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Best guitars for indie rock 2022: iconic brands and signature sounds from Fender, Rickenbacker and more

Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster on a rug
(Image credit: Future)

Not every guitar hero has to be stood in front of a wall of Marshall stacks, with a low-slung Les Paul. Here, we’re taking more of an anti-guitar hero approach as we count down the best guitars for indie rock, taking into account different budgets and the different needs of a variety of players.

Indie rock is actually quite an all-encompassing genre. Stemming from the term ‘independent’, usually in reference to record labels in the late ’70s, indie rock has, in the last few decades, become fairly interchangeable with post-punk, alternative and indie. 

When we use it today, we’ll usually be referring to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The White Stripes, The Killers, Kings Of Leon, The Strokes and so on. It can also refer to more old-school indie bands like The Smiths and The Stone Roses, as well as more contemporary artists like Phoebe Bridgers, The Sherlocks and Sam Fender.

So musically, there’s quite a lot of ground to cover. We’ll want to make sure that we’ve got the classic, jangly, chimey guitar tones covered, as well as the chunkier, more stadium-filling guitar tones. Whatever you’re after, we’ve got you covered in our list of the best guitars for indie rock.

Best guitars for indie rock: Guitar World recommends

It’s hard to talk about indie rock guitars without any mention of the Fender Telecaster. The Tele is versatile, and you’ll see it in the hands of many different players, especially within the realms of indie rock. More specifically, the Fender Player Telecaster (opens in new tab) delivers all its classic tones, without breaking the bank. 

Alternatively, you can’t go wrong with an offset. Here, we’ve chosen the Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster for some vintage-inspired mojo, and a signature model from the king of indie rock himself - the Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar (opens in new tab)

Best guitars for indie rock: Product guide

Best guitars for indie rock: Fender Player Telecaster in Tidepool on a white background

(Image credit: Fender)

1. Fender Player Telecaster

Versatile, and goes hand in hand with the indie rock genre

Specifications

Body: Alder
Neck: Maple, Bolt-on
Scale: 25.5”
Fingerboard: Maple/Pau Ferro
Pickups: Player Series Alnico 5 Tele Single Coil
Neck Profile: Modern C
Finish: Sunburst, Butterscotch Blonde, Black, Tidepool, Polar White, Capri Orange
Left-handed?: Y

Reasons to buy

+
Classic indie rock guitar
+
Two pickups cover a lot
+
Simple layout
+
Road-ready

Reasons to avoid

-
 Not much

It’s hard to not rank the Fender Telecaster as the best guitar for indie rock. The Tele is an incredibly versatile beast – if you want to cover everything from bright and jangly, to warm and mellow, with lots of ground in between, then the Fender Player Telecaster could be the one for you.

Like everything else in the Player series, the Tele is rock solid, and boasts a well and truly tried and tested design. It’s simple and it’ll perform night after night in whatever sweaty bar you’re playing. 

The bite that you get from the bridge is great for stabby chords, and lead lines that cut through the mix. The neck pickup sounds smooth and warm, and both together can work great as a nice percussive sound. 

Best guitars for indie rock: Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster

One of our favorite offset guitars, ideal for indie rock, and dripping with vintage mojo

Specifications

Body: Alder
Neck: Maple, Bolt-on
Scale: 25.5”
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Pickups: Vintage-Style '60s Single-Coil Jazzmaster
Neck Profile: Mid 60s C
Finish: Olympic White, Ice Blue Metallic
Left-handed?: N

Reasons to buy

+
Does indie and rock equally well
+
Matching headstock
+
Vintage feel

Reasons to avoid

-
Too many tonal options for some

Offset guitars are really popular with indie rock players as they offer something a little different both in terms of sound and looks. The Fender Vintera 60s Jazzmaster is probably one of the best modern-day guitars taking inspiration from the past, at this price point. It’s not cheap, but it’s not crazy money either, and you get an awful lot of guitar for what you pay, plus a matching headstock never hurts either!

The pickups in the Jazzmaster are essentially bigger single coils, so they sort of bridge the gap sonically between regular single coils and humbuckers, making them perfect for indie rock guitarists that probably want some nice clean sounds, with the ability to add some dirt or fuzz, and still get a clear tone. The traditional Jazzmaster lead/rhythm circuit lets you get darker sounds, as well as bright and sparkly tones.

