Fingerstyle, or "fingerpicking" is one of the most enjoyable ways to play a guitar. But like blues music (which is suited to a very particular type of blues guitar), fingerpicking also sounds better on a particular type of guitar.
Yes, you can fingerpick on any guitar and it will sound ok - but some guitars are inherently suited to this style.
As you probably guessed, in this article we're going to take a close look at which guitars are best suited to fingerstyle. We'll look at what are the key considerations when buying a fingerstyle guitar, as well as recommend some of favorite models out there.
If you're in a rush, here's a quick glance of the guitars we recommend. If you're new to this, I suggest you read on and benefit from reading the full article.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Fingerstyle Guitars on the Market
Yamaha FSX820C Small Body Acoustic-Electric Guitar (Editor's Choice)
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Buying Guide: Considerations When Buying a Fingerstyle Guitar
Also important is size. The body of a fingerpicking guitar is typically one that is slightly smaller than a standard guitar, and is often referred to 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.
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. 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. You'll want to experiment with rosewood, ebony or combination both for the neck and consider using a maple/mahogany body.
One feature to look out for is a cut out in the body. Being able to access those high frets is really useful, and you don't want to have to break your wrist when you're trying to play triplets on the 15th fret and beyond.
Product Round-up and Reviews - Best Fingerstyle Guitars
OK, time to look at each product in more detail.
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.
It has a plug in option, so it’s perfect for those open mic nights you’ve been planning on playing, and its sikta spruce top offers a superior quality sound.
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.
Fender FA-125 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.
‘Fender’ guitars are renowned for their resilience and reliability. This will hold its tune well and will take a bit of a bashing.
Great for the more rocky player who dabbles with fingerstyle.
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 using laminates.
Simply a beautiful bargain!
Washburn WD7S Harvest Series Solid Sitka Spruce/Mahogany Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar (Budget Choice)
This guitar boasts a solid 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.
There are chrome diecast tuners, for stability of tuning, and a rosewood fingerboard for a smooth playing experience.
Voyage-Air Transit Series VAOM-02 Folding Orchestra Model Acoustic Guitar
This guitar is unique in the last as being the only one that FOLD. Yes, folds! In half!
The model is designed with air transport in mind and, due to its ability to half in length, it can be carried as hand luggage!
You’d expect the quality to suffer, but fear not. This guitar has a Rosewood fretboard, is made from mahogany and holds its tune surprisingly well.
It also comes with a really cool bag, including a laptop compartment!
The perfect for the traveling fingerstyle guitarist.
Yamaha make some great acoustic guitars, and this small bodied one is great for finger picking.
Like the Martin, there’s a solid sikta top - for great resonance - and this guitar also has a cutout body, making frets beyond 12 easy to reach.
It comes as part of an impressive bundle, including a case, tuner, strap and more, so you have everything you need to get started right away!
Taylor 214ce Deluxe Grand Auditorium - Natural, Rosewood Back & Sides
OK so we know we’ve already included one Taylor model here, but this is another option by the reputable make, that you may find even more suitable.
It has a cutout shape, so the high frets will be no problem, and is made from layered rosewood for a very rich tone.
It’s not cheap, but this is the obvious choice for the professional or semi-professional fingerstyle guitarist.
So, Which Should I Buy?
All of the guitars mentioned here are real contenders for the best fingerstyle guitar.
However, the Martin, Yamaha and Taylor models particularly shine for us.
The Yamaha is our number one choice, due to the resonance provided by its solid sikta top, and the all inclusive bundle it’s a part of!
These 3 models, as well as the fold-up Voyage Air all have cutaway bodies, which are a must if you want to get high!
If you’re happy staying below the 12th fret, and prefer a chunkier sound, the dreadnought bodies in the other five models are perfectly suitable, though. And there are some great sounding dreadnoughts on the list, which you can finger pick on perfectly well!
The Martin and Yamahas both have plug in options, so those who wish to play to larger audiences without micing up may have to try both and see which they prefer the feel of, in order to make their decision.
Oh and as for the Voyage Air… If you’re a traveller, just wow! The case it comes with, too - it’s almost as impressive as the guitar itself! A stylish backpack with a pocket for a laptop/books/whatever you like. This is more than just a novelty product - it’s genius!
Whichever guitar you decide is right for your own fingerpicking journey, we hope that this list has helped you to reach an informed decision, and we wish you a happy playing experience! 🙂