The best beginner electric guitar can be, if you know what you are looking for, the best beginner guitar overall. There are many benefits to learning to play on an electric guitar. For one thing, the necks tend to be slimmer, making it easier to learn chord shapes and scales.
In addition, with a good amp, you can start making some great sounds almost immediately. Plus you’ll look cool too, which is always a great start for any wannabe rock star!
It’s also important to consider what kind of guitar you want to start out on. It’s no good starting with an expensive vintage semi-acoustic if you want to learn how to play grindcore, and equally it’s a bad idea to get a pointy skull-emblazoned Super-Strat if you want to be the next Wes Montgomery.
- 1 What should you consider when buying an electric guitar?
- 2 Electric vs Acoustic Guitar
- 3 Caring for your guitar
- 4 Top 5 Best Beginner Electric Guitar Reviews
- 5 Reviewers Choice: Ibanez Gio
- 6 Summary
What should you consider when buying an electric guitar?
Guitar Body Types
Broadly speaking, there are two types of electric guitar: Solid-body and Semi-Acoustic. We exclude the genre Electro-Acoustic as, though it can be amplified and distorted to sound very much like a true electric guitar, it is built as an acoustic with electrics added later.
Your true solid body guitar will not sound that impressive unplugged, but the vibrations of the wood and its effect on the strings will make it a versatile instrument once it’s amplified.
Semi-acoustic, or Semi-hollow, guitars have sound chambers, like an acoustic, which makes them sound a little better unplugged, and they tend to have a rich, warm sound when amplified.
Aside from the tonal qualities, which you’ll learn to appreciate as you progress, the body is important to consider how you feel about it.
Some guitars can be quite heavy, and if you plan on standing up whilst playing, you want to be sure that you’re not going to be straining your shoulder as you play.
And of course, if you plan on playing in front of an audience, you want to make sure that you feel comfortable with how it looks on you!
One of the most important things to consider when you first start learning is the ‘neck profile’ and your fretting hand interacts with it.
There are four main variants of the neck: the C, D, U and V shape (though you’ll find many other types as well). Each of these profiles are variants on thickness and width. Thin necks don’t always mean more comfort in playing, because it all depends on how your hands are shaped.
When choosing a guitar, always check how your fingers feel on it first. A good check, is to rest your thumb on the back of neck, somewhere in the center, and lay your index finger across all the strings and press down as hard as you can. The one where this feels the most comfortable will be the style that suits you best.
Choosing the configurations of your pickups will depend on the music you want to play.
Single Coils often have a brighter, cleaner sound, which can be useful when you want to record in a studio with other instruments. The brighter a sound of a guitar the easier it will be to hear it in the mix.
Humbuckers are essentially two single coils wound together, which reduces the natural background noise produced in an electric guitar, hence the name. This also means they can put up with a lot more distortion and can produce a rounder, deeper sound which also means a great deal more sustain.
You can choose guitars that use only single-coils or humbuckers, or for greater versatility, a combination of both.
The bridge acts as an anchor to the strings, which means the more contact it has with the body, the greater the sustain. In this way the fixed bridge is preferable in consistency of tone.
The vibrato bridge is based on springs anchored into the body, and often come with a tremolo arm (or ‘whammy bar’). This arm is used to control the pitch of the strings which means you can do all kinds of unusual effects with tuning whilst playing (see Jimi Hendrix and Dimebag Darrell).
Electric vs Acoustic Guitar
It may be that as a new guitar player you are undecided between learning on an acoustic and learning on an electric. So here are some things to consider:
With an acoustic guitar you will have to work harder to master chords and scales, due to generally higher action and larger bodies. However, once you’ve mastered playing on an acoustic, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to migrate to an electric.
In addition, practice is important and due to a more portable nature of the acoustic you’ll be able to practice anywhere. Music is there to be shared, and an acoustic is great to have around at house parties so you can pick it up and have a sing-along with your friends.
An electric guitar is a different beast entirely. Once it’s unplugged, it really is only good for practicing on. However, as the necks are often easier to work with, you’ll pick up great techniques which can then be transferred to acoustics. A big plus is the ability to manipulate the sound of an electric via effects pedals, so you can allow yourself to get a little more creative than you could with an acoustic.
- Easy to master necks
- Great to play in bands
- You always need amplification
- Not always popular with neighbors!
- You can take it anywhere and it’s ready to go!
- Consistently good tone
- Fun to share at parties
- Often thick necks make it difficult to learn on
- Not particularly versatile sound
Caring for your guitar
Once you’ve decided on a guitar, you should know how to care for it.
Wood expands and contracts with temperature changes, so it’s best to keep your guitar away from heat sources such as radiators or ovens. Ideally, when you are not playing, keep the guitar in the case.
It is especially important to take care of the neck of the guitar. They can be quite fragile at times, and leaning them against things like tables and chairs will result in gradual warping of the neck, making it difficult to keep in tune and less playable, so it’s wise to invest in a dedicated guitar stand if you plan on playing regularly.
Top 5 Best Beginner Electric Guitar Reviews
There’s a reason that the Yamaha Pacifica 112J has been considered the best beginner electric guitar since it first appeared on the market in 1989. It’s a versatile and very playable guitar which sounds great at home, the studio and playing live.
It’s been consistently affordable since it went on the market, despite quality materials such as its solid alder body, rosewood fingerboard and sturdy, die-cast tuning pegs.
Often you’ll find these guitars in their natural finish, making them look sleek and natural. It also gives you chance to admire the quality of the alder body.
Its neck is a flatter radius than many other guitars of its price bracket, meaning it’s loads of fun to play and easy to get a good tune out of.
It’s incredibly versatile as well, with two single coils in the neck and middle position and a powerful humbucker at the bridge.
