Best Electric Guitars 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

Electric guitars are the best music instruments in existence. If you don’t agree, then, what are you doing here? Whether you are a guitar fanatic like me or are just starting out, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been a guitar geek since I was a teenager. I was literally obsessed with rock musicians and their favourite brands. I spend all the time learning about guitars, who plays what brand and stuff. So by the time I was 20, I thought of myself as a guitar guru. Naturally, ended up working in a guitar store, thinking I’m going to be the best employee, but oh boy I was wrong. I couldn’t imagine how tricky axes are: from the tonewood and the metal of the strings, to the bridges and control switches. Eventually, I ended up playing myself, and now own a dozen of axes for different genres and of different brands (don’t even ask how much it all cost, it was worth it).

Bottom line, I get how confusing guitars can be, even when you played for a long while. Some are better for jazz, others for metal. Some are mean metal beasts and ideal for shredding and tearing, others has this warm, golden sound. And there are so many brands! Yet there are a few that best among them all. And it all falls down to their body specs, electronics and hardware. How? You about to find out.

  • Ibanez JEM77P S6
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: JEM
  • Body wood: American Basswood
  • Neck: Wizard
  • Neck material: Walnut
  • Pick up: 2 Di Marzo Gravity Storm Humbuckers // Evolution Single-coil pickup
  • Fretboard wood: Maple
  • Frets: 24
  • Bridge: Edge Zero II
  • Tuners: Cosmo Black
  • Fender American Special Stratocaster
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Stratocaster
  • Body wood: Alder
  • Neck: “C” Modern
  • Neck material: Maple
  • Pick up: Three Texas Special Single-coil
  • Fretboard wood: Rosewood
  • Frets: 22
  • Bridge: Tremolo/Vibrato Vintage Synchronized Tremolo
  • Tuners: Die-cast sealed
  • Epiphone Les Paul Tribute
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Les Paul
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck: ’60s SlimTaper D Profile
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Pick up: Gibson USA ’57 Classic Humbucker // Classic Plus Humbucker
  • Fretboard wood: Pau Ferro
  • Frets: 22
  • Bridge: Locktone Tune-o-matic Bridge, Stopbar Tailpiece
  • Tuners: Grover Locking Tuners
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
№1
Solid
JEM
American Basswood
Wizard
Walnut
№2
Solid
JEM
Mahogany
Wizard III
Maple
№3
Solid
AZ Prestige
Alder
Oval C
S-Tech Roasted Maple
№4
Solid
Genesis RG
Basswood
Super Wizard
5-piece Maple/Walnut
№5
Solid
Stratocaster
Alder
“C” Modern
Maple
№6
Solid
Stratocaster
Alder
C-shaped
Maple
№7
Solid
Stratocaster
Alder
Modern “C” shape
Maple
№8
Solid
Telecaster
Alder
Modern “C” Shaped
Maple
№9
Solid
Telecaster
Ash
Deep “C” Profile
Maple
№10
Solid
Stratocaster
Basswood
“C” Shape
Maple
№11
Solid
Double Cutaway
Mahogany
V-shaped
Mahogany
№12
Solid
Pacifica
Alder
“C” Profile
Maple
№13
Solid
RevStar
Maple/Nato
Thin
3-piece Mahogany
№14
Solid
PRS Doublecut
Mahogany
Wide Thin
3-Piece Maple
№15
Solid
SE Doublecut
Mahogany
Wide Thin
Maple
№16
Solid
Les Paul
Mahogany
’60s SlimTaper D Profile
Mahogany
№17
Solid
Single Cutaway
Mahogany
SlimTaper
Mahogany
№18
Solid
SG
Mahogany
SlimTaper “D”
Mahogany
№19
Solid
“C” Shaped
Mahogany
“C” shaped
Maple
№20
Semi-hollow
Single Cutaway
Wild Cherry
“U” shape
Maple

The guitar legend Steve Vai has been creating sick axes with Ibanez since late 80s, and Ibanez JEM77P S6 is a real gem of the series. This surreal instrument features basswood body and has signature build-in “Monkey grip” handle and mind-blowing “tree of life” design. The bolt-on 5-piece neck is made from rosewood, with 24-fret maple fingerboard. Axe is equipped with 2 Steve Vai designed DiMarzo Gravity stone humbuckers and 1 Evolution single-coil pickup (HHS configuration); and Edge Zero II Bridge with Zero Point system.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
JEM
Body wood:
American Basswood
Neck:
Wizard
Neck material:
Walnut
Pick up:
2 Di Marzo Gravity Storm Humbuckers // Evolution Single-coil pickup
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
24
Bridge:
Edge Zero II
Tuners:
Cosmo Black
PROS

Versatility

HHS configuration that give rich and deep sound

Tuning and sound stability

Playability

Cons

For beginners may be difficult to tune

Occasional fret buzz

On a pricey side

The Ibanez JEMJRWH is another example of Steve Vai’s iconic guitars, which is, hands down, one of the best electric guitars under $500. The solid body features instantly recognizable “monkey grip”. The scale is 25.5″ long and has 24 jumbo frets on it. The Wizard III neck design is ideal for fast playing with heavy pitches. For tonewoods, designers choose hard and high-quality sound materials like mahogany for the body, maple for the neck, and jatoba for the fingerboard. The guitar is perfectly assembled and feels great in one’s hand.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
JEM
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Wizard III
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Two Quantum Humbuckers + 1 Single-coil pickup
Fretboard wood:
Jatoba
Frets:
24, Jumbo
Bridge:
Double-Locking Bridge
Tuners:
Cosmo Black
PROS

