best acoustic electric guitar for beginners

Since the early 1910s, players and brands have experimented with adding electronics to their acoustic guitars, and have continued to improve and innovate these over the past century or so. These days, the range of electro-acoustics is unbelievable. In fact, it can be a little overwhelming, even if you are an experienced player.

This is why we’ve put together the following chart, that highlights 15 of the Best Acoustic Electric Guitar For Beginners and best acoustic guitar for beginners on the market, that offer both solid electronics and a great guitar playing experience. The following 15 span a wide range of budgets from affordable to premium, so there’s something for everyone. Let’s get started…

best acoustic electric guitar for beginners

Takamine EF341SC

Takamine EF341SC

New to this list is one of our favorite electro-acoustic models – the EF341SC, from the respected Japanese brand Takamine. It’s a high-end model, with a solid cedar top, layered maple body, beautiful neck and a premium glossy black finish.

The tone of this dreadnought is warm and rich when unplugged, and retains that natural fullness when amplified. This is thanks to the quality Palathetic under-saddle pickup and Takamine-designed CT-4B II preamp system.

It’s a very flexible system, offering 3-band EQ (bass, mid and treble), a volume slider, and a convenient onboard chromatic tuner. Great for stage performers. Check out more on this cool electro-acoustic in the full review of the Takamine EF341SC.

Breedlove Solo Concert

Breedlove Solo Concert

The Solo Concert is an exceptional yet unconventional electro-acoustic from the popular Oregon-based brand Breedlove. Most notably, the body of this concert electro-acoustic features a second soundhole in the side of the guitar, allowing the guitarist to hear exactly what the audience is hearing.

The design of the Korean-built Solo Concert is very elegant, while the American setup means it is perfect to play from the box. Which is exactly what you will want to do with this beauty – it’s great fun and sounds awesome.

In the full review of the Solo Concert, we talk about the electronics. Admittedly, the controls are not the most versatile, but – with an LR Baggs system and USA-made quartz piezo pickup – it’s pretty solid!

Martin Road Series DRS1

Martin Road Series DRS1

The DRS1 is an all solid wood acoustic electric from the fine people at Martin. The top, back, and sides, are all sapele, which is a highly sustainable tonewood that is similar in appearance and sound to mahogany.

The Fishman Sonitone system is used for the electronics, which features controls hidden in the soundhole of the guitar. This means no hole needs to be cut into the side of the instrument for the preamp controls.

Keeping with the forest friendly theme the fingerboard and bridge are both made from certified richlite. The Martin DRS1 is available in a left-hand model, and also comes with a ply hardshell case. This is a genuinely beautiful guitar with a great voice.

Takamine GN93CE-NAT

Takamine GN93CE-NAT

The GN93CE-NAT by Takamine features their NEX body, which is a scaled down jumbo. It sports beautiful features like abalone dot inlays, a rosewood headcap, gold die-cast tuners, and a gloss finish to show off the wood grain.

It has a solid spruce top with laminate rosewood back and sides. The real star of this acoustic electric is Takamine’s own TK-400 preamp that includes a built-in tuner.

There are lots of controls to shape and contour your amplified sound with a three band EQ, grain knob, mid contour switch, notch filter, and EQ bypass. This is a great sounding guitar whether you plug it in or not.

Yamaha A Series A3M

Yamaha A Series A3M

The S.R.T. electronics fitted to Yamaha’s A3M electro-acoustic – part of the brand’s performance-focused A Series – are one of the highlights of this excellent guitar, taking advantage of both mic and piezo pickup input.

This system also comes with a good 3-band EQ preamp that doesn’t leave much of a footprint on the side of the guitar. Which is good, because you wouldn’t want to spoil the elegant design of the A3M.

With an all-solid-wood construction, Yamaha uses A.R.E-treated Sitka spruce on the top with mahogany on the back and sides for a wonderful tone. There’s also a very playable hand-rolled mahogany neck with a rosewood fretboard and 19 frets. Be sure to check out the full review of the Yamaha A3M.

Fender California Newporter Classic

Fender California Newporter Classic

We arrive at the Newporter Classic, which is a stunning guitar from Fender’s distinctive California Series. The design and detailing of this mid-sized acoustic are just awesome – in fact, we gave it top marks in this section in our in-depth look at the Newporter Classic.

With an all-solid-wood body (the classic pairing of spruce and mahogany), it features a gorgeous Cosmic Turquoise paintjob with a matching Strat-style headstock, as well as lovely koa binding and soundhole rosette.

