How many young men and women decided they wanted to pick up a guitar after seeing the likes of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Slash, or Dave Grohl? The obvious choice for these budding musicians is to emulate their idol and play the instrument they did.
Many of the larger brands have really made this dream affordable for a beginner guitarist. The quality of "axe" you can get for under about $750 is astonishing, and many great guitars for beginners can be found for under $500.
To accommodate the wide variety of playing styles, tastes, and price ranges we've broken up this article into 5 sections: Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Pauls, SG's, and Semi-Hollow. We've also tried to point our links to many different color schemes, so if you like one guitar but the color/style of another, be sure to look around. You might be able to find the perfect combination.
Lastly, since so many are on a tight budget, or simply don't want to spend too much on their first instrument, we've broken each category down into prices, low to high.
After finishing this article you should be able to pick the best electric guitar for you or the beginner in your life. If you decide you prefer Acoustic Guitars instead, check out StringVibe's article on the best Acoustic Guitars under $500, found HERE.
Possibly the most recognized instrument in all of music. The distinctive shape of the body of the guitar lends itself to the musician being able to pick the higher frets.
While the original, and only true Stratocaster is made by Fender, many other manufacturers have adopted this style. One of the defining characteristics of the original 'Strats' was the three single coil pickups, although many rock and metal players have switched these out for humbucking pickups.
This may be the most versatile type of Electric guitar as well, being used by musicians everywhere from Country to Heavy Metal. Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton both played Stratocasters.
Stratocaster - LTD
Squier Classic Vibe
S Series Electric
Squire guitars are Fender's well known 'bargin' brand, and by all signs, this guitar is truly a bargain. The guitar is the cheapest on our list at $249 but you wouldn't know it by the sound.
Possibly the most impressive thing about the build of this guitar are the 3 alnico magnet single coil pickups which are combined with the synchronous
Yes, there are better guitars on this list, but for the price, it is hard to beat a traditional Strat backed by none other than Fender. You can check out more Amazon reviews HERE.
Another hit for under $300, the Pacifica Pac112V is the only Yamaha model that made our list. This guitar combines a solid Alder body, Rosewood fretboard, and pro-level hardware.
A huge benefit of this setup is the 2 single coil alnico pickups and the humbucker bridge. This combination paired with the 5-way switch makes this guitar extremely versatile. There is an option to get the dual humbuckers if you prefer that setup, though.
This guitar is sold as part of a bundle that includes a guitar bag, stand, amp cord, picks, strings, string winder, and guitar DvD. While most of these components won't be anything special it's a nice touch for a guitarist who needs everything.
According to a review done by MusicRadar "If you can't stretch to the Fender Classic Series '50s Stratocaster, this is definitely the guitar to buy." Very glowing recommendation from a trusted source.
True to its heritage this guitar is equipped with Alinco III single coils with a traditional setup for the volume and tone knobs. It is truly hard to beat the vintage sound and tone that the Squier Classic Vibe provides
Ibanez guitars have made quite a niche for themselves. Although they aren't the originators of any of the categories we've chosen, they have a legendary place none the less. One of the calling cards of the Ibanez guitar line is the design of the neck, lending itself to a thin, fast neck. The Wizard III that comes on the S520 is no exception, and it's the longest neck, with a full 24 frets.
The Ibanez S520 S Series is the first guitar we've listed under the Stratocaster category that has a solid Mahogany body that gives the guitar a great tonal range.
The S520 also boasts Quantum humbucker pickups on both the neck and bridge. Master volume and tone along with 5-way selector switch round out the controls.
This is where the legendary line of Fender Stratocasters truly start. Yes, Squire is made by Fender, but it's simply not the same.
Fender has done a remarkable job keeping true to the heritage of the Strat with these models, while adding touches like the "C" shaped neck to bring the guitar into the present day.
It's 3 standard single-coil Strat pickups combine with the vintage style tremolo arm and 5 position pickup switch deliver the legendary Fender tone and the classic looks and feel make this guitar a pleasure to play, especially for $599.
In 1950 the first Fender Telecaster Electric Guitar was released, and guitar making would never be the same. Fender went against everything that was currently being done and produced a cost friendly electric guitar at a time when they were anything but.
