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Since its inception, the electric guitar has played an important role in shaping the sounds of music we know today. Today’s guitarists are blessed with the number of different guitars available, with each one tailored to different players.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it any easier if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for.
The following guitars outshine their contemporary brethren. Selections have been made for players of all styles, with specific needs included.
Fender Player Telecaster – Best Overall
Ever since its introduction in the 1950s, the Telecaster has been hailed as one of the best of all time. While the guitar has its place in country music history, don’t let its past fool you.
The Fender Player Telecaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a phenomenal middle-ground between modernity and tradition. It’s also one of the best guitars that money can buy while remaining relatively affordable.
For starters, the Player Telecaster has an Alder body with a Maple neck and fretboard. Traditional Fender specs are featured here, with a 25.5” scale length and a 9.5” radius.
The neck of this guitar has a modern C-shape contour and is not too slim or chunky. It has a smooth satin finish on the neck, with some glossy lacquer on the fretboard for best-of-both-worlds playability.
One of the upgrades on this guitar is the fact that it has 22 frets, as opposed to 21. This isn’t necessarily a selling point, but it is nice to be able to have a bit of extra range.
Another modern upgrade is the fact that it comes with a 6-saddle bridge. This is a departure from the vintage ashtray designs that featured 3-saddle bridges and allows for perfect intonation.
One of the stars of the show with the Player Telecaster is actually in its pickups. Fender has stocked this model with a pair of Player Series Alnico V Tele single-coil pickups.
These run a bit hotter than vintage-style pickups but have an unbelievable sound that is unmistakably all-things Telecaster. Tele players usually enjoy modding guitars, but you might think twice about swapping these pickups.
The Player Telecaster also features:
- Volume knob
- Tone knob
- 3-way switch
- Die-cast tuners
- Synthetic bone nut
Gibson Custom 1958 Korina Explorer – Best Premium
Gibson’s futuristic Explorer was far ahead of its time when it hit the market in the late 1950s. During its first year of production, Gibson made less than 20, which has become increasingly rare as time passes by.
For the most part, this is a dream guitar that most guitarists could only wish to be able to afford. Gibson has done a fantastic job at replicating every aspect of the rare original.
Part of what makes this guitar so expensive is the fact that it has a Korina body and neck. Korina is somewhat reminiscent of luxurious Mahogany, but its use in guitar manufacturing is incredibly rare.
Like most Gibson guitars, this Explorer has a set neck, with a Rosewood fretboard. Traditional Gibson specs are reflected here with a 24.75” scale length and a 12” fretboard radius.
Gibson has stocked this guitar with a pair of custom humbuckers wired to reflect the original 50s pickup design. A master tone knob, a pair of volume knobs, and a 3-way switch are provided for tone adjustment.
This Explorer also features hardware such as:
- Nylon nut
- Vintage-inspired Kluson tuners
- ABR bridge
- Aluminum tailpiece
As you would expect with a guitar of this price, Gibson has included a hardshell case with the guitar.
But, even if you did, the Custom 1958 Korina Explorer is sure to hypnotize the audience with its dazzling looks. Its nitrocellulose finish ensures that it will only look even better as time wears on.
This has all of the warmth and bite as the original, without the exorbitant price tag for a museum-grade guitar.
Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1 – Best Budget
This guitar takes the shape of the iconic Les Paul model but has a character of its own. In a way, this model is quite unique in comparison to the rest of the Gibson-designed guitars that Epiphone produces.
The Les Paul Melody Maker E1 has a Poplar body with a large pickguard covering half of the guitar. These features not only give the guitar a lighter weight but imbues a sense of vintage aesthetic.
Mahogany is used for the neck, which has a 60’s D-shape contour with a SlimTaper design. While slightly chunky, this neck profile should feel quite comfortable for just about any type of player.
The Rosewood neck sports 22 frets along with a 14” radius, while the overall scale length measures 24.75”.
What’s truly unique here is the guitar’s use of single-coil pickups, featuring:
- 650SCR Ceramic (neck position)
- 700SCT Ceramic (bridge position)
These will provide a tasty jangle to the tone, with a hint of slight darkness. A knob has been provided for volume and tone each, along with a 3-way switch.
Elsewhere on the guitar can be found:
- Die-cast tuners
- Wraparound stop bar bridge
- Plastic nut
Overall, this is a simplistic guitar by most standards, but it definitely gets the job done for blues and rock. It even comes in 3 different color options, which is always a plus if you like a certain look.
Some people have noted that the tuners are touchy, but that’s to be expected on a guitar at this price. Aside from that, the Les Paul Melody Maker E1 is a solid guitar worthy of any beginner.
Strandberg Boden Classic NX 6 – Best Headless Guitar
Headless guitars are becoming more popular as each day passes by. Guitarists love these modern designs because of their versatility, lighter weight, and unique aesthetic.
