10 Great Electric Guitars That Can Be Had for a Song
Becoming a truly skilled guitar player takes time. However, the process can be made a lot more fun and a lot easier if you start out with a high quality instrument. A poorly made guitar won’t feel right, it won’t play easily, and it won’t sound good. What are the odds that you’re going to stick with it trying to learn on an instrument like that? This being the case, it behooves you to find a guitar that feels good, looks good, plays well, and sounds great. Fortunately, here you will find the 10 best electric guitars under $500. The guitars that are presented here are of such outstanding quality that they are absolutely suited for seasoned guitarists as well. In fact, almost every one of the guitars you’ll read about here are economy priced instruments that are being used by touring musicians.
Buying a guitar can be confusing. There are hundreds and hundreds of guitars to choose from and you need to have at least some knowledge of the components of a guitar to make a good choice. This article is thus aimed at making your purchase easier by presenting you with ten guitar options that are all wonderful instruments priced below the $500 mark. Likewise, our list includes several different styles of guitars. So, whether you’re into blues, metal, jazz, rock or pop, you’re going to find a guitar here to fit your style.
The Top 10 Electric Guitars Under $500
- Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Electric Guitar
- Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster ’50s Electric Guitar
- Epiphone Limited Edition 1966 G-400 PRO Electric Guitar
- Hagstrom Ultra Swede Flame Electric Guitar
- Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster ’50s Electric Guitar
- Gretsch Guitars G5445T Electromatic Double Jet w/Bigsby Electric Guitar
- Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster Electric Guitar
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plain Top Electric Guitar
- Ibanez Artcore AG75 Electric Guitar
- Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 FR Electric Guitar
Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Electric Guitar
This is a very impressive axe that comes with unique features that include superior Duncan-Designed pickups’
Body and Neck
The Jaguar body is of the offset variety whereby the upper and lower parts of the body are asymmetrical. The upper and lower parts are usually offset. This considerably alters the dynamics of the guitar causing an overall difficulty in some aspects of intonation. For some players, this is a major concern.
The tone wood on the Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar is basswood. The guitar has a short scale neck made of maple. This makes it ideal for beginners. It is also especially preferred by jazz players.
You probably are thinking that you will get the standard fixed tail bridge or probably a synchronized tremolo. Nonetheless, on this guitar you find a vintage style trem bridge with the Tremolo sitting at the back and the bridge sitting closer to the pickups as a separate unit.
The Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar has two single coil pickups. Interestingly, the pickups do not have a couple of knobs for tone adjustment; they have dual circuits. Rhythm and lead models are fitted on this guitar. Each has its unique set of controls. This offers impressive versatility. Additionally, there are the standard knobs for tone and volume. On the whole, this guitar gives you a wide variety of sounds to choose from.
Jaguar guitars are different in terms of sound when compared to a Strat or Telecaster. The complex circuit formation allows the players to manipulate the guitar’s tonal configurations a great deal. This means that while this is typically a guitar for surf rock and other vintage genres, it still plays excellent rock and roll. The short scale neck also means that the guitar can additionally pull off a terrific jazz sound.
Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster ’50s Electric Guitar
Among the guitars that you can get for less than $500 this guitar stands as a time-tested legend.
Body and Neck
It is almost impossible to miss the classic body of the Telecaster. It is one of the most recognizable solid-body guitars in existence. Squier did not cut any corners when designing this model as a tribute to its name. The body is pine. There are two versions of this guitar. The Butterscotch Blonde version comes equipped with Alnico 5 pickups while the Vintage Blonde version is equipped with Alnico III pickups. Both are fabulous guitars, but the Butterscotch Blonde model seems to outsell the Vintage Blonde by a fairly substantial margin. The neck is maple with a standard “C” shape profile. The design, craftsmanship, play-ability, and quality of these instruments is nothing short of spectacular. Read some of the hundreds of reviews on websites like Musicians Friend and listen to what owners have to say. High praise is almost unanimous.
The ‘5os Classic Vibe Telecaster comes with a set single coil pickups. These pickups are unique to this guitar and are called Custom Vintage Tele pickups. The pickups do a terrific job of filling the huge shoes they are meant to fill. Most players are often wary that single coils will produce undesirable buzzing sounds. These coils nonetheless do a terrific job of canceling the buzz out. Only a minimal buzzing is experienced when playing the ‘50s Classic Vibe Telecaster. Besides the pickup select switch configuration, there also is a knob for tone and another for volume control.
