When you’ve decided to buy an electric guitar, there are a lot of choices out there to sift through. Seems like a million different brands and models. Solid bodies, hollow bodies, semi-hollow bodies! Different woods used in the construction give guitars a unique feel and sound and all of these differences have a marked effect on what makes a guitar. I remember when I began shopping for my first electric guitar I was…lost.
It seemed I couldn’t properly pronounce the brand names, let alone have any idea what type of wood I preferred on the fretboard, what kind of pickups I wanted, what do these knobs even do? 25 years later I have learned that the best way is to educate yourself. Go to a music store and play the instrument. I have compiled this list as a guide to help you navigate the daunting task of sifting through endless reviews and websites to choose the best electric guitar brands and models for you.
Guitars that will fit every style and genre to find the lifelong companion on your musical journey. Remember this is an investment, so take your time and do the research so you can make the best, most informed choice possible.
In this article, I’m going to help you discover the best electric guitar brands on the market, as well as dive deep into certain guitar models that stand out as being some of the best of the best available.
And, to better help you, please take a look at our interactive table below, where you can directly compare some of the top electric guitars on the market against one another.:
Starting this list of with a classic. Fender has been making amazing guitars since the ‘40s and is an American original—the Stratocaster.
Specifically, the Player Stratocaster. The “Strat” was synonymous with the early days of rock ‘n roll and has managed to continue to be a favorite for guitarists of every style and level of playing. The Stratocaster is an electric guitar that is an absolute blast to play. The neck plays fast especially when sliding up and down the neck, the single-coil pickups give it a nice twang with superb options with the humbucker pickup on the bridge, and I have always loved the size of the neck.
The 9.5” radius on the fingerboard just feels perfect, like an ergonomic lounge chair. It wonderfully captures that classic sound while at the same time feels like something new.
Now, the Strat isn’t the only phenomenal instrument Fender puts out. The Telecaster also shows of the Fender quality and has its own unique sound and feel compared to the Stratocaster.
The Telecaster has an alder body, just like the Stratocaster the major difference is in the pickups. I love the sound you can get out of the neck pickup, and has the same great feel as the Stratocaster. My favorite thing about the “Strat” and “Tele” is the versatility of these two. The perfect guitars for a blues player and just as great for the rockers and country pickers.
The Player Series for both the Stratocaster and Telecaster won’t break the bank with a price tag of $674.99 (compared to the higher end Stratocaster and Telecaster models which will cost $1500+) and they play and sounds very similar to the more expensive models of each. If the price tag is more than your comfortable paying the Squier versions of both the Stratocaster and Telecaster are a third of the price and are great instruments, especially for the beginning guitar player.
I unashamedly love Ibanez guitars and basses. I love the style, the way they play and how they sound. Ibanez is much more associated with your harder rock and metal guitar players than Fender, but they aren’t captive to that distinction. The have offer hollow body and semi-hollow body models that have a big and more mellow sound. A great example of these hollow body guitars is the new Ibanez Artcore Expressionist (AM93ME).
It has separate controls for neck volume/tone and bridge volume/tone and a 3-way switch that allows for greater control over the sound which is really helpful when trying to mimic the sound of your favorite lick. The gold hardware is just stunning contrasted against the black headstock and the natural wood body.
The body and fretboard are both ebony, which again isn’t only beautiful but also plays fast. The neck is fretboard is wider in this model but still feels great.
A more typical model for Ibanez electric guitars is the RG, with some unbelievable color options.
The RG has an ash body with a maple neck, jumbo frets and the locking nut so you don’t throw it out of tune every time you use the tremolo bar or attempt a dive bomb. The 2 humbucking pickups at the bridge and neck, coupled with the single coil in the middle give this guitar a lot of unique combinations in tone and sound.
Looks great and plays better, pretty hard to beat that. The RG has a price tag of $499.99 which for the same price will get you the Artcore as well. Ibanez does also offer a budget version called the “Gio” and they also have a “Jumpstart” Package which is perfect for the younger beginner guitar players out there. The Jumpstart Package includes guitar, amp, strap, cable, gigbag and a tuner. New models of both of these were unveiled at the 2019 NAMM show.
