Are you looking for an excellent electric guitar for a beginner?
You’ve come to the right place!
In this insider guide, you will learn the following:
- What makes a guitar good for beginners?
- How much do beginner electric guitars usually cost?
- What are the best beginner electric guitars?
And much more!
Squier By Fender Affinity Series Stratocaster
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Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster
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Ibanez miKro 6 String Solid-Body Electric Guitar
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Epiphone Les Paul 100
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Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012DLX
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My Overall #1 Rated Pick
Full disclosure, I’m not a Strat guy – I don’t dislike them, I’ve just always played Epiphones and Gibsons.
Now, by virtue of this fact, it should serve as an indication as to how much I like this Squier Stratocaster that I’ve gone and chosen it as my number one pick.
It’s based upon the original Fender Stratocaster, and it really is great quality, it’s playable way beyond its price point, and it’s exceedingly comfortable to hold, especially for beginners.
The Squier Affinity Series instruments sit around the middle of their range, and offer serious value for money. They are crafted in China, but the quality control is top notch.
Because the QC process works, that means nice straight necks, good tuning stability, quality hardware, and no sharp frets.
Yes, there are cheaper Strats out there (Bullet and Starcaster, for example), but I couldn’t in good conscience recommend those over the Affinity Series.
This is one of the few true beginner guitars that is worth upgrading as you progress, meaning you can hang on to it for longer, further increasing its value for money factor, and justifying its ranking as my number one first guitar for beginners.
Whether you’ve decided to learn how to play electric guitar yourself, or you’re picking up an axe as a gift for someone else, it’s my mission to help you pick out the perfect instrument.
Believe it or not, the marketplace for beginner guitars is probably the trickiest to navigate of all the categories.
Not only are purchasers generally inexperienced and shopping to a fixed budget, there are also an overwhelming number of poorly made copies and replicas of famous designs with extremely tempting price tags.
So, let’s not waste any more time – follow me into the world of the best beginner electric guitars!
Below is a quick list of what I consider to be the top five best beginner electric guitars on the market today.
Top 5 Best Electric Guitars For Beginners
In a hurry? Check out my top 5 picks below! Keep reading to learn more about these guitars!
What Makes An Electric Guitar Good For Beginners?
There’s a number of important factors at play when it comes to getting a first electric guitar for yourself, or for someone else. Let’s go ahead and take a look at some of those influences.
Over and above everything else, playability is the biggest single factor in a good beginner guitar.
If the guitar is uncomfortable, and the playability is poor, it will become a limiting factor in progress, which is a massive influence in whether a beginner will continue to pick up the instrument.
A comfortable guitar will have a neck that feels good in your fretting hand.
Your hand should be able to slide up and down the neck without excessive resistance, this makes sure beginner players can transition between chords with ease.
If you’re buying a guitar for a younger player, instruments with slimmer necks are a better choice, as this will make it easier for them to wrap their hands around.
Make sure that the guitar you choose has a comfortable action. Action is the height of the strings above the frets, and it has a direct influence on how easy it is to finger notes, and ultimately play the guitar.
The cheapest of cheap guitars may have no way to effectively adjust the action, so if it’s not good out of the box, it’s unlikely to get any better.
Tuning stability and intonation are also super important. No matter your level of playing, keeping your guitar in tune is fundamental.
If your guitar falls out of tune during every use, this is an indicator of poor quality tuner heads– it might not sound like such a big deal, but having to tune up every half hour gets tedious pretty quickly.
Intonation, which is the ability of your guitar to remain properly tuned along the length of the fretboard, is also key to playability.
If notes and chords sound right at the top of the fretboard, but flat or sharp at the bottom, there’s an intonation issue.
Again, good guitars will have this covered, or at least have a means of adjusting it.
The cheapest guitars are unlikely to have a way to adjust intonation.
Weight and balance are the last playability factors I’ll bring up in this piece.
It can be super tempting, especially if you happen to have the money, or there’s a stunning deal to pick up something like a Gibson Les Paul, thinking you, or the recipient will grow into it.
While I’m not saying don’t do that, I am saying be careful. A full size LP is a heavy guitar, and it’s not the most ergonomic instrument, either.