As has been the case with other Telecaster models, the hardware here is basically simple. The simplicity doesn’t compromise on its performance in any way whatsoever; the guitar is still as effective as you would expect. What Squier did was genius. They took a proven guitar building formula and adapted it to their own unique Ideas. The final result of this process is an ashtray bridge that is fixed and has three fully adjustable saddles. The guitar additionally comes with a cut-out for the pickup at the bridge.
The configuration is purely classic. The impressive set of die-cast tuners rests on the headstock where they do quite an effective job of retaining the guitar’s tuning. Very minimal creep and free movement occur here. This allows the player to dial in the preferred key with ease and precision. The bridge handles sustain pretty well but is limited to a certain degree by the pine body.
When it comes to these Squier guitars, their build quality is nearly as good as their more expensive American cousins. Truly, it’s hard to spend a lot more hard cash for the Fender models when these Squires deliver such great quality for so much less. Yes, it’s nice to have the Fender decal on the headstock, but put your ego aside and save some major cash. These Telecasters deliver a great range of sounds. The Butterscotch Blonde will provide you with all the twang you’ll ever need. They are a perfect guitar for rock, country, or blues.
Epiphone Limited Edition 1966 G-400 PRO Electric Guitar
This is one of the most respected solid body guitars made in China
Body and neck
The G-400 has a solid mahogany body with a double cutaway shape. There, however, exists a walnut model whose body is made of Walnut. The guitar features a natural cherry red finish which gracefully shows off the wood’s grain. The body is constructed in a three-piece design with the back and front being laminated to give an absolutely even grain pattern. The neck and headstock wings and back are glued onto the body. The neck is mahogany and has a slim-taper profile. The fingerboard is rosewood and is also buffed to a hard sheen. The neck could feel a bit heavy, but this can be countered by balancing the guitar properly on the strap.
The G-400 is a respected original design in rock. The Limited Edition “1966” G-400 PRO features two Alnico Classic pickups. The two are of the 4-wire humbucker variety and are regulated through push/pulls controls. There are separate controls for each pickup to adjust tone and volume. This allows for a myriad of sounds to be achieved. It also sports a large pickup guard and doesn’t have any mounting ring around its high output pickups
This guitar is equipped with a basic stoptail and the basic Tune-o-Matic bridge. The stop tail and its LockTone bridge counterpart offer more sustain while making the whole affair of string changing quite easy. Additionally, the double cutaway body shape provides easy access to all the 22 frets on the G-400.
The G-400 offers a surprisingly good clean tone when fully humbucking. In fact, the sound does make you think that it could be a rather expensive guitar. The clean sounds are distinctively clear and could easily outperform many of this guitar’s equivalents. Most solid guitars were built for rock. The G-400 winds up its gain making it a darling in metal and hard rock. This however means that it will also sail smoothly in the waters of jazz and electric blues.
Hagstrom Ultra Swede Flame Electric Guitar
This is one of the most cherished guitar models by Hagstrom having been on the market since 1958.
Body and Neck
The Ultra Swede has been described as an answer to Les Paul guitars. It, however, comes with a basswood body and a set maple neck. In some models, you may get a splatted maple top with a distinctive black grain. On other models, you get a carved top with flamed or figured maple. The guitar is wonderfully constructed and comes with an appreciable amount of cosmetic additions including pearl/abalone fingerboard inlays, a pearl logo on the headstock as well as pearl celluloid binding on the body, neck, and headstock. The neck is often described as UltraLux because its construction is classically thinner hence making it easier and faster to play than most other models of this class. The Ultra Swede comes in a wide range of colors.
The Ultra Swede comes with 2 Hagstrom Custom ’58 Humbuckers. The humbuckers work together to give off impressive definition and a beautiful even-tempered tone. The pickups are augmented by a push/pull coil-split switch. The pickup selection configurations help the player to manipulate volume levels as well as in the thinning or beefing up the sound appropriately. The guitar adopts a control layout that’s akin to that of the Les Paul.