This guitar is especially ideal for those who are accustomed to guitars modeled after the Stratocaster. The Boden Classic NX6 is essentially a Stratocaster placed into Strandberg’s iconic headless guitar design.
Alder is used to craft the body, which is conjoined to the Maple neck with a bolt-on configuration. Maple is also used for the fretboard, providing plenty of that iconic Stratocaster spank.
The guitar opts for modernity in its design, which is seen by its 20” radius and 25”-25.5” multi-scale length. Because of this, the frets do fan out and become more angled in the higher ranges of the guitar.
Another modern feature is the fact that the neck has been reinforced with carbon fiber. Any touring guitarist will find this to be quite rugged and resilient when out on the road.
Where this guitar packs a punch is in its Suhr-designed pickups, featuring an SSH configuration of:
- V60LP single-coil (neck and middle positions)
- Thornbucker Plus humbucker (bridge)
A 5-way switch, along with a knob each for volume and tone, allows you to find your favorite tones.
Interestingly enough, the Boden Classic NX6 also features a tremolo system, which is a Stratocaster hallmark. Also included is a graphite nut and a gig bag for traveling purposes.
This truly is one of the most innovative and comfortable electric guitars you could ever play. Its 2-octave range, comfort contours, and powerful pickups could make this your mainstay guitar for life.
Fender American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster – Best Premium Vintage-Inspired Guitar
Fender releasing a vintage-inspired guitar is nothing new. In fact, much of their product line aims to carry on with the company’s original traditions as much as possible.
For years, the only way to get a truly authentic vintage replica was through the Fender Custom Shop. The Fender American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) takes it back to a golden year.
At the time, surf music was gaining traction, pioneered by the guitar great, Dick Dale. This model is built to look, feel, and sound exactly how a 1961 model would sound today.
As such, it features an Alder body with a gloss nitrocellulose finish. A C-shape Maple neck with a Rosewood fretboard (which includes clay dot inlays) is featured here.
In true vintage Fender style, this Stratocaster has 21 frets, with a 7.25” radius, and a 25.5” scale length.
For pickups, the American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster is stocked with a trio of Pure Vintage ’61 Strat single-coils. When drenched in a bit of reverb, these are sure to ooze classic surf tones.
As is standard with Stratocasters, this model has a volume knob, 2 tone knobs, and a 5-way switch. A vintage-inspired synchronized tremolo with bent steel saddles is featured here, along with a bone nut and vintage tuners.
The American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster also comes in some truly iconic colors for both left-handed and right-handed models, including:
- Fiesta red
- 3-tone sunburst
- Olympic white
It’s been some time since Fender has offered fiesta red on a model, and it certainly is a welcomed sight.
Fender includes a sturdy hardshell case with a crushed velour lining for superior protection. This is definitely a guitar you’ll be wanting to keep safe!
Gibson Les Paul Studio Left-handed – Best For Left-Handed Players
Southpaws are usually at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to actually purchasing a guitar. There are far more right-handed offerings available, but that doesn’t mean a great guitar can’t be had.
The Gibson Les Paul Studio Left-Handed (see price on Sweetwater, Guitar Center) is an excellent choice for anyone. This provides all of the versatility the Les Paul is known for, without the associated weight.
In fact, this is everything you would expect with a Les Paul, including a Mahogany body with a Maple top. The only real difference here is that the body itself has undergone a weight reduction process, significantly lightening the load.
Lefties get to choose between the color options of either ebony or wine red. Both are quite attractive in their own respect.
This Les Paul’s neck features a Mahogany construction with a Rosewood fretboard adorned with trapezoidal acrylic inlays. A SlimTaper contour is given to the neck for a balance between comfort and playability.
Traditional Gibson specs are featured here, including a 24.75” scale length and a 12” radius. One thing to note is that the guitar has gone through a PLEK machine for precise fretwork.
This guitar features a pair of 490R Bass/498T Treble humbuckers, which provide that distinct rich Les Paul tone. A 3-way switch and a pair of volume and tone knobs are also provided for tone control.
An interesting thing to note is that this Les Paul model features a coil tap. This splits the humbuckers into single-coils, further expanding the tonal ranges of the guitar.
Other hardware on this Les Paul includes:
- Rotomatic tuners made by Grover
- GraphTech nut
- Tune-o-Matic bridge
Gibson does include a soft-shell case with the purchase of this guitar.
PRS SE Hollowbody II Piezo – Best Versatile Guitar
For the last decade, PRS guitars have gained a fabulous reputation as some of the best on the market. Unfortunately, these guitars often came with a hefty price tag far outside the realms of the average budget.
With the SE lineup, PRS offers the same great designs but manufactured in Asia to cut the consumer’s cost. Nevertheless, this hollowbody Mahogany guitar with a 5-ply figured Maple top is exquisite in every detail.
