I wish I had learned to play the guitar when I was younger
Once you have uttered those words your best bet would be to start looking for the best beginner electric guitars that would suit those lost years of youthful axe playing. Most of us have said those words at one time or another, and if you haven’t it can only be because of one of these three things:
- You have already learned to play the guitar
- You are still young so it is not a relevant statement
- You do not want to learn the guitar
So if you do not fall into those three statements, or you are young and looking to start out then what are you waiting for? Worried about the noise this may bring to your otherwise peaceful life? The electric guitar can actually be the quietest guitar on which to learn (other than the exceptionally versatile air guitar which we all own at least one of). You just need headphones so you will not be bothering the rest of the household with your monotonous attempts to hit that F# chord over and over again. Finding the best beginner electric guitars is no easy feat. Without the knowledge where do you even begin? Well, that’s why we are here. If you want to add the guitar to your life skills then you need not look anywhere else.
To buy online or not to buy online? That is the question
Before we dig in however, there are a few caveats that need to be raised from the get go. Buying a guitar is not an exact science. You should probably pick a few up and try them out before you decide which one is best. But wait a second, how do I pick one up and know if it is good or not when I don’t know how to play the thing? Good question. I know I wouldn’t want to walk into a guitar shop and show anyone my lack of skill and judgement straight off the bat. So what about online purchasing? Well, I wouldn’t recommend it once you have a small grasp of the instrument and you are levitating towards the higher priced instruments that you will one day desire. But for now, as a novice who doesn’t know a nut from a bridge, buying one of the best beginner electric guitars online is probably the most comfortable option available.
Some of the best beginner electric guitars can be bought online. But only if you follow our advice
The list I have compiled here are by-and-large safe to purchase online. I say safe in terms of the construction that you will get before any set up is undertaken. Buy too cheap and you will find yourself with an unplayable dog. Buy too expensive and you wouldn’t know if what you have is good or not until it is too late. If you can go to a brick and mortar store with a guitar playing friend then my advice is do that. I would still suggest looking at one of the 5 options below however. But if you have no guitarist friends and you do not want to look like a plank in a shop, then I feel secure telling you these are the best beginner electric guitars you can purchase.
The guitars we have listed below will not make a mockery of your lack of skill, and they will not hinder those crucial beginner stages that will make or break your guitar adventure. The general consensus of each of these guitars is that out of the box, they are generally fine to get started with straight away although a trip to a guitar luthier to tweak the setup would always be advisable. It will only set you back 25 bucks or so.
The top 5 best beginner electric guitars summary
Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Epiphone are a subsidiary of Gibson. this means they are actually licensed and allowed to produce budget versions of the insanely expensive Gibson guitars. You are not getting a fake here when you purchase this guitar. Although this is the bottom of the range for Epiphone, it is also their biggest seller. Loosely copying the famous Les Paul, Epiphone have stripped it down to the bare essentials making it one of the best beginner electric guitars around. This is not a bad thing for the newbie player but it does take a liberal imagination to see the Les Paul heritage within its styling.
Of course the Les Paul Special II does retain some of the same attributes of a real Les Paul, such as a mahogany body and neck and a rosewood fingerboard. The guitar consists of a pair of Epiphone humbuckers (these are what pick up the sound from the strings and convert that magnetic energy into sound). They make the guitar sound raw and, for the budget we are paying here, actually sound pretty good. I grant you, it is not a patch on a real Les Paul but when you plug this in for the first time, as a beginner you will never know the difference and feel like a rock god anyway. There is a three-way pickup selector switch which changes which pickups are used thus changing the sound that comes out of the guitar. Where this switch is located at the top of a real Les Paul or one of Epiphone’s more expensive copies, the switch on the Special is located at the bottom near the volume and tone dials. I actually prefer the switch position on the Special.