The 6-saddle bridge is clearly drawn for the Tune-O-Matic design. The tailpiece is, however, an original design crafted by Hagstrom. It has a curved cover and a clear plastic baseplate for the six-string anchor blocks.
The Hagstrom Ultra Swede features an airy acoustic character that easily translates into an open-sounding performance when amplified. The humbuckers ae designed to ensure that they deliver a consistent sound that remains focused and expressive. The effects are best felt under clean or gain-laden conditions. This guitar handles extremes well by allowing subtle nuances.
Coil switching offers additional versatility when playing. The guitar additionally has filters that are useable for clean and distorted environments. The filters make the guitar sound different especially during track layering. Having said that, the Ultra Swede is quite flexible and ideal for blues and jazz.
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster ’50s Electric Guitar
Squier has been in the guitar business for a long time now. In this whole period, they have been successful in making well-refined axes. In fact, the Classic Vibe ‘50s Strat is one of the most preferred guitars for beginners.
Body and Neck
The Classic Vibe ‘50s Strat comes with the standard body of a Stratocaster. Alder is the tonewood that was used for this Strat. This is rather surprising given that Alder isn’t a cheap tonewood. The guitar comes with well-constructed “C” shape maple neck. In fact, when Squier was working on this guitar, the goal was to remind us of the ‘50s, and we must say that they did quite a decent job of it.
There are quite a variety of finishes that are available for this Strat. The vintage sunburst, however, does take the crown in this arena, though. The design and construction generally looks and feels quite refined and elite when compared to other Squier models.
A noteworthy update to the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster is probably the pickups. This Strat does not come with the usual old average single coils. Instead, Squier installed a refreshing set of custom vintage coils fitted with custom covers and AINiCo magnets. The pickups are controlled by pretty much standard controls including two tone controls, a pickup selector, and a volume control knob.
The pickup switching that Squire implemented did wonders for this guitar. It took the quality of sound to a whole new level. This is probably because the new set of pickups blend perfectly with the Alder body. The final package is that solid and doesn’t have any significant coil buzz.
Though this Strat enjoys some remarkable upgrades, the hardware remains pretty much the same. The guitars pack a vintage synchronized tremolo bridge. This is complimented on the other end by a set of die-cast tuners on the other end. The hardware component is, however, decent. A point of caution is that you shouldn’t be too hard on the whammy bar. You nevertheless will get a satisfactory experience when playing this guitar.
This is a terrific choice for beginners. It is loaded with lots of potential sound-wise. You get the Strat’s long familiar clear and bright tones. The sustain is equally great even in crunch mode.
Gretsch Guitars G5445T Electromatic Double Jet w/Bigsby
The Gretsch is the kind of guitar that will make you go “Oooh-Aaah!” Though relatively inexpensive, it looks aesthetically pleasing and is thus guaranteed to make heads turn. In simple terms, this guitar looks cool.
Body and Neck
The craftsmanship that goes into making this guitar is impeccable; it is almost impossible to find flaws in the design of this axe. It looks and feels good. It is thus ideal for a person who is looking for a guitar that will get noticed. The body is solid but chambered for weight reduction. This, however, doesn’t change its weight much given that it also has a heavy Bigsby vibrato. Therefore, it has been described as being “boat anchor heavy” by some players. The body is jet-shaped and made of basswood. The top is arched laminated maple.
The neck is made of maple with a gloss polyester finish. The fingerboard is rosewood with Pearloid hump-back inlays. The guitar is designed to make it easy for the player to whizz up and down the neck. It additionally responds very well to finger-plucking.
The Gretsch G5445T comes with dual Blacktop Filter’Tron humbuckers. One is positioned at the neck and the other at the bridge. There is also a 3-way pickup toggle switch, and two volume controls one for each pickup. There also are master controls for volume and tone. All of these aspects offer appreciable versatility in terms of the tone and performance that one can get from this guitar.
The G5445T comes with an AdjustoMatic bridge that is anchored for enhanced stability. Other classic hardware on the Gretsch G5445T include “G” arrow knobs and the threaded knurled strap buttons on top of the fabulous Gretsch logo on the pickguard.
