If you’re in the market for a new electric guitar, you’ll quickly find that there are hundreds of different options available from several different brands. Purchasing a new guitar can seem a bit overwhelming, but with our helpful buyer’s guide, you’ll be well on your way to picking out the guitar of your dreams in no time. If you’re looking for a similar buying guide for acoustic guitars click here!
The Anatomy of an Electric Guitar
An electric guitar has all the basic parts of a stringed instrument plus more. In this section, you will learn more about those parts, their purpose, and some examples.
Guitar Diagram courtesy of Roslonek.net
This is the top of the guitar. The headstock is usually routed into a decorative shape. This portion of the guitar is where the nut and tuning machines are located.
The tuning machines, also known as machine heads, tuning keys, tuning pegs or pegheads are used to tune the guitar to pitch. By adjusting the tuning keys, the pitch the guitar creates becomes higher or lower.
The oddly named nut of a guitar is a thin piece of material that’s slotted for each string. This component guides the strings into their respective tuning peg, and it keeps them aligned on the neck. Nuts are typically made from a synthetic material that mimics the characteristics of animal bone. However, other materials such as genuine bone, plastic or metal may be used instead.
The neck is the area of the guitar where your top hand rests. This is where “the magic happens” so to speak, as the neck of the guitar is where you’ll be fingering different notes to create guitar riffs and songs.
Guitar necks are commonly made from maple because this tonewood produces very bright tones. Another good alternative is mahogany. It can be seen mostly in short-scale guitars which also use the same tonewood for the body. Mahogany produces a mellow tone by emphasizing the bass frequencies and midrange tones.
The fretboard is a piece of wood that’s glued to the neck of the guitar. It’s typically made out of an extremely durable tonewood that can withstand years of use. This may include maple, rosewood, and ebony.
Frets are small pieces of metal that are slotted into the neck at set intervals. By pressing down one of the strings of the guitar in between the frets, different pitches are created.
The body of the guitar gives the guitar its overall shape. It houses important elements like the bridge, pickups and input jack. Bridges, pickups and input jacks will vary depending on what type of guitar you are investing in. Aesthetic wise, the body style of a guitar is what gives it its overall visual impact. You will learn more about these in the next section of this guide.
A pickguard is an optional accessory found on many popular electric guitars. It’s usually made from plastic, and it’s there to prevent scratching and wear from repeated use. That said, pickguards are particularly useful for professional guitarists who play a lot.
These are the different electrical components of a guitar that allow the sound of the instrument to project through an amplifier. This includes pickups (humbucker, single-coil, P90), the pickup selector, volume and tone knobs and the input jack. Without these electrical components, an electric guitar would be unable to produce sound through an amplifier.
Humbucker pickups are common in electric guitars. A humbucker uses a double-coil system which effectively cancels out the hum produced by an electromagnetic interference. This ability is usually referred to in the guitar world as “bucking the hum.” Thus, the name humbucker.
Strap buttons are tiny metal pieces that are screwed into the upper bout and bottom of a guitar. These buttons allow you to attach a strap to the guitar. They’re placed in such a way to allow the guitar to balance when it’s played while standing up.
Solid vs. Hollow vs. Semi-Hollow
Not all electric guitars are created in the same way. Essentially, there are three different electric guitar types. Some are constructed from a solid piece of wood, whereas others are constructed more similarly to acoustic guitars and are hollow inside.
A solid body guitar is one of the most popular types of electric guitars. This includes guitars like the Fender Stratocaster or Gibson SG. Solid body guitars are most popular for rock, pop and blues styles. However, they are versatile enough to handle other styles of music as well. Electric guitars are well known for their bright tone, feedback resistance, and bold look.
Hollow body guitars were the first type of electric guitar. Popular hollow body guitars include the Gibson ES series and the Gretsch Electromatic series. They have about as much in common with the electric guitar as they do with acoustic guitars.
In fact, most hollow body guitars look more like an acoustic than an electric guitar which is why they are also referred to as semi-acoustic guitars. Although, they should not be confused with acoustic-electric guitars which are basically acoustic guitars, usually with a built-in electronic amp in the body, that are fitted with pickups or microphone to amp up their volume.
Hollow body guitars are most popular for jazz and blues styles because they produce rich tones and deep bass response. Unlike solid body guitars, they aren’t very feedback resistant, which can make playing them at loud volumes difficult or impossible.
As you’d imagine, a semi-hollow guitar blends characteristics of both solid body and hollow body guitars. Usually, semi-hollow guitars have the look of an electric guitar, although they’re about twice the thickness of a traditional solid body guitar.
They produce a warm and balanced tone, and they’re more feedback resistant than fully hollow body guitars. They’re popular for all styles of music, and they’re often favored by guitar players who play a broad range of different styles. Many popular solid body electric guitars are also available in semi-hollow models. One of the most popular guitar styles of all time, the Gibson 335 is a semi-hollow guitar.
Who Are You Buying For?