As for plugging this baby in, the pickup and preamp comes in the form of Fishman custom-voiced electronics. The controls aren’t the most versatile, but it is all reliable and sounds great. The built-in tuner is another good addition.

Washburn WCG55CE Comfort

Washburn WCG55CE Comfort

When practicing for hours on end, or playing for long periods on stage, you may sometimes wish your guitar was a little more comfortable. The guys at Washburn have obviously been paying attention, because they have produced the excellent WCG55CE Comfort.

As the name suggests, this electro-acoustic sports a comfortable armrest built into the side of the koa body, which really hits the mark with its rustic design, while the neck is made of mahogany and is great fun to play.

It also features a very versatile Fishman Presys+ 501T system, which includes controls for volume and 3-band EQ, as well as notch, mic blend and phase. There’s more on this guitar in the full WCG55CE Comfort breakdown.

PRS SE A50E

PRS SE A50E

New for 2018, the PRS SE A50E is a mid-range electro-acoustic that feels very high-end in its design, construction and tone. Featuring PRS’s Angelus body shape, this 25.3” scale length guitar is made with figured maple on the sides and back, and solid Sitka spruce on the top.

With beautiful abalone flying bird fretboard inlays, rosette and purfling, there’s definitely some sparkle to this angelic model, which is matched by the bright, clear tone – replicated naturally through the Fishman GT1 electronics.

This system isn’t the most versatile in controls, but its stealthy soundhole preamp keeps the guitar’s lovely style intact. A great buy! Check out more in the full review of the PRS SE A50E.

Taylor 114E Grand Auditorium

Taylor 114E Grand Auditorium

The 114E by Taylor is made with the company’s own grand auditorium body shape. The top is Sitka spruce with sapele back and sides. The neck is also sapele with an ebony fingerboard.

The Taylor 114E has a very clean and traditional look with a versatile sound. The electronics it uses is the ES2 pickup system that includes a volume and tone knobs on the upper bout of the guitar.

There is a gig bag included with the guitar making it very portable. This is a great instrument for a beginner or as a backup for the more experienced player. This is a very sturdy instrument that can survive life on the road.

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat

Fender Tim Armstrong Hellcat

We are big fans of this unique Hellcat from Fender – the signature electro-acoustic of Rancid frontman, songwriter and producer Tim Armstrong.

For a very affordable price it features a full-sized but compact concert body, with a solid mahogany top and laminated mahogany back and sides. The detailing on the neck is very cool and just screams punk rock – the highlight being the striking Hellcat inlays running down the 19-fret walnut fretboard.

As we highlight in the complete Fender Hellcat review, there’s a punchy but warm tone on offer, which is amplified nicely through the Fishman Isys III system. This preamp provides decent controls, including volume, 3-band EQ and a handy built-in tuner.

Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

Epiphone Hummingbird Pro

There can’t be many more instantly recognizable acoustic guitars than the Hummingbird, and this beautiful Epiphone version is excellent for blues beginners. This vintage icon shows off great retro style, with the elaborately-decorated pickguard and the Faded Cherry Burst finish among other aspects.

But it’s not just a pretty face – this Hummingbird has a great build and tone. The dreadnought body is made with a solid spruce top and laminated mahogany back and sides, while it comes loaded with impressive Epiphone electronics that make it a versatile instrument – one that any beginner can aspire to playing on stage.

For all kinds of blues fingerstyle, flatpicking and slide, it’s a class act from Epiphone – as we elaborate on in the full review.

Fender CD-140SCE

Fender CD-140SCE

The Fender CD-140SCE has a solid Sitka spruce top with laminate mahogany back and sides. The neck is nato with a rosewood fingerboard. The bridge is also rosewood with a compensated saddle.

The Fender/Fishman Classic 4T active onboard preamplifier also includes a built-in tuner. A tortoise pickguard protects the top from rough strumming attacks. The body is a dreadnaught style with a cutaway which allows easier access to the higher strings. It has a built in tuner and 3-band EQ.

The unplugged sound is good with plenty of sparkle. This is a fine instrument for playing live. Give the CD-140SCE a test drive and find out why we like it so much.

Yamaha APX600

Yamaha APX600

Yamaha’s compact APX600 is the successor to the popular APX500III, albeit with a few upgrades and improvements that boost its playability and style even further.

The guitar remains very similar to its ancestors, in that it features a slim body made from spruce and nato. However, the scale length has been reduced to 25”, which makes it even more playable – one of the reasons it is so popular with beginners.

