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Looking to get into playing the electric guitar, but a little afraid of spending tons of money on an instrument? Believe it or not, there isn’t a better time for a beginner guitarist in terms of the selection available.
Manufacturers have stepped their game up over the years, and today’s beginners are spoiled with fabulous options. Whether you’re a complete beginner, or just looking for something to loaf around with, the following guitars are commendable.
Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica – Best Overall
This electric guitar has a very iconic shape inspired by the Stratocaster. In some ways, it’s actually quite comparable with that type of guitar in terms of its feel and sound.
The guitar itself comes built with an Agathis body and comes in a number of attractive color options, including:
- Old violin burst
- Metallic blue
- Metallic red
Maple is used for the neck, which has a C-shape contour designed for both comfort and performance needs. Like a traditional Stratocaster, the PAC012DLX has a bolt-on modular neck-joint design.
The fretboard is crafted from Rosewood and features 22 frets outlined by traditional dot inlays. This fretboard has a 13.75” radius, with a nut width of 1.614”.
In terms of the scale length, the PAC012DLX measures 25.5”. You’ll find this to be on par with any standard full-size electric guitar.
For hardware, the PAC012DLX is stocked with:
- Urea nut
- Vintage-inspired tremolo system
- Sealed tuners
Much of the PAC012DLX’s value can be found in its pickups, with the guitar itself having an HSS configuration. A ceramic humbucker can be found at the bridge, with ceramic single-coils in the neck and middle positions.
Having this configuration definitely opens some doors to great tone. Yamaha provides a 5-way switch and a knob for both volume and tone to help you dial in your sounds.
What Makes The Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica The Best Overall Guitar Under $300?
Ask any knowledgeable guitarist what the most ideal beginner guitar is and they’ll recommend a guitar from the Pacifica series. This model line debuted in the 1990s and has since become some of the most reputed guitars in the industry.
Throughout the years, Yamaha has continually improved their designs. In turn, they’ve managed to provide the most value possible without pushing costs beyond their affordable price point.
After all, it’s what you get for the price that makes the PAC012DLX such a noteworthy guitar. It is perhaps the most exemplary model that all other beginner instruments should be measured against.
That’s saying quite a lot for one model line in a vast sea of infinite guitar models on the market. This is definitely one instance where there is actually some validity to the hype and praise guitarists give this model.
What makes this different than a Stratocaster, and why wouldn’t you just opt for a Stratocaster? Well, the truth is, some people might find the Stratocaster to be more in line with their preferences.
However, the PAC012DLX has a bit of a thicker tone but doesn’t lose that quintessential quack. Its body design is also notably different, featuring deep contours provided for physical comfort.
The PAC012DLX is quite a rugged guitar and you don’t necessarily have to worry about beating it up. Somehow, the guitar manages to stay in tune, even if you do go hog-wild on the tremolo bar.
Going with this guitar will give you some of the best playability and tone to be found in this budget. Plus, you’ll save some money to put towards an amplifier, gig bag, or other accessories.
Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 – Best Premium
This guitar features that truly iconic Les Paul design, but without the exceptionally large price tag associated with it. In turn, the Les Paul Studio E1 gives beginners an opportunity to enjoy the guitar’s design themselves.
The Les Paul Studio E1 features a Mahogany body and comes in the attractive color options of:
- Heritage cherry sunburst
Mahogany is also used for the neck, which features a ‘60s-inspired SlimTaper neck contour design. Unlike traditional Les Paul models, this specific guitar utilizes a bolt-on neck joint rather than a set neck.
The Les Paul Studio E1’s fretboard is made of Rosewood, providing 22 medium-jumbo frets. Pearloid dot inlays are also featured on the fretboard for easier navigation and fretboard location recognition.
Some measurements you might want to be aware of with the Les Paul Studio E1 include:
- 24.75” scale length
- 12” fretboard radius
- 1.6875” nut width
For the most part, the Les Paul Studio E1 has some pretty decent hardware, featuring:
- Die-cast 14:1 ratio tuners
- LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge
- Stopbar tailpiece
- Plastic nut
A Les Paul wouldn’t be complete without some humbuckers, and this model is stocked with Zebra ceramic humbuckers. This includes a 700T at the bridge position, and a 650R at the neck position.
