Modern fingerstyle guitar is typically played on a steel-string acoustic guitar. But acoustic guitars vary quite a bit in body shape (dreadnaught, jumbos, concerts, etc.) as well as features (cutaways, neck length, etc.). So which type is best for fingerstyle guitar? And can you find a good fingerstyle guitar for under $500? Let’s take a look. (And, to the second question: yes!)
What Makes a Good Fingerstyle Guitar?
Lets’ be clear: fingerstyle guitar can be played on any guitar – electric, jumbo acoustic, resonator-style dobros.
What we’re outlining here is the most basic configuration that you tend to see by folks pursuing modern fingerstyle guitar, as evoked by folks like Sungha Jung, Tommy Emmanuel, and Manali Jamal (and a whole lot more).
This is for two reasons: even sound and easy playability. The traditional dreadnought body-style acoustic guitar is often big sounding, and bass-heavy. For fingerstyle, though, you want even expression of all the strings.
Also, big dreadnought bodies are hard to get your arms around. They’re great for strumming away in open positions like Johnny Cash, but more difficult for the agile dynamics of someone like Ed Sheerhan.
The cutaway provides easier access to the strings above the 12th fret. Electric guitarists routinely use this part of the guitar neck. Many acoustic guitar models, however, ignore this because this is not where the acoustic usually sounds best.
For fingerstyle, though, you want to be able to access this for a number of reasons, including: harmonics, solos, and breadth of arrangement.
“Action” refers to the height and tension of the strings over the fretboard. These details, of course, affect how hard you have to press to make the notes sound and how easy it is to switch positions.
So, for example, we’re not looking for a Gibson Jumbo with fat strings and a big bottom end. We want to be able to finger the fretboard easily.
The Best Fingerstyle Guitars Under $500
Derived from the Yamaha FS820 which has the solid spruce top and mahogany back/sides, FSX820C has a cutaway body and the electric system.
Yamaha’s proprietary under-saddle piezo pickup and System66 analog preamp ensure the solid plugged-in performance.
The small and thin body is perfect not only for female/young players but for intermediate to upper level finger-picking style players.Check Price & Availability on Amazon
Taylor Academy Series Academy 12
Taylor’s Grand Concert body shape brings high standards of comfort and playability to the Academy Series, their line of budget-friendly guitars.
Built with new players in mind, the A12 incorporates a sleek body shape with trademark neck design and an ergonomic armrest aimed at a player-friendly experience.
A slightly shorter, 24-7/8-inch scale length also contributes to the smooth feel of the A12, making it easier to fret strings, hold chords, and bend notes as you learn to navigate the neck of an acoustic guitar.Check Price & Availability on Amazon
With its comfortable body and distinctive voice, the M-140 provides excellent balance and a delicate tone.
Built with a solid Sitka spruce top and solid African mahogany back and sides, the M-140’s 24 ¾” scale length and 1 ¾” nut width on a vintage shaped Guild neck make this concert size guitar easy to play.
The M-140 features an Indian rosewood fingerboard and bridge, NuBone nut and saddle, mother-of-pearl rosette, and period-correct tortoiseshell pickguard.
This model also showcases Guild’s iconic Chesterfield headstock emblem reminiscent of 1960s Guilds, and includes Guild’s new lightweight polyfoam case.Check Price & Availability on Amazon
An instrument that sounds as good as it looks, the FA-345CE offers that trustworthy Fender sound and performance in a single-cutaway body.
Quality laminate construction, including lacewood back and sides and flame maple top with tortoiseshell binding, along with a modern Fender 3+3 headstock and Viking bridge.
Includes Fishman® electronics for stage performance.
The mahogany neck tgives the guitar a lively tone while complementing the flame maple top.Check Price & Availability on Amazon
Ok, this one’s a little different… the Little Martin is Martin’s smallest guitar (though big on tone, quality and versatility).
The LX1E acoustic electric model features a solid Sitka spruce top, mahogany high-pressure laminate (HPL) back and sides, and a warm satin finish.
A great choice if your looking for a fingerstyle guitar ideal for travel, student practice or for just playing around the house or campfire.Check Price & Availability on Amazon
Other suggestions on great fingerstyle acoustic guitars under $500? Share them in the comments below!
Read More: Best Fingerstyle Guitar Under $1,000