A 2018 study published by Fender entitled “Illuminating the State of Today’s Guitar Players” showed that half of all beginner guitar players are women. Rock and roll guitar is usually thought of as a boy’s club, but spend a few minutes listing some of the lady rockers you know and the findings of the study shouldn’t be too surprising.
The likes of Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Jett, and Sheryl Crow had been sources of inspiration going back to the 60s and continuing on to the present day. Heck, Mary Ford was doing it before it was cool as the wife of Les Paul back in the 50s.
In the popular music of today, a diverse landscape gives way to big names like Orianthi, Nita Strauss, and – probably most importantly with the current generation of younger players – Taylor Swift.
So as a guitar instructor, this is very important for me to pay attention to. While there are no “men” or “women” guitars, we are different anatomically speaking which means there will be different needs and various comfort levels between the sexes when selecting a guitar to play.
When I teach young beginners, they start to think ahead about what their next guitar will be as a longer-term upgrade. While a typical 13-year old boy may be looking at a dreadnought as an upgrade to his ¾ guitar from his 8th birthday, a 13-year old girl may be upgrading only to a slightly larger parlor guitar that will last up through adulthood.
The list of recommendations I have here are great guitars for female beginners, but this should also be considered for any guitarist who in general has a smaller frame or smaller hands. Nothing is more frustrating than having a guitar that is uncomfortable to the player and the harder a guitar is to play, the more likely a student is to give up and never come back.
What Size Guitar Should a Woman Get? Things to Consider
Specifications to consider when buying a new guitar will be body type, scale length, neck radius, and tonewood types.
A detailed article on the various acoustic guitar body types can be found here What Acoustic Guitar Body Type Should You Buy?, and in our article here Ultimate Beginners Guide To Buying An Acoustic Guitar. Most female beginners will generally find Parlor guitars, Concert size guitars, and Auditorium guitars to be most comfortable. Bonnie Raitt famously played a Guild F-50 jumbo for many years, so there are exceptions.
This typically goes with the guitar’s body type; the smaller the body, the shorter the scale length is the general rule, but there are also exceptions to this. There are smaller bodies with long scale lengths and large bodies with shorter scale lengths. The shorter scale lengths of 23.5” to 24” will be more comfortable for those with shorter arms. A full-size scale length is considered 25+”, and believe me – it’s amazing what a difference even a half-inch makes.
A more rounded neck with a smaller radius may feel more comfortable for playing chords while a larger radius with less curve will feel “faster” and more comfortable for playing melodies and solos. Older Fender electrics will have the rounded 7.25” radius while classical acoustics will have as much as a 20” radius.
The woods that make up the body and neck will be of different species and subsequently have varying degrees of density and weight. Basswood will be much lighter than Mahogany and will feel more comfortable when standing. This becomes apparent when comparing a Gibson Les Paul and an Ibanez
5 Best Acoustic Guitars for Female Beginners
Taylor GS Mini Mahogany – $499
Topping off the list is the Taylor GS Mini. I recommend the Mahogany model as it will have a bigger sound and be more affordable. There are more expensive Rosewood and Walnut models, each with different sound qualities. If you find that you prefer one over the other, cheaper used guitars may be out there for the picking.
The GS mini is a scaled-down version of the large Grand Orchestra model and has a scale length of 23.5” and a body length of less than 18”. Buying one of these brand new is a good way to go as it will come with long-lasting Elixir strings and a hard bag for transportation and storage.
Martin LX1E Little Martin – $449
The “Little Martin” is a guitar that could be considered either a Parlour guitar or Single-0. Martin describes it as a “modified 0-14 fret”, so the neck and body intersect at the 14th fret. The fingerboard width at the nut is measured at 1-11/16”, so playing chords in the standard open position will be very comfortable for smaller hands. Scale length is a bit shorter than the Taylor Mini at 23”.
The solid Sitka Spruce top gives good projection and decent bass response for this little guy (or gal). This guitar usually retails at $559, but as of this writing is on clearance across the web for around $450. What makes this a more affordable Martin is the laminate used for the back and sides which is a handicap for the sound, but leave it to martin to make HPL sound good!
Baby Taylor BT2 – $369
Taylor gets a double-dip because quite frankly they just do smaller guitars better than just about anyone else. The BT2 is a scaled-down, ¾ size dreadnought, so while similar in size to the Mini, it’s a different body shape. It has a 22-¾” scale length and a total body length of 15-¾”.
This guitar is smaller in every way than the Mini; 2” less width and a more shallow body. This will produce a smaller sound than the Mini but has a great response for those of you who frequent the use of a capo. This has not only been a popular choice for students, but I have known several pros who keep one of these on hand.
