The words “cheap” and “expensive” in the world of guitars are volatile things, their definitions shifting around depending on your level of experience with the instrument, personal tastes and, inevitably, amount of disposable income. For some, anything above the $500 mark is needless excess, and for others, anything below $1,000 is a bargain.
Price does matter to some extent – below $200 you’re at much greater risk of running into dodgy fretwork, unplayable action and overall quality control issues. Quality electronics, the beating heart of your electric guitar, are also much harder to come by in this bracket. However between here and $1,000, there are a huge number of best electric guitars to grab that won’t break the bank and won’t break apart on stage.
In collating this list, we’ve taken into account both the actual price range of the instrument and the “bang-for-buck” factor – in terms of playability, quality-of-life features and so on.
- 1 1. Yamaha Revstar RS502T Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 2 2. Fender Player Jazzmaster HH Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 3 3. Ibanez S521-MOL Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 4 4. Manson META Series MBM-1 Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 5 5. Guild Starfire I Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 6 6. Jackson SL3X Soloist Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 7 7. Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 8 8. Epiphone Les Paul Special Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 9 9. Fender Player Telecaster Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 10 10. Epiphone SG Standard ‘61 Vibrola Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 11 11. Gretsch G2622TG-P90 Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 12 12 . ESP EC-256 Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 13 13. Chapman V2 ML1 Modern Standard Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
- 14 FAQ’s
- 14.1 Should I learn on an electric guitar or acoustic?
- 14.2 What strings do I need?
- 14.3 Electric Guitar Strings
- 14.4 Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 14.5 Do I need other equipment to get started?
- 14.6 How is a guitar tuned?
- 14.7 What’s the difference between barre chords and open chords?
- 14.8 Are my fingers supposed to hurt?
- 14.9 How do I get the most out of my practice time?
- 14.10 What’s the most common beginner’s pitfall?
1. Yamaha Revstar RS502T Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
This mid-priced doublecut is a rather striking-looking best inexpensive electric guitar, inspired by the aesthetics of a ‘60s motorcycle. Its brushed-metal hardware and vintage finishes complete the unique look that, perhaps unlike some budget guitars, don’t betray any desire for imitation. Looks aside, it’s loaded with two YGD P90s, somewhat uniquely running through a ‘Dry Switch.’ This little circuit, when activated, filters out low end to shape the pickup to be more like a traditional single-coil. It effectively acts as a coil-split, even though on these P90s, there’s only one coil.
Other specs include a set mahogany neck completing a 24.75” scale length, a rosewood fingerboard and a mahogany body. A mahogany body with a maple top also provides a nice weighty balance, both in terms of tone and ergonomics.
2. Fender Player Jazzmaster HH Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
A bona-fide Fender for under a grand is hard to say no to. This best inexpensive electric guitar comes with a dual-humbucker layout, and while that does mean no signature Jazzmaster oversized single coils, you can split the ‘buckers with a push-pull tone pot if you want a bit more twang. And, of course, the humbuckers should play well with higher gain settings.
For some subtle chord modulations and lead wobbles, there’s a vintage-esque tremolo bridge, but other than that this guitar is a simple affair, with a master tone and master volume control and three-way pickup selector switch. While it might not be the definitive Jazzmaster experience, it’s a great low-mid-priced entry point for the world of Fender offsets.
3. Ibanez S521-MOL Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
With an extremely thin design, slick maple neck and dual Quantum humbucker loadout you’d be forgiven for thinking this is aimed squarely at shredders. And to some extent, it is, but its thin natural finish on both the body and neck and no-frills design means this guitar wouldn’t find itself out of place in any player’s collection, regardless of their penchant for sweep-picking.
A deep cutaway for the lower horn does allow easy access to all 24 frets if that is your intention, however. A string-through fixed bridge also provides some solid sustain and more precise intonation tweaking.
The S521-MOL best inexpensive electric guitar also comes with a price tag almost as thin as its body, meaning it could be a great guitar for a beginner, or an affordable way to expand your tonal palette to include the more metal side of things.
4. Manson META Series MBM-1 Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
The signature best inexpensive electric guitar for Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, this angular single-cut has been produced under licence with Cort. It’s changed from Bellamy’s previous signature models to more closely mirror the guitars Bellamy plays on stage. Yet, especially for a signature model, it’s mightily approachably-priced. The neck pickup is now a humbucker, allowing for thicker, more powerful sound as a match to the aggressive bridge pickup. There’s also a kill-pot on the top horn of the instrument, allowing for stuttering, on-off effects.
The guitar’s basswood body also lends it to a more neutral character, not particularly bass-heavy nor particularly sparkly – meaning that it’s a great guitar to run through a more idiosyncratic array of effects for some out-there tones.
5. Guild Starfire I Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
These best inexpensive electric guitar, specs-wise, punch far above their price-class. The semi-hollows come in combinations of either single or doublecut, and with either a hardtail or a tremolo. All of them are loaded with two of Guild’s own HB-2 Alnico II humbuckers for some PAF-esque honk. For controls, there’s a three-way switch and individual volume and tones for each pickup. The tone knobs also allow each humbucker to be coil-split with a push-pull action.
