While many of us pine for vintage Gibsons and Fenders, we take for granted that we’re living in an age unlike any other in terms of the availability of high quality, affordable, beginner guitars. The best beginner guitars come from pretty much every brand you could think of, and come in a wide range of styles.
But, with so many models of beginner electric guitars on the market, how do you know which model to go for? We’re going to help you answer that question!
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be showing you the best beginner guitars available today. During the reviews, we focused on tone, playability, and versatility. To make sure that everything was covered on a level playing field, we used the same Fender Twin Reverb amp for each test. Keep on reading to learn more!
Features: Coil splitting pots, Set neck construction, Alnico Classic pickups
Benefits: Genuine Les Paul tone, Fantastic playability, Iconic looks
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Features: Rosewood fretboard, HSS Pickup layout, Agathis body
Benefits: Lightweight comfort, Wide range of tones, Exceptional build quality
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Features: 12" Radius fretboard, 2 Point tremolo tailpiece, Graphite reinforced neck
Benefits: Fast playing, Super high output, Real metal styling
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- Our Top 3
- Individual Reviews
- How to Choose The Right Guitar For You
- Final Thoughts
Our Top 3
Our Top Pick was The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica. Featuring a resonant Agathis body, comfortable neck, and responsive fretboard, this guitar delivers good tones and nice playability for the beginner, at a fair price.
Guitarists looking for a super affordable beginner guitar should check out our Best Budget option, the Jackson Dinky JS11. It features a basswood body, solid playability and two Jackson high-output Humbuckers, which are great for rock and metal.
If you’re looking for the very best beginner guitar, check out our Editor’s Choice, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio. It’s as close to a Gibson as you’re going to get in the beginner price range in terms of build quality, tones, and playability, making it a top choice for those OK with spending a little more.
HSS configuration on a fantastic beginner instrument.
The Pacifica line of electric guitars by Yamaha is extremely popular among beginners and for good reason. The PAC012 comes as a Strat-type guitar with an HSS pickup configuration and delivers superb quality and is a great value for those that are just starting out.
The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica is made with an Agathis body and our test model came in a Metallic Blue finish. Agathis is a popular substitute for mahogany (in guitar bodies) as it is more economical while still retaining some of the darker quality and sustain that mahogany delivers.
This guitar had an HSS layout, which is a great setup for beginner a instrument. The Yamaha Ceramic Humbucker in the bridge position gave us punchy cleans as well as a powerful distorted sound once we ran it through our fuzz and distortion pedals. We loved this position for rock riffs and power chords, and even for metal playing with more aggressive gain.
Moving on to the middle position pickups, we got great tone from the ceramic single-coil, which gave us a snappy tone and a penetrating quality. With some saturation, we liked this pickup for overdriven parts, especially for blues and rock.
The neck pickup gave us a warmer quality that still had some single coil bite to it. We liked the neck pickup both for clean and darker tones as well as for distorted parts that were not as aggressive as the neck and middle pickups.
In terms of playability, this Pacifica guitar felt fantastic. With a comfortable and fast C-shaped maple neck and premium feeling rosewood fingerboard, it both looked and felt amazing. It had a traditional 13.75″ radius and a Fender-like 25.5″ scale length. We felt right at home playing this Pacifica guitar, and so will any beginner.
Verdict: The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica delivers a versatile HSS pickup configuration that gives you both humbucker and single-coil tones for maximum versatility. With a penetrating sound in both clean and distorted tones, and a comfortable neck and fretboard, this guitar is a fantastic choice for those that want to start out right.
Muscular humbucker tone at an affordable price.
For decades, Jackson has been one of the best-known guitar brands for rock and metal, with a solid reputation for fantastic high gain performance. The Jackson Dinky JS11 keeps that tradition alive, and comes in a Super-Strat body shape that delivers high octane on a budget.
The Jackson Dinky JS11 was built with a basswood body, and two Jackson High-output Humbuckers. Our test model came in a classic white finish, and considering the price, we were really impressed with the quality.
We put both of the ceramic-magnet humbuckers through their paces with a dry signal first, and then through several of our distortion and reverb pedals. The bridge pickup gave us a punchy and feisty tone when paired with our fuzz pedals, and muscular distortion when dialed in with traditional rock saturation. It gave our heavier riffs and solos that aggressive quality that is needed for hi-gain genres.
The neck position pickup worked well for hard rock and other similar styles. Also a Jackson high output humbucker, the neck pickup gave us an aggressive quality but with a rounder and slightly warmer feel. This pickup sounded best played clean, but also paired well with distortion, reverb, and modulation pedals.
Playability is hugely important for any beginner, and the Dinky JS11 has some of the best you’ll find on any start model. We really liked the feel of the Jackson Speed Neck profile – it was lightning fast and super comfortable for smaller hands. It had anAmaranth fingerboard,with 22 jumbo frets, a scale length of 25.5″, and a nut width of 1.6875″, all combining to deliver a comfortable playing experience at all times.
