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cbloom8's avatar

I'm planning on buying my first electric guitar - any buying advice?

Asked by cbloom8 (1703 points ) July 20th, 2010

I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for a few months and I would like to purchase my first electric guitar. I’m not looking to spend too much on the guitar, amp, and accessories (<$300) but I would still like a solid guitar that can last me for several years. A few key questions I hope to address are:

What specs should I be looking at, and what should I aim for in a beginner’s guitar?

Any suggested brands?

Are beginner’s kits decent enough quality, or should spend a little more and buy the guitar, amp, and accessories separately?

Any other advice?

Thanks, and let me know if you have any questions,

Cameron

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14 Answers

ipso's avatar

Brand? Style? Go for your gut. Go for the love.

Go to a big guitar shop and try everything. Pick one out, but don’t buy it. Then look on Craigslist and see if you can find a smokin’ deal for something similar. I say definitely buy used.

It’s all about the neck feel until you learn how to play. Then it’s all about the tone!

Try a Stratocaster. Try a Gibson or something with a big flat fretboard.

You don’t have to spend much to get a decent guitar, but in my experience it’s best to double-up your initial purchase investment, otherwise you might find you have useless junk almost immediately.

TexasDude's avatar

Depends on what kind of sound you want. A guitar with two humbucker pickups would be a good start. Stay the hell away from the “First Act” brand. Also, avoid the BC Rich low end guitars. Squiers are kind of crappy too. Epiphone is good to go. Schecter is great too.

You can always do what I did and save up and buy a Schecter Ultra III like I did. It will last you forever and it is an amazing guitar.

Send me a private message if you have any specific questions. I’ve been playing guitar for like… 10 years and I know a bit about the hobby.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

If you buy new – with the whole shebang coming in for under $300 – you are pretty much going to be restricted to the lowest rungs of the model ladders offered by Squier (budget division of Fender) and Epiphone (budget division of Gibson, but not exclusively) and the amp is going to be small and probably all solid-state. There are certainly other guitar makers out there, but you’ll be in the same boat (bargain basement model from China/Indonesia/...). The place where corners will be cut will be most likely be in terms of finish and especially the pickups. With some investment some of these problems can be remedied yourself if you are handy or willing to learn.

I’d definitely suggest checking out sites like Harmony Central’s reviews database for people’s opinions on the gear. Many, many people demo their gear on YouTube too, so if they post with decent sound you can get something of an idea what it sounds like (disregard if they just play metal… you won’t get an idea of the quality of clean tone).

Beware of the sales people in the Mom and Pop music stores, they can be just like the stereotypical used car salesmen. If you don’t want to be bothered while you look around, go to a Guitar Center when it’s busy. :D You’ll NEVER get timely help there!

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

Oh, and don’t make the amp an afterthought! If anything, your tone is more powerfully determined by your amp than your guitar (and technique trumps both).

TexasDude's avatar

@hiphiphopflipflapflop, is right. I started with a cheap 10 watt solid state amp and I was really discouraged when I was first learning because of how terrible the tone was. I have a 40 watt all tube amp now and I’ve never looked back. Saving up for a good amp the first time will save you a lot of pain.

Randy's avatar

Guitar is not a cheap hobby. Trust me! If you only have $300 to spend, you defiantly wanna buy used from someone, but you still may have to save a bit more to get something worth your money. I suggest trying to buy from a musician, personally but look up what they have before you buy it. They may want to over charge but most musicians take care of their instruments/gear. If you buy from a pawn shop then you’re pretty much just looking at the stuff that a musician felt was shit and worth the 1/5 retail price to sell or you’re looking at equipment that’s low end and that discouraged someone from actually learning how to play. You can find good deals at pawnshops sometimes but rarely.