The SE Hollowbody II Piezo features a Mahogany neck with a bit of a wider neck, suitable for modern players. This contour certainly lends itself to more advanced techniques.
Ebony is used for the fretboard, which sports 22 frets outlined by the iconic PRS bird inlay pattern. Thanks to the neck contour and double-cutaway design, this fretboard will feel frictionless.
The SE Hollowbody II Piezo features a pair of 58/15 “S” humbuckers designed by PRS. These can truly handle anything from smooth jazz to blues, country, and various metal genres.
A 3-way switch is provided, along with a knob each for volume and tone. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this guitar.
The SE Hollowbody II Piezo is actually equipped with a piezo pickup, designed to provide acoustic tones. A knob is provided for the volume level of this particular pickup, allowing you to blend or isolate as needed.
For hardware, this guitar has a bone nut, an adjustable stoptail bridge, and die-cast tuners. Plus, there’s 2 1/4” outputs here, along with an included hardshell case.
Ibanez Steve Vai Signature Premium UV70P – Best 7-String Guitar
Ibanez was one of the first companies to produce guitars with 7 and 8 strings, rather than 6. So, when their flagship artist endorsee has a 7-string signature model made, you know it’s worth your time.
The Ibanez Steve Vai Signature Premium UV70P (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) certainly delivers on its promises. This is a guitar that was built to shred beyond boundaries previously thought humanly impossible.
Unlike Vai’s other models, this American Basswood guitar does not feature the signature handle grip. Instead, this retains the Vai signature shape but is given a sharp, black color augmented by green hardware.
Shredders will feel quite at home with this Wizard-7 Premium neck made of 5 pieces of Maple and Walnut. This should provide more than enough stability for alternate tunings and demanding techniques, especially since it’s reinforced with Titanium.
The fretboard is crafted from Panga Panga, which closely resembles Wenge. A full 2-octave range is offered via its highly accessible 24 frets.
The distance between each fret remains balanced thanks to its standard 25.5” scale length. A 15.75” radius offers a bit of a flatter fretboard for lower playing action.
This guitar comes stocked with DiMarzio Blaze pickups in an HSH configuration. Ibanez has EQ’d these pickups to have a mid-range cut, so do be aware of this beforehand.
A standard 5-way switch, along with a single knob each for volume and tone is provided. It just goes to show that you don’t need a whole lot of knobs to dial in some great tones here.
The UV70P also comes with an Edge Zero II-7 locking tremolo system. This will handle even your most aggressive uses of the wiggle stick without experiencing tuning issues.
A gig bag comes included with this shredding machine.
Reverend Descent W Baritone – Best Baritone Guitar
Sometimes, certain levels of heaviness can only be achieved beyond the range of a regular guitar. Baritone guitars essentially offer a lower range without becoming an actual bass guitar.
The Reverend Descent W Baritone (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is one of the best money can buy. This guitar features a Korina body and a roasted Maple neck, manufactured in Asia and assembled in Toledo, Ohio.
You can opt to get the guitar in a number of different colors and fretboard options. These include:
- Midnight black (roasted Maple fretboard)
- Oceanside green (roasted Maple fretboard)
- Transparent white (rosewood fretboard)
The Descent W Baritone features 22 frets, with a 12” radius and a 26.75” scale length. It also features a Boneite nut, Wilkinson tremolo system, and pin-lock tuners.
For electronics, the Descent W Baritone is stocked with Railhammer pickups, which include:
- Cleancut Humcutter Dual-Coil
- Nuevo 90 Humcutter Dual-Coil
A standard 3-way switch is provided, along with a volume knob and a tone knob. The guitar also has a knob for bass contour, allowing you to customize the depths of your punishing tone.
Overall, the Descent W Baritone is an excellent baritone, especially for its price. Not only do you have a killer baritone, but it comes with a tremolo system for sadistic sonic dive bombs.
Plus, these Railhammer pickups are designed to provide a rich and vintage-inspired tone. However, they will certainly adapt to just about any style of music you could want to play.
Even the electronics are given special attention, with a tone knob that allows treble bleed when rolling back the volume. You won’t have a difficult time finding your ideal baritone sounds here.
Perhaps the only thing missing here is a case or a gig bag. But, with that aside, this is a fabulous option.
Fender Player Jaguar – Best For Small Hands
Guitars can often be a bit much for somebody with smaller hands and fingers. Fortunately, this isn’t the end of the world, and there are actually some classic options available to accommodate this.
The Fender Player Jaguar (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a superb offering for small hands. Ever since its release, the Jaguar has been an iconic, futuristic design, and this modern offering is no exception.
This offset Fender features an Alder body with a Maple neck and a Pau Ferro fretboard. The neck is exquisitely smooth to play thanks to its modern C-shape contour and satin finish.
