Fingerstyle or ‘fingerpicking’ is one of the most rewarding ways to play an acoustic guitar. But like any genre of music – for example, playing blues guitar – fingerpicking sounds better on a particular type of guitar designed especially for this style of music.
In this article, we’re going to take a close look at which are best for fingerstyle. We’ll look at what are the key considerations when buying one, as well as recommend some of our favorite models out there.
At a Glance: Our Choice of the Best Fingerstyle Guitars on the Market
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Table of Contents
Buyer’s Guide: Key Considerations
The body of a fingerpicking guitar is typically slightly smaller than a standard size and is often referred to as an Auditorium or ‘Orchestra’ model. Fingerpickers are able to produce less force with their picking hand than guitarists who use a plectrum, so a smaller body helps to offset 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 regular acoustic guitar. This will help you 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 lines with the necessary speed. Be warned that light strings and low action will quickly ruin your playing with buzzing if you go for tunings lower than DADGAD.
Choice of wood is important for this style. The majority of your tone comes from the top board of the body, but the choice of tonewood 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 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 & Reviews – Best Fingerstyle Guitars
OK, time to look at each product in more detail.
Taylor BBT Big Baby
The Big Baby is larger than most you would normally consider as a fingerstyle player, but it’s still among the best fingerstyle six-strings out there. The ebony neck is great for speedy playing and has an aesthetic quality that looks great. The body uses Sitka and layered Sapele, which combined with the ebony gives a very bright sound that makes it great for solo playing.
- High-quality tonewoods produce some great sounds.
- The price tag is lower than what you would typically expect from a guitar with such high-quality materials.
- Powerful mid-tones will help to carry your harmony that little bit further.
- No cut-out.
- Acoustic only, so you’ll need to rely on a mic if you’re playing larger venues.
A very affordable option if you’re on a budget. There’s nothing particularly brilliant about this model, but for the person starting it will more than suffice. Fender is renowned for its reliability, so it should serve as a decent enough entry-level model. It will hold its tune well and will take a bit of a bashing – great for the more rocky player who dabbles with fingerstyle.
- Super affordable – great for beginners.
- Rosewood fretboard helps to absorb some of the tinnier high tones.
- Hardshell 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 fretboard means that it’s not as slick for playing fingerstyle.
The Takamine is a little different from most of the others on this list. For a start, it’s a dreadnought, and aesthetically it’s very pleasing and understated, giving it a ‘secretly luxury’ appearance while maintaining a low-end price. It is all solid woods (cedar top, mahogany back and sides) which brings resonance to the guitar that can’t be achieved using laminates. Simply a beautiful bargain.
- 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 sounds.
- 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 takes 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.
The WD7S boasts a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides and has a strong combination of tonewoods with high-quality materials used in its construction. Visually it’s very appealing, with a similar understated finish that’s similar to the GD20-NS. There are chrome diecast tuners for the stability of tuning, and a rosewood fingerboard for a smooth playing experience.
- 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 plugin options.
This small-bodied ax is great for fingerpicking. There’s a solid Sitka top for great resonance – and 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.
- Solid Sitka top gives it a superior resonance.
- A case, tuner, strap, strings and more included – so you can go gigging straight away.
- Cut-out body.
- The solid spruce may take time before it sounds its best
- You may wish to upgrade the case to a hardshell case.
OK so we know we’ve already included one Taylor model here, but the 214ce is another option by Taylor that may interest you if you price isn’t an issue. It has a cutout shape, so the high frets will be no problem to reach, and made from layered rosewood for a vibrant tone. What sets this apart is its electronics. It features Taylor ES2 (expression system) electronics system, which gives you superb amplified tone and responsiveness. The ‘professional audio’ grade preamp is first-rate too, so you won’t need to buy a decent acoustic preamp to tweak your EQ or remove any unwanted frequencies. It’s not cheap, but this is a superb choice for the professional or semi-professional fingerstyle player.
- Cutout shape – so you can reach the high frets.
- Layered rosewood gives it a rich tone.
- Superb electronics for amplification.
- Quite pricey.