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#1 Edited by Aegon (5496 posts) -

I've been thinking about getting into electric guitars, but there's quite a bit to know. From the bit of research I've done, I was thinking that maybe a Fender stratocaster would be the way to go (or maybe the telecaster?). The lowest price on one of those is like $280 and I'm not sure what the quality difference between that and the endless amount of other stratocasters going for 1000s is. Do you have a certain guitar that fits your needs? If you can give a brief explanation, then that would help in understanding the differences between all of the options.

#2 Edited by AndrewW (144 posts) -

The best advice is to get yourself down to a guitar store and try out as many guitars within your budget as you can. You don't have to buy anything there - come back home and read up more about the guitars you liked online. You can also check where the best prices are, and possibly go back into the store and get them to price match.

I learnt on an Ibanez SA160 which is still one of my favourite guitars to play. Then I got an American Strat which was my 'dream guitar' and an Epiphone Les Paul to cover the humbucker side of things!

From what I've been reading in the last few years, if you like the Fender-style guitars the best bang for buck would be one of the Squier 'Classic Vibe' range. Amazing build quality and sound and for an excellent price.

#3 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

I suggest just renting a guitar for a couple months to see what you prefer. Most music stores have a rental section for this purpose.

If you would like to purchase a guitar right away, don't do it online. Or at least go to a local music store to physically try out the model you're thinking of ordering. Musical instruments are sort of like bicycles and cars in this way. You won't know if it's right for you until you've had a chance to play it a bit. Things to look for when browsing at the music store: is it comfortable? is it too heavy? does it feel cheap? does it feel about the right size or too bulky? or too small? ask to plug it in to an amplifier: check the electronics. By that I mean, strum your thumb over the strings and turn the knobs while it's making noise. Are there any scratchy sounds happening when you turn the knobs? Next move the switch back and forth (this is your pickup selector). Again, any scratchy noises? Any loud pops? The reason for this is to check if the guitar has any wiring problems. There should be no loud wrong sounding noises when you adjust the switch and knobs.

The difference between cheap Squier Stratocasters and Fender Stratocasters is better build material, better build quality. Which translates to better feel, better note sustain, better sound (better pickups), durability, reliability (stays in tune, doesn't randomly have problems constantly) etc. With electric guitars you're more or less going to get what you pay for when looking at ones under ~$1500.

I suggest looking at brands like Ibanez, Epiphone, and Kramer for reasonably okay low cost guitars.

#4 Edited by EarlessShrimp (1633 posts) -

If you're looking for a guitar on a budget look for a fender squier, they're like 100 bucks and they're excellent beginner guitars. If you're into it then move up to the stratocaster. One of my friends had a strat in high school and did it look and sound good. Shit, it felt pretty good too. But yeah, Squire would be my best bet for one's first guitar.

#5 Posted by BigBoss1911 (2434 posts) -

I love the look, feel, and sound of telecasters, some people think they sound too "twangy", but fuck those people.

#6 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

Oh, one more thing: once you have selected a guitar you would like to buy, ask to hook it to an electronic tuner at the store (this is assuming you're buying from a brick and mortar). Tune the guitar. When you twisted the tuning knobs, did you notice that sometimes the pitch wouldn't change until the string made a TING noise, then changed a whole bunch right after? If so, insist that the store file and lubricate the nut to fix that. The 'nut' is the little plastic bit that the strings rest on/in up by the tuning pegs.

Also, buy an electronic tuner. They're cheap. And a new set of strings. The strings that come on the guitar are probably old and plonky and sound bad and have a gross residue on them.

#7 Edited by Ben_H (3342 posts) -

I started out with a Fender Stratocaster I bought off my brother. I still have it. It is a nice guitar. I think that style is the ideal beginner electric guitar. In the past I would have said to stay far away from the Squier versions of them because they were terrible but they have become much better quality guitars.

Though my heart will always belong to Jackson guitars. I have used those the most. My main Jackson is actually older than me. It is an early 1990s Soloist. It is 22 years old and is still going strong.

