When it comes to electric guitars, every guitar player in the world will tell you that such-and-such a guitar is the absolute best, hands down. Well, the fact of the matter is, there are many truly awesome guitars out there, and there are several that stand heads and shoulders above the rest. Some of these guitars are old classics, which never go out of style. Others have been created much more recently, with many quickly on their way to becoming classics themselves.
Today we are going to take a look at five of the best electric guitars of all time, and all of these guitars are readily available online and in music stores. Let’s get started.
Fender American Performer Stratocaster
For many guitar players, the Fender Stratocaster is the holy grail of guitars. No matter what type of music you prefer, you just can’t go wrong with this guitar. Many of the best guitar players in the world, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Mark Knopfler, and many other popular musicians have been known for playing Fender Stratocasters.
Now, we have the Fender American Performer Stratocaster. This gorgeous guitar has a rosewood fretboard which gives it a warm, dark tone as opposed to the brighter tone that you would get with a maple neck. The body is made from alder, and the neck is maple. You will love the tremolo arm, which is totally old-school. If an American Strat is in your budget, this guitar is definitely worth checking out.
- Low, bluesy tones
- Traditional tremolo arm (whammy bar)
- Gig bag included with purchase
- Not the best guitar for heavy metal
- High price
Ibanez JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature
If you are looking for a guitar that will let you do some major heavy metal shredding, look no further than the Ibanez JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature guitar. Not only is this a great guitar for metal, it is also easier on the wallet than many other comparable guitars. The only real downfall is that you may need to take it to a luthier for a bit of setup, but other than that, you will really be getting a bang for your buck with this guitar.
This guitar looks as awesome as it sounds. The fretboard has tree of life inlays, the signature of Steve Vai guitars. The body is made from mahogany, and the neck is maple. It has a Floyd Rose whammy bar, and 24 jumbo frets for a wider range of notes for shredding.
- Looks as hot as it sounds
- Multi-choice pickup selector switch
- 24 jumbo frets
- May need setup from a luthier
Fender Player Telecaster
Another classic from Fender is the Telecaster, and it is ideal for anyone who is interested in playing country western music, or new wave and 90’s pop rock. This guitar has been used by such artists as Pink Floyd, the Police, and Bruce Springsteen, just to name a few. The great thing about the Telecaster is that no matter how many effects you use, there is still no mistaking that you are playing a Telecaster.
This particular guitar is manufactured in Mexico, and it is made with high-quality parts. One of the best things about this Telecaster is that it is still budget-friendly, even with these quality parts. If you have your heart set on an American-made Fender guitar but don’t have the budget for it, this is probably as close to the next best thing as you will ever find. The body is made from alder, and the neck from maple.
- Provides just the right amount of country twang
- High-quality parts and build
- Classic Fender design
- Not a great guitar for metal
ESP LTD EC-256 Electric Guitar
Not all of the best guitars need to have a well-known brand name in order to be considered a great guitar. For instance, the ESP LTD EC-256 comes highly recommended, especially for beginners with lower budgets. It is ideal for both shredders and rhythm players, and has been used by the likes of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Boston. Plug this guitar into an amp with a distortion pedal, and start working on those shredding skills!
The woods used in the construction of this guitar are mahogany and oak. It has a three-way switch, two double-coil humbucking pickups, two volume controls, and a control knob. We love that you can set this guitar up so that one pickup can be used for strumming and the other for leadwork. You can also create some pretty cool tremolo effects by using the switch.
- Sexy Les Paul-style design
- Double-coil humbucker pickups
- Easier on the budget than a Les Paul
- You may need to take it to a luthier for a tune-up
Schecter Omen Extreme-6
If you are looking for a guitar that you can shred with right out of the box without the need for any adjustments, you may want to check out the Schecter Omen Extreme 6 electric guitar. This guitar has two Passive Diamond Plus humbuckers, with a coil-split. The action is awesome, and the saddle adjustments and truss rod make set-up fast and easy.
We love thin-C shaped neck, and the 14-inch radius fretboard (not a lot of curve, but easier for moving your hands around, hence making it easier to shred). There are 24 jumbo frets, so you will have a much higher range of notes to play around with, and the low action makes it easy to play without using a lot of pressure. The body is made from mahogany, with a quilted maple top, and a maple neck, and is available in See-Thru Black and Black Cherry.
