Choosing the right “first” electric guitar for your needs as a beginning player is just about as hard as finally mastering the painful F-chord – and it’s one of the first steps to being a guitarist that all players remember for the rest of their lives.
Everyone remembers their first electric guitar: Many guitarists still own their treasured first even decades into their professional music careers.
Your first guitar doesn’t have to be a 1960’s USA Fender Strat or Gibson Les Paul from the 80’s to be good. Is the neck a comfortable fit for your hands? Do you like the sound of it? Do the strings stay in tune and do the pickups conduct a decent sound?
As long as the answer to these questions is a “yes”, you have a good first guitar. If the answer to any of the above questions turns out to be a “no” instead, remember that elements like pickups and tuners can still be changed to improve a guitar that has a good body or neck but isn’t great at everything else.
There are a bewildering amount of options out there. A lot of them are made to confuse the beginner player (or to sell them something they don’t really need).
Some guitar “kits” that come with accessories are notoriously bad, although a few select ones stand out as excellent.
Need a little help from your friends?
Sure. Here’s a look at the top electric guitars if you’re a beginner and the best features of each
Snapshot: Best Beginner Electric Guitar 2019
Here’s a snapshot of the best beginner guitars that you can buy. There are thousands of possible guitar options available to beginners, but these are some of the best (and best-priced) ones available right now.
- Ibanez GRX20Z
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard
- Ibanez Artcore AS73
- Squier Classic Vibe 70s Stratocaster
- Schecter Omen 6
- PRS SE Standard 24
- ESP-LTD M-10
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC 112V
They’re the guitars that don’t blow out your bank or budget, but still give you a solid construction and good tone: And can continue to do so for the next few decades if you take care of it well!
Top 8 Best Electric Guitars for Beginners
Which guitar you choose is up to you, and depends on things like your playing needs and your budget. What kind of music are you into? What players do you admire? How much are you willing to spend on a first electric guitar – and how much movement room do you have here to go up to the next option if you don’t like the one before it?
Remember to play guitars before settling on a specific one. Two Epiphone Standards won’t have the exact same feel on the frets or the exact same sound, even though they’re (technically) the same model from the same brand – and might even be off the same production line. No two guitars are the same: Play around until you’ve found the one that fits you like a glove.
Some players have got the blues. Others will listen to metal until the ends of time. This can also have an impact on which one you choose: Consider your music style and players you admire. Be sure to check out what they were playing on any recordings you take to.
Less overwhelmed yet?
Beginner Electric Guitar Reviews
1. Ibanez GRX20Z BKN
Ibanez is a trustworthy brand, and the Ibanez GRX20Z could have had a much catchier name, but remains one of the best entry-level guitars you can get. While it might look like it’s made for metal, the Ibanez Gio-series guitar is a lightweight answer for anyone who wants the chunkier sound of humbuckers without the added weight of the guitars they normally come with.
Buy an Ibanez Gio if you love a guitar with a thinner neck, particularly if you’re a fan of metal and want to make techniques like sweep picking easier. Careful with the whammy bar, it’s likely to knock it out of tune with overuse.
Body & Neck
The Ibanez GRX is a solid-body electric guitar generally made from alder wood for the body and maple for the bolt-on neck. Some of the Ibanez GRX models are issued with a flame-maple top which you’ll notice is pretty thin if you were ever to sand it down, but still great to look at. Most GRX models have a comfortable neck right off the production line, but some have sharp fret edges as a factory fault that need filing down by your friendly neighborhood guitar tech.
Electronics & Hardware
The ibanez comes with dual humbuckers: These are perfect for achieving a thicker or crunchier guitar tone often needed for some types of blues/rock and many varieties of heavy metal. The hardware is usually solid, and it comes standard with an installed whammy bar. If your guitar goes out of tune too often, replace the stock tuners with higher-quality ones.
The overall sound of the Ibanez is great, although it doesn’t offer you as much natural sustain as you would think (or hope for).
Other than this, the pickups do the job well. The bridge pickup sometimes sounds a little thin, but can be changed out for other, fatter-sounding pickups if you’d like to achieve a different sound.
