Fingerstyle is a really cool, fun way of playing guitar. If you are looking into starting to play fingerstyle, you may be wondering: what are the best guitars for fingerstyle or fingerpicking? In this guide, we’ll be breaking down what are the best guitars to use when playing fingerstyle, what features to look for in a fingerstyle guitar, and some frequently asked questions with regards to fingerstyle.
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The Best Guitars for Fingerstyle
The top three picks:
Best high-end fingerstyle guitar.
Best overall fingerstyle guitar.
Taylor 214ce Deluxe Grand Auditorium Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar Natural
The Taylor 214ce is a deluxe grand auditorium size guitar, which is smaller than the common dreadnaught and is Taylor’s most popular size. It is big enough to handle medium strength picking and strumming, yet has impressive balance across the tonal spectrum, producing clear, well defined notes that are very suited for fingerstyle playing. It has a cutaway to reach the higher frets, and a neck width of 1 11/16 inches/43 mm makes it easy to play. It has a sitka spruce top, and the back and sides are made of layered rosewood. It comes with Taylor Express System electronics if you want to plug it into an amp.
Slightly slimmer neck than is ideal for fingerpicking
This classical guitar has nylon strings and a wide, 52mm nut width that is great for fingerpicking. It has a solid cedar wood top and a mahogany body and back. The light construction of this nylon-stringed guitar allows for excellent resonance, which is great for fingerpicking. It has traditional spanish fan bracing, which allows the guitar’s top to vibrate more freely and provides a warmer, more evenly balanced tone. It also has a hand inlaid wooden rosette, a rosewood fingerboard, and gold tuning machines with pearl buttons.
No electric connection
The Martin GPC-13E has solid wood front, back, and sides. The top is solid Sitka spruce, and the back and sides are solid mutenye. It produces an even, warm tone. The Grand Performance Cutaway size is very comfortable to hold and easy to play. Fishman MX-T Electronics feature tone and volume controls, plus a built-in tuner. It has stunning mother of pearl inlays on the fingerboard and rosette. 1 ¾ inch (44.5 mm) neck width at the nut makes it comfortable and easy to play. The guitar comes with a soft shell case for easy portability.
At this price point, it should come with a hard-shell case
Fender CD-60SCE Acoustic-Electric Guitar – Dreadnought Body Style – Black Finish
The CD-60SCE has a single cutaway dreadnought body style for easy access to the highest frets. It has a solid spruce top, which has a strength, volume, and brightness that is great for fingerpicking, and mahogany back and sides. It has a Fishman preamp and tuner if you want to plug in, and the 45 mm neck width makes it easy to quickly and cleanly switch between chords or pluck the string you need. Getting a Fender for so cheap is definitely a steal of a deal!
Large dreadnought body isn’t the most portable
Yamaha L-Series LS6 Concert Size Acoustic-Electric Guitar – Rosewood, Natural
The top of this guitar is hand-selected Engelmann Spruce treated with Acoustic Resonance Enhancement, an original technology developed by Yamaha. The wood is treated and manipulated into a more ideal acoustic condition to sound like wood in instruments that have been played for years. The guitar has a well-rounded tone, superb playability, and an excellent dynamic range. It contains an SRT zero impact pickup that can be plugged into an amp. 1 ¾ inch (44.5 mm) nut width makes for a nice, playable neck. The concert size of the guitar makes it nice and portable.
Guild Guitars M-240E Troubadour Acoustic Guitar, Vintage Sunburst, Archback Solid Top Concert, Westerly Collection
This small-bodied concert guitar is ideal for fingerpicking or light strumming. It is also extremely portable and comfortable to play due to its small size. It has a solid Sitka spruce top and arched mahogany back which gives it a well-balanced tone. It has a beautiful dark sunburst pattern that is complemented nicely by its tortoiseshell pickguard. It comes with DeArmond Tone Boss electronics. 1 11/16 inch (43mm) neck is comfortable and easy to play, though slightly narrower than an ideal fingerstyle guitar.
Slightly narrower neck than ideal for fingerstyle
What is fingerstyle guitar?
Fingerstyle, or fingerpicking, is a style of guitar where you pluck at the strings of the guitar with the fingers of your right hand, instead of strumming all the strings at once. You will generally use your thumb to pluck the base string and your other fingers to pluck the rest of the strings. This style of playing is more advanced than simply strumming, since you need to be able to use the fingers of your right and left hands simultaneously. However, fingerpicking lends a beautiful, complex yet soft, sound. In my opinion, it is the best way to play guitar.
What type of guitar do you need for fingerstyle?
