Buying Your First Electric Guitar
“You wanted the best and you got it!”
– Kiss (live 1975)
While we won’t be breathing fire or donning our platform boots today, we will be providing you with the best tools for you to start learning the guitar.
Side note: We will be talking about electric guitars in this post; Part 2. To find the best picks with the acoustic guitar, check out last week’s post in Part 1.
Another side note: The prices quoted in this post are current as of October 5, 2018. Prices may be adjusted by the manufacturers at any time.
If you are just joining us, welcome to the world of playing guitar! You are joining an army of millions of happy people all over this pebble who have gone on to do great things.
As a new recruit, you will need some supplies. Let start off with the most important thing first…
the electric guitar.
Forgive me while I watch the heavens part as I put on Handel’s Messiah…
(Sorry about that. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program already in progress…)
Keep in mind that not all guitars are created equal. Just because it is shaped like a guitar doesn’t mean that it will be playable.
However, the good news is that the majority of guitars out there are actually quite affordable and playable. Today I will only cover a handful to help you get started.
I’ve broken it down into categories involving budget;
Good ($79 – $199),
Better ($200 – $499),
Best ($500 – $999) and
All of these guitars will be suitable for your first guitar, regardless of your budget. But as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
GOOD (Entry-Level) Buying guitars in the $99-$199 price range
This is where a lot of people start in the cheapest section of guitars, and I can understand why. You are not sure if you are going to be any good at the guitar and don’t want to throw a lot of money at it.
The good news with guitars is that’s okay if you decide to quit and want/need to get rid of it because you can get a good portion of your investment back when you sell it.
But don’t be cheap for cheap’s sake. First, if you can afford a nicer model, chances are you will also feel more obligated (at least financially) not to give up. Plus, a more expensive guitar usually sounds better and is easier to play. Last, if you make the financial plunge with an expensive guitar, you will be less likely to give us so easily.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Take a lookie-loo…
Squier is the entry-level brand of the Fender company. This is one of the most common beginner guitars I see students bringing in to lessons. They are versatile and rugged. Like a swiss army knife. Only without the knife.
Squier Affinity Telecaster – $199
A Telecaster offers two pickups for creating classic and modern pop, rock and country. A little slab will do ya!
ESP LTD M-10 – $199
The ESP LTD is built more towards scratching that hard rock/metal itch while still providing a comfortable guitar with some grrr… P.S. Kirk Hammett’s speedy licks not included.
BETTER (Mid-Level) Buying Guitars in the $200-$499 price range
Now when I say good, I don’t mean “Captain America” good. I mean like “extra cheese” good. These guitars offer better materials and build quality, but chances are you may need to upgrade pickups somewhere down the line. Above all, this is a better place to start for yourself.
I offer you…
The Classic Vibe series of Squier is quite a nice step up from the Affinity series. Better woods, hardware, and pickups make this an easy choice as a first guitar draft pick.
The Classic Vibe offers the look of vintage Fenders without that hefty price tag. Stratocasters are extremely comfy and can provide the sound you are looking for when delivering classic rock and blues to the neighbors ears.
For those who are more hard rock and metal, the Jem offers a slim neck for faster shredding. Plus, that monkey grip is pretty cool, too!
BEST (Upper-Level) Buying Guitars in the $500-$999 price range
The guitars in this category are great “plug & play” instruments. They are some of the most popular choices out there. Pick one up to see why.
This is what fans of classic rock music think of when they picture their music heroes. From Page to Slash, the Les Paul offers some serious punch to your sound. Prepare to melt some faces.
Epiphone is the entry level of the Gibson company, but don’t let that deter you from buying one. Many of the Epiphones are as nice (if not nicer) than some of the pricier Gibsons. This Rivera gives you some sweet semi-hollow tones at a fraction of a price.
Fender Standard Stratocaster – $599
The Mexican Standard Strat gives you quite a lot of bang for your buck. Expect better hardware, materials, and pickups than the Squier’s models. Ready for the road!
BESTEST (Pro-Level) Buying Guitars in the $1000+ price range
Many people start learning guitar on more affordable models due to budget constraints. However, for those who have the bread, these guitars will offer the finest materials, top craftsmanship, and unparalleled tone that will leave others coveting your gear. These are a couple of the most noteworthy models known.
Here is the Dream Team…
Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster – $1899
For those of you who know who Eric Johnson is, you’ll agree why this is THE strat to buy. For those of you who don’t, understand that he is one of the guitarists that many top players aspire to. Whether it’s his unique chord voicings, his penchant for prized vintage gear, or his “thousand pound violin” tone, Eric Johnson paring up with Fender to create the perfect strat has been a long an arduous process. Reap the rewards of their efforts with this guitar.
The Telecaster is the working man’s guitar. And when you think of a Tele, this is the one that pops into your cerebellum.
From Bruce Springsteen’s passion to Keith Richards swagger, the Telecaster has proved to be worth its weight in gold as the standard of clean, delicious tone. Dig in.
Gibson Les Paul Standard – $5299
The Les Paul standard is anything but. It is a vicious beast, waiting to be taken out on long journeys, and return with some crazy stories in tow. In the hands of many of the most revered players, this guitar started the whole hard rock revolution. Buying this guitar is the easiest way to get “that” sound. The Standard sets the bar for what an excellent guitar should be.
Well, there you have it. Buying an electric guitar doesn’t have to be a big nervous production. As a result, if you are armed with the right knowledge, you can pick up the guitar of your dreams and start working on creating your own life’s soundtrack with it.
Are you ready?
“What guitar do you recommend for beginners?”
Leave your comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.