What is the best beginner electric guitar?

What’s the Best Beginner Electric Guitar?

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Andrea asks:

“What’s the best electric guitar you’d recommend for a beginner?”

Hi Andrea:

Since you specified that you want an electric guitar, I can jump right in and talk about just electric guitars, rather than first answering the whole acoustic vs. electric question.

I don’t think a total beginner should spend a lot of money on their first electric guitar–regardless of how much free cash you have available to burn. Since electric guitars come with some extra requirements, like an amplifier and guitar cable, I’m going to recommend some solid “starter packs” for you. These include everything you need to get started. Honestly, some of the included accessories aren’t the best quality (like the included gig bags), but these all-inclusive packs are still still a very good value for a total beginner.

For those out there with a slightly higher budget, I’ve written a separate article: Really Great Beginner Electric Guitars. That’s my hand-picked list of really great-quality electric guitars, but all are under $300.

My Recommended Beginner Electric Guitars

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Guitar Player Pack

Epiphone makes some damn-solid guitars. Though this is the entry-point of their product line, the Les Paul Special II is still a fairly well-made, solid guitar–perfect for a beginner interested in rock, hard-rock, metal, etc. If you don’t like black, other colors are available on Amazon.com.

What I Like:

  • Dual humbucking pickups: The two-humbucker configuration is my personal favorite due to the overall versatility. They’re great for rock and metal, but you can have them rewired for added tonal options.
  • Fixed bridge: If you’re not interested in doing dramatic whammy bar acrobatics, then a fixed bridge is perfect for beginners. A little less hassle and fewer moving parts than a tremolo.
  • The pack comes with everything you need to get started playing guitar right away including the items & accessories that beginners often overlook or can’t afford separately. If you don’t like the black finish, other colors are available.

Potential Downsides:

  • As is true of all “starter packs” the gig bag is cheaply made and provides almost no protection from bumps and falls. The strap is probably pretty low quality too, but neither of these are terribly important accessories.

 

Fender Squier Affinity Strat Pack Bundle

Ahh, the Stratocaster–one of the most versatile and iconic guitars of all time. Strats have been used by guitar heroes throughout history for everything from country to rock to heavy metal. I personally know a couple people who’ve bought this pack and love it. Along with an entry-level Stratocaster, you get a genuine Fender amp that includes overdrive right out of the box.

Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set

What I like:

  • The tremolo: This “tremolo” bridge allows you to create some dramatic, expressive tremolo or dive-bomb effects, beyond what you can accomplish through other means.
  • The amp: The 10 watt Fender Frontman amp is a great little practice amp, which includes a “gain” control (gain = overdrive). This will allow you get a basic blues, rock, or metal guitar tone right out of the box.
  • Instructional DVD: I’ll be honest, I’ve not seen the DVD personally, but a co-worker (who bought this pack) said the DVD was pretty helpful in getting started.

Potential Downsides:

  • The tremolo: I cited it as something I liked, but not everyone uses or needs a tremolo, and for those people it’s better to just buy a fixed-bridge guitar, like the Epiphone I listed up above.
  • Single coil pickups: Single coils have what’s known as “that single-coil hum.” It’s nothing terrible, and really only noticeable if you’re using overdrive at high volume. You shouldn’t let it stop you from buying this guitar, just be aware of it.
  • Included gig bag provides only minimal protection.

Final Thoughts

I generally recommend these “starter packs” to beginners who have a low total budget, or who may simply be curious and aren’t 100% sure they’ll stick with it. However, if you have a slightly higher budget and want a really solid guitar, check out my newer article: Really Great Beginner Electric Guitars. As the title suggests, I’ve hand-picked a bunch of really solid, high quality, entry-level guitars that are all $300 or less.

11 replies
  1. Phil
    Phil says:

    I can also recommend the Yamaha Pacifica 012 starter pack, as it was my first guitar. The amp died a few months after getting it and the cable was horribly cheap and nasty, but it was a terrific starter guitar with a low action, smooth neck and great Stratocaster sound.

    Reply
    • Guitar Answer Guy
      Guitar Answer Guy says:

      Kaitee, I didn’t forget about it, I purposely left it out… along with a number of other starter packs in the $250 range. Why? Because I have no personal experience with that product. I will only ever recommend things that I have personally tested/used myself, or otherwise have first-hand knowledge of. The Ibanez pack may be great, but I’ve never played it or had a chance to inspect it. If I ever do, and I’m impressed enough, I’ll update this post and include it here. Same goes for other brands.

      Reply
    • Guitar Answer Guy
      Guitar Answer Guy says:

      Luke, I think it looks pretty awesome, honestly, and would love to take it for a spin. I purposely tried to keep these suggestions under $250, so I may eventually do a blog post/review for some guitars and starter packs in the low-mid to midrange. The hardest thing for me is that I’m only comfortable recommending things that I’ve personally tried, or that someone close to me has tried. There are a few other starter packs out there (Ibanez, Yamaha, as well as some off-brands), but I just don’t feel confident recommending something I don’t have some personal experience with.

      Reply
      • Phil
        Phil says:

        +1 for the Slash Appetite for Destruction pack. It’s very similar to the Epiphone pack, but with added Slash flavourings, including ceramic humbuckers and logos on the headstock and amp.

        It’s the set that I bought my son earlier this year and i have to say that it is a phenomenal guitar for the price. Well finished and well-built with no rough fret ends, loose fittings or paintwork blotches.

        The practice amp, cable and gig bag are obviously low budget, but as a whole package, I think it works very well.

        Reply
        • Guitar Answer Guy
          Guitar Answer Guy says:

          Thanks for the info Phil. That’s indeed a great guitar, but I didn’t list this starter pack because I felt that the price might be a little high for a beginner (who may not be sure whether they’re going to stick with it). But, if someone has a slightly higher budget, it’s a really good guitar. The accessories are “meh” as you’d expect from a starter pack.

          Reply
  2. Jackie Schultz
    Jackie Schultz says:

    Bobby, when you purchase a new electric guitar, do you have to have the action adjusted? Or is it already done? New or used electric better?

    Reply
    • Guitar Answer Guy
      Guitar Answer Guy says:

      Most guitars need a “full setup”–which includes having the action set properly. A good music store should automatically offer this–for free–to a customer once they’ve purchased a guitar. If they don’t automatically offer, then ask for “a full setup and a fresh set of strings.” If it’s not a music store (e.g. pawn shop) they may not have anyone on staff that knows how to do a guitar setup, so you’ll need to take it somewhere else after you buy it. Of course, there is the off-chance that a guitar you want to buy just happens to already be set up well, but that’s something I would have to see/feel for myself to determine if it’s the case. However, I’ve found that to be very rare. Most guitars hanging in guitar stores (or ordered from online stores) are completely out-of-whack, and need a setup.

      New or used doesn’t matter. It just depends on the make/model of the guitar, and what kind of condition it’s in. However, age-wise, if a guitar is more than 15 years old, you may want to pause to think about how much life it realistically has left before electronics and parts start failing and have to be replaced. If you’re hoping to buy a guitar you can play for the next 20 – 30 years, buying a used guitar that’s already 15 years old may not be the wisest decision (unless you know what you’re doing, and are willing to refurbish it as needed). But then again–it depends. Again, it’s something I’d have to evaluate in person to determine if it’s an issue. I’ve bought 10-year-old guitars that are “used”, but basically mint. Barely played, not a scratch on ’em.

      Reply

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