Thick, smokey blues? The Ibanez handles it just as well as it can take on screaming heavy metal or crunchy rhythm playing instead.
Even though many Ibanez guitars were considered exclusively “metal” for a long time, the Gio can be extremely versatile.
An Ibanez Gio can be a guitar that stays with you for hundreds of performances if you take care of it well. Overall, the Gio comes out well “out of the box.” It plays well and sounds good without the need to make any major changes or adjustments.
The option of change, such as changing out pickups, is easy enough if you ever decide to.
The Ibanez Gio is a far more versatile guitar than it gets credit for: The thinner neck makes it great for beginner players who are still training their hands (and don’t want to stress across an unusually fat neck to learn chords that are painful already) – and the sound is more than decent.
2. Epiphone Les Paul Standard
The quality of the guitars that make it out of the main USA Gibson factory has come under fire for a very long time: Many users have reported issues with a guitar they’ve paid almost $1, 000 dollars or more for – and these are issues that most of them don’t want to see after spending this much.
What this means to guitars is that the Epiphone Les Paul Standard has taken back its spot as one of the most popular electric guitars right now, and with good reason.
Many players say that their Epiphone LP Standard is one of the best guitars they’ve ever owned, and in the face of quality changes, more and more players rank Epiphone guitars above or on-par with the pricier Gibson-brand.
Body & Neck
The Epiphone LP Standard is made from mahogany, usually with a neck-through mahogany neck and a rosewood fretboard. Most Les Paul models come with a pickguard (although some guitarists play more comfortably with the pickguard removed instead) and you can expect a slightly thicker neck profile than most Stratocaster-like guitars.
The body of most Epiphone LP guitars are a little heavier than your average Stratocaster, but it’s the sacrifice you’ll have to make for the type of tone you want when you play any kind of LP guitar.
If you’ve never played a Les Paul before now, know that the neck joints are not as durable as the average Strat or Tele. Don’t drop it, don’t knock it, don’t accidentally hit it against the ceiling and don’t hurl it at the drummer – no, LP neck joints can’t take the pressure and will be harder to repair than a bolt-on where you could have replaced the neck.
Electronics & Hardware
The Epiphone LP Standard comes with Grover tuning heads, Epiphone LP standard pickups and a Tune-O-Matic bridge. Right out of the box, the electronics and hardware of the LP Standard are solid and won’t let you down.
If something does go wrong with your Epiphone, the most likely options are a loose wire (either pickups, pots or input plug), and it can be fixed with a trip to your guitar tech and a few minutes of soldering.
The great news is that Epiphone LP Standards are generally well made enough that this shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re hoping to get a guitar that can last your entire career as a workhorse guitar that can do everything for the studio or stage, get an Epiphone LP.
If you want to know what an Epiphone LP Standard sounds like before you play one, get online and take a closer look at some YouTube videos of Epiphone LP models played through different amps. There are many artists out there who recorded with Standard Epiphone pickups, and most of them came out sounding great.
The Epiphone LP Standard is great for any guitarist who wants comfort, durability and a great damn guitar all-in-one.
The only thing an Epiphone lacks in terms of sound is the “twang” you’ll only hear with single-coil pickups, but that’s fine: Not everyone wants to sound like a Strat and this is your perfect guitar if this describes you.
Right out of the box without any adjustments and changes, the Epiphone LP can sound great – and especially great depending on what amp you’re playing it through.
As your playing becomes more advanced or you decide that you want to chase down a specific kind of guitar sound, players might want to make a few small alterations over time like other pickups, but this is entirely up to you.
The Les Paul is one of the most popular guitar body types out there and it’s favored by many guitarists over the world. (Even a few Strat players had their LP phases – did you know that blues player Stevie Ray Vaughan was one of them?)
Get an Epiphone Les Paul Standard if you want a durable guitar that can do everything. It has the potential to stick with you for decades if the humbucker sound is what you’re after.
3. Ibanez Artcore AS73
Ibanez has a huge range of guitars that fall outside of the traditional metal guitars they are known for. Hollow-bodied guitars are a favorite of many jazz and blues players, metal players and any players who have back or posture problems and want a suitable guitar to match.