Of course, being on this page, it’s an electro-acoustic model, with a Yamaha-designed piezo pickup and preamp system, featuring 3-band EQ controls and a separate mid-range frequency slider. Check out the full review of the Yamaha APX600 for all the details!

Kona K2

Kona K2

Guitarists searching for an electro-acoustic don’t have to pay over the odds when guitars like the Kona K2 exist. This slimline acoustic is great for travel and smaller-players, with a 3” deep body.

Made of laminated spruce on the top and mahogany on the back and sides, the K2 looks great, with a dreadnought shape, single cutaway, and choice of pickguard style. While it could benefit from a setup, the overall fit and finish is pretty good for a sub-$100 guitar.

Of course, being in this chart, it is loaded with electronics in the form of a basic piezo pickup and EQ-505 preamp with 3-band EQ. This is a guitar well-worth checking out – as we assert in our full Kona K2 review.

Common Mistakes When Buying Your First Guitar

Often people get inspired to play guitar and jump straight to purchasing something that might not suit them. Here are seven common mistakes people make when buying their first guitar:

Mistake #1. Getting the wrong sound – Classical, Acoustic or Electric?

You have 3 basic choices of sound when you buy a guitar:

  • Nylon String Classical
  • Steel String Acoustic
  • Electric

A lot of people believe that the best choice is to start on an Acoustic Guitar and build up to an Electric Guitar. However, I think that your first guitar should be appropriate to the style of music you enjoy listening to.

If you like AC/DC, Green Day, or say the Foo Fighters, you really need an Electric Guitar to get the sound you want. If you like Jack Johnson, Ben Harper or Taylor Swift, an Acoustic Guitar could be a good choice. Nylon String Guitars sound great for flamenco music, classical music and a lot of traditional music.

Having said this, if it’s for a child under 12 we normally do recommend a nylon string as it’s easier for them to press the strings down. Some children can have tougher hands than others, so if you have a rough and tumble child, they mght be able to handle steel strings earlier than usual. Check out our buying guide for Choosing a Guitar for a Child for more information.

If you’re not sure what type of guitar is best for you, then just think of the music that you like to listen to the most, and call or email us. We will give you a personalized recommendation.

Mistake #2. Getting the wrong size

This is something that a lot of people get wrong. Electric Guitars are much smaller than Steel-String Acoustic Guitars and Nylon String Classical Guitars, they can basically be used by most people, but you do need to consider the extra weight. An Electric Guitar can weigh 5-6 Kg which can be difficult for children to handle. We would normally recommend children be at least 13 years before they try an Electric Guitar, but this is a generalisation and some children (sometimes as young as 10) have been ok. Every child is different, and some children may be capable at a younger age, so if you consider your child to be quite strong for their age, then by all means go for an electric. We carry a broad range of sizes in our entry level range. The correct size is most accurately determined by the player’s heightage and in some cases gender. If you can tell us these three details we can give you a personal recommendation.

Electric Guitar:

  • Smaller in size than acoustic or classical
  • Good for rock, metal, pop and country music
  • Has steel strings which can be hard on young fingers
  • Can be heavy, depending on the model.
  • Recommended for:
AgeHeight (cm)Recommended Size
5 – 1280 – 125 1/2 Size – See MiniS
12+125 +Full Size – See STH

SHOP BEGINNER ELECTRIC GUITARS

Acoustic Guitar:

  • Good for folk, pop, country, slow rock music
  • Has steel strings which can be hard on young fingers
  • Sounds bright and loud, great for strumming chords 
  • Light weight but bulky
  • Recommended for:
AgeHeight (cm)Recommended Size
5 – 12100 – 120 3/4 Size – See LSP34
12 – 15 120 – 165 Small Body – See LSPS
15+165 +Full Size – See LSP

SHOP BEGINNER ACOUSTIC GUITARS

Classical Guitar (Nylon String Guitar):

  • Good for classical, flamenco, Spanish music.
  • Available in the smallest size – 1/4 size.
  • Gentle on finger tips – perfect for young children
  • Sounds mellow and soft – not as loud as acoustic
  • Recommended for:
AgeHeight (cm)Recommended Size
2 – 575 – 100 1/4 Size – See CL14
5 – 8 100 – 125 1/2 Size – See CL12
8 – 12125 – 1653/4 Size – See CL34
12+165 +Full Size – See CL44*

* A full size classical guitar has a wider neck than other guitars. If you have small hands we recommend the CL44S slim neck classical guitar.

