Whether you’re just starting to learn guitar or you already know your way up and down the guitar fretboard, it’s a good idea to get an electric guitar if you really want to rock out. However, choosing the correct guitar for beginners can be a daunting task, especially with so many options to choose from. Not to mention if you’re getting your first electric guitar and don’t have a good point of reference.
If you’re looking for a great beginner electric guitar and need some advice, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll give you some good recommendations for beginner electric guitars. On top of that, we’ll explain a few features of the instrument to consider when choosing the right electric guitar for you. So let’s get you started on your guitar playing journey by choosing the right instrument.
Buying an electric guitar for beginners: Things to know
When starting out as a beginner guitarist, it might be tempting to pick the instrument that looks as cool as possible (and doesn’t break your budget). However, there are other things that you should look into than just the price and look of the guitar. These will affect how the electric guitar feels to play and how it sounds, affecting your playing experience in many ways. Some of these include the size, body, number of frets, neck and pickup of the electric guitar.
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the size of an electric guitar matters a lot. Generally all guitar players above the age of 12 can comfortably play a full-sized guitar. On top of that, most electric guitars tend to be “full-sized” anyway. A full-sized electric guitar tends to be approximately 38 inches long (that’s 96.5 cm) when measured from the tip of the headstock down to the bottom of the guitar’s body.
A full-sized electric guitar’s scale length on the other hand is around 25.5 inches (or 64.8 cm). Scale length refers to the distance from the guitar’s bridge to the top of the fretboard–basically the area you’ll be using to play with your fretting and strumming hands.
However, there are smaller guitar sizes for smaller and younger aspiring rockstars as well. Common smaller guitar sizes are 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4. A smaller 3/4 electric guitar might be a good choice for a child under the age of 12, but remember that they’ll likely grow out of the instrument at some point. So it’s a good idea to visit your local music store to give the guitar a try and see if it’s the right size for you or your child.
Body and shape
The body of an electric guitar is basically the bottom part of the instrument–the part that’s hollow in an acoustic guitar. Electric guitars come in a variety of shapes and the body of one electric guitar can differ wildly between instruments. For beginners it might be a better idea to opt for a more standard guitar shape. So, instead of getting a rad V-shaped flying V, pick one of the more traditional guitars with a more convenient shape. We’ll introduce some good options below.
The number of frets in the guitar’s fretboard matters and also depends on the size of the guitar and the length of the fretboard. A beginner electric guitar with 22 frets can’t be used to play the highest notes that can be produced with an instrument with 24 frets. Although the few frets missing from a smaller sized electric guitar may not be a deal breaker or greatly restrict your playing, it’s a good idea to go for 24 frets for instance. Those final frets above 20 will come handy especially once you start to learn guitar solos.
At this point it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that even an electric guitar’s neck and its size matters. Without going too in depth about different types of guitar necks and their shapes, we can place different guitar necks in different categories based on their thickness, width and radius of the fretboard. The most common guitar neck shapes are
The letters used in these names describe the shape quite well when looking at the guitar neck from the top. There are also asymmetrically shaped guitar necks where–as the name suggests–the curve of the neck is not symmetrical. However, you need not to worry about these when starting out with your first electric guitar.
But which one is the best guitar neck shape for a beginner guitarist? For instance, in a wider guitar neck the strings are further away from each other, making it easier to distinguish between different strings. However, a wider guitar neck can also be inconvenient for those with small hands.
In the end, it comes down to your own preference, so you should go and test different types yourself, for example in a music store where the staff can show you different electric guitar models. The best guitar neck shape is the one that feels the best in your hand.
An electric guitar’s pickup is one of the electronic parts that make it possible to amplify the guitar strings’ sounds through an amplifier, for instance. However, unlike a normal microphone that picks up acoustic soundwaves, a pickup converts the vibrations produced by the guitar string into electrical signals. This kind of pickups are used in both electric guitars and bass guitars.
We can divide different kinds of pickups into single coil pickups and humbucker pickups–also known as double coil pickups. As the name suggests, single coil pickups have just one pole piece for each string, whereas humbucker pickups have two. Out of these two, most pickups, especially in beginner electric guitars, are of the single coil variety.