Affordable price

Flawless construction

Long scale and 24 jumbo frets

5-way control switch

Ideal for metal music

Double-locking bridge

Monkey grip

Cons

Strings need to be replaced

No hard-shell case included

The Ibanez Prestige AZ2204 Ice Blue Metallic is a Steve Vai’s signature model that is made special for professional guitarists. This solid-body guitar is equipped with all the features for playing at concerts, including Wizard III neck with 24 jumbo frets, double-locking tremolo bridge, 2 Quantum humbuckers, and 1 Quantum single-coil. The axe features an eye-catching Ice Blue metallic colourway. It has a mahogany body, maple neck, and a jatoba fretboard. The axe looks luxurious and expensive; however, the price for the premium-class quality is quite decent. Because of the warm sustained sound, this guitar is perfect for progressive metal and all genres of modern rock.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
AZ Prestige
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
Oval C
Neck material:
S-Tech Roasted Maple
Pick up:
Dual Duncun Hyperion Single-coil + Duncun Hyperion Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
S-Tech Roasted Maple
Frets:
24
Bridge:
Gotoh T1802 Tremolo
Tuners:
Gotoh Magnum Locking
PROS

Premium-class quality

S-tech wood-nitrogen heating treatment

Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups

Dyna-Mix switching system

Price

Cons

Not easy to tune for beginners

The Ibanez RG550 offers a pickup combination that is compatible with any tone from crystal clear and tender to nasty and aggressive. This versatility makes the guitar suitable for a wide range of musical genres from pop to heavy metal. The pickup system includes a V7 neck pickup, S1 middle pickup, and a V8 bridge pickup. The instrument is made from hard tonewoods that can sustain any kind of fast playing and strong pitches. The solid body is basswood, the 5-piece neck is a walnut and maple combo, and fingerboard is maple. The overall assembly is flawless and durable. This guitar will serve you for ages.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Genesis RG
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
Super Wizard
Neck material:
5-piece Maple/Walnut
Pick up:
V7 Humbucker // S1 Single-coil // V8 Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
24
Bridge:
Edge Locking Tremolo
Tuners:
Gotoh
PROS

Responsive pickup system

A large range of sounds

24 jumbo frets

Durable and beautiful tonewoods

Easy-to-tune

Outstanding tuning stability

Attractive price-quality ratio

Cons

Considerably heavy

The scale not ideal for beginners

Strings need to be changed

The Fender American Special Stratocaster is made in the USA and meets American standards of quality. Personally, I think it’s one of the best guitars for Blues you can possibly find. The model has all of the classic Strats features, including a countered solid body, vintage-style synchronized tremolo bridge, Greasebucket tone circuit, and an easy-to-play neck with 22 jumbo frets. As for tonewoods, designers chose alder for the body, maple for the neck, and rosewood for the fingerboard. By the way, these ones are for tough guys: Fender Custom Shop Journeyman Relic Eric Clapton Signature StratocasterFender Custom Shop Jimi Hendrix Voodoo Child Strat Journeyman Relic.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Stratocaster
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
“C” Modern
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Three Texas Special Single-coil
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Tremolo/Vibrato Vintage Synchronized Tremolo
Tuners:
Die-cast sealed
PROS

Signature Fender tones

Three Texas single-coil pickups

Greasebucket tone circuit

Smooth playability

Cons

Not too beginner-friendly

Difficult access to higher frets when bridge is set up poorly

If you have ever wanted to play like Jimi Hendrix, you can take a short-cut and get yourself a signature Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster. The Fender Jimi Hendrix Strat features an elegant alder solid body, maple fretboard with 21 medium jumbos, and a fast C-shaped tinted maple neck. The scale is 25.5″ long, and the fingerboard radius is 9.5″. The neckplate is engraved with Jimi Hendrix signature, features reverse headstock and reversed-slanted vintage bridge pickup. Thanks to its crystal-clear high frequencies and deep bass, the axe is easily is the best electric guitar under $1000. The axe also comes with a limited lifetime warranty – pretty sweet deal I’d say.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Stratocaster
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
C-shaped
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Three Pure Vintage’65 Gray-Bottom Single-Coil
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
21, Medium Jumbo
Bridge:
6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
Tuners:
Vintage Style
PROS

Reverse headstock and pickup

Tight playing feel

Easy bending

Fast C-shaped neck

Cons

Made in Mexico

No hard-shell case

Strings need to be replaced

The Fender Standard is equipped with three single-coil pickups for archiving iconic tunes, the lightweight alder body, and the maple neck with a satin polyester finish. Shielded body cavities reduce humming sounds for clear sounds. The model is versatile and has been used in various genres, such as rhythm and blues, pop, rock, folk, country, soul, and jazz. Three single-coil pickups with a rich bass sounding make the guitar especially suitable for heavy metal and punk. Thanks to its features, many famous guitarists, including Rory Gallagher, Ry Cooder, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, and Eric Clapton, have chosen the model.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Stratocaster
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
Modern “C” shape
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Three standard Strat single-coil pickups
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
21, Medium Jumbo
Bridge:
Vintage Style Tremolo with High Mass Bridge Block
Tuners:
Standard Cast/Sealed
PROS