This can encourage bad form from the beginning, and set up a beginner for a lifetime of bad habits.
Similarly, guitars like the Gibson SG (of which I’m a huge fan), don’t have optimal balance either.
They’re head heavy, which means they nose dive when standing up.
A beginner should be able to focus on playing – holding the guitar should be second nature.
Read More >> What Are The Best Acoustic Guitars For Kids?
So, as much as I’d like to say you should only be concerned with how your guitar plays as a beginner, it’s a losing battle – guitars are cool, and when you’re starting out, it’s pretty important to feel cool, too!
The most common styles you’ll find are Stratocaster variants and Les Paul variants, and of course, there are direct replicas, too.
As well as Strat and LP, Telecaster style guitars are still popular, and there are numerous other styles available, too.
Some of the terms you might hear or read relating to a guitar’s style include:
- Single or double cutaway - this to the ‘horns’ at the top of the body, which are cutouts that allow easier access to the higher frets
- Tremolo bridge – a special type of bridge that intentionally moves to allow tremolo effect using a tremolo arm (sometimes known as a whammy bar)
- Tune-O-Matic bridge – a common bridge found on Epiphone and Gibson guitars that is used to influence string tension
What exactly dictates the style of guitar you should choose then? If you’re looking for an instrument that can handle it all, you can’t go wrong with a Strat or a Les Paul (or any of their variants).
These are ‘Jack of all trades’ guitars that can handle pretty much any musical style with ease.
If you plan to specialize in a particular genre, consider a guitar specifically designed for it.
If you’re a budding shredder, you’ll want to look at the likes of Jackson, Dean, and Ibanez (most of their models are built for fast playing, heavy strumming and divebomb tremolo action).
Blues fans usually gravitate to Strats, Les Pauls, and if they plan to take blues really seriously, ES (electric Spanish) semi-hollow style guitars (think BB King’s Lucille).
As I mentioned, there are tons of other styles available, be it Telecaster, Flying V, Explorer, Mockingbird, etc. Which one you choose will come down to music style, comfort, and overall taste.
I will end this part by pointing out that some of the more exotic shapes are frankly pretty awful for beginners to learn on.
They look cool on stage, but there’s no way you can sit down and practice with a flying V in your lap!
Read More >>How Do You Record An Acoustic Guitar?
Younger players might not quite grasp the concept of musical instruments being delicate items that deserve respect and proper care, and while they should certainly be taught this lesson, a good beginner guitar should require little to no maintenance besides changing of strings and light cleaning.
On top of this, it should be able to take a knock or two without sustaining major damage.
This is why set neck guitars like the Epiphone SG Standard aren’t really the best options for beginner players – simply knocking the guitar over can cause devastating cracks to major parts of the guitar.
Guitars with bolt on necks are much more able to withstand a bit of punishment, and if any part of the neck breaks, even a novice can replace it fairly inexpensively.
The guitar’s finish should also stand up to scuffs and scrapes, although, the current trend is for “relic” guitars (which in essence is an instrument that has been beaten up beyond recognition, and had an extra zero added to the price tag), so some damage may even be considered coo!
Fit and finish is what we’re looking for here – at this price point it’s unlikely to be perfect, but be on the lookout for wobbly tone and volume knobs, excessive crackle when plugging the guitar in, any play whatsoever in the output jack, and actually sharp fret edges.
These are all red flags and indicators of poor quality.
When it comes to the materials being used you’re not likely to see exotic tonewoods, flamed maple tops, or genuine rosewood fretboards, but that’s not really a problem at this level.
Indian Laurel has proven to be a sustainable alternative to rosewood, anyway, and fancy finishes often make new players too worried about damaging the look to really get into playing.
At the end of the day, the nuances of the sound quality that premium materials bring are rarely noticed by beginners anyway – focus on the basics, and let your playing do the talking!
Read More >> How Do You Choose An Acoustic Guitar?
How Much Do Beginner Electric Guitars Usually Cost?
Prepare to be pleasantly surprised! If you’re looking for a budget friendly beginner guitar, you really don’t have to spend much at all!