As far as the best beginner electric guitars go, this one is my top choice. Straight out of the box the strings are not set too high from the fret board. This is called the action. When the action is high then you have to press down harder to reach the fret board – something newbie guitar fingers will not enjoy. The intonation on my copy was pretty much bang on straight from the factory. This means that the guitar was in tune throughout the length of the string. I have read reports where some people have not been so lucky, but a quick trip to a guitar luthier will fix that problem easily and cheaply. The neck felt a bit glossy for my sweaty hands at first but it seems to have smoothed itself out over time making for a nice and easy neck to play on.
I would say the Les Paul Special II is for the rock ‘n roller at heart. It is also good for blues and jazz but its staple sits at the heart of rock music. This is probably not the guitar for those wanting to venture into heavy metal although it will not embarrass if you take it there occasionally.
This guitar comes in some great beginner packages too so if you want an amp, strap, bag, cables and picks to come with your guitar, there are some great choices too.
The Squier Affinity Telecaster
Like the Affinity Stratocaster, this Telecaster is made by Squier, a subsidary of Fender. Like Epiphone is to Gibson, so Squier is to Fender. The Affinity Telecaster is built with an Alder body and a maple neck and has a maple fretboard. It would be remiss of me to not include a Telecaster in a list of the top 5 best beginner electric guitars, and the Squier Affinity is my top choice Telecaster for the guitar novice.
The guitar comes with two single coil pickups. Unlike the other guitars mentioned here, this guitar does not have a humbucker pickup, although there are variations with humbuckers. The three-way selector switch allows you to control which pickup (or both) is used when you play providing a different tone at each switch position. There are two additional knobs for controlling volume and tone.
The design of the Telecaster has always been a simple affair making it an ideal candidate for one of the best beginner electric guitars. It is a tried and tested set up with no real need to complicate things. There have been many copies of the Fender Telecaster over the years, some better than others. But what makes this guitar so easy to copy is its simplicity.
The Affinity Telecaster, or any Telecaster for that matter is not designed to be a rock-out-hard instrument. It requires a little bit of finesse. You find these style of guitars played in all kinds of genres and it would be wrong of me to suggest that they cannot rock out. They can if you push them through some good amps. But if you are wanting to rock the world more than not, then you may want to look elsewhere. But if you like a clean twang from your guitar, perhaps some funk, blues or jazz, then this may well be your guitar of choice.
Personally, I love the Telecaster. I have played many in my life and still return frequently to my Fender original. Is the Affinity Telecaster any match for a Fender Original? Well, no not really. But as a starting guitar you would be hard pressed to find anything this good for the price.
It does have its faults though. There have been stories of loose knobs and tuning issues which is not to be unexpected at such a cheap price. But is it really neccessary to cut back so much from the final product to keep it this cheap? I would say not. Epiphone managed to keep the Les Paul Special II at a rock bottom price and managed, by and large, to keep the construction solid. Having said that, I am told that Squier has tightened up their quality control recently so many of these complaints may now be moot.
As with all of these cheap beginner guitars, I would recommend a trip to a luthier and get the guitar setup properly. Whilst Squier may well have improved the quality and build of their cheap guitars, they are still running through an automated mass production process. For this reason, it would be impossible for all guitars to come out the other end completely faultless.
Of all the Telecaster copies out there that you can buy on a tight budget, this is the only one you should consider getting. Not only is it an official copy produced by Fender but it is also the most playable. Despite a few missteps in the construction you will not find a better instrument in the best beginner electric guitars category. You may find cheaper Telecaster copies, but as a guitar beginner they will hinder your progress rather than enhance it.
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster
Like the Affinity Telecaster, this Stratocaster is made by Squier, a subsidiary of Fender. Fender is to Squier Like Epiphone is to Gibson. So any Squier guitar you buy has the official approval of Fender. This is important when looking to buy an affordable Strat copy. There are so many cheap knock offs of this classic guitar that choosing a good one can be very confusing. The Affinity Sratocaster is built with an Alder body and a maple neck and has a rosewood fret board.