The Bigsby B50 vibrato is unique to this axe. One thing that players notice is that the arm of the Bigsby vibrato does not swing. Therefore, it assumes the position you make and remains that way unless you move it yourself. The arm is also quite wide. A guitarist looking to add just a dash of vibrato can simply pat the arm instead of needed to grab it.
The Blacktop Filter’Tron humbuckers of the Gretsch G5445T allow it to produce spanky, twangy sounds. The tones are nonetheless more rockable rather than surf.
Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster Electric Guitar
As an honor to alt-rock god J Mascis, Squier came up with a striking Jazzmaster axe that packs massive performance and sound.
Body and Neck
Though this isn’t a premium axe, you’ll definitely look great when you show up donning the J Mascis Jazzmaster. Its body shape has a striking curvy contour making it a very comfy guitar. The body is made of basswood that is light and soft. This gives the guitar a resonance that is evenly balanced. It is neither too dark nor is it too brilliant. The maple neck on this guitar is C-shaped, with a smooth and inviting Rosewood fingerboard. The maple is known to get you to the higher frequencies without too much effort.
The performance of this guitar is executed via a pair of Single-coil pickups; one at the neck and the other at the bridge. This is a powerful pair of pickups that are designed to bring your ears closer to the tones of J Mascis. You can easily add gain to get an excellent, crunchy distortion. You can also dial in extra overdrive to get impeccable feedback. With lead and rhythm circuits onboard, you can handle almost any situation on stage with this guitar.
In addition to controls for volume and tone, there is also a selector for pickup switching. There also is a 2-position slide switch for the lead and rhythm circuits. By changing the control setup, one can generate different types of tones and sounds with this guitar.
J Mascis himself requested the hardware on this guitar. The axe therefore has an Adjusto-Matic bridge with vintage styling of the floating tremolo tailpiece. It has a large ‘60s-style headstock that bears the unique J Mascis signature. The hardware is all chrome while the tuners are vintage-styled.
The J Mascis Jazzmaster is a great axe with which you can pull off excellent blues and jazzy tones, as well as hard rock, alt-rock, and grunge. The tonal versatility of this guitar offers it a unique characteristic of addictive playability.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plain Top Electric Guitar
If you can’t acquire a Gibson Les Paul original, you have the perfect alternative with this guitar.
Body and Neck
The Les Paul guitar body shape is iconic across the entire world. When looking at the Epiphone, one gets the same aesthetic appeal that is associated with Les Paul guitars. The quality of this guitar is equally inspiring. The body is mahogany while the top is treated maple.
The Epiphone isn’t fancy. However, it definitely is in a class of its own. The neck is made of standard maple, and the fretboard is made of superior quality rosewood. There’s a white binding on the neck and abalone inlays. The effect that all these features have on the Epiphone is felt when one begins playing is surprisingly comfortable.
Les Paul guitars are associated with superior Alnico humbuckers. These humbuckers, in fact, were what set them apart back the day. The Epiphone comes with a set of high-quality Alnico humbuckers controlled by the same classic controls found on other high-end Les Paul guitars.
The guitar has two knobs for tone and two others for volume. It also has a switch to select a pickup. One fact that you can bet on is that these knobs are just as accurate as they are solid.
The Epiphone’s hardware is pretty much standard as with other Gibson guitars. This axe has one sturdy Tune-o-Matic bridge that has die-cast tuners on one end and six adjustable saddles on the other. All of the hardware here is chrome which is in line with what is found on the Les Paul Standard. This means that the performance is well above average. A bridge as solid as this one holds both the tuning and intonation quite well. Even the tuners, albeit standard, are relatively sturdy.
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard rose to fame thanks to its impressive sound. Though it doesn’t come close to matching that of an original Gibson guitar, its sound will get you halfway there. Let that not fool you; the Epiphone is easily the most superior guitar in its category.
This guitar is great at handling distortion, overdrive as well as clean environments. You can easily switch from playing metal to blues by simply fine-tuning your Epiphone. This guitar is truly a treasure; it will easily surpass expectations in almost every situation.
Ibanez Artcore AG75 Electric Guitar
This is a full hollow-body guitar that delivers dramatic tones and sound.
