To get an idea, look into the specs of the best electric guitars wielded by your biggest guitar heroes or the players you’re attempting to sound like. While electric guitar pickups can be changed, it’s better to start off with something made to handle the sound you’re after.
Funk players inspired by Nile Rodgers might gravitate towards Fender Stratocaster style guitars because of their single-coil pickups and five-way tone switch, using body woods like alder or ash that are perfect for cutting through above any rhythm section, whereas heavy metal guitarists tend to prefer the hellfire of mahogany bodies wired with hotter humbucker pickups, in some cases with active circuitry.
- 1 1. PRS SE Standard 24 Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 2 2. Epiphone Les Paul SL Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 3 3. Schecter Demon-6 Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 4 4. Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 5 5. Sterling By Music Man Albert Lee HH Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 6 6. Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT Single-Cut Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 7 FAQs
- 7.1 Should I learn on an electric guitar or acoustic?
- 7.2 Best Electric Guitar Under 500
- 7.3 What strings do I need?
- 7.4 Electric Guitar Strings
- 7.5 Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 7.6 Do I need other equipment to get started?
- 7.7 What’s the difference between barre chords and open chords?
- 7.8 Are my fingers supposed to hurt?
- 7.9 How do I get the most out of my practice time?
- 7.10 What’s the most common beginner’s pitfall?
1. PRS SE Standard 24 Best Electric Guitar Under 500
A younger brother of sorts to the S2 Standard 24, the PRS SE Standard 24 best electric guitar under 500 gives you a ton of bang for your buck. Though its Vintage Cherry-finished top makes it look a bit cheaper than the S2, the guitar does – unlike the S2 – come with bird inlays as a standard feature.
Its non-locking SE-level tuners are incredibly easy to handle, while its vibrato is near identical in appearance to the S2’s. This best electric guitar under 500 electronics are installed in a cavity as – just like the traditional USA-made Custom 24 design – the SE Standard 24 features no scratchplate.
Though the SE Standard 24’s action and vibrato response aren’t quite ideal, the guitar’s player-personal setup helps to rectify these issues as they arise. Tone-wise, the SE Standard 24 really comes into its own at this price level.
The biting lead tones and full, expressive and fantastic rhythms – everything you’d expect from a PRS – are all here. Though you won’t be able to go blow for blow with an S2 with the SE Standard 24, at this price point, it’s an incredibly impressive and formidable instrument.
2. Epiphone Les Paul SL Best Electric Guitar Under 500
A merger of the Les Paul Junior and the Melody Maker, the Epiphone Les Paul SL best electric guitar under 500 is one seriously kick-ass guitar. Its poplar body is light as a feather but still has all the substantial heft of a Les Paul Junior without feeling cumbersome. The SL features a custom single-ply pickguard that surrounds the two Epiphone 700SCT (bridge) and 650SCR (neck) ceramic single-coil pickups.
Aside from that though, the SL is a typical single-cut Les Paul Junior with no binding, a mahogany neck, a slim-taper D-profile neck shape, 22 medium jumbo frets, an adjustable intonated “wraparound” stopbar tailpiece,’tophat’ master volume and tone controls with a three-way toggle switch and premium die-cast 14:1 tuners.
Epiphone imbued the SL’s ceramic pickups with plenty of body and roundness, which gave these plump single-coils a great deal of touch-sensitivity. Even from a cranked amp, they still sound incredibly balanced and defined.
This best electric guitar under 500 stands perfectly well on its own as an instrument that is poised for rock and blues, with a distinctive tone that cuts on its own terms. What’s even better is how flawlessly the guitar plays, thanks to Epiphone’s consistent textbook setup on its instruments.
3. Schecter Demon-6 Best Electric Guitar Under 500
Smooth, affordable and ferocious all at once, the Schecter Demon-6 best electric guitar under 500 is perfect for unleashing your inner speed demon. The guitar’s thin-C profile neck, cut from maple with a satin finish, is incredibly quick and rewards a light touch.
The bridge is simple but well-built, while the guitar’s active pickups – powered by an easily accessible nine-volt battery – are absolutely terrific. Otherwise, the updated Demon-6 remains the same as its predecessors, with industrial black chrome hardware, burled tone and volume knobs and a Crimson Red Burst finish.
Tone-wise, the Demon-6 truly lives up to its name. The bridge humbucker is a workhorse with strong, growling mids and an absolutely diabolical amount of high-end – a gold mine for metal soloists, no doubt.
Those who don’t wish to summon demonic forces with their playing will find that the Demon-6’s cleaner tones are just as satisfying. Any punchy classic rock riffs are a breeze, while the cleanest settings yield startlingly articulate leads that are more than adequate for even the most subtle of parts. This best electric guitar under 500 is – despite its maker’s metal target audience – a true all-rounder.
4. Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline Best Electric Guitar Under 500
Squier’s take on the classic ’70s Fender Telecaster Thinline best electric guitar under 500 brings the guitar’s iconic looks and sound to the table at an incredibly affordable price point. With a white pearloid scratchplate, finely carved f-hole and Fender-embossed humbuckers, Squier’s version of the guitar certainly looks the part. Though, like most other Squiers, the Modified ’72 Telecaster Thinline features a gloss-finished modern C neck, this best electric guitar under 500 performance and tone – considering its price tag – is simply phenomenal.
The ’70s Telecaster Thinline’s cleans from the neck and middle positions are rock-solid. Reminiscent of the sounds produced by fat P-90-esque single coils, they pack plenty of punch, while the semi-hollow body makes for a woodier, less aggressive tone than you’d get from a straight-up solidbody.
The bridge humbucker yields a much more formidable voice that would sound right at home coming from an overdriven, cranked-to-11 valve amp. The guitar’s open midrange makes it ideal for both delicate fingerpicking and massive, in-your-face rock riffing. Like its Fender-produced big brother, the Squier Modified ’72 Telecaster Thinline is a beautiful instrument that can wear any number of hats.
5. Sterling By Music Man Albert Lee HH Best Electric Guitar Under 500
The Sterling by Music Man Albert Lee HH best electric guitar under 500 provides the eye-grabbing looks and the amazing buffet of tones supplied by its Ernie Ball Music Man-produced counterpart at a price that won’t make you cringe when you check your bank account post-purchase.
Like the Ernie Ball Music Man version, the Sterling Albert Lee HH is built with an African Mahogany body and two humbuckers wired to a five-way-switch. The vintage tremolo, optional on the Ernie Ball Music man edition of the instrument, comes standard.
Though it lacks the DiMarzios its big brother features, the Albert Lee HH’s Sterling by Music Man four-conductor humbuckers certainly don’t slouch themselves. From gorgeous, ringing cleans to chunkier single-coil sounds that charge forth with impressive clout, the Albert Lee HH punches well above its weight.
With its sturdy, player-friendly construction and dazzling tonal variety, you can see why Lee was convinced to abandon his signature vintage Teles to design his own standout mode – now available at an affordable price.
6. Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT Single-Cut Best Electric Guitar Under 500
This slim mahogany single-cut can genuinely give a Les Paul a run for its money. Featuring two incredibly responsive Broad’Tron pickups, the Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT Single-Cut best electric guitar under 500 can handle both detailed, expressive lead work and scorching hard-rock with equal aplomb.
Though the fretboard is made of black walnut, this best electric guitar under 500 is smooth and elegant enough to pass for a much more expensive instrument at first glance.
The Broad’Tron is a humbucker-sized Filter’Tron- style (PAF warmth and single-coil brightness), giving the guitar pristine cleans with a touch of vintage Gretsch twang. Hard-rock and even metal tones are no sweat for this thing either.
Its harder-edge tones are confident and formidable, without losing any of the articulation the guitar exhibits when engaged in more subtle work. The guitar’s low action and player-friendly tension will also have you waking up the neighbors as you play into the night.
Should I learn on an electric guitar or acoustic?
It all depends on your personal preference and the type of music you want to play. Electric and acoustic guitars both have unique advantages.
Best Electric Guitar Under 500
have thinner strings and therefore are a great choice for beginners because they require less hand strength. Players with small hands might also prefer an electric for its slimmer neck, which warrants an easier grip and shorter reach.
Learning on an acoustic guitar, conversely, can often be a less costly investment because it doesn’t require additional equipment. It can also ease a future transition into electric guitar because a player’s hands will already be acclimated to heavy acoustic strings.
If you are set on an best electric guitar under 500, Fender offers affordable guitar amplifiers at a variety of price points. Most are not only portable, but also easy to operate, making dialing in settings quite simple for newbies.
What strings do I need?
You’ll want to begin with a lighter string gauge. Lighter, thinner strings produce less tension, and for that reason are generally easier for beginners to work with. We recommend using a set of strings with a gauge of .009 inches to .042 inches, or .010 inches to .046 inches (known informally as “nines” or “10s”) for electric players. If you’re learning on an acoustic, look for a gauge of .011 inches to .052 inches (known as 11s) .
Different string materials also have unique benefits, including the tone they produce. Here’s a quick guide to buying guitar strings:
Electric Guitar Strings
Nickel strings: Clear and articulate; a versatile choice for rock, blues and jazz players
Stainless steel strings: Bright and less prone to wear; good for hard rock and metal
Acoustic Guitar Strings
80/20 Bronze: Bright and more metallic
Phosphor bronze: Dark, warm and mellow; a great choice for strummers.
Do I need other equipment to get started?
Yes. The right equipment can make all the difference in improving your technique and your tone. As you mature as a player, you can surround yourself with other tone-shaping accessories such as effects pedals, slides, etc.
