Nearly 5 years after we first published our list of the top 5 electric guitar brands we have completely revised and updated our selection to include the top 10 brands.
When we rated these to see which were the best of the best, we took into consideration their quality, popularity with professional guitarists, and the impact they’ve had on rock music.
After we originally published our selection of the top guitar brands, it became clear from the feedback we received that many of you wanted us to recommend individual models as well as the top brands, so here is our new selection along with one of the most popular models, and an entry level model, for each of the top 10 brands.
Things To Consider When Buying An Electric Guitar
The best course of action is to set a budget that is reasonable – right at the get go – while also considering the cost for other important gear like accessories, cables, amplifiers and effects, should you need them. A good rule of thumb to follow is that entry-level to mid-tier instruments are great for beginners, while more experienced players will want mid-tier to premium guitars.
Musical Preference and Guitar Heroes
The style of music you prefer will greatly dictate the type of guitar you want, so it is safest to stick to the guns (or axes) of your heroes. This way you can get a good and inspiring instrument even when you don’t have thorough knowledge of guitar types. For experienced players, you owe it to yourself to understand the pros and cons of different guitar types better, before making big investments. But even then, your preferred style, and the recommendations of experts and professional guitar players that play them will be invaluable.
Guitar Body Shape and Types
To simplify the many available guitar body shapes available, we can categorize them into three shapes: double cutaway shape (eg. Stratocaster), single cutaway (eg. Les Paul), and exotic shapes (eg. Flying V). While it maybe considered superficial, having the right guitar shape will add to how enjoyable an instrument is to play and look at – which in turn inspires you to play more and better. In addition to shape, getting a good grip of basic body configurations is essential, here’s a primer of the three most common:
- Solidbody guitars have no hollow space inside the body, this is the most popular and used in a wide range of modern music styles by artists like Eric Clapton, Joe Satriani, John Mayer and many more.
- Semi-hollow also called thinline, are guitars where the body has a small hollow space inside with a center wood block for structural support. It was made popular by blues-rock players like BB King, Larry Carlton, Dave Grohl and more.
- Hollowbody guitars feature full hollow bodies much like acoustic guitars do, and are used often in jazz and mellow style music as exemplified by Jazz greats that include Joe Pass, Pat Martino to name a few. It is however not limited to just that as exhibited by Brian Setzer and his Rockabilly style, along with Chet Atkins and his iconic country guitar playing.
The goal is to find the body shape and configuration that
appeals the most to your eyes and ears. The most straightforward choice for
beginners will be the solidbody for its durability. Players who are looking to
expand their sonic palette are usually the ones who will take interest in
semi-hollow and hollow body guitars.
Guitar Neck and Playability
The specifications of the neck and string setup dictate the guitar’s overall playability. As such, it is important to get a handle of important specs which include scale length (the length by which the string is stretched from the bridge saddle to the nut), nut width, fingerboard radius, and neck profile (shape of the back of the neck). Beginners normally want guitars to play easier, and will prefer those with shorter scale length, thin nut width and neck profile, and flatter fingerboard radius. On the other hand, experienced players will have grown accustomed to a specific neck configuration, if this is your case, you will want your new guitar to have similar specs to what you already like.
Guitar Pickup Configuration
Pickup configuration refers to the number and types of pickups installed on a guitar, and its position on the body. The two most common types of pickups include singlecoil, known for its crisp and punchy sound and the fatter sounding humbucker. For beginners, you’ll have to once again look up to artists who play your preferred music genre, to see which pickups they are using to get their sound. In addition to getting the right sound, sonic flexibility is also an important consideration and the general rule is that the more pickups installed, the more sound varieties you can get. The most common configuration is HH, which stand for dual humbuckers, because of their overdrive and distortion friendly sound. The SSS (three single-coils) configuration is also popular, as seen on the Stratocaster, allowing for a more versatile tone options. There are other variations that combine both single coils and humbuckers, such as SSH (two single coils and a humbucker), for an even wider selection of tones.