#8 Edited by Benny (1951 posts) -

@aegon said:

I've been thinking about getting into electric guitars, but there's quite a bit to know. From the bit of research I've done, I was thinking that maybe a Fender stratocaster would be the way to go (or maybe the telecaster?). The lowest price on one of those is like $280 and I'm not sure what the quality difference between that and the endless amount of other stratocasters going for 1000s is. Do you have a certain guitar that fits your needs? If you can give a brief explanation, then that would help in understanding the differences between all of the options.

I started out with a squier stratocaster and like many have said, fenders do indeed have a 'twangy' sound to them that makes them identifiable quite easily. I have an epiphone les paul and that cost me about £280 at the time (my guess is around $400)

The $280 stratocaster will almost definitely not be an actual fender strat as those are usually your $1000 models unless you're lucky enough to find one cheaper.

You absolutely can tell the difference immediately in sound quality but in my experience the sound is roughly 30% guitar, 70% amp so what you're better off doing is spending less on a guitar (RG370DX, epiphone les paul, mexican strat etc.) and then getting a nice combo amp that has a valve in it.

#9 Edited by FunkasaurasRex (847 posts) -

I'm a fairly novice guitarist myself and I'm gonna echo other comments and suggest trying out a few instruments before settling on anything. A lot of guitars sound and feel super different and you really should find one that works for you.

My instructor actually suggested I splurge and go for something American made (his justification being that it would better motivate me to play) and I wound up buying an Am. Strat through craigslist. Now that's not necessarily the best route if you don't know enough about guitars to make an informed purchasing decisions, but I managed to get my guitar for about 400 bucks cheaper than it would have been at retail.

#10 Posted by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

Speaking of amps, take a look at Blackstar. They make a couple very low wattage tube amps that have incredible tone for the price point. I have the little 1 watt Blackstar HT-1R. Love that thing. It also has a pretty decent emulation circuit for plugging directly into soundboard/computer/or even headphones.

#11 Edited by GideonAmos (195 posts) -

Like other users above me said, go to the music store and try out the guitars! I think the feel of the guitar is almost as important as the sound itself, especially if it's your first guitar. You will end up spending hours holding the guitar, so yeah. I started on a strat-body Behringer and moved on to a Epiphone LP. I lucked out with my epi les paul and got one that feels and sounds good. Nowadays I'm mostly playing on a '97 japanese Telecaster and I don't see myself getting another guitar in the forseeable future. I never played nor owned a Squier (which is basically the cheaper version of a Fender), but I heard that they are just fine, just like Epiphone guitars are to Gibson's.

#12 Edited by CheapPoison (727 posts) -

I'll echo that it probably is a good idea to go to a shop and just try guitar upon guitar and see what you prefer, but i'll also say that i have a feeling that your first guitar will always have problems. You can try as much as you want wen you are searching for one but if you are completely new you will know what feels better. but you won't know everything you might come to value over the comming years.

I would also suggest second hand, but try and have someone who knows what is up with you then that you don't get a bad deal or something that has problems. I have found that a lot of people keep very good care of their instruments so there are good deals to be had in second hand especially on some brands. (Ibanez prices tank hard in second hand, use that to your advantage, Fender has a very little drop. But also consider this when you buy new. giving 1000 for a fender new is a better investment then giving 1000 for a ibanez.)

On quality, all the Korean and Indonesian guitars are getting better and better each passing year. A problem is with them vs American or japanese instruments that most of the extra cost is labour cost. They never are undeniebaly better, but the hike in quality is a lot of the times not equal to the increase in price.
Just putting a new set of pickup on an instrument can really give it some new live, then again from some brands those will run you 200 dollars easy so that is almost as much as the fender you were looking at.

I guess a big thing to consider at this point is single coils vs humbuckers. If you want it a bit heavier and want to use distortion be sure to get one with at least 1 humbucker.
And i would advice against going with anything with with a floyd rose/floating bridge.