Telecasters have a distinctive 'single-horn' design which gives them a balance and feel many prefer over the shape of the Stratocasters we discussed previously. It was known to be made out of one solid piece of local wood (Ash most commonly) to replace the Mahogany that was common in the semi-hollow body guitars of the day.
Due to the traditional setup of an Ash body with a Maple neck the "Tele" gave the instrument a crisp, thin, and biting sound that is a defining characteristic even today.
Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, and Bruce Springsteen are all notable Telecaster players, but many greats in the blues, bluegrass, and country genres have favored the "Tele".
Squier Classic Vibe
ESP - TE200
Fender Modern Player
This guitar is the 'Tele' version of the first guitar to grace our list and does not disappoint. I found very, very few negative reviews on this guitar, and many raving ones like this one found at WoodyTone.
This guitar comes with a traditional bridge system and Alnico 5 pickups that are able to replicate the "twangy" sound that all good Telecasters are known for.
ESP guitar company gained it's popularity in the 80's by endorsing some major guitar bands in the thrash metal genre. If you look back at videos of Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Megadeath there is a good chance you'll see an ESP being played.
The TE 200, the 202, and the 212 are identical guitars with the exception of the bridge pickup. The 200 sports the dual single coil, the 202 the traditional single coil, and the 212 the Humbucker. Each has the same Telecaster based body shape and style.
This is also the only guitar on the list that comes with a kit, perfect for a young or beginning guitarist who needs everything. Granted, other than the guitar all the other pieces are probably nothing special, but it gives you a chance to upgrade what you need, when you need it, rather than buying everything at once!
This is a Telecaster in size, shape, and feel... but with some nice perks that really make it versatile and modern.
The traditional single-coil pickup at the neck is combined with a Stratocaster middle pickup and humbucker bridge pickup. The humbucker pickup has a mini toggle coil split switch with it and there is also a five-way pickup switch giving you the option to play with the traditional Tele twang or smooth out the sound for a more Stratocaster vibe.
This guitar, like many on this list, truly outperforms its price tag. If you want a traditional Tele you may prefer the Fender Standard Telecaster, which is $100 more expensive but also a solid instrument with a more traditional setup.
If you are a fan of classic rock then chances are you would recognize the solid tone and smooth sound generated by the Gibson Les Paul.
The Les Paul Standard first came out in 1958 and its patented Humbucker pickups, By using a dual coil system the pickup was able to filter out a lot of the hum that was associated with single coil pickups. This technology helped give the units their name, they helped "Buck the Hum" Another byproduct of the second coil was that it significantly increased the output of each pickup.
Another notable feature of the Les Paul is its weight. Not only is it thicker than most other electric guitars it's made with solid Mahogany, wrapped with a Maple cover. This combination truly gives the guitar it's feel and lends itself to the sustain.
Historically this has not been a common guitar for beginners, mostly due to price. That has changed slightly in the last few decades as other brands have started to copy the Les Paul style, as well as Gibson producing a cost-minded model under their subsidiary, Epiphone.
Epiphone Les Paul
100 - Electric Guitar
Epiphone Les Paul
STANDARD - Electric Guitar
Gibson Les Paul
Studio - Faded 2016
Don't let the brand name or the price fool you. This is a Les Paul.
The body and neck of the Epiphone LP - 100 is the traditional solid Mahogany with a Maple top sheet. Classic Epiphone humbucker pickups sit in the bridge and neck position with individual tone and volume controls. Lastly, the neck is bolt-on and completed with a rosewood fretboard and chrome tuners.
The main difference you'll find from this guitar to a more traditional Les Paul is the thickness of the body. The LP - 100 has a very slim, lightweight profile, making it easier to handle and practice with for long periods of time.
For the price, the reviews all rave about this guitar. For the beginner in your life, this may just be the place to start.
Similarly to the LP - 100, the Standard carries a very traditional Les Paul setup as far as make and components. The Standard, however, does not have the slimmer profile, giving it even more of an old-school Les Paul feel.
MusicFutures review about this guitar ended like this:
Gibson has done a great job providing young musicians with the ability to play the Les Paul style on a budget with the guitars that are branded Epiphone, but they just aren't Gibsons. Sometimes, with some guitars, the name on the headstock matters.