I have to admit, I looked down on Yamaha electric guitars for a long time, “they’re a piano company, right? Or is it motorcycles” Yes, they are, but when a couple of their newest electric guitars came in to my local music shop, I was properly blown away. “These are…really, really good!” Namely, the Yamaha Revstar series.
I give a lot of credit to Yamaha, these guitars play and sound excellent. What really jumped out to me, is the guitar seemed light. Yet, it had this meatiness in the sound that really came through with heavy distortion that doesn’t seem possible from a relatively scrawny body. The neck is think, so you can really “grip it and rip it”. The next Yamaha guitar I would like to highlight is the Pacifica.
The Pacifica 200 series is 1 step up from the base 100 series. I like the value of the 200 series, and love the quilted maple top on the above guitar. 2 Single Coil pickups and the humbucker on the bridge for your noodling pleasure. I would also like to note, Yamaha too has a starter-kit like Ibanez has that starts around $400.
This brand is for all you metalheads out there. Schecter has carved out a niche for themselves in the market by making exceptional guitars to MELT FACES (which is what we want). The C-6 Series is a great guitar for the budding thrasher with incredible finishes.
The C-6 series has 6, 7 and 8 string variations. Because, more stings are better. #science
The C-6 has a rosewood neck which doesn’t play as fast as the maple and ebony, but I promise you, this guitar shreds. This guitar has some weight to it, and I love the way the low end sounds on this guitar. You can physically feel it when your chugging some down-tuned power chords. Besides the C-6, Schecter also has it’s Omen series.
Just as with the C-6 series, Omen has 6, 7 and 8 string models. This has the same maple fretboard as on the C-6, and I love the inlays on the Omen. This is the 7 string model pictured above and true to Schecter, just looks like it has a dark side. Drop tune this bad boy, crank up the gain, and let ‘er rip. Another great thing about the Schecters is, and it’s purely aesthetic is the way the knobs are set into the body just a little bit and the way the strings come out of those tiny holes behind the bridge. Again, it has no effect on the playing but it’s sexy. These two offerings from Schecter are almost identical from a spec standpoint, so you cannot go wrong with either of them.
Epiphone makes excellent and affordable versions of Gibson guitars. You can get an SG like Angus Young, a hollow body guitar like B.B. King’s Lucille or the famous Les Paul style. My personal choice would be the Les Paul Standard with a price tag of $499
The Les Paul Standard is my favorite body style, I love the look of the Les Paul. It feels like it’s high quality. Mahogany body and neck are stunning. The toggle switch for the humbucking pickups is in a great spot for quick tone changes. The Standard has a 12” radius on the fingerboard, match that with the mahogany of the body and neck there is a power to the Les Paul that other guitars just don’t possess. It’s hard to quantify it, you just need to play one. The tone on this guitar is massive. The guitar sounds “big”, even when you add just a touch of distortion and it seems to grow as the gain is increased. The Standard is not the only option from Epiphone. Another one that is a blast to play is the SG Special.
The SG is an iconic guitar, much like the Les Paul. It has a “killpot” switch, which adds a fun staccato effect to your playing. Adding versatility and different phrasing options to those killer riffs. This guitar shines most with heavy distortion, with rich tones up and down the fretboard. So, crank up that amp, put on your Angus Young school boy uniform, and skip around your living room while playing Thunderstruck and you’ll understand what is great about this guitar.
I hope this helps you down the right path and to finding the instrument that will best suit you and your style. The biggest advice I can give is, as I said at the beginning of this list is to go to a music store, hold the guitar in your hands, feel the weight and balance.
Grip the neck and see how it feels, plug into an amp and rip off a few riffs. It’s really the only way to find out what you like or dislike about a guitar. This is the only real way to find what you are looking for and to walk away confident in your purchase. Every player is different, even the guitars vary from instrument to instrument. Every guitarist has unique tastes in music and what our desired tone is in a given situation.
Ask questions, do your research, play a lot of guitars and you will be rewarded with an instrument that you will love to play and that will last you for years and years.
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