The bundles suck. Period. They are extremely low end instruments and amps. They will frustrate you more than help you learn. Like @Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard mentioned, Epiphone and Schecter are going to be you’re best brands to give you the most bang for you’re buck so to speak. They’re great for beginners and will last until you decide to upgrade, if you decide to. New, they’re going to run you around $400 just by themselves though for a decent model. Spend some time looking. I bought a 4 year old Epi Les Paul Standard identical to the one pictured for $150. It retailed for about $500 when the dude I bought it from bought it. I had to modify it a bit to get it how I wanted it but it all worked out really well. It’s my go to axe at the moment. You can find a good deal if you be patient and look.

Silvertone makes beginner guitars that are hit and miss. I’ve owned two and one was beyond great and the other was pure shit. They don’t sell the good model I had anymore but it was similar to this which would run you around $200. Buying that is risky though and could be awesome or horrible. If you try it and it’s shit, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

As far as amps go, a tube amp will give you a warmer, better toned sound but a solid state is cheaper. I have a Marshall MG 100HDFX head. I gave $600 two years ago for it and the cab. It’s 100 watts and really impressive for a solid state head but I really wish I’d have saved my money a got a tube. You won’t need anything that powerful or big unless you want to play shows but my point is this, you’re better off to save a little and buy a good tube amp (even if it’s a smaller one) than to buy a solid state because you will regret it at some point down the road if you continue to play.

Like I said, guitar is not a cheap hobby. Really, any musical hobby is pretty expensive. There are good deals out there though. Just be patient and someone will want to get rid of some gear. Be patient, look at everything you hear is for sale and be sure to do you’re homework on it before you buy it. Those are the keys to finding good deals on anything.

Coloma's avatar

Good luck!

Funny, my daughter started out with electric at 11 and is now into acoustic at 22.
I surprised her with a beautiful double cut away for Xmas last year.

Check out Craigslist, I found a private dealer with a lot of inventory and good prices.

jazmina88's avatar

Play before you buy…..to make sure it fits “YOU”

like a new pair of shoes.

Rufus_T_Firefly's avatar

I’ve owned dozens of guitars and would have to agree with the general consensus. Buy used and you’ll generally get a better deal. The better the guitar, the better your chances of sticking with it and increasing your learning curve. A cheap or badly made guitar can be very difficult to play, especially for a beginner. Don’t let a dealer sell you on the latest fad guitar or combo set. They aren’t worth the disappointment you’ll feel after getting stuck with one. As someone said above, Epiphone, Fender and Ibanez all make some fairly good starter instruments and don’t scrimp on the amplification. There are many decent beginner amps in the 20–50 watt range and remember that an amp with a 12-inch speaker will probably sound much better than an 8— or 10-inch speaker. Also, a neck-through guitar is much preferable to a bolt-on neck and the action (the distance between the bottom of the strings and the frets) both play a major part in playability. The depth and shape of the neck can determine the ease of fretting various chords, so look around, try them all and find out which type you prefer. Good luck in your search.

tedd's avatar

Picking an electric is significantly harder than picking an acoustic (though playing an acoustic is/learning on one is harder than on electric).

There’s plenty of advice on here already so I won’t bog you down with more. But something to know…. Double humbucker guitars (where it has two “pairs”, or more, of the little metal circle things) are better for heavier metal/punk rock/thrashing, rock sound. Single humbuckers (where it typically has 3 singular lines of the little metal circles) are more twangy/bluesey/jazzy sound.

Anon_Imus's avatar

Go to a pawnshop (or something like it) and find a guitar that feels good in your hands and looks good and inspires you to play it. Don’t get hung up on the technical aspects of it, just try to get the sounds you want out of it.
I recommend seeing the movie “It Might Get Loud”, especially the Jack White parts… his DIY attitude is inspiring.

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mhandzy's avatar

Get a Les Paul 100. they are only 299, and you get a good starter instument. I have an Epiphone Casino “Inspired by John Lennon” and l love it half to death. Its amazing. Save up for that, and you have a good 4–5 years of a guitar. John played his for about 15. Amazing. Just save up for a $300—$400 guitar.

dabbler's avatar

Danelectro make some decent hollow body guitars that you can play without an amp for practice.

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