#13 Edited by mellotronrules (1188 posts) -

oh man, GUITAR TALK- LOVE IT.

i could write you a book on the topic, but instead i'll make two points. the first being...what kind of music do you like? is there a specific song or piece of guitarwork that is particularly resonant to you? for example- i think (and correct me if i'm wrong) i've seen you in the daft punk threads, and a handful of others regarding dance/pop music. there are always exceptions, but these sounds are almost exclusively the domain of fender strat-style guitars (more often than not with single coil pickups). if that's your jam, consider that. if your tastes are more complex than that, let me know and we can start to figure out what would be the best choice.

and for my second point, i'll tell you what i use and why. my primary guitar right now is a schecter solo-6 custom. if you want to see a super silly video of it in action, here it is. it's a bit of a rare beast (24 frets, duncan pickups, coilsplitting...terms that mean something to guitar nerds, but you don't have to worry about). what's most important is that it's a les paul-style guitar. why didn't i just buy a real deal gibson? well, i don't have a couple grand to spare, and this one has the aforementioned, more-modern tweaks that i wanted. BUT WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN TO YOU? les pauls are big and heavy, relative to most guitars, their sound follows suit. they tend to have a thicker, warmer sound while sacrificing some clarity. they're quite common for heavier genres, but they turn up just about everywhere.

but like other users have mentioned, the most important thing is to get your hands on a strat, a les paul, and then whatever else you can find. although things like neck scale, pickups, wood type, and all that other business is important- just about every guitar has been used to play every style of music. i've seen tele's in metal (traditionally country-ish guitars), les pauls in jazz, and strats EVERYWHERE. at a certain point, it's all about what's comfortable to you. certainly for your first guitar, anyway.

edit- another relevant question- is there a particular player who's work you enjoy? part of their 'signature sound' might be tied up in the instrument, so it's something to consider.

#14 Edited by Aegon (5496 posts) -
#15 Posted by CheapPoison (727 posts) -

i've seen tele's in metal (traditionally country-ish guitars)

But those generally don't have the elementals that contribute to the telecaster sound though, at that point they are just shapes.

#16 Posted by OneKillWonder_ (1727 posts) -

Yeah, just take a trip to your local Guitar Center or something and spend a little bit of time trying to find something that fits your needs. It also helps to read reviews online of guitars. There are plenty of cheaper starter guitars out there for around $200-$300, but some are definitely better than others.

It also depends on what kind of music you want to play. I play a Tremonti PRS (the SE, not the US-made), which is fantastic high quality guitar for an insanely cheap price. It's around 500-$600 and you'd be hard-pressed to find something of similar quality for that price. It's got dual humbuckers which make for a great, very heavy and thick sound. PRS guitars in general are good if you're interested in playing heavier music.

#17 Edited by mellotronrules (1188 posts) -

@mellotronrules said:

i've seen tele's in metal (traditionally country-ish guitars)

But those generally don't have the elementals that contribute to the telecaster sound though, at that point they are just shapes.

absolutely true, but to some shape is really important. i'd argue that single coils on a les paul defeats their purpose, but people still love doing that, and there's a place for it.

#18 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

So Squier has been picking up their game, eh? That's good to hear. I've been out of the loop on the entry level gear for about 15 years now. It's good that the lower end is getting better. Too many newbie guitarists getting frustrated because their guitar would never stay in tune back then.

My first guitar was a mid 90's Ibanez GRX something or other. Basically a strat knockoff. It was awful. If i so much as breathed on the whammy bar the whole works would instantly go out of tune. xD

#19 Edited by AiurFlux (902 posts) -

Go to a guitar shop, sit down, and play for a bit to see what you prefer. Ultimately how it feels in your hand is the most important thing. If it's uncomfortable it's just going to end up being a chore to play. If it's a cheap Squire or a seven thousand dollar Gibson it doesn't matter, it has to feel good in your hands. You can always change things later on to suit you.

For me my first guitar was a Strat that my dad got me for my 8th birthday. I did a lot of work to it over the years changing the single coil pickups to a different manufacturer, completely changing the neck to a soft oval, changing the knobs, changing the pickup switch, changing the strings multiple times to find something that was right, changing the fretboard from the new neck so that entire piece had to be redone. I now have a Gibson Les Paul that my wife got me for our anniversary earlier this year. I still like playing my old Strat a bit more though just because I'm used to it and because it's me. And because I can really beat on the old thing and not feel guilty.

#20 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

Acoustics are awesome too!

I love this kid's covers. :D

#21 Edited by debrislide (22 posts) -

Gibson SG.

