5 best electric guitars for beginners 2019

with an Electric Guitar Buyer's Guide

Personal favorite

Features

Mahogany Body
Hum-bucking Pickups

Les Paul cool factor

This guitar can pretty much handle whatever you want to throw it’s way. The classic Les Paul body style gives you both comfort and cool! The mahogany gives you a warm tone and sustain. The 700t humbuckers balance the frequencies beautifully. Whether you want to rock, wallow in some blues or throw a little funk; the Epiphone Les Paul has it all. Balance that with the price tag and you got yourself a good time!

Personal Favorite: Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Best Cheap Electric Guitar: Squire Bullet
Best Beginner Electric Guitar for Metal: Ibanez GRX70QA
Best Beginner Jazz Guitar: Ibanez AS53
Best Electric Guitar Starter Kit: Yamaha Gig-maker

Your first Electric guitar

Researching any new product can be a bit overwhelming when you first start looking into it. Buying an electric starter guitar is no different, there is a lot to take in, new terminology to learn, a whole new world to explore.

In the following article, we will guide you through everything you need to know to confidently pick out a quality entry level electric guitar. We have also supplied a checklist of items that will help you find the perfect guitar for you. At the bottom of the page, you will find 5 recommended guitars in a few different categories that we think would be great for any new player.

Electric Guitar Buyer's Guide

Why choose an electric guitar to start?

You may be wondering if it is better to learn on an electric or an acoustic guitar. Both types of guitar have pros and cons for the beginner, but I don’t think either one greatly outweighs the other in respects to the learning process. Your decision should be based on which guitar best fulfills your needs.

Here are a few things to consider before making a decision.

What type of music do you want to play?

If you are primarily wanting to play rock and/or metal, then electric is the way to go for sure. An electric guitar is also great for Surf, Funk, Jazz, Country, and Blues.

Do you need to be able to practice quietly?

You may wonder “does an electric guitar need to be plugged in?”  The answer is no,

it plays just the same, only the strings are not amplified.  This is a big pro to learning on an electric guitar because of how quiet it is when not being powered.  It makes it easier to practice without bothering others around you. You can also plug a set of headphones into your amp and get the full sound without disturbing anybody else. Something that can’t be done with acoustic guitars.

If you live in close quarters or have young children you may wake up when practicing, an electric guitar might be a good choice.

Do you want to play with a band?

A huge pro for the electric guitar is its ability to get loud! The volume of your guitar will be limited by the size of your amp, but if you want to jam with a drummer and still be heard, an electric guitar is a good choice.

A few more pros

Another benefit of an electric is that the strings are generally thinner so they are easier to push down. This is great for a beginner because you will not have as much pain in your fingers before you develop calluses.

Electrics can also be good for players with smaller hands or shorter arms. The necks (more on this below) of electric guitars tend to be thinner and more narrow than acoustics. This makes it easier to reach all the strings when playing more difficult chord shapes. The bodies of electric guitars are also thinner, putting the guitar much closer to the body, again making it easier to reach all the strings comfortably.

If you are still not sure if electric guitar is the right guitar for you, check out some of the benefits of an acoustic guitar in my 5 Best Acoustic Guitars for Beginners Article.

Time to choose…

Now that you have made your decision to go electric, let’s do a deep dive and figure out what to look for and how to choose the right beginner electric guitar for you.

In this article, we break down the anatomy of the electric guitar and discuss what’s important about each part.

Knowing some details about these parts will make finding the right electric guitar a breeze. We hope when you are finished here, you can choose an entry-level electric guitar with confidence and get to rockin’.

The headstock is the furthest piece from the player. Each guitar brand has its own unique shape for a headstock, after you have been playing for a while you will begin to recognize them.

The head is where the strings anchor to the tuning machines (or tuners). These machines are used to change the pitch of the strings and keep the guitar in tune. On a quality instrument, they will be easy to turn, have no grinding, and not have any play in them.