Epiphone Hummingbird Pro – $369
The Hummingbird was Gibson’s first square-shoulder dreadnought – a response to Martin after they invented the body type. Epiphone being a cheaper line under the Gibson umbrella brings this guitar to players on more of a budget.
Even though this is a large dreadnought body type, it has a shorter scale of 24.72”. The neck has a thin profile and a comfortable 12” radius. A 43mm neck width at the nut means easy access for chords. The body may feel beefy to the typical lady player, but the short scale and slim neck make the fretting very comfortable.
Takamine GX18CE-NS – $399
Like the Taylor Mini, this Takamine is a scaled-down model of a jumbo, specifically the NEX body style in a ¾ package. Although Takamine does not specify scale length, the typical scale length of a ¾ guitar is around 22”, give or take. A 42mm nut width makes for easy chords and the cutaway provides access to higher frets for those who want to explore the fretboard.
One of the benefits of going with Takamine is they were one of the first manufacturers of the acoustic-electric guitar, so the electronics are going to be solid. This is a great option for the player who sees herself playing on stage soon or in a coffee shop.
5 Best Electric Guitars for Female Beginners
Epiphone SG Special VE – $179
The Epiphone SG Special VE is a great version of the SG for beginner guitar players, especially for beginning ladies who may find the more expensive Gibson models to be much heavier. The VE has a poplar body and an Okoume neck – both of which are lighter than the mahogany used on other models.
As an upgrade, you can’t really go wrong with the SG Special P-90. Sure, the mahogany and the P-90 pickups add a little extra weight, but it’s still worth checking out for the superior sound if you plan on playing live anytime soon.
Whichever you go with, both have a 12” neck radius, a 24.72” scale length, and a 43mm nut width. The signature double cutaway allows for comfortable access to the upper frets.
The Squier Thinline is a great introduction to the Telecaster Thinline. The regular Fender model usually starts around $700. As a semi-hollow body, it will be lighter in weight than a standard Tele.
The Thinline has a 42mm nut width and a 9.5” radius which means it’s incredibly comfortable to play those chords. The dual humbucker makes this a beefer-sounding Telecaster than the bright single-coil pickups one might typically associate with the Telecaster sound.
Epiphone Les Paul Muse – $499
The Les Paul model from Gibson is the quintessential electric guitar. The Gibson models come with a hefty price tag reaching into the many thousands of dollars. If you have ever tried to play one, especially an older one, you have noticed that they are also quite heavy.
The Epiphone line is much more affordable and since the body is topped with maple rather than being a solid slab of mahogany, it’s a lot lighter. The Epiphone Les Paul 100 model features a slimmer body as well, adding to the comfort. Top that off with a 12” neck radius and 24.75” scale length, this is a great beginner electric for the smaller-framed individual who wants that classic look and feel.
Ibanez RG450DX – $399
For you gals out there that have been inspired by the likes of Nita Strauss (Alice Cooper), then Ibanez guitars may be the route for you. A good introduction to the Ibanez family is the RG series. For a couple of hundred dollars more, you could opt for one of the entry-level “S” models which have more rounded body types. Strauss has her own custom Ibanez which blends the two body types and that will run around $1500.
RG models are inexpensive and comfortable, although the wood used for the cheaper models (Meranti) is not a great tonewood, so there is a sacrifice of sound going with the entry-level instruments. However the jumbo frets, 400mm neck radius (about 15.75”), and ¾” thick Wizard III maple neck make for a very comfortable fretting experience when playing scales and lead lines.
Fender Squier Vintage Modified ‘51 – $250-$350
The Stratocaster model from Fender is another well known electric guitar. So many electrics that are made are based on this model. The American Fender Strats can be costly, so to get started it’s usually a good idea to dip your toe in the water with a Squier.
The Vintage Modified ‘51 is no longer in production, but it’s worth looking for from a local music shop or snagging one from online stores like Reverb.com. As with other fenders, the neck radius is on the round side at 9.5” with a 42mm nut width. A big draw to this guitar for the female beginner is its lightweight basswood body – one of, if not the lightest tonewood.
As I said before, this is a great list of guitars for the female beginner guitar player, but it’s also good for anyone, male or female, looking for a great guitar that is comfortable to play and doesn’t require a lot of coin.
In fact, these are the entry level guitars that set the bar and will set up a beginner for success a lot better than a no-name $99 guitar ever will. A balance needs to be struck between price and playability in order for a beginner guitar player to get the most out of the learning experience. The guitars in this list do just that.
Nothing substitutes going to a brick-and-mortar music shop to try some of these out for yourself before making a purchase online, sight unseen. Learn the neck types and body types, and determine which guitar is right for you.