Dealing with a guitar that has high action can be a big challenge. Especially for beginners or players with smaller hands, high action not only makes playing difficult but it may even cause wrist and arm pain.
While the action of an acoustic guitar can be lowered to a degree, it’s not quite as simple to adjust as an electric guitar is. So making sure you purchase a guitar with nice low action and great playability straight out of the box can be very helpful.
Top 3 - Easy to Play Acoustic Guitars
After some extensive research on online forums, taking recommendations from fellow guitar technicians, and testing out each of these guitars myself, I’ve found 7 of the easiest to play acoustic guitars that are both comfortable and will handle very low action setups.
Easy to Play Low Action Acoustic Guitars
Table of Contents
- Easy to Play Low Action Acoustic Guitars
- The Importance of Low Action
- Other Comfort Considerations
- Picking the Right Guitar for You
1. Ibanez AW54CE
Ibanez are one of the most well-respected modern guitar manufacturers who have a stellar reputation for producing robust and reliable workhorse instruments.
All their guitars are subjected to a rigorous QA before being sent to the distributor.
Plus, if you order through Sweetwater, one of their in-house technicians will set up the guitar so you can be sure what you purchase will be playing its very best as it lands on your doorstep.
While certainly considered a budget instrument, the Ibanez Artwood AW54CE seems to punch well above its weight in terms of playability.
The first thing I noticed is the super flat 15.7” radius which allowed the action to go incredibly low, it almost felt like I was playing an electric guitar.
There’s a nice blend of tonewoods here with an open pore Okoume top, back, and sides combined with a Nyatoh neck and Ovangkol fingerboard. These woods felt warm sounding while still retaining good projection thanks to the large dreadnought body shape.
This was my first time using a Nyatoh neck and it felt incredibly stable, it would hold tuning for a long time and once the truss rod was set it wouldn’t move.
It also has a Fishman piezo pickup mounted under the bridge with some nice EQ and volume controls on the side that is helpful if you like to use an amplifier.
There’s even an in-built tuner which is a welcome addition.
While experienced players may notice the lack of fullness in the tone and prefer something like a mahogany body, at this low price point this is an exceptionally nice feeling instrument and is ideal for both beginners and intermediate players.
2. Seagull Guitars S6 Cedar
At first glance, the Seagull S6 Cedar looks like a fairly plain and understated instrument.
But after taking a closer look at the specifications and design philosophies behind the instrument, you’ll quickly realize that there’s more to this guitar than meets the eye.
The first thing I noticed is the understated look and balanced tonal output, meaning it’s not genre bound and can be used by any player regardless of which style you play.
The cedar top and cherry back and side body woods provide a nice and inoffensive tonal balance where it’s not quite as bassy and warm as mahogany, but it’s also not as harshly bright as maple.
The body has also been modified from the traditional dreadnought shape to help address those boomy areas where bass frequencies can build up inside the body.
Which is just as well as there’s no pickup system on the guitar which means you’ll need to mic it up for recording or live performances.
They have also put a lot of effort into how the neck is set into the body which not only helps with tuning but it also makes it very stable and responsive to truss rod adjustments.
This, combined with the fact that each top is pressure tested to ensure it’s rigid and stable helps this guitar to both achieve and maintain its low action and great playability.
One thing to note is that the nut width is 1.8” which is slightly larger than standard which is something players with larger hands tend to love. Although players with smaller hands might find it a bit more challenging to play.
3. Yamaha FG800 Dreadnought
The Yamaha FG800 serves as a direct upgrade to the already popular FG700, which was considered one of the best entry-level guitars on the market.
While the design adjustments are small, they do help to further refine the instrument.
The biggest difference over the previous model is a new scalloped bracing pattern which is designed to help bolster the low end and increase the volume output of the guitar a bit.
This is helpful as the nato/okoume back and sides are a little brighter than mahogany, and the spruce top is already adding a top of the top end to the tone.
Despite the scalloping and large body, the overall sound is still very bright, so if you’re looking for something deep and warm the FG800 might not be the best choice.
Additionally, the walnut fingerboard looks quite disappointing and comes off as a light ebony. Arguably not something a beginner would mind but for players like myself who love walnut, you will certainly find this fingerboard disappointing.
Another difference over the FG700 is that the neck has been thinned slightly and there’s been extra work put into rounding the fret ends off so it doesn’t scratch up your fingers.