#22 Edited by CheapPoison (727 posts) -

@herbiebug: Well, i haven't played many recently but they have series that are a bit higher and more expensive and those seem really nice. Not sure about their lowers offerings.

#23 Posted by ShaggE (6420 posts) -

I'm always disappointed in the lack of Washburn love in these threads. Not because of any particular affinity towards them, but because as a beginner, it's disheartening to never see praise for the brand you own. :P

#24 Posted by TyCobb (1966 posts) -

It's all about bass my friend.

#25 Edited by csl316 (8443 posts) -

I really like my Ibanez as a good all-around guitar. Then definitely my Jackson for metal, amd my PRS for rock and blues. But as someone said, best to go try some out and see what stands out to you.

#26 Edited by OneKillWonder_ (1727 posts) -

@shagge said:

I'm always disappointed in the lack of Washburn love in these threads. Not because of any particular affinity towards them, but because as a beginner, it's disheartening to never see praise for the brand you own. :P

I have a Washburn Oscar Schmidt acoustic that is pretty nice, if that's any consolation. :P
I haven't been able to play it in awhile though cause the intonation is way off. Need to have a setup done real soon cause I kind of miss playing it.

#27 Edited by Tordah (2478 posts) -

The only advice I would give is to not go too cheap on your first guitar. It'll sound like shit and you'll grow tired of practising quickly, trust me. Set your aims on a guitar in the 300-400 dollar/euro range, and you should be fine.

Oh, and definitely get a tube amp to go with it.

#28 Posted by Jimbo (9800 posts) -

Get a Classic Vibe.

#29 Posted by FilipHolm (667 posts) -

Fender Jazzmaster Vintage 65

I don't own it myself but damn that guitar is perfect for me. (I've tried it, relax) I need a guitar that can play many genres and styles and it really does that for me.

Telecasters are great too, though

#30 Edited by Aegon (5496 posts) -

What would be better for funk and more clean music, a standard stratocaster or an HSS?

Edit: I did some research and people seem to be down on the HSS and recommending the standard instead.

#31 Posted by HorseFactory (98 posts) -

Anything with an SG/Double cutaway body shape is good with me.

#32 Posted by physics (12 posts) -

I started really focusing on guitar with an Epiphone Les Paul. That thing has an amazing tone. After a few years of that I felt as if any improvement that could be made on a guitar that I would want would have to be done if I did it myself. For instance, I wanted a specific set of pickups, with a specific paint job, and stainless steel hardware and frets. I built myself one through Warmoth. I couldn't be happier with the quality of the build. It also is really cool to play a guitar that I made with my own hands. Building your own guitar isn't as hard as you would think it would be. It is also less expensive than buying one of similar quality. It isn't cheap, I paid a little over a thousand for all of the components and the custom neck and body. Now however, I have the guitar of my dreams.

I still go back to my Epiphone every once and a while, it sounds so amazing I cannot give it up.

#33 Posted by tourgen (4469 posts) -

I have a cheap, shitty yamaha pacifica and hey, it stays in tune and works with Rocksmith just fine. the pickups are alright. I'm not thrilled about the string height above the frets but I don't know enough to adjust it myself or care enough to take it to a shop to get it adjusted.

Go to a guitar shop, tell them the type of music you would like to learn.

#34 Posted by Aegon (5496 posts) -

@physics said:

I started really focusing on guitar with an Epiphone Les Paul. That thing has an amazing tone. After a few years of that I felt as if any improvement that could be made on a guitar that I would want would have to be done if I did it myself. For instance, I wanted a specific set of pickups, with a specific paint job, and stainless steel hardware and frets. I built myself one through Warmoth. I couldn't be happier with the quality of the build. It also is really cool to play a guitar that I made with my own hands. Building your own guitar isn't as hard as you would think it would be. It is also less expensive than buying one of similar quality. It isn't cheap, I paid a little over a thousand for all of the components and the custom neck and body. Now however, I have the guitar of my dreams.

I still go back to my Epiphone every once and a while, it sounds so amazing I cannot give it up.

Yeah, right now the Strat and Les Paul are in the lead for the guitars I want, although I'll probably go with the Strat. Each offers something different and cool sounding, so it seems like both are worth owning.

