If you’ve been working hard at this best electric guitars thing for a while you are no longer a beginner. But don’t get too excited: You know you’re not an expert yet either! Hold your head up high and proudly declare you are an intermediate guitarist!
As such you need an electric guitar worthy of your skill and prowess. It’s time to cast aside that starter guitar and move up to a better grade of instrument! You have a lot of work ahead of you with this guitar thing, and you need the right tool for the job.
You’re going to expect more from your guitar from here on out. No longer will you play an instrument that’s simply good enough to practice and learn on. You’re probably ready to get into a band if you aren’t in one already, and your guitar should look the part of an instrument that’s fit for the stage. Most importantly, it has to sound great and be able to carry you through songwriting, rehearsals, gigs and maybe even some studio recording.
But here’s the tough part: I’m guessing you don’t have a lot of cash to drop on new gear. That’s okay because there are some awesome best intermediate electric guitar players out there on the market today.
This article is intended to help you get started on your quest to find the right guitar. Here you’ll find my top recommended guitars for intermediate players, with entries for just about every style of music you can think of. They’re made by the top guitar brands in the world, they all come in somewhere around the $400-$700 mark (give or take a few bucks) and all are good enough to get you through the next few years until you can declare yourself an expert.
So, let’s get on with it. Here is my list of the best intermediate electric guitar.
- 1 2 .Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 2 3. PRS SE Standard 24 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 3 4. Fender Player Telecaster Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 4 5. ESP LTD EC-401 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 5 6. Epiphone G-400 PRO Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 6 7. G&L Tribute S-500 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 7 8. Jackson SLX Soloist Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 8 9. Ibanez RG450DX Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 9 10. Schecter Damien Platinum 6 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
- 10 FAQ’s
- 10.1 Should I learn on an electric guitar or acoustic?
- 10.2 What strings do I need?
- 10.3 Electric Guitar Strings
- 10.4 Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 10.5 Do I need other equipment to get started?
- 10.6 How is a guitar tuned?
- 10.7 What’s the difference between barre chords and open chords?
- 10.8 Are my fingers supposed to hurt?
- 10.9 How do I get the most out of my practice time?
- 10.10 What’s the most common beginner’s pitfall?
1. Fender Player Stratocaster Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
There are many versions of the MIM Strat out there, from the basic model with three single-coil pickups, to HSS, HSH and HH models, and even a model with a Floyd Rose tremolo.
The Player Series Strat is best intermediate electric guitar that presents an issue for working musicians. While the American-made version of the Stratocaster is superior to the budget MIM version, many players consider the Player Stratocaster better than good enough for gigging and recording.
I have to count myself in the crowd. I’ve played a MIM HSS Strat (the Standard version) for almost a decade now, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. While I love the thick tone of a Les Paul, a Strat with a humbucker gives me a nice middle ground and a very flexible instrument. I wouldn’t be concerned about using it in a band situation, or even in the studio.
2 .Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
My (close) second choice is the Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop PRO. This best intermediate electric guitar is a significant upgrade from the Les Paul Standard. At first glance, it is obvious that the top is one major difference between the two guitars. Where the basic Standard comes in plain-top colors, the PRO version features pretty see-through flame tops. Nice!
But the biggest upgrade between the basic Standard and the PlusTop PRO is the pickups. Epiphone ProBuckers are a huge leap ahead of the old Alnico Classic pickups when it comes to character and clarity, and they even have a coil tap feature. I have been very impressed by their sound, and in my opinion, these pickups more than anything else have shortened the distance between Epiphone and big-brother Gibson.
3. PRS SE Standard 24 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
Like other guitars in the SE Series, the PRS SE Standard 24 brings serious PRS tone and quality down to a price intermediate players can afford.
PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 Electric Guitar, Tobacco SunburstPRS Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 Electric Guitar, Tobacco Sunburst
PRS guitars offer a decidedly different feel compared to Gibson and Fender. For many guitarists they are the best of both worlds, and through the SE Series they are affordable for intermediate players.
This best intermediate electric guitar may be priced right, but from the pretty and comfortable double-cutaway body design right now to the bird inlays on the fretboard, it has what it takes to call itself a PRS.
The SE Standard 24 features a mahogany body and set mahogany neck with a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. The pickups are PRS-designed humbuckers controlled via a 3-way switch and one each volume and tone control. Hardware includes a PRS-designed tremolo and locking tuners.
This is another serious contender for the all-mahogany, dual humbucker market the Epi Les Paul has previously dominated. PRS and Gibson are two of the best high-end guitar companies in the world, so it would only make sense that they do battle in the budget guitar market as well!
4. Fender Player Telecaster Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
The Fender Broadcaster, which eventually morphed into the Telecaster, was the first commercially available solid-body guitar, and the style has remained largely unchanged for over 60 years. While there are many similarities between the Stratocaster and Telecaster, the Tele has a much different vibe and is capable of a unique array of tones.
I always think of the Telecaster as a guitar most suited for country music, but in reality, you can find them in just about every genre. There are even a few metal players who have relied on modified Telecasters.
This best intermediate electric guitar is one of the true classics of the guitar world, and it comes in at a price friendly to intermediate guitar players. Like the Player Strat, the Player Series Telecaster is a guitar intermediate and pro-level guitars can rely on for gigs and rehearsals.
So maybe you like the Telecaster look and feel but you don’t play country music or care much for the classic Tele twang. And you don’t feel like taking a soldering iron and modding your new guitar right out of the box.