Small hands will be especially welcomed here, as the Player Jaguar has a 24” scale length. A traditional 9.5” radius is featured on the fretboard, which offers 22 frets outlined by white dot inlays.
If you’re familiar with the classic Jaguar models, you’ll notice that there are some differences with the Player Jaguar. One of the most notable is in its pickups, which feature:
- Player Series Alnico 2 Jaguar single-coil (neck position)
- Player Series Alnico 3 Jaguar humbucker (bridge position)
A knob has been provided for both volume and tone, along with a 3-way switch.
Jaguars are typically recognizable with the fact that they traditionally have numerous 2-way switches for different tone selections. This model simplifies that design, offering a single 2-way switch, which splits the humbucker pickup into a single-coil.
For hardware, the Player Jaguar comes with a synthetic bone nut, die-cast tuners, and a floating tremolo.
There are some excellent color options available with this model as well, featuring:
- Capri orange
- 3-tone sunburst
Overall, the Player Jaguar maintains its traditions in numerous ways while offering simplicity for the modern player. Nevertheless, the same great Jaguar tones and playability are offered here.
Ibanez RGMS8 – Best 8-String Guitar
This guitar features a double-cutaway body design and is crafted out of Nyatoh. You’ll only be able to get this guitar in black, as it’s designed for the heaviest of music genres.
The RGMS8’s neck is crafted out of 5 pieces of Maple and Walnut and features Ibanez’s Wizard III-8 contour. This should feel somewhat slim, yet smooth and fast enough for the most demanding of techniques.
Jatoba is used for the fretboard, which has a flatter radius of 15.75”, and offers 24 frets.
One thing to note is that this is a multi-scale guitar, with the higher frets fanning at an angle. The scale length itself measures 25.5” to 27.2”.
You can rumble a house’s foundation with the RGMS8’s pickups, which feature a pair of Array 8 MS humbuckers. These are specifically designed to accommodate lower alternate tunings, offering clarity and pummeling richness.
For tone control, the RGMS8 has a 5-way switch and a knob for volume and tone.
The hardware on the RGMS8 is quite good as well, featuring a mono-rail bridge for precise intonation. Perhaps the only thing one could raise a fuss about is the fact that it has a plastic nut.
Nevertheless, the RGMS8 is a fantastic option for anybody who needs an 8-string guitar. This gives you access to 8-string features without having to spend a few months’ worth of paychecks to purchase it.
Compared to other 8-string guitars on the market, the RGMS8 has a stellar reputation amongst metal guitarists.
G&L Tribute ASAT Classic – Best For Country
Is it sacrilegious to recommend something that isn’t a true Fender Telecaster for country guitar tones? The G&L Tribute ASAT Classic (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) will definitely have you thinking otherwise.
Most average guitarists are actually unaware that Leo Fender helped to found G&L guitars. These instruments essentially feature all of the improvements that Leo had designed for the iconic Fender guitars we know today.
For starters, the Tribute ASAT Classic features a Sassafras body with a neck and fretboard made of Hard Maple. Traditional Fender specs are featured here, including a 9.5” radius and a 25.5” scale length.
The neck itself features a medium C-shape contour that is neither too small or too chunky. Rather, it provides an optimum feel for any modern player, which is evident all along its range of 22 frets.
Where the guitar shows its upgrades is in its pickups, which feature a pair of Magnetic Field Design single-coils. These provide much more clarity and output than traditional single-coils, while still maintaining that classic twang.
The tone controls are what you would expect to find on a Telecaster-style guitar. These include a 3-way switch, along with a single knob each for volume and tone.
You’ll find that the Tribute ASAT Classic sticks to tradition in its hardware offerings, which include:
- Bone nut
- Vintage-inspired Telecaster-style bridge
- 6 brass saddles
- Die-cast tuners
This is definitely the guitar you’ve been looking for if you feel like a Telecaster is missing something. Leo’s upgrades on this guitar make for a dream come true for any modern player.
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to be a country guitarist to play and enjoy this guitar. Telecasters are quite versatile by nature, and this offering only expands upon that.
Schecter Omen Extreme-6 – Best For Metal
An extremely competent metal guitar doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg. The Schecter Omen Extreme-6 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) proves you can acquire premium playability without the cost.
This guitar features a Mahogany body with a Quilted Maple top that provides decadent aesthetic appeal. The Maple top is showcased in a number of different color options, including:
- Vintage sunburst
- Black cherry
- See-thru black
Maple is also used for the neck, which features a thin C-shape contour for extreme performance needs. Rosewood is used for the fretboard, which offers a full 2-octave playing range with its 24 frets.
Adding to the overall aesthetic of the guitar are the fretboard inlay designs. These are made with a combination of Pearloid and Abalone and look stunning on the fretboard.
