Welcome to your new musical obsession! There are few things that are as relaxing, mentally stimulating and socially rewarding as learning to play guitar.
Buying your first instrument, however, can be tricky. There are a lot of trashy versions available. Just stop by any Wal-Mart where they almost always offer a First Act for well under $100. Becoming a true musician will require a little bit more care and quality then that can afford you.
Here’s our simplified buying guide to help as you head into the process of choosing what could become your dearest companion.
Those aren’t the ones that you really want to start with. Too cheap of a purchase will just give you tons of frustration and horrible sound.
It’s hard to stay motivated when you are fighting your instrument.
There are significant hazards to buying the wrong guitar as your first instrument. It is hard to practice when your equipment is always breaking. It’s also hard to learn to play by ear when you sound like a dying cat. And if it doesn’t hold a tune and has to be constantly re-tuned, it can be difficult as a newbie to always have to be fiddling with it. (You will have to learn how to tune, but it’s best if you only have to mess with it once a day at most.)
An expensive guitar won’t make you an amazing guitarist, but a crappy one will prevent you from ever learning your first three chords.
Most beginning guitarists really can’t afford to spend $500. You don’t know yet if you are going to stick with it — or even enjoy it, for that matter. Sure you may aspire to one day copy one of the greats — but you really don’t know what sound you are going to steer towards. So it makes sends to spend conservatively, and get started, and then trade up on down the road once you have a better idea what you want.
For this list, I’ve gone through the most popular guitars on Amazon and picked out the best. I really focused on durability and quality, aiming to guide you towards a cheap option that will hold its resale value. I also spend some time explaining different features such as fingerboards, tuning pegs and pickups — and how they can help or hurt you as you learn to play.
The content here should make the selection process make a lot more sense. I hope that the steps to choosing the right instruments make sense in this little guide!
Should I Start With An Acoustic Or An Electric One?
I’ve heard it discussed both ways. And I will agree that a lot of newbies get distracted by all of the “bells and whistles” that comes when you have an electric guitar.
You can easily spend 15 minutes of your 30 minute practice just playing with sound effects on your amp.
So if you go with a non-accoustic choice, promise yourself that you will not mess with any of the effects for a good 6 months. Volume control. That’s it. You are here to practice.
However, if you are sure that you want to learn, they are a great way to go and you can even take advantage of some of the new systems and games — such as Rocksmith — to help speed up your learning and catapult you towards becoming a true musician.
What should you look for when making your initial purchase?
The Wood – This is the most important part of your guitar. You can even go a little cheaper on the pickups just to get a better tone. After all, you can always upgrade your pickups down the road as your playing gets more serious.
The wood of the neck and the body are referred to as “tonewood,” and can affect the sound it makes based on the type of wood and the region it was cut from. (Three identical guitars can all have slightly different tonal qualities).
Because of this it is important to pay attention to the wood quality used for the tonewood.
However, you will likely need to play for a little while before you really settle on what pickup you like.
A Better Guitar DOES NOT Make You A Better Guitarist
Too many beginning guitarists get all hung up on their type of guitar. It really doesn’t matter. If it stays in tune, and you can practice on it, that is truly all you need. But, if the fretboard won’t adjust and you can’t depress the strings, or if it has cheap components that don’t let you adjust the tuning pegs without them stripping out… well, you are going to have a hard time learning to play.
A more expensive model won’t necessarily make you a better player.
But don’t run off to WalMart and pick up the first $40 “First Act” you run across. It’ll never sound right, and you’ll give up before you even begin.
In-Depth Reviews To Let You Get The Most For Your Money
I remember saving up for my first guitar. It seemed like it took so long to get the money together. I was that guy always hanging out at the music store, looking longingly at the guitars while all of the shop employees felt bad for me.
Thanks to the internet, there are a lot more options available for affordable guitars and kits.
Now, I know a lot of you will be interested in guitar kits since you get some basic training videos and often an amp. Granted, these amps are only starter-quality, but you’ll get plenty of use out of them before you put them for sale on craigslist. If you want to buy your guitar and amp separately, I suggest you read my expert reviews on the best practice amps for the money.
