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.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.