Fingerpicking is a guitar-playing technique that utilizes the fingertips of the right hand to pluck the strings.
A fingerpicking guitar is an acoustic guitar that is best suited for this type of playing.
Fingerpicking guitars are typically smaller-bodied guitars with flat backs and narrow necks to make it easier to play with both hands, instead of one hand alternating between fretting and picking.
There are many different types of fingerpicking guitars, each with its own pros and cons. This guide will help you decide what type is best for you.
Seagull S6 Original
The Seagull S6 Original is the best fingerpicking guitar if you want an instrument that is the best value for your money.
For its cheap price, it sounds and feels amazing and is well suited for fingerstyle playing.
Why do you need the best fingerpicking guitar?
For those of you who play the guitar, you should know the difference between fingerstyle and classical, which is playing with one’s fingers rather than using a plectrum or pick.
While it is a standard technique on certain guitars with classical or nylon strings, it is considered a specialized technique on steel-string and electric guitars.
Acoustic guitars are usually associated with a guitar fingerpicking style, although you can certainly do so with an electric guitar as well. Choosing the best finger-style guitar can be a challenge as there are so many different varieties.
You should focus on the type of wood, guitar size, neck, strings, and body shape when shopping around for the best guitar picking. In terms of wood type, you have spruce, cedar, mahogany, maple, and rosewood.
Those who play fingerstyle often use lighter wood so that it resonates better. Most people using lighter wood also believe that they can develop better fingerpicking patterns. Note that the quality of the wood affects the sound coming off the guitar which, in turn, affects your guitar fingerpicking exercises.
The guitar size will definitely affect its sound and projection. Bigger bodies tend to have a lower tone and a louder sound.
Just like the guitar size, the length of the neck also affects the sound. Longer necks have a lower and warmer tone while shorter necks have a higher pitch. Fingerstyle players usually like wider necks that allow for more room between strings.
Guitar strings are quite important when looking for good fingerpicking guitars. Most guitars are steel-string, but there are also nylon strings, which produce a more soft sound. Nylon strings also produce a more soft sound.
Finally, you have to pick a body shape and the four most common are dreadnought, grand auditorium, grand concert, and jumbo. Also, keep in mind the guitar cabinet and speaker system as this also impacts the sound.
In general, if you want to concentrate on fingerstyle techniques, you need to find a fingerpicking guitar with lots of overtones, sustain, balanced tone, and comfortable spacing between strings.
Look for a good balance between bass and treble, a flatter fretboard, and responsive/ lightly braced. Most importantly, make sure there is a good balance across the strings.
What is the best acoustic guitar for fingerpicking?
Below we summarise the best guitar picking you can find on the market. You just need to choose the one that fits your budget and personal preferences. Note that we spent a lot of time selecting the best guitar fingerpicking for beginners. And the below are just the top ones. Now you have the right information, you just need to start playing guitar.
- Seagull S6 Original
- Martin 000-15M
- Taylor 414ce Grand Auditorium
- Yamaha FG800
- Takamine GD20-NS Deadnought
1. Seagull S6 Original
The Seagull S6 Original is probably the best fingerpicking guitar if you want the best bang for the buck.
While it is certainly not a high-end model like a Martin or Taylor, the Seagull definitely is a respectable instrument with solid sound quality. The S6 is Seagull’s flagship product and for a good reason.
It is a very reasonable purchase for its price and great for beginners who want to fool around with fingerpicking.
Perhaps the good part of this guitar is its wider nut width of 1.8 inches, which is nice and chunky. Unless you have extra small hands, you should be able to adjust easily. This means there’s more room for your fingers on the fretboard and allows you to hit a string without hitting another string.
In terms of feel, the fretboard is made of rosewood, which feels nice heavy, and has a quick response. Although the guitar is heavy and overbuilt, it does feel quite comfortable in your hands and plays well.
This is because it is a short-scale guitar. For a sub $500 guitar, we are more than overwhelmed by its feel and performance.
All in all, this is a great entry-level fingerstyle guitar. It has a good plain but clean look, high action, and a clean inside. The sound is a bit dull with a boxy bass and bright highs, mostly because of the cedar qualities.
The strumming is decent and so is the sustain. It is really the best we can hope for in a sub $500 guitar.
- Great bang for the buck
- Wide nut at 1.8 inches
- Heavy and overbuilt but comfortable
- Decent sustain and strumming
2. Martin 000-15M guitar
Martin is a well-known brand in the guitar world and is known to make some very high-end pro guitars.
If you are looking for the best Martin for fingerpicking, the Martin 000-15M is the way to go in their full lineup.
In terms of fingerpicking, the Martin 000s sound fantastic with a nice warm, thick resonance. It also has just the right amount of bite with the perfect amount of action. The sound is truly amazing and one of a kind.
Everything about the Martin 000-15M spells premium. It has great craftsmanship with the excellent build quality.
The 1-11/16” nut and non-scalloped 5/16” bracing make it fingerstyle friendly as well as just a great all-around player.
This 000 Martin features a 14 fret to body size, a bone nut at the bridge with ebony pins, and a string spacing of 2 and 1.8”. Given that the neck is low oval-shaped, we think it fits in your hand perfectly.
