Rock Out With the Top 5 Electric Guitars for Beginners

Recommendations For Buying Your First Electric Guitar

So you're looking for your first electric guitar, one you can practice on and, when the time comes, perform on. Make sure you do your research to find a beautiful instrument that will suit your taste, style, and budget and will last for years to come.

Start With Good Wood and Workmanship

When you start to look for that great beginner's electric guitar, focus on an instrument with good-quality wood and reasonable workmanship. That's the most commonly accepted method of choosing a low-cost electric guitar for a beginner. Guitar manufacturers tend to cut corners with cheaper guitars by using, for instance, cheaper pickups and hardware. But for the guitarist who gets more serious about playing, these are all upgradeable parts that can be swapped out for higher-quality parts. So begin with a good-quality wooden frame and upgrade as time and money allow.

Then Amps and Other Essentials

If you buy an electric guitar, you're going to need to pick up some essentials to go with it, such as an amplifier and cable, plectrums (picks), a strap, and a bag.

When you start shopping around for decent guitar amp to go with your new guitar, focusing on a good-quality amp is crucial. A subpar guitar played through a great amp can still sound fairly decent, but even the best guitars, when played through a bad amplifier, sound awful.

Avoid the very small and basic 15-watt amplifiers such as the Fender Frontman 15G, which provide a low-cost solution to amplifying the guitar but have only tolerable sound that could disillusion the beginner.  

Set your sites above the cheapest, smallest amplifier in the store, and you'll certainly end up with an amp that will serve your needs for a much longer period of time.

A Good, Modestly Priced Amplifier

The Fender Pro Junior is a great, low-cost tube amplifier that you'll sometimes even see being used by professional guitarists. What the Pro Junior lacks in control (no EQ, no reverb), it more than makes up for in tone and sound quality.

There are a few things to look for in modestly priced amplifiers: at least a 3-band equalizer or EQ ( low, mid, and high), a clean channel and an "overdrive" channel, reverb, and possibly some sort of "presence" control. There are two types of amplifiers: tube and transistor. Many playes prefer tube-style amps, but they can be problematic technically. Just be aware of that.

A Flat Pick, Finger Picks, and Thumb Picks

The plectrum, or flat pick, is another key piece of essential equipment. For electric guitars, it tends to be a thin piece of plastic, metal, shell or other material shaped like a teardrop or a triangle. There are also thumb picks mounted on rings and finger picks on the player's fingertips; you'll see electric guitarists using both of these as well as a standard pick. 

Guitarists looking for an aggressive sound might choose steel plectra because steel strings can damage fingers and because steel produces the aggressive sound they're looking for. Some creative guitarists go for a combination of plectrum and finger picks.

As for your cable, strap, and bag, look at products that are durable. You don't want to be reinvesting in these every couple of months. Ask your guitar store for recommendations about the most durable ones that are available at a decent price.

Have a Professional Set Up Your Equipment 

Once you are equipped, you'll need a local professional to get it all set up so that you'll have fresh strings, good action, and correct tuning. Watch how it's done and maybe you can do some of this yourself next time. 

Take Lessons

When you're all set up, you can start thinking about guitar lessons. You have a few options: a local professional, a guitar teacher, or online guitar courses, which can be excellent and free. These will all have you playing within a few hours. With practice, your guitar will also give you a lifetime of pleasure. You'll never stop learning.

Top 5 Electric Guitars for Beginners

Time to turn our attention back to the guitars themselves. The following are some of the better low-cost electric guitars available on the market today; refer to an anatomy of electric guitars to see definitions of guitar pieces and places. When you're deciding, go to a store and try them out for heft, comfort, stability, sound quality, and appearance. Shop around, comparing, for instance, online prices against local store prices. This is an investment, so choose wisely.

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Squier Fat Stratocaster

Vintage electric guitars
Vintage electric guitars. Fraser Hall/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

This is one of several Squier models available that offer a pretty good product for a reasonably low price. The pickups and hardware are sometimes suspect, and the workmanship varies from instrument to instrument, but for the price, these are a very good beginner guitar choice. Squier Fat Strats are similar in appearance to the much more expensive Fender Stratocasters, so the look of the instrument is appealing. 

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Epiphone G-310 SG

Epiphone SG electric guitar
Epiphone SG electric guitar.

Modeled after the much more expensive Gibson SG guitars, the Epiphone SG G310 keeps its cost low by using cheaper hardware and lower quality humbucking pickups. The G-310 features an alder body, a mahogany neck, and a dot-inlaid rosewood fingerboard. The buzz on this guitar is that it's a very good value for the money.

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Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica Series HSS Deluxe

Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica Series HSS Deluxe
Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica Series HSS Deluxe.

Here's another guitar many people feel is a great value. This Pacifica features an agathis body, maple neck, and rosewood fretboard, with two single coil pickups, and one humbucker. The consensus is the guitar is reasonably well made, and the quality of the wood tends to be high. Those who go on to become serious guitarists might want to consider upgrading the electronics of the Pacifica HSS.

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Squier Affinity Series Telecaster

Squier Affinity Series Telecaster
Squier Affinity Series Telecaster.

Guitarists like Keith Richards, Steve Cropper, Albert Lee, and Danny Gatton favor the look and sound of the Telecaster. If you're a fan of any of those guitarists, this beginner guitar may be for you. The Affinity Telecaster features an alder body, with a maple neck and fretboard.

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Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Epiphone Les Paul Special II.

The Les Paul is perhaps the most famous guitar in rock and roll. Epiphone has done a good job of visually re-creating the Les Paul in this lower-cost guitar marketed towards beginners. The Special II features a laminated alder/maple body, a mahogany neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and two open-coil humbucking pickups.