Affordable price

Long scale

Fast and comfortable neck

Great for punk and heavy metal

Clear sound

Lightweight

Cons

Jack plate screws are too small

Occasional vibration in the bridge area

The Fender American Special Telecaster is one of the rare premium-quality guitars that offers beginner-friendly features. The tuning is a breeze, and the instrument stays well-tuned for a long time. The solid alder body is considerably lightweight and has a curve for comfortable playing. The maple neck has a 25.5″ scale and 22 jumbo frets. It is fast and playable. The neck C-shaped profile fills the hand just right. The instrument has a vintage look and makes an excellent gift for anyone who is learning to play guitar. Hands down, the best electric guitar for beginners.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Telecaster
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
Modern “C” Shaped
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Two Texas Special Single-coil
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Vintage-Style 3-Saddle Strings-thru-body
Tuners:
Vintage Style
PROS

Two Texas single-coil pickups

Stable and clear sound

Long scale with 22 jumbos

Fast and playable neck

Easy to tune

Sound versatility

Cons

Fret dividers are large

The Fender American Professional Telecaster meets American quality standards and inherits Fender traditions. The guitar features the solid alder and ash body, maple neck with 25.5″ bolt-on scale and 22 narrow tall frets. The C-shaped neck has a 9.5″ radius, which lays comfortable in hand. The model is loved both by professional musicians, especially ones who go on concert tours, and hobbyists. It is rather versatile and is perfect for reggae, country, and folk. The guitar comes with a hard shell for maximum protection.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Telecaster
Body wood:
Ash
Neck:
Deep “C” Profile
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
V-Mod Single-coil
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Redesigned Ashtray Cover Bridge Plate with Compensated Brass Barrel Saddles
Tuners:
Staggered Modern Tuning Machines
PROS

Great price for the quality

V-Mod single-coil pickups

Narrow tall frets

Elegant look

Included are Elite hard-shell case

Cons

Tuning is not so easy for novices

The Fender Squier HSS is probably one of the most stylish and affordable Fenders. It offers basic Fender set up, necessary for comfortable playing, and the price will not break the bank! The rosewood neck with 21 medium jumbo frets is perfect for fast playing and the basswood body has a curve for comfortable hand position. When it comes to sound quality, this is one of the best electric guitar under $300.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Stratocaster
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
“C” Shape
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Two Duncan Designed SC-102 single-coils + 1 Duncan Designed HB-112 humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
21
Bridge:
Vintage-style 6-saddle Synchronized Tremolo
Tuners:
Vintage-Style
PROS

5-way pickup switch

21 middle jumbo frets

Clear sound even in low volume

Cons

Not American made

The neck radius is too small for some people

No hard-shell case or gig bag

The Yamaha Revstar RSP20CR is a premium-quality Japanese-made guitar. The instrument features a mahogany body with maple top and 3-piece mahogany neck. All tonewoods are hand-picked. The body and neck are perfectly balanced. When you play while standing or sitting, you will feel the proper weight distribution. Due to its versatility, I’d recommended it to newbies who want to switch between genres.  The guitar is covered with a 3-year limited warranty.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Double Cutaway
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
V-shaped
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
Two VH7+ humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Fixed Tonepros AVT-II
Tuners:
Die-cast
PROS

Premium tonewoods

Surreal balance

Reliable electronics and hardware

Versatility

3-year limited warranty

Cons

Thick neck

Considerably heavy

The Yamaha Pacifica offers wicked tone and great playability, all at an affordable price. Its designers crafted a beautiful combination of tonewoods, perfect for acoustic playing. This guitar is equipped with a solid alder body, smooth C-shaped maple neck with a tinted finish, and a rosewood fingerboard has 22 medium frets.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Pacifica
Body wood:
Alder
Neck:
“C” Profile
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Seymour Duncan SP90-1n Single-coil // TB-14 Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Hardtail with String Saver Saddles
Tuners:
Grover Locking
PROS

Affordable price

Playable neck with a long scale

Hardtail with String Saver Saddles

Rock-solid tuning and sound stability

Cons

No gig bag

No hard-shell case

Neck radius is too wide for small hands

The guitar features a solid nato body with maple top, a smooth mahogany neck, and rosewood fretboard with 22 frets. While creating a body shape with dramatic angular counters, Yamaha designers were inspired by Tokyo and London vintage street-racing motorbikes. With its wicked look and high-quality sound, the Revstar is the perfect gift for anyone, who is into guitar playing. The guitar comes with a padded gig bag for temporary storage.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
RevStar
Body wood:
Maple/Nato
Neck:
Thin
Neck material:
3-piece Mahogany
Pick up:
Two VH3 Alnico V Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Tune-O-Matic Bridge, Stopbar Tailpiece
Tuners:
Die-cast
PROS

Eye-catching bold design

Distinct vintage output

VH3 Alnico V Humbuckers with Dry switch

Clear high frequencies

Well-stitched gig bag included

Cons

Marc Holcomb plays progressive metalcore, and this genre requires more tonal variety than classic metal. The style of play is fast and aggressive; which requires hard tonewoods and durable guitar construction. Collaborating with PRS designers, Marc created the guitar that suits his needs perfectly; while also fulfilling the dreams of countless professional musicians.  With an apple and mahogany body, this guitar is surprisingly lightweight at only 12 lbs.   A soft gig bag is included. By the way, these ones are for tough guys: PRS John Mayer Silver SkyPRS 10 TOP Pattern Custom 24 Faded Blue Jean Thin H5-5V LimitedPRS Private Stock McCarty 594 Graveyard Limited.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
PRS Doublecut
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Wide Thin
Neck material:
3-Piece Maple
Pick up:
Duncan Alpha Holcomb signature Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Eboony
Frets:
24
Bridge:
Plate style fixed bridge
Tuners:
PRS Designed Tuners
PROS

