The best electric guitar isn’t one that just sounds good (however you may define good as) — it’s how it feels in your hands. We remember when we could barely start forming memories, going to our dad’s shows and him using his telecaster on stage. He had been playing since he was 5 years old (which we actually used his opinion for in this guide as well) and continues to play today 50 years later. As we grew up and learned guitar ourselves, it was more about what was comfortable and felt as natural as possible. Paired up with the sound and feel, there are a few more factors to take into consideration when you’re looking for the best electric guitar.
Picking the best electric guitar
- Your budget – When it comes to the best electric guitars or really any real instrument in general, you’re going to have to pay a decent amount of money if you want a quality investment. Although we did find a few budget-friendly guitars to take a look at below, a lot of these will near the half-a-thousand mark and beyond. It all depends on you, of course. Do you want a beginner and starter electric guitar to begin those shredding adventures? Or perhaps the best of the best that the most famous artists use? Perhaps you’ll end up saving more than you already have as you’re reading this — it may be worth it to wait a bit longer.
- Guitar body – When it comes to different guitar bodies, everybody is different in terms of preference. There are even more variations when it comes to the many shapes and sizes electric guitars come in, but we kept it simple with the three most common guitar bodies you’ll come across in your search.
- Solid Body: This build is rather self-explanatory, meaning there is no sound box (as typically seen in other instruments, especially acoustic guitars) but instead relies on an entire electric pickup system to gather the vibrations of the strings to portray your sound. This typically dominates the preferred ‘guitar type’ category unless you’re aware of what the differences are in terms of sound (telecasters, Ibanez, etc.). The perks of this solid build include the ability to be amplified at very high volumes without feedback worries, giving us more combinations when it comes to shapes\designs, and are very responsive to the use of effects since it’s nearly entirely dependent on amplification. Preferred genres? Rock, punk, metal, classic rock, etc.
- Semi-Hollow: As the name suggests, you’re getting a smaller type of sound box while some support of amplification at the same time. This allows us to use an amp (with proper adjustments — there will definitely be some feedback worries of course), but they’re a lot lighter in weight than solid bodies and people tend to say they’re more versatile than our previously explained type. The superlatives used when it comes to hollow-body sound usually include “warm”, “bright”, and nice overtones. Preferred guitarists? Jazz, rockabilly, vintage country, etc.
- Hollow: Although a bit more rare than the previous two, it may be exactly what you’re looking for if it fits your style. Hollow body electric guitars sound a lot like acoustic guitars, giving us that brighter sound but having trouble with higher volumes since feedback is likely to occur (especially in medium to higher volumes). It has a round and full tone with great bass response, giving jazz players a big grin when they hear it.
- Righty or lefty? Make sure the model you’re looking at offers either righty or lefty compatibility to be sure. Most should offer both.
- Color styles – Is this important to you? We know it is for us to an extent, especially if you’ll be performing live regardless of venue size. Even if you’re going to your band-mates place to rehearse, the look of our guitar represents us and our own style. Luckily many of these have awesome options when it comes to makes, colors and designs. Although it wouldn’t necessarily steer us completely in a particular electric guitars direction since sound and feel are still most important.
The top 10 best electric guitars
If you’re just starting out, our new electric guitar for beginners may be more suitable for you. Otherwise, let’s get going on our picks (although it was tough to stick with only 10 models). If you want to practice or perform without wires, you can also look into a wireless system for guitars. Be sure to check out our best acoustic guitars article if you want a companion, or if you need extra gear, we have guides for those as well.
To start off our list (albeit rather difficult to choose a specific guitar first), let’s take a look at the Fender Telecaster, a high-quality electric guitar for the musician out there who is looking to improve their amateur status to accomplished guitarist. With the clear tone and quality range that the Fender brand is known to famously provide, the Telecaster is equipped with shielded body cavities meant to limit reverberation and focus in on the individual notes. The dual single-coil pickups allow the musician to vary between sharp tones and strong treble, providing a unique sound to fit various genres of interest. The flat surface of the of the fingerboard makes it easy to switch between notes and chords, while the alder wood used for the body of the guitar provides and even and bright sound. With a ‘C’ shaped design meant for comfort for long wear use, the Fender Telecaster is one of the best electric guitars for the money. The sound? Very classic, biting, and clear. You’ll have to hear for yourself in this Telecaster video, since we can’t really find adjectives to truly portray this beauty.
Gibson Les Paul Studio
Synonymous in the electric guitar industry, the Gibson brand continues to produce some of the best electric guitars on the market, including the Les Paul Studio. Designed with a classic look that maintains the appearance of a vintage quality, this electric guitar comes with a neck that is slimmer than most traditional models, allowing for ease and smooth transitions when switching between notes. The guitar utilizes an upgraded version of humbucker PAF to cancel out any outside interference that detracts from the quality of the sound, while maple and mahogany wood are combined to deliver both definition and sustainability. Other features include traditional tuners that can be manually altered, a Graph Tech Nut for precise spacing between strings, and a neck heel with the class Les Paul design. Well reviewed and great for the price, the Les Paul Studio is one of the best electric guitars available if your cash flow allows.
Ibanez Roadcore RC365H
How are we supposed to choose an Ibanez model? Well, here’s what we went with. Made out of mahogany with a vintage look to appease the masses, the Ibanez Roadcore RC365H offers a retro feel with a modern sound. The f-hole on the lower part of the guitar creates a deep and rich resonant sound, while the neck contains an RC bolt that adds both warmth and depth to the notes. Due to the stringing throughout the body and an improved bridge, tuning becomes easier while switching through progressions, while the rosewood fingerboard presents both style and comfortability. The highly touted feature on this guitar is the custom designed Core-Tone pickup, reducing additional hum and reverberation for clarity in tone. With various tones provided by a three-way selector, this electric guitar offers high-quality features while maintaining a classic rock-and-roll vibe.