The stock tuners were a bit lacking, so swapping the tuners out for aftermarket Grover tuners will help performance immensely.
4. Martin SC-10E
Martin are at the top of their game when it comes to acoustic guitar manufacturing, and despite having a long heritage of fantastic vintage guitar production, they’re also not afraid to utilize modern technology and design philosophies to make their guitars even more playable.
The original SC-13E shocked many people with its numerous upgrades and tweaks over the traditional Martin style which resulted in a cutting-edge acoustic guitar emphasizing playability and ergonomics.
But, it came with a hefty price tag, so the goal of the Martin SC-10E was to retain as much of the quality and playability of the SC-13E, but at a far more budget-friendly price.
It has a unique offset body shape with a huge cutaway at the bottom which gives unhindered access to every fret on the guitar.
Additionally, the heel joint has been shaved down so playing high up the fretboard feels every bit as comfortable as playing low down.
As someone who’s used to the traditional Martin D shape, this guitar tries hard to stay out of your way and give you full access to the entire guitar.
Then as an added bonus, it has an onboard Fishman MX-T pickup system that’s mounted inside the sound hole which keeps the visual look neat and tidy.
And as a bonus the in-built tuner auto-mutes when enabled which is a handy added convenience.
Overall this guitar retains all the quality and prestige you’d expect from Martin but introduces all the tweaks and upgrades a modern player would want. A truly fantastic instrument.
5. Epiphone Hummingbird Studio
If the understated look of the Seagull S6 isn’t for you, then perhaps the more flamboyant Epiphone Humming Studio may be your cup of tea.
It has a strong vintage aesthetic with a faded translucent cherry sunburst finish that still allows the woodgrain to shine through.
The decorated pickguard showcasing the classic hummingbird artwork and Epiphone’s iconic split parallelogram inlays create an instrument that oozes personality and is sure to stand out on stage.
It has a full mahogany neck, back, and sides which make it sound very full and thick sounding. Usually, this would result in the sound being too dark but the solid spruce top helps to re-balance the sound and inject a bit of brightness and life into the sound.
It comes with Grover tuners which hold the tuning very well and a Fishman electronics pickup system which is a welcome addition for a guitar at this price point.
The neck has a 12” radius which allows for very low action while still retaining enough breathing room for maximum resonance and no bottoming out. And the Graph Tech NuBone nut was perfectly cut to facilitate maximum playability.
Even though Epiphone produces more budget-friendly guitars, they are still owned by Gibson and as such are subject to the same high QA standard so you can be sure you’re getting a high-quality instrument.
But the very stylized design may be a turnoff for those who prefer a cleaner and simpler aesthetic on their guitars.
6. Guild DS-240 Memoir Acoustic Guitar
If the more modern acoustic guitar isn’t your thing and you want something with a bit more of a traditional aesthetic then the Guild DS-240 offers an incredibly luxurious vintage look at a very reasonable price.
The big selling point of this guitar is the wood combinations. It has a solid mahogany back, sides, and neck which adds all the dark bassy warmth and resonance. This is then coupled with a spruce top which helps everything pop and project wonderfully.
The sound is incredibly balanced and I would have no reservations about playing an instrument like this in any professional setting both live or in the studio.
The mahogany neck is very stable which helps it hold tuning very well and it has a super flat 16” radius which allows you to achieve incredibly low action for an acoustic guitar.
On top of its great playability and tone are the aesthetics. It has a vintage sunburst finish which is coupled with a 1960s styled red tortoiseshell pickguard.
However, the glossy finish does tend to show up fingerprints and smudges pretty easily which can be an eye sore under bright lights, keep a cloth nearby to wipe it down!
But the good news is the mahogany neck has been left unfinished which feels wonderfully silky smooth to play.
This guitar is pretty old-school in design and as such, there is no onboard electronics system. So if you want to play it through an amplifier you will need to install an aftermarket pickup system.
7. Ovation Celebrity Elite Plus CE44P-FKOA
Certainly one of the most unique-looking acoustics on the market. But is also one that’s been around for some time and has a dedicated player base who’ve fallen in love with Ovation's unique approach to acoustic design.
The most striking thing about the Ovation CE44P-FKOA is the contoured Lyrachord body which is a particular kind of molded fiberglass which creates a thin and rounded design that couldn’t be achieved with wood.
