Best Electric Guitars
What does it take to become the “Best” Electric Guitar? If we ask 100 guitarists that question, the chances are we’ll probably get 100 different answers. That’s because we are all individuals and we all like different things, you only need to look at the shelves in supermarkets to realise that we all have different preferences. In reality, we don’t need the choice of 6 different brands of baked beans, but take a look at the tinned section and you’ll see at least 6 different kinds of tinned baked beans for sale.
It’s the same with everything else you buy, foods, cars, even toilet paper! But when it comes to guitars, the range of choice is phenomenal. There are the main tried and tested companies like:
To name just a few.
Guitars For All Music Genres
Now let’s have a look at some of the many guitar manufacturers and what type of guitar they specialise in producing. We’re only looking at electric guitars in this post to keep the page shorter. Here are a few electric guitar makers, some you will have heard of and some that might surprise you.
Danelectro Electric Guitars
Danelectro guitars first started production in 1954, as they were a low priced guitar, many teenagers owned them. The cheapest models sold for £49.50 and if you had an original model still in good condition you could sell it for about £360.00. As they were so cheap many have been thrown away over the years, or altered in some way.
The reason they were so cheap was the way they were made. Designed almost like a ‘50s kitchen, with a wooden frame, finished in vinyl, masonite and formica. With the addition of the metal Lipstick tube pickups (which were actually made by a lipstick tube manufacturer). It’s these simple lipstick pickups that make the danelectro sound so clear and sharp.
They have in recent years seen an increase in demand because many top guitarists have played a Danelectro artists including:
- Mick Jagger (Rolling stones)
- George Harrison (Beatles)
- Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
- Dee Dee Ramone (the Ramones)
- Porl Thompson (The Cure)
- Amy Winehouse
- Ron Wood (Rolling stones)
- Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi)
- Alvin Lee (Ten years after)
- Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits)
- Kirk Hammett (Metallica)
- Rory Gallagher
- Jerry Garcia (Grateful Dead)
- John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
- Steve Earle
- Glen Campbell
- J. J. Cale
- Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd)
- And many more
You can still pick up a decent Danelectro guitar for under £400.00 which is still great value for money.
Epiphone Electric Guitars
Back in the day, Epiphone were one of the main rivals to Gibson, now they are owned by Gibson. Nowadays Epiphone is to Gibson what Squier is to Fender-The cheap relation. Don’t let that fool you though, Epiphone still produces some great guitars, they are the only guitar company that uses the same specs as Gibson. Buying an Epiphone instead of a Gibson doesn’t mean you’ve chosen second best.
Many top flight guitarists prefer their Epiphone guitars to the original Gibson it was copied from. Epiphone is considered one of the best electric guitar makers for learners and professional guitarists alike.
You can buy an Epiphone beginners set for around £200.00 which includes an Epiphone Les Paul, amp, strap, cable, picks, clip on headstock chromatic tuner and gig bag.
Gretsch Electric Guitars
Gretsch have been making guitars since the 1930s, and have become a firm favourite with early rock and rollers like Eddie Cochran, Duane Eddy and country musicians like Chet Atkins, and pop guitarists like George Harrison, John Lennon, and even heavy rockers like Malcolm Young.
With their unmistakable hollow body, F holes and twangy guitar sound they can be seen and heard being played by many famous artists, like Chet Atkins, Brain Seltzer, Malcolm Young, Eddie Cochran and George Harrison. A decent Gretsch guitar can be bought for around £320.00 and the average price is around £500.00 although they do make more expensive models.
Ibanez Electric Guitars
The Ibanez company started life creating top quality copies of famous guitars. Whatever style of music you play, there will be an Ibanez guitar to meet your needs. Ibanez have become a brand associated with quality guitars. Originally it was only heavy rockers and metalheads that favoured Ibanez guitars but they have become more and more popular as a stand alone guitar manufacturer.
