The guitar is an amazingly versatile — and amazingly popular — instrument that can be found in tons of different settings. It’s ubiquitous in folk music throughout the world, in just about every form of pop and commercial music, in the church, and even in the classical concert hall.
With so many different types of guitar players, it’s easy to see why there are so many different opinions about the instrument. There are dozens of brands out there, and guitar enthusiasts all have their own opinions about which brands are best. With so many choices available and opinions to read, it’s a lot for a newcomer to work through! So we are going to start off with our #1 guitar pick from our #1 rated brand – Fender.
Editors #1 Quick Pick:
Best Guitar Brands in 2020
With all that in mind, we’re going to be posting a series of articles about the best guitars and guitar brands in 2020, similar to our 5 Best Ukulele Under $500 blog.
Here’s our definitive list of the best guitar brands in 2020 based on popularity and owner feedback.
Fender remains an extremely popular electric guitar brand in 2020. Made famous in decades past by artists like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Holly, the Fender name is more or less synonymous with that classic rock guitar sound.
While some argue there are electric brands with better tone or easier playability, Fender remains a very popular brand and is a good entry to the world of electric guitars.
- Instantly recognizable
- Deep roster of celebrity users
- Great introduction to electric guitars
- Arguably resting on its incumbent status
- Newer brands offer better quality and more features
- Cheapest Fender models suffer slightly in quality
Fender sells one of the most popular electric guitars on Amazon, the Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS. With that classic Stratocaster body design and available colors including a stunning Race Green as well as an Indian Laurel fingerboard, there’s a lot to love about this guitar.
Yamaha is a fascinating company that has its hands in everything from motorcycles to musical instruments to sporting goods and even industrial robots. Yamaha has been in the guitar business since the 1940s, giving it a strong history and track record to rely on.
Yamaha produces just about every type of guitar. Their acoustic, classical and electric models are all solid instruments that are widely used by beginners and pros alike. Bands and performers who use Yamaha guitars include the Goo Goo Dolls, Carlos Santana and Duran Duran.
- Inexpensive throughout its product line
- Known for consistent high quality over decades
- Some of their electrics have unique, interesting designs
- Mass production, though it’s done very well, is a sticking point for purists
- Acoustics can look a bit generic
- Low-end models might leave you wanting more sound
One of the best-selling acoustic models on Amazon is the Yamaha F325D Dreadnought Acoustic, which is a great choice for beginners and students alike. It features a dreadnought body, spruce top and a rosewood fretboard for a respectable sound and a great feel.
Ashthorpe (Budget Electro-Acoustic)
OK, we’ll level with you: Ashthorpe isn’t exactly a household name. Search online and you won’t find a site. More than likely, it’s an imprint of a company with no particularly strong history in guitars— otherwise, they’d be capitalizing on their history.
But here’s the thing: If you’re looking specifically for a budget acoustic electric guitar, Ashthorpe makes a pretty great one at this price point.
- Surprising performance given its dark horse status
- Cramming a lot of tech and reasonable acoustic sound into a sub-$100 package
- Great beginner budget electro-acoustic choice
- You get a lot for your money
- It’s still a $100 guitar, and “you get what you pay for” seems relevant
- If you excel with the instrument, you’ll likely not be satisfied with this brand for long
Ashthorpe’s full-size Dreadnought Cutaway Acoustic-Electric is another top Amazon seller. With multiple color options available and featuring electronics allowing for electric use, this Ashthorpe model is a real budget buy. (But that’s as far as our recommendation goes. If your budget allows you to pick another brand on our list, you probably should.)
Jasmine is a guitar imprint with a bit of a history. It was formerly owned by Takamine, a respected Japanese brand, but they sold the line to Connetcticut-based KMC Music Company in 2005. So if you’re searching the used market, you may well find a Jasmine guitar with a Takamine stamp inside. If you’re buying new, there’s no connection between the two companies.
Both before and after that transition, Jasmine remains a respectable imprint for beginner acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars.