For less than $200 you can have a perfectly serviceable axe that will take you from first chords to first gigs.
The most expensive instrument on this list comes in at around $400, but you can certainly get a lot of guitar for a lot less.
So, why exactly are beginner guitars so much cheaper than intermediate or advanced level instruments?
First of all, the name on the headstock. Some of the most popular beginner instruments are made by licensed subsidiaries of the major brands.
Fender’s beginner to intermediate level instruments are crafted across Asia under the Squier brand.
Similarly, Gibson replicate many of their most popular instruments in China, Japan, and Korea under the Epiphone name.
Changing the brand name for their cheaper instruments lets the big players keep the air of exclusivity around their US made models, and thus significantly upcharge.
The benefit for the beginner player who might not be so choosy at this early stage of their playing career, is that the Asian built guitars from the big brands are generally very good.
They are built to strict quality control standards, they are readily available in stores and online, and the value for money is unbelievable.
As you’d probably expect, electronic components aren’t quite as robust in a beginner instrument, and this is another area in which savings can be passed on to the player.
It’s a fair assumption that a beginner isn’t likely to be playing stadium gigs, so, in order to keep the instruments well made, sacrifices are made in areas that can’t be seen.
Choice of wood is also a big factor. Typically, you’ll find materials like poplar and basswood used in cheaper instruments, in place of mahogany and alder on more expensive ones.
Fretboards are likely to be Indian Laurel or some type of synthetic material – not bad, but not as expensive (and more readily available) than maple or rosewood.
Read More >> What Are The Best Amps For Electric Guitars?
My Reviews Of The Best Beginner Level Electric Guitars
My favorite version is the SSS (triple single coil), but if you’re after something with a humbucking pickup, it’s also available in HSS for some additional sound variation.
It’s got a comfortable C Profile neck with satin finish, a 6 saddle vintage style tremolo, a poplar body, a proper 5 position pickup selector, and it’s available with a choice of either Indian Laurel or Maple fretboards.
- Extremely Versatile In Terms Of Style
- Comfortable For Extended Playing
- Nicely Finished Frets
- Some Examples Can Struggle With Tuning Stability
- Basic Hardware
I love the classic single coil twang, and this Classic Vibe Tele has it in spades.
This model is 100% designed by Fender and features Fender designed Alnico pickups.
It features a Poplar body, which has a very similar tone to the Fender Version’s Alder body.
It’s widely regarded as one of the best models that Squier makes, and is comparable to some of the Fender branded standard models as far as fit and finish go.
It has wonderfully smooth fret work, a slick, comfortable neck, and it comes in a really nice range of finishes, too.
- Great Tones
- Factory Setup Is Excellent
- High Quality Machine Heads
- 3 Saddle Bridge Makes Intonation Adjustment Tough For Novices
- Pots Can Sometimes Be All Or Nothing
When people first start looking for guitars, especially at the beginner level, it’s pretty typical that they go straight for the brands they know, but checking out lesser known makers like Ibanez will really open up options.
The miKro is an awesome budget guitar, and is in fact the cheapest on this list by some margin.
If you, or the person you plan to gift this to, love playing metal, this is a great option.
It’s equipped with some hot humbucking pickups, making it ideal for aspiring shredders.
- Looks Awesome
- Factory Setup Is Excellent
- Short Scale Is Great For Smaller Hands
- No Whammy Bar
- Will Probably Require A Setup
The biggest difference, is of course the fact that this has a bolt on neck, vs. a set neck – if it wasn’t for this you could for sure add $150+ to the cost of this guitar!
It has classic humbucker pickups, giving a rich, warm tone. On top of that, it’s got some real heft to it, too – it’s not quite as heavy as a full Les Paul Standard, but this is no slimmed down replica, it’s got a full mahogany body and maple top.
- Real Les Paul Look
- Hard Wearing
- Epiphone 650r & 700t humbucker pickups
- Can Require Fret Adjustments
- Limited Color Choices
The Yamaha Pacifica has proven time and time again that it’s one of the very best beginner guitars around.