Below I go over 5 of the top guitars an entry-level player should consider.
New Vs. Used
Electric Guitars — especially beginner models — can go through a lot of rough treatment. The jacks get loose and crackly, the pickups go dead. A lot of peeps try to pass off these second-rate guitars on beginners who won’t know what to look for.
If you are buying used, give it a really thorough going over. Test each pickup. Adjust the guitar out of tune and then back in tune. Adjust the fretboard. Play it through the amp and wiggle the cord (gently) to find crackles.
Unless you are able to spend the money to buy a very nice used guitar from a reputable shop, you are probably better off sticking with new.
1. Best Beginner Electric Guitar Around $300
If you have $300 to spend, you are doing better than most beginners. For around $300, you should be able to buy a pretty nice beginner- to intermediate-level guitar
If there is one company that excels in producing consistant, quality instruments, it is Fender. Their guitars deliver some of the most consistent tones and reliable electronics on the market… and they’ve been on the market for quite some time.
Heck. They even have Bono on their Board of Directors.
You’ve got to check out the Squier Vintage Mustang. This classic design pulls in some of Fender’s most timeless work into a playing machine that will never go out of style.
The Mustang uses a basswood body that creates a “warm” tone perfect for growling Rock.
This guitar is not only constructed well, it has a lot of fun elements worked into it that makes it fun to play. Features like a dynamic vibrato tailpiece and the Duncan Designed magnetic pickups make this a guitar that sounds good both in the bedroom (or den) and on stage.
The downside to this guitar is that it is made in Indonesia and Korea. For a lot of people, this is a pretty big turn-off, and I can understand that. However, Fender has a reputation to uphold, and the Vintage Mustang does a good job of that.
This guitar is so solid that even when you move on to more fancy equipment, you will want to keep it for “messing around.”
2. Best Beginner Option For Around $200
This is an easy choice. And the best part, is you’ll still have enough gas money left over to make it to your next gig.
The Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul Vintage is our top pick for this category. And, for once, our top pick, and Amazon’s best-seller list coincides.
The solid basswood body and the Mahogany fingerboard delivers a rich tone that is only made warmer by the shorter 24.75 scale fingerboard. The shorter fingerboard makes it easier for you to practice your patterns without needing a lot of time to “reset” between chords.
Quality-wise, this Epiphone is virtually unmatched. The 650R and 700T Epiphone Humbucker pickups with a 3-way toggle lets you easily adjust between your pickups to get the sound you want.
The only downside with this model is that it will never be a heavy metal shredder — no matter how hard it tries. You can begin to learn metal on it, and even be able to capture the essence of most metal tunes. But it is simply to warm to deliver the more overdrive tones that most metal players seek.
3. Silvertone Review: The Best Option For Beginners Around $100
I’ll be honest, this is a tough category to find a good one to recommend. There is actually a good number available in this price range, but finding one of good construction is challenging.
One of the challenges of finding the right one is that most of these cheap ones are mini-sized or under-sized to make them ideal for children and people with small hands. If that describes you, then click here for the Squier by Fender MINI Strat.
However, for the adult/teen that wants a good-quality, cheap electric guitar, I am going to recommend the full-size Silvertone SS15.
The Silvertone SS15 has excellent construction. It actually uses rosewood and maple for the neck to create a durable instrument that stays in tune. The 3 pickups with 3-way switch deliver excellent sound control that even a beginning player will appreciate.
I would recommend upgrading the strings ASAP. The stock strings do tend to have a little buzz to ’em that can get annoying.
It also is a great choice of a cheap guitar for Rockband. Sometimes it doesn’t want to tune in as well, so you may have to adjust the pickups a little bit to get them to work with the game. If you are ok with finicking with it a little bit on the initial setup, it plays really well inside the game.
It’s 2017, and for the $100 range, I’m impressed. That’s a lot of value for such a comparably small amount of cash! And it isn’t just me; so are most instructors. It’s the one that everybody tries to make and nobody succeeds at. Play it. Enjoy it. And don’t tell anybody how little you paid for it. They’ll never know the difference.
4. How About An Incredible Starter Kit From Fender?
Package deals are an excellent way for a beginner to save money and get everything they need.
