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.
In this article, we’ve got a ton of recommendations for you, so if you know what type of electric guitar you’re looking for you can use the quick navigation links below to get you to that section of the article!
Best Electric Guitar for Beginners – How to Choose?
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.
The Best Stratocaster for Beginners
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.
Squier Standard Stratocaster Beginner Bundle
[amazon box = B09H9BK5PH]
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 is the 3 alnico magnet single-coil pickups which are combined with the synchronous twin-pivot tremolo bridge that produces plenty of pickups.
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 also have the luxury of a beginner gear bundle that includes an amp, strap, tuner, picks, and carry case. This setup has everything you need to start playing the electric guitar!
Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012
[amazon box = B0002GZWRI]
Another hit for under $300, the Pacifica Pac012 is the only Yamaha model that made our list. This guitar combines a solid Alder body, Rosewood fretboard, and pro-level hardware. The optional amp package is another nice feature of this instrument.
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.
Yamaha has some amazing instruments in its collection, many of which are far too expensive to be put on this list. We felt it was a crime to completely leave them off though, and you could do much worse than this for your first electric guitar!
Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster
[amazon box = B07T6GJ8MK]
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.” A very glowing recommendation from a trusted source. I’ll back that review up as well, a bandmate of mind played this guitar on occasion. It was his first electric guitar and he never left home without it, even if it became just a backup later in his playing days!
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 S521 S Series Electric Guitar
[amazon box = B071HT85NV]
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 nonetheless. 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 S521 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 a 5-way selector switch round out the controls.
Fender Player Stratocaster
[amazon box = B07CTYPNL3]
This is where the legendary line of Fender Stratocasters truly starts. 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.
Its 3 standard single-coil Strat pickups combined 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.
This guitar is the most expensive Strat we’ve chosen for this beginners list, and we realize it may be more than a true beginner wants to spend. That being said, if you are switching from another type of electric guitar or want an instrument you’ll never want to put down… this is your pick!
Best Telecasters for Beginners
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. There is a sound difference between the Thinline Telecaster and the Solid Body that you should be aware of as well!
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”.
Squire Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster
[amazon box = B07T7H8P4H]
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. The butterscotch blonde finish on this instrument completes the classic look and feel and I really had a hard time putting this down when I played it at my local store!
ESP TE200 Electric Guitar
[amazon box = B01BHZOBBU]
ESP guitar company gained its popularity in the 80s 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!
Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus
[amazon box = B07X2ZWH4G]
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 often less expensive but also a solid instrument with a more traditional setup.
Best Les Paul for Beginners
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 its 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 SL
[amazon box = B07K4SSRFK]
Don’t let the brand name or the price fool you. This is a Les Paul.
The body and neck of the Epiphone LP SL are made from Alder wood to simulate the traditional mahogany sound. 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 SE 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.
Epiphone Les Paul Special VE
[amazon box = B01G26RM3S]
Similar to the SE model we listed above, the Special carries a very traditional Les Paul setup as far as to make and components. The Special, however, does not have a slimmer profile, giving it even more of an old-school Les Paul feel.
ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar
[amazon box = B01CPMCTW2]
The ESP brand name has hit the market in the last few years with a wide range of great instruments that are designed to share similarities with popular and iconic models of guitars. This model does a great job bringing the sound and style of a Les Paul.
A great-looking Flamed Maple top adorns a body made from mahogany, and a rare roasted jatoba fingerboard compliments a 3pc. neck arrangement.
After playing a pretty good selection of Epiphone, Gibson, and other Les Paul look likes, this was by far my favorite that didn’t cost $2000 or more!
The Best SG for Beginners
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 Les Paul. It is much thinner and cut away at the neck making 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.
ESP LTD Viper 256 Black Cherry
[amazon box = B00BO2W3Z8]
Another great rendition of a classic, the ESP LTD Viper has a look and feel that is undoubtedly inspired by the traditional Gibson SG models. In fact, this guitar has the exact dimensions and is built the same way as the classic 60s SGs.
The electronics are where you really see today’s technology shine, especially in the ESP Designed LH-150 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 Viper came with more classic wood grain, and if you’d like a slightly cheaper model Epiphone G – 310 may be right up your alley.
Gretsch G5232T Double Jet Guitar
[amazon box = B07W6JD49F]
This may be the most original, odd guitar on this list. The Gretsch G5232T 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.
Best Semi-Hollow Guitars for Beginners
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 fully 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.
[amazon box = B0064RDES8]
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 laminated Sapele wood and a 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!
Guild Guitars Starfire Semi-Hollow Body Guitar
[amazon box = B08NTNPH22]
Better known for their acoustic guitars, Guild Guitars has been making great intermediate to professional level instruments for a LONG time. That being said, when I stumbled across this arched maple double-cutaway model I couldn’t help to add it to this list. (One of the few completely new selections for 2022!)
Guild has their very own premium tuners that come with this model as well as dual humbucker pickups that surround the mahogany block in the body, leading to a light, crisp sound you’d expect from the semi-hollow style!
The Final Note on the Best Electric Guitars for Beginners
What is your preferred electric guitar? 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. We know you have plenty to choose from on this list, so the hardest thing might be to finally pick your guitar and start playing!
If you have any questions or any suggestions for guitars to add to this list, please leave a comment below and or email us!
A ukulele player pretty much from birth, Edward has gone on to play banjo, lead guitar, and bass for a number of bands and solo projects! Edward loves talking, teaching and writing about music!