It’s been a staple of guitar students for over 20 years now, and its versatility is one of the main reasons.
It takes the classic Stratocaster form, but instead of the traditional 3 single coil pickup setup, it features a humbucker at the bridge, and singles at the middle and neck positions.
Because it’s a Yamaha, you can expect phenomenal build quality, despite the low price, and a guitar that will grow with you as you develop skill.
- Genuine Maple Neck
- Quality Vintage Tremolo
- Limited Sustain
- Pronounced Hum From Stock Pickups
My Top Pick: Squier By Fender Affinity Series Stratocaster
It’s got so much going for it in so many ways. First of all, it’s not some off brand rip off Strat, it’s made by Squier, a well established company, under the watchful eye of.
I recently watched a great video (link below), where Ron Thorn (Fender’s Principal Master Builder for Fender Custom Shop), fell in love with an Affinity Stratocaster.
He was blown away with the out of the box setup and overall feel of the guitar – so even if you forget everything I say, Ron Thorn’s word is golden!
There are tons of variations available, which is definitely a plus.
Not only are there a bunch of color options to choose from, but you can pick them up with three single coil pickups, or a humbucker and 2 single coils if you’re so inclined.
Being something of a purist, I’d stick to the 3 coil SSS setup.
It's such a great value for the money, check out the lowest price on Amazon right now!
As well as these options, you also have the choice of buying the guitar as a standalone instrument, or in a kit with an amplifier, a gig bag, a guitar strap, and some other basic accessories.
Personally, I’d stick with the guitar and choose your guitar amp separately. There are definitely better amplifiers out there, and for the difference in price, one of them could be yours!
The body is built from Alder, which in my opinion is a step above the basswood you’ll find in more basic models like the Squier Bullet Stratocaster.
Another nice feature when it comes to the construction is the speed of the neck.
The neck is finished in satin, which allows for effortless gliding – this means smoother chord transitions and an overall more comfortable playing experience.
Speaking of playability, it’s probably a good time to mention that the Affinity model surprises almost every experienced guitarist I show it to with the finish quality on the frets.
There are very few guitars at this price point that can match the plucky Squier that feature such smooth edges out of the box!
I did mention that some people experience some tuning stability issues with this model – and while there’s a chance that could be down to hardware or design, I think it’s most likely that those with the issue didn’t allow the strings to stretch out properly (remember to tune down, not up, people!), or that they got a little heavy handed with the whammy bar.
The Affinity Stratocaster benefits from die cast, sealed tuning heads, a big step up from those found on the Bullet Strat.
Overall, I’m genuinely impressed. With my track record of favoring Gibson Family products, I felt an almost immediate bias towards the Les Paul 100, but after having picked up an Affinity Strat, I was swayed.
When I first started playing anything sub $200 was absolute garbage. Hell, you could barely get anything above junk status for under $400, but here we are, with a genuinely good Stratocaster costing under $200!
There’s a pretty obvious reason why Strats are probably the best selling guitar style in the world, imitated by almost everyone making guitars for their comfort, balance, and clean, punchy tones that work for genres from gospel to heavy metal and everything in between.
My favorite thing about this Squier Strat is the potential for hot rodding.
Because it’s easily the most popular platform in the world, there are literally tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of available aftermarket parts and components.
So, when it’s time to upgrade, rather than buy a whole new guitar, you can completely customize your existing axe. This in and of itself is a rite of passage.
Final Thoughts On The Best Electric Guitar Amps
It’s a lot easier to upgrade your guitar than it is your amplifier, so I really do recommend you save a good part of your budget for a great amp (I’m looking at all you new players planning to blow your entire budget on a Gibson Les Paul then hitting up a pawnshop for a $15 piece of junk to play it through!).
Truthfully, I wanted to name all of these amps as my number one choice.
I love all of them, but sadly my wallet and my wife, both say no to having this many.
Amps are kind of the unsung hero, they hide in the background, while your guitar takes all the glory.
Getting the right amplifier for your sound and style will make a massive difference to your live sound and the quality of any recordings you make, and remember, much like a guitar, an amp that is well looked after will last for many years, and in the case of tube amps, will only get better with age.