Verdict: The Jackson Dinky JS11 is a good choice for beginners that are interested in playing rock or metal. This guitar comes with two Jackson High-output humbuckers that deliver great distorted and clean tones and a comfortable neck for nice playability on a good and affordable instrument.
Superior features to start your guitar journey.
As a Gibson subsidiary, Epiphone shares Gibson’s model lineup, and since the introduction of the “Inspired By” range in 2020, these entry level Epiphones have never been better. This Les Paul delivers that legendary warm tone and sustain, but a much more affordable price that will appeal to beginners and even more advanced savvy guitarists.
The Epiphone Les Paul Studio came with the same tonewood combination as the Gibson version – a mahogany body with a carved maple cap. We received an Ebony model for our test (which we absolutely loved), but if black isn’t your thing, it’s also available in Alpine White, Smokehouse Burst, and Wine Red.
It was fitted with a pair of Epiphone Alnico Classic humbuckers, and a 3 way selector switch. As for how it sounded, we found it to have the full range of Les Paul tones. The neck position had the classic, thick, warmth, which sounded great both clean, and slightly overdriven. The sustain was fantastic, and unlike some of the cheaper Epiphone Les Pauls, and copies from other brands, we didn’t find any muddiness.
In the bridge position, it served up an amazing array of tones. When played clean it was incredibly sharp, with tons of clarity, and when pushed into overdrive it gave us everything from guttural chug, to screaming lead lines.
The playability on this guitar was great, too, thanks to the 1960s SlimTaper D neck profile. Topping the neck was a Pau Ferro fretboard, with 22 very well finished frets.. It had a typical Gibson 24.75″ scale length that also felt great.
Other high end features on this Les Paul included a LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic Bridge with Stopbar Tailpiece, which gave this guitar rock solid tuning stability and accurate intonation from top to bottom.
Verdict: The Epiphone Les Paul Studio delivers a resonant tone and feel, and at a much lower price than Gibson. With fantastic playability and that fat, warm tone that’s made the Les Paul so iconic, you get a great beginner guitar that you’re not likely to ever outgrow.
Single coil and humbucker tones on a timeless design.
Squier is one of the most respected brands when it comes to quality instruments for beginners. Those starting out will appreciate the good tone and nice playability that the Affinity Stratocaster provides, as well as the fact that it can be used to play any style that sparks your interest.
The Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster features a lightweight poplar body and our test model came in a gorgeous Sienna Sunburst finish with a Gloss Polyurethane topcoat. It had an HSS pickup configuration, which gave us a variety of both humbucker and single coil tones.
We began our tests on clean on the neck pickup, a ceramic single-coil. We liked the warmer tone with its clear single-coil bite to it, and found it good for blues and even jazz playing. Although we liked how this pickup sounded clean, it was not an ideal choice for distortion, as it lacked clarity when pushed into heavier overdrive.
Moving on to the middle pickup, we got a nice single coil twang on clean. We also liked it when combined with the neck pickup, for funky rhythms that had the ability tocut through a dense mix. With a bit of overdrive, the middle pickup gave us a nice forward tone for single note runs and found that it worked nicely for blues and even light rock.
Finally, the ceramic humbucker bridge pickup gave us a punchy tone with authentic Strat bite, especially when overdriven. We liked it for playing blues and rock riffs, power chords, as well as leads.
As for playability, the Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster gave a comfortable playing experience. Beginners will also love the comfortable C-shaped neck profile with a standard Fender 25.5″ scale length and 9.5 radius and the maple neck with laurel fingerboard also felt good for a beginner’s guitar that is inexpensive.
Verdict: The Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster delivers a good tone and nice playability for beginners. With an HSS pickup configuration, this guitar gives a versatile and comfortable playing experience with authentic Fender playability and tone. For a more in depth look at this guitar, check out our full review.
Versatility, tone, comfort, and a unique look.
Kramer has developed a solid reputation among rockers and shredders and is also known for providing quality instruments for beginners. The VT-211S is a super affordable option with a versatile HSS configuration and a striking look.
The Kramer Focus VT-211S features a mahogany body, which was pretty unique for a budget Strat style guitar. Our test model came in a pretty outlandish Hot Pink finish. We started our tests by playing on the neck pickup, a Kramer Alnico V SC-1 single-coil. We liked it clean, and our open chords and arpeggios sounded great, particularly when paired with reverb and modulation pedals. However, the neck pickup sounded a bit muddy with distortion.
In the bridge position , it gave us an aggressive attack and bite with pronounced midrange, especially once we paired it with our distortion pedal. This was the ideal pickup for power chords and heavy riffing, perfect for rock and even blues. Leads also sounded good on this pickup, with nice sustain and bite.
