Best Beginner Electric Guitar Guide

Despite my preference for the acoustic guitar, I can’t deny that the electric guitar accounts for much of the rise in popularity of the guitar over the past few decades. First developed in the early 1920’s, there are now so many different types of electric guitar bodies, pickups and styles that it’s hard to keep count.

The primary advantage of making the electric guitar your beginner guitar choice is its playability. Light gauge strings are normally set very close to the frets making it easy on beginner fingers to create crisp-sounding chords.

The disadvantage, of course, is the need for additional equipment (which I discuss further down this page).

Depending on the type of electric guitar you prefer, I’ve laid out an electric guitar comparison chart below that represents the most popular styles. Each has a unique sound that you won’t know until you play it, but with beginner guitars the only thing you should be really worried about is quality vs. your budget.

Top 5 Beginner Electric Guitars

ImagesGuitarTypeSpecsPros/ConsPriceRating
Fender Affinity Stratocaster by Squier for beginnersFender Squier Stratocaster (Affinity Series)

Click here for all pricing, ratings and reviews.
6-string Solid-Body Electric Guitar (many colors available)Alder body with a maple neck.

Three single-coil pickups.

Multiple colors available.
Pros: Well-respected guitar with a long history of players. Excellent playability. Includes gig bag, chord, amp, etc.

Cons: Electronics are good but not great. Will need replacing after a few years.

Read the review of the Squier Stratocaster Affinity Series
$$

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4.4 out of 5 Stars

Fender Affinity Telecaster by Squier for beginnersFender Affinity Series Telecaster

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6-string Solid-Body Electric Guitar (many colors available)Alder body with a maple neck.

Two single-coil pickups with a 3-way switcher.

Multiple colors available.
Left-handed available.
Pros: Fender's first guitar - tried and true. Excellent sound and very versatile.

Cons: No whammy bar (if that's what you want). Often associated only with country music 🙂

Read the review of the Squier Telecaster Affinity Series
$$

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4.5 out of 5 Stars
Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar for beginnersEpiphone LP-100 Les Paul Electric Guitar

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6-string Solid-Body Les Paul Style Electric GuitarMaple top with a Mahogany body

Two Humbucker pickups.

Multiple colors (and shades) available.
Pros: Best value for solid-body Les Paul style. Beautiful guitar body.

Cons: Heavier guitar not suited for smaller players or children.

Read the review of the Epiphone Les Paul
$$$

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4.7 out of 5 Stars
The PRS SE SantanaPaul Reed Smith SE Santana

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6-string Solid-Body double-cutawayMahogany back/neck with a thin maple top. Flame Maple Veneer.

Two PRS Humbucker pickups.

Multiple colors available.
Pros: Solid construction and excellent tone. Worthy of the Santana name.

Cons: Higher-priced "entry-level" guitar

Read the review of the Paul Reed Smith SE Santana electric guitar
$$$$

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4.9 out of 5 Stars
Epiphone Dot Archtop electric guitar for beginnersEpiphone Dot Archtop Electric Guitar

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6-string Semi-Hollow Body Archtop Electric GuitarLaminate maple top, back and sides.

Two Alcino Humbucker pickups.
Pros: Best value hollow-body. Doesn't need to be plugged in to be heard.

Cons: Larger body not suited for smaller players or children.

Read the review of the Epiphone Dot Archtop guitar
$$$$

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4.7 out of 5 Stars
Ibanez GRX20 electric guitar for beginnersIbanez GRX20 Electric Guitar

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6-string Solid-Body Electric GuitarBasswood body with a maple neck.

Two humbucking pickups.
Pros: Well-priced entry level guitar that has a good feel.

Cons: Some people complain of fret buzz.

Read the review of the Ibanez GRX20 electric guitar
$

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4 out of 5 Stars
Squier Jagmaster electric guitarSquier Jagmaster by Fender

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6-string Solid-Body Electric GuitarAlder body with a Maple neck

Two humbucking pickups.

Tremelo bar.
Pros: Sounds more expensive than it is. Excellent quality construction.