Body and Neck
This is one fine electric guitar. Both its craftsmanship and quality are surprisingly good for a guitar made in China. The Artcore AG75 is a full hollow body guitar. Its body’s top back and sides are maple. This construction gives it a vintage sunburst look. The neck is mahogany while the fretboard is bound Rosewood. The neck is set-in offering increased stability and strength. The guitar will feel small in your hands. It, however, plays big and great. It has a woodsy, resonating hollow.
The guitar is loaded with a pair of impressive humbucker pickups. There’s an appreciable difference between pickups at the neck and bridge. The neck humbucker is a passive Classic Elite (H) neck pickup with at the bridge we have a Classic Elite (H) bridge pickup. This offers the player a variety of switchable sounds, especially because for each pickup there are control tone and volume controls. The guitar additionally comes with a 3-way Pickup Selector.
The Artcore AG75 comes with Sure Grip III control knobs. These are smooth and classical. They additionally are optimized to deliver precise control especially due to their non-slip functionality. The bridge on the AG75 is an ART-1 bridge which offers improved sustain and better tuning stability.
The Artcore AG75 is unlike many other ‘full acoustics’ that have sound blocks embedded in the body. It thus delivers tones that are rich and complex just like a full-hollow guitar should. When unplugged, it may sound rather quiet, but the sound is clear with nice highs and lows that are pleasingly mellow. The neck and bridge humbuckers do a terrific job of balancing the sound while delivering a good dose of midrange punch. It is thus preferred by players for its ability to deliver the purity of sound that is ideal for old school style jazz and blues.
Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 FR Electric Guitar
This is a compact metal guitar with powerful sound
Schechter has been in the metal scene for quite a long time now. Their performance in this field has been outstanding, and the Schechter Omen Extreme 6 is one of the most capable guitars that cost less than $500.
Body and Neck
As is characteristic of Schechter axes, the Omen Extreme 6 has a pretty simple body shape. It sports an arched Super Strat design merged with a couple of impressive features. The mahogany body is covered with an appealing quilted maple top. The neck’s profile is poised for speed and accuracy and is made from maple. The guitar’s top and neck are bound with white abalone. The fingerboard is Rosewood and features Pearloid Vector inlays. On the whole, the entire package of the Schechter Omen Extreme 6 is amazingly gorgeous.
The Omen Extreme 6 comes with an impressive set of Schechter Diamond Plus passive humbuckers. At first, many tend to dismiss these as being crude. However, with time, people come to appreciate just how much they can do. The humbuckers are hooked to a set of controls including a push-pull enable tone knob, two volume knobs, and a 3-way pickup select switch.
At the bridge, is a Diamond Plus pickup with tuners that fit this 6-string guitar perfectly. The set of screw knobs here is of the Metal Knurled variety. The strings on the Omen Extreme 6 are quite good too.
People have come to love Schechter guitars for their impeccable Tune-o-Matic bridges. The Omen Extreme 6 is equipped with an equally impressive Floyd Rose bridge. On its headstock sits a set of locking tuners that do a terrific job of complimenting the super capable bridge perfectly. These two features alone make this one of the best guitars for players who like to go lose with string bending and chord picking. Simply put, the hardware on the Omen Extreme 6 works great.
Schechter Omen Extreme 6 is the type of guitar that will handle heavy gain distortion while still producing a decent sound. As an in-house pair, the pickups do an amazing job. The guitar also offers a wide range that dials in a variety of distorted and clean tones with pretty much ease. It can even go a few keys lower hence giving you a perfect drop D and deep sound with relative ease.
Guitar #11 – The Guitar I Bought
O.K., my bad. I had actually put this article to bed, but I was so interested in seeing if there was something better, I kept doing research. As fate would have it, I found another guitar that I just couldn’t keep it off the 10 best list. I present you with guitar number eleven, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner Single Cutaway Hollowbody. Buying this guitar was a difficult decesion for me. I don’t own a Telecaster style guitar and before starting to do the research for this article I was leaning heavily toward the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster. The reviews for the Classic Vibe Tele were incredibly positive. It’s a great guitar at an unbelievable price. But when it came down to it, I wanted to own a Gretsch.