- Great versatility of sound
- Quality materials
- Beautiful aesthetic
- Standard tremolo will not undergo too much whammy bar action
- Factory pickups aren’t particularly powerful, but will sound better with a good amp. These are also easily replaceable
Squier Affinity Stratocaster – The Staple
Squier’s range of Stratocasters are something of an industry standard in guides for best beginner electric guitars. Most guitarists these will have had one in their possession at one point or another, and they often deliver the iconic sound of a Fender for some very low budgets.
Like its Fender predecessor, the Squier Affinity Stratocaster has the classic three single coil pick with five way selector switch (crucial in producing that Hendrix sound), a vintage synchronized tremolo bridge and a C-shaped maple neck which will feel comfortable for most hand shapes.
The body is made of Alder, again, like an original, giving it the bright, crisp tone you’ve come to know from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and David Gilmour. The maple neck, which can come with a rosewood or maple fingerboard, has a fair robust feel to it in part due to the bolt on design.
It’s difficult to fault these guitars, and when you lay your hands on one you can see why they have stood the test of time.
- Classic Style
- Classic Sound
- Comfortable neck
- Clunky tremolo system
- Heavy and cumbersome
- Not a lot of bass frequency
Ibanez Gio – For the Ladies
There are some extraordinary female players. Michael Jackson’s touring guitarist, Jennifer Batten, is one the greatest session players of all time, and of course there’s the inimitable Lita Ford of the Runaways.
There’s a temptation for young female players to play into a stereotype and pick up cute, inoffensive guitars. But why would you want to be quiet with an electric, and with so many excellent female players to aspire to?
Enter The Ibanez Gio, which is a professional electric guitar for a fraction of the cost. With its two single coil and tappable humbucker pickups and Ibanez signature tremolo, as well as a 24 fret range, you can really go to town on the fret tapping, whammy dive-bombs and sweep picking madness of some of the world’s greatest female players.
For its price, it is a remarkable instrument, boasting a solid basswood body making it extra resonant and loud. Ibanez are known for their beautiful ergonomic design, and though this is at budget cost, they haven’t made an exception here.
With this instrument’s super low action you can be shredding with the likes of Orianthi or Nancy Wilson in no time.
- Great build quality
- Low Action
- Complicated controls
- Not particularly exciting visually
- Simple Tremolo design
Gretsch G2655T Streamliner – Best for Style
You will have seen many of their guitars in pictures of some of the most famous guitarists of the 20th century, including George Harrison, Chet Atkins and Brian Jones. With such a list of prodigious players, it was hardly surprising that Gretsch models like the Country Gentleman or the White Falcon could command astronomic prices.
However, since the late nineties, Gretsch have relaxed a little in producing luxury models and have branched out into some excellent, inexpensive instruments. The Streamliner design follows a classic Gretsch aesthetic – somewhat reminiscent of a cello with cutaways. It has a semi-hollow body, making it very playable unplugged, and the classic Bigsby style tremolo arm means you can give it a little surf-rock style pitch bend every now and then.
As with many guitars by Gretsch, it sports two Electromatic humbuckers, these ones specifically designed for this model. They are controlled by volume controls for both and a master volume and master tone control, meaning there’s a great amount of variation in what you can do with the sound, whilst keeping that authentic Gretsch ring.
Gretsch guitars have a classic, old-world style. Gretsch have never really done much to change the image of their guitars since the full scale production in the 1930s. It’s built into their brand, and a good thing too. This guitar is simply wonderful to look at, and comes in three beautiful colors – Goldust, Black or Walnut Stain.
- Beautifully designed
- Consistently high-end
- Sounds great unplugged
- Pickups have a tendency to sound muddy
- Bigsby bridge not especially good for power-bombing
LTD EC 256 – Off Brand
Often when guitarists start out they want something that looks iconic but doesn’t cost quite as much. The world most iconic guitar, the Les Paul, is often very far above any starting player’s budget.
However, there are some companies out there who have made a name for themselves producing guitars that take their inspiration from the classic design but producing something wonderful in the process.
This is the case with LTD’s EC 256. Yes, it’s a similar shape to the Les Paul, and has a similar set up with it’s two humbuckers and stop bar bridge, but it’s a unique instrument in its own right.
Not many guitars at this price bracket boast a set-neck design, which makes for greater resonance. The custom-made pickups pack a powerful punch with significantly reduced background hum, making it perfect for live, loud performances. You can modulate the volume of these pickups using two volume pots and change the color of the sound with the single tone pot.
In fact, there’s little to explain why this guitar is so inexpensive, given the professional build quality.
- Powerful pickups
- Coil tap for a single coil sound
- Versatile sound
- Coil tapping produce a drop in volume
Reviewers Choice: Ibanez Gio
It’s important for a guitar to be versatile and easy to play for someone just starting out, and for this reason I would pick Ibanez Gio as a first time instrument. Though the Ibanez lends itself very well to professional players, everything about it cries out to be picked up by someone just starting out. The slender neck means for fast playing, perfect for practicing scales and chords.
It’s also important for early players to be able to experiment, and the fact you can select between humbucker and single coils means you can emulate the sound of more expensive guitars, which is why it gets my vote as a candidate for the best beginner electric guitar.
We’ve taken a look at all kinds of guitar to choose from if you are a first time player/buyer. It can be an overwhelming experience wading through the sheer volume and variance of guitars out there and it’s very easy, even for those who’ve been playing for a while, to slip up and end up with little more than a chunk of wood with strings on it.
It’s important to do your research. In some ways, whilst buying a guitar online has its own pitfalls, it has become easier than ever to discover what guitars will suit you best. It’s a good idea to check out guitars you like the look of in guitar shops, but failing that, there are a whole range of review videos to look at which will give a good idea of the best beginner electric guitar you might want to buy.