Ideal for metal and progressive musicians

Durable construction

Punchy and clear sound

Cons

Tuning may be difficult for beginners

Shifty neck

The PRS SE is a popular choice for professional musicians, especially for those on never-ending concert tours. This model offers several distinctive PRS features including: roadworthy durability, mahogany neck & body with a maple top, and rosewood fingerboard with 22 frets on it. The price for the famous PRS quality is very reasonable. Includes is a durable gig bag.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
SE Doublecut
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Wide Thin
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
85/15 “S” Bass Humbucker // Treble Humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24
Bridge:
PRS Molded Tremolo
Tuners:
PRS Designed Tuners
PROS

Attractive price for the quality

Exceptional sound

Roadworthy durability

Stays tuned for a long time

Durable gig bag is included

Cons

Tremolo bridge may be difficult when tuning

The Epiphone Les Paul inherits the design of an Authentic Gibson Les Paul, who is probably one of the most famous electric guitars in existence. Premium-quality tonewoods include maple for the solid body, mahogany for the neck, and Pau Ferro for the fingerboard. The feature which is typically found in more expensive models is the carved maple top. The playable neck has a deep D-profile that ergonomically fills the hand. The 24.75″ scale has 22 medium jumbo frets. Unlike other models, this model comes with a hard-shell case for storage. This feature in combination with durable construction makes Les Paul one of the best guitars for musicians on the road.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Les Paul
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
’60s SlimTaper D Profile
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
Gibson USA ’57 Classic Humbucker // Classic Plus Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Pau Ferro
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Locktone Tune-o-matic Bridge, Stopbar Tailpiece
Tuners:
Grover Locking Tuners
PROS

Ergonomic neck shape

Hard maple top

Long scale with 22 medium jumbos

Hard-shell included

Iconic sounding

Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

D-shape neck is not for everybody

Some musicians prefer original Les Paul

The Epiphone Les Paul Encia is another well–known model in the Les Paul series. The guitar is equipped with a solid mahogany body and mahogany set neck with rosewood fingerboard. Professional quality sound in combination with an easy-to-tune bridge make this model the best electric guitar for beginners.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Single Cutaway
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
SlimTaper
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
2
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Tune-O-Matic Bridge (Fixed) with Stopbar tailpiece
Tuners:
Grover
PROS

Affordable price

Premium-quality sound

Long-lasting tuning

Easy-to-control TOM bridge

Cons

Not everyone likes the D-shape neck

A bit of fret buzz

The Epiphone G-400 is a modern version of the legendary Gibson SG guitar. The SG made by Gibson was the choice for dozens of talented guitarists from various bands, including The Who, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin. The Epiphone G-400 has the classic Epiphone sound and adds some wicked features for easier play. This model features a solid mahogany body and neck. The fingerboard is made from durable Pau Ferro tonewood. The scale length is classic 24.75″ with 22 frets on it. 

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
SG
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
SlimTaper “D”
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
Two Alnico Classic PRO Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Pau Ferro
Frets:
22
Bridge:
Tune-O-Matic with Stopbar Tailpiece
Tuners:
Epiphone Deluxe, 18:1 ratio
PROS

Attractive price

Elegant tonewoods

Iconic crystal-clear sound

Impressive neck playability

Two professional humbuckers

Limited Lifetime Warranty

Cons

Extra thin SlimTaper neck design

The Schecter Hellriser C-1 delivers a powerful deep sound that suits the versatility of metal. The guitar is widely popular in different metal genres, including thrash metal, heavy metal, black metal, and doom metal, and is considered one of the best guitars for metal. The model has durable construction and wicked outlook. The tonewoods are classic Schecter: mahogany body with a quilted maple top, the 3-piece neck is maple, and the fingerboard is rosewood. The 25.5″ scale has 24 extra-jumbo frets to suit the needs of professional-level guitarists.  

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
“C” Shaped
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
“C” shaped
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Sustainiac Pickup & EMG 81 Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24
Bridge:
Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo
Tuners:
Grover
PROS

Rocking look

Stays tuned for ever

Powerful and pure sound

Ideal for all metal genres

Well-balanced

2 humbuckers with 3-way switch

Cons

Tuners need to be replaced

Unlike the previous models, the Godin is a semi-hollow body guitar with warm, tangy, almost acoustic sound, making it one of the best guitar for jazz. It even looks like an acoustic guitar, due to the choice of tonewoods and its vintage look. The body is mahogany, the neck is maple, and the fretboard is made from rosewood. The back is decorated with Canadian cherry. The scale is rather long at 24.84″, and is equipped with 24 frets.

Body type:
Semi-hollow
Body shape:
Single Cutaway
Body wood:
Wild Cherry
Neck:
“U” shape
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
1x floating Godin Mini-humbucker jazz pickup
Fretboard wood:
Ebony
Frets:
24
Bridge:
Adjustable Tusq Graphtech
Tuners:
High-ration open geared nickel tuners
PROS

Vintage style

Jazz sound

Adjustable bridge

Professional floating humbuckers

Cons

Poor neck balance and stability

Price

How to Choose the Best Electric Guitar – Buying Guide

So here you have it, 20 surreal axes of the most popular brands around. If you still don’t know how to choose THE ONE – just buy them all. Ok, bad joke. Anyways, if you are a newbie in the guitar world, this buying guide is just for you. I’ll explain what brands to look for, what guitars are best for which genres, which one should you choose for your level and budget, and most importantly the guitar specs.