Cons: More expensive than the average Squier

Read the review of the Squier Jagmaster electric guitar
$$$

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4.5 out of 5 Stars
Washburn HB35 electric guitarWashburn HB35

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6-string Hollow Body Electric GuitarFlame Maple top with maple back and sides

Dual humbuckers, 4 pots and a 3-way switch.
Pros: mellow tone favored by blues and jazz guitarists; multiple color options

Cons: Price tag certainly suggests this isn't an "entry-level guitar"

Read the review of the Washburn HB35 electric guitar
$$$$

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4.8 out of 5 Stars
Fender Affinity Telecaster by Squier for beginnersFender Squier Bullet Strat

Click here for all pricing, ratings and reviews.
6-string Solid-Body Electric Guitar (many colors available)Basswood body with a maple neck.

Two single-coil pickups with a 3-way switcher.

Multiple colors available.
Left-handed available.
Pros: Great design at a very low cost.

Cons: Quality of the materials isn't very high, but that's expected for this price point.

Read the review of the Squier Bullet Strat
$$

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4.1 out of 5 Stars

Beginner Electric Guitar Buyers Guide

As you compare beginner guitars represented in the comparison chart above, there are a few things you should consider as purchase a beginner electric guitar. This includes:

  • The size/weight of the electric guitar
  • The style that fits your playing needs
  • The electronics on the electric guitar
  • Other equipment that you will need to purchase
  • Name brand or not name brand?

Size/Weight of the Electric Guitar

Although electric guitars look smaller than acoustic guitars, the fact is that they are usually heavier in weight. You should take this into consideration if you’re buying the beginner guitar for a child who may not be willing or excited to bear that weight.

There’s also the issue of size. Many hollow body guitars such as the Les Paul are big, even for a grown man my size. Is that something you’re comfortable with? Will you be standing up or sitting down while practicing your guitar?

Style that Fits Your Playing Needs

So I mentioned the Les Paul above, which accommodates a playing style completely different than that of a solid-body Fender Strat (see the comparison chart above). So what kind of music do you want to play? Jazz? Rock? Fingerstyle?

There’s a different kind of electric guitar for each style.

First the most common: rock. If your idea of learning guitar involves a tough pick for strumming and power chords, you’ll want to stick with a solid-body like a Strat (Stratocaster) or Tele (Telecaster). They offer a great sound, easy playability, and electronics that are well-suited for that “grungy” feel.

The second most common use would be jazz or blues. If you want to be doing “licks” or “riffs” of a jazz variety, your best bet is a larger solid body archtop or similar hollow body Les Paul style. The reason for this is that the string spacing is ever-so-slightly larger to accommodate fat fingers and occasional finger picking.

Finally, if you would rather use a guitar for fingerpicking, you’ll want to do one of two things. First, you can look at the archtop or the hollow body I just mentioned above. Second, unless you’re absolutely set on an electric guitar, I would recommend checking out a beginner acoustic guitar or a beginner classical guitar. Both are often better suited for fingerstylist than the electric guitar.

Electric Guitar Electronics

Single coil. Humbucker. Double coil. If all of these terms have very little meaning to you – don’t worry! As far as a beginner electric guitar goes, you should be familiar with each of these throughout the buying process, but that doesn’t mean you have to be an expert.

So here’s a quick overview of each major electric guitar pickup and what you should expect.

Single Coil: the single coil is what you’ll find on most stratocaster and telecaster models. It provides a very sharp sound that is often described as having a lot of “treble” (or high-end). This allows the guitar to cut through the noise of the band so it can be easily heard.

Humbucker: the humbucker pickup was developed in the early 1950’s as a means to cancel out the “hum” that seemed to be ever-present in electric guitars. Two coils would essentially cancel, or “buck”, the hum so that the sound was clean. As opposed to the single coil, the sound of a humbucker is much meatier, darker and heavier.

Double Coil: A double coil is exactly what it sounds like: basically two single coils. A humbucker is a type of double coil pickup. The sound is thick and heavy.

The different kinds of electric guitar pickups

A great explanation of electric guitar pickups by GuitarSite

It’s also interesting to note that the sound of a pickup varies based on where it is along the string. That’s why you see pickups at various places along the body and a switch on the guitar that allows you to change which one you’re using.