PRO TIP: There's not a ton to focus on with the headstock. Particularly when you are buying an entry-level electric guitar. The quality of tuning machines will be dependent on your budget. This is the reason you really can’t get a playable guitar for less than $100

Head Checklist
  • The knobs are easy to turn
  • Knobs don't grind
Neck Checklist
  • Comfort. If it doesn't feel good, chances are you won't be happy
  • You should be able to slide your hand easily around the neck while accessing all 6 strings
  • Frets are not be sticking out of the side of neck

The neck is the long piece of wood that connects the body to the headstock. On top of the neck, you will see a different color of wood (called the fingerboard) with little metal bars (called frets) and sometimes different shaped fret markers (called inlays). These parts together make up the fretboard. The fretboard is where the player presses down on the strings to change the pitch.

Fingerboards come in different types of wood, the most popular is rosewood. As a beginner player you most likely not be able to tell any difference between one type of wood and another, so don’t get too caught up in the wood type.

Frets should not be hanging out of the neck, they should be smooth and shiny. You should be able to run your hand up and down the neck without getting scratched up.

Inlays are more of an aesthetic choice, get what you think looks good.

PRO TIP: The length of the neck (called the scale length) will have a determining factor on tone as well as comfort. Due to the tension on the strings, shorter scale lengths are typically easier to play as well as have a warmer tone. (good)

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Interests

The body is what everything is connected to, it gives the guitar its character. Bodies come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and types of wood. You might not think it would make that big of a difference but the body is also a major source of tone for the guitar.

The body of an electric guitar is substantially smaller than an acoustic, and on most electric guitars is solid. This is due to the way electric guitars work to produce sound (more on that later).

As a beginner, when choosing a body type, you will mostly be looking at the way the guitar looks. Pick something that you think looks cool, and if you have the opportunity to hold the guitar, something that feels comfortable to hold. Below are a few things to consider as you narrow your options.

Body Styles & Characteristics:

Solid Body

This body style is the one everybody is familiar with. Picture an electric guitar in your head and chances are that it is a solid body! The solid body can be heard in most popular music styles.

Solid bodies have fewer problems with feedback, are more rugged, and are prime for dirty, loud, and grungy distortion sounds.

Solid bodies are most commonly used in rock, pop, heavy metal and country.

Semi-Hollow Body

Semi-hollow guitars tend to be the guitar of choice for jazz and blues musicians. They are considered “semi-hollow” because they have a solid wooden block running through the middle of a hollow body. The semi-hollow body allows for acoustic-like resonance without feedback problems when plugged into an amp. They also provide a warm, deep tone characteristic of jazz music.

Tone Wood

The type of wood used in the construction of your guitar (tonewood) will determine the overall tone of your guitar. This works based on the density and weight of the wood and its effect on the resonance of the strings. For the beginner electric guitar, you’re going to be dealing with lighter and inexpensive wood types.

Body Checklist
  • Consider the style of music the player is interested in (Solid body for rock, country, and metal; Semi-Hollow for jazz and blues)
  • The guitar comfortable in the player's hands
  • The guitar looks good

As you look at the guitar you’ll see coils of wire and magnets that are mounted in the body, under the strings. These are the pickups.

Pickups are essential for the production of amplified sound. Their presence creates a magnetic field between the strings and the guitar.

Great! So…

how do pickups work?

Well. . .

  • When the player picks a string, the string(s) vibrates at the frequency of the note(s) being fretted(pressed down).
  • This vibration disrupts the magnetic field created by the pickup.
  • The field disruption is translated into an electrical current by what is called the preamp (the knobs). Here the current gets its first tone and volume adjustments.
  • The current is then transmitted through the cable via the plug at the bottom of the guitar (called the output jack) and boosted by the amplifier, converting the electrical signal into speaker movement, producing the sound we know and love!

Types of Pickups:

Pickups come in a few different types and a ton of configurations. Here are the basics:

Single Coil

True to their name, single coil pickups consist of a single coil, or winding, of wire around a set of magnets. These were the original pickup design and are still very popular, particularly among blues and country artists. Single Coils are easy to recognize, they are about the thickness of a finger.

It’s important to note that they have a tendency to pick up unwanted signals, so they can be a bit noisy.

