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The best guitars for beginners 2021: 10 epic entry-level acoustic and electric guitars

The best guitars for beginners 2021: 10 epic entry-level acoustic and electric guitars
(Image credit: Fender/Epiphone/Yamaha/Ibanez)

Learning to play the guitar is one of the most exciting, fun and rewarding things you can do in music. If you, or someone you know, is just starting out, then you’ll perhaps feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the best beginner guitar for them. After all, there are so many choices, from the type of guitar to the style of music you want to learn. In this guide we’ll try and help demystify the process of choosing a guitar for a beginner.

Over the course of this guide, we’ll highlight the things you should look out for and the questions you should ask before you choose your beginner’s guitar. If you want to head there first, hit the ‘buying advice’ button above. We’ll also offer up some recommendations from some of the most respected brands in the guitar world, including Squier, Epiphone and Yamaha.

Best beginner guitars: Guitar World’s Choice

If it’s an electric guitar you’ve got your heart set on, then we cannot recommend the Squier Bullet Mustang highly enough. Its manageable size, and two humbuckers, make it ideal for anyone taking their first steps yet it also retains that crucial fun factor which can be lacking elsewhere. Special mention to the Yamaha Pacifica 112 too, which is a proper, sensible guitar and has been the first port of call for countless players over the years.

You’re spoiled for choice with acoustic guitars too. The Yamaha FG800 is a great choice for adults just starting out, as it balances price and performance wonderfully well, and we’d also highlight the Ibanez PN12E as a great first electro-acoustic thanks to its smaller size and high-quality build.

Best beginner guitars: Electrics

Best beginner guitars: Squier Bullet Mustang

(Image credit: Squier)

1. Squier Bullet Mustang

Best for younger rockers

Price: $179/£149 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Maple | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 x humbuckers | Controls: Master volume, master tone, 3-way pickup selector | Finish: Imperial Blue, Black

Shorter scale
Sounds huge amplified
For the price, nothing!

The Squier Bullet Mustang is a great electric guitar for beginners, but it’s arguably the perfect electric guitar for younger beginners. The shorter scale length – 24” – means it isn’t too taxing on small hands, yet plug this thing in and it can make a heck of a racket. In a good way, of course. 

The choice of basswood for the body makes for a very lightweight guitar, meaning you can concentrate on improving your skills without feeling like you’re wrestling a big block of wood, and the two humbuckers are ideal for playing big, punky chords and riffs. 

Best beginner guitars: Yamaha Pacifica 112V

(Image credit: Yamaha)

2. Yamaha Pacifica 112V

The best beginner guitar for versatility

Price: $299/£229 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 1 x humbucker, 2 x single coil | Controls: Master volume, master tone, 5-way pickup selector | Finish: Natural, Vintage White, United Blue, Sonic Blue, Old Violin Sunburst, Black

Superb value
Hard to outgrow
Too sensible?

The Yamaha Pacifica 112 has been the go-to guitar for beginners for over two decades. And for good reason; by combining grown-up design with all the tonal versatility a young learner would need, Yamaha has created a near-perfect package. The bridge humbucker allows you to steer into heavier styles of music, yet the two single coils at the middle and neck allow for different flavours of sound.

What’s always impressed with the Pacifica line is the way they grow with you; sure, there are cheaper guitars to learn on but, as you progress, you’ll find their shortcomings holding you back. The Pacifica 112, on the other hand, has been designed as a grown-up guitar with all the features you’ll need from the start. 

Best beginner guitars: Epiphone Les Paul Special

(Image credit: Epiphone)

3. Epiphone Les Paul Special

The best beginner guitar for rock and heavier styles

Price: $179/£149 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 x humbuckers | Controls: Master volume, master tone, 3-way pickup selector | Finish: Cherry Sunburst, Ebony, Vintage Sunburst

Classic Les Paul vibe
Sounds great with an overdriven amp
Not great for cleaner sounds

Les Paul style guitars are a huge part of the rich tapestry of popular music, and with the Epiphone Les Paul Special you can join a pretty exclusive club. Everyone from Slash to Jimmy Page has famously played a Les Paul, drawn to its simple but effective blueprint of two meaty humbuckers, a solid body and plenty of attitude.