There is also the difference between passive and active guitar pickups. While active pickups do have a bit more ‘kick’ to them, they do need a separate power source, such as a battery to run them. A good choice for a beginner instrument is a passive pickup.
One more factor that’s probably on everyone’s mind when buying a new instrument is the price. How much should you pay for a beginner electric guitar. Well, this depends whether you’re purchasing a brand new guitar or a used one, but for a good instrument that’ll last you for a while, be prepared to spend at least a few hundred dollars. Just remember, if you’re committed to learning how to play guitar, it’s better to spend a bit more for a high-quality instrument that will last you a while.
Guitar models to know
To make sense of the different beginner electric guitars you may come across, it’s good to be familiar with some well known models and terminology. Keep at least the following in mind.
An iconic type of Fender. The Stratocaster has two cut-outs around the neck of the guitar, making it easier to reach the higher notes.
Another iconic Fender. Very similar to the strat, with only one cut-out around the neck.
Often one of the other top recommended electrics, made by Gibson.
Another highly recommended guitar model from Gibson. The Gibson SG (short for “solid guitar”) has been made famous by such players as Angus Young of AC/DC and Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.
Beginner electric guitars: Recommendations from the Yousician team
Okay, there you have some things to know when facing the scarily wide world of electric guitars. Next we can proceed to some good recommendations from our Yousician guitar experts. Give these beginner electric guitars a try at your local music store or check them out online.
Want some more inspiration from the pros? You can find out which guitar your favorite musician plays here with a simple search.
1. FENDER PLAYER SERIES (STRATOCASTER OR TELECASTER)
Fender is a classic, well-known guitar brand–you really can’t go wrong with their products. The Fender Player series is a great choice for all players looking to splurge a little. With a guitar from this series, you won’t need to upgrade any time soon.
The choice between a Stratocaster and a Telecaster is really a personal one. They’re both great instruments, and many famous guitarists use both (check out this site to see what your favorite musician played!). If you’re not sure, check out this blind play test video or read a more in-depth comparison by Reverb here.
You can explore the Fender Player series here.
2. SQUIER AFFINITY SERIES (STRATOCASTER OR TELECASTER)
The Squier is a Fender brand, which means you’re getting an instrument from the same brains behind the recommendation above. These guitars are a cheaper alternative, but sound great and can last a long time. The Affinity Series comes highly recommended from our team–again, whether you choose a stratocaster or telecaster is more up to your personal preference and how you want the guitar to sound.
Torn between a Fender and a Squier? You can find plenty of tutorials on Youtube on cheap ways to upgrade your Squier to make it sound better. The right amp can also make a huge difference. One member of our Yousician team has an Affinity Stratocaster and can’t recommend it enough!
You can find the Squier Affinity Series at Guitar Center here.
3. G&L TRIBUTE SERIES
The G&L S-500 debuted in 1982 as Leo Fender’s own evolution of the traditional double-cutaway bolt-on style of the stratocaster. This guitar features a mahogany body, hard-rock maple neck with rosewood fingerboard.
You can find it at Guitar Center here.
4. EPIPHONE NANCY WILSON FANATIC SIGNATURE GUITAR
Many talented guitar players get their own signature guitar and one such guitarists is our friend Nancy Wilson, the co-founder of the iconic female-fronted rock band Heart. Nancy’s own signature guitar by Epiphone features a mahogany body and humbucker pickups. The guitar comes with a stunning and eye-catching Fireburst Gloss finish.
Beginner electric guitar and other accessories
Once you have an electric guitar you’ll also need some other equipment to be able to play. First of all, these include a good amp that amplifies the sound of your electric guitar. Even a small guitar amp will suffice but, having something that produces a sound is vital, in case you want to get everything out of your brand new electric guitar. An amp also needs a guitar cable that you’ll use to connect the amp and the guitar.
Most electric guitar players prefer to use a pick to play. Just like beginner electric guitars, there are a lot to choose from when it comes to guitar picks. Go check out our article on picks to learn more.
Yousician can also help with getting your new electric guitar in tune. Check out the GuitarTuna app and it’s interactive guitar tuner. GuitarTuna is equipped with tuners for other instruments as well, such as bass guitar, ukulele and piano. Of course, GuitarTuna also works with acoustic guitars.