Fingerstyle playing (playing the guitar with your fingers rather than a pick) isn’t just found in folk clubs, it’s hit the mainstream.
You can play fingerstyle on a steel-string acoustic guitar (e.g. Nick Drake), a classical guitar (e.g. Carlos Segovia), or even an electric guitar (e.g. Mark Knopfler).
Best Fingerstyle Guitars: Product Guide
Let’s start with arguably the best fingerstyle guitar money can buy.
You might disagree that this is the absolute best, but even the most sceptical person of people would have to agree it at least deserves a seat at the table on the table of acoustic guitar greatness (if there were such a thing).
So what makes the 000-18 so darn good? Let’s start with the tonewoods.
It has a solid sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, hardwood neck, and the all-important ebony fingerboard (hands down the best material for fingerboards).
It has a satin MLO fast tapered neck (MLO refers to the neck profile, which stands for ‘modified low-oval neck profile’) which is light as a feather,
The Spruce/Mahogany mix doesn’t have the same biting crisp highs as rosewood, but its warm, earthy, mature-sounding tone makes it delightful for fingerstyle.
It being a Martin, as you’d expect, the craftsmanship is flawless.
It’s a delight to play too, largely thanks to its short scale length (24.9″) and 000 body which makes everything easier to play.
Finger-picking, playing leads, barring chords up and down the fretboard, bending notes – they’re all a lot easier thanks to the shorter scale length.
Of course, it’s the sound the 000-18 produces that’s most important.
More good news. It strikes a superb balance between the lows and highs, and the sustain is incredible for such a small guitar. The 1/4 Sitka spruce standard X scalloped bracing on the inside helps to produce a massive sound with potent lows and sparkling trebles.
The only downside is it’s not cheap. Not by a long shot. But if you have the spare money, it’s one you’ll love playing and one to hand down to the grandchildren.
What we like:
- Shorter scale length makes it perfect for fingerstyle
- Flawless in build, playability, and tone
- Beautifully rich lows and sparkling trebles
- For the seasoned pro, or someone who can afford the best
Here’s how it sounds:
Not looking to drop a small fortune, but still want something decent. Then you could do a lot worse than the flagship of the Seagull line, the S6 Original.
Back when the S6 was released in the 1990s, affordable solid top acoustics were somewhat of a rarity. The S6 changed all that, with an emphasis on choice tonewoods and decent build quality.
The S6 has a dreadnought-shaped body, a solid cedar top that ages and opens up over time (and requires less playing in than spruce), wild cherry laminated back and sides, silver leaf maple neck, and a custom polished semi-gloss finish.
This combination of woods produces a sumptuous warmth, that responds well to fingerpicking. Its 45mm wide top nut creates wider string spacing, making it comfortable to play too.
It project with a crisp midrange and tight bottom. The shimmering on the higher notes is to die for.
As a dreadnought body so lots of low end. You’ll definitely be heard when playing with others or with a band.
Made in Canada, great build quality. For the money, it’s really good value.
What we like:
- Decent selection of tonewoods that are warm-sounding and respond well to fingerpicking.
- Perfect for entry-level intermediate players
- Superb value for money
- Made in Canada
Check out how it sounds:
If you’re on a tight budget, the Yamaha FG800 is a superb option.
Yamaha have been making these guitars for decades. The FG800 is the direct descendant of the best selling guitar of all time, the FG700, and for the price is an absolute steal.
First, let’s talk construction. You get a solid top (sitka spruce) – yes, a solid top on a budget guitar, amazing right. One of the reasons why the FG700 was such a bestseller was the solid top, and the FG800 carries on in the same tradition.
The FG800 features a new scalloped bracing design that produces an amazing amount of resonance in the top, a lot of bounce, and very clear projection.
In addition to the solid top, nato (also known as eastern mahogany) back and sides, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, plus decent tuning hardware.
The rolled fingerboard edges are a nice touch too, especially if you like to do the ‘thumb over the fretboard thing’.
The 800 Series is loud and strong sound in the low to mid-ranges too, thanks to cutting-edge acoustic analysis technology developed by the Yamaha R&D Division.
Interestingly, one of the best guitarists of recent times (and a superb fingerpicker), the late Elliott Smith, played an Yamaha FG.
At the height of his career, he could afford to play whatever he liked, but still often chose the FG. It speaks volumes about this guitar. We wrote an entire piece about Elliott Smiths gear if you want to know more.
What we like:
- Solid top acoustic guitar at a budget price
- Tone and feel of this guitar are awesome
- Scalloped bracing for more volume, tone, projection and low end
- Iconic status, despite it being so cheap
- Rolled fingerboard edges
- Superbly priced entry-level acoustic guitar
Let’s take a listen:
The GD20 is a beautiful dreadnought-style acoustic guitar.
A solid cedar top with mahogany back and sides, slim satin-finish mahogany neck, and 12” radius rosewood fingerboard produce a warm, detailed tone.
The split-saddle design of the pin-less rosewood bridge provides superior intonation.
Other features include a synthetic bone nut and bridge saddle, rosewood headcap, pearloid dot inlays, chrome die-cast tuners, and an elegant Natural satin finish.
What we like:
- Unique sound with Dreadnought body and Cedar top
- Mahogany back and sides
- Nicely spaced fingerboard for playing fingerstyle
Another affordable option if you’re on a budget that will more than suffice for beginner to intermediate players.
Its all-mahogany dreadnought style body produces a warm and mellow tone, and the scalloped “X”-bracing provides that extra bit of resonance and projection too.
This bundle from Austin Bazaar is the perfect beginner’s kit too, with tuner, strap, hard case and other bits.
What we like:
- Superb beginner’s bundle
- All mahogany body
- Scalloped “X”-bracing provides extra resonance and projection
Another superbly priced guitar is the Washburn WD7S.
Dreadnought shape, solid spruce top, mahogany back, sides and neck.
What really set it apart is the quarter sawn scalloped sitka spruce bracing, that helps with note clarity throughout the entire register of the guitar.
It’s looks great too, with a Washburn heritage rosette
What we like:
- solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides
- quarter sawn scalloped sitka spruce bracing
- superb value for money
We thought we had to include a classical guitar in the mix, as we mentioned in the intro, classical guitar is a type of fingerstyle guitar.
The C7 from Córdoba is an exemplary example of a well build, great sounding guitar at a reasonable price.
The handmade C7 is one of Córdoba’s flagship guitars, so expect a good choice of materials and craftsmanship.
It has a Canadian cedar top and mahogany back and sides which creates lovely deep notes as well as sustain.
But what really sets it apart is the fan bracing pattern it has in the body, which makes the soundboard really responsive.
As a result, it projects beautifully with a tone to die for.
What we like:
- Superb classical guitar for the money
- Deep lows and sweet highs
- Hugely responsive soundboard thanks to its fan bracing system
So, Which Should You Buy?
We hope it’s pretty obvious from the way we’ve structured this post as to which we think are the best at each price point.
To quickly recap, the best of the best is the Martin 000-18. Shorter scale length, exquisite workmanship, choice tonewoods, if you can afford this one – go for it.
Mid price we love the Seagull S6, and it’s not because we’re Canadian (we’re British, if truth be told)
Budget pick goes to the Yamaha FG-800. Show we a better guitar that packs all this at that price.
Want a classical? Then the Cordoba C7 is a fine choice.
We hope you found this article helpful. Thanks for reading, and good luck!