Additional Equipment for Electric Guitars

An electric guitar amplifier (aka "amp")Because most electric guitars are solid-body (meaning they’re not hollow like an acoustic guitar), the sound you get is usually much softer when played alone. For this reason you’ll have to consider the additional equipment that you’ll need to buy along with an electric guitar.

This equipment includes:

  • An Amplifier: In order to get more sound out of an electric guitar, most people tend to plug it into an amplifier. This is usually a small speaker encased in a box that you can plug your guitar into. Amplifiers range in price from $50 to $5,000 depending on your needs, so be prepared.
  • Guitar Pedals: Although not absolutely necessary, you’ll find that many people like to purchase guitar pedals that plug into your guitar and then route the signal to your amplifier. These allow you to create a variety of different sounds, control the volume, or create a delay.
  • Cables: This isn’t a huge expense, just know that you’ll also need to purchase a cable (or more depending on your pedals) that will plug your guitar into your amplifier.
  • Headphones: While it’s tons of fun to make the floor shake while you’re practicing, more often than not you’re going to be playing with headphones that allow you to rock out without disturbing your family (or the neighbors).

Name Brand? New or Used?

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of off-brand electric guitars on the market. Although not all of them are bad, often your best bet is to just stick with the Fenders, Ephiphones and Yamaha’s of the world.

As for used guitars, this is an excellent option if you know what you’re doing and you know what to look for. You can potentially get a great deal on a great guitar that is much better quality. You also take the risk of getting a guitar with a crack or with string buzz. Don’t buy sight unseen. Make sure you play the guitar, test the electronics and examine it clearly.

Or…just buy a new guitar and avoid the hassle.

 

14 Responses to Best Beginner Electric Guitar Guide

  1. Sadar Rai says:

    which guitar is of more weight/ heavy? alder or basswood. what is your comments/ views about Cort EVL K6 and Ibanez RG350DXZ.

    • Josh Summers says:

      Thanks for the comment, Sadar! I never really thought about weight being a big factor in the guitar-buying experience, but I guess that makes sense. Generally speaking, Basswood is lighter than alder. I’ll do a more detailed review later, hopefully, but for now I’ll just say that both Cort and Ibanez make excellent guitars. Not my personal style, but that’s just preference 😉

  2. Joe Johnson says:

    You mention any Gibsons, is that purely do to cost? So many people I’ve talked that play swear by them.

    • Josh Summers says:

      Hey Joe! Thanks so much for your comment and for pointing that out. The (current) lack of Gibson guitars on this list is my fault, not a knock on Gibson. They are excellent guitars and I’ll be getting around to adding a couple of them to this list soon.

  3. Mike says:

    What is your honest opinion on a dean vendetta XMT with tremolo.?

  4. Rahul Pulidindi says:

    Which electric guitar should I buy in the range 300$-400$? This will be my first guitar. I can’t try out guitars as there are no shops around my area, so I’ll have to order online. I would play rock and metal. I’ll be using the Fender Mustang i Amp. Cort X-11 or Fender Squier Vintage Modified ’70s strat? I like the Cort but everyone prefers the Strat. Help?

  5. sneha says:

    What about yamaha pacifica

  6. Steven L says:

    I agree, the Yamaha Pacifica series. I wouldn’t touch Dean guitars. The Vendetta is crap anyway!

  7. Jason says:

    Is Washburn HB35 good for a beginner? I’m planning to buy one for my son

  8. Jackyd says:

    Can anyone recommend acoustic-electric guitar for beginner? I am so lost!

  9. Eric says:

    Thanks for your listing!
    I just ordered “Fender Affinity Series Telecaster” two months ago, been out of the guitar scene for a few years and sold everything. Really excited to get it.

  10. Joe Lombard says:

    Great article, Josh, I appreciate the information.
    Been playing an older Yamaha EG 112, definitely a beginner guitar, but looking to move up to a Schecter Omen Extreme 6 (Probably NOT the FR Model). I’ve read some good reviews of it as a moderately priced, great sounding, very versatile guitar. What are your thoughts?

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