As is standard with Les Pauls, the Les Paul Studio E1 has a 3-way toggle switch for pickup position selection. Each pickup has its own volume and tone knob (4 knobs total).
Why Is The Epiphone Les Paul Studio E1 Worth The Money?
The Epiphone Les Paul models have been consistently reliable over the last few decades. In many ways, they’ve become the guitar of choice for beginners that want to utilize the Les Paul design.
There’s just something timelessly classic about the Les Paul’s design that keeps it relevant and attractive. It has an understated sense of elegance, and this Epiphone model captures that quite well.
In many ways, the Les Paul Studio E1 shares many of the same concepts as its more expensive Gibson relatives. This includes things like a Mahogany construction, humbucker pickups, and a Tune-O-Matic bridge.
Having a volume and tone knob for each pickup will teach you how to properly blend pickups for different sounds. Spending a little time on this can make a guitar far more versatile than you might have initially expected.
Beginners will be able to familiarize themselves with said features without spending 4-figures to do so. And while you might assume that its affordability comes from subtraction, this isn’t a bad thing.
The Gibson varieties will typically have a Maple top, which in turn, makes the Les Paul incredibly heavy. This offering from Epiphone is slightly slimmer and quite a bit lighter than its iconic sibling.
If you’re not a fan of the fret spacing on a 25.5” scale length guitar, this guitar might suffice. Its slightly smaller scale length decreases the spacing a bit while adding some extra string slack for easier bending.
These guitars play quite well, thanks in part to the SlimTaper neck contour, which provides comfort along the entire neck. You’ll have fun learning the instrument with this, and your tone won’t sound terrible, which is a massive plus.
To top it all off, you still wouldn’t be spending your entire budget on this guitar.
Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS22 DKA – Best Budget
Are you somebody who is inclined towards guitar shredding but looking to stay well below the $300 budget? You might want to take a look at the Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS22 DKA (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon).
This is a guitar built to handle even the most otherworldly techniques, with the aesthetic looks to match. The JS22 DKA’s body is crafted out of poplar with an arched top, coming in the colors of:
- Metallic blue
- Satin black
- Natural oil
Maple is used for the JS22 DKA’s neck, which has a contour designed for speedy performance. Amaranth is the select wood of choice for the fretboard, which provides 24 jumbo frets.
A unique thing about this guitar is that it has a compound fret radius of 12” to 16”. This is designed to provide optimum playability in every location of the guitar’s neck.
Other handy measurements for this guitar include:
- 25.5” scale length
- 1.6875” nut width
Every shredder’s guitar needs to be equipped with pickups that can deliver that sonic assault properly. The JS22 DKA is stocked with Jackson-designed humbuckers wired hot for increased output and response.
For pickup and tone adjustments, the JS22 DKA has a 3-way switch, with knobs for both volume and tone. Other hardware to be found on the guitar includes:
- Black plastic nut
- Sealed die-cast tuners
- 2-point tremolo system
What Makes The Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS22 DKA Stand Out As The Best Budget Buy Under $300?
There’s perhaps nothing worse than building a solo to a peak, only to have an epic bend get choked out. Such an occurrence is incredibly embarrassing and happens more often on guitars with rounder fretboard radiuses.
Such an occurrence is highly unlikely to happen with the JS22 DKA. After all, if you’re going to shred, you need to make sure that your tool of choice facilitates the technique.
The fact that a compound radius is offered on a guitar of this price is actually quite astonishing. It just goes to show that companies do take great care in providing value for players of every budget.
When it comes to metal and all-things-shred, Jackson is perhaps one of the most legendary brands. The JS22 DKA is the perfect opportunity for younger generations to carry on in the tradition.
Need to have some soaring lead tone with incredible depth and representation? Jackson’s humbuckers in the JS22 DKA are surprisingly good and will handle certain pedals quite well.