Squier Bullet Stratocaster SSS
A simplistic design and an affordable price make the Squier Bullet Stratocaster SSS an ideal guitar for those who are just beginning their foray into the musical world. Here’s a huge drop in price and mentioned halfway in our list just in case you wanted to find a budget-friendly and cheap electric guitar to start with. With a basswood finish and a ‘C’ shape design, this electric guitar is lightweight and comfortable, making it ideal when just beginning to learn basic chord progressions and needing long periods of time to practice. The twenty-one frets that are included come in a medium-jumbo size, making it easier to learn the basics of strumming and moving from chord to chord. The string pickup is only a single coil, which provides an adequate sound and balanced tone when utilizing the 5-position pickup blade. With three different color options to choose from (Candy Apple Red, Sea-foam Green, and Lake Placid Blue) the Squier Bullet is one of the best electric guitars for those who are looking to begin their musical journey in style.
Fender Stratocaster American Standard
Continuing to look at the well-known Fender brand, the Stratocaster American Standard is a higher-priced option with necessary features for the seasoned guitarist. This is another one of the most popular electric guitars ever. In terms of build, the body is a mix of ash and alder, creating a balanced tone for both the sharpness of the upper range chords and the dense resonance of the lower range progressions. The modern bridge has an upgrade of utilizing a block infused with copper and steel saddles for strong intonation and an ease in adjusting pitch. The tuners are placed at varying degrees and heights, with this staggered design creating a decreased in reverberation and excess hum so as to focus in on the clarity of the sound. This electric guitar also has a custom designed single-coil strat known as the “Fat ‘50s”, which is intended to create a fuller sound compared to other guitars. With a comfortable ‘C’ shaped design and durable finish, this 22 fret guitar offers desirable features for the guitar enthusiast. If you’re unsure whether to grab this or our previous Fender pick, read this Telecaster vs. Stratocaster sound article for some more info.
Gretsch G5422TDC Electromatic
If you’re looking for a unique sound that delivers an exaggerated twang, than the Gretsch G5422TDC Electromatic is the best electric guitar to offer these features. Designed with wider frame and a hollow body, this guitar utilizes “Black Top” Filter’Tron pickups to deliver a dynamic sound that is both bright and focused in its tone. The toggle has three positions that allows the user to customize the balance of the tone, and all strings on the guitar are able to deliver strong intonation due to the Adjusto-Matic bridge. The vibrato tailpiece adds resonance and depth to the sound quality, and by utilizing maple for the body frame there is a clarity provided within the tone that is unique to that design. With a three position pickup, open-back tuners, and a rosewood fingerboard, this retro style guitar provides a high-quality option for musicians alike. Here’s a great G5422TDC video for some samples of that warm hollow-body sound.
ESP LTD EC-1000
A well-reviewed electric guitar with a high-quality design, the ESP LTD EC-1000 is the best electric guitar for the musician looking to upgrade their sound and achieve an exaggerated tone associated with the world of rock-and-roll. Both the body and neck of the guitar are made from mahogany with a rosewood fretboard, making this guitar lightweight in feel and balanced in design. The 24 frets come in an extra-large size for ease and comfort in chord changes, while the tailpiece and locking bridge make tuning both easy to achieve and maintain. Output of the sound is well controlled with the toggle switch, and the model comes with two volume controls for different modes of play. Designed for the musicians with years of experience and a desire to play with a harder edge to their sound, the ESP LTD EC-1000 offers high-end features for a reasonable price. We’re huge fans of their entire EC series.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Providing all of the necessary features expected in a quality electric guitar at a budget-friendly price, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II is perfect for those just beginning their musical journey or the seasoned guitarist looking for an everyday guitar for practice. The 650R humbucker pickups combined with the open coil design deliver strong and sustained tones. As seen on all Epiphone guitars, the Special II has over 500K potentiometer for both tone and volume, and a toggle selector with a 3-way pickup to focus in on the clarity of the sound and decreased excess humming. The body and neck are made with mahogany, while the fretboard has dot inlays within the rosewood design. String changing is also made easier due to the stopbar tailpiece, which helps to add more sustain in sound when combined with the LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge. With all of these features at such a reasonable price point, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II is a strong contender included on this list.
D’Angelico EX-DC Standard
Semi-hollow, slim, and designed with a comfortable ‘C’ shape exterior, the D’Angelico EX-DC Standard is a high-price electric guitar with professional grade features. Creating a more natural tone that delivers an organic quality to its sound, the Standard guitar uses Kent Armstrong Vintage humbuckers for a focused sound free of excess reverberation. The Super-Rotomatic tuners maintain their tuning accuracy for a longer time, due in part to the turning radius within the design. Strings remain at a comfortable tension due to the unique Stairstep tailpiece, creating both a strong resonant sound and assured sturdiness. A semi-hollow body designed with maple on the top and back, other features include a 3-way toggle that provides two modes of volume as well as two separate tones. Meant for use throughout various genres of music, the EX-DC Standard is an electric guitar to please the masses.
Ibanez Artcore AF75
With a neck made of mahogany and a body of maple, the Ibanez Artcore AF75 is one of the best hollow body electric guitars included on this list. Due to its hollow body design, this guitar has the ability to play well in all genres, ranging from country to hard rock, and is known for its high-quality tone and ability to maintain tune through long periods of playing. This is possible in part due to the pickups at the neck and bridge, reducing excess humming for clarity in tone and pitch. The knobs at the base of the body have a super-grip design, making it easy to change the volume and tone between the neck and the bridge and utilize the three pickup selector. A pearl block inlay is included on the rosewood fretboard, making this 20 fret electric guitar a strong option to conclude this list.