If you’re reading this article, it means you’re interested in becoming a guitarist! With the many varieties of guitars, even within one brand, choosing your first guitar might seem daunting. However, we’re here to help recommend some of our favorite guitars perfect for the budding guitar player! Before we dive in, it’s key to understand certain aspects of the guitar to get a better sense of which one you’d like to get for yourself.

Pickups

Without a doubt the defining characteristic of what helps your guitar get its electric sound. Located on the body of the guitar underneath the strings, pickups are made of magnetic poles with wires wrapped around them that pick up the magnetic vibrations of your strings to produce sound electrically. There are two very common forms of pickups: single coil and humbucker.

  • Single coil pickups
    • The single coil pickup is what started the sound of the electric guitar. With just two magnetic poles and a coil wrapped around them, they pickup up a sound from the strings that depending on its position on the body, can either sound bluesy and round or have a sharp attack and tone. Guitars featuring these pickups were prevalent in the 50s blues, jazz, and rock scenes and have continued to stay popular throughout the years and have been used on all genres of music, despite just having single coils. You can see these pickups most commonly on Fender guitars where there’ll be 3 of them on the guitar that can be switched with 5 choices of tone: bridge, middle, and neck pickups separately, bridge and middle together, or middle and neck together. Notoriously, single coil pickups by themselves can get some electrical interference but having two activated together can cancel the “hum”, which leads us to our next pickups…
  • Humbucking pickups
    • After years of the single coil pickup getting that interference, engineers developed a way of cancelling the hum by essentially having two single coils pickups activated together which would cancel out the phasing between them and leave you with a warmer tone that lacked the “hum” of the pickups. These pickups were predominantly featured on Gibson guitars but have in recent years been adapted to certain Fender guitars as well, amongst countless other brands of guitars. Generally, humbuckers are used in hard rock, metal, and other music that has a heavier sound since when overdriven or distorted doesn’t leave the guitar player with a lot of noise.

Body Shape

It’s very easy to tell the difference between certain guitars from a mile away simply by looking at the body shape, but the wood used on the guitars can also change the tonal aspect of the guitar as well. While there are dozens of different body styles throughout the world of guitar, we’ll be discussing the three most common types you’ll see on most guitars on the market.

  • T-Style a.k.a. Tele body
    • Arguably the first famous body shape, it paved the way for guitars to be simply on an assembly line due to its routing and ability to “bolt on” a neck to the guitar via screws. Most guitars that feature this body shape tend to have two single coil pickups with a three-way selector switch allowing you to activate either the bridge or neck pickup, or both simultaneously. Its single cutaway design also allowed for better reach of the higher frets.
  • S-Style a.k.a. Strat body
    • Found on Fender Stratocaster guitars, it was designed primarily for better comfort and balance than the previous Telecaster. It also introduced the option to choose between 3 pickups. Originally, you could only select one pickup at a time but guitar players found you could rest the selector switch in between two choices to activate two simultaneously, resulting in future models that have 5 options on the selector switch. Other design features they updated were the beveled body for your arm to rest more comfortably and another cutaway so your hand could be even more comfortable at the higher frets.
  • Single Cut a.k.a. Gibson body
    • Based on the body of a violin, these guitars have become a signature look after hanging on the necks of dozens of rock stars from past to present. Generally heavier guitars than most on the market, this helped the guitars resonate and sustain better when played.

Body Woods

  • Ash
    • It’s found on many Fender Telecasters and Stratocasters and is known for its bright and trebly tone.
  • Alder
    • A typically brighter tone than most woods used, these are typically found on many Fender Telecasters and Stratocasters.
  • Mahogany
    • A warm tone when resonating, these are typically found on Gibson Les Pauls to give them that nice growl.

Neck Woods

  • Neck
    • Mahogany
      • Usually found on Les Pauls to add to the overall warm tone of the instrument.
    • Maple
      • A hard, dense would that gives the guitar a brighter tone that attacks stronger.
  • Fingerboard
    • Rosewood
      • Warmer tone wood that can pair well with maple necks to mellow out the brighter characteristics so you get your highs but they’re not as snappy sounding. Since this wood tends to get dry, it’s necessary to oil.
    • Ebony
      • Mostly found on vintage guitars and higher-end newer models due to being a hard-to-access wood in today’s climate. Sonically sounds like maple but is treated like rosewood as far as feel and care.

Starter Packs

When you get a dog, you still need to get a collar, leash, water bowl, food, etc. Same goes with an electric guitar; in addition, you’ll need an amp, a case, a cable, a tuner, and other assorted items. If you’re not sure what sound you’re going for and need to dive in with an all-in-one package, the following are great choices (and great gifts) for playing guitar immediately.