The most reliable brands

You think that there is a strong connection between a guitar’s brand and its quality. This is true only for cheap and middle-class instruments. When it comes to $1,500-2,500 guitars, brands don’t necessarily mean too much, because every company that is working on this level offer exceptional guitar assembly and mind-blowing electronics. Naturally, higher the price, better the quality of used materials (but not always the overall quality of the guitar). Guitarsits, however, tend to have a preference when it comes to brands, due to their guitars tone and sound (yes, they differ a lot). But don’t worry, couple years of playing and you’ll find your favourite.

The general recommendation about brands: Stick to manufacturers with a long history and solid reputation like Fender, Ibanez, Yamaha, PRS and Epiphone and the sound quality will be guaranteed.

You may also pay attention to Schecter and Godin. These two brands are less known by beginners, but also reliable.

Do not fall in love with cheap bright-colour guitars made by some Chinese or Mexican no-name companies. Their products are not durable and the tuning doesn’t last long.

Guitars for different music genres

Most electric guitars are versatile, and with the right tuning you can use them for playing any music genre you like. For example, with Epiphone Les Paul Tribute, you can play blues, jazz, reggae, folk, rock, country, soul, and even heavy metal. For beginners, this will be great because they can switch between genres to have a taste.

However, for professional musicians and for those who want to master a genre, I recommend purchasing a specialized guitar. In the table below, you will find features for the most popular genres.

GenreGuitar feature or example of the whole construction
MetalGuitars with metal strings and powerful sound, e.g. Stratocaster, brutal look
JazzGuitars with a hollow body and classic look
Classic BluesHollow or semi-hollow body, vintage look
Classic Rock, British Rock, and Low Gain BluesGuitars with a semi-hollow body and nickel strings
Hard Rock, Ballads, High Gain BluesGuitars with melodic sounds, e.g. Les Paul Guitars, e.g. Epiphone
Funk, Reggae, Modern JazzLightweight guitars like Stratocasters

Legend artists, by the way, do not always follow such recommendations. Let’s take one genre, for example, reggae:

  1. Bob Marley when he was in Wailers played Gibson Les Paul. Eric Rachmany (California reggae band Rebelution) also prefers this guitar.
  2. Al Anderson, the lead guitarist for Bob Marley, and Eric Clapton play reggae with Stratocaster.
  3. Jimmy Page and Keith Richards make wonderful reggae compositions with Telecaster.

Whatever guitar holds a genius the music that he creates will give you goose bumps. So, do not pay too much attention to the guitar and genre connection, better learn to tune and take extra lessons for more skillful playing.

How to choose an electric guitar for a player’s level and budget?

Beginners make a common mistake. They want to find the cheapest guitar for a start and then move on with a more featured and expensive instrument. This is not the ideal strategy, because models under $300 are not so easy to tune. Sometimes novices spend hours on tuning and struggle for the perfect sound.

If you are a pure beginner, chances are you think the cheapest guitar is the best option for you. You might think that the most basic set up and basic features will do, but honestly, it’s not exactly like that. The cheapest guitars (usually) are built from very cheap, low-quality materials and produce rather cr- khm- bad quality sound. Besides, they are rather tricky to tune and it takes ages to make it sounds decent. Bottom line, they ain’t gonna give you much.

For guitar newbies, it is better to choose mid-class guitars that cost $500-1,000. They are easier to tune and control, well-balanced, and they aren’t as basic, so don’t need many upgrades moving forward. From top pick list, the best guitar for beginners is Fender American Special Telecaster. The model is a bit pricey, but it has a solid advanced set up, surreal sonic power and it will stay with for years.

For professionals who need an endless supply of tones, I would recommend feature-loaded guitars like Ibanez Prestige AZ2204. The quality comes with a price tag, but the overall performance and durability are worth it.

And then, there are expensive axes. If you consider a $2000 guitar an expensive one of course (I don’t). These axes are usually made from the premium and fancy tonewoods, use hi-tech electronics, and most often hand-crafted. If you consider yourself a professional I bet you already have one of those, or saving up to get one.

Extra guitar costs

Novices often forget that for playing an electric guitar they need some hardware in addition to the musical instrument. The list includes a tuner; spare strings and picks, a stand, strap and hard-shell case. If you want to pick premium-quality supply, overall price for this list would be $500-1000.

Most guitars come with a soft gig bag, which gives minimum protection. For storage, you will need a hard-shell case, which can cost about $100-400 depending on materials and design. The only guitar from the list that comes with a hard-shell case is Epiphone Les Paul.

What to look for when choosing a guitar?

1. Guitar functionality

Strings

Every guitar from the top pick list is designed for 6 strings – classic set up. This number of strings offers you an adequate range of pitches. What you need to look out for is the strings material. We all know that strings break very easily. The good news is though, it’s the easiest part to replace! The strings can be super heavy or ultra-light, so I’d recommend trying a few of those to find which material will suit your style of playing best. Heavier strings are usually best for metal and rock, as they tend to be stronger. If you use a lot of pitching and upper-fret sonic attacks – maybe a lighter one? Try out and tell me.

Scale and Frets

The scale length defines the vibrating length of strings because a string vibrates only from nut and bridge saddle. Here are typical parameters for the top picks manufacturers.

BrandAverage scale length, inches
Fender25.5
PRS25
Epiphone24.75
Ibanez24.75

A shorter scale produces a warmer tone. It offers less tension, so you can bend the strings more easily. This is the right choice for small hands. The longer scale makes the tension tighter, so a string bends harder. The sounding is more powerful and deep.

