 50mm
While this is among the smallest guitars on this list, it does not sacrifice the sound quality or volume. To aid in its stability, it has an adjustable truss rod, while the body enhances the sound due to its cedar top and mahogany structure.
What is interesting about it is its design, as it has traditional Spanish fan bracing. Alongside the body and top, the resulting sound is crisp and pleasant to listen to. Additionally, the binding is Indian rosewood, a tonewood that produces a sizzling and sparkly sound with plenty of articulation – making it perfect for a variety of music styles.
- Ideal choice for players with smaller hands
- Very easy playability
- Durable and strong build
- Very high quality sound
- Portable and lightweight
- Its tuning button is fragile
This guitar model is great for general fingerpicking, and can serve as a great learning instrument, even for younger players.
What factors should you consider when choosing a fingerstyle guitar?
Most guitars are not meant for fingerstyle playing, so there are specific qualities to look for in these guitars. Some of the major factors to keep in mind include the price, size, playability, and strings in use.
This is because fingerpicking is a unique style, and its effectiveness greatly depends on these criteria as they affect your playing style.
A rundown of the factors is as follows:
The wood that makes up your guitar has a major role to play when it comes to the price of the instrument, its sound quality, and its tone.
Fender, which is among the biggest guitar manufacturers worldwide, even states that different woods will have different sound qualities – especially when they are used for the top of the guitar.
Therefore, always check the wood in use. Some rules to remember when doing so include:
- Cedar tops are among the most popular choices when it comes to fingerstyle guitars. It is not dense, so the sound quality is muffled yet warm – that alone makes it a worthwhile choice for this playing style.
- Sitka spruce is also very popular, because it sounds better as it ages, and it has excellent sound quality resulting from its higher density. It remains a solid choice due to its reliability and balanced yet warm tone.
Regardless of your choice, ensure you select a tonewood whose sound quality you enjoy, and take any recommendations of woods with a grain of salt.
There are 2 string types in guitars: steel and nylon. Because of the fingerpicking style requiring much more use of the tips of your fingers rather than your entire hand, you need strings that are comfortable enough to handle – especially if you are a beginner.
Between the two, nylon strings are gentler and softer on your hands, so you will not need to worry much about pain and calluses.
Steel strings, on the other hand, will require you to use more force and tension, resulting in sore fingers.
Whether you want cutaways or not
Cutaways are dents in the body of the guitar, and are just below the neck.
They allow a guitarist to access the upper frets of the guitar easily, so consider getting a guitar with a cutaway if you prefer using the upper neck of a guitar when playing.
Its presence will also allow you to reduce the chances of injuring your fingers or wrist over the long term.
Since the body shape of the guitar plays a major role in its sound projection, even seemingly minor changes like cutaway additions will affect its volume and tone. However, this is not as major as the tonewoods in use, as it is more of a convenience option.
The action of a guitar is the distance between the fretboard and strings, and it has a major effect on the sound quality – especially in fingerstyle guitars.
If the action is too low, the strings will continuously buzz when coming into contact with the frets, especially when you are playing the guitar gently. If the guitar is an amplified acoustic-electric type, you need to avoid low actions because of this.
On the other hand, an action that is too high will make playing the guitar an uncomfortable experience, especially if you are playing music that has plenty of pull-offs and hammer-ons.
It will also consequently slow down your playing as you move your fingers on the fretboard, which is a major disadvantage for fingerstyle playing.
The good news is that you can adjust the action depending on your playing style. If you are an aggressive player, you can choose a higher action, while more gentle players can go for a lower action.
The scale lengths
Scale lengths are the distances between the saddle and nut, and they affect the playability and tone of the guitar. As a general rule, a scale length of 25.4 inches and more is considered long for an acoustic fingerstyle guitar.
The shorter the scale length, the less the tension each string needs to reach the correct pitch. The result is faster playing, easier plucking, and less extension of your arms, which all prove to improve fingerstyle playing.
The disadvantage though is the tendency of the frets to buzz when the strings begin to slack.
Longer scales demand more from you, since the strings are at higher tension, although it is great if you want to achieve a longer sustain. Your preferred playing style will ultimately determine the choice you make here.
Depending on your goals, you may want a tuner, soft or hard case, fingerpicks, picks, and a stand. If plenty of accessories are among your list of needs, look for guitars that offer you these extras in the package.
If you are planning on performing, then a guitar with in-built electronics should be under consideration, as it will allow you to be as versatile as possible.
There is a guitar to cater to everyone’s needs, whether you are advanced or a beginner.
Fingerstyle guitars require plenty of consideration, especially in their construction and features, and these tips will hopefully help you make the right choice.
Can I play fingerstyle on acoustic guitars?
Yes, this is possible – and you can play fingerstyle on any guitar as well, as long as it is comfortable for you.
Do I need long fingernails to play fingerpicking guitars?
No you do not need them, though it makes it easier to play.
What makes dreadnought guitars good for fingerpicking?
This is due to their larger size, which allows for more spacing between the strings and more margins of error. However using them is more of a personal preference, so choose guitars that work for you.