The Les Paul Special favours a poplar body, rather than Mahogany, which keeps costs and weight down, but this is still a guitar which can sing through an overdriven guitar amp.

Best beginner guitars: Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster

(Image credit: Squier)

4. Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster

Best for the more discerning learner

Price: $429/£399 | Body: Pine | Neck: Maple | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 3 x single coil | Controls: Master volume, 2 x tone, 5-way pickup selector | Finish: 2-color sunburst, White Blonde, Fiesta Red, Black

Iconic looks
Exceptional build quality
Not the cheapest on the list

Not everyone who decided to learn the guitar wants to learn on an entry-level model. We all have to work our way up to the elite tier, sure, but there’s a lot to be said for selecting something a little higher quality to begin your playing journey. The Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster is a superb choice in this regard, with its era-specific appointments and vintage hardware pointing to a very attractive guitar indeed. 

Look past the aesthetics, however, and you’ll find a comfortable, easy to play instrument which has enough tonal versatility to cover a lot of bases. It’s not the cheapest on this list, but it’s easily one of the highest quality models at this price point. 

Best beginner guitars: Gretsch G5426 Jet Club

(Image credit: Gretsch)

5. Gretsch G5426 Jet Club

The best beginner guitar if you want to stand out

Price: $399/£379 | Body: Basswood with maple top | Neck: Maple | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 x humbuckers | Controls: Master volume, master tone, 3-way pickup selector | Finish: Silver

Looks amazing
Unique sound
Color won’t appeal to everyone

While many players learn the guitar in order to emulate their playing heroes and, as a result, naturally gravitate towards a specific style of guitar, there are others who maybe don’t want to follow the crowd. With the Gretsch G5426 there is an ideal guitar for beginners which will see you right far beyond those first few scales you learn.

You’ll notice immediately that this is a guitar which brings a different energy to the table. The two humbuckers ensure you can create a bold, rich sound - aided by the chambered body - while the overall build quality is high enough to ensure this is a guitar which will grow with you as you develop. The sparkly silver colour won’t be to everyone’s taste, but underneath it is a very capable guitar with bags of character and a sound all of its own.

Best beginner guitars: Acoustics

Best beginner guitars: Yamaha FG800

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha FG800

The best overall acoustic for new players

Price: $199/£179 | Body: Sitka Spruce top with Nato/Okume back and sides | Neck: Nato | Fingerboard: Walnut | Frets: 20 | Finish: Natural

Wonderful projection
Easy to play
Dreadnought body shape may be too big for young learners

When you think of acoustic guitars at this level, you may assume they’re all cheap, nylon-strung models which fall apart after a month. And, while these guitars do exist, we’d advise steering clear. Especially when there are proper, affordable alternatives like the Yamaha FG800 on the market.

The FG800 is a dreadnought-style guitar, so it has a large, deep body which, in conjunction with the steel strings, projects a gloriously rich tone with loads of character. This is a guitar you can take your first steps on, and we are confident it will stay with you long into the future.

Best beginner guitars: Epiphone PRO-1

(Image credit: Epiphone)

2. Epiphone PRO-1

The best classical option for beginners

Price: $129/£99 | Body: Cedar top with mahogany back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 19 | Finish: Antique Natural

Well made
Hard to find fault at this price

Classical (and Spanish) style acoustic guitars differ from steel-string models in a few key ways. For a start, they employ nylon strings which are easier for beginners to get to grips with - literally - but also deliver a smoother, more mellow sound. They often come in reduced sizes too, making them ideal for young players starting out. The Epiphone PRO-1 is a great option for beginners because it has that small scale length, and also a reduced width at the top of the guitar to make tricky chord shapes easier to execute.