If you are just starting, do not pay too much attention to the scale length. Usually, the overall quality and sound of your chosen guitar are more important. As for professionals, they have already tried different lengths and know which one is comfortable for them.

Frets are metal strings embedded along a guitar fretboard, which is also called fingerboard. Typically, electric guitars have 21-24 frets. The frets influence both playability and tone. When you press a string to fret, the sound becomes different. In simple words, you switch off the part of a string above a fret, and the vibration changes.

One thing you should be aware of here is fret buzz – a nightmare of every guitarist. Frets, obviously, experience a lot of pressure and doomed to wear down with the course of time. This causes the fret buzz. Poorly manufactures guitars are more prone to that, so if you feel the buzz immediately after the purchase – take if for a check-up right away.

Bridge

There are many types of bridges, and the range can confuse beginners. I want to explain the most common bridge types for an electric guitar:

  1. A hard-tail fixed bridge consists of a plate that is being screwed onto the body. It has six saddles for adjusting six strings. A fixed bridge is the best option for entry-level players because it is easy to manage and generally stays in tune. A hard-tail bridge you can find in Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters.
  2. A Tune-o-matic bridge is harder to maintain. In addition to saddles, it has a pair of posts on either side of the bridge. These posts can be lowered or raised. Tuning process becomes more precise and more complicated for novices. Tune-o-matic bridge has, for example, Epiphone Les Paul.
  3. A Tremolo bridge – slightly trickier here. In addition to the six saddles and posts, this bridge can be manipulated with a tremolo arm. The bridge place is screwed to the body, and the screws act as a pivotal point. The strings inside the guitar body counteract the string tension and can decrease or increase it when a player pull or push the bar. Tremolo is widely popular, for example, you can find this bridge in most of the Ibanez guitars.
  4. Floyd Rose – the best thing to happen to the guitar world. In short, the FR is a double-locking tremolo system invented by.. bingo! Floyd D. Rose. It’s similar to the classic Tremolo, but it allows you to lock the strings in place at two points – the bridge and the nut. The strings are inserted in the locking saddles and then fixed into place via the tightening bolts on the bridge. This system prevents strings from going out of tune and shifting out of the locks, which allows guitarists to do any kind of aggressive playing, without worrying for their axes. However, it is crazy hard to set up if you are a beginner. Most metal guitars have FR so if you are a beginner – metalhead and that’s the only genre you want to play, be careful.

Every musician has preferences when it comes to the bridge. If you want, you can re-install the bridge on your chosen guitar to combine the instrument with your favorite bridge.

2. Guitar body

Guitar models may vary, but the general principles of the assembly are the same no matter which guitar you choose. The body type of a guitar defines its construction and influences the sound. In electric guitars, there are three body types.

Solid body

A solid body is the most common type, which is a great choice if you want loud amplification, sustain and lots of audio effects. This design is ideal for metal, punk, and rock-n-roll music.

Solid-body guitars do not have a resonance chamber, so you have to play them through an amplifier and to use a speaker and electric pick-ups. The solid body ensures that an amp sound reproduces only the string vibration, without unwanted feedback or wolf tones.

The solid body guitars are made from a solid piece of wood, usually hardwood, which is why they are weighty and sturdy. For premium custom-built guitars, manufacturers use old hand-selected wood. For mass production, the wood dries in the storage for 3-6 months before being cut into shape. The solid body is covered with a hard polymer finish, like lacquer or polyester.

Example models: Fender Stratocaster, Epiphone Les Paul.

Semi-hollow body

This body type is more popular than the previous. The difference between them is the central block that helps to reduce feedback. However, sometimes they produce feedback when being played with the amp at a loud level.

In the solid guitars, all of the electronics are placed inside the body, and for repair, you need to open a panel on the back. In semi-hollow guitars, you can access the electronics with the F-shaped sound hole.

Hybrid models have a bright chime-like tone ideal for pop, folk-rock and country music. This guitar body type is appreciated by many popular artists of different genres, including B.B.King and Paul McCartney.

Example models: Godin 035700 5th Avenue Jazz Sunburst HG.

Hollow-body

The hollow-body electric guitars have much in common with the acoustics. They offer space inside for the resonance, but there is no sound hole like in the acoustics. Compared to solid-body guitars, hollow-body type use a different variety of pick-ups.

Electric guitars with a hollow body are often used for playing jazz because they produce warm and mid-deep sound with deep bass response. The most suitable amp types are mellow and low-volume.

Body Styles

There is a bunch of different body styles, which also come with certain electronics and hardware setups. Some are kind of legendary, not only because the brand and guitar series are big, but for their sound. The most popular ones are:

  • Stratocaster (Fender)– probably the most popular guitar in the world, played by Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. It has rounded bottom with two hornes on top. Freatboard is pretty thin, and neck is, traditionally, C-shaped. Strat usually has three single-coil pick ups, so it has thinner, crystal-clear sound it’s so popular for.
  • Telecaster (Fender) – this axe is a bit more vintage, and us usually associated with Indie and country. For some reason, it’s one of the least copied by the competitors. It has rounder body, with one horn. Sound is, usually, even thinner and twangier.
  • Les Paul (Gibson) – in two words, second most popular guitar in the world. The rock-n-roller of the list has been played by Slash and Jimmy Page. It has bit massive round bottom, thin middle, and one horn on top. Neck is usually wider and heavier. LP’s sound is notably thick and warm.
  • SG (Gibson) – the horny one. A little brother to the LP, has sharp edges, couple of horns and wicked outlook. Body is usually thinner, which contributes to the fast playing, making it a solid choice for hard rock and heavy metal. Double cutaway design allows easier access to higher frets.
  • Flying V (Gibson) – well this one screams rock and metal. A bunch of guitarists like Kirk Hammett, Lenny Kravitz and K.K. Downing played it making it an icon of hard-rock. Thin body resembles the arrowhead, playability if ultra-fast and with classic Floyd Rose and humbuckers it’s a pure metal beast.

