Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
The age of 16 is truly a golden age for any growing teenager. Things that happen in this time period are sure to stick with a person for the rest of their life.
It also happens to be a time when many people gravitate to the guitar for the first time. All of the following guitars are worthwhile for any 16-year-old to play, especially if it's their first guitar.
Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster – Best Overall
The Fender Telecaster has been one of the most legendary guitar designs to ever exist. With the Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon), any 16-year-old can reap these classic tones.
For a few years now, the Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster has been a go-to for guitarists of all skill levels. The guitar is a prime choice for anyone with an affinity for the original 1950s Telecasters but without the budget.
With a Pine body, a Maple neck with a Maple fretboard, this guitar has all the hallmark features. This includes traditional Fender specs, including:
- C-shape neck contour
- 25.5” scale length
- 21 frets (according to vintage specs)
- 1.650” nut width
- 9.5” fretboard radius
- 3-saddle ashtray bridge design (vintage specs)
The Telecaster is noted for its massive range of classic tones, suitable for rock, jazz, country, and even metal. This guitar’s pickups do a fairly decent job of providing the essence of those classic tones.
You even get to choose between some truly iconic Telecaster color finishes, including:
- Butterscotch blonde
- 2-tone sunburst
Epiphone Les Paul Studio – Best Premium
Have a moderate budget and looking for a classic guitar design that doesn’t miss the mark? The Epiphone Les Paul Studio (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is known for being a prime choice for 16-year-olds.
While Gibson’s Les Paul guitars have their legendary status, these Epiphone offerings should not be overlooked. For over 15 years, Epiphone has earned a reputation for the quality of this range of Les Pauls.
With the Les Paul Studio, you’re getting a Mahogany body with a Maple top, along with a slim Mahogany neck. Its Pau Ferro fretboard offers 22 frets with those iconic Pearloid trapezoid fretboard inlays.
The Les Paul Studio’s pair of humbuckers provide an excellent range of both warm and bright tones. All of the controls are as you would find them on an authentic Gibson model.
Epiphone has made a number of color options available, including:
- Alpine white
- Smokehouse burst
- Wine red
As somebody who got a similar Epiphone Les Paul model when they were 16, I am confident in this model. It’s a fun guitar that looks and sounds great, with a price that’s hard to beat.
Plus, there’s a good chance you’ll be keeping this guitar around for years. Yes, I do still have mine.
Yamaha PAC012DLX – Best Budget
Want something with a reputation for performing better than almost any guitar of a similar price? The Yamaha PAC012DLX (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) is considered one of the best guitars for beginners.
This guitar is like Yamaha’s budget version of a Super Stratocaster. But, it’s sort of as if they tried to make the guitar as stupidly good as possible while remaining inexpensive.
As such, the guitar features an Agathis body, a Maple neck, and a Rosewood fretboard with 22 frets. The guitar itself is extremely comfortable to play thanks to its large comfort contour on the back of the body.
A pair of single-coil pickups, along with a humbucker, provide some iconic tones that bear some resemblance to the Stratocaster. The guitar has its own character and charm, showing Strat inspiration but enough originality to be distinctly unique.
A vintage-inspired tremolo bridge is also included, allowing for manual expression during play. Everything from Hendrix to Van Halen, to SRV, will be possible here.
Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster
With a Poplar body, this Stratocaster has all of the hallmark things you’d expect to find with a Stratocaster, including:
- Maple neck
- Maple fretboard
- C-shape neck contour
- 25.5” scale length
- 9.5” fretboard radius
- 2-point synchronized tremolo bridge
While it is definitely a budget guitar, this Stratocaster has a Flamed Maple top, offered in the colors of:
- Black burst
- Sienna sunburst
This is an unusual addition as flamed tops aren’t typically seen again until the Fender Custom Shop lineup. Nevertheless, it proves Squier’s willingness to pack in some extra value despite designing something intended to be affordable.
Another notable aspect here is its pair of single-coil pickups combined with a humbucker pickup. That signature Stratocaster jangle and chime are here, mixed with a bit of a thicker punch when needed.
Yamaha FGX800C Dreadnought – Best Overall
Need a solid acoustic guitar that is in the middle of the road as far as the ideal budget goes? The Yamaha FGX800C Dreadnought (see price on Sweetwater, Amazon) has everything you could want in an acoustic guitar.
This Yamaha dreadnought features a cutaway design with a Solid Spruce top providing a bright and balanced tone. Its thin Nato neck ensures smooth playability across the entire range of 20 frets on its Walnut fretboard.
Hardware is mostly what you would expect to find on a guitar of this price, which isn’t a negative aspect. All of the hardware is more than sufficient for long-term use, including things such as:
- Urea nut
- Urea saddle
- Walnut bridge
- Die-cast chrome tuners
What really packs a punch here is Yamaha’s inclusion of a pickup and preamp system. Plugging in is a breeze, offering a number of tone controls and preamp features including:
- Volume level
- 3-band EQ
- Frequency bias
- Built-in tuner
- Battery status indicator
This really is one of the most solid-buy budget acoustic guitars to be found on the market. Any budding guitarist with professional aspirations will find this to be a workhorse providing years of use.