The Omen Extreme-6 has a scale length of 25.5” with a fretboard radius of 14”.
While the Omen Extreme-6 certainly looks great, it’s also primed for any heavy style of music. A pair of Diamond Plus humbuckers designed by Schecter are stocked into the guitar to provide terrorizing tones.
For tone control, the Omen Extreme-6 has a pair of volume knobs, a tone knob, and a 3-way switch. The tone knob doubles as a coil-splitter, which significantly increases the tonal ranges of the guitar.
Despite being a reasonably affordable guitar, the Omen Extreme-6 has some excellent hardware. This includes:
- XL Black Tusq nut by GraphTech
- Die-cast tuners
- Tune-o-Matic bridge
Overall, the Omen Extreme-6 is definitely a guitar that excels beyond its price range. Good looks and exceptional tones are on tap here, all without having to spend a professional-grade budget.
Due to its string-through-body design, it offers plenty of resonant sustain with a hint of girth.
Ibanez Artcore AS73 – Best For Jazz
Are you an aspiring jazz guitarist looking for a guitar that performs well and is also affordable? The Ibanez Artcore AS73 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a guitar that can’t be recommended enough.
This semi-hollowbody guitar features a body crafted completely of Linden, with 2 f-shape soundholes completing the look. You’ll have a few color options to choose from with this model, including:
- Tobacco brown
- Olive metallic
- Prussian blue metallic
- Transparent cherry red
Nyatoh is used for the AS73’s neck, which features a comfortable C-shape contour. The Walnut fretboard offers 22 frets, with Acrylic block inlays providing an ornamental effect.
There’s no doubt that the AS73’s construction provides a sense of rich depth to the guitar’s tone. A pair of Classic Elite humbuckers take advantage of this to the extreme.
The controls on the AS73 are fairly standard, featuring a pair of volume and tone knobs, and a 3-way switch. Whether you want to play jazz or venture into classic rock territory, the AS73 is built to perform.
Ibanez has done a fantastic job with the AS73 in providing a superb guitar without costing a fortune. Perhaps the only corner being cut is the fact that it has a plastic nut.
The other hardware installed on the AS73 includes closed-gear tuners and a Gibraltar Performer bridge.
Overall, the AS73 is one of the best values on the market for anyone seeking a semi-hollow guitar. While it’s suited for jazz, the guitar can handle just about anything you could desire to play.
The Artcore series has gained quite a reputation amongst guitarists over the last 2 decades. This offering definitely stands out and is certainly guaranteed to turn some heads in any audience.
Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster – Best Budget Vintage-Inspired Guitar
A couple of decades ago, Squier guitars were thought to be some of the lowest-quality guitars on the market. In today’s current market, the inverse has become true, with many feeling that Squier guitars rival Fender quality.
The Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a fantastic vintage-inspired guitar. This guitar has been the choice for many looking for a high-quality Telecaster on a budget.
Pine is used for the body’s construction, which comes in the classic colors of:
- Butterscotch blonde
- White blonde
- 2-tone sunburst
Both the neck and the fretboard are crafted from Maple, offering 21 frets according to vintage specs. The neck itself is fairly chunky as you would find on original 1950s models and has a gloss finish.
In keeping with the traditional Fender specs, this Telecaster has a 9.5” radius and a 25.5” scale length.
You’ll be able to reign in those signature vintage Telecaster tones with this model. A pair of Alnico single-coils designed by Fender are installed to take your listeners back to the golden age.
As you would expect, knobs have been provided for volume and tone, along with a 3-way switch.
The hardware on this Telecaster aims to be as close to vintage spec as possible. This includes:
- Bone nut
- Vintage-style bridge
- 3-saddle design with chrome barrel saddles
Overall, this makes for a great affordable entry into having a Telecaster in your collection. It’s everything you’d expect to find on a vintage Telecaster, minus the price and the Fender logo.
Not only does this guitar sound great, but it also looks stunning. The butterscotch blonde color immaculately allows the wood grain to shine through underneath.
This also makes for a great choice for anyone looking to get into guitar modifications.
Epiphone Power Players Les Paul – Best For Kids
When children express an interest to play the electric guitar, you’ll want to foster that interest as much as possible. Unfortunately, many parents often become overwhelmed because the electric guitar usually needs some accessories.
Epiphone has done a great thing here by offering a guitar tailored especially for younger players. Despite this, the company hasn’t cut many corners in providing an extremely playable guitar while remaining affordable.
The Power Players Les Paul features a Mahogany body and neck, with an Indian Laurel fretboard. It comes in the colors of:
- Lava red
- Ice blue
One thing to note here is that the guitar has a shortened scale length of 22.73”. This significantly decreases the spacing between each fret, which is perfect for smaller hands.