Here are some artists that get their sound with single coil pickups:

  • Jimi Hendrix
  • John Mayer
  • Dick Dale – King of the Surf Guitar
  • John Frusciante – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Tom Morello – Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave/Prophets of Rage

Humbuckers

Humbucking pickups are the rock & roll standard. These are double coiled pickups and do exactly what their namesake suggests, they stop the hum of other frequencies picked up by their single coiled siblings. This is done by adding a second coil with its magnets in opposite polarity.

Due to their ability to cut those unwanted frequencies, humbuckers are the chosen pickup when wanting loud and heavy driven music. They have a naturally aggressive tone and, because they have twice the windings, shine at higher volumes.

Notable artists who rock Humbuckers are:

  • John Petrucci – Dream Theater
  • Zakk Wylde – Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society
  • Justin Derrico – P!nk
  • John McLaughlin – Jazz guitar legend
  • B.B. King

Active vs Passive Pickups

Passive pickups send a signal directly from the string to the amp. This is considered by many to produce the most natural and organic tone. Passive pickups can become a bit noisy, particularly at higher volumes, but allow for more control over fine-tuning your sound.

An active pickup uses additional power (normally a 9V battery) to boost the signal from your guitar. This lets you push the limits of your amplifier while keeping your tone consistent at high volumes. One con of active pickups is a loss of power if you forget to change the battery and it dies, Not a great thing to happen mid solo at a big show!

Active pickups are a favorite of many heavy metal and hard rock musicians.

PRO TIP: If you're not sure what kind of pickups the guitar has, look at the back of the body (the side resting against you as you hold it). Most guitars with active pickups will have an access port for a battery on the back.

Toward the lower end of the body, you’ll notice some knobs and a switch. These controls help give the final shape to what has already been produced by the guitar and pickups.

Control Knobs

The exact function of the knobs will be dependent on how the guitar is wired. There is always a volume control to control the output level of the guitar, and usually, one or more tone knobs used to make the tone brighter or darker.

Selector Switch

This will also differ slightly depending on the pickups that are in the guitar. The function of the selector switch is to allow the player to activate different pickups on the guitar. Selector switches can come in 3-way or 5-way. Generally, the selector switch will “point” to the pickup it is selecting.  In the up position will be the highest pickup, and each click down will move through the pickups, from the neck to the bridge.

Controls Checklist
  • The sound change when turning the knobs
  • The knobs are smooth and don’t grind
  • All the switches work and cause a tonal change
  • There is minimal static with the switch
  • There is no grinding or resistance in the switch
  • The switch feels sturdy

The bridge is the piece of metal on the end of the body that the strings anchor to. It is responsible for transferring vibration from the strings to the body of the guitar creating sustain. You will see two major types of bridge.

Fixed Bridge

A fixed bridge is the simplest style for guitars. It is bolted straight onto the body and does not move. A fixed bridge it the easiest to maintain, and has a better chance of staying in tune on an entry level guitar.

Floating Bridge

The floating bridge is not attached directly to the body. Instead, it is attached to a set of screws that act as pivot points. You then can use the included tremolo bar (or whammy bar) to change the pitch of the guitar by loosening or tightening the string tension.

PRO TIP: Floating bridges on entry level guitars are notorious for making your guitar go out of tune.  If the guitar you chose has a floating bridge and you find it often going out of tune, check the spring tension under the back panel and make sure the springs are nice and tight.

Yes, buying an electric guitar does require a little extra initial investment. Since it will not project sound under its own power, you will need to purchase an amp and a cable to get the full effect. This sounds like a deal breaker, but there are a lot of bundle packages available. Also, bear in mind, an amp not only projects sound but allows you to customize your tone and the sound of your guitar. So unlike its acoustic counterpart, the electric guitar gives you more immediate options.

PRO TIP: Price increases with electronic and hardware quality. Try not to look at all you are missing out on. Look at guitars only in your budget and pick the one that makes you happy from that group.

So there it is. I know it seems like a lot. But everything we discussed here can be observed in a matter of a few minutes. Plus the entire time checking off your list, you get to play new guitars!

Below you’ll find a few guitars to check out that might help you on the journey to your dream shred box. They all managed to check off a lot of the boxes we discussed and are all good choices for your first electric guitar.