You ought to check out some of the new pickup configurations Fender has cooked up for the Player Telecaster and Stratocaster. For example, you can grab a Tele with a pair of Humbuckers instead of the basic single-coil pickups. This makes for a guitar much more suited to rock music, and even hard rock or heavy metal. Pretty cool!
5. ESP LTD EC-401 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
The ESP LTD EC-401 is the little brother of the EC-1000, one of the top electric guitars under $1000. However, the EC-401 takes no backseat here and packs a serious punch. And, like its bigger brother, there are a few different versions of the EC-401, with a choice of finishes and pickups.
For those looking for a modern metal sound, you can grab an EC-401 with an EMG 81/60 pickup set. Or, if you are a little more traditional, consider an EC-401 with a set of DiMarzio humbuckers.
No matter which finish you choose, this is a best intermediate electric guitar, and with a mahogany neck and body and a pair of humbuckers it has some classic styling that might look familiar to you. In fact, the ESP LTD EC-Series are some of the best alternatives to the Les Paul you are going to find. However, with more choices of pickups and hardware – including those hot EMG pickups – and a slightly sleeker body style the EC-401 is a bit more modern, and a bit more flexible.
6. Epiphone G-400 PRO Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
For decades the Epiphone Les Paul has been a way for up-and-coming guitar players to experience the Gibson Les Paul sound and feel without enduring the huge price tag. SG fans have the same opportunity with the Epiphone G-400 PRO.
You’ll get a lot of different opinions, but my thoughts are as follows: Like the Les Paul, an Epiphone SG only falls short when you compare it to a Gibson SG. Otherwise, these are the top guitars in this price range, and certainly good enough for an up-and-coming guitarist, or even a gigging pro on a budget.
There is still a very real gap between Gibson and Epiphone, as well there should be. But Epiphone quality has improved tremendously over the past few years. For many players, Epis are more than good enough to forgo an expensive Gibson for a much more budget-friendly Les Paul.
The Epiphone G-400 PRO features Epi’s Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers. While they may lack a little clarity compared to Gibson pickups, these are good pickups for a guitar in this price range.
The G-400 s a great intermediate-level best intermediate electric guitar and it’s very affordable. It is one of the best electric guitars under $500 and among the most affordable on this list.
7. G&L Tribute S-500 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
Leo Fender went on to build another great guitars company, and it is easy to see his influence in the design of G&L best intermediate electric guitar such as the S-500. With its double-cutaway body, bolt-on neck, and a trio of single-coil pickups the S-500 is seen by many players as a quality alternative to the Fender Stratocaster.
It may be that, but it is also so much more, and in many ways appears to be a continuation of the Fender vision. For one thing, the S-500 features a mahogany body instead of the alder traditionally found in Strats. Mahogany is a warmer, deeper-sounding wood, and in stark contrast to the snappiness of alder.
Then there are the MFD pickups, which can be combined in all the ways you’d expect from the 5-way switch. However, you also have the ability to combine the neck and bridge pickups, or all three together.
If you dig Strat-style guitars but want something a little beyond what you’d normally expect, do yourself a favor and check out the Tribute S-500.
8. Jackson SLX Soloist Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
The next best intermediate electric guitar on my list is the Jackson Soloist SLX, a guitar built for metal that has stood the test of time for decades. If you are a fan of anything from melodic hard rock to death metal you know Jackson is among the best metal guitar brands in the world. More than perhaps any other, this is a guitar company associated with metal and extreme music.
The Soloist design is an interesting one, with a maple neck-through build for amazing sustain and a basswood body. The pickups are Duncan Design humbuckers, and the bridge is a Floyd Rose Special.
This is a best intermediate electric guitar built for the extreme, and the Jackson name on the headstock means you can expect quality. For intermediate guitarists who are into anything from ‘80s hard rock to modern extreme metal, this guitar will get the job done.
9. Ibanez RG450DX Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
The Ibanez RG is a favorite of shredders and metal guitarists around the world, and the RG450DX is an outstanding mid-level RG that will introduce players to a classic shred guitar. The RG thing has always been about speed, precision, and blistering sounds, and this guitar delivers what is expected from its bloodline.
Truthfully, there are many Ibanez guitars worth checking out for the intermediate guitarist. Both the RG and S Series have some affordable options, and there are some best intermediate electric guitar in the Iron Label Series. But, if you want the hot pickups, whammy bar, fast neck and classic look the Ibanez RG is known for, the RG450 is the most complete package for the most budget-friendly price.
There is nothing missing here. Specs include the Ibanez Wizard III maple neck, a mahogany body, and Ibanez Quantum pickups. If you are an intermediate guitar player who is into shred or heavy metal check out the Ibanez RG Series, and the RG450DX in particular, and find the perfect instrument.
10. Schecter Damien Platinum 6 Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
I can’t make a shortlist of my favorite guitars without thinking about Schecter. This is a guitar company that always surprises me.
Truthfully, there are a bunch of Schecter guitars I could have named here. The Hellraiser and Blackjack are affordable instruments that sound great, and the C-1 Classic is a good-looking guitar. But I chose the Damien Platinum 6 for its budget-friendly price tag.
The Damien Platinum is a best intermediate electric guitar built for heavy music, with active EMG 81/85 pickups, a mahogany body and a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. This combination gives the Damien Elite the right punch and power for extreme metal sounds and solos.
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 Intermediate 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 intermediate 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 intermediate 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 intermediate 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 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 intermediate electric guitar if you’re ready to learn guitar, sign up for a free trial to Fender Play.