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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.


    Shopping Guide for Best Electric Guitars

    In the wise words of Radiohead, anyone can play guitar — so if you've ever had the urge to shred onstage, or simply learn some of your favorite songs, it's never too late to pick up an axe and channel your inner rockstar.

    But buying an electric guitar can be a challenge, especially if you're a brand new player, or you're purchasing one as a gift. An electric guitar can be an expensive purchase, so you don't want to make the wrong choice and end up with a sub-par instrument.

    If you're in need of some assistance, you've come to the right place. At BestReviews, our goal is to help you find the perfect products to fit your individual requirements. We test items in our labs, gather feedback from existing customers, and consult experts. The result? Fair and thorough reviews that help you cut through the jargon. Read on for our full guide to electric guitars to learn all you need to know to pick the right one for your next jam session.

    Think about what type of music you'll mostly be playing, as it may affect your choice of guitar. For instance, twin humbucker SG’s generally sound full and are suited to loud, heavy music, whereas telecasters have a distinctive twang often associated with country music.

    Types of Electric Guitars

    Electric guitars can be classified according to their price range, as it usually follows that you get what you pay for in the world of musical instruments. Below you'll find the pros and cons of each, as well as some popular guitar manufacturers to watch for in each price bracket.

    Types

    Budget Electric Guitars

    Budget electric guitars are best for beginners. Popular manufacturers to look for include Epiphone, Squier, Yamaha, and Vintage.

    • Pros: Affordable, good for learning on if you're not sure you'll take to playing guitar.

    • Cons: Lower quality construction and hardware, not as durable as high-end models.

    • Price: $100 to $400.

    Product in Depth

    Product in Depth

    Epiphone Les Paul SPECIAL-II

    Affordable Les Paul Sound

    The Epiphone LP Special II has a mahogany body and neck. The fretboard features dotted inlays and is made of traditional, unfinished rosewood – a standard choice that yields a sound consistent with the aesthetic standards of a Les Paul. If you want a Les Paul but you don't want to pay a fortune for it, this mahogany beauty is worth your consideration.

    Types

    Mid-Range Electric Guitars

    Mid-range electric guitars are good for competent guitarists who want to move on from their beginner models.

    Popular manufacturers to look for include Schecter, Cort, Ibanez, and Danelectro. You may also find some basic Fenders and Gibsons in this price range.

    • Pros: You can find some excellent models in this price range, good for both intermediate and advanced players. They can provide an excellent sound when paired with the right amp and effects.

    • Cons: May not feel as nice to play as high end models, and some guitars in this price range aren't worth the money.

    • Price: $400 to $800.

    EXPERT TIP

    The better the guitar, the more it will cost, so it's worth paying out a little more to get the right guitar, if you have the budget.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    Types

    High End Electric Guitars

    High end electric guitars are good for performing and recording musicians, as well as collectors.

    Popular manufacturers include Gretsch, Gibson, Fender, and PRS.

    • Pros: Constructed from highest quality materials, featuring top-notch pickups and hardware, with excellent feel and playability.

    • Cons: Out of many people's price range.

    • Price: $800 to $10,000 or more — but you can find some top quality guitars under $2,000.

    You may not notice a difference in audio quality between high end and mid-range guitars, especially if you're going for a lo-fi sound.

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    BestReviews

    Electric Guitar Styles

    You've probably noticed electric guitars come in a range of shapes or styles. While the style may make a small amount of difference to the sound of the guitar, it's insignificant enough that we encourage choosing a style of guitar depending on what you like the look of.

    Here are some of the most popular styles of electric guitar.

    Styles

    Stratocaster

    Perhaps one of the most classic and easily-recognizable styles of guitars out there, the Stratocaster (or "Strat") has a deep double cutaway, creating a horn-like effect.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A cutaway is an indentation in the body of the guitar, adjacent to the neck, allowing for easier access to the upper frets. Electric guitars may either have a double or single cutaway.

    Styles

    SG

    Take a look at a few metal bands, and we're sure you'll see a few SGs in the mix. These guitars have a double cutaway with distinctive pointed "horns".

    Styles

    Flying V

    The iconic flying v has a distinctive, V-shaped body that made it popular in the thrash metal scene.

    Many guitar styles originated from either Fender or Gibson — two of the earliest manufacturers of electric guitars — and spread in popularity from there.

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    BestReviews
    Styles

    Telecaster

    The Telecaster is fairly similar in shape to the Strat, but has a single, rather than double, cutaway.

    Styles

    Les Paul

    The Les Paul is another classic style, often favored by heavy rock musicians, such as Slash. It has a single cutaway, but with a much curvier, more rounded appearance than the Telecaster.

