So you read through our amazing, future award-winning (we can dream can’t we?) post, ‘Choosing a Guitar‘, and you have decided to buy an electric guitar – excellent! But you aren’t sure which of the hundreds of brands, models, or sub-models to choose from. It can seem like a daunting task but we are here to help navigate the waters and help answer the question: ‘what is the best electric guitar for beginners’?
You can spend a ton of money on a new guitar, but you certainly don’t have to. Since we’re focusing on beginners I’m going to first draw your attention to guitar packages, commonly known as guitar packs.
Electric Guitar Packs
What’s the advantage of a ‘guitar pack’? You get a guitar – cool But wait, there’s more …
Remember, if you buy an electric guitar you are going to need an amplifier (amp) at some point. Guitar packages include everything you need to start playing as soon as you get home. Not only do you get a beginner level/quality guitar, but you also get a beginner level practice amp and maybe a few other accessories to sweeten the deal. The price for all of this equipment is pretty reasonable, generally less than $350.
The disadvantages – well you sort of get what you pay for. These packages are put together to get you started on the cheap. There are not a lot of bells and whistles and the equipment is not the top tier quality equipment. Eventually, and for some sooner than later, you will want to upgrade the guitar and the amp. But these packs can be a good place to start:
Squire Stratocaster Pack
You’ve more than likely heard of the Fender guitar company. Squier is, for all intents and purposes, the lower-priced alternative – little brother – brand of Fender.
What you get:
- The Squier Stratocaster guitar, full size.
- Squier Frontman amplifier.
- Gigbag to store and carry your groovy new guitar.
- A strap to hold the guitar close while you stand and play. I guess you could also stand in front of the mirror too and gawk at your cool self with your new guitar. Let the dreaming begin.
- Cable to connect the guitar to the amp so you can get the sound to your ears. Let the reality set in.
- And if you buy directly from Fender you can even probably get some complimentary online lessons by subscription which will cost you a few bucks monthly.
Epiphone Les Paul Pack
Epiphone is a well-respected brand owned by the Gibson guitar company. They make a variety of low priced starter packs for beginners.
What you get:
- “Genuine” Les Paul guitar. IT is genuine, but remember this is not the Les Paul you’re thinking of, it’s a beginner.
- 10-watt amplifier.
- Clip-on tuner
- And some form of downloadable instruction material.
Ibanez All-in-one Guitar Pack
Ibanez may not be as well known as Fender and Gibson, but it certainly should be. And like the other companies, they have their top line guitars as well as their beginner models.
What you get:
- A full-size Ibanez electric guitar.
- 10-watt amplifier.
- Clip-on tuner
- Accessory pouch to store your goodies
Lets’s move past the packs and talk just guitars.
#1 Recommendation – the Fender Stratocaster.
Okay, let’s cut to the chase. I’m a self-proclaimed Fender guy, the Fender Stratocaster is my favorite. In my mind, you cannot go wrong with a Strat.
Here’s mine. This is the solid body HSS (humbucker, single coil, single coil set up) in the classic sunburst colors. Maple neck, rosewood fingerboard.
I love the feel of the Strat. It’s lightweight which makes for great ergonomics. Standing or seated the guitar just feels right in my hands.
The C-shape neck is easy enough to let me glide up and down the fingerboard with ease.
The tone is for lack of a better term, classic. Plug in a Strat, flip the switch to the bottom position and strum it – you will recognize the tune immediately. Think Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Buddy Guy, Clapton, Harrison, Buddy Holly, Nile Rodgers, J. Malo, Jeff Beck … the list goes on and on.
Strats are made in the USA, Mexico, and Japan. And while purists swear by the American made Strats, I have played them all and own a MIM (made in Mexico). I have no complaints.
Remember, getting a new instrument is groovy and cool and all of that, but you can find a great deal on a used Strat as well. I bought mine used. New these will go from $500 to well over $2,000. Used you can easily get a Strat for around the $300 range. Just be sure to check it out thoroughly and maybe get a “set up”.
What is the best electric guitar for beginners? I put the Fender Stratocaster at the top of my list.
If you have the money, I would recommend the Fender Strat, regardless of country of origin, over the Squier Strat I mentioned in the ‘Guitar Packs’ section. Why? Because the Fender Strat is a guitar you can grow with. Customize it, upgrade it, or leave it alone and it will prove pretty dependable.
07/15/2020 Update: a leading music retailer named the Fender Stratocaster one of the Top 5 Most Popular Electric Guitars in their February 11, 2020 Buying Guide. Seems the agree!
Learn the history of the Fender Strat by viewing this really informative video from Five Watt World:
#2 Recommendation – the Gibson SG.
This is a Solid Guitar, in fact, that’s what SG stands for, solid guitar. When I went to purchase my first electric guitar I had the Gibson Les Paul in mind. But when I played it I didn’t like the weight, the way the neck felt or the playability. I was shocked because for years all I wanted was a Les Paul. The store clerk recommended I try the SG and I’m glad he did.
The SG is what I consider the little brother to the Les Paul guitar. While the Les Paul is a weighty, chunky beast (that’s not a bad thing), the SG’s body and neck are thinner and much easier to navigate. For me, the ergonomics were just better, and I think newer – especially younger players would feel the same. But as always, go to a local shop and try it out first.
SG is made under both the Gibson and the ‘inspired by Gibson’, Epiphone brands. Of course, Gibson’s are going to be more expensive. However, both Gibson and Epiphone have a pretty impressive pedigree.
Although I personally opted to purchase the Fender Stratocaster, I would still recommend the Gibson or Epiphone SG as one of the best electric guitars for beginners.
The weight, playability, and the famous tone will bring a smile to any new guitarist’s face.
07/15/2020 Update: a leading music retailer named the Gibson SG Standard one of the Top 5 Most Popular Electric Guitars in their February 11, 2020 Buying Guide. Seems the agree!
If you would like to know more about the SG, check out this extremely thorough and interesting video from Five Watt World:
Guitar Packs: I think either one of the packs reviewed above will be fine for beginners, especially younger newbies. The accessories included may change depending on the retailer you purchase from or at the company’s inventory, marketing plan, or whim.
Which package is better? In my mind, there’s no definitive winner or loser. But I think I would go with Squier first, then Ibanez, then Epiphone. But remember, these are just starter packs and they are not necessarily designed and sold to be the end all be all.
Guitar as a standalone: There are so many guitar brands, so many models and sub-models. Although I have only recommended the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson or Epiphone SG, as always I urge you to go out take a look for yourself. Take time to sit down, and experience each guitar for yourself. Consider the feel, weight, playability, tone and the music you want to play. Also, think about the way it makes you feel.
Once you have your guitar you will definitely want to invest in training. Be sure to read my review of the online guitar training sites.