Another important consideration you’ll need to make is who you’re buying the guitar for. You’ll quickly notice that there are electric guitars available for under $100, from brands like the Harmony electric guitar company and others. Meanwhile, others cost thousands of dollars. So, while there’s certainly something for everyone when it comes to guitars, it’s important that you select the right guitar for your skill level, musical interests, and budget.
You’ll need to consider who the guitar is for, how skilled the person who is going to be playing the guitar is, what type of music they’re going to use the guitar to play, and the size of the person playing the instrument. In short, buying a guitar is not as simple as one may think–that’s if you really want to be very critical with your choices. Good thing we have this electric guitar buying guide for you to help you out.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for a beginner, intermediate or advanced instrument, there are countless retailers you’ll be able to shop to select the best instrument for your needs. National chains like Guitar Center or Sam Ash are a great place to start. There also may be a great local shop in your area that can help point you in the right direction. If you’re buying the guitar as a gift for someone else, or if you know the exact kind of guitar you want already, the internet is usually your best bet for a great price on the instrument you’re looking for.
Types of Electric Guitars & Prices
As you begin to search for the perfect electric guitar, you’ll quickly find that there’s a broad range of different prices. Depending on who the guitar is for, their needs and their skill level, you’ll likely be shopping for a guitar in one of the three categories below. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of different electric guitar options available. The guitars below represent some of the most popular choices in each price range.
Electric Guitars Under $300
These guitars are typically for beginners. While they have the same basic look as much more expensive guitars, the quality of the wood, electric components and hand finishing are usually considerably lower than with more expensive guitars. However, that fact should not discourage you. After all, buying a guitar also involves making practical choices especially if the said guitar is for a beginner.
Arguably one of the most popular electric guitar body styles of all time, the Stratocaster has been the go-to guitar for legends like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Fender cut costs on this model by manufacturing it overseas under their Squier brand. While it may not feature the same components of more expensive Stratocasters, it features the look, feels and sound that has made the model famous.
This electric guitar package features everything you’ll need to get started, including a high-quality electric guitar. While this is a beginner model, the guitar is of high enough quality to please intermediate players as well. If you’re serious about learning to play the guitar, you can’t go wrong with the Yamaha GigMaster.
The SG Special from Epiphone is one of the most iconic guitars of all time. Players like Pete Townsend of The Who and Angus Young of AC/DC solidified this guitar as one of the most legendary styles in rock music. It’s also compact and comfortable enough for younger players as well.
Electric Guitars Between $300-$800
Guitars in this price range are usually for intermediate guitar players or players who are highly skilled but have a limited budget. These guitars feature higher quality components and finishing compared to guitars at the beginner level.
This model from Epiphone is the guitar that’s launched a thousand hits. From Guns N’ Roses to Led Zeppelin, many of rock n’ roll’s greatest guitar players made the Les Paul Standard their model of choice. Unlike the more expensive American made Gibson models, this guitar from Epiphone is made overseas to keep costs low. Make no mistake; this guitar still has the look and sound that put the Les Paul on the map.
Another beautiful model from Epiphone, the Emperor Swingster features a semi-hollow body construction which helps this guitar achieve its warm signature tone. This versatile guitar is perfect for all styles of music, and it’s a great choice if you’re looking for an instrument that can handle all genres with ease.
The Eclipse Series from ESP is a Les Paul style guitar that’s a favorite of many leading rock and metal musicians. It sports an aggressive look and a bold tone that’s popular for hard rock and metal styles. While it’s manufactured overseas, the build quality of ESP’s guitars is second to none, and they’re some of the best guitars in the business from a value perspective.
Electric Guitars Above $1000
Guitars in this range are usually reserved for professionals. They feature the best build quality and components. Unlike cheaper guitars, they’re usually manufactured in North America or Japan. For the beginner or intermediate players, a guitar of this quality isn’t necessary.
This iconic American classic from Fender has an unmistakable look and tone that’s hard to beat. Unlike some of Fender’s more affordable models, this guitar is manufactured in sunny California to Fender’s strict guidelines. If you’re able to shell out the extra money, you’ll quickly find that few guitars can compare to Fender’s American made offerings.
If you’re serious about taking the next step as a guitar player, you’ll want to check out the Les Paul Studio from Gibson. Unlike cheaper Epiphone models which are manufactured in Asia, Gibson’s guitars are manufactured in Tennessee under some of the most stringent standards in the business.
D’Angelico is famous for being the preferred guitar of many of the best jazz guitar players who have ever lived. The smooth, mellow tones of the EXDCSP01 are perfect for achieving beautiful jazz tones. However, since this guitar isn’t a fully hollow body, it remains versatile enough to tackle other styles of music as well.
Are you excited yet?! Purchasing a new guitar can be an extremely fun and fulfilling experience. Now that you’re armed with a great deal of knowledge on the different electric guitar types and styles you’ll be able to begin the process of choosing the best electric guitar for your needs. If you think you need even more help you can check out our Ultimate Guitar Buying Guide.