The Ultimate Electric Guitar Buyer’s Guide
By Alexx Calise
So, you want to buy a new guitar (or maybe your first guitar), but you’re not exactly sure where to start. Not to worry! We’ve got you covered with our electric guitar shopping guide. Whether you’re a newbie or a certified shredder, we’ve outlined some of the common questions you may have about selecting your new axe below.
The Ultimate Electric Guitar Buyer’s Guide
What is the best electric guitar for a beginner?
There are so many beginner options out there for new guitarists, but a good place to start would be some of the big brands like Fender and Gibson. You’ll be delighted to know that they make junior or beginner models, such as Fender's Squier line, or Epiphone guitars, which are made by Gibson.
Epiphone Les Paul Junior Electric Guitar: Though it was originally intended for beginners when introduced in 1954, the Les Paul Junior has made its way into many a classic recording. Play like the pros at a fraction of the price with this tone-rich guitar inspired by the original Les Paul.
Squier Bullet Stratocaster: A great option if you’re a beginner and a fan of Fender’s signature Stratocaster, the Bullet is a versatile guitar that works for any style of music. Available in five different finishes via Guitar Center.
Ibanez GRG131DX GRG Series Electric Guitar: Bang your head with Ibanez’s GRG Electric, which is the perfect starter guitar for playing metal and hard rock. Rated highly for it’s good feel and playability, this axe will have you squealing in no time. Get it in white or flat black here.
What are the best electric guitars for advanced players?
This question will likely be argued by many professional guitarists until the end of time. The fact is, there are countless fabulous big brand guitars, as well as up-and-coming competitors that are producing extraordinary instruments, too. Below are a few that have made some of the “best of” guitar lists in recent years.
Fender American Ultra Stratocaster: One of the most advanced Strats made to date, Fender’s American Ultra is the Mercedes-Benz of the Fender line. With new noiseless pickups, a super smooth neck, and top of the line electronics, this extraordinarily adaptable instrument is a guitar player’s dream.
ESP USA Eclipse: Though the brand does attract a lot of metal and hard rock-loving fans, the Eclipse has appeal far beyond ESP’s usual demographic. This lighter-weight and aesthetically gorgeous guitar offers excellent playability, a slim neck, and great upper fret access.
Gibson Les Paul Classic: Played by everyone from Jimmy Page to Zakk Wylde, the iconic Les Paul Classic is one of the brand’s most famous guitar models. It may be heavy as hell, but the tone is monstrous, and it sustains for days. If you’re a rocker, this is the guitar that was built for you.
Should I buy an acoustic or electric guitar?
Firstly, you should buy whichever one you’re most jazzed about and/or works within your budget. The more interested you are in one or the other, the easier it’ll be to learn. Over time, you’ll naturally want to get an acoustic if you have an electric, and vice versa.
Acoustic guitars generally have heavier gauged strings, making them a little harder to play than an electric. However, you can take them just about everywhere and they don’t necessarily require amplification (depending on the setting of course).
Electrics are a bit easier to physically play, they’re amplifiable, and you can pair them with pedals to get some really cool effects.
Of course, if you want the best of both worlds, there's always the option of getting an acoustic-electric. If this sounds like something that's up your alley, check out our guide on how to choose the best acoustic-electric guitar for you.
Should I buy a used or new electric guitar?
The best part about being a guitar player in the internet age is how easy it is to connect with fellow shredders who are looking to unload their gear. On top of the major online retailers (which we'll touch on in a bit), places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, and even Reddit can be valuable places to pick up a new axe. But which of these options is the best for you?
Buying used: This can be a great option if you know a guitar’s true value. For example, if you know a guitar is normally priced at $1,000 and you see it for $600 (without any major defects), then it's probably a good buy. This is also a great way to save a few bucks. If you don’t care about bringing home a brand spanking new guitar, then this may work better for you. Just be weary of potential scammers - if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Buying new: While this is obviously the more expensive of the two options, it can be the better one in that it’s more guaranteed for the buyer, and the guitar is less likely to have issues. The problem with buying used is that you usually can’t make returns, and you may need to make more adjustments to it in the future since it was pre-owned. New is a good way to go if you’re just starting out on guitar and don’t know much about the mechanics of the instrument.
If you’re on the fence about buying used or new, select a few models you’re interested in at a guitar store and compare prices of them (used and new) online. If you happen upon a used guitar that you like, ask the seller if you can try it out before you buy.
Where can I buy an electric guitar?
You can find reputable guitar shops almost anywhere. While Guitar Center offers a great selection of guitars and music equipment and locations all over the U.S., you can also click your way to great deals using sites like Reverb and Sweetwater.
If you prefer to shop local and try out guitars in person (which is always a good idea), look up music shops in your area. Every town usually has their own neighborhood music store, and you’ll be supporting a small business to boot!
What electric guitar equipment do I need?
Every beginner guitarist is going to need a few essential things. We go into greater detail in our guitar accessories guide, but here is an abridged version just to get you started.
Strings: Can’t make much noise without these! Always carry a spare set with you just in case one breaks, and get into the habit of replacing them about once a month as they can get dull, which changes their tone.
Guitar Picks: Essential to your playing, you’ll need some plectrums to pluck your new strings. These are also available in all different shapes and sizes. Medium picks tend to be a good choice for beginners.
Guitar Strap: Unless you plan on sitting down to play your guitar all the time (and even then, it can be tricky to keep it from slipping), you’ll need a snazzy guitar strap. Aim for comfort here, as different materials tend to work best for different players.
Guitar Case: You’ll definitely need this to carry your guitar and keep it protected. You can opt for a soft gig bag for easier transportation (hard cases can get a little heavy), but it’s not nearly as solid as a hard-shell guitar case. Pick whatever best suits your needs.
Guitar Tuner: Nothing worse than being out of tune! Not only does it sound unprofessional; it’s one of the easiest ways to clear a room during a live show. Here’s everything you need to know about the different types of guitar tuners.
How much should I spend on a guitar?
This is a tough question, as some guitars can get very pricey. A good ballpark would be $200-$800 for a beginner guitar, and somewhere in the $800-$2,000 range for a more advanced one. At the end of the day however, it’s all about feel and personal preference. You may find that a less expensive guitar plays better or more comfortably to you than an expensive one!
Electric guitar amp guide
There are several factors that go into buying a new amp. Do you want a solid state or a tube amp? Which size speakers should you get? What wattage do you need?
As a beginner guitarist though, you may want to investigate a solid-state or modeling amp to start. Solid-state amps require less repairs, and they come with a clean or distorted tone. Modeling amps use modeling software to give you the option of making your amp sound like a whole bunch of other amps. They’re often able to be programmed so you can save your settings, and they have a lot of built-in digital effects. If you need some more help here, check out our guide on how to choose the best guitar amp for you.
Final Thoughts: The Ultimate Electric Guitar Buyer’s Guide
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Alexx Calise is an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. In addition to her musical pursuits, she also works in public relations and marketing, writes for a variety of publications, and hosts/creates content for Guitar World. More information about Alexx can be found at alexxcalise.net.