The Best Electric Guitar for Beginners
Published on 15 May 2019
Selecting the best electric guitar for beginners is simultaneously an easy and difficult task. The fact is, there has never been a better time to get more quality in the beginner’s price range for very low cost. This means that the market is pretty flooded with choice, with every manufacturer wanting you to choose their model over everyone else’s. No bad thing, you say! Agreed, but without a little bit of experience, it’s easy to feel daunted. We want you to be confident, informed and excited about the notion of choosing that special first guitar, be it for yourself, a partner or a child.
This blog is intended to take some of the heat out of this process and offer some reasoning and perspective. I’ve chosen five instruments here from the high numbers of beginner’s electric guitars that are out there. I’ve focussed on the guitars themselves, so I have not included things like amplifiers in this particular round up.
Read on and see what you think of these choices! There are loads more in each guitarguitar store, but these all jump out to me as being great first choices.
Squier Affinity Telecaster
Squier is the smaller sibling of Fender guitars, a brand well-known to most people, even those who don’t care about guitars! Fender own the designs for arguably the most famous electric guitars in history, and this Telecaster design that I’ve chosen today is one of those. It’s the first, in fact, and has endured throughout the decades with nothing much about it ever being changed, such was the success of that early Leo Fender design.
The Squier version of the Telecaster keeps its look, design and style very close to the Fender classic. This shape is known as a single cutaway, referring to one of the ‘shoulders’ having a space carved into the shape to let your hand get easier access to those upper frets.
This Squier Affinity Telecaster (Affinity is a sub-range relative to Squier: there’s also a Standard range, Vintage Modified and a few others) has the same layout of two single coil pickups, a metal control panel and an ‘ashtray’ style bridge (technically not so these days, since the ‘ashtray’ sides have been flattened down, but they are still referred to as ashtrays none the less), just like classic Telecasters. The controls are simple: a volume knob, tone knob (for gradually taking out the treble frequencies from your sound) and a 3-way selector switch to choose either pickup or both at once for playing through.
You’ll enjoy a twangy, crisp sound with this Telecaster, a distinctive and historic sound that is recreated pretty well here. It never ceases to amaze me how good these beginner’s guitar really are! Since Squier are owned by Fender, this Squier has the ‘correct’ headstock and body shape, making this feel very much like the real deal. There are a number of finishes available, like black and white, but our pick would be the Butterscotch Blonde option: this is the most famous and popular Tele look by far. Squint your eyes a little and you too will be Bruce Springsteen or Keith Richards! Win!
EastCoast GS100H Silver
EastCoast are a brand of super-affordable guitars who pile on the features and good looks to offer the fledgling guitarist plenty of value. EastCoast guitars will never break the bank but they will put a solid, eminently playable instrument into your hands, at a great price. The kind of instruments that EastCoast are making are Light Years better than the appalling horror-machines my friends and I had to suffer learning on! If they look good, sound good and are easy to play, that’s half the battle! When you’re learning, you need the instrument to encourage you a little, and we’d say that EastCoast are great for this.
So, the model I’ve chosen today is the GS100H. This guitar is a refresh of what I’d diplomatically call the S-type. It’s the most famous electric guitar design in existence, and nearly every major manufacturer offers their own take. This is EastCoast’s, and it comes with the added extra of a humbucking pickup at the bridge. This accompanies the usual single coil units and provides a stronger, louder sound that is perfect for Rock. Together, these pickups offer you a very broad tonal spectrum. Beginners will be able to try out lots of sounds and styles with this guitar, from Pop and Funk to Blues, Rock and Metal.