There is no specific type of guitar that is used in fingerstyle. However, there are certain features in a guitar to look for that will make playing fingerstyle a lot easier. Here are some of the features you should keep an eye on. (Note that not all the guitars above have all the features listed, but they all have at least some of these features that make fingerpicking on them easier.)
Generally, unless you have very large hands, a slimmer-necked guitar is easier to play. That is not the case when fingerpicking, however. When playing fingerstyle guitar, you will generally be switching between chords very quickly, so you want the neck of the guitar to be a little bit wider than usual to make this switching easier. A wider neck allows for more space in between strings. You also want this extra string space for your right hand, to make sure you pluck only the string you meant to, and no other strings accidentally.
When looking at guitars, you will see the width of the neck described as either neck width or nut width.
Many people mistakenly think that the large dreadnought style guitar is best for fingerstyle, since its large body makes it very loud. However, the large body over-amplifies and exaggerates specifically the bass notes. As mentioned previously, in fingerstyle guitar, your thumb will constantly be playing a bass note while your other fingers play the other strings. You definitely do not want that constant, background bass to be over-exaggerated!
Another reason you may not want a very large guitar for fingerstyle is portability. Fingerstyle guitar is often associated with informal, round-the-campfire singalongs. You don’t want to be lugging a large, heavy guitar around with you for that! A guitar’s size really does influence its weight, so here, larger isn’t necessarily better.
And about wanting a larger guitar to make sure it’s loud enough? Don’t worry, you can still be plenty loud, when fingerpicking on a smaller guitar. You might actually be louder than on a large guitar! This is because a smaller guitar requires less air to be displaced in its small body in order to make noise. One solitary string plucked on a large-bodied guitar has to do a lot of work and displace a lot of air to make noise. That same string plucked on a smaller-bodied guitar doesn’t need to work as hard to displace as much air, and is louder as a result.
(When strumming and playing all the strings at once, yes, a dreadnought guitar is louder. We are talking about fingerpicking now, though.)
Having a cutaway on the guitar makes it easier to reach the highest frets and play the highest notes. This might be an advantage for fingerstyle players, who need to be switching chords quickly and easily. The easier it is to reach those frets, the better!
Since you are plucking individual strings at a time, you want the guitar to be made of a wood that has good resonance and a nice, clean sound. Some woods that might be good for a fingerstyle guitar are spruce, cedar, or mahogany.
Many fingerstyle guitarists prefer nylon strings. This is understandable, since nylon strings are softer and easier on the fingers when plucking them. For this reason, you may wish to purchase a classical guitar for fingerpicking, since they come with nylon strings, although obviously you can always change the strings on whichever guitar you purchase. If you do choose to use steel strings when playing fingerstyle, you might want to choose lower gauge strings, as those will be easier on your fingers.
Action refers to the strings’ distance from the neck of the guitar. A good fingerstyle guitar should have low action, meaning the strings are low down and close to the neck of the guitar. This makes the guitar easier to play, and is helpful when switching chords rapidly and moving your fingers quickly along the strings and neck of the guitar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it hard to learn fingerstyle?
Fingerstyle guitar is generally considered harder to learn and play than typical strumming guitar. This is because you need to be able to use the fingers of both left and right hands separately yet in tandem. It takes a lot of practice to be able to pull off, but the results are well worth it.
How can I learn fingerstyle?
Practice, practice, practice. That’s about all I can say. If you want some guitar books to guide you, check out the 8 best guitar books for beginners. Or you can watch this Youtube video for some pointers:
Do I need a new guitar for fingerstyle?
No, you absolutely do not! What’s the point of this guide, then? If you are looking to buy a new guitar anyway, and are planning on playing a lot of fingerstyle, then you might want to consider these guitars or guitars with the features. However, you really can play any style guitar on any guitar that you own.
Which famous guitarists played fingerstyle?
Some well-known fingerstyle guitarists are Chet Atkins, Merle Travis (in fact, a type of fingerpicking, Travis picking, is named after him), Pierre Bensusan, Ed Gerhard, and more. You can check out a list of the top 25 best fingerstyle guitarists here.
Which songs sound good played with fingerpicking?
Some famous songs that sound great in fingerstyle are Dust in the Wind, Stairway to Heaven, I See Fire, The Godfather Theme. But really, any song can sound good fingerpicked, you just need to play around and find them!
Fingerstyle/fingerpicking can be a great guitar skill to add to your repertoire. While you don’t need a new guitar for fingerpicking, per se, there are some features that definitely make fingerpicking easier. If you are looking for a new guitar, a second guitar devoted to fingerpicking, or just want to make your fingerstyle journey as easy as possible, then pick up one of the guitars on this list.
And as always, happy playing.