Guitar World Staff Picks: Paul Riario’s Top 5 Electric Guitars of 2011
Nothing makes a bigger statement about the kind of guitarist you are than the axe you wield.
Does it come in black, with a pointy headstock and EMG pickups? You must be a country player!
All kidding aside, finding that perfect guitar can also be choosing a certain style of playing. Naturally, you should be able to play any style of music on any guitar, but some guitars are better suited for certain musical styles than others. You wouldn’t necessarily show up at a Wes Montgomery covers gig with a B.C. Rich, much less play Slipknot songs with a D’Aquisto hollow body. Not to say it hasn’t been done, it’s just odd.
Regardless, that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from creating instruments that appeal to a variety of styles. For that, the Fender Stratocaster could be regarded as the Swiss Army knife of guitars because its design, versatility and the fact that it can be modified to accommodate other electronics and hardware allows anyone to be able to play just about anything on it — without the stigma that you brought the wrong guitar to the gig.
If that isn’t enough, Fender, along with other manufacturers, makes plenty of guitars with numerous options so all you’ll need to consider is which model will best accommodate you. There are other factors to toss around that take precedence as well, such as weight, neck profile and comfort, but most important: Is the guitar resonant?
What’s that, you ask? Strum the guitar without plugging it in. Is it loud and lively and not "dead"? If it is, chances are that guitar is going to sound great when plugged in.
With all this in mind, decide who you are as a player first, then pick the guitar that best suits you. The photo gallery below includes five (well, six really -- there was a tie) of the best guitars I came across in 2011. Nearly all of them are capable enough to use at any gig or audition without raising any eyebrows.
Paul Riario on Paul Riario: I try very hard to remain under the radar, despite being on camera as gear editor at Guitar World, but in this age of social media, it was only a matter of time before it had to come to this. So with that, I will make my blog painless and a quick and easy read so you can get on to more important things like practicing guitar and sweep picking, or if you’re like me, getting tiger blood transfusions and figuring out how to be Olivia Wilde’s boy toy. I will use this blog to inform you of things I find cool; like new gear I’m playing through and what I’m watching, reading or listening to at any given moment. So feel free to ask me anything that’s gear related — or if you have a problem with your girlfriend, ya know, life lesson stuff, I’m pretty good at that too — and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.and I’ll do my best to answer or address it here.
01 (Continued). Fender 60th Anniversary Telecaster
See the last slide for info.
01. TIE: Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom Blackback (this slide) and Fender 60th Anniversary Telecaster (next slide)
I’m equally in love with these two. The Epiphone Les Paul Custom Blackback with its crème color on the front and black back sounds as good as it looks. I use it for GW demos because of its thick tone and punchy response. Fender’s 60th Anniversary Tele proves you can make updates to a classic without losing the character that makes it a beloved guitar.
02. Taylor SolidBody Classic Double-Cut
Taylor is known for making fine acoustics, so it’s no surprise they went big when it came time to creating an electric. This is an original design, and there were no compromises in creating these responsive and comfortable-playing guitars. Build your dream guitar using the configurator on their website. If you want different electronics later, it’s easy; swappable pickguards are pre-wired in 11 different pickup combinations.
03. G&L ASAT Deluxe Carved Top
G&L really vamps up the Telecaster body shape with a bound flamed maple top over a carved mahogany body, in effect, making this Tele less twangy and more zaftig in tone. The Alnico humbuckers offer plenty of warmth. The inclusion of a push-pull tone pot for single-coil applications will make traditional Tele players smile. Add in the fact it’s affordable and you have one head-turner of a guitar for all types of music.
04. PRS Guitars NF3
The NF3 adds some new twists to the iconic PRS body by employing 57/08 Narrowfield pickups, a proprietary design that offers classic humbucking and single-coil tones with its 5-way blade switch. It’s about as versatile a guitar you can get. The new neck shape instantly fills your hand comfortably while the V12 finish enhances the resonance of the wood to coax some otherworldly sustain.
05. ESP Guitars LTD James Hetfield Snakebyte Signature
Besides putting a cool spin on the Explorer body shape, the Snakebyte is one of the best guitars I’ve played for metal. It’s mind boggling that this is the affordable version of the guitar, considering the build quality, EMG pickups, TonePros hardware and Sperzel tuners. Setup was spot on, neck shape was ideal for chording and its ebony fretboard proves that power riffing on one will always sound more defined.