But for now, here are the absolute essentials:
Nothing is as vibrant–or confusing–as the sheer volume of pick shapes, sizes, thicknesses and materials offered at a music store. As you become more familiar with your best electric guitar under 500 you may find yourself trying out a number of picks to better accommodate your playing style. But generally speaking, plastic picks are a popular choice for their flexibility and grip. We recommend sticking to a standard size and shape, like the Fender Celluloid Pick, as a good starting point. Not to mention, the classic celluloid pick is an industry standard among many players.
As far as thickness goes, opt for a pick of medium thickness (between .73 mm–.88 mm), as it will guarantee you a solid grip without being too overwhelming to hold.
A strap is essential for stabilizing your instrument, especially if you intend to play standing up. Again, the variety of products you’ll encounter here is vast, and whatever material or design you choose is left to your discretion. However, as a beginner, comfort should be your ultimate priority. Choosing a strap that’s at least 2 inches in width, with additional padding (usually called neoprene), will help to prevent shoulder and neck pain.
Keep in mind that while electric guitars typically have two endpins on which you can attach your strap, acoustic guitars normally do not. You’ll need to purchase a strap button to secure the strap to your headstock. You can also use a shoelace or piece of string of equal density.
A cable can break your tone as quickly as it can make it, so opt for an instrument cable that’s shorter than 18.6 feet and features reinforced ends for minimal handling noise and signal loss.
You’ll be able to tune your best electric guitar under 500 far more quickly and accurately with an electronic tuner or pitch pipe. Try a chromatic tuner, which allows you to tune in any key. Clip-on tuners, which attach to the headstock of your instrument and tune through the vibration of your strings, are a great choice for beginners because they’re portable, visible and very easy to use. And the Fender Tune app is a great tool, too, offering several tunings right on your mobile device.
How is a guitar tuned?
A guitar can be tuned a number of ways depending on the style of music being played, but for beginners, we’ll focus on basic standard tuning. If you are using a tuner with an LED display, make sure the needle is properly centered. Adjust your tuning machines accordingly if your sound falls flat or sharp.
When speaking in guitar terms, each string is numbered accordingly. The first string is the lightest string on the instrument — the one closest to the floor — whereas your sixth string is the heaviest. Beginning at the sixth string and progressing upward, the key for each string is as follows: E-A-D-G-B-E.
What’s the difference between barre chords and open chords?
You’ll start hearing both of these terms a lot as you develop your practice. Barre chords are produced by using your index finger to “fret” all six strings at once as you strum. Different chords are formed by forming different patterns with your other three fingers as you hold down the other six strings. Because a barre chord can be played in any key, you can also change keys quickly by simply moving your hand up and down the neck. New players may find it difficult to play barre chords initially because they require more hand strength and stretching.
Open chords, as the name suggests, do not require each string to be fretted, therefore leaving them “open” when strummed. As you progress as a player or develop your songwriting skills, you may opt for one over the other due to its sound. But by supplementing your play with both types of chords — especially in settings with multiple guitars — you’ll generate more full, complex and multidimensional tone.
Are my fingers supposed to hurt?
Yes, but don’t be discouraged. As a beginner, you’ll eventually improve your muscle strength in your playing arm and form calluses on your fretting hand. And yes, that dull pain and discomfort does come with the territory. Those aches are short-lived, especially if you continue to practice regularly, which is key to alleviating pain.
There are some ways to push through the pain like a pro. Again, lighter strings can help, as will lowering your string action (the distance between the fingerboard and the strings. A quick fix by a professional will shorten the amount of pressure you’ll need to exert as you press down.
How do I get the most out of my practice time?
The more you put into practicing your instrument, the more you’ll get out of it. Regular guitar practice is critical to improving your ability, even for those who are “naturals.” What’s more important, however, is proper practice. Keeping your technique in check will prevent you from forming bad habits that may sometimes take years to break.
Good posture, proper hand positioning and preventative stretching should always be considered. While it is normal to experience discomfort during your first few months of play, be mindful of tension and unnatural bending in your fingers and wrists.
Remember to take breaks. Great guitar playing doesn’t necessarily come from hours upon hours of excruciating practice. Quality is just as important as quantity. A refreshing breather every 20 minutes will keep your mind clear and enthusiasm piqued.
What’s the most common beginner’s pitfall?
Many beginners assume that technique and ability will come to them overnight. It’s this misnomer that leads to frustration and, sometimes, giving up your instrument altogether. Learning music is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a gradual learning experience that requires patience, time and true comprehension of concepts.
Racing through scales and scrutinizing every note is not what makes this craft enjoyable. Let your passion lead you. Learn at your own pace. Keep your abashed curiosity alive throughout the process. And above all else … just have fun.
Looking for more guitar knowledge? Check out our ultimate guide to your best electric guitar under 500 if you’re ready to learn guitar, sign up for a free trial to Fender Play.