So you are looking to buy your first guitar, congratulations! I still remember my very first guitar that my parents got me. I have no idea what they paid for it in fact, it is highly probable that someone gave it to them, to give to me.
But when it comes buying your first guitar, whether its for you or for someone else, the task can feel a little overwhelming. Especially with so many options and choices out there. When you ask people about it, everyone has their favorite. So what is the best electric guitar for a beginner? It’s all subjective, but here are 5 things you need to know that will help.
Stick with the Name Brands (We are not Shopping at No Frills)
Have you ever heard of Fender guitars? Gibson guitars? Probably.
What about G&L, Godin or Levinson? Probably not.
Does that mean that G&L, Godin and Levinson are crap guitars? On the contrary, some guitar players may argue that these brands are even better than your standard Fender or Gibson. Simply because of the craftsmanship and attention to detail of these brands. (Fun fact: the ‘L’ of ‘G&L’ guitars stands for Leo Fender, the original guitar maker of the Fender brand name). However, you wouldn’t necessarily know that, so stick with the brand names you know.
Fender and Gibson guitars come with a certain level of quality that you can depend on.
Having said that, here’s something else to consider. Gibson has a sister company called Epiphone. They build the same types of guitars (IE Gibson Les Paul), but at the fraction of the cost. In fact I have seen guitar players take an Epiphone Les Paul and changed out parts so that it sounds as good as the original.
So if you like the style of a Gibson but don’t like the price, you can go with an Epiphone instead. Good quality, less expensive.
Fender also has a sister company called Squire. Same idea, they build all the same Fender line-ups (IE Stratocaster, Telecaster), but at a much lower price.
What is the Best Electric Guitar for a Beginner, New or Used?
Let’s say you found the guitar that you like. You’ve watched a bunch of “The Who” live shows on youtube and you are ready to tackle your first Gibson Les Paul. You’ve studied Pete Townsend and ready to copy his signature move “the wind mill” (Please DO NOT try this at home, when you miss it HURTS!).
You see an add on Kijiji for a used 1975, Sunburst Les Paul Custom. The trouble is, you don’t know where it’s been (or not been – someones closet?), the guitar could be beat up for all you know, with rough sounding pick-ups, old strings, crappy tuning pegs and a warn out back side.
Maybe the neck is so warped you can shoot an arrow from it.
With a brand new electric guitar there won’t be any issues with it. And if there is, so what? It’s still under warranty anyway.
Besides, you’re not even sure if you (are the person you are buying it for), will even keep it long enough to see the Pete Townsend “wind mill” on the darn thing anyway!
So the idea of having your first guitar is to buy something that is decent but won’t break the bank. Once you become a better guitar player and start to get an idea of what your guitar style is. Then you can look at buying an awesome used name brand because you’ll know what look for.
What is the Electric Guitar’s Play-ability?
When you learn to play guitar for the first time I am not going to lie, it’s going to hurt. The tips of your fingers needs to build up calluses, dead skin on your fretting hand that is created over time. So to keep the pain to a minimum find an electric guitar that has “low action”.
What that means is how far off the strings are from the neck of the guitar. When you are testing the guitar, notice how easy it is to press down on strings of the neck. If you need both hands to do it, probably not a good buy.
But for most electric guitars the action is usually pretty good. Also, test pressing down further “up” the neck (closer to the pick-ups), sometimes if the neck is warped the action down the neck will be much higher.
And to truly test for a warped neck flip the guitar and move it up to your eyeball. Look straight down the neck like you are looking down the barrel of a gun. You will know right away if you are dealing with a warped neck.
And lastly, plug it in. There’s nothing more embarrassing then getting ready to play a brand new guitar only to find that it doesn’t actually do anything!
What Kind of Sound Are you Looking For?
What sounds better from one guitar to another? There’s really no fast or hard rule what it comes to sound and it is all subjective. However, depending on the type of music you like can determine what is the best electric guitar for a beginner like yourself to buy.
If you like straight up rock, like Slash of Guns N’ Roses, then a Epiphone Les Paul will be a good one to start with.
If you like more bluesy (Stevie Ray) or country, or you like a really “nice” tone, then a Squire Stratocaster or a Telecaster may be your machine of choice.
What really makes up the “sound” of the guitar is the type the wood the guitar is made out of and the types of pick-ups that are used.
Those thin like pick-ups, give you a thinner sound (typically found on a Squire Stratocaster), the double width pick-ups (found on an Epiphone Les Paul), tend to give you a thicker sound. Again, it’s all subjective, a thicker sound may not give you the flexibility of playing with a clean amp, like single coil pick-ups do.
How Much Should You Spend?
Ahh price. So how much should you really spend? What is the best electric guitar for a beginner from a price point? Because we are talking about beginners, it’s safe to say that you probably want to spend anywhere from $200-$500.
Anything less than $200 and you are probably buying a sub par machine where the neck will warp faster than the Star Trek Enterprise.
Anything over $500, and you run the risk of wasting money if you decide down the line not to play. In fact I would keep the price point in and around the $300 range. Hey, if you (or the person you are buying it for), ever gets good enough, you won’t be embarrassed bringing it out to play for your friends or family!
So, What is the Best Electric Guitar for a Beginner?
In a nutshell, it really boils down to how easy is it to play. Like I mentioned before, learning to play is going to hurt your “fretting hand”, and having a decent guitar to learn on will definitely help with that. As well, ask what gauge the strings are. 9 gauge are the lightest strings, the next most common are 10 gauge.
As you progress through your guitar playing ability, having a decent guitar will help motivate you as your ear and finger dexterity improves. Over time, you will start to gravitate towards different sounds and you will eventually start to buy new guitars that fit your style of playing!