Personally, I felt that this Gretsch is the Crème de la Crème of electric guitars under $500. It’s the one I couldn’t help but buy. I purchased it in the Aged Brooklyn Burst and it is visually a stunning guitar. What separated this guitar from the competition was an extraordinary combination of unparalleled versatility, build quality, ease of play, beauty, and its’ incredible tone. Likewise, it is one of the only guitars in the group where I didn’t read at least some owners saying that there was at least one thing they would eventually be changing out. There is isn’t a single component part on this guitar that I have even an inkling of wanting to switch out. That goes for the pickups, tuners, saddle, nut, frets, strings, etc.
Almost every review I read said that this guitar arrived with a near perfect setup. That’s one of the things convinced me that this was the guitar I wanted. That counts for a lot because a trip to your trusted luthier will set you back at least $100. When I received this guitar the setup was absolutely spot on. In the end, I decided to buy this guitar from Musicians Friend. They were running a 15% off sale, so I paid less than $400.00 for the guitar delivered to my door.
The Gretsch G2420 is a hollow-body, so it is well suited to many styles of music. In fact, after playing it for a while, I’m pretty amazed by it’s tone and it’s versatility. If you are into the blues, rock/blues, or jazz, this guitar is spectacular. The G2420 is well balanced, comfortable, and plays like butter. It sounds cliché, but this hollow-body Gretsch really does stand its’ ground with guitars costing a heck of a lot more money.
Important Considerations When Buying an Electric Guitar
You want a guitar that makes you feel great every time you pick it up and look at it. The look, color, the shape, feel, and sound of the guitar are all important. The guitar needs to inspire you to keep playing.
Try and match your guitar to your music tastes. While long time players and professionals may be fortunate enough to enjoy having a substantial collection of different guitars with varying tones, if this is going to be your “go to” instrument, make sure it fits the style of music you’d like to play. Don’t buy a guitar that was built for shredding and heavy metal if you’re into the blues. That’s not going to be a marriage made in heaven.
Make an accurate assessment of what you can afford to spend and set a budget. While it is generally true that that the larger your budget, the better the instrument, that doesn’t always hold true. In the collection of 10 great guitars we review here, there are several that deliver far more value and quality than their prices would suggest. If you are diligent in your research, you’ll end up with a really fine instrument at a price you can afford.
A great electric guitar should open up an entirely new world of music and enjoyment you have never experienced before. However, you need to have some knowledge about the things that differentiate a great guitar from one that is only average. So, to help you out in this endeavor, take a moment to read the information presented below. It will help you make a more informed decision.
The Body of The Guitar
Electric guitars come in 3 distinct body structures; solid, hollow, and semi-hollow. A guitar’s body has a remarkable impact on its sound quality. Consequently, certain guitars sound best in some specific genres and not in others.
Solid Body Electric Guitars – these are probably the most common of all other guitar varieties. The body is made entirely from wood. The solid body architecture of the instrument gives it increased sustain and a reduced feedback. The end result is that electric guitars with a solid body have the widest tone range among all other guitars. They, therefore, can be used to play any music. Nevertheless, they are the champions of rock and alternative music. You thus can’t go wrong when you pick a solid-body electric guitar for rock and/or alternative music.
Hollow Body Electric Guitars – this is the original design that was used on the very first electric guitars. Just like an acoustic guitar, a hollow-body electric has a completely hollow inside. This gives them a warm, mellow tone. The use of the hollow body has been extensive in jazz. It also makes a great instrument for country, folk and rock and roll. You can also tweak the setup to give you a distortion that is sweet, raunchy, and terrific for classic blues or rock tunes. On the whole, hollow body guitars will have more feedback than solid body electric guitars.
Eddie Durham and Charlie Christian made jazz music came to life with their hollowbody electric guitars
Semi-Hollow Body – this is an incredibly good all-purpose guitar. Why? Because it is a hybrid of the solid and hollow body types. Most of the time hybrids like semi-hollowbody guitars offer the greatest utility and allow the musician a better instrument for playing a wider variety of musical styles. These types of guitars have the best qualities of the solid body guitars such as reduced feedback and increased sustain, as well as the finest aspects of the hollow body such as the warm, mellow tones. Blues musicians particularly adore the semi-hollow body electric guitar. It is the duality of a sweet, mellow tone and amazing crunchy sound that makes this a favorite for many.