Despite its size, the Power Players Les Paul offers standard playability with its 22 frets and 12” radius.
The guitar sports a pair of Epiphone humbuckers (650R/700T), providing some of that iconic Les Paul sound. No matter what style of music your child wants to play, this guitar will have no problems handling it.
A pair of knobs are provided for both volume and tone, along with a 3-way switch. Other hardware includes:
- Plastic nut
- Wraparound bridge
- Die-cast tuners
In addition to the guitar itself, Epiphone has bundled in a gig bag, guitar strap, guitar picks, and a cable. The only thing you’ll need is an amplifier, which can be found cheaply in any pawnshop.
This is definitely a step above many of the bundles that exist on the market. When considering everything that is included along with its price, this is a fantastic value.
Yamaha PAC012 – Best For Beginners
Are you a beginner seeking the best possible guitar that money can buy without spending much money? The Yamaha PAC012 (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is a dream compared to other beginner-grade electric guitars.
This model comes from Yamaha’s Pacifica line, which continually receives praise amongst guitarists of all skill levels. It features an Agathis body, a Maple neck, and a Rosewood fretboard.
In a way, this closely resembles a Fender Stratocaster but has deeper comfort contours in its body. With its C-shape contour, 22 frets, 13.75” radius, and 25.5” scale length, this plays like any higher-priced guitar.
You’ll have a decent number of color options to choose from, including:
- Old violin sunburst
- Metallic blue
- Metallic red
Electronically, the PAC012 has an SSH pickup configuration, featuring ceramic pickups designed by Yamaha. A 5-way switch, along with a volume and tone knob, give you everything you need for tone adjustments.
The PAC012 even comes with a vintage-style tremolo system for all of your warbling vibrato needs. While its Urea nut and sealed tuners are not locking, it manages to hold tuning stability fairly well.
Overall, the PAC012 is more of a guitar than you could ask for at its given price point. This specific model has been consistently recommended by top-tier professionals for any beginner looking to get started learning guitar.
The PAC012 is the perfect springboard for any aspiring guitarist, especially if they desire to play Stratocasters. There won’t be much of a learning curve when transitioning to a higher-quality guitar.
That’s certainly not to say that the PAC012 isn’t a high-quality guitar by any means. In fact, this guitar provides great evidence of Yamaha’s superb craftsmanship offered at every price range.
What To Look For When Buying An Electric Guitar
If you’ve never purchased a guitar before, chances are probable that you might be 1 of 2 types of people. The first type purchases their first guitar on a whim, without research, with the second generally becoming paralyzed in research.
Of course, there are many shades of personalities between these 2 extremes, which is why it’s important to be moderate. Whenever possible, do a fair amount of research, but don’t rule out your intuition as a viable tool.
The decision to purchase a guitar is a heavy topic, no matter where you might be in your playing journey. There are several reasons for this, but the most prevalent is the desire to find the perfect guitar.
Nobody wants to gamble on something if they lack the certainty that the guitar will be everything that’s needed. Most people will turn to research, which isn’t easy if you don’t grasp the basics of guitar builds.
Maybe you have an idea of what you might like but aren’t exactly sure how good a specific guitar is. Sometimes, what makes a guitar good to one person might not cut the mustard for you.
Arm yourself with the following information, and you’ll be able to navigate the market with confidence. Plus, you’ll be able to use this information for the rest of your life during future guitar purchase considerations.
Define Your Budget
Before you can really get to the nitty-gritty of your research process, you’ll need to have a defined budget. Your budget defines the range of guitars that are available to you, making this a crucial aspect of the process.
Guitars are generally produced in 4 major price ranges, with some ranges that blend between. Generally, the overall quality, level of craftsmanship and detail, and features are reflected in the price.
These ranges are usually given the following recommendations:
- Beginners ($250 and below)
- Beginners who have been playing for a while ($350 and below)
- Beginner-Intermediates ($350-600)
- Intermediates ($500-850)
- Advanced Intermediates ($600-900)
- Advanced ($750-1500)
- Professionals ($2000+)
It’s a bit unfortunate, but most beginners struggle to stay with the instrument. By sticking with inexpensive guitars, they can learn the basics without sinking a massive cost into the instrument.
Higher-priced guitars should generally be considered to be for professionals only. This is because professionals will be making money with the guitar, using it like a tool at work.
Many guitarists are tempted to splurge just beyond their ideal budget levels. Sometimes this can be to the detriment of the person’s individual bottom line and ability to make ends meet.
Everyone wants the guitar that plays, looks, and sounds the best. Research, and you’ll often find that every range has its exemplary guitars that perform beyond its relative range.
Keep in mind that you don’t always need to purchase a new guitar. Used guitars usually sell for less than their brand-new price, with the exception usually being vintage guitars.