Best guitars for indie rock: Epiphone ES-335

(Image credit: Epiphone)
Full-bodied humbucker tones, ideal for indie rock stadium anthems

Specifications

Body: Semi-hollow, Layered Maple
Neck: Mahogany, Set
Scale: 24.724”
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Pickups: Alnico Classic PRO
Neck Profile: Rounded C
Finish: Cherry, Vintage Sunburst, Blueberry Burst (Figured), Raspberry Tea Burst (Figured)
Left-handed?: N

Reasons to buy

+
Iconic look
+
Big sound
+
Volume and tone for each pickup

Reasons to avoid

-
May not be bright enough for some

Twin humbuckers and a semi-hollow body help provide a big, warm, chunky sound, ideal for both chord work and lead playing alike. A good deal of Oasis’ back catalogue was recorded using semi-hollow guitars (including from Epiphone), so if it’s good enough for selling out Knebworth two nights in a row…

The humbuckers are great for dealing with the rockier side of indie, while the semi-hollow body and maple center block help provide plenty of sustain and resonance. They also look the part, though if you’d prefer something a little smaller with the same sort of sound then check out the ES-339. If you’ve got a bigger budget, then you might want to look at the Gibson counterpart. 

Read the full Epiphone ES-335 review

Best guitars for indie rock: Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar

A signature guitar from one of the biggest names in the indie rock guitar world

Specifications

Body: Alder
Neck: Maple, Bolt-on
Scale: 24”
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: Custom-Wound Bare Knuckle Johnny Marr
Neck Profile: ’65 Jaguar
Finish: Olympic White, Metallic KO
Left-handed?: N

Reasons to buy

+
Based on Johnny Marr’s ’65 Jag
+
Detailed pickups
+
Versatile wiring
+
Superb quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Not cheap

A signature model from one of the biggest names in indie rock. The Johnny Marr Jaguar has been made specifically to complement the playing style of the man whose work with The Smiths, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, The The and more has helped define the genre.

The Fender Johnny Marr Jag has all the jangle and chime you’d expect, but it’s also got a darker, more humbucker-like tone in an extra fourth position, whereby both of his custom-wound Bare Knuckle pickups are wired in series. This makes it versatile and the perfect ‘do-it-all’ guitar, for both studio and live use. As you’d expect, you’re getting premium USA-build Fender quality, so it’s on the more expensive side, but if you’ve got the cash, it’s worth it.

Read the full Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar review

Best guitars for indie rock: Reverend Double Agent OG

(Image credit: Reverend)

5. Reverend Double Agent OG

The best of both worlds with a humbucker and P-90 combo

Specifications

Body: Korina
Neck: Roasted Maple, Bolt-on
Scale: 25.5”
Fingerboard: Maple/Rosewood
Pickups: Reverend HA5/9A5
Neck Profile: Medium Oval
Finish: Midnight Black, Venetian Gold, Silver Freeze, Metallic Alpine
Left-handed?: Y

Reasons to buy

+
Unique body shape
+
Versatile pickup configuration 
+
High-quality hardware
+
Great neck feel

Reasons to avoid

-
You'd prefer a more mainstream brand

The combination of a slightly hotter vintage-style humbucker with lots of clarity and a P-90 allows for the best of both worlds. Having the humbucker in the bridge position gives you the big rock chunk when you need it, and the P-90 balances it out with some more mellow bite. It cleans up nicely too, plus you’ll get some great results from using both pickups at the same time.

Reverend are very much a brand on the rise, but they’re still a little more under the radar than the Gibson and Fenders of this world, which is great for those that stand by indie values as well as indie rock. Good quality hardware and locking tuners also mean you’ve got great tuning stability and reliability.

Best guitars for indie rock: Rickenbacker 330

(Image credit: Rickenbacker)
One of the best guitars for indie rock ever built, but it comes at a price!

Specifications

Body: Semi-hollow, Maple
Neck: Maple, Set
Scale: 24.75”
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: High Gain Single Coil
Neck Profile: Rickenbacker
Finish: Jetglo, Fireglo, Mapleglo
Left-handed?: Y

Reasons to buy

+
Unique sound and look
+
Iconic
+
Incredibly high quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Long wait times

Whilst it certainly isn’t the cheapest model on this list, the Rickenbacker 330 has solidified its position as one of the best guitars for indie rock over the last few decades. Favored by the likes of Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher and other indie icons, the 330 has everything you might need – a semi-hollow body, two single coil pickups with enough output to push a tube nicely and one of the best looking body shapes around.

Rickenbackers are really high quality instruments and are synonymous with the genre. Expect lots of note definition and a good deal of chime and top end sparkle. They sound like nothing else and they couldn’t look more the part.