#35 Posted by AiurFlux (902 posts) -

@aegon said:

What would be better for funk and more clean music, a standard stratocaster or an HSS?

SSS is better for things like blues, funk, motown, or "clean" music. Humbuckers are a bit better for things like punk, rock, and metal.

So yeah. I'd say three single coils for what you want.

#36 Edited by Sploder (917 posts) -

I've been looking to buy one too recently, what's good for playing grunge/ punk rock? I've been looking up the Ibanez GSA-60 and GAX30 as decent beginner guitars with the sound I'm looking for. I don't have any music shops anywhere near me (live in a shitty country town in the UK) so it'll be difficult/ impossible to try before I buy.

Edit: Also been checking out the Epiphone Les Paul Special 2

#37 Edited by FunkasaurasRex (847 posts) -

@aegon said:

What would be better for funk and more clean music, a standard stratocaster or an HSS?

Edit: I did some research and people seem to be down on the HSS and recommending the standard instead.

SSS is probably the way to go for that glassier funk tone, specifically in the 2 and 4 positions. I'd only recommend HSS if you had a coil split or something.

There's a lot of different funk tones you can go for, but a standard strat is probably the most versatile. Alternatives would probably be a telecaster or 335 (the Epiphone models are pretty reasonably priced). You could also try out a Jazzmaster, as I'm pretty sure Catfish Collins started using them during his tenure with Parliament-Funkadelic.

#38 Edited by ShaggE (6420 posts) -

@shagge said:

I'm always disappointed in the lack of Washburn love in these threads. Not because of any particular affinity towards them, but because as a beginner, it's disheartening to never see praise for the brand you own. :P

I have a Washburn Oscar Schmidt acoustic that is pretty nice, if that's any consolation. :P

I haven't been able to play it in awhile though cause the intonation is way off. Need to have a setup done real soon cause I kind of miss playing it.

That IS a nice one. I have an X10 that I'm using for Rocksmith/general learning, and I'm constantly impressed by what it can do. It's definitely a starter guitar that will never be mistaken for anything but that, but it sounds like a guitar twice its price.

I really should have mine professionally set up as well, though. I got it from a pawn shop, and to my untrained ears/eyes, a rather egregious issue could be going completely unnoticed.

#39 Posted by RawknRo11a (562 posts) -

I love the look, feel, and sound of telecasters, some people think they sound too "twangy", but fuck those people.

bigboss1911 knows what's up! Love my Telecaster, its a Mexican made Fender Telecaster that I got for $500 and it sounds and plays amazingly.

In all seriousness, as many others have said go down to the guitar store and try a few out. The perfect guitar is a per person thing. Above all, make sure it's comfortable to play and hold.

#40 Posted by EdTwo (472 posts) -

Get a Ibanez RG. they are cheap, good quality and a nice slim neck for beginners

#41 Edited by Sin4profit (2924 posts) -

Gretsch G5120; good fingerboard action, smooth tone, and hollow bodies are pretty.

Fingerboard action is probably more of what you should be looking into with a new guitar which is why you have to put your hands on them and play some kind of scale up and down to get a feel for the different fingerboards.

#42 Posted by mellotronrules (1188 posts) -

@physics said:

I started really focusing on guitar with an Epiphone Les Paul. That thing has an amazing tone.

I still go back to my Epiphone every once and a while, it sounds so amazing I cannot give it up.

+1 to this. my first electric was an epi lp, and stock it sounds pretty damn good. i eventually put some seymour duncans in (JB and 59, for those who care), and that guitar absolutely sings now.

@sploder said:

I've been looking to buy one too recently, what's good for playing grunge/ punk rock? I've been looking up the Ibanez GSA-60 and GAX30 as decent beginner guitars with the sound I'm looking for. I don't have any music shops anywhere near me (live in a shitty country town in the UK) so it'll be difficult/ impossible to try before I buy.