More often than not, these guitars will often be flawless, though some thorough discretion is needed. Plus, you could find a better-quality guitar that wouldn’t otherwise be in your budget.
Style Of Guitar
If you wish to purchase a guitar, you probably have a decent idea of what is calling out to you. Answer this call to the best of your abilities, but do your research to find the best fit.
Before purchasing a guitar, you’ll want to take into consideration the styles of music you typically play. Guitars are made for everybody, with some models being more appropriate for certain styles.
You’ll not only see this reflected in the guitar’s style but in its components as well. Some guitar designs have been created with the sole intention of fulfilling a specific role in certain genres of music.
For the most part, guitars are either made of solid wood or feature a chambered body. Semi-hollow guitars typically feature a partial chamber, with hollowbody guitars generally being fully chambered.
Solid-body guitars will usually not have the warm depth that chambered body designs can often provide. It’s important to try each out to see how it matches up with your playing style and genres of music.
Along with the body, perhaps the biggest factor in how a guitar sounds is in its pickups. These come in a wide variety of offerings but can be generally classified as single-coil pickups and humbucker pickups.
Single-coil pickups generally produce a sparkling treble, usually with pristine tonal clarity. Quite often, these will produce round and quacky tones depending on their positioning in the guitar.
However, single-coil pickups are not without their issues, as they can often be quite thin in a band setting. These pickups can also be prone to noise interference.
Humbucker pickups were actually designed to resolve this interference (hence the inventive name). Compared to single-coils, these are much thicker and have a darker tonal print.
There are a wide variety of different pickup types within these 2 major families of pickups. For instance, the P-90 is a single-coil pickup, while a rail pickup can come in either type.
Keep in mind that neither pickup type is better than the other. It’s really up to you to determine which tones are the most ideal for your situation.
Take a moment to consider the guitarists whose tone has left an imprint in your own mind. Usually, some combination of such influences helps to form the ideal tone you’ve likely been questing after.
Boil down the similarities (if there are any) between your influences and seek out guitars with similar pickups. Once you’ve found some, take the time to try each out by playing the kind of music you’ll be playing.
Trying each guitar is crucial as it's really the only way to tell how the guitar actually sounds. You might find that your assumptions could be challenged, providing pleasant surprises along the way.
Feel & Playability
Perhaps the most important aspect of the guitar (outside of the sound) is how it feels and plays.
The only way to really know this is to try out the guitar in person. This will allow you to form your own opinions on how good a guitar might actually be.
Pay special attention to the guitar’s neck, as this is where you have the most contact with the instrument. Every guitar has a unique neck contour, and you’ll want to find the one that feels the most comfortable and enabling.
Most guitars will have either a C, D, V or U shape contour, sometimes offering tapering. However, the thickness and feel of each neck differ greatly, even between different guitars of the same model line.
Likewise, each guitar has a unique scale length, with the general norm being 25.5”. Smaller scale lengths can offer different spacing between frets to accommodate any hand size.
Similarly, the fretboard radius is something to pay attention to, especially if you like your strings low to the fretboard. A rounder radius (like 7.5”) can often choke out bends and cannot typically have a very low playing action.
You’ll need to keep this in mind if you play modern styles of music but want a vintage guitar. Even newer, vintage-inspired guitars can have such dimensions that might not accommodate your modern needs/desires.
Another thing to consider is how heavy the guitar is. No matter if you sit or stand, a heavy guitar will become a burden if you’re playing every day.
A simple setup can often alleviate any minor playing issues but can add an extra cost. Be sure to ask your retailer if they can do a setup on the guitar before you take it home.
Sometimes, it’s the small details of a guitar’s build that can be the deciding factor between different models. Always be on the lookout for additional features that could impact your playing in a supremely positive manner.
Generally, when guitar shopping, you’ll want the guitar to enable you to be the guitarist you wish to be. Sometimes it's the pickups, certain hardware, or design elements that fulfill these needs.
For an example, you might fare well by asking yourself these questions:
- Do I wish to have a tremolo system, and if so, does it need to be a locking tremolo?
- What kinds of pickups do I want, and what is the best configuration for these pickups?
- Does the guitar offer any pickup coil-splitting technologies that offer an expanded range of tones?
- Is there anything unique that might provide more usable tones on the guitar?
- Do I play music that could benefit from a 7 or 8-string design?
- Could I benefit from active pickups?
- Does the guitar have vintage inspiration with modern amenities in all the right areas?
- Does the guitar come with a case or gig bag?
These are obviously just a few questions, and you’re likely to have your own questions. Take the time to provide yourself with a definitive answer and do your best not to stray from your requirements.
Another thing you’ll need to consider is what your ideal longevity is for the guitar. Not every guitar is meant to be played for life, from the beginning stages to the performance stage.