Don’t forget to check out some accessories for your new guitar like a tuner, a strap, or a Stand.

Pro tip: If your guitar does have a buzz, don’t freak out right away, it could mean your technique is bad, or that the truss rod needs adjustment.  This is a simple process that almost anyone can do, and even more expensive guitars sometimes need this out of the box.

Personal Favorite

Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Pros

  • Mahogany Body
  • Hum-bucking Pickups
  • Les Paul cool factor

Cons

  • Some issues with tuning have been reported

You didn’t think you’d get through an electric guitar article without reading about Les Paul, did you? This guitar can pretty much handle whatever you want to throw at it. The classic Les Paul body style gives you both comfort and cool! The mahogany gives you a warm tone and sustain. The 700t humbuckers balance the frequencies beautifully. Whether you want to rock, wallow in some blues or throw a little funk; the Epiphone Les Paul has it all. Balance that with the price tag and you got yourself a good time!

Best Cheap Beginner Electric Guitar

Squire by Fender Bullet Strat

Pros

  • C Shaped Neck
  • Fixed Bridge
  • Shorter neck

Cons

  • Cheap components

The Squier by Fender always seems to make my lists when I discuss first electric guitars with students. I learned to play on a Squier, and for good reason! The smooth playability of the neck and classic Stratocaster look gives this guitar an immediate appeal.

The Bullet Strat is not a junior guitar but has a shorter neck than full-size guitar, this will make the strings a little bit easier to press down and make the reach a bit easier. The Bullet comes with 3 single coil pickups which give you a variety of tone to help learn different styles of music. The tone is modified by a 5-way selector switch, 2 tone controls, 1 volume knob and a partridge in a…nevermind.

Best Beginner Electric Guitar For Metal

Ibanez GRX70QA

Pros

  • High output pickups are great for rock/metal soloing and rhythm playing
  • Beautiful quilted maple aesthetic
  • Slim neck for smaller hands

Cons

  • No case included

If you’re buying a guitar for the metal head in the family you may want to check out the Ibanez GRX70QA. This guitar is packed with an Infinity RS, single coil pickup sandwiched by 2 Infinity R humbuckers. The 5-way selector will allow you to pick the perfect sound you are looking for.

It’s topped with quilted maple art grain, which gives the GRX a beautiful water effect. This guitar looks and plays beautifully.

Best Beginning Jazz Guitar

Ibanez AS53

Pros

  • Great Jazz tone for the price
  • Infinity R Pickups allow for a variety

Cons

  • A semi-hollow body can give feedback issues in high volume play
  • Sound optimization may require a little more learning curve

This is a tough one to pick out. Jazz is notoriously a more difficult technique and most don’t begin learning this style Right away. But we came through and we can say one thing.

This is some great tone for a great price. Ibanez gives another example of how versatile their Infinity R humbucker is. Yes, that is the same pickup that is in our metal guitar choice. They compliment this guitar so well and give the semi-hollow body a great, warm jazzy tone.

Best electric guitar starter kit

Yamaha Gigmaker Electric Guitar Package

Pros

  • All inclusive bundle
  • Great choice for budget
  • Great practice guitar option

Cons

  • Amp could use tone improvement
  • Low-Quality gig bag, No padding

If you’ve been to a guitar store, chances are you’ve seen this package setup somewhere. Well, that’s because it’s a great bundle! This deal comes with a Yamaha Pac012 guitar, 15-watt Amp, Picks, Strap, Strings, and a tuner. They even throw in a quick start DVD to get you playing immediately. This is everything you will need all in one package.

Final Thoughts

Finding the best beginner electric guitar comes with a bit of a learning curve. But remember to start at the head and work through the entire guitar. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can determine if the guitar in your hands was made for you!

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Article by:

Cody Walker

Cody Walker

Cody is a musician and content creator. He is a member of 3 national touring bands and is the owner of Soul Syphon Media, which assists musical artists and content creators across the U.S.

And

Mike Levitsky

Mike Levitsky

Mike is a Husband, Father, Pastor, and Musician. He is the owner, contributor, and editor of Drumsandguitar.com.

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