If you want a guitar that’s light (and a comfortable introduction to a hollow-bodied guitar), the Artcore is one of the best choices out there.
Body & Neck
This particular Artcore model has been made with a hollow maple body, mahogany wood neck and rosewood fretboard. If you want a smooth guitar that’s light while still carrying the fat, humbucker tone you’d expect from a Les Paul consider the Artcore a good choice.
At first, the neck profile can feel a little thick, but this can be fixed with – surprisingly – string adjustment. Actually, the neck is small, but if your strings are set too high up it can make the neck feel a lot bigger to a beginner guitarist than it really is.
Electronics & Hardware
The Ibanez Artcore uses standard Ibanez tuners to keep the strings in place. They hold together well enough to last you thousands of gigs, but some models came off the production line with tuning pegs that are likely to “slip” and put your guitar out of tune. For this reason, it’s one of the first things that a lot of players choose to replace first.
The Classic Elite pickups sound surprisingly great, and there’s no need (or urge) to change the pickups from what the guitar comes with.
The pickup configuration of the Artcore allows you to go for slightly thinner sounds versus fatter, bassier tones. This makes it great and versatile no matter what genre of music you’ll end up playing the most of.
The stock pickups are great, and usually the only reason someone would change them out is if they are looking for a specific tone they can’t create with Classic Elite. You’ll be glad to know this isn’t an issue for most people who pick up the Artcore.
The Artcore is made to last, and made to sound great. It succeeds in both of these goals, and they’ve managed to construct a hollow-bodied guitar that’s considerably better than many other compared hollow-bodies on the market. It’s light, and it can even take more of a beating than you would imagine.
Choose the Ibanez Artcore if you’re a guitarist who wants something light that still sounds as full as you want a hollow-bodied guitar to be – regardless of the genres you most play.
4. Squier Classic Vibe 70s Stratocaster
The debate among guitarists about whether the Fender or Squier brand takes the cake as the best guitar brand is endless – and there are thousands of people who will swear that theirs is better. It’s one of the most confusing discussions to be in when you’re a new guitarist, and it’s even worse if you’re still trying to choose between these brands.
Don’t get absorbed into the discussion.
If you want a guitar that’s versatile enough to handle any genre and durable enough to last for decades (while still being a great option if you choose to modify it), this is a great choice.
If you want a guitar that keeps its resale value, choose a Fender, but for a real workhorse, a Squier Standard or Classic Vibe will do.
Body & Neck
With most Squier and Fender guitars, what you see is what you get: The level of quality is usually consistent. These are made from poplar wood with a maple neck (and your choice of fretboard material) with a bolt-on neck. The construction makes any replacements, repairs and modifications easier – and it’s part of why it’s remained a great guitar for studio and live playing both.
Electronics & Hardware
The Squier Classic Vibe range have been made according to the standards of the eras they replicate. The Classic Vibe Strat uses single coil Alnico pickups with a fatter “twang” than most to keep it faithful to the 70s guitar tone, and it’s up to you whether or not you want to change them out for others to achieve a specific “other” tone.
The sound you get with the stock pickups are excellent: Even for studio recordings, there’s usually no need to change out the pups unless you’re looking for a specific sound. Depending on who you ask, this guitar is going to sound best through a Fender amp, but ones like the Roland Cube can also fit your needs well and get almost any possible guitar tone out of these pickups.
Overall, Squiers are great. Look around on the internet and you’ll find an assortment of collectors who fell so in love with the Squier that it’s the brand of most of the guitars in their collection.
They’re great because they’re versatile, easy to modify and not the most expensive guitar to need to replace if it ever gets stolen.
Avoid the Bullet range; These are so light they’ll float up to the ceiling, and can even feel fragile: Save up and go for the Squier Standard of Classic Vibe.
Final thoughts? Buy one. If you’re in love with the Stratocaster shape or sound, this is one of the best guitars you can get.
The Classic Vibe is a great choice because the guitars of the 70s were very, very well made with a great sound. (A lot of blues, rock and surf rock were played this way, but you can play anything.)