Ibanez were the first guitar manufacturer to make a 7 string guitar (The Universe). The Ibanez RG is probably their easiest guitar to recognise, but it’s the Ibanez “S” series that is the most popular with shredders.
Jackson Electric Guitars
Jackson guitars are another firm favourite with heavy metal guitarists. Pretty much every metal band in the 80s featured a guitarist with a Jackson. They have remained as a popular choice for metalheads even now. The Jackson King V still features in many hard rock bands and is a classic heavy metal shape.
Like many other guitar companies, Jackson caters for all price ranges. With their JS series making top guitars available to low budget guitarists, with some JS models costing as low as £130.00 without losing anything on quality or playability.
Schecter Electric Guitars
Schecter Guitar Research is a relatively young company that has already become one of the best guitar manufacturers around. Many of their models are based on the C series probably because they are a guitarists guitar. They look good, sound good and play really well. Schecter guitars can be picked up from as little as £330.00 and they are well worth considering.
PRS Electric Guitars
Founded by guitar maker Paul Reed Smith, PRS guitars are recognised as one of the top guitars in manufacture. During the 90s many top flight guitarists were swapping their Gibson Les Pauls for a PRS. They introduced a budget range called The SE, but although they were cheaper than their other range, they are in no way cheap and nasty. PRS take as much care in producing SE guitars as they do their main guitar series.
PRS guitars can be spotted through all genres of music,from country to thrash metal, and everywhere in between.
Rickenbacker Electric Guitars
Mention Rickenbacker and the first thing you think of is Bass guitars, but they also make outstanding acoustic and electric guitars. Rickenbacker have been around for many years and were championed by artists like the Beatles. Rickenbacker guitars are more expensive than many other makes of guitar, but they are made using top components and each guitar is hand built.
Squier Electric Guitars
Squier guitars are like Epiphone is to Gibson, owned by Fender, they produce easier to afford top quality guitars. In all fairness, Squiers can be slightly hit and miss, sometimes they produce an absolutely great guitar and sometimes they don’t. If you’re considering buying a Squier, check out their “classic Vibe” and the “Vintage modified” series.
Squier also does a starter set which includes guitar, amp, cable,picks, strap and some sort of brochure with how to play a few songs to get you started. These sets start at around £150.00 and are a great way to get started.
Gibson Electric Guitars
Probably the most recognisable guitar makers worldwide, and the makers of 2 of the most recognisable guitars as well. The Gibson Les Paul and the Gibson SG made to be household names due to their popularity with many guitarists of all music genres. Other well known Gibson guitars include:
- Gibson Explorer
- Gibson Les Paul
- Gibson SG
- Gibson Flying V
- Gibson ES-335
Many of these are available as cheaper alternatives under the Epiphone brand. Gibson guitars are famous for their quality, tone and attention to detail. With their popular humbucker pickups Gibson guitars produce a rich smooth quality of sound.
Fender Electric Guitars
Fender guitars are as easily recognisable as Gibson are, with the Fender Stratocaster and The Fender Telecaster which have both been in constant production since the 50s. Fender guitars have been played by guitarists from all genres of music. Fender has manufacturing plants in the USA, Mexico, Japan and China.
The most expensive are American made, with Mexican, Japanese and then China coming in last, and this is reflected in the prices. Of course for even cheaper versions you can choose the Squier range.
Fender guitars are classic and innovative at the same time.The most popular Fender electric guitars are:
- Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Telecaster
- Fender Jazzman
- Fender Jaguar
Fender guitars are used by some of the best guitarists in the world including:
- Eric Clapton
- Rory Gallagher
- Jimi Hendrix
- Ritchie Blackmore
- Jeff Beck
- David Gilmour
- George Harrison
- Buddy Holly
- And many more
That’s our top 11 Electric Guitar Makers producing great guitars to span every music type you can think of. With prices starting in the low hundreds and rising to much higher the choice is definitely yours.