In fact, if you’re buying for a child, you might buy a miniature guitar to act as an intermediary instrument. This would allow them to learn the instrument without the awkwardness of a guitar that is too large.
On the other hand, if you’ve been playing for a while, you might desire to find that lifelong companion. In these instances, you’ll want to find a guitar that offers all of the features you are looking for.
No single guitar can do everything, which is generally why most guitarists tend to have multiple guitars in their collections. The best guitar for you will excel at your ideal needs with the versatility to play beyond your needs.
Along with this, you might consider whether you might opt to modify the guitar in some fashion down the road. Upgraded pickups and hardware can improve a guitar beyond its ordinary existence.
It’s important to remember that modifications will not make a cheap guitar play like an expensive guitar. In fact, some guitars might not accommodate certain modifications, so it’s important to do your research.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking to experiment with modifications on your own, maybe consider something cheaper. This will allow you to learn the ropes without fear of ruining an expensive guitar.
Best Brands For Electric Guitars
There are perhaps more guitars available today than at any other time in history. The market has seen an influx of manufacturers providing both quality and low-quality guitars.
Because of this, it’s important to have a general idea of some of the more established companies in the industry. Reputation is not easily gained in this market, so having a name brand should ensure some sense of quality.
Of course, history has shown that this isn’t always the case. But, while many boutique and individual luthiers have achieved worldwide acclaim, their instruments are not always easy to acquire.
The following brands are some of the biggest names in the electric guitar industry. They have reputations backed by years of players who hold their instruments in high regard.
You certainly don’t have to purchase a guitar from these companies. However, you should use their instruments as measuring sticks when comparing and analyzing what other guitars have to offer.
Fender is an American company that is widely recognized around the world, partially due to its history. The company, started by Leo Fender in 1946, has produced some of the most iconic guitars of all time.
For the most part, Fender remains one of the kings of the guitar industry. Much of their lineup retains the tradition of their original models, proving the timelessness of their designs.
Most of the Fender guitars available are made in America, with some guitars made in Mexico and Japan.
Fender’s designs have become the standardized norm in many instances. Because of that, the company found that much of the market actually consisted of illegal reproductions.
Squier was introduced to the market to quell this and to incentivize the guitarist to purchase an authentic Fender design. These guitars are typically manufactured in Asia, with affordable components to provide a lower price.
Squier’s guitars were generally recommended for beginners, but that’s changed in the last decade with an improvement in quality. These guitars are perfect for the budget-conscious as well as those who are interested in guitar modifications.
Gibson is another American guitar company that just about anyone in the world can easily recognize. The company is responsible for producing ultra-famous guitar designs, many of which feature humbucker pickups.
For years, Gibson’s guitars consistently found their way to the spotlight, increasing the company’s reputation. The company’s reputation has taken a bit of a dent in the last 20 years.
Questionable craftsmanship, business ideas, and a string of bankruptcies have jeopardized the colossal giant. Fortunately, many believe the company has turned a new corner and is back to producing worthwhile guitars.
Believe it or not, Epiphone is one of the oldest American names in the guitar industry, starting in the 1920s. However, today’s Epiphone is far different than the Epiphone of a century ago.
Epiphone was actually purchased by Gibson in the late 1950s. Since then, Epiphone has been a manufacturer of authentic Gibson designs, provided at an affordable price point.
For the most part, people have come to trust Epiphone guitars, with many comparing them to their Gibson counterparts. These guitars certainly pack in an incredible value when comparing the price to the same model produced by Gibson.
Ibanez is a Japanese company that has become one of the most respected amongst players of all backgrounds. This company takes pride in its cutting-edge craftsmanship, often being the first to innovate and try new ideas.
While the company does offer a diverse model range, it does cater to technical players. It’s especially for this reason that so many virtuosos have openly endorsed Ibanez guitars.
In fact, most of the biggest names in modern guitar virtuosity have been playing guitars made by Ibanez. Whether you play jazz, fusion-metal, djent, or anything in between, Ibanez has you covered.
PRS, founded in the mid-1980s, is an acronym referring to its founding luthier, Paul Reed Smith. This company really didn’t become mainstream until the early 2000s.
Since then, PRS guitars have essentially become synonymous with luxury, and recognizable with their bird inlays. These guitars typically feature versatile pickups, comfortable (yet traditional) designs, and exquisite aesthetics.
Compared to most guitars, PRS models can certainly fulfill duties in multiple genres of music. Plus, the company has guitars at just about any price you might be willing to spend.
Top Electric Guitars, Final Thoughts
Buying a guitar should be a fun process. After all, what else provides you with an opportunity to try out a bunch of different guitars?
Don’t deprive yourself of these small joys when you do decide to purchase a guitar. It is these things that will often be the guiding force to finding the guitar you’ve always been looking for.
So, squeeze as much fun out of the process as possible!