- Warm, bright tones
- Narrow neck for fast playing
- Low action
- Budget-friendly at less than $700
- Some fret buzzing (may need bridge and truss rod adjustments)
- Fret access can be a bit limited
- Body is larger and may feel awkard
There is a lot more to buying a new guitar than just finding one that looks really cool. Sure, that is important to a point, especially if you are going to be playing on stage. But, there are other factors that will come into play which are much more important. These can include, but are not limited to:
Does it Have a Good Tone?
Before buying any guitar, it is important to sit down and play it. That is the only way you are going to know if it has a good tone or not. There are many different things that will affect the tone of an electric guitar. First of all, does it have a solid or a hollow body? What kind of tonewood was used to create the guitar? Are there single-coil pickups or just one double-coil pickup? We will go into more depth about these things farther down in this article.
If you are just getting a guitar for your own personal enjoyment, the tone may not matter as much as it would if you are planning on using it on stage or in a recording studio. Then again, if it doesn’t sound great, you won’t even want to play it for your own enjoyment. These are all things that you will need to consider before making your final decision.
How does it Feel in Your Hands?
One of the most important considerations when buying a new electric guitar is how it feels in your hands while you are playing it. It should almost feel natural, like it’s an extension of your own body. You should be able to comfortably hold and play it for several hours at a time. When it comes to how a guitar feels, the things to consider include the body’s size and shape, how thick the neck is, and the fretboard radius.
The only way to truly know how a guitar feels is to sit down and play it. This is something you can’t do while shopping online, but there is a way around that. First, start out by looking online to get an idea of guitars you may be interested in. Then, visit local music stores to see if they have any of these guitars in stock. If they do, ask to try them out. Once you find the one you really want and that feels great while you are playing it, then you can go online and look for better deals.
How Much does it Cost?
Cost will play a huge factor in your decision. If the guitar is for a beginner, chances are you aren’t going to want to spend thousands of dollars on a top of the line guitar. On the other hand, you don’t want to get anything that is super-cheap either. It just won’t have a good sound and this could deter a beginner because they don’t hear much of an improvement in how their playing sounds when using a guitar that doesn’t sound good to begin with.
There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on a guitar for a beginning musician, but at the same time, you don’t want to get something so cheap that it sounds more like a toy than a real instrument. If the guitar is for a seasoned guitar player, obviously, you will want to look for something that is in a higher price range and that will have a great sound, appearance, and feel.
What does it Have for Components?
It is a good idea to have a basic knowledge of the components of electric guitars. Some musicians prefer to have all of the bells and whistles, while others just want the basics. The more you know about the components, the easier it will be for you to make a final decision about which electric guitar is going to be the best for your needs (or for whoever it is intended for).
Some of the things you will need to consider include:
- Pickups – When it comes to pickups, there are a few things to look for. How many pickups does the guitar have? Does it have single-coil or double-coil pickups? The pickups basically “pick up” the sound. Basically, the sound creates a vibration on an internal magnetic coil. This creates an electronic signal that goes to the amplifier.
- Volume and Tone Knobs – Most electric guitars will have one to three volume knobs. The amount of volume knobs will depend on how many pickups are in the guitar. Generally, there is a volume knob for each pickup. The tone knobs are used to switch between high and low frequencies. Again, there are is often a tone knob for each of the pickups.
- Selector Switches – A selector switch or a cut-off switch is used to choose which pickups you want to use, and then activates that pickup. In most cases, you will be able to use a single pickup or a combination of two or more pickups.
- Output Jack – The output jack is generally located at the bottom or back of the guitar. This is where the patch cord is plugged in so you can connect the guitar to an amplifier. A quarter-inch guitar cable is used for this purpose, so don’t forget to buy one of these as well when you get your new guitar.
What are Tonewoods?
The more you know about tonewoods, the better. While pickups are the main source of sound for an electric guitar, it is still important to make sure that it is made with a quality tonewood. Remember, pickups can always be changed, customized, or upgraded, but the tonewood will always remain the same.