There is also a tremolo unit installed on this EastCoast. The other name for this is a whammy bar. Whammy bars are metal arms that are attached to the bridge. Pushing down on the bar slackens the strings, therefore lowering the pitch of whatever note you’re playing. Whammy bars can be used in a subtle manner, like how somebody such as David Gilmour, Eric Clapton or Hank Marvin would use it. Or, you can cause some quite extreme sonic mayhem with a whammy bar: have a listen to ‘Eruption’ by Van Halen or ‘Star Spangled Banner’ by Jimi Hendrix to cop an earful of an S-style guitar being ‘whammyed’ to within an inch of its life! Be warned though: even on some quite expensive instruments, whammy bars bring tuning issues with them. When you’re just starting out, you may want to leave the tremolo alone for a while, otherwise you’ll be tuning and re-tuning all day!
Yamaha Pacifica 012
Yamaha’s Pacifica guitars have become near-legendary in their status as unbeatable beginners/student electrics. This is something that I wholeheartedly agree with, to the extent that I made a fantastically popular YouTube video about it a few years back, (oh look! I just stumbled across it! What a coincidence! Check it out below...) and nothing has dented their popularity or quality since.
This Pacifica 012 is another S-type guitar and has its own variation on that most-famous of silhouettes to make the Pacifica design unique and recognisable to Yamaha. As with the EastCoast, the Pacifica adds a humbucking pickup to the two single coils, allowing you the same wide-ranging options from twangy jangle to muscular, crunchy power. It’s fair to say that the overall feel of the Yamaha is superior to the EastCoast, but then it’s 50% more expensive so we’d hope this to be the case! Yamahas are known to be extremely robust and durable. This is true, even it their most affordable. This guitar will last!
Epiphone Les Paul SL
Bringing in some retro style and easy playability, Gibson's little brother Epiphone bring the cool with this Les Paul SL. This model is based very much on historic slab-bodied guitars (as opposed to Les Pauls with expensive carved tops) such as the Les Paul Junior and Special, this student-friendly SL model really delivers. Epiphone use a shorter scale length (distance from the 1st fret to the 12th), which makes the feel of this guitar looser and easier to dart around on. Two single coil pickups are more than enough for a selection of versatile tones. The iconic single cutaway body desing of the Les Paul is represented here, with a bolted on neck. This neck has Epiphone's comfortable 'D'-shaped profile, something we are very happy to see!
The Epiphone Les Paul SL is available in a range of exciting and bright colours, including Heritage Cherry, Pacific Blue and Sunset Yellow! It's great to see something a little different and interesting coming from such a big manufacturer, and there is a real 'Garage Rock' charm to this guitar!
Ibanez PGMM21 Mini Paul Gilbert
For smaller-sized beginners who understand that guitar playing is all about Rocking hard, we present this inspired Ibanez model! Ibanez are the kings of Rock and Heavy Metal guitars, making instruments for Kiss, Dragonforce, Steve Vai and Meshuggah. One of their high profile endorsees is shredder Paul Gilbert, and this amazing PGMM21 is a shrunken down version of his signature model. Built especially for smaller hands, this mean Rock machine features a 22.2" scale length (significantly less than Ibanez's standard 25.5"), two high output ceramic humbuckers for molten tone and 24 frets (that's two full octaves and two more than many other guitars) for enhanced fingerboard freedom!
Cool details on this guitar include Gilbert's trademark f-hole graphics on the body and a reverse headstock, which is a favourite feature with Hard Rockers! The smaller size makes this guitar excellent for smaller players indeed, but it also makes this a very fun travel guitar for those who normally play full-sized instruments. Ibanez have sacrificed none of their famous quality control here, and there is a really fun, addictive quality to this guitar. After all, isn't that what it's all about?
I hope this brief blog has given you a taste of the type of quality you can expect for your first guitar! There are really no badly made guitars any more, just more expensive and less expensive models. These are all entry level instruments but that doesn’t mean that you need to begin here: if you are just starting to play but already know that you want a 1959 reissue Gibson Les Paul Standard, we’d say go for it! This is all about being happy, letting off steam and remembering that everyone can be creative and have fun with a guitar. We are here to help, guide and inform you so please don’t be a stranger: our team across the UK are all friendly and helpful, with masses of knowledge to help inspire you as well as keep you right! Have fun embarking on your guitar adventure and thanks, as always, for reading.