  • Squier Stratocaster Electric Guitar Pack
    • If you love the blues, funk, or pop punk, chances are you want a Stratocaster. Played by countless guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Mayer, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many more, it’s become a favorite due to its signature tone and lightweight, comfortable body. Thanks to Fender, they made an affordable option that gives you everything you need to get started right in the box! Along with the guitar, you’ll receive a 10G amplifier and 10’ cable so you can start practicing right away! Best of all, it has an input so you can plug in your smart phone or other media player, as well as an input for headphones so you can jam without bothering the neighbors! Additionally, you’ll receive a padded gig bag to carry your new guitar to practice or your next gig, a guitar strap so you can stand and play, and picks so you don’t get blisters on your fingers. The guitar package also has a free 3-month subscription to Fender Play so you can start taking lessons online immediately! The only thing this package is missing is the kitchen sink!
  • Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Pack
    • If you prefer a guitar with a little more grit and bite, you may want to consider getting yourself an Epiphone Les Paul. Based on Epiphone’s parent company, Gibson Guitar’s, Les Paul, this is the slimmed down and simplified version of one of rock music’s famous guitars made famous by the likes of Slash, Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Duane Allman, Peter Frampton and a slew of others rock gods. Like the Strat pack, you’ll also receive an amp and cable to start playing, although this amp allows you to blend clean and overdrive sounds to get your preferred sound when playing. You’ll also receive a strap, picks, and gigbag similar to the ones that come with the Strat pack, with an added guitar tuner so you can make sure your guitar also sounds good and doesn’t make the cats yell outside your window! Lastly, you can start taking lessons immediately thanks to the included free online lessons with eMedia.

Entry Level Guitars

While starter packs are a great option, some first-time guitar players have a preference of what other accessories to purchase, whether it be their amp, strap, tuner, cable, or anything else they may need to get inspired to play. Below are a few wonderful options of guitars to choose from that will save you money for all the other accessories you need to be a successful guitarist.

  • Squier Bullet Strat HSS HT Electric Guitar (Arctic White)
    • If you want versatile tone, a Stratocaster with HSS (hum/single/single) is the way to go! The single coil pickups give you the bluesy tone perfect for any jam while the humbucker in the bridge gives you a fatter sound to help with playing heavy power chords and soaring solos. Thanks to the 5-way switch, you have 5 different tonal options to choose from to fit nearly any style of music! Keep in mind: unlike most Stratocasters, it doesn’t have a tremolo bar option so you won’t be able to do Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck solos perfectly (but you’ll have plenty of time to practice to become even better than them in the meantime).
  • Epiphone Les Paul Special VE Electric Guitar 
    • Gibson Les Paul guitars have a reputation for being heavy but this guitar gives you that classic sound without the neck strain thanks to it’s slim, Poplar body. It’s also fantastic for a kid who loves rock but is hoping to shred like the greats thanks to it’s slim taper neck perfect for faster playing. A great guitar for someone who wants to begin their love affair with all things Epiphone/Gibson!

 

Standard Models

  • Jackson JS22 Dinky Archtop Electric Guitar 
    • If you’re an aspiring rock or metal guitarist searching for something with a little more edge than the previous guitars, it’s worth it to check out this incredibly cool shred machine! On a purely aesthetic level, it looks incredibly cool with its black archtop body and matching headstock, along with Jackson’s famous triangle inlays and “hockey stick” headstock that looks cool whomever is holding it! Between the pickups and the tremolo bridge, you’ll be able to fly up and down the neck and do dive-bombs galore to imitate your favorite 80’s guitar players like Dave Mustaine, Randy Rhoads, and Phil Collen!
  • Michael Kelly 1953 Electric Guitar 
    • While the name might not be familiar to you, Michael Kelly and their line of instruments will soon be on everyone’s mind in the next few years: it’s a whole lot of guitar at a fraction of the price! This model in particular is a familiar T-Style guitar that gives you all of that spank and twang you’ve heard on hundreds of country and classic rock records. However, with a pull of a knob you can activate the “Quad Mod” to make your single-coil pickups sound like humbuckers! While it sounds great, you won’t be able to deny the beautiful flame maple top and pearloid pickguard that’ll have everyone in the room staring!
  • Michael Kelly 1963 Electric Guitar 
    • Prefer an S-Style guitar instead? Look no further than this beauty by Michael Kelly! Similar to the previous Strats mentioned, it does everything they can do and more! If you like the aesthetic appeal of the 1953 but want them in a Strat body, this is the way to go. You get the beautiful alder body, flame maple top, ebony fingerboard, and HSS pickups so you can get the variety of tone you’re looking for similar to the Squier Bullet, except all the appointments are upgraded and it has a tremolo bar. After owning this, you’ll realize it blends in with every style of music!
  • Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar
    • As far as a serious rock guitar, this guitar is as good as it gets for its price! These guitars rival many Gibson Les Pauls that are 2 or 3 times the price due to its fantastic quality, durability as an instrument, and overall great feel and sound! You get a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, the classic trapezoid inlays, and killer humbucking pickups that make this guitar feel and sound nearly indistinguishable to a Gibson Les Paul! Don’t be surprised to see your favorite musician playing one of these on stage as opposed to the Gibson equivalent! If you’re looking for a more affordable option with tons of options for a fraction of the price, it’s worth checking out the Michael Kelly Patriot Decree.
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Ben Ash
Ben Ash is a member of the Sam Ash Music family, both literally and figuratively. He has worked on the sales floor in both the Huntington and Forest Hills location. As Social Media Coordinator, he was integral with bringing the social media of the company to new heights and relevancy. He was also a Manager of the Northeast region. Currently, he is the Content Marketing Manager for Sam Ash Music. He received a Bachelors Degree in Music Business at Berklee College Of Music in 2012. He’s a proficient guitar player and can also play bass and ukulele. Although he grew up as a fan of classic rock and alternative, he’s now opened his mind to being a fan of many genres of music. He regularly posts his music covers on his YouTube channel and has played multiple venues in Long Island, NYC, Philadelphia and Boston.