The guitar comes with three single coil pickups although some variations come with two single coils and a humbucker pickup at the bridge. The five-way selector switch allows you to control which pickups are used when you play providing a different sound at each switch position. There are three additional knobs for controlling volume and tone. Unlike the Telecaster, the Strat also comes with a tremolo (whammy bar). This enables you to distort the strings and create vibrato effects to your playing. As a beginner you will probably not have much need for this for a good while. Because of the bridge setup and the whammy bar integration, using this feature heavily will detune your guitar. The Affinity bridge is not the best and neither are the tuning pegs so pushing the whammy bar extensively will test the construction to its limits. I would suggest leaving the whammy bar in the box for a while.
Squier make several versions of the Stratocaster from the cheap Bullet to the more expensive Standard Strats. None of these guitars would make a bad choice for a beginner. Indeed, even more seasoned players, including professionals use Squier Stratocasters. But it is the Affinity that makes the best beginner electric guitars list. The Affinity Stratocaster is very much a beginners option and is the perfect starter guitar. Personally, I would avoid the Bullet which is the bottom of the range Strat that Squier make. Why? Well, the construction is not the best and there are many reports of this guitar losing its tune easily. This is in part down to cheap tuners and bridge. Whilst the Affinity is in no way a USA built Fender, it does have slightly upgraded tuners to the Bullet and can hold its tune much better (whammy bar aside). If you are really pushed for budget then the Bullet isn’t the worst option I can think of to get started. I would put it at number 6 on the list of the best beginner electric guitars.
Somewhat confusingly Fender also make a cheap Stratocaster with the Fender badge (no Squier logo in sight) called the Fender Starcaster. Not to be confused by the vintage Starcaster from many decades ago, the Starcaster Stratocaster is a cheap, no frills Fender Strat. This is not a very good guitar and probably scores less than even the Squier Bullet in terms of construction. I would not recommend this guitar as your first. The Affinity is leagues ahead and whilst you will pay more for the Affinity, you really do get what you pay for in this regard.
Back to the Squier Affinity Stratocaster. The action (height of the strings from the fret board) is generally very good for beginners so you will not need to force the strings down too hard and hurt your fingers too much. That is not to say your finger tips will not be sore until you “wear” them in – this will happen with any guitar you start on. The neck is smooth and makes running your hand up and down the fret board easy. Some guitars are too glossy along the back of the neck for my liking, but the Affinity does not suffer from this.
As far as sound goes, whilst you shouldn’t expect a USA Fender quality of sound, your untrained ears will not notice and you will feel like a guitar god the second you hear the sound pour out of the amp. In a couple of years you will probably be wanting to upgrade to a better sounding guitar or upgrade the pickups on the Affinity, but for now you will not notice and will thoroughly enjoy the sounds the guitar makes. The Stratocaster is probably the most versatile of guitars and is used in all kinds of genres. The famous players that use a Strat is too long to list here, and the genres equally so. Whatever your desired style of play, you cannot go wrong with a Stratocaster and the Squier Affinity is a great place to start.
Like the Telecaster, a Stratocaster is a simple affair and can easily be upgraded with better pickups and tuners. Of course, to upgrade these guitars requires a little bit of know-how or at least the ability to follow the many YouTube walk-through’s out there. Just make sure that when you are buying upgraded parts that those parts will fit your Affinity. Google is your friend when it comes to this.
Overall, out of all of the Strat copies that exist in the world, the Squier Affinity Strat is the one to get as a beginner. You can find much cheaper Chinese no-name brands and even Fender themselves make a cheap version in the Startcaster, but I would avoid these. If you are serious about learning the guitar then you need an instrument that will help you learn, not one that will hinder you with poor tuning and construction. It is hard enough getting through the early stages of learning the guitar, there is no point making it even harder with poor equipment.
As with all of these budget beginner guitars, a trip to a luthier would not go amiss. Squier have improved the quality and build of their cheap guitars but the Affinity Strat is still a mass produced item and it would be impossible for each guitar to leave the factory without some sort of misalignment. A trip to a luthier is cheap and very much worth it whether you are a beginner or professional.
All in all, the Squier Affinity Strat is definately one of the best beginner electric guitars money can buy today.
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