Chuck Berry and Freddie King touched the souls of many when they played the Blues on their semi-hollow body guitars
The heart of any electric guitar are its pickups. The pickup, in the form of a magnet with a wire coil, collects vibrations from the guitar string and converts them into an electric signal that can be translated and amplified into sound. A pickup can either be a single-coil or a double-coil.
Single-Coil Pickups – these represent the most basic pickup Like the name suggests they simply are a single coil of wire. Classically, single coils produce bright, punchy sounds. These are tones that will cut across other dense band sounds. John Mayer, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton among many other famous players used single coil pickup guitars. However, they produce a slight humming noise in some instances. The P90 is a single coil pickup that doesn’t have this noise. This is because the P90 employs a wide single coil that has a wide surface area for the guitar strings. The pickup thus collects more of the string vibrations resulting in a duller tone than a simple single coil pickup.
Humbucking Pickups – they are at times referred to as dual coil pickups, but more often they are simply referred to as humbuckers. Two single coil pickups are grouped together in series to constitute the humbucker. Humbuckers ‘buck the hum’ produced by single coil pickups. In simple terms, they eliminate it. They thus produce powerful rich tones without any buzzing or humming.
Guitars with double-coil pickups are ideal for thick, loud and powerful tones. They are also quite versatile hence their extensive use in rock, heavy metal and Jazz. Slash, Duane Allman and Jimmy Page are some of the notable names who played using the humbucker pickup.
Multiple pickups – Most electric guitars have multiple pickups. The very earliest electric guitars had only a single pickup. While there still are guitars being manufactured with a single pickup, the vast majority of modern guitars have 2 or 3 single coils, 2 or 3 humbuckers, or even a combination of humbuckers and single coils. Such setups offer the player greater range of tonal options. Access to the various pickups in your guitar is manipulated through controls such as rotatory knobs, toggle switches or blade selectors.
Piezo Pickups – unlike the humbuckers and single coils, Piezo pickups are crystalline. These are usually sensors in the guitar’s saddle. They additionally collect mechanical vibrations unlike the coil pickups use magnets to tap string vibrations. Consequently, Piezo pickups are sometimes used to trigger digital sounds or synthesizers. When used on an electric guitar piezo pickups are often utilized in the simulation of acoustic tones. They are also used alongside magnetic pickups to increase a guitar’s tone versatility.
Active Pickups and Electronics – Pickups can also be active or passive. Most guitar pickups are usually passive. An active pickup incorporates a preamp to shape the sound. They also use energy from batteries. Electric guitars may include also include other active electronics such as filters and equalization circuits. A guitar with active electronic has added sound control, higher output as well as clearer and cleaner sound.
Controls – most electric guitars have volume and tone controls to regulate the output signal. The controls can thus vary the sound giving you warm, mellow, soft tones or even very raw, distorted and brought sounds. Some newer guitars may even come with digital technology that gives you more sound variety than what a traditional electric guitar can give you. Some guitars also feature what is called coil splitting. This gives a player an even greater variety of pickup sounds to choose from in a single instrument.
This is the length of the vibrating string from the nut to the bridge. A short scale length is best for small hand since it offers less tension and easier string bending. A short scale produces warm tones. Long scale lengths, on the contrary, offer greater and tighter string tension. The tone from a longer scale is thus bright with a well-defined low end.
The neck extends from the body, and it’s the part where the tuners of the guitar are mounted. It includes a headstock and a fretboard. It also has a metal truss rod that holds the neck in place and prevents twisting or bowing. This truss rod can also be adjusted to maintain a constant pitch. The fretboard is commonly a thin layer of rosewood or mahogany. It can also be a maple neck in some models. Inlaid within the fretboard are dots or other markers. In some models, the markers are on the upper edge for enhanced visibility.
A guitar’s play-ability is greatly affected by the profile and width of the neck. These two features also impact on the comfort of the player when fretting. Therefore, the width and the depth of the neck is an important consideration when making a purchase. A player with small hands should go for a narrow, shallow neck. A beefier neck is conversely best for individuals with large hands.
Generally, a neck can be V-, U-or C-shaped. Experimental shape designs are however also available. Three commonly neck structures include:
Bolt-On Necks are usually bolted onto the body. This cost-effective model allows the neck to be replaced with relative ease. It nonetheless offers reduced resonance and sustain when compared to other neck construction models.