Read the full Rickenbacker 330 review

Best guitars for indie rock: Squier Classic Vibe 70s Strat

(Image credit: Squier)

7. Squier Classic Vibe 70s Strat

One of the best guitars for indie rock players on a budget

Specifications

Body: Soft Maple
Neck: Maple, Bolt-on
Scale: 25.5”
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Pickups: Fender Designed Alnico Single-Coil
Neck Profile: C Shaped
Finish: Olympic White, Natural, Black
Left-handed?: Y

Reasons to buy

+
5 pickup positions
+
Jangly, spanky tones
+
Vintage look
+
Value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
Pickups not quite as defined as other models

Like Telecasters, Strats are great for pretty much any style of music, including indie rock. ’50s and ’60s style Strats are often revered by blues and classic rock players, but the somewhat overlooked ’70s Strats are where it’s at for indie rockers. 

Three single coil pickups and a five-way selector allow for a selection of different tones that have you covered for lead and rhythm parts. Whether you’re playing through mostly clean or overdriven sounds, you’ll get some nice spanky top end, with bite when you want it.

These Classic Vibe guitars offer superb value too – they don’t break the bank, but they’re made to a good standard, they’re comfortable to play and most importantly, they sound great. 

Best guitars for indie rock: Gretsch Electromatic G5422TG

(Image credit: Gretsch)

8. Gretsch Electromatic G5422TG

Amazing vibe and sound from this indie rock icon

Specifications

Body: Hollow, Maple
Neck: Maple, Set
Scale: 24.6”
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Pickups: Black Top Filter'Tron
Neck Profile: Standard U
Finish: Snow Crest White, Walnut Stain
Left-handed?: Y

Reasons to buy

+
Resonant
+
Warm, deep sound
+
Chimey pickups

Reasons to avoid

-
Too big for some players

If you’re the only guitarist in the band you’re in, or even if you’re not but you want to complement another guitarist using a Tele or a Strat for example, then a Gretsch might be the perfect choice for you. The fully hollow body is super resonant, but, thanks to the Black Top Filter’Tron pickups, you still get the chime and presence that you’ll probably want for the style of music. 

These are pretty big guitars, so they can really make a statement on stage, regardless of whether you go for the not-so-subtle White Falcon-esque finish or the more understated 1963-era George Harrison Country Gent style walnut. Either way, these are some of the best looking instruments out there, and definitely one of the best guitars for indie rock.

Best guitars for indie rock: Buying advice

Reverend Double Agent OG on a wooden floor with grey wall behind

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best indie rock guitar for you

So you know that you want one of the best guitars for indie rock, but how do you choose which one? Everything from tone, to budget, to aesthetics can all play a part in picking the one that works best for you.

When choosing the best guitar for indie rock, also consider when and where you’ll be playing it the most. Are you in a band? If so, are you playing with another guitarist? It’s usually worth going for something with a different style of electric guitar pickup, so that the two guitars can be heard individually in the mix. 

In terms of sound, single coils tend to be brighter and have a lower output – that is they feed your guitar amp with slightly less signal. Single coils are great for jangly guitar sounds, with plenty of attack. Very generally speaking, these are what most indie rock players use, though that’s not to say that humbuckers don’t have their place too.

In contrast, humbuckers, are usually slightly warmer and fuller sounding, with a touch more output. If you’re after a big, powerful sound, or you’re perhaps looking to counter your bandmate playing with single coils, then you might want to consider a humbucker-equipped guitar. P-90 pickups, whilst technically still single coils, quite often strike a nice balance between the two. 

All these guitars have different pickups. Whilst many of them share some of the same characteristics – plenty of top end, not too high output etc – they’re all very different, so try and think about the kind of sound that you want. Sometimes a good place to start is to look at what the guitar players you idolize use, and aim for something similar.

How much should you spend on an indie rock guitar?

Of course, budget does usually play a part in picking a new instrument, which is why our list of the best guitars for indie rock covers everything from a few hundred, to thousands. No matter what you’ve got to spend, you can pick out something that will do the job nicely. 

Aesthetic plays a part too – there’s no point picking a great guitar if you hate the look of it! Offsets, like Jazzmaster and Jaguars, are really popular within the indie scene at the moment, and something like a Rickenbacker, whilst pricey, is never going to look anything other than incredible. 

Usually, you’ll want to get the best guitar you can afford. But, if you’re out playing in sweaty pubs and bars every weekend, you might not want to take your pride and joy out every time. Instead, you might consider a cheaper alternative: instead of the pre-CBS Fender you’ve inherited, why not take out a Squier Classic Vibe or Mexican-made Fender? They’ll do a great job, and there’s less at stake if half a beer gets spilt over it by accident. Plus, 99 per cent of the crowd isn’t going to hear the difference in a live scenario. 

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After spending a decade in music retail, I’m now a freelance writer for Guitar World, MusicRadar, Guitar Player and Reverb, specialising in electric and acoustic guitars bass, and almost anything else you can make a tune with. When my head’s not buried in the best of modern and vintage gear, I run a small company helping musicians with songwriting, production and performance, and I play bass in an alt-rock band.