Overall, we really like the premium feel and look of this instrument. This mahogany fingerstyle guitar produces a balanced tone across the entire audible range, which is quite important for fingerstyle.
The fingerstyle licks are also crisp and punchy and the audio is clear and articulate. Unfortunately, there are no binding and no electronics, which may be a deal-breaker for some.
- Warm, thick resonance
- 1-11/16” nut
- 14 fret to body size
- Excellent build quality
3. Taylor 414ce Grand Auditorium
If you have deep pockets, the Taylor 414ce Grand Auditorium is what you have been looking for. Everything about this fingerpicking acoustic guitar manufactured by Taylor is premium and top of the line.
We consider this a mid-tier Taylor product, which for most people is definitely more than enough.
This is a solid guitar that is well balanced and gives you a broad sonic range. It features a stand Taylor profile neck with a width of 1-3/4” or 44.5mm which is perfect for fingerstyle.
It has a genuine African ebony neck wood with a tropical mahogany scale length of 25-1/2 inches.
In terms of sound quality, you definitely get that Taylor sound. It features an Ovangkol back and sides, which produces bold basses and trebles that resonate with great projections.
There is a good reason Taylor guitars are one of the best-sounding acoustic guitars in the industry. It doesn’t get any better than this!
The fit and feel of the guitar are pretty much impeccable. It is physically balanced and the neck feels great on medium-sized hands.
Basically the best acoustic guitar for fingerpicking. The only real thing you have to worry about is the steep price tag.
- Premium guitar brand
- Solid rosewood design
- 44.5mm neck width
- Great Taylor sound
4. Yamaha FG800
The Yamaha FG800 is the best fingerstyle guitar for those who want a solid performer for under $200 retail.
When played fingerstyle, you tend to get much more volume and resonant response than other guitars in the same price range and with the same effort.
We think the key to the Yamaha FG800s success is its extreme playability. It features a matte neck and rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets.
If you are a beginner, you should be all over this guitar, especially if you are looking to play fingerstyle.
However, it is not just limited to amateurs but can also be great for immediate to seasoned players.
Additionally, the Yamaha FG800 has scalloped bracing, which means a bunch of material is shaved away from the lower half of the brace. This allows the brace to vibrate more and contributes a lot to its sound quality.
In terms of sound quality, the scalloped bracing makes the top more responsive with deeper lows.
We feel the sound is just much more stable and louder sounding than other similarly priced guitars.
It has a rich deep sounding bass and bright timbre and projections. While it is definitely not a Taylor or Martin, it sounds great for what it is. In terms of this guitar action, we have absolutely no complaints.
- Great beginner fingerpicking guitar
- Rosewood fingerboard with 20 frets
- Great sound for a cheap guitar
- Scalloped bracing
5. Takamine GD20-NS Deadnought
The Takamine GD20-NS Dreadnought is an affordable but not cheap fingerstyle guitar. Takamine is a Japanese brand that has been in the industry since the 1970s and makes quality guitars.
The strictly acoustic GD20-NS is a bit different from their acoustic-electric flagship products but keeps the same level of craftsmanship and limited lifetime warranty.
The most notable thing about this guitar is probably its cedar soundboard, which gives it a warm sound. The cedar is very fine grade and denser than spruce, which is more common in guitars of this type.
The back and sides of this guitar are made of mahogany, which gives it a solid midrange and rather a mellow sound. This mahogany has a nice attractive and subtle feather figuring.
In terms of design and look, it certainly does not look cheap, or is it designed cheaply.
It has wooden flourishes and rosewood rosettes, which are usually found on higher-end guitars. The Takamine GD20-NS Dreadnaught has 20 frets that are nicely polished with a synthetic bone nut and saddles that are nicely notched.
Perhaps the best part of the Takamine GD20-NS is that it is definitely fingerstyle friendly.
The neck profile has a comfortable C shape and is pretty slim. The action is comfortably low and the guitar feels quite dynamic and responsive, despite its narrow but width of 1 and 11/16 inches. As a sub $500 guitar, we think it is a steal.
- Quality craftsmanship
- Great design and look
- Fingerstyle friendly
- Great value for your money
What do you need to know before buying a fingerpicking guitar?
Because fingerpicking involves playing with the fingers (unless using a thumb pick) and plucking individual notes with a constant bass line the ideal fingerpicking guitar needs to be:
- Comfortable to play with the fingers as opposed to strumming Provide good separation of strings (ideal when playing with fingers).
- Highly responsive, e.g. the guitar does not require a heavy handy play to project a nice melody or volume.
- Project individual notes with great clarity. These should be pleasing notes to the ear.
- Balanced tone e.g. some sound frequencies must not be overly dominant.
With the above four points in mind, let’s take a closer look at the many available options when selecting a new acoustic guitar, including body size and shape along with tonewoods. By the way, do not forget that to be a really player, you need to develop really good guitar fingerpicking patterns.
What is the comfortable size of a guitar for fingerpicking?