This is definitely a beginner’s guitar, and one you could conceivably outgrow in a short space of time, but as a tool to get you up and running the PRO-1 is well worth consideration. If a nylon-stringed guitar sounds right for you, we’d recommend reading our dedicated guide to the best beginner classic guita

Best beginner guitars: Ibanez PN12E

(Image credit: Ibanez)

3. Ibanez PN12E

The best electro-acoustic for beginners

Price: $199/£179 | Body: Sapele top with Nyatoh back and sides | Neck: Nyatoh | Fingerboard: Nandu | Frets: 18 | Finish: Vintage Mahogany Sunburst

Compact form factor
Sounds great amplified
Not as loud as some others when unplugged

If you’re learning the acoustic guitar with a view to performing in the future, either at gigs or as a busker, then you should consider an electro-acoustic. These guitars can be plugged into an amplifier, allowing you to project your sound far further than you would be able to normally. 

For us, the Ibanez PN12E is an ideal electro-acoustic for beginners, as it combines the electronics needed to plug in, with a smaller body size that won’t intimidate younger players. On the guitar itself you have controls over the sound, and there’s even a built-in guitar tuner so you are always ready to go.

Best beginner guitars: Epiphone DR-100

(Image credit: Epiphone)

4. Epiphone DR-100

The best entry-level acoustic

Price: $149/£129 | Body: Spruce top with mahogany back and sides | Neck: Mahogany | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Finish: Vintage Sunburst, Natural, Ebony

Great value
Love that sunburst!
Glossy top is a fingerprint magnet

Best beginner guitars: Yamaha JR1

(Image credit: Yamaha)

5. Yamaha JR1

A fantastic option for kids

Price: $149/£129 | Body: Spruce top with meranti back and sides | Neck: Nato | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 20 | Finish: Natural

Sounds great
Easy to learn on
Not the most visually exciting

While we’ve included some small-scale guitars here, the Yamaha JR1 is arguably the one to beat when it comes to being the best guitar for kids. This ¾ sized acoustic features a scaled-down body and neck, so it’s easy for smaller hands to work on their chords and develop those good playing habits that will stand them in good stead for the future. 

As well as younger learners, the Yamaha JR1 makes a great travel guitar, aided by the included gig bag, making this a decent all-rounder for beginners and more established players.

Best beginner guitars: Buying advice

Man teaching the guitar

(Image credit: John Fedele)

It helps, when searching for the best guitar for beginners, to have an understanding of what exactly the beginner in question is seeking from their guitar. Typically, this can be done through a simple process of filtering; does the learner want to play electric or acoustic, do they want to play rock, folk, blues or any other genre in particular, do they have a budget or even just a specific colour in mind? There are plenty of questions you can answer which will help narrow down the search before you make your decision.

For beginners aiming to learn electric, the choice will often be dictated by the style (or shape) of the guitar, and the budget. Thankfully, even at the very entry-level end, there are some superb guitars which cover a lot of bases tonally and are easy to pick up and play. You’ll need to factor in the cost of an amplifier too, although beginner amps can be picked up fairly inexpensively these days. The brands you’ll want to look out for in the electric guitar world include Squier and Epiphone - part of the Fender and Gibson families respectively - along with Ibanez and Yamaha. Any electric guitar from these brands will come with a level of build quality and reliability which makes them attractive to beginners.

From there, you will want to pay attention to things like the guitar’s pickups, which translate your playing into an electrical signal that is played back by the amplifier. Different pickups have different characteristics, which can provide very different results tonally. Rockier styles of music tend to favour the extra warmth and grit you get from humbuckers, while cleaner styles often work better with single coil pickups. The guitar’s body shape should also factor into your decision-making process; beginners will often play sitting down, at least at the start, so a guitar with a comfortable outline will make this easier to get to grips with.

With acoustic guitars, there are some slightly different considerations. You don’t necessarily need an amplifier, for a start, as acoustics can put out plenty of volume all on their own. Again, the body shape and size will have a significant impact on your sound so we’d advise you trying a few different styles before committing. Finally, the acoustic guitar’s strings also have a big effect on both your playing and on the sound you’ll produce. Nylon strings, found on classical guitars, are easier on your fingers but don’t have the same projection as steel strings. The style or genre of music you’re learning will naturally have a say in which works best for you too.

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.