There are always some great debates on Epiphone vs Gibson. The Gibson is at $799 the most expensive guitar on this list so you need to decide if it's worth the money to you.... to help you out, check out these resources.
The Gibson SG started off as a variation of the Les Paul, but after being given no design input Les asked that his name be removed and Gibson complied. Thus, the SG (Solid Guitar) was born.
The SG shares most of the electronic setup of the Les Paul, including the dual Humbucker pickups, although the SG is described as having more of a thin, biting sound.
The body of the SG is truly where it is a different beast than the Les Paul. It is much thinner with and cut away at the neck make this guitar much lighter. It also doesn't attach to the neck until the 22nd fret, giving it an extraordinarily long, somewhat unbalanced feel.
Guitar players like Frank Zappa and Angus Young of AC/DC are notable SG players.
Epiphone G - 400
Pro Electric Guitar
Double Jet Electric Guitar
It is nice to see Gibson (Epiphone) trying to go back to the roots of some of its most legendary guitars and give even beginners the chance to shred like their idols. This guitar has the exact dimensions and is built the same way as the classic 60's SGs.
The electronics is where you really see today's technology shine, especially in the Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO 4-wire humbuckers in both bridge and neck positions. Both also come with a coil tapping system to really add versatility.
Personally, we dig the cherry finish as well, but if it's not your thing we understand. The original G -400 came with more classic wood grain, and if you'd like a slightly cheaper model the G - 310 may be right up your ally. If you want to know more about the differences check out this comparison.
This may be the most original, odd guitar on this list. The Gretsch G5445T is not technically an SG, but the size, shape, and tone of the guitar really remind me of the AC/DC "crunch" style that was produced by Gibson SG's.
This guitar also stands out on the list because of the Bigsby vibrato arm, better known as a whammy bar. This particular model is a fixed position unit, meaning once it's mounting in place it stays. That being said, it is extremely easy to use and the pressure needed to get the vibrato can be adjusted quite a bit.
Rich Menga did a very interesting review on the Gretsch, especially since he'd never played one before! I'd highly recommend you check it out if this guitar peaks your interest!
Often confused with an Acoustic-electric guitar, the two are not the same. The acoustic-electric is an acoustic guitar that has been modified with pickups, either from the manufacturer or owner. The Semi-Hollow (also known as a Semi-Acoustic), on the other hand, has both a soundbox and at least one pickup.
These are guitars are popular for several reasons. Due to the cavity in the instrument, they are generally lighter than a full electric guitar but when unplugged they are quieter than an acoustic. This makes them great practice guitars when noise concerns are present.
Several of the Beetles and B.B. King are known to have played the Semi-Acoustic guitar quite regularly.
Epiphone DOT ES
Epiphone ES - 399
It's fairly surprising that this is the first Ibanez to make this list. They are not known to make a lot of Fender or Gibson knockoffs, which is why, but this list wouldn't be complete without mentioning them.
The body of this guitar is made of a laminated Sapele wood and Mahogany neck. The neck is connected at the 17th fret giving you great access to the higher frets. Single volume and tone controls are mounted on either side of a three-way switch, giving the guitar a simple, elegant look.
Check out the video below the Epiphone Dot article, it compares that guitar with the Ibanez AS53TRF side by side to compare the sound and tone differences!
The "Dot" is named due to the simple "Dot" fingerboard inlays that adorn the neck of this guitar. Modelled after the legendary ES - 335 this guitar brings a classic sound at an affordable price.
Like all Epiphone guitars, this unit sports dual Alnico Humbuckers, chrome tuners, and an all metal three-way switch.
GuitarAdventures had a glowing review of the guitar as well, stating:
Also, as promised, here is the side by side comparison of the "Dot" and the Ibanez AS53
One of the few complaints the original ES - 335 had was that it was too big, too bulky, too heavy to play on stage in long shows. The ES - 339 is the remedy for this, with smaller dimensions than the ES - 335 without sacrificing the sound associated with the ES series.
Not sure if the ES -335 is better for you than the ES-339? Check out this blog post from RedDogMusic's Blog that compares to two.
What is your preferred "axe"? Some of the most famous guitars in history are now offered in affordable models making them many of the best electric guitars for beginners available.
If you have any