The JS22 DKA is an ideal starting place for any beginner who is drawn to aggressive playing styles. It provides a sort of launchpad that can be a catalyst in your growth and development.
In some ways, it’s also a wonderful option for upgrades and modifications later down the road. The body and neck are quite excellent, but at some point, you might do some modifications like:
- Swap the tuners for locking tuners
- Upgrade the tremolo
- Upgrade the pickups
Plus, this guitar has the looks to kill, complete with the iconic Sharktooth fretboard inlays and the pointy headstock. Not bad for a budget guitar with a 2-octave playing range.
Squier Stratocaster Pack
As you can probably guess by the name, the Stratocaster Pack is a bundle package put together by Squier. It has absolutely everything you could need to get started playing the electric guitar.
The actual guitar itself is made of Poplar, featuring the traditional Fender specs throughout its build. This includes a Maple neck, C-shape neck contour, 9.5” fretboard radius, and 25.5” scale length.
Laurel is the featured wood on this Stratocaster, offering 21 accessible narrow-tall frets. A traditional bolt-on modular neck joint is also featured on this guitar.
While it’s definitely a budget guitar, Squier didn’t reserve any features. This includes things like:
- 3x Strat single-coil pickups
- 5-way switch
- 2x tone knobs
- Master volume knob
- Closed gear tuners
- Plastic nut
- Vintage-inspired synchronized tremolo
- 6-string block saddles
Aside from the guitar, you’ll get a small 10W solid-state amplifier (Frontman 10G). This has a clean channel and an overdrive channel, along with headphone output and auxiliary input.
Along with the amp come items such as:
- Guitar cable
- Guitar strap
- Allen wrenches for saddle/truss rod
- 3x guitar picks
- Gig bag
What’s So Special About The Squier Stratocaster Pack?
If you’ve been paying attention, you can immediately see why the Squier Stratocaster Pack deserves a recommendation. This is an option that certainly has more to offer than any other model mentioned in this article.
You might be scratching your head and wondering how such a package can exist when compared to other models. After all, if you know your Stratocaster specs, you can see this is a Stratocaster through and through.
Surely, something doesn’t add up, right? Well, let’s say that the guitar might have the quality as one that you bought individually at the same price.
You could say that it’s the price to pay for an option that offers so much extra while being affordable. With that being said, the guitar in this bundle is more than sufficient enough to learn with.
An option like this is especially ideal for younger children or seniors who are simply curious about the guitar. It definitely saves you an incredible amount of time and money with regard to accessories.
All too often, a beginner will buy an electric guitar, only to find that they lack the necessities. Then, they’re spending beyond budget on an amplifier, strap, cable, picks, and everything else.
This gives you an opportunity to get started right away without any of that hassle. A 3-month subscription to Fender Play is included so you can take lessons on the very first day.
The amplifier definitely isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but it’s enough to practice with. Plus, you get a gig bag, which ironically isn’t even offered with some of the more expensive guitars.
This bundle provides quite the value for the right kind of person.
Squier Affinity Series Telecaster
This Telecaster keeps Fender’s longest solidbody tradition alive at an unbelievably affordable price. Its body is crafted out of Poplar and comes in a decent variety of color finishes including:
- Butterscotch blonde
- 3-color sunburst
- Lake Placid blue
- Olympic white
As you might expect, the neck is made from Maple and is crafted to have a comfortable C-shape contour. For the 21-fretted fretboard, you can choose between either Maple or Laurel for the material.
Construction-wise, this is a fairly standard Telecaster in every detail. This includes aspects such as:
- String-through-body design
- Bolt-on neck joint
Every guitarist knows that the Telecaster is incredibly versatile in terms of tone. This model is stocked with a pair of ceramic single-coils to help provide the essence of those classic tones.
For tone and pickup adjustment, a 3-way switch, along with knobs for volume and tone, are provided. Other hardware on the Affinity Series Telecaster includes:
- Die-cast tuners
- Synthetic bone nut
- Modern-style bridge plate
- 6-string block saddles
The guitar also has measurements that are fairly standard for Fender designs, including:
- 25.5” scale length
- 9.5” fretboard radius
- 1.65” nut width
Is The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Worth The Hype?
