YourGuitarGuide Electric Guitar Buyers Guide
There are a number of things to consider when choosing an electric guitar. Before you rush into it, think about some of the factors that will be the best value for you. That will keep you playing for years.
Learning and playing the a guitar is a journey! Not everyone is in the same place on there journey of playing guitar. The same can be said when you are getting ready to buy a guitar. The person that is a beginner is not going to buy the same guitar as some one that has been playing for many years.
Like me I have been playing for over 30 years, and have a lot of guitars. But I wanted a new electric guitar. I had checked out several different electric guitars before making the decision on the James Tyler Variax Guitar (Link to check the price on Amazon). For me, it was perfect for the total package and the price. This guitar is a no brainer, 29 Vintage guitars rolled under one body. For less than the price of one of the Classic guitars, and sounds exactly the same.
What to Look for in an Electric Guitar
When talking about electric guitars, in general there are two styles. Gibson and Fender. In general all other guitars are styled after these two. Both are solid body guitars. The Gibson Les Paul is whats called a single cutaway guitar.
Then you have the fender Stratocaster guitar. A double cutaway guitar. Yes there are other body’s, like the ES335 which is a semi hollow body guitar. As far as pickups, selectors, and controls, guitar makers use the technology that has worked since its inception. Of course they can not copy the exact product but they loosely copy it.
The Gibson guitar has Humbucker pickups. The pickup is what transmits the sound to the amplifier. The humbucker pickups are wired in such a way that you get a “thicker” sound. A sound that you would find in Metal and Rock music.
There are two pickups, one at the bridge, and one at the neck. The pickups are two single coil pickups that are wired together to eliminate the humming noise that is found in single coil pickups.
Because they are wired together they have a higher output which changes the sound. The Single coils do not have that high output. Both kinds of pickups are great they just have different sounds.
The Fender Style body usually has Single coil pickups that gives a brighter thinner tone. Single coil pickups are usually a set of three like on the Stratocaster or two coils like on a Telecaster style guitar.
Some other guitar makers that use humbuckers that are loosely based off of the Gibson Humbucker. Some guitars have a Fender body style, but they use Humbucker pickups. Whch gives a richer darker tone when played.
- Mahogany and Bass wood gives a darker pronounced mid range.
- Alder wood has less of a mid range, with more highs and low tones. Ash has a tone quality for mid range.
Wood of the guitar makes a difference in the tone. The Les Paul Style guitar has a thicker body which gives a thicker mid range tone. Les Paul guitars are mostly made of Mahogany.
The Fender body style guitars are Alder or Ash wood. Which is a good wood that gives a different tone. Alder has more high and low tones.
Gibson Style Guitar Pickup Selector Positions:
- The Gibson Style guitar selector has a down position to select the Bridge pickup.
- Selector position up is for neck pickup.
- Place the selector in the middle position, and both pickups are selected.
Fender style guitar selector positions based off of the Stratocaster (3 Single coil pickups).
- With the selector in the first position the bridge pickup is selected.
- Second position of the selector the Bridge, and the middle selector.
- Third position selects the middle pickup only.
- Position 4 of the switch selects the middle and neck pickup.
- 5th position is the neck pickup only.
Notes that if the guitar has less pickups, like on a Telecaster has two pickups. Then you would not have a 5 way selector switch.
Every guitar has a selector that allows the guitar player to move between the different pickups on the guitar. Usually you have 2 – 3 pickups. Depending on what kind of guitar, and pickup configuration the guitar has.
On the Gibson style guitars there are usually 3 – 4 knobs. If there are four knobs you will have a Volume and Tone knob for the Bridge Pickup. Then a Volume and Tone for the neck pickup.
Some other brands have different configurations. Where the volume works both pickups. Some may have a single tone control.
The Fender style guitar has two tone control knobs, and one Volume control. These configurations can change depending on how many coils are on the guitar.
Guitar Neck Wood
The actual guitar neck can be mahogany, or some guitar necks are made of maple wood. Guitar fretboards are usually either rosewood or maple. The fingerboard wood makes a difference on how the guitar plays.
With a maple neck the wood is harder. This allows you to articulate crisp bright snappy tones when playing. The Rosewood fingerboard is a softer wood. Thus you can create a noticeable difference in tones than the maple wood. Rosewood has a warmer tone to it.
Guitar Necks & Hardware
Guitar necks are different in the two styles of guitars. The width and thickness of the guitar neck has everything to do with the ease, and comfort of playing. Most guitar necks are either C or U shape. The depth of the neck is directly related to the ease or difficulty of the hands fretting ability.
3 guitar necks
- Bolt on – Bolts to the body making it easy to replace if necessary. Most cost effective.
- Neck Through- The Neck extends through the length of the guitar. Repairs are costly and difficult.
- Set neck- Set into the body of the guitar, and glued in place. Therefore a more stable neck, but more costly to repair.
