Every shredder has to start somewhere.
Shopping for your first electric guitar can be exciting and challenging. There are so many choices! And every year, new guitars and features are added to the mix making it an ever-growing, ever-changing selection process.
Whether your goal is to someday play blazing leads, chord out some straightforward guitar rock, or play the blues, here are this year’s best beginner guitars for electric players.
Since there’s much more to a beginner guitar than cost, these selections are based on budget (affordable, not cheap), playability, quality and style (because you’re more likely to keep practicing if you have a guitar that’s just plain cool, right?). These electrics will get you started without breaking the bank or skimping on quality and style, making learning to play easier on the fingers and on the pocket book.
Ibanez RG GIO GRG120QH
Playability: The GRG120QH has a smooth, fast-playing maple neck with a New Zealand pine fingerboard. It’s flat 15.7-inch radius and 24 jumbo frets make for easy single-note runs when you’re learning your scales.
Quality: RG GIO’s poplar body has impressive resonance and tone, which is carried through to the high-output Infinity R humbucker pickups. The RG GIO is also ready for any mild tremolo warbles or metal dive bombs with the Ibanez standard tremolo that stays solid and in tune when not in use.
Style: Like other Ibanez electrics in the RG series, this RG GIO screams “shredder.” The GRG120QH’s poplar body has a stunning quilted ash top with a black sunburst finish, and the black hardware adds an aggressive edge.
Price: $249.99 (MAP). The RG GIO is the most affordable in the iconic Ibanez RG series, but still features the same inspection, set-up and warranty as Ibanez’s more expensive models.
Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s Stratocaster
Playability: Updated for 2019, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s Stratocaster from Fender is a player-friendly Strat with a slim C-shaped maple neck profile and an easy-playing 9.5-inch radius Indian laurel fingerboard and narrow-tall frets.
Quality: Quality improvements is where these 2019 models made a substantial upgrade. Besides being player-friendly, these throwback Squier Classic Vibe guitars feature Fender-designed pickups, giving this Strat authentic, original, massive tone.
Style: You can’t go wrong with a classic Stratocaster when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll style. From Buddy Holly to Eric Clapton, the Stratocaster is a true rock and blues icon. True to the 1970s, this Squier Classic Vibe Strat tips its hat with the iconic large ‘70s headstock.
Price: $349.99 (MAP). While the Classic Vibe series guitars are more expensive than some other Squier Stratocasters in the Bullet series ($129.99) or the Affinity series (199.99), the upgraded Fender-designed pickups and iconic ‘70s style is worth the extra dollars for entry.
Epiphone SG Special VE
Playability: With a rosewood fingerboard on a 1960s slim tapered D-profile neck and poplar body, the SG Special VE is a lightweight and easily playable guitar with a true rock vibe. This is a great all-around guitar that is playable for solid chording and smooth scales.
Quality: The SG Special VE is powered by two open-coil humbuckers with ceramic magnets, which have a higher output than vintage Alnico magnet pickups. They are designed for a tight low-end, smooth mid-range and pronounced top-end. When it comes to hardware, this SG features a classic LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece, and 14:1 ratio tuners for fast, accurate tuning.
Style: When the SG was first released by Gibson, it was intended to replace the Les Paul because it was lightweight yet powerful. This is why the SG became the choice of players like Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath and AC/DC’s Angus Young. The “VE” here denotes this SG Special has a vintage finish that comes in worn cherry, cherry sunburst, ebony, sunburst and walnut. Price: $179.99 (MAP). In line with other Epiphone SG Special guitars, this vintage-inspired model comes in at under $200.
Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
Playability: In line with the SG Special VE, the Les Paul Studio LT has an easy-to-play 1960s slim tapered D-profile neck, only on a mahogany bolt-on neck. Like the SG, the Les Paul is a great guitar for all uses from chords to leads. It’s a wonderful introduction to the one of the world’s most iconic guitars.
Quality: Don’t let the price tag fool you. The Les Paul Studio LT has all the classic Les Paul features made popular by the Gibson original including a carved mahogany top, zebra coil ceramic humbuckers and 14:1 ratio tuners for fast, accurate tuning.
Style: So many greats have made the Les Paul their guitar of choice. Who wouldn’t want to learn on the guitar that aligns with so many greats from Slash (Guns N’ Roses) to Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) to Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) and more? Whether its an Epiphone or a Gibson, the Les Paul always ranks high on the scale of cool.
Price: $249.99 (MAP). Again here, this isn’t the cheapest Les Paul that Epiphone makes, but its improvements with the new Studio LT model make for a guitar that will last you well into your intermediate sessions and beyond.
Jackson JS22 Dinky Arch Top DKAM
Playability: Jackson guitars have always been built for speed, and this extremely affordable addition to their line is no exception. It features a maple speed neck with 12-16-inch compound radius maple fretboard, which means the neck gets wider and the fretboard gets flatter up the neck to aid in playing solos and bending strings. If your goal is to learn to blaze on lead guitar, consider this as a good place to start and have room to grow as you learn.
Quality: The JS22 Dinky DKAM features an okoume body – an exotic and lightweight tonewood – with an arched top and a bolt-on neck with graphite reinforcement. The JS22 Dinky gets its scream from Jackson’s high-output humbuckers with ceramic magnets. It also features a 2-point synchronized fulcrum tremolo for deep whammy bends.
Style: Not only does the JS22 Dinky play fast, it looks fast from the black hardware and the black or red stain finish to the sharkfin fret inlays. If you’re an aspiring metalhead, this ax is a top pick for best beginner metal guitar.
Price: $199.99 (MAP). The JS22 Dinky Arch Top DKAM was created for one main purpose: To make it easier to get classic Jackson tone, looks and playability without breaking the bank.