For about a decade during the early 2000s, the Affinity Series Telecaster was the stuff of nightmares. You couldn’t go on a forum without reading horror stories about the quality of these guitars.
If you lived through this, it’s probably a bit comical to see the Affinity Series Telecaster get a recommendation. However, Squier’s quality control has greatly improved over the last decade, helping to reverse the stigma.
The Telecaster is Leo Fender’s first solidbody electric guitar design. Many people feel that it’s the personification of perfection itself.
If you’ve ever gotten bit by the Telecaster bug, you’ve probably spent time lusting over different models. Unfortunately, not all of them are the most affordable.
The Affinity Series Telecaster, on the other hand, provides a standard Telecaster experience with some luxuries. One of these is the belly-cut contour featured on the back of the guitar.
If you’ve ever played a standard slab-body Telecaster, you’re probably familiar with getting your ribs bruised. This contour prevents that and is a feature that isn’t seen again in the Fender lineup until the $1000+ range.
Plus, you essentially get to choose from all of the most iconic Telecaster colors in the history of the guitar. It only gets better because you can choose your fretboard material, too.
Make no mistake about it, this won’t sound like a vintage Blackguard. But, for the budget beginner with a thirst for Telecaster playability, this is an obvious choice.
A professional setup might be required to get the guitar in optimal playing condition.
What To Look For When Buying An Electric Guitar Under $300
No matter what the budget might be, every guitarist wants to spend their hard-earned money wisely. This usually means that a hefty amount of research will be involved before stepping foot in a store.
However, if you’ve never played guitar, you might not know what you should be looking for. You might be perfectly fine with just having anything at all to be able to play.
There’s nothing wrong with that attitude, but you could make a poor choice and it might affect you later. Would you rather have a guitar that’s difficult to play and rife with issues, or something dependable?
Chances are, the dependable option sounds the most attractive to you. But, what’s right for someone else might not be right for you.
Take some time with the following information to help guide you and give you ideas on different directions. You’ll be able to apply these basic concepts to every guitar purchase you ever make in the future, too.
Consider Yourself First
The first thing you should do is take stock of where you are in the guitar journey. Are you an absolute beginner, or do you have some experience?
Answering this question will give you an idea of what’s really appropriate and ideal for your situation. But, don’t worry, if you happen to gloss over it now, this same question will confront you later.
Along with experience, it’s always good to have a little foresight, too. What exactly do you want to accomplish with this guitar priced under $300?
Again, this will vary with each person, as not everyone has the same goals and intentions. Some might want a guitar to learn with, and others might wish to have a guitar for modification purposes.
Be sure to make a list of the things you would like to do with your guitar. This will come in handy down the road.
Guitar Type & Pickups
Usually, the first thing beginners will use is their eyes when shopping for a guitar. It’s only human nature to be drawn to the thing that is the most attractive.
However, this isn’t always the wisest of choices, as a guitar’s sound and overall feel are far more important. Something that plays great and sounds amazing will be far more satisfying to play.
With that being said, each type of guitar has its own unique feel and sound. The pickups it has plays a massive role in the overall sound, and are usually stocked with single-coils or humbuckers.
Single-coil pickups are fairly bright and provide some crystalline pitches, often with a rounded low end. Humbuckers are a bit warm and more present in the mid-range, and just thicker sounding overall.
Neither is better than the other, though single-coil pickups are prone to electromagnetic interference, which can cause noise. However, this is just the price to pay for having that classic single-coil sound.
Inspiration is a valuable resource for a beginner, so find the guitar that inspires you the most. You’re far more likely to stay motivated and dedicated if you keep the fires of inspiration alive and burning.
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this price range is that a high level of discernment toward quality is required. And, unfortunately, most beginners don’t have that kind of wherewithal to inspect a guitar for quality.