Set Necks are usually glued firmly onto the body. This offers stability as well as better resonance and sustain than bolt-on neck guitars. Nevertheless, neck replacements and repairs might be a bit of a problem with necks of this variety.
Neck-Through guitars characteristically feature a laminated neck spanning the entire guitar body with fins or wings projecting from the body. This offers enhanced stability and an increased sustain and resonance from the guitar. As you might guess, neck repairs and replacements here are not only difficult but costly too. Nonetheless, with the excellent stability offered here, such repairs and/or replacements are rarely required.
Though a guitar’s sound principally comes from an interaction between the vibrating strings and the pickup, the wood of the guitar has a significant role in modifying the sound produced by the guitar. It’s the wood’s resonance that determines the length of the strings’ vibration as well as what shape their motion takes. The wood may additionally regulate pickup movement. Various tonewood options are available.
Mahogany has been used in all parts of guitars except bridges and fretboards. It is usually rich brown in color and is also dense and strong. It, however, isn’t very hard and thus is best for mellow guitars playing midrange and bass frequencies. It, however, is very resonant and has an enhanced sustain.
Maple is usually favored for the neck. It can also be used on the fretboard to add to the sound definition. It usually is hard and dense. It is known to give attractive grain patterns called figuring. It gives an overall bright tone. The figuring and the brilliant tone mean that maple is often used as a top laminate or veneer for the expensive guitars.
Rosewood is common on many fretboards of electric guitars and occasionally on guitar bodies. It is beautiful with colors ranging from near-black to blond and variegated brown. It is usually very dense and hard; when used on the body, it may make the guitar quite heavy.
Ebony is primarily found on the fretboards of the pricey guitar models. It is usually very hard and dense. It is black and usually has a silky feel to it.
Ash is commonly used to make the body of solid body guitars. Compared to Mahogany, Ash is harder and more resonant too. It not only gives the guitar a well-defined midrange bright tone but also offers a ringing sustain. Ash is particularly appealing in that it is light colored with unique grain figuring. Hence, ash is almost always given a transparent Swamp ash is an exceptionally appealing tonewood that’s found on high-end guitars.
Alder is the most common tonewood on solid body guitars. It has tonal characteristics of ash but is less expensive. It is light tan in color and not as highly figured as ash. Hence, Alder often gets an opaque finish.
Agathis has the tonal characteristics and appearance of Alder. It, however, is less resonant and often used on the more affordable guitar models.
Nato or Eastern Mahogany is a very strong wood found on the necks of the less expensive guitars. It has a warm resonance and is considered to be quite cost effective.
Electric guitars come with a host of hardware styles for different uses. The quality of a guitar’s hardware is often directly proportional to the cost of that guitar. Better hardware often means that the guitar will have enhanced stability and versatility. The most crucial hardware components include the tuning machines, tailpieces, and bridges. Tuning machines are of particular importance. High quality tuners (like Grover’s) will not only make the guitar easier to tune, they will keep your guitar in tune for a very long time. Having a guitar that goes out of tune all the time is a major annoyance.
Once you know the various components of an electric guitar and how they affect the tone and sound, you must decide on what sound you are looking for. This obviously will be determined by the kind of music that you play. A blues or classic rock player needs a guitar that is powerful and offers a full sound. This can be offered by a solid or semi-hollow body guitar with a P90 or humbucker. Hollow body guitars are an excellent choice if you are playing folk or country. Modern day electric guitars may differ in tone, but many models do offer tremendous versatility and can be . Additionally, some accessories can help you replicate a myriad of tones and sounds.
Well, you pretty much can’t miss no matter which of these guitars you pick. We are very fortunate to live in an era when there are finely crafted and super affordable guitars coming out of China and the Far East. Yes, it’s always great to buy American, but with few exceptions, almost all of the companies we recognize as “American” guitar manufacturers are having the majority of their guitars built offshore. Why? Because they can build and import great guitars and sell them at prices that you and I can afford. How many of us can afford high-end, domestically manufactured guitars? And let’s be candid about this. If I were to give credence to even a small percentage of the criticisms I’ve read online regarding quality control issues with at least one of the domestic manufacturers, I’d be very reluctant to spend big bucks for one of their guitars.