In most cases, an electric guitar’s body will be made from maple, mahogany, or poplar. Maple is very popular, because it can give a guitar a long sustain as well as a bright tone. Mahogany will give a guitar a warmer tone, while poplar offers a high-register tone that is crisp and bright.
Should You Shop Around if You Already Know what You Want?
If you are going to be spending hundreds of dollars on a new guitar, it is a good idea to shop around before making your final decision. We recommend always doing a bit of comparison shopping before making any purchase. After all, this is something that is likely to become your “baby”, and you want to make sure you have the right one for your needs.
Even if you already know you want a certain brand or model, it never hurts to try out several different models from various brands. You never know, you may think you want one thing, but when you try out something else you hadn’t considered previously and you love it, you may end up changing your mind.
Also, while the prices are usually pretty much the same from store to store, you may be able to find better deals at some stores than at others. Don’t discount shopping online either. But, make sure you already know exactly what you want, and have already tried it out before ordering. Never order a guitar online unless you already know how the guitar plays, feels, and sounds.
You probably have a lot of questions, especially if you are new to the world of guitars. If the staff at your local music store really know their stuff, they will be able to answer all of your questions. For the time being, let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions about buying a new electric guitar.
How well does the guitar stay in tune?
Some guitars may look and feel awesome, but if they don’t stay in tune well, it doesn’t matter how great they look or feel. Before purchasing any guitar, make sure it is in standard tuning, and then sit down and play a few chords to make sure that it stays in tune no matter what part of the neck you are playing at. If you are a beginner, it is a good idea to bring a seasoned musician along with you. If you can’t bring anyone along, ask one of the store employees to tune it up and play it for you. If it doesn’t stay in tune while they are playing it, it likely isn’t going to stay in tune for you either.
Is the neck straight?
It is crucial to check the neck of any guitar before making a purchase. While the neck can be adjusted, it is probably not a good idea to buy a guitar that doesn’t have a straight neck right at the outset. The straightness of a guitar’s neck can be affected by many factors, including changes in weather and temperature. In many cases, a guitar’s neck will need to be adjusted regularly. To check the straightness of the neck, follow these steps:
- Place the bottom part of the guitar on the top of your foot, and look straight own the neck. Look beneath the low E string all the way down the fretboard. If the neck and the string are lined up, the neck is straight. Do the same thing with the high E string. What you don’t want to see is any bowing of the neck. It should be as straight as the strings.
- Sit down and place the guitar on your lap as if you were going to play. Play the F note, located on the first fret of the low E string. While holding down this note, use the thumb of your right hand to press on the string just below the highest fret to see how much space there is between the string and the fret. If the space between the string and the fret is more than the thickness of a medium-gauge guitar pick, the neck is not perfectly straight and will need to be tightened. If the space is less than the thickness of a pick, the neck will need to be loosened. Repeat this step on the high E string as well.
What is the Action Like?
If you intend to play lead guitar, you will want a guitar that has a relatively low action. This is the distance between the strings and the fretboard. If the action is too high, bending the strings will be difficult because inevitably your fingers will end up pushing beneath the string beside the one you are bending. A low action is also better for beginners, because it makes it easier to press down on the strings and play the notes.
Can You Reach the Entire Fretboard?
If you are just planning on playing simple songs for your own pleasure, this isn’t something that is going to matter a whole lot. But, if you want to be a lead player, you will need to have a guitar that allows you to easily reach the entire fretboard. Again, the only way to know this is to actually sit down and play it. Even if you don’t actually know how to play yet, you can still sit down with the guitar and run your hands along the neck.
Is Expensive Better?
Just because something is expensive, it doesn’t mean it is the greatest. On the other hand, just because something is cheap, it doesn’t mean it is the worst. There are all kinds of great guitars out there that cost less than $500. In fact, you can get a Squier Stratocaster for less than $250, with a few accessories thrown in for good measure. If you are a beginner, it isn’t necessary to spend $1,000 or more on a great guitar when something much less expensive will play and sound almost as good. It is often best to start out with one of the less expensive models, and then upgrade as your playing skills improve.
The above-mentioned guitars are just five of many awesome instruments that are available in music stores and online. As we mentioned, visit your local music store and try out a few different models, including the guitars we have talked about today. Chances are you will end up going home with at least one of them.