    Considerations for Selecting an Electric Guitar

    Considerations

    Solid Body vs. Hollow Body

    The majority of electric guitars are solid body models, meaning the body is made from one solid chunk of wood. You can, however, find hollow body electric guitars that look and sound more similar to acoustic guitars.

    Hollow body electric guitars often produce a richer tone with extra sustain, but may not be suitable for playing heavier music, since they can produce feedback when played at high volumes.

    Fret markers are inlaid into the fretboard of a guitar to act as a visual aid; they help you play the right notes. Most are simple dots, but some guitars have more intricate fret marker designs, such as diamonds, roses, bats, or crosses.

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    BestReviews
    Considerations

    Tonewood

    The term "tonewood" refers to certain varieties of wood that have tonal properties which improve the sound a guitar makes. Popular tonewoods for guitars include maple, mahogany, rosewood, walnut, swamp ash, basswood, alder, and ebony.

    Depending on the type of wood, it may give you a warm or a bright tone, or something in between the two. Many guitars are made from a variety of woods, with different kinds used for the body, neck, and fretboard.

    While the material a guitar is made from will make a slight difference to the tone, you'll find a huge range of factors at play. So, unless you're a self-confessed audiophile, don't fret over the type of wood used. As long as it's a quality wood, you should get an excellent tone.

    EXPERT TIP

    While neck-through neck construction is generally considered the best, guitars with this type of neck construction are the most expensive to fix should the neck need replacing.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    Considerations

    Pickups

    Pickups "pick up" the string's vibrations and turn them into an electronic signal. They're among the most important parts of an electric guitar, and help dictate the kind of sound it produces. Most guitars have either single coil pickups, double coil pickups (more commonly known as humbuckers), or one of each.

    Single coil pickups give a brighter sound that can cut through mix, so are often favored by guitarists who like clean solos, or who prefer a high, treble-rich sound. That said, with enough overdrive they can sound gritty enough for punk or grunge.

    Humbuckers are made from two single coil pickups wired out of phase with one another. They have a fuller sound and are usually used for heavier music.

    Although less common, you can also find guitars with active pickups — such as EMGs — which incorporate a preamp for higher output and better sound control.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Different guitars have different bridge styles — some have tremolo arms to create a vibrato effect.

    Tips

    • When first starting out, a lot of people choose an electric guitar similar to the one their musical hero plays or played — it may help achieve a similar sound to that of your favorite band.

    • The most expensive guitars are often made in the U.S., but you can also buy imports from other countries. Japan, Mexico, China, and Korea are the most common, and often turn out quality instruments.

    • Most electric guitars have 22 frets, but some boast 24, which will allow you to play the full octave above the 12th fret. This is perfect if you like to play in a higher register, but unnecessary for the majority of guitarists.

    • An electric guitar can be a big purchase, so it's worth getting insurance to cover theft or accidental damage. Some retailers offer this at the point of sale.

    • Scale length is the length of the string on a guitar, from nut to bridge. A longer scale length feels tighter to play and gives a brighter tone. A shorter scale length offers a warmer sound.

    • If you're buying an electric guitar for a child, consider a 1/2 size or 3/4 size guitar, which will be more manageable for small hands.

    Electric guitars come in a huge range of colors and finishes, from varnished natural wood to glittery hot pink, so there's something to suit all kinds of styles and preferences.

    FAQ

    Q. Should I buy an electric guitar on its own, or a starter pack for a beginner?

    A. If you're a beginner or you're buying for a beginner, you'll probably want to start with a fairly basic guitar, just in case you don't like playing. You can also find sets or starter packs that come complete with a small practice amp, a lead, a strap, and other useful items for new guitarists. These usually work out cheaper than buying the items separately, but not significantly cheaper, so don't worry if you have your heart set on a guitar that doesn't come as a starter pack.

    Q. What type of neck construction is the best?

    A. Electric guitars either have bolt-on, set neck, or neck-through neck construction. Bolt on necks are simply bolted onto the body, set necks are set into the body and glued, and neck-through construction is where the neck extends all the way through the body. The latter is generally considered the best and most durable, but won't be found on cheaper guitars.

    Q. What are all the knobs and switches on my electric guitar used for?

    A. Most electric guitars have several control knobs on the body. The amount of knobs and what they do can vary, so it's worth experimenting, but we'll go over the most common configuration. The majority of electric guitars have three control knobs and one switch. One control knob is for volume and the other two are for tone, with one controlling the neck pickup, and the other controlling the bridge pickup. The switch is to change between using the neck or bridge pickup.

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