A smaller fingerpicking guitar is more comfortable to hold and play due to its more compact size. The reason is that with these guitars, the strings are closer to each other, and therefore it is easier for your fingers to touch them and play music.
The larger dreadnought or jumbo guitars are really good, but because the strings are spaced out, these can have an impact on reach for your fingers, leading to potential mistakes or the sound will feel a bit bulkier to play.
Why fingerpicking guitars are responsive?
This is a difficult concept to explain, but I’ll try my best.
A larger-bodied instrument e.g. a dreadnought is considered a much louder guitar (note that there is dreadnought fingerpicking sets out there that are really good).
Such guitars tend to be used for their capability to produce high sound volume when played with a pick and incorporating strumming. However, these do not provide the best sound quality, neither the best responsiveness.
In the case of guitars best suited to fingerpicking, smaller guitars, when played with the fingers will often produce as much or more volume than a larger guitar. Note that both guitar types will produce high sound volume.
The main difference is that fingerpicking guitars do not need a pick to produce such volume. Therefore, fingerpickings are much more responsive than their counterpart guitars because there is less energy required to move the strings to get some solid sounds out of them.
Is the sound from fingerpicking guitars nice?
While most guitars will give you a twangy note, fingerpicking guitars give you a note with greater clarity and tend to project the sound better than the other larger guitars.
This type of guitar has a very distinctive and unique sound that is hard to forget. That’s why people love fingerpicking.
Do fingerpicking guitars have a good tone?
While a larger body produces a boomier more bass-driven sound, the shape of the guitar can also influence the sound produced. The jumbo guitar, a larger-bodied guitar than the dreadnought, features a tighter waistline and is a good example of how the shape impacts tone.
When the sound is generated due to the soundboard resonating from the vibrations of the strings, the soundwaves produced bounce around, reflecting the sides of the internal cavity of the guitar body.
So my answer to this question is Yes, any fingerpicking will reduce the total area of the guitar body resulting in lower bass response and a reduction in bad quality sound.
The output sound resulting from a fingerpicking is a ‘brighter’ sounding guitar. However, we do not need to forget that additional factors such as the materials (e.g. a Sitka spruce soundboard is brighter sounding than western red cedar) and the optimum size of the guitar can balance this to some extent.
What is the best guitar for fingerpicking?
The best guitar for fingerpicking is a classical guitar, preferably a nylon-string classical guitar.
They are the most popular type of acoustic guitars and have a larger body, allowing more room to play.
They also provide more resonance than other types of guitars because the guitar strings are not wrapped around a steel or aluminum string, like on an electric guitar.
How to do Fingerpicking on a Guitar?
Fingerpicking a guitar is just as difficult as fingerpicking a mandolin, banjo, or even a ukulele. The guitarist makes use of the extra notes on the guitar to embellish their picking or change the melody.
The most difficult part is making sure the thumb picks the right notes.
Note that if you’re just getting started, an electric guitar may be harder to play fingerstyle than an acoustic that s designed specifically for that purpose.
While it’s more common to use acoustic guitars for fingerstyle, there are a lot of songs that have finger-picked passages on electric guitar and they sound pretty good.
Whether you choose an electric, acoustic, or acoustic-electric model, try to find the best fingerstyle guitar to fit your own unique playing style.
How do you know if you have picked up this style of playing on your own
Fingerstyle technique, creativity, and practice make up for the difficulty of being an expert in this style.
However, if you have been picking a while but still don’t know if you’re doing it right, try playing a song by the late great David Grisman.
He was one of the best fingerstyle guitarists ever and his playing style is a great example for beginners to follow.
How can I practice fingerstyle guitar?
There are many ways one can practice, but the following are some of the most common fingerpicking exercises.
Some people may prefer to learn how to fingerstyle by ear. By listening to a song, one can learn how to fingerpick the notes in the correct order.
This method is helpful for beginners who have acquired the knowledge as to how to play a few songs.
Another method is to go for group classes. Here you’ll share your learnings with other alike people. This will definitely boost your morale when you are not able to play some songs and notes.
The last method is to have private lessons. This is a good one, but a very expensive option which I do not think is the best.
No offense to private teachers, but financially this only makes sense for individuals who want to turn professional.
The reality is that very few people who have been on private lessons have made it to the top.
So, if you are really good with your guitar, then just continue and try to be different from others. If you are really different, then you’ll be successful without a private teacher.
Fingerpicking is an essential technique for any guitar player. However, not all guitars work as well as others.
Here, we reviewed some of the best fingerpicking guitars on the market today.
We reviewed 4 very popular models: the Seagul S6, The Martin 000 15M Acoustic Guitar, the Taylor Grand Auditorium Acoustic Guitar, the Yamaha FG800, and the Takamine GD20-NS Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar.
The Seagul is the best price versus quality deal you can find out there. Now, if you are looking for excellence, then the Martin is right up there. There’s no doubt you’ll enjoy playing with this fingerpicking guitar. It is just unique, but you need to put the price and that’s not easy.
The other guitars are great too. I love the Taylor Auditorium, but can play with the Yamaha and I can get enough of playing with the Takamine, though this later guitar is a little on the high-priced side of things.