In a previous article, a guest contributor shared about the best acoustic guitars for beginners.
Many beginners do begin their guitar-playing journey on the acoustic guitar.
After all, beginner acoustic guitars are portable and inexpensive. Some guitarists and teachers even believe it’s preferable to start on an acoustic guitar over an electric guitar, because it’s more challenging to play.
Acoustic guitars are generally furnished with heavier strings than acoustic guitars are, and the action can also be higher.
But this raises an important question – should beginners start on an acoustic or electric guitar?
Acoustic or Electric – Which is Better for Beginners?
This is a matter of opinion.
Personally, I believe that an entry-level classical guitar is ideal for a beginner, unless they are still young, and their hands aren’t fully developed. The neck on a classical guitar is considerably wider than most acoustics or electrics, so it can be tough to play with smaller hands.
The main reason I say a classical guitar is ideal for a beginner is because they use nylon strings, which are far easier on your fingers than steel strings tend to be.
But there are excellent acoustic and electric guitars for beginners too. The key thing for me is that it should be easy to play.
This flies in the face of what some players and teachers believe, but I don’t think your first guitar should be difficult to play. This could discourage you from getting the practice necessary to advance as a player.
So, whether it’s an acoustic or an electric guitar, good beginner guitars are first and foremost easy to play.
With this in mind, let’s look at several electric guitars suited to beginners.
Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster Beginner Electric Guitar
The Affinity Strat sounds somewhat comparable to a “real Strat”, and it plays like one too.
In most cases, you’ll probably want to get a tech to adjust the action, but it’s usually playable without the tweaks.
If you’ve got a bit of a budget, it might be preferable to get a Mexican Stratocaster. I still own one to this day, and I use it both on stage and in the studio. It works just fine as a beginner guitar, aside from the fact that it costs more.
But in general, the Squier Affinity Stratocaster will give you a bit of instant gratification if you’re craving that Fender sound (i.e. Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, etc.), and I have no doubt this was the starting place for many electric guitarists.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is a great guitar, but I can’t recommend it unless you’ve got a bit of a budget.
As with the Mexican Stratocaster, I could easily imagine myself using an Epiphone Les Paul in the studio and on stage. I still recall one gig where I did in fact use an Epiphone as a backup guitar.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all guitars are created equal, even if the brand and model are identical.
So, when you’re trying to pick out an Epiphone Les Paul Standard, it shouldn’t be based on its color, but rather its build quality. That’s something you won’t know unless you pick up and play one.
This is a great choice if you love that classic rock sound epitomized by players like Slash and Jimmy Page, but don’t want to pay the big bucks to get it.
When you spend $200 with Ibanez, it’s more like you’re spending $400 to $600 with most companies.
First off, even signature Ibanez guitars rarely cost more than $1,500, unless you’re looking to buy a Joe Satriani or Steve Vai signature guitar. There aren’t too many makers that offer their top shelf guitar for $1,500 or less. So, even when you don’t feel like you’re spending that much, oftentimes you’re still getting a decent guitar.
One thing to keep in mind with Ibanez is feel. Strats tend to have a relatively “balanced” neck – not too bulky, not too thin. Meanwhile, Epiphone Les Pauls tend to have a thicker, chunkier baseball neck – not as bad as some brands, but still considerable.
An Ibanez usually has what I’d call a “fast” neck – ultrathin and easy to play. But if you’re not used to it, it might feel weird. It’s always best to try a guitar before deciding to buy it. Still, the Ibanez GRX70QA is worth a look.
Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012
The Yamaha Pacifica is affordable, durable, and reliable.
In my mind, there isn’t much difference between this guitar and the Squier Affinity Strat.
So, it’s basically good to go right out of the box, though it’s always best to get a quick setup from your local tech.
Aside from that, there’s nothing special to report here. It’s just a solid, dependable beginner electric guitar from a company that produces some great products.
Final Thoughts – How Do I Decide Which Guitar To Buy?
Guitar is mostly a feel thing. This means it’s important to sit down and physically play a guitar if you’re trying to figure out which one is the right one for you.
Granted, as a beginner, you might not feel much of a difference. You haven’t started training your fingers to contort into weird shapes just yet.
So, then it mostly comes down to the thickness of the neck and the sound of the guitar itself. Again, this isn’t something you can know without playing each of the guitars.
I started on a Squier Affinity Strat, and that was perfect for me. A few years later, I discovered the Ernie Ball Music Man Axis and haven’t looked back, but that turned out to be my ideal guitar. I would not have known that if I hadn’t spent several years working on my technique beforehand.
So, your first electric guitar probably won’t be your ideal guitar. But it should be good enough that you can enjoy playing it.