The Gibson style guitar neck is a thicker rounder neck. The Adler body guitars have a thinner smaller guitar neck. Making for a more comfortable playing neck. Both have a truss rod running through the neck. To reinforce the neck, and prevent warping. Never buy a guitar that doesn’t have a truss rod.
A Guitar can have a bolt on neck “C Shape” neck like on the Fender Telecaster and stratocaster guitars. The neck can be a one piece neck. Where it extends from the body.
Tuning pegs or the Machine heads are bolted onto the headstock. The strings go through the machine head post. The machine head is turned, and the string is tightened, or loosened depending on which direction it is turned. They are used to tune the string.
The gear part of the machine head is enclosed. Sealed and permanently lubricated. These are found on a lot of modern day machine heads. Some turners are made to lock in place. This keeps the guitar string from slipping, and allows the strings to stay in tune. This style tuner makes changing strings easier.
Better hardware helps with keeping the guitar in tune. The machine heads that come with the guitar are usually sufficient. Although they can be replaced if you desire. Hardware consists of the machine heads, Bridge and Tail piece which can change the cost of the instrument.
Bridge & Tailpiece
The Bridge and Tailpiece work together. They are a compelling force that help with the tone of the guitar. Guitar strings go over the bridge. Which the bridge is mounted to the lower part of the body of the guitar.
A bridge can be adjusted to accommodate the length of the guitar strings. The bridge compensates for the string gauge. The bridge adjustments allows the strings to be in tune with each other. Keeping the strings in tune the length of the guitar neck. Some bridges can be adjust for the string action. Which is the height of the string from the fretboard to the bottom of the string.
On a lot of guitars the bridge has a Whammy Bar that allows the guitar player to use vibrato. The bar attaches to the bridge. When the guitar player moves the bar up or down this changes the vibrato. A bridge that has a mechanism to attach the whammy bar is called a tremolo.
When you are able to move the bridge up and down with the whammy bar, it adjusts the pitch of the notes the guitarist is playing. This is called a floating bridge.
Is Price a Factor?
Price is a factor when buying a guitar. It really doesn’t matter how good the guitar sounds. The Play-ability of the guitar. If it is over your budget. I would recommend for a beginner electric guitar you don’t need to spend over $250. Yes you can get an electric guitar for less. simply don’t find guitars in the $100.00 range to be made well.
To Conclude what to Look for in an Electric Guitar
As you can see there is a lot to think about when buying a guitar. So with this buyers guide I hope I have taken the guess work out of the decision making.
Three things to think about:
- Who are you buying the guitar for?
- What style do you like
- Also what kind of sound?
- How Big is your budget?
If the person is smaller a thicker body style with a mahogany wood is heavy. So this may make the choice easy. The Adler body like on the Fender style guitar is a lighter, smaller body with a thinner neck for ease of playability.
What sounds are you trying to get. Humbuckers have more output. A darker Tone. On the single coil pickups like on the Fender style guitar. There are some high tones that your just not going to get with the Humbucker. You can still get low tones with the Single coil pickups. Both pickups are great its all a personal preference.
Top Electric Guitar Brands to Consider
- Fender – Squier Affinity Stratocaster (link to Amazon) Gets my vote for being the best beginner electric guitar at the best price for the quality. It comes with the classic Fender sound.
- Gibson – Since they are one of the best known guitar brand’s in the market( since 1902). Gibson has a long line of tradition when it comes to electric guitars. Great Tone, But a little pricey.
- Line 6 – Line 6 is one of the most innovative manufactures that specializes in guitars, amp and effects modeling. If your into technology; Great Choice.
- Yamaha – Makes some good electric guitars, but after doing a review of the Fender Affinity & Yamaha Pacific. I found the Fender had more Pros than Cons.
- PRS – Maryland based Manufacture of electric guitars. Very nice sounding guitars, with a Glossy finish. Solid choice.
- Epiphone – This is a good guitar for rock n Roll, and Blues. Epiphone is a solid guitar that is backed by a line of Rockers.
- Ibanez – A long line of well built guitars from acoustic to Holloway body guitars. At first when I think of ibanez I think of Shredder guitars.
- ESP– Is a Japanese guitar Manufacturer. Which offers a line of guitars and basses. They are in Toko Japan and California. Overall ESP makes a good guitar for shredding metal songs.
- Schecter – A lower end guitar descent for the price, but the string action is to low out of the box. Although string height can be easily adjusted.
- Danelectro – Danelectro made famous by the black and white 1961 DC 59. Jimmy Page played the song Kashmir. The New line of Damelectro look and sound good. A Solid Guitar .
- Gretch – Gretch has been building guitars for years. Back in the day (60’s) This might be the guitar of choice. The newer Gretch guitars that I have played Well I just can’t recommend them.
- D’Angelico – I like the styling of the D’Angelico, but I haven’t tried one out so I can’t offer a review.
After you get your electric guitar you will need to get an amplifier. Click this link to see a great practice amp by Roland.