SHOP BEGINNER CLASSICAL GUITARS

Mistake #3: Buying a guitar with strings that are too high and hard to play

String action is one of the critical things for getting an easy to play guitar. The easiest way to understand action is that it’s just the measurement of the gap from the bottom of the string, to the top of the fret and it’s measured at the 12th fret (the half way pint of the string).

For a beginner we recommend an action of:

  • Electric Guitars 2-2.3mm
  • Acoustic Guitars 2-2.7mm
  • Nylon String Guitars 3-3.6mm

A common issue with most entry level nylon string guitars is that the necks are usually made in a very traditional manner using a section of metal bar a few mm thick to keep the neck straight (you can’t see this bar it is built into the neck).

We started finding that this type of construction leads to the neck bending (or bowing) after about 6 months. Unfortunately with the traditional method there is not an easy way to adjust it back to normal – once it is bent it’s time to get a new guitar! This lead us to re design our classical guitars to use a truss rod. A truss rod is a much stronger example of the bar used in traditional manufacturing, but its main advantage is that it is adjustable. So if in the future you neck begins to bend it can easily be adjusted back into correct shape. Here’s our guide to adjusting your truss rod.

Mistake #4: Getting stuck with bad machine heads guitar that don’t stay in tune

Here is an example of a basic covered machine head:

These are made out of gears and pressed metal, it used to be the only way to make machine heads (so a lot of vintage guitars use this type). While it can look cool and retro, these vintage style tuners are often very hard to tune and to keep in tune.
Now there is a modern way to get a much better guitar – the die-cast machine head:


Made from a mould these machine heads are much smoother and more accurate than a covered machine head.

Mistake #5: Choosing a popular brand name because you think you’re getting a superior product

Most popular brand name guitars are indeed very good quality at the higher levels but their entry level guitars, in our experience, are not such a great deal.

In the entry-level market, brand-name guitar companies are usually forced to make their guitars with cheaper materials. There is a simple reason for this. Most major brand-name companies have a brand owner (sometimes an American company). That company buys from a factory in China, and in Australia they will have a distributor who will sell to a retailer (your local music store). It’s pretty easy to see why they can be forced to use cheaper materials. There is a lot of price pressure to get a guitar manufactured at a low enough price for everybody to take their cut of the profit down the chain.

At Artist Guitars we manufacture our Australian designed guitars at our trusted factory in China and sell direct to you. There is no need for us to choose inferior components because we don’t have the pressure of keeping the costs low.
 

Mistake #6: Buying a guitar without any support materials

When most people buy their first guitar they can be a little confused about what to do. A guitar can be a confusing purchase and most guitars don’t even come with a manual explaining how to use them. That becomes a problem because most people then have to search for the information (which
can be hard to find).
Unfortunately it’s during this critical time that a lot of people get discouraged and may even give up on playing altogether. The first 6 months of learning guitar are critical, statistics show that if someone can still be playing at 6 months they will be much more likely to go on to play guitar for life, so the first 6 months are actually the most important time.

Mistake #7: Paying for features you just don’t need

At the beginner level, you need a good quality instrument, but having a more expensive instrument generally doesn’t make your playing any easier. Higher level instruments are designed for high-level players who want the ultimate in sound.

As a beginner most people are not very sure of the sound, style or type of guitar that they would ultimately like to play, but after playing for 6 months or so I’m sure you will know a lot more about guitars and when it comes time to choose your next guitar it will be an easy choice. The key features a beginner needs is a guitar that is well set-up and easy to play, but you don’t really need to spend too much money on getting a better quality of sound. Higher level guitars will only sound better when your playing has progressed to the level that you can play quite well.
Most beginners find that during the process of learning (after a year or so) you will figure out your own sound. You will naturally be drawn to music that features guitar in it, and great guitar parts. So what usually happens is that your own musical tastes will change and with this change the type of instrument that suits your sound the best will also change. So when you’re ready to take the next step, you will have a much better idea of what you really want.


So in summary…

The 7 key mistakes when buying a beginner guitar are :

  1. Getting the wrong sound
  2. Getting the wrong size
  3. Buying a guitar with strings that are too high and hard to play
  4. Getting stuck with bad machine heads guitar that don’t stay in tune
  5. Buying a brand name and thinking you will be getting a better guitar.
  6. Buying a guitar without any support materials
  7. Paying for features you just don’t need

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