Guitar Bridge Type
I remember choosing a floating tremolo equipped electric guitar as my first ever purchase, and I ended up being so frustrated at how hard it is to keep the guitar in tune and how complex string replacements were. To make the long story short, I felt relief when I traded it up for a simpler Fender Strat. These days, floating tremolos have gotten better and easier to setup, but I’d still recommend a guitar with basic stop tail piece or tremolo bridge for beginners – just so you can focus on learning the instrument and worrying about string setup when you have more experience.
The Best Electric Guitar Brands
|Popular||Les Paul Traditional 2019||The latest production model of the Les Paul, following traditional design elements and specifications.|
|Entry Level||Les Paul Tribute||A more affordable version of the iconic “Gold top” finish Les Paul, with satin gold top finish, and chrome hardware priced at just under $1200.|
|Popular||American Professional Stratocaster||Easily one of the most familiar and easily identifiable electric guitar, and it is still going strong after decades of production!|
|Entry Level||Player Series Stratocaster||Because of its popularity, the Stratocaster takes on many different versions, this surprisingly affordable Strat comes with a Fender logo instead of Squier.|
|Popular||PRS S2 Custom 24||
This is a stripped down version
of the more expensive PRS Custom 24 guitar which many dream of having, the
lower price point of the S2 Customer 24 helped PRS reach the hand of more
|Entry Level||PRS SE Standard 24||The SE Standard is PRS’ representative in the entry level line, and this particular version carries over the company’s passion for detail while keeping the cost down.|
|Popular||Steve Vai JEM70V||If its good enough for a true master of the instrument like Steve Vai, then it should be good enough for everyone… now if only the guitar came with instant Vai skills.|
|Entry Level||GIO GRX70QA||The Gio is easily one of the most popular starter electric guitars for fans of rock and metal, and the Gio GRX70QA exemplifies its great balance of quality and value.|
|Popular||Les Paul Tribute Plus||Epiphone’s tribute to the iconic Les Paul, this one bearing elegant cosmetic appointments while still keeping the price very accessible.|
|Entry Level||Epiphone SG Special||The Epiphone SG Special gives guitarists a chance to own a workhorse quality double-cutaway SG, at a considerably lower cost.|
|Popular||Hellraiser C-1 FR-S||As the name suggests, this is not a classic guitar for mellow tunes, the Hellraiser C-1 FR-S is meant for heavy metal and rock music, and comes complete with a Floyd Rose bridge.|
|Entry Level||Omen-6||Shecter continues to expand their presence in the entry level department with popular guitars like the Omen-6, a great bang per buck instrument with fast playing feel.|
|Popular||ESP LTD EC-1000FM||ESP’s most popular guitar in the market comes from their sub-brand LTD, a hot-rodded take on the single cutaway LP body designed for today’s players.|
|Entry Level||ESP LTD AX-50||In the past you’d have to shell out considerable cash for non-conventional looking guitars, but ESP’s LTD helped turn that around by mass producing guitars like the AX-50.|
|Popular||Electromatic Pro Jet Bigsby||There’s just something about Gretsch guitars and Bigsby that makes them easy on the eyes and ears. The Electromatic Pro Jet Bigsby is all that, while having an accessible price tag.|
|Entry Level||G5426 Jet Club||The G5426 Jet Club gives students an instrument with the same flare for aesthetics as more expensive Gretsch guitars.|
|Popular||Adrian Smith SDX||Jackson was one of the pioneers of the Super Strat design, and the Adrian Smith SDX showcases their design philosophy really well, featuring SSH configuration and a Floyd Rose bridge.|
|Entry Level||JS11 Dinky||This dual humbucker double cutaway guitar features the same fast playing feel as its expensive cousins, a great budget alternative for students into rock, progressive and metal.|
The Godin LXGT trumps all the
guitars in this list when it comes to sonic versatility, it lets you switch
from conventional humbuckers to transducer pickups for acoustic sounds, and
go beyond that via the built-in synth pickup.|
|Entry Level||Empire HG||The Empire HG offers Strat and LP style sounds in one guitar, you can go from bright sounding single-coil pickup sounds to high output humbucker with just a single switch.|