This is a great set up kit for the beginning to intermediate player. With your instrument, you recieve an amp, digital tuner, strap, gig bag, 3 medium picks, cable, stand and an instructional DVD.
The instrument in this kit is a Squier SE Special. It has great sound, wonderful tone, sweet looks and is very easy to play. The C-shape neck is constructed of maple and has a light varnish and is easy to play on. It has a rosewood fingerboard and 22 medium jumbo frets as well as three single coil pickups. The pickups give a wonderful rich tone and all of the knobs are high quality and solid.
You will also appreciate the headphone jack that allows you to practice without bothering anyone around you. With several color options to choose from, this model is very stylish and pleasing to the eye. It is a great value and very good quality for the price. It comes pre-tuned and the set includes an easy to use a digital tuner to provide quick and easy tune ups when needed. (Thankfully, the instrument stays in tune very well between uses.)
The amp is constructed solidly and comes with the useful addition of an auxiliary input allowing you to plug in other sources, such as your radio or iPhone and play along to your favorite tunes. It offers both overdrive (distortion) and good clean channels to choose from. Easily accomplishes a pleasing crunchy sound when you want it to.
Due to the fact that the amp is not very high end, the built in overdrive on this piece is rather muddy. Also, rather than having a gain knob for smoother adjustment, it comes with a button. To achieve better overdrive, consider hooking up an external distortion pedal. Having said all of that, it’s really best for use in playing blues or jazz, but if you are looking for someone that will accomplish more metal or rock sound, you might look elsewhere.
As far as looks go, this little amp is like a mini version of the larger, more expensive options, with the gray/ silver tweed cover and black top that is classic to Fender amps. It has a surprising amount of weight for its size and the same can be said for its volume levels. This little thing can easily fill up a decent sized room but also quiets down very well for softer playing without losing tone quality.
The included soft gig bag is padded and has a handy pocket on the front for carrying around your music, cheat sheets, tuner, picks, and other small gear.
In the end, more advanced players will likely want to look elsewhere, but if you have always wanted to learn guitar, or if you are in need of a good quality, lower end model due to limited funds, this set will serve you well. With this set, you will have everything you need to get you going.
5. The Sawtooth Guitar and Amp Kit
This kit comes with a great electric guitar and the accompanying accessories include a clip-on digital tuner, an assorted pack of picks, a ten-foot cable, a strap and a stand as well as a small amp and a lined vinyl gig bag. This is a really great kit for beginners and enthusiasts alike. The high quality of this package would be hard to match in any other guitar pack in this price range. Overall the finish and fit are excellent. The one has a basswood body, available in several different color/ finish choices.
The neck of this instrument is designed in an easy to play c shape. The fingerboard is made of maple and has 22 medium jumbo frets with dot position inlays to guide your playing. The instrument comes with a synchronous tremolo bridge, a five-way selector switch, a master volume control and two tone controls as well as three single coil pickups. The overall weight is about twenty pounds and is only available in right-hand configuration.
Sawtooths are highly versatile and will provide you with a good solid tone that is well suited to a very wide range of music styles. Great care is taken in the crafting of these instruments to provide you with not only a sleek and stylish look but also great sound, ease of play and a wonderful vintage vibe. You will find that this quality instrument is designed with built-in upgrades including chrome finish tuners, high-quality truss rod covers, knobs and nuts and three-ply pickguards for the ultimate playing experience.
The 10 watt Amp is small, about the size of a cereal box, but it is effective and you will find that it puts out a very good quality sound and it achieves great volume levels considering its size. The vinyl gig case is padded and the entire package is sufficiently compact so that you can easily carry everything around when you are on the go.
This kit will not only provide you with a great set up if you are a beginner, but it is high enough quality to appeal even to more seasoned players. Overall this is a great deal for the price and you would be hard pressed to find another kit within the same price range that provides the same level of quality you will find in this package.
hear The Sawtooth ST Sound
And that’s all for this comparison review! If you have a friend who plays, see what they think and get their recommendations! It never hurts to ask for another opinion! While we have worked hard to bring you a list of the best options available to purchase online, you will discover that musicians are more than happy to share information on their favorites!