It fits very comfortably against the contours of the body which helps increase its ease of playability.
But this unique body is still topped off with a beautiful Koa top which allows it to retain that more traditional acoustic guitar look when viewed from the front.
Because of the thin design and the nature of lyrachord, it’s an incredibly light guitar which makes it an excellent choice for smaller players or anyone with back/shoulder issues who benefits from using a lightweight instrument.
Not only that but it also makes it easy to transport which is helpful for the gigging musician.
It also has one of Ovations' own pre-amp systems which offers a slidable 3-band EQ which I found helpful on dark stages as I could feel where the setting was which I couldn’t with the more traditional rotary knobs.
While the stylized design might not be for everyone, they are nevertheless supremely comfortable guitars that feel effortless to play.
The Importance of Low Action
Everyone wants a guitar that’s easy to play, struggling to hold frets down because of high action, or having to constantly retune a guitar is no fun at all.
While there are several small design elements that culminate in making a guitar feel nice to play, arguably the single biggest contributor to this is the action of the guitar.
Action, in the context of a guitar, simply refers to the height of the strings from the fretboard.
When the action is too high, it means you need to press the string down with a lot of pressure before it will connect with the frets and create a note.
Not only that, but if the string has to travel too far to reach the fret it will also go sharp as it’s putting extra tension on the string.
So you need low action, but it also can’t be too low or it will cause a whole new set of problems such as the string hitting the frets as it vibrates which creates what we call fret buzz.
Or if the action is really low, sometimes the string can’t vibrate at all effectively choking out the note.
So action needs to be set just right in order to achieve that ideal balance between being low while still actually creating a nice clean note.
For the action to be set correctly it needs a few adjustments which are best left to a trained guitar technician.
This is why we recommend ordering from Sweetwater.com as all of their guitars pass through a comprehensive inspection and guitar setup before being shipped out to the buyer.
So you can rest assured that any guitar you buy from them will be set up to play its very best right out of the box.
Adjusting the Truss Rod
A major player in a guitar having nice low action is the neck relief. Obviously wood is a bendable material, so as the strings apply tension onto the neck it will naturally make the neck bow inwards, leaving you with unplayably high action.
To counter this, luthiers install something called a truss rod which is essentially a metal bar that extends down the length of the neck to provide a counter force to the strings' pull, leaving you with a nice straight neck.
For various reasons, such as weather and humidity, or using thicker strings that apply more tension to the neck, sometimes the amount of back bow being applied to the neck needs to be adjusted for the action to be set at the correct level.
The truss rod on an acoustic guitar is usually located inside the sound hole towards the neck and it can be adjusted using a simple allen wrench.
If you don’t feel confident in adjusting the truss rod tension yourself then it’s best to take the guitar to your local technician as you can potentially harm the guitar if you turn it too far the wrong way.
Nut and Saddle Adjustments
Even if your neck relief is set perfectly when the saddle or nut height isn’t correct then your action is going to be off.
Unlike an electric guitar where saddle height can be adjusted with a simple turn of an allen wrench, acoustic guitars will often need to have the saddle removed and either sanded down if it’s too high or shimmed up if it’s too low.
The nut slots can also be sawed in deeper if the string is too high, or be filled in with some kind of material such as glue and bone dust to shim it up.
Other Comfort Considerations
Beyond action height, there are a few other aspects you may wish to look out for when finding a guitar that’s easy to play.
Firstly are rounded fret ends. Rounding off fret ends by hand is a time-consuming process so oftentimes cheap and poorly made guitars are left with uncomfortable sharp fret ends that dig into your hand as you slide up and down the neck.
Check the fret ends carefully to make sure they are rounded off nicely for a comfortable playing experience.
You should also check fret access, some acoustic guitars have a huge neck heel joint which makes playing anywhere above the 15th fret a real pain. So you should check you can play all over the fretboard comfortably without being impeded by bulky neck joints.
Picking the Right Guitar for You
Buying a guitar that feels good to play is vital, as the nicer it feels in the hands, the more you’re going to want to pick it up and play, which means practicing becomes effortless.
These days standards are pretty high when it comes to quality assurance in guitar production, even cheaper guitars generally play pretty well.
Every guitar I’ve listed in this article has a good reputation for quality and ease of playability that far exceeds its price point and all make fantastic choices for your next acoustic guitar purchase.