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Best Electric Guitars for Beginners

So, you want to play guitar and you want it to be loud. We like that about you. While a lot of beginning guitar players choose an acoustic guitar as their first instrument, there’s something to be said for plugging in and rocking out from the get-go. We’re going to help you get started.

In our last article we talked about best acoustic guitars for beginners. Now, let’s look at electric guitars and talk about the things you want to look for when you’re in the market to rock.

First Things First: The Difference Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars

Sure, acoustic and electric guitars tend to look different, but the key difference is JamPlay Electric Guitar Factthe way that they produce sound. Basically, an acoustic guitar depends on the top of the guitar (where the sound hole is), to pick up the vibrations of the stings and resonate to create the sound.

An electric guitar, on the other hand, relies on electronics and amplification to produce its sound. Electric guitar bodies have electromagnetic pickups that convert string vibration into electric signals. These electric signals then pass through an external amplifier, which produces the sound.

Of course, there are other differences that may sway you in one direction or another, so we suggest looking at both options and seeing what is right for you.

Next Step: Do Your Homework

Narrow Your OptionsLet’s quickly review the things you need to look at when shopping for any guitar – acoustic or electric:

  1. Set your budget and think about your goals.
  2. Look at online manufacturer and retail sites and check out the reviews. Odds are good that other beginners have done some of your research for you and have shared their experiences. Use it.
  3. Go to a local music store and try out the guitars that interested you online.

Options, Options and More Options

When it comes to electric guitars, there are great options in every price range. Finding a guitar that is comfortable to play and that sounds good are really the two main things you should be looking for. Remember, as you are learning to play the guitar, you are also training your ear, so you want to make sure that your guitar holds its tuning and feels good to play.

That being said, there are several things that will come up when you are looking at electric guitars that may seem confusing, so let’s break them down so you can go in with the knowledge to make the best choice for you:

Solid Body vs. Hollow Body Guitars: Simply put, solid body electric guitars are probably what you are thinking of when you picture an electric guitar, since it is the most common type. Solid body guitars are exactly that: a solid wood body that has the electronics mounted on the guitar to create the sound. A Hollow Body Guitar has all of the characteristics of an acoustic guitar (sound hole, hollowed out body), but it is fitted with electronics that allow its sound to be amplified while retaining its “acoustic sound”.

Wood Type: The wood that is used in manufacturing guitars varies and can be anything from rosewood to mahogany to ash. The type of wood used not only affects the sound of the guitar, but also the price. We suggest that, for your first guitar, you focus less on what it’s made of and more on how it sounds. Of course, if you are looking to make a serious investment, you’ll want to consider the materials that are used, but if your goal is to simply start playing (and learning) go for the sound that you like and don’t sweat the details as much.

Pickups: Pickups are the tone-producing hardware on your guitar. The type of pickup you choose will impact the sound greatly, so be sure to consider what (or who) you would like to sound like when you are selecting your hardware.  Odds are that, for your first guitar, you’ll be choosing between a single-coil pickup or a humbucker pickup. Here’s the difference: The single coil pickup creates more of a “twangy” sound and are suitable for any player, but is often favored by fans of blues-rock, country and roots-rock. Humbuckers are simply double coil pickups. They have a fatter, warmer tone and are often favored by hard rock, metal players and jazzers.

Some Final Tips

Remember that buying your first guitar should be fun. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the options that are out there. Your mission is to find the best Beginner Electric Guitarsguitar for you. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can start thinking about all of the cool bells and whistles that can help you evolve your sound as your skills advance. Again, comfort and sound quality are your two most important factors for your first electric guitar… nail those two things and you can’t make a wrong choice.

Once you’ve purchased your guitar, you’re going to be ready to start shredding right away. Online lessons are a great way to get rocking immediately. Join us on JamPlay.com for access to guitar lessons for all ages and skills levels. Learn to play like your favorite musicians, or join us for a live group session with one of our awesome instructors. It’s the fastest way to go from wanting to play to actually doing it!

Learning anything new can be a challenge, but those challenges can be fun and rewarding, especially if you set yourself up to succeed. The right guitar and the right guidance are keys to your success so find what is right for you and go for it. We look forward to seeing you rocking out soon!