The 22-fret thin U-profile neck sports a rosewood fretboard, and a 12” radius. The guitars notably feature many of the same design appointments as their standard-range alternatives – only for around a third of the price.
6. Jackson SL3X Soloist Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
We’ve stumbled back into shred-land, and who better to approach for affordable metal machines than Jackson. While the SLX3X Soloist isn’t quite as cheap as the uber-affordable JS11 Dinky model, there’s quite a few notable upgrades when the two are compared. Notably, there’s through-neck construction for much more comfortable leads across all 24 frets, with a swooping scarf joint. It also comes with a true Floyd Rose Tremolo and matching locking nut, rather than the simpler 2-point tremolo on the Dinky.
This best inexpensive electric guitar model also comes with gold hardware – down to the metal locking nut – lending it to look far more premium than its price would belie.
7. Squier Classic Vibe 50s Stratocaster Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
This best inexpensive electric guitar guitar is built to celebrate the ‘Birth of the Strat,’ sporting the same three-single-coil loadout as the original. Whie the core instrument is inspired by the 1950s, there’s some modern player-friendly features thrown in for good measure, such as a slim C-profile neck and a comfortable 9.5”-radius fingerboard. In keeping with the ‘classic vibe’ nomenclature, there are 1950s-style headstock markings and a tinted-gloss finish on the neck, ensuring the guitar’s vintage roots aren’t forgotten.
At its price-point, the Squier Classic Vibe 50s Strat begins to approach some of the cheapest Fender options, but if that gap isn’t something you fancy crossing just yet, this is still a great instrument for the price.
8. Epiphone Les Paul Special Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
Epiphone’s bold return for 2020 was something of a triumph. The sheer range of budget guitars inspired by Gibson classics impressed, well, everyone, at NAMM, and the new ‘Kalamazoo’ headstock was an added bonus. In particular, this Les Paul Special is one of the best inexpensive electric guitar we’ve played in recent memory, with the combination of two authentically-voiced P90s and a solid slab of mahogany resulting in an endlessly playable rock machine. The low price does mean a few sacrifices in comparison to a vintage original – but think about the price of a true vintage ‘50s Les Paul Special. Then think about £349.
9. Fender Player Telecaster Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
There’s a reason the Telecaster has endured over the years, and this particular iteration on it sees no particularly innovative twist on the formula. There’s no particular year of instrument it’s trying to evoke, and no change in the familiar pickup arrangement – it’s just, well, a Telecaster.
The pickups found in the Player Series best inexpensive electric guitar, according to Fender, “keep a foot in the past while looking to the future.” So expect a distinct Fender character, but with enough output to keep up with the needs of your rig.
10. Epiphone SG Standard ‘61 Vibrola Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
Like its Les Paul Special sibling above, this guitar was introduced this year as part of the Inspired by Gibson range. While it’s a little more expensive, it comes with a fully-fledged Maestro trem system
Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar also comes with two ProBucker humbuckers, voiced after the original PAF humbuckers found in guitars of this era. And so now that Epiphone is offering this recreation of a vintage classic, it’s a great budget acquisition for any guitarist looking for some vintage rock n’ roll.
11. Gretsch G2622TG-P90 Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
When you think Gretsch, you might not think P90s – but for this best inexpensive electric guitar model the brand embraces single-coils, resulting in an impressive machine indeed, as we noted in our review. The pickups here exhibit a more refined upper-end, working in the guitar’s favour, with no unpleasant harshness, especially when combined with gain. And, of course, as you can see, aesthetically it goes above and beyond when considering its price.
12 . ESP EC-256 Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
The EC-256 is ESP’s budget version of models in its Eclipse line. And while it’s no mystery where it draws its good looks from, don’t let that distract you from its other features. Everything about the EC-256 is decidedly modern, and can take you from blues to rock to metal, easy.
While its shape is of course very traditional – best inexpensive electric guitar does come with some modern features, such as a thin U-shaped neck that’s faster to play on, a flatter fretboard radius of about 14 inches, 22 extra jumbo frets, and coil-splittable humbuckers. A deeper, carved cutaway also makes reaching those higher frets easier than on a more traditional single-cutaway.
13. Chapman V2 ML1 Modern Standard Best Inexpensive Electric Guitar
The ML1 Modern Standard best inexpensive electric guitar is loaded with two new-and-improved humbuckers, voiced for a blend of clarity and aggression – and can be coil-tapped if you want to add in some dynamic, glassy cleans or spanky blues to your arsenal. The mahogany body provides standard solid feel and resonance, while the flamed maple veneer and body binding give the instrument a premium feel. The neck also comes with a satin finish, as opposed to the gloss found on the body, for comfortable movement around the guitar.
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 Inexpensive Electric Guitar 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 inexpensive electric guitar , 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 inexpensive electric guitar 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 inexpensive electric guitar 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 zore 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.
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