5. Schecter Omen 6
The Schecter Omen 6 is what happens when you take the classic Stratocaster shape and then shape it a little more. It’s great if you have a little more to spend on a first electric guitar – and it’s great if any of the guitar tones you’re hoping to achieve were originally played with a Schecter guitar.
It’s solid, and as great for jazz or blues as it is for metal.
Body & Neck
Schecters are overall well made: If you buy a Schecter guitar, you know that you’re buying a good one – and they hold up as well in the studio as they do for any live playing. The body is made from basswood, which makes it a lighter humbucker guitar option than a Les Paul, and the neck has 22 frets.
Electronics & Hardware
The Schecter Omen 6 comes with black chrome hardware and Diamond Plus dual humbuckers. Unless you’re hoping for a specific sound and can’t get it out of the stock pickups, there should be no need for you to ever have to change them. It sounds good as-is.
What you get out of the Omen 6 depends largely on your amp: It’s not going to sound like a Stratocaster because it isn’t one. It can pull off bluesy tones just as well as crunchy rock or dirty metal: Just run it through the right amp with the right settings and you’re good to go.
Schecter has a good reputation overall: Even their entry-level guitars can be used for professional-level gigging when they’re taken care of – and repairs are usually easier for these Schecters because the necks are bolt-on, same as most Tele and Strat models.
The first thing you should do as a beginner guitarist trying to choose a guitar is to take a closer look at the guitar tones you admire: What were they playing? If it was a humbucker pickup guitar, you’ll be fine buying yourself a Schecter.
This is also a great guitar if you’re looking for an option that’s lighter than your average Strat or Les Paul.
6. PRS SE Standard
The PRS SE Standard is a great guitar, but isn’t everyone’s style. If you take to the PRS style guitar more than you take to Stratocasters, Telecasters, hollow-bodies or something else, you’re probably going to love PRS-style guitars for the majority of your guitar playing time – just buy a PRS and get it over with because nothing else will quite compare if that’s what you want.
Body & Neck
The PRS SE Standard comes with a mahogany body, a maple neck and a set neck construction. Some are issued with a fancy flame maple laminate top, others aren’t – but they are usually still hiding the flame maple top under the paint.
The maple neck handles well: It’s great if you want a thinner neck instead.
Electronics & Hardware
The PRS SE Standard comes with PRS standard humbuckers. They don’t sound like a Stratocaster, but surprisingly they can be made to just with a few adjustments that gets you a sound that’s close to the unique Fender twang.
Not looking for the Strat sound? Just fine: Switch the pickup configuration around and be amazed as the PRS changes its sound. It’s a damn cool guitar, period.
What it sounds like depends on the type of amp you’re using to achieve the sound and what pickup configuration you have it set to. A PRS generally has a very characteristic sound and you either want it or you don’t.
The PRS Standard can be one of the best quality guitars you can buy: It’s true if you’ve just started playing, and it’s true if you’ve been playing guitar for ten years. There’s no need to make any major changes or modifications when you get it – again, unless the stock options don’t match what you’re hoping it to sound like.
Final thoughts? If you’re a PRS Baby, buy one: Most people can never be converted away from the guitar shape or type they love the most!
7. ESP LTD M-10
The ESP LTD M-10 is one of the very few exceptionally good guitars you’ll occasionally find as part of a “guitar kit.” This can be a guitar that lasts you for a lifetime as a guitar player, and then lasts the next guitar player a lifetime when it’s passed on to them as their first guitar.
Yes, they’re really that well made – and they can take a few serious knocks to the body and still play fine.
Body & Neck
The ESP LTD’s body is made from basswood, making it a very light, smaller guitar. It’s great or players who want to dip their toes into metal and techniques like sweep picking that requires a thinner neck: It’s also great for any guitarists with back trouble who want a thicker sound without the weight.
Electronics & Hardware
The hardware is great, not just for the price, but great overall. It almost never goes out of tune, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the stock electronics.
The only issue you might experience with this guitar is slight loosening of the input jack over months of heavy playing and constant agitation of the plug. This can be fixed with a screwdriver or soldering iron and it’s not that much of an issue.
The ESP LTD can create some great sounds, and some especially great sounds when played through the right amp. It’s surprisingly just fine for blues players too, and it’s not an awkward shape.