Neck Types & Profiles

The neck can be mounted to a guitar body in three ways:

  1. Glued-in neck also called set neck. This type you can find in Epiphone Les Paul. The neck is well-balanced and stable. The repair or replacement of glued-in necks are difficult. But, they are very stable, which makes repair less likely to be needed.
  2. The bolt-on neck (like in Fender Stratocaster). The bolt-on neck is easy-to-replace, but it offers less sustain and overall resonance.
  3. The “neck through body” type, which sometimes can be found in solid body guitars.

Some musicians believe that a set neck is better than a bolt-on one. Others, including me, see no difference.

More important in my opinion is a neck profile, in other words – a shape:

  1. The most common and convenient shape is C, which is round and feels great in hands. Fender Stratocaster has a rather wide C-shape neck. If you have a small hand, choose a smaller diameter.
  2. V-shape has a stylish look, however, this is not the most comfortable choice for beginners.
  3. U-shape necks are typical for Fender guitars. This shape is friendly for a player and prevents wrist fatigue.

Manufacturers usually describe necks as “fat” or “regular thin;” however, there is no universal standard for these descriptions. In your local guitar shop, you may try at hand different guitar necks and then purchase online the model that you like the most.

3. Sound

Body tonewoods

The tonewood is probably the most important part of the guitar. Not only because any cracks will destroy the guitar, but because it has huge influence on the sound, no matter shape the body is. Woods are carefully selected based on their sound sustain and conductivity. Here are the most popular woods for electric guitars:

WoodFeaturesExample models
BasswoodConsiderably lightweight, offers warm sound with strong mids1. Ibanez JEM77P S6,
2. Ibanez RG550,
3. Fender Squier HSS
MahoganyMedium weight, warm sustained sound1. Ibanez JEMJRWH,
2. Yamaha Revstar RSP20CR,
3. Epiphone Les Paul Tribute,
4. Epiphone ELP ENCIAWGH3,
5. Epiphone G-400,
6. Schecter Hellraiser,
7. Godin 035700
MapleMedium weight, bright sound with long sustain1. Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster,
2. Fender Standard Stratocaster,
3. PRS MHHB2,
4. PRS SE Custom 24
AlderLightweight wood with a balanced tone.1. Ibanez Prestige AZ2204,
2. Fender American Special,
3. Fender American Special Telecaster,
4. Yamaha Pacifica PAC611HFM
AshMedium weight, balanced tone, open grainFender American Professional Telecaster
NatoMedium weight, light crisp soundYamaha RevStar RS420

Neck & Freatboard tonewoods

A guitar neck can be made from different sorts of wood.

WoodQualitiesExample models
MapleDense, strong, and hard. Produces bright sound with great sustain. Often comes with veneer lamination.1. Ibanez Prestige AZ2204,
2. Yamaha Pacifica PAC611HFM,
3. Schecter Hellraiser C-1,
4. Godin 035700,
5. All Fender, PRS, and Epiphone guitars from top picks.
MahoganyMedium-hard, durable. Often is used in combo with mahogany or maple. Produces warm, fat, and deep sound. Emphasizes the bass and midrange frequencies for a mellower guitar tone.1. Yamaha Revstar RSP20CR,
2. Yamaha RevStar RS420
WalnutMedium-hard, dense. Used rarely, sometimes in combo with maple, mostly in Ibanez guitars.1. Ibanez JEM77P S6,
2. Ibanez JEMJRWH,
3. Ibanez RG550

In my opinion, the best neck tonewood is maple, and this is also the most popular choice for middle-class and high-class guitars.

Fretboard tonewood

The fretboard is made from different wood types.

Fretboard WoodQualitiesExample models
RosewoodSmooth and very warm tone. Great for gentle playing.1. Ibanez JEMJRWH,
2. Fender American Special,
3. Fender Squirer HSS,
4. Yamaha Revstar RSP20CR,
5. Yamaha Pacifica,
6. Yamaha RevStar RS420,
7. PRS SE Custom 24,
8. Epiphone ELP,
9. ENCIAWGH3,
10. Schecter Hellraiser C-1,
11. Godin 035700.
MapleBright sound with great sustain. Best for fast and dense playing.1. Ibanez JEM77P S6,
2. Ibanez RG550,
3. Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster,
4. Fender Standard Stratocaster,
5. Fender American Special Telecaster,
6. Fender American Professional Telecaster.
Pau Ferro (also known as Morado)Sounds brighter than rosewood and warmer than ebony.1. Epiphone Les Paul Tribute,
2. Epiphone G-400.
EbonyRich sound. Ideal for strong playing.PRS MHHB2
JatobaCrisp and bright sound, melodic tone.Ibanez Prestige AZ2204

Pickups

Pickups have the greatest effect on the way that a guitar sounds because they sense the vibration and convert it into an electrical signal. Pickups produce a magnetic flux field which magnetizes strings. When guitars is amped and the strings are plucked, they start to vibrate. Vibration is transmitted through pickups have a massive influence on the sound.