Electric Guitars Buyers Guide
We have covered many of the best names in electric guitars and you might have already decided which guitar you want to buy, but before you go rushing out to the music store, here are a few things worth considering.
Shape of guitar
As with most things available to buy in the 21st century, there is so much choice when it comes to electic guitars. So consider the shape of the guitar, some are solid bodied which will make them heavier to hold, which might not seem problematic at first but if you are having to hold it for 2 to 3 hours per session that weight will soon start to tell.
Length of fretboard
The length of the fretboard can vary quite considerably. The Fender Jaguar has a fretboard that is 24 inches in length, whereas some Gretsch guitars have a fretboard length of just shy of 30 inches. That’s a 6 inch difference in the length of the fretboard, which will mean either extra frets to reach higher notes, or frets spread further apart.
If the frets are further apart, you are going to stretch your fingers to reach a particular note. It is always best (if possible) to go to a music shop and try the guitar you are looking at buying, Guitars are like shoes, you can’t order them online and expect them to be a perfect fit.
Most decent electric guitars come with adequate pickups, but depending on the type of music you intend to play, the pickups you choose will have an effect on the sound your guitar makes. This used to be a major concern back in the earlier days of electric guitars but nowadays there are ways around it, using a great amp with dodgy pickups will achieve a great sound. Plus we also live in the technical age where the amp can be programmed via a smartphone to sound like any guitarists or type of music.
Let’s have a quick look at the types of pickups available so you can have peace of mind when you make your choice. There are basically 2 types of pickups, single-coil and humbucker.
How Do Pickups Work?
Pickups consist of a non conductive bar (usually black plastic) with a single magnet in each of 6 holes that correspond to the strings of the guitar. The pickup has enameled wire wrapped around the magnets, each magnet will pick up the note from the string directly above it.
Other pickups use a metal rod instead of the 6 magnets, in this type, a long narrow magnet is laid under the non conductive bar. Once the guitar is connected to an amp, the pickups transmit the sounds created by the strings and feed it to the amp, where it is processed and made louder, the sound is “amplified” hence the name.
SIngle coil pickups are self explanatory, humbuckers are just 2 single coil pickups fitted together to cancel out the humming sound that is often generated from single coils. They get their name from their purpose, they literally “Buck the Hum”. Humbucker coils are often used in microphones as well, Any microphone that claims to be low noise or less interference has a humbucker pickup system in place.
Electric Guitar Price
We suggest you always buy your electric guitar from a local guitar shop wherever possible, they are usually run by guitarists. This means they will have a wealth of knowledge about guitars, amps effect pedals, strings and even picks. If you play a specific type of genre of music (or are planning to) the proprietor will be able to offer you the best advice on what to buy etc.
It is also a good idea to have a price in mind before you enter the shop, because with so many guitars available you’ll probably be like a kid in a sweet shop and want to buy them all. Guitar shop staff are usually only too pleased to spend some time helping you find the right guitar and equipment within your budget.
On the subject of budget, cheap and cheerful guitars start at around £100.00, and for around £400.00 you can get a half decent model, and they do of course rise to over £3,000.00. If you are just starting out don’t buy a really expensive model, in case it’s just a flash in the pan for you. By the same token don’t go for the cheapest as these often have problems like high actions and strings far too wide apart, both of which will hinder your learning and eventually discourage you from playing.
Your best bet is to start with explaining to the shop owner what you are looking for and how much you can afford to spend. These guys are usually only too happy to assist you in finding the right fit for you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the only way to learn anything is to ask questions. .
Frequently Asked Questions
The most popular electric guitars are Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Les Paul and Gibson SG
You can play electric guitar without an amp, but it will be very quiet. You need an amp to project the sound. If you are considering playing without an amp but you still want an electric guitar maybe you should consider an electro acoustic guitar.
Fender and Gibson are both great guitar manufacturers, the difference is really in the sound. Gibsons have a richer, fuller sound, whereas Fenders have a twangier, thinner sound.