The only sound issue? The bridge pickup can sound very, very thin at times. You’ll find yourself avoiding its use if you’re a studio players unless you later change out the pickups or use the right settings on your amp to add a little more “fatness” to the sound.
Get an ESP LTD M-10 if you want a really solid electric guitar at the lowest price point on this list: It will last you for decades if you take very good care of it, and it’s even suited to studio use.
The ESP LTD range is great, and the M-10 is an especially great learning guitar for beginners because of the thinner neck, lighter body and low-to-the-frets profile that makes more complicated chords easier for beginning players.
8. Yamaha Pacifica PAC 112V
The Yamaha Pacifica is one of the very first beginner guitars you’ll see on a lot of best guitar lists. Why? It’s a good guitar, it’s easy to modify – and it might not be a Stratocaster, but it can still be the go-to guitar that you learn with and use for hundreds of gigs after. They’re light and durable – and the necks are well made, which is one of the most important things to look for.
Body & Neck
The Pacifica’s body is made from agathis wood, which makes it surprisingly light although very, very solid. It can be endlessly modified and knocked around without too much damage to your guitar – and as any gigging guitarist gets to learn really soon, this will happen eventually.
The neck is bolt-on and maple: The profile feels a little thicker than your average Strat, though, and this depends on whether or not you end up liking the feel of the neck when you play it.
Electronics & Hardware
The stock electronics you get with the Pacifica are just fine, but there is still a fair argument to change it out to some other ones: They can sound thin, and they don’t quite have the “twang” you want to match up with a Strat in the single coil pickups or the full “bite” that you’d expect from the humbucking pickups – but it can still be achieved with either changed out pickups or a very good amp.
The tremolo bar holds up well, too, which is surprising considering that tremolo bars are one of the first corners that gets cut with cheaper entry-level guitars.
The sound is fine. But the sound isn’t exceptional. It sounds like a guitar: But you’ll have trouble telling which type of guitar when you listen to it. This isn’t ideal for most guitarists who are chasing tone.
If you buy this guitar invest in a more versatile amp – and consider changing the pickups when you become a more advanced player
If you’re looking for a guitar that’s ideal for a beginner player just starting, this is great (and one of the reasons is that it’s so easy to make modifications to when you want something else).
H-S-S pickups are great because they allow you to achieve either single coil tones or humbucker ones at the touch of a button: Very, very useful for studio players who need versatility on the spot.
Almost nobody has bought a Pacifica as their first guitar and considered it a bad buy or a regret later down the line. The same is true for most of the guitars on this list. You just have to decide if this is the right guitar for you.
How to Choose an Electric Guitar for a Beginner
Not sure how to choose your first guitar? Before you head over to any guitar forums to ask questions that are just going to confuse you when nobody can agree on the right answer, check out our list of the top electric guitars for beginners first – and consider the following things before you make your final buy.
Here are the things that influence which guitar makes the best one for your needs as a beginner guitarist. (And yes, it also applies if you’re buying this guitar as your second, third or forth!)
The two most important budget questions are:
1. How much are you able to spend?
2. How much are you willing to spend?
If the answer to the two questions don’t match up for you, don’t worry about it. It’s common, and all it means is that you should save up a little longer until you can get the guitar you want.
When it comes to buying the guitar you really want, there’s no talking about compromise: If you want the Classic Vibe, don’t buy the Schecter just because it fits your budget right now. Wait a few months and buy the guitar that fits you: In ten years, you’ll be damn glad.
The right guitar is always worth waiting and saving for, even if you’re eager to get started.
Most of the guitars on this list don’t come with accessories, but there are a few needed accessories that any guitarist is going to need.
First, a gig bag is one of the most important things. Get a hardcase if you want to keep your guitar safe for traveling to gigs (and stashing the rest of the accessories, of course).
Make sure you have enough cables to last you a lifetime. Eventually,cables get damaged and you can’t afford this when you don’t have a spare. Always, always and always have a spare.
Not everyone plays with a capo, but it’s useful as a learning tool when you’re starting, and for quick transposing between keys during studio or live playing without the need to re-tune.