- Shockingly inexpensive
- Very popular among beginners
- Decent build quality and sound
- Lacks the name brand cachet of many competitors
- Doesn’t have a very robust selection
The Jasmine S34C NEX Acoustic has been one of the most popular acoustic guitars on Amazon for several years, not to mention one of the most highly rated and frequently reviewed. One pro teacher was highly skeptical until he played one and was blown away by the sound.
If you’re looking for a quality entry-level acoustic, we recommend the Jasmine S34C Acoustic.
Córdoba (Classical Pick)
Córdoba is a relative newcomer to the world of guitar manufacturers. The company was founded in 1997. But in just a couple decades, Córdoba has taken the guitar world by storm and become one of the most loved and most popular brands of classical or nylon guitars.
One of its founders, Tim Miklaucic, founded the well-respected Guitar Salon International as well, which may be part of the reason for Córdoba’s rise to prominence.
- Solid quality for price throughout its lineup
- Very well respected in its category (classical/nylon)
- Great options from beginner to advanced
- Some users report subtle variance in quality depending on sourcing
- High-end handmade models are expensive for the level of quality
Córdoba’s C10 CD Acoustic Classical Guitar is the best seller in its category on Amazon, and it’s fantastic in every sense.
Be warned, though, that a top-end classical guitar doesn’t come cheap. For a more reasonable entry into the classical guitar world, we recommend the Córdoba C3M Classical Guitar.
If you’re looking for a higher-end American guitar, Taylor is a brand to consider. Most famous for its exceptional acoustics and electro-acoustics, Taylor makes semi-hollow electrics as well. Most of their electrics have a more natural look: no devil horns or electric blue finishes here.
Taylors are largely handmade, mostly in the US, and as a result they aren’t going to compete on price with mass-producing manufacturers. Most Taylors are in the low to mid 4 figures, and their top model lists at just under $10,000.
But what you get for that money is unflinching quality. Taylor’s electro-acoustic system is proprietary and offers a superior experience to many electronic pickups.
Many pros use Taylor guitars, including Jason Mraz, Jewel, Zac Brown Band and Shawn Mendes.
- Beloved American brand
- Exceptionally high quality
- All models have a classic, enviable aesthetic
- Hard to tell which guitars were made in Mexico factory
- Some players perceive a quality difference between American- and Mexican-made Taylors
Guitar Center’s highest-rated Taylor is the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany, which is offered at a more attainable price point. Their top-selling Taylor guitar, the 324ce V-Class Grand Auditorium Acoustic-Electric, is on the upper end of the mid tier, and boy does it sing.
Note that the Mini is a smaller body style, while the Grand Auditorium is a larger than average. Most children and teens would do better with the Mini.
If Taylor is the iconic American acoustic guitar, Gibson is the iconic American electric (well, we should say it shares that distinction with Fender). Gibson electrics are gorgeous, iconic even. Their acoustics are really well built as well, but their main market is electric to be sure.
Gibson was a pioneer in electric guitars, inventing archtop guitars and bringing hollow-body electrics to market. It’s also an all-USA brand: every model is made in the USA.
Gibson has a number of imprints, including Epiphone (whose inexpensive SG Special almost made this list. Imagine getting some of that Gibson quality for a tenth of the price!).
Gibson features the iconic Les Paul series of electric guitars as well as other instantly recognizable designs, like the flying V and the SG.
- Embodies the history of the American electric guitar
- Numerous great aesthetics and tones
- Used across widely varying genres
- Made in the USA
- Prohibitively expensive for most beginners
Gibson’s Les Paul series is incredibly popular: Guitar Center’s top four sellers among Gibson guitars are all Les Paul Variants. The very top one is the Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s Electric, while the highest rated model is the Gibson Les Paul Traditional Pro II ’60s Neck Electric. If you’re looking for a high-end electric, we recommend you start by looking at these two models.
The world of guitars in 2020 is a rich and varied one. Whatever your level, budget and style preferences, you can find a great guitar using the list above. Happy shopping, and enjoy your guitar-playing journey!