Every part of the pickup can influence the sounds: strength of magnets, size of coil or wire, materials etc. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, there are only two main types of electric pickups: single-coils and humbuckers. Here is the difference between the two:

Pick-up typeMusical genreFamous artistsExample models
Single-coil is composed of a single magnet with wire around it. The string vibration is captured by a magnetic field. This type gives a guitar crisp and bright sounding, but sometimes it adds humming.Pop, rock, countryMarle Travis, John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bruce Springsteen, Buck Owens, Johnny Paycheck.Telecasters, Stratocasters made by Fender
Humbucker pickups (two connected single-coils) were invented to eliminate the hum. Compared to single-coil, this type reproduces more powerful, louder, and thicker tone.Jazz, alternative and hard rock, heavy metalJimmy Hendrix, John Lennon, Joe Perry, B.B.King, Duane Allman, Slash, Joe Pass, Jimmy Page, Chet Atkins, Wes Montgomery.Epiphone Les Paul

Another important distinction is the active VS passive. Both single-coils and humbuckers can be either passive or active. They share rather similar construction and the main difference is in the circuitry.

Active pickups use an active preamp to boost the signal, which results in reduced noise, stronger output and no high-frequency loss. While passive pickup is sort of a classic, widely-used version, which is equipped with wire coil + magnet + pole design. Without said circuitry, there is a higher chance of noise, and less dynamic response and string vibration. Yet, passive pickups produce warmer, vintage sound.

Pickups configuration

Single pickups are good, two pickups are better, three – well you got the gem – are excellent. Sure, it gets more complicated to operate the guitar, but it sure creates the better sound and gives you more versatility to the sound. Thus, there are a bunch of different pickups configurations, which basically means a combination of different pickups on the guitar. Pickups can be located at three positions: bridge, center and neck.

Pickup configuration has special abbreviations, like S-S, H-S-S. I know, weird, but don’t worry, it’s easier than the FBI or CIA.

There are two basic rules here:

  • “S” stands for “single-coil” and “H” – humbucker;
  • You need to read from bridge position to the neck.

Thus, when you see H-S-H configuration, it means that you have two humbuckers at the bridge and in the neck, and one single-coil in the center. This, by the way, is a popular Strat configuration.

Technically, the more pickups you have the more versatility you get. But it’s not necessary to use all of the pickups at once it’s up to you and your level or style of play. And the best news – all pickups can be replaced. So if you need a more powerful humbucker – go for it, see what you sound you going to get!

4. Quality

Assembly

When it comes to the guitar assembly, there are two main parts we are talking about: raw materials (wood) and design (hardware and electronics).

Raw materials refer to the tonewoods I discussed earlier. Every part is built separately, but basically, the wood needs to be cut-sawed to proper sizes and weight. The body is then glued with the top, rabbeted (polished with sandpaper), smoothed and dried out. The fingerboards, after re-sizing, are molded and have the fret slots cut and then frets are added to the inlay. After it can be glued to the neck. The neck can either be a single or multiple pieced (read the difference earlier). Finally, it all assembled together and gets the final touches like coloring and polishing.
And here the design comes it, where all the hardware and electronics (bridges, pickups, nuts, tuners, strings, switches, cords) are installed.

The most important part here is how solid is the quality control. American brands tend to have strict rules and restrictions at the facility, which means that every step is guarded and controlled like it’s the Queen Elizabeth’s crown in the tower. Asian or Mexican-made guitars are a bit softer (or reckless) on it here. Which means, that axes might have some serious flaws in construction like shifty necks, poor frets polishing, loose bridges, etc.

Parts

Guitar parts are everything that is not wood and get added at the design stage. I mentioned all the most important and complicated ones earlier: bridges and pickups, but there is way more than that. Pay careful attention to these ones:

  • Head stock – is on top of the grid and hold the tuners. Without it, the guitar is useless, as strings get spun around the pegheads. It must be set up tight and hold the tuners properly.
  • Tuning machines or simply tuners – they are mounted on the headstock of a guitar to hold strings in place and prevent them from getting loose. Tuners allow you to adjust string tension while tuning the instrument.
  • Frets – these are those metal strips on the fretboard. Make sure they are polished because you don’t want to rip your fingers.
  • Nut – it’s directly below the headstock and is crucial for the string placement. Their one and only purpose are to keep the strings in place.
  • Saddle – is the nut’s counterpart. It also holds the strings at the bottom of the guitar. This extra strings support ensures the sound is strong and crisp.

Conclusion

So there you have it. I tried to be as detailed as possible, so do I hope it’s going to help you on your journey on a stairway to guitar heaven. But bear in mind, knowing about guitars, brands and parts it’s sometimes not enough – you always need to try them out before buying. Always! So chose a handful of those in the list and go to a guitar store to actually play it.

If I were a complete beginner, I’d definitely go for the American Special Telecaster or Stratocaster. Especially great, if you prefer jazz tunes and clear sound. The more powerful option is good old Ibanez with JEM77P S6 model. Metalheads – I’d say PRS MHHB2 will be a safe option, or the more powerful and complicated Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Floyd Rose.

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By Max Hudson
    about author

    My name is Max Hudson, born and raised in Chicago. I'm 30 years old and like many other people, I discovered guitar in my teens and have never looked back since. It has quickly evolved into a passion and has given me a creative outlet, something to redirect my time and unlimited energy toward. I want this website to be a handbook for players of all skill levels. It can become a starting point for your new hobby, where you can find the right instrument, get tips for playing effortlessly or anything else music related.

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