Get a tuner or rely on a tuning app instead; Tuning apps weren’t available at Woodstock: They all had to wing it. You have the luxury of a tuner, so use it!
A slide is also a very useful accessory to have in your guitar arsenal: Even if you don’t play slide often, it can be great to have one – and it’s useful to learn.
Always have a screwdriver in your guitar kit. The uses for it are endless, and you can repair most guitar issues yourself with a soldering iron and screwdriver.
Spare strings. Do we need to clarify this? They’re going to snap – and usually often – so always have a spare strings usually in a lower gauge if you’re a beginning player who doesn’t want to cut up their fingers too much. If you live in a coastal area prone to rust, switch to silver strings to avoid rust becoming an issue in a few days from changing your strings.
A guitar strap can also be a useful addition if you intend to play standing up: Yes it’s also just as useful when you’re sitting down just for the added comfort and security of knowing you’re not going to drop it to the floor if it falls. Don’t try the fancy “strap swing” move with your guitar – ever. The only options involve the strap giving way, the guitar hitting the roof or the guitar flying right off your shoulders. It looks fancy, but it’s really just dangerous.
Let’s not forget about the guitar amp, on of the most
There are several guitar body types: There’s the Stratocaster and Telecaster, but there’s also the Les Paul. Then, there’s the hollow-body guitar. There’s also metal-style guitars, flying V-shaped guitars and SG-shaped guitars with horns.
Find what’s comfortable.
Comfort is one of the most important things for any guitarist – and different guitarists just happen to like different things. Nobody’s going to judge you or crucify you if you pick a metal-looking guitar to play jazz because that’s comfortable for you. And even if there’s a lot of heated discussion about what guitar is right or wrong, we can all agree on the fact that guitarists like Jimi Hendrix could have picked any of the guitars on this list and sounded damn good.
Play until you’ve tracked down the right one that feels right for you. The guitar chooses the wizard.
Guitars have different scale lengths, and we’re going to give you the exact same answer as the above section: You’re going to have to experiment with different guitars and physically play them in a guitar shop (or a friend’s place) until you find the one that’s your Eureka moment.
Smaller stature can sometimes mean that you’re going to prefer a guitar with a thinner neck profile in most cases. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and there’s no “right or wrong” when it comes to body type or scale length.
Neck construction matters.
Some of the guitars on this list have bolt-on necks: These attach directly to the body with screws. In the earlier days of the electric guitar, this was done to make electric guitars like the Stratocaster easier to produce, easier to ship and much easier to modify (or to make replacements).
The only way to fix a damaged neck-through guitar is to glue it and hope it holds, or to replace the entire guitar: Sometimes you can have a luthier build up the construction of the guitar again, but this takes so much effort and time that it’s only reserved for either very expensive guitars or very treasured ones.
You might be wondering why anyone would want a neck-through guitar at all: Sustain. The notes ring in a completely different way – and that’s why it’s easier to achieve Gary Moore-like sustain on notes with a Les Paul than it is with anything else.
Now, let’s talk about electronics. When a mommy pickup loves a daddy pickup…
Well, no, not quite.
The electronics on all of the guitars on this list are generally great – and generally perfect for a variety of different tones and sounds. Don’t worry too much about the stock sound as a beginning player, and don’t let people tell you that you have to spend a lot of money to change out pickups during the first few months of your guitar playing.
When do you need to change to something other than the original stock pickups? When you listen to the sound that comes out of the amp and it’s not cutting it for the sound that you’re trying to achieve, or when you experience issues with your stock pickups that mean you have to replace them anyway.
First Guitar? Easy!
Getting your first guitar (or buying one for someone else) isn’t nearly as complicated as some seasoned guitar forumers will have you believe. Choose the guitar you like from a list of ones that are well-built, and you’ll likely still be playing it in the next ten years.
The guitars on this list are all well made, all just as great for beginning players and more advanced ones who need one for a gig or the studio. Spend more on a guitar than you do on the amp. Amps can be changed, and these days you can even plug your guitar directly into your iPhone or PC to hook it up with amplification software, but there’s no app out there that can fix a guitar you’re not happy with playing.