Learning the guitar is one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do - although we may be a little biased here at Guitar World. That's not to say it won't be challenging, but if you stick with it, you'll gain the ability to play music wherever and whenever you want. Now, to get started, you will need one of the best beginner electric guitars. Luckily for you, we've put together this handy guide.
We've used the wealth of knowledge gained from decades in the guitar industry to carefully curate this list and help you quickly find the right guitar for how you want to play. We've played our fair share of beginner electric guitars over the years, so we know precisely which guitars are going to help you progress the best.
It's fair to say that the quality and variety of beginner-friendly guitars has never been better. With vast improvements in manufacturing methods and a more diligent eye on quality control, it's getting harder and harder to pick up a lousy guitar these days.
So, no matter your style, musical taste, or ambitions, we'll give you a comprehensive overview of what you should be looking for when searching for your first ever electric guitar. From the different shapes available to the specific features and functions that matter most when you're first starting out, our round-up has you fully covered.
Are you looking for a great deal on a beginner electric guitar this Cyber Monday? Check out our Cyber Monday guitar deals page for the latest news, and the best offers around.
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Best beginner electric guitars: Our top picks
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Get the perfect electric guitar for beginners in this unbelievable Black Friday deal. Start playing straight out of the box, thanks to a short 24" scale, which makes your first chords and solos easy, while those dual humbuckers will deliver plenty of output for whatever style you want to play.
When it comes to electric guitars for beginners, the choice you make will likely be based on a number of factors, including price, sound, versatility and aesthetics. Each beginner electric guitar in this guide has its own benefits, but as a solid all-rounder we can happily recommend the Yamaha Pacifica 112V as the best beginner’s electric guitar right now.
Despite being almost 30 years since its initial introduction, the Pacifica still provides that perfect balance between price and performance, and does so without compromising on visual appeal.
If the name on your guitar’s headstock is important to you, we’re very happy to report that the Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio and PRS SE Standard 24 are all superb electric guitars for beginners and will complement your playing for years to come.
Best beginner electric guitar: Product guide
First introduced in 1993, the Yamaha Pacifica 112V electric guitar has earned its place at the table of quality electric guitars for beginners. While it doesn’t bring with it quite the same mojo as a Fender or a Gibson, the Pacifica range makes up for that with levels of playability and build quality that far exceed expectations from its smaller price tag.
A juicy-sounding humbucker at the bridge ensures overdriven sounds are well within reach, while the two single coils pickups provide a superb breadth of tones. While there are undoubtedly ‘cheap’ guitars you’ll outgrow in no time, the Pacifica has enough interest to remain a staple in your roster for years to come.
Read the full Yamaha Pacifica 112V review
While there are slightly cheaper models in their catalogue, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster takes our vote as the best beginner’s electric guitar. It’s well-made, so able to withstand your formative playing years, and is cost-effective too. Both important ingredients when choosing your first electric.
If the Strat itself doesn’t appeal to you, the beginner-friendly range extends to include Telecasters, Jaguars and Jazzmasters, so at least one of the huge range of Squier guitars will suit you at this early stage in your guitar playing journey.
Best known for their USA-crafted masterpieces lavished with exotic woods and other incredible materials, PRS are a relative newcomer to the world of budget guitars - but they’ve definitely made an entrance. The ‘SE’ range stands for ‘Student Edition’, but we’re struggling to find anything ‘student’ about these guitars other than the price.
The SE Standard 24 is for those who need something special on a lower budget. As the name suggests, this SE features a 24 fret neck, allowing for those little extra flourishes in your playing. The body has a carved top which makes playing incredibly comfortable, and the lower horn is also carved to make upper fret access super easy as well. The hardware and tremolo are strong and reliable, ideal if you don’t fancy fighting your guitar to keep it in tune.
The pickups are PRS’ own 85/15 “S” creations - a re-designed version of the pickups that you’d likely find in much more expensive models - and combined with a coil-split hidden in the tone control, you’ve got access to even more tones. There’s not much this guitar can’t do.
Read the full PRS SE Standard 24 review
Chances are, if you’ve heard any recorded music from the past 60 years you’ve heard the sounds of a Gibson Les Paul. Played by some of music’s biggest and best names, these iconic guitars are synonymous with rock and heavy music. So what better place for a beginner to begin than with their own slice of musical history?
The Epiphone Les Paul Studio is the Gibson offshoot brand’s best beginner electric guitar, and it packs all that knowledge and understanding into a near-perfect package here. Two humbuckers deliver a great palette of tones, from sparkly cleans to thick overdrive, and everything in-between. The mahogany body and neck ensures sustain that goes for hours, as well as a super solid build quality. You don’t get all the frills and extras of the more expensive models, but who cares when it looks, plays and sounds this good?
If country, folk and jazz are more your style, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner could be the best beginner electric guitar for you. Coming from a brand with a rich heritage, this hollow-body electric delivers a much different playing experience to the other guitars featured in this list.
For a start, the tones it produces are much more vibrant and expressive on account of its semi-acoustic nature. Where other guitars require an amp to mould and shape a tone, this guitar simply requires its inherent tonality to be made louder, such is the richness on offer. Don’t be put off by its size either – the G2420 has curves in all the right places and playing it is no more difficult than any other guitar.
Yamaha’s Revstar series is a welcome addition to their guitar line-up. With slightly different styling than usual from Yamaha, they’ve produced a great looking guitar with a distinct ‘Yamaha’ look about it - something which we love. The hardware is solid, and well above what you would expect on a beginner-friendly instrument - allowing you to focus solely on playing, rather than fighting to keep the thing in tune.
The HH3 Hot humbuckers in the RS320 offer up a full sounding, punchy tone that will make both your clean and dirty tones cut through any mix with ease. With a fairly flat 13.75” fretboard radius, your string bends will have never been easier. This does give the neck a more modern feel however, so it’s worth thinking about what you might prefer before you buy.