Edit: Also been checking out the Epiphone Les Paul Special 2

if you can afford it, and if you like the feel of it, i wouldn't hesitate to go for a epiphone les paul standard. they might cost a little more, but there's a healthy ebay market for those, so chances are you can find some good savings (and sell it off should you want to go for it).

actually as a general piece of advice- if you're ebay-savy, look for gear there. nearly all my gear (guitars, pedals, amps) has been bought second-hand on ebay. you can save a boatload of money that way.

#43 Posted by captain_max707 (490 posts) -

My first guitar was a Baby Taylor Dreadnought which I got for about 300 bucks. It's a 3/4's guitar, but it sounds fantastic and I actually regret selling it when I started getting into electric guitar. If your local music store has one of those, I'd definitely ask to try it out.

#44 Edited by rflx (576 posts) -

If you're gonna play with lots of overdrive/distortion, get something with humbucker pickups, but for funk/clean stuff strats or teles are pretty solid. Other than that, just get whatever guitar you like the look of, one that makes you want to pick it up and play every time you look at it. That's the simplest and best advice I can give a beginner, because it's basically all about personal preference, and that only comes with experience.

And to answer the topic question, I personally have a soft spot for Les Paul type guitars, and not necessarily Gibson - can't afford those anyway.

#45 Posted by Sploder (917 posts) -

@mellotronrules:

Thanks for the advice man, I'll try and go for a standard if I can get one cheap enough.

#46 Posted by gaminghooligan (1435 posts) -

I usually go Fender for electric and Martin for acoustic, but take a look around at your local music stores and just play them. Sometimes you'll find a great guitar you would have never even thought about buying.

#47 Edited by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

Don't let your taste in music affect your choice in guitar too much. It really doesn't matter. Especially at the entry level price range. Your choice of amp and effects pedals will dictate most of your tone. Select a guitar based on comfort and feel. Honestly, you'll be playing a couple years before the sound potential of your equipment is a meaningful issue anyway. Tone is in the fingers and et cetera et cetera.

I also recommend avoiding guitars with whammy bars. That's a maintenance hassle you don't need for a sound effect you'll rarely if ever have a use for.

#48 Posted by Aegon (5496 posts) -

Don't let your taste in music affect your choice in guitar too much. It really doesn't matter. Especially at the entry level price range. Your choice of amp and effects pedals will dictate most of your tone. Select a guitar based on comfort and feel. Honestly, you'll be playing a couple years before the sound potential of your equipment is a meaningful issue anyway. Tone is in the fingers and et cetera et cetera.

I also recommend avoiding guitars with whammy bars. That's a maintenance hassle you don't need for a sound effect you'll rarely if ever have a use for.

I'm thinking of ordering that amp you recommended once I get a guitar (blackstar HT-1R). It's gonna be around 320 bucks. Do you think the quality of the sound is worth the price? And do amps with tubes/valves require more maintenance? Really don't know too much about this stuff.

#49 Edited by mellotronrules (1188 posts) -

@aegon said:

And do amps with tubes/valves require more maintenance? Really don't know too much about this stuff.

yes, but changing tubes is only slightly more complicated than changing a lightbulb. and the trade-off (IMO) of solid-state convenience vs. tube tone is a non-issue to me. i'm a tube man through-and-through, but there are use cases for solid-state.

in choosing solid-state vs. tube/valve, consider-

1) what kind of volume will you be playing at. tubes really only come alive at louder volumes (unless you buy/have an attenuator). are you going to be playing with a band? if not, i'd say go solid-state- they're cheaper, they're less fragile, and their tone is more consistent at lower volumes. if you want to play with other loud (drums, electric bass, etc) instruments, go tube.

2) how serious are you about guitar. if you're in it for the long haul, go tube. you'll pay more upfront, and you'll pay more over the years buying replacement tubes- but the tonal quality is worth it. if you're just getting a feel for it, or don't want to pony up too much cash, go solid-state.

3) music you want to play- you could argue either way on this, but i like my dirty stuff to go exclusively through tubes...the saturation and warmth you get really makes guitars chug, squeal and growl like you want them to. solid-state sounds a bit more sterile, but to others it sounds 'pristine.'

#50 Edited by Aegon (5496 posts) -

@mellotronrules: How expensive are the tubes and how long is the lifespan? If I play less rock and more groovy and soulful stuff, would you still recommend tube?