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8 Comments  comments 

8 Responses

  1. I usually like to refer people to the big three when first pointing them towards electric guitars. Telecaster, Stratocaster, and Les Paul. Of course there are other options and types, but I’d say 90% of first time guitar buyers opt for one of these three. Usually a Squier or an Epiphone.

  2. Patrick

    I’d also advise not starting on anything with a Floyd Rose locking system or anything similar. There are benefits for the shreddier players who might use the whammy bar a lot, but in general I would say it’s way too much of a pain in the ass for the typical beginning guitarist to want to deal with. Yes, it does grant tuning stability once set up properly, but at the cost of making the tuning process way more difficult than it would normally be. The bridge part of the guitar is basically “floating,” so if you change the tuning of one string or, god forbid, break it, it’ll knock all the other strings out of tune as well. The Floyd Rose system also makes it harder to explore alternate tunings–even many professional guitarists who use FR guitars often have to switch between instruments just to play in a different tuning.

    Not a bad system for those who need it, but it’s definitely something to beware of if you’re a beginner. Don’t do what I did and buy the guitar with the “Floyd Rose locking system” just because you think that phrase sounds cool. Just go with something simple and comfortable that’s easy to learn on and sounds good.

    Another thing, if you like the sound of both single coil and humbucking pickups and can’t really decide which to go with, you should be aware that some guitars will actually have both kinds of pickups, and some guitars with humbucking pickups actually have a “split coil” switch (sometimes people confuse it with a “coil tap” but that actually refers to something else) that allows you to convert the humbuckers into single coil pickups. Basically, if you’re looking for something more versatile, there are guitars out there that can handle both single coil and humbucker-type sounds. PRS guitars are probably the most iconic example, but Schecter is another great alternative. My Schecter C-1 Custom was slightly on the pricey side (~$600-700 I think), but it’s served me well over the years. (It has locking tuners but note that this is NOT the same thing as Floyd Rose, which is a locking bridge/locking nut combo. Locking tuners actually make things a bit easier)

    On a final note, if you’re a lefty like me, you should 1) First weigh the pros and cons of learning on a right-handed guitar. Learning guitar feels weird and uncomfortable at first anyway until your muscles adjust to it, and right-handed guitars are also way easier to find. I learned left-handed because I first learned on my dad’s guitar, and he was a lefty like me. I’ve since considered the value of relearning the instrument right-handed so it’s easier for me to shop around for guitars or just pick up and play whatever guitar is laying around. And 2) if you decide to go lefty anyway, look around and see if you can find guitar stores that specialize in left-handed guitars, because oftentimes the big chain stores like Guitar Center won’t have a very good selection for us. Southpaw Guitars is great for those of you in Houston. Good selection of instruments, knowledgeable staff, and a laid-back sort of environment where you can actually spend some time with the guitars without having to deal with a lot of background noise. Not trying to plug them, just giving an honest recommendation from a left-handed guitarist who’s driven across town to shop there multiple times before.

  3. Lex

    An Explorer is a good guitar for women, the shape doesn’t interfere with their bust and is often more comfortable.

  4. Budget guitars are not made to the same tolerances of expensive ones. Think neck straightness/non-twistiness and action (the distance from the strings to the frets). These two things are important, and so when looking at a budget guitar, buying online is a gamble/risk. Good shops tend to have several of each model of budget guitar, and one of them is sure to be a ‘lucky’ one, which happens to be good, by chance! So, my tip is not to buy one online, but to go to the shop, find a model you like, and ask to try all of them. You’ll be amazed how different they’ll feel, even though they should all be the same in theory. This applies to expensive ones too, but they tend to all be a lot closer in terms of playability than the budget ones, where one can be a pig to play and another can be great.

  5. Will

    For hollow body electric, the Oscar Schmidt Delta King by Washburn is a good beginning and very reasonable guitar.

  6. David

    So my 26 yr old Gibson Les Paul with T tops is not a good beginner guitar?

  7. […] Best Electric Guitars for Beginners – JamPlay Blog http://www.jamplay.com/blog/Looking for the best electric guitar for beginners? Get tips on buying your first guitar as well as a breakdown of all the things you need to go to get started. […]

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