As the Gibson stable’s ‘other’ big marque, the SG found itself a niche in players who wanted to retain a bit of individuality over the plethora of Les Paul players. As a result, the SG found its hands into some of rock’s biggest names, including Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and AC/DC’s Angus Young, who favored its raw, edgy tones and striking visual appeal.
The Epiphone SG Standard continues this vibe by delivering good on the promise of rugged, rock-ready tones and exemplary construction. With an extremely comfortable neck and unparalleled access to the higher frets, this is a fun, playable, and incredibly attractive electric guitar for beginners and pros alike.
As many (but not all) beginner guitarists are young, it makes sense for us to include a guitar that suits those among us with smaller hands. Enter the Squier Bullet Mustang. While it’s not a ‘mini guitar’, it does have a slightly reduced scale size, making it ideal for younger players to get to grips with techniques that will serve them as they develop.
That said, having played one ourselves, we can confidently say that this guitar is no mere toy. In fact, we loved its rough-and-ready playability and happily recommend it as one of the overall best beginner’s electric guitars. For a shade under $200, you can’t go far wrong.
Read the full Squier Bullet Mustang review
Ibanez guitars will be familiar to anyone who listens to the heavier end of the musical spectrum. These Superstrat-style guitars typically boast humbucking pickups, vibrato bridges and wafer-thin necks, enabling you to quickly traverse the fretboard at ever-increasing speeds.
The Ibanez Gio GRGR120X is the perfect metal guitar for anyone looking to join this club. Its ergonomic design makes it lightweight and easy to handle, and a pair of Ibanez humbuckers ensures even the gainiest of gain sounds cut through in a band situation. If you plan on learning how to play songs by your favorite metal bands, this is the best beginner’s electric guitar for you.
Rounding off the list is the Epiphone ES-335, which marries vintage tones and vibe with incredible construction and playability. This Epiphone is the affordable version of Gibson’s famous ES-335 model, which has been used on countless blues and rock tracks ever since its introduction in the late 1950s.
What we particularly liked about the ES-335 was its incredible warmth and clarity when pushed through a clean channel using the Alnico Classic neck humbucker. The resonance and sustain had us purring, and we’re certain that if this is on your shortlist, you’ll feel the same.
Best beginner electric guitars: Buying advice
Choosing the best beginner electric guitar for you
If you’ve chosen to start playing electric guitar, then firstly - welcome to the club! Whether you’re into rock, metal, pop, jazz, country, or anything else - an electric guitar can cover it all. To get the most out of your beginner electric, you’ll likely want to pair it with one of the best guitar amps.
There’s a lot to consider when looking for the best beginner electric guitar. Every single part of the instrument affects the resulting sound and feel. Let’s take a look at them...
Guitar body shape
Firstly, there’s the shape of the guitar. There are all sorts of different shapes out there and, whilst that doesn’t really affect the sound it makes, it does affect how comfortable it is for you to play, and how it looks.
The Les Paul and the Strat are probably the two most recognizable electric guitar body shapes, and budget versions aimed at beginners are currently being made to a great standard by Epiphone and Squier, respectively. You’ll also find killer beginner electric guitars being made by a bunch other brands including Yamaha and Gretsch.
Generally, Les Pauls tend to have a thicker body with a single cutaway and Strats are a little thinner, with two cutaways. This does affect how comfortable they are to play, though which one is right for you boils down to personal preference. There are also models like the Epiphone SG which have a similar sound to the Les Paul, but are a little thinner and usually lighter.
Guitar wood type
The woods used for electric guitars do vary. You’ll find the likes of basswood and nato being used on some beginner electric models, which helps keep costs down, whilst others utilize mahogany, which is usually heavier. How much of an impact the body wood has on the sound of an electric guitar is widely disputed, but it certainly affects the weight of it.
How do pickups work?
The biggest part of the guitar’s sound are the electric guitar pickups. Pickups are essentially magnets wrapped with wire and they convert the vibrations caused by your moving strings into electrical signals, which are then sent to your amp. There are different types of pickups around - the most popular types are single coils (as seen in Strats and Teles), and humbuckers (usually found in Les Pauls).
Single coils usually sound thinner, brighter and push out a lower signal than humbuckers, which makes them great for clean sounds. Humbuckers are normally warmer and thicker sounding, and, whilst they sound great clean, they have a higher output which causes them to distort a little sooner. Lots of classic rock and metal players favor humbuckers, and funk, pop and country players will often use single coils - blues guys often use both! It’s definitely worth noting though, that these are very general statements, and any sort of music can be played on any guitar - it’s all about how you play it.
Hardware is quite important when looking for the best beginner electric guitar. Hardware comprises things like the bridge, saddles, tuning pegs, and the output (the bit you plug your cable into). Investing in better quality, sturdier hardware will mean your guitar will require less maintenance and hold its tuning better; it can even help with sustain, making it sound better too.
How much should you spend on a beginner electric guitar?
Finding the best beginner electric guitar is about balancing all of the above with the cost. You can pick up something between $150-200 that will stand you in good stead for learning; the more you pay, the more likely you’ll find better hardware, pickups that offer more definition, and better build quality. That said, most people don’t want to spend too much on their first electric guitar in case it’s not something they take to (plus, it gives you an excuse to upgrade a few years later!).
Ultimately, you’re the one that’s going to be playing the guitar, so it’s important that you find something that’s comfortable to play, and that inspires you to pick it up. There’s a ton of learning resources for beginner guitarists, in books and online - there’s some great stuff on YouTube, if you want to teach yourself, plus there are plenty of teachers that are happy to meet in person, or teach via video call. There really has never been a better time to learn!
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