Guild OM-240CE – Best Premium
For the 16-year-old with a few years of experience, the OM-240CE could easily be a lifetime guitar. The guitar has a smaller Orchestra-sized body with a cutaway design for access to the entire fretboard range.
One of the things that really makes the OM-240CE stand out is its signature arched-back construction. This provides a sort of bowl that sits comfortably against the body, ideal for sessions lasting for a few hours.
The guitar features a Mahogany body with a Solid Sitka Spruce top, a Mahogany neck, and a Pau Ferro fretboard. For the price, Guild really didn’t cut any corners, which is evident with hardware choices such as:
- Bone nut
- Bone saddle
- Pau Ferro bridge
- Open-gear tuners
While the guitar certainly looks, sounds, and feels great, it’s the inclusion of a pickup that helps increase its value. This Fishman Sonicore pickup helps the electric signal retain its organic acoustic sound, though using a pre-amp is recommended.
Epiphone DR-100 – Best Budget
When buying a cheap acoustic guitar, you could easily spend this much money on something totally unplayable. Spending the same amount on the DR-100 will provide all the essentials to start playing.
This is a standard dreadnought featuring a Mahogany body with a Spruce top. A slim Mahogany neck is paired with a Rosewood fretboard offering 20 frets.
There is no pickup included here, but one could easily be added down the road. For the most part, this is designed to be an extremely basic guitar that is both functional and reliable.
Epiphone has achieved its aims with this guitar for decades. They even offer the guitar in 3 different colors, including:
- Vintage sunburst
What To Look For When Buying A Guitar For A 16-Year Old
If you’ve never bought a guitar before, you might be a little uneasy about the whole endeavor. The simple fact of the matter is that all of the information relating to guitars are true across the board.
Where things begin to change is when you are looking to buy a guitar for an intended purpose. In this case, you need to consider some things about the 16-year-old who is interested in the guitar.
How Much Experience Does The 16-Year-Old Guitarist Have?
First things first, you need to analyze just how much guitar experience the 16-year-old has. Are they complete beginners, or have they been playing for a few years already?
This distinction is critical as if it’s for somebody with some experience, it’s likely meant to be an upgrade. For completely new beginners, the overall quality isn’t exactly as important (though it is still important, obviously).
The budget you’re willing to spend will play a larger role than you might initially assume. Again, experience justifies a larger expense, with a generally acceptable range being:
- $150 to $300 for complete beginners
- $300 to $500 for those with some experience
Navigating the used guitar market can be a little tricky if you’re clueless about what consists of good quality. However, if you’re brave, this can present some of the most value as even gently used guitars cost significantly less.
If you go down the route of the used market, it doesn’t hurt to have an experienced guitarist tag along. Inspect each guitar for cracks and try the guitar out to make sure everything is in working order.
Study the construction of guitars that are being offered in the stores before you browse the used market. People will baffle you with some of the ridiculously botched experiments that they offer up for sale.
If you know what each guitar consists of in its construction, you’ll have an eye for detail. This will give you a defense against any sort of thoughtless (and maybe well-intentioned) modification atrocities.
No matter what guitar you settle on, ensure that it has no alarming issues. Most importantly, try the guitar out to make sure that it feels good in the hands and actually sounds good.
It never hurts to get the guitar set up by a professional so that it’s in optimal playing condition. A guitar that is slightly difficult to play could deter any person from wanting to pick it up and play.
The Importance Of Buying The Right Guitar
You might have a belief in the notion that one must learn on an acoustic before playing the electric guitar. This is a complete falsity, as, while they are both guitars, they are played almost in a different manners.
With that being said, aim to get the kind of guitar that the 16-year-old expresses interest in playing. If they desire to play a Stratocaster but you buy a dreadnought acoustic instead, they’re more likely to become uninspired.
At this age, fostering that young inspiration is vitally critical. Buying the right or wrong guitar could completely alter the individual’s life timeline.
Best Brands For Guitars For 16-Year-Olds
There are more guitars on the market than any single person can learn to discern in a day’s time. If you’re completely new to the guitar, it helps to familiarize yourself with the biggest brands in the industry.
The following manufacturers are noted for creating guitars that are designed for beginners and smaller budgets. However, they each have a reputation for crafting guitars that excel beyond this simple goal.
Epiphone actually has over a century’s worth of history crafting some of the finest guitars in the USA. In the 1950s, Gibson purchased the company, slowly transitioning its purpose and model line.
Today, Epiphone primarily produces quality guitars that are taken from Gibson designs. Most of the guitars are manufactured outside of the USA to help keep the consumer’s cost down.
As a consequence of being an industry giant, Fender had massive issues with counterfeit guitars on the market. In response, Fender created Squier to produce the same Fender designs at a fraction of the cost.
This trajectory has remained true even today, as Squier is often one of the most recommended brands for smaller budgets. These guitars are the perfect platform for learning how to play and performing modifications on the guitar itself.
Best Guitars For 16-Year-Olds, Final Thoughts
There’s no doubt that the 16-year-old in your life will remember their first guitar for the rest of their life. With the research and patience, your chosen guitar could easily be played for decades beyond the current age of 16.
The guitar can become an anchor that an individual can lean on in both the best and worst of times. It’s definitely something that can help anyone get through those awkward, melodramatic teenage years filled with both highs and lows.