What ends up happening is that they frequently purchase guitars of lackluster quality without knowing any better. Worse yet, they put up with it for years, not knowing that it doesn’t have to be like that.
Let’s face it, cheaper guitars do not get the same amount of attention to detail as more expensive models. These are mass-produced on a greater scale to be as inexpensive as possible.
But that doesn’t mean you have to willingly accept something of poor quality. If possible, try out multiple guitars from the same product line, as the same guitars can even vary in quality.
In general, pay close attention to the cosmetics, the fretwork, and whether there is any noise. Also, pay attention to how well the guitar seems to play.
More often than not, a professional setup will be a requirement for optimal play. You’ll need to factor this into your budget as it will likely alleviate any potential problem areas you might find.
When in doubt, take an experienced guitarist with you to the store to give you their opinion.
If this is your first electric guitar, you need to know that some accessories are going to be required. An amplifier, guitar cable, guitar strap, and picks are likely to be the first things you purchase.
For some people, it might make the most sense to find a bundle deal. Manufacturers will often provide a guitar with these types of accessories for an affordable price.
Unfortunately, you might not be able to try the guitar out firsthand before purchasing a bundle. But it will save you time and money in the short term.
In general, keep an eye out for any extra features that a guitar might have that look enticing. Things like a tremolo bridge can open up doors for different ways of expression during a performance.
Remember how it was recommended that you take stock of your place within the guitar journey? It’s going to play a role in how much you will spend on a guitar (or at least, it should).
For the most part, $300 is within the beginner’s budget, which can extend to $500 in some instances. But, for the complete beginner who has never played, spending that much isn’t recommended.
Learning the guitar is absolutely a lifetime pursuit, and time is needed to see if you have the grit. If you should decide not to stick with it, the return on your investment isn’t so great.
Sure, you could always sell the guitar, but you will never make the original cost back through its sale. On the other hand, an affordable entry to the guitar gives you little risk in trying the instrument.
That way, if you do quit, you’re not out a few hundred dollars for no reason. Plus, it’ll feel that much better to graduate to a higher-quality guitar if you do stick with it.
Spending time and learning in this direction will give you an appreciation for certain things about a guitar’s quality. If you buy the most expensive thing, you’ll never know what those things are and take them for granted.
Then, when you go to buy another guitar, you aren’t armed with the experience of the little details. More often than not, it’s those little details that give a guitar its special mojo.
To save some extra cash, browse the used market as you’ll inevitably come across semi-new guitars at a discount. Use some common sense when inspecting the guitar’s cosmetics and overall condition.
It’s never a bad thing to save a little money and help out a fellow human being in the process.
Best Brands For Electric Guitars Under $300
If you’ve never played guitar before, you might not know which guitar brands are the most reputable. Without the proper research, you could end up spending too much money on an off-brand pawnshop special.
Before the internet really took off, guitarists became familiarized with brands by means of magazines. Unfortunately, printed media has been dying for the last decade, but you don’t have to be left in the dark.
The following brands are ideal for those looking for a guitar under $300. These are some of the most recommended brands within this specific price range.
There’s no denying that Fender is one of the colossal giants of the guitar industry. Because of that, Fender frequently found counterfeit reproductions being sold on the black market.
Squier was established by Fender to provide authentic Fender designs at a lower price. By using cheaper overseas labor and inexpensive materials, guitarists can play a Fender design quite affordably.
There are few music companies with well over a century in existence, and Yamaha is one of them. The company is known primarily for its pianos, with roots in that industry dating back to the late 1800s.
Yamaha is certainly not to be disregarded when it comes to guitars and basses. Many musicians hold Yamaha to high praise in terms of quality, value, and overall craftsmanship.
Top Electric Guitars For Under $300, Final Thoughts
If you’re shopping for your first electric guitar, make sure to take your time with the process. Try out every guitar that you can within your own personal budget range.
Rushing the process could force your hand in choosing a guitar that might not be the best fit for you. And if that’s the case, playing the guitar might not be as fun as it should be.
What’s the point if you’re not having fun?