Cleans also sounded good on the bridge pickup and had a penetrating quality that were able to cut nicely through a busy mix. Moving on to the middle pickup, we got more of a traditional twang. Although we liked it clean, we preferred to use it for overdrive, and it sounded good for blues solos and comping.
With a five-way switch and individual tone and volume knobs, this guitar came in an easy-to-use Strat configuration. The neck is very comfortable which will be an added plus for beginners. With a familiar 25.5″ scale length, a 12″ radius, and 21 medium jumbo frets we felt comfortable during the entirety of our tests. Besides offering good tone and nice playability, this Kramer is an inexpensive option that punches well above its weight.
Verdict: The Kramer Focus VT-211S is a good choice for beginners looking for a good tone and a comfortable playing experience on a really affordable instrument. With a humbucker on the bridge position and two single coils for the middle and neck positions, this guitar is versatile and can be used for several styles, including rock, blues, country, and even jazz.
Versatile Strat design for the beginner.
The Cutlass series of guitars are among this company's most popular. The CT30HSS gives beginners a good tone and playability while remaining affordable.
The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30HSS features a jabon body and a versatile HSS pickup configuration on a typical 5-way blade switch design. With an elegant Vintage Sunburst color on a nice gloss finish, this guitar looks as good as it plays.
As soon as we grabbed this guitar from the box, we liked the Maple neck and how to articulate it with the laurel fingerboard. This choice of tonewoods provided us with excellent feel and touch, and a great playing experience across the entire fretboard. To round it off, this Cutlass also featured a 12-inch fingerboard radius, a 1.65-inch nut, and a 25.5-inch scale length, which gave us a familiar feel that will benefit beginners and more advanced players alike.
The Cutlass comes with Sterling by Music Man Single-coil pickups on the middle and neck position and a Sterling by Music Man Humbucker for the bridge. For distorted sounds, we liked the bridge pickup for rock and more aggressive blues, as it gave us a forward punch once we paired it with our distortion stop boxes.
We also liked the neck pickup for distortion, as it gave us a darker and rounder flavor but with a single coil twang that was great for blues soloing. On the other hand, clean tones sounded best on position 4 and on the bridge pickup. Although the middle pickup sounded well with a bit of overdrive, we felt that it was not a good choice for clean tones as it lacked a bit of definition on the high end.
Verdict: The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30HSS is a good choice for beginners looking for a versatile pickup configuration that delivers good tone, as well as a comfortable and responsive neck and fretboard. With good playability and sound, this Cutlass guitar also comes at an affordable price.
Vintage tone and feel with modern features.
Gretsch is one of the best-known music brands, revered for offering great instruments for all types of musicians. The G2210 Streamliner is a good choice for beginners as it delivers genuine Gretsch feel and playability at an affordable price.
The Gretsch G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet Club is a solid body guitar that features a lightweight nato body on a retro-looking Vintage White color. We liked how this guitar felt from the moment we picked it up.
We plugged in and started our tests with the neck pickup, a Broad’Tron Humbucker. Here we got a warm tone that was great for blues and jazz. Although this pickup matched nicely with our distortion pedal, we felt that it was at its best on clean, as it delivered an articulate tone with a darker quality.
The bridge pickup is also a Broad’Tron Humbucker, and we liked it best with our distortion pedals. We got a forward tone that was rich in harmonics, great for rock riffs and blues soloing alike. We also liked how this pickup responded to overdrive, with a punch and detailed tone.
We also liked the authentic Gretsch playability on this Streamliner. It came with a nato neck and laurel fingerboard, as well as 22 medium jumbo frets. Although this guitar was relatively comfortable to play, we wished it was a bit smoother.
Verdict: The Gretsch G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet Club is a good guitar for beginners that prefer a more vintage type of tone and feel. With two humbuckers that deliver a good tone, this guitar can be used to play rock, blues, jazz, rockabilly, and more, and will likely last you for years to come.
How to Choose The Right Guitar For You
Choosing the best beginner electric guitar is an important decision that can greatly impact your learning experience and overall enjoyment of the instrument. With countless options available, it can be overwhelming to navigate the sea of choices. Below we walk you through some key factors to consider.
For most beginners, budget is the foremost consideration. Therefore, a great starting point is to establish a realistic budget. Electric guitars come in a wide range of prices, so having a clear budget in mind will help you narrow down your options and ensure you find a guitar that meets your needs without breaking the bank. There are some phenomenal options for under $300 that should more than fit the bill for any beginner.
Identify the music genres or styles you aspire to play. Different guitar models have distinct tonal characteristics that can complement specific genres. For instance, if you’re interested in rock or blues, solid-body guitars are the way to go. On the other hand, if jazz is your thing, consider an archtop or semi-hollow body instrument.
As a beginner, it’s crucial to choose a guitar that is easy to play and comfortable to practice with. This will significantly cut down on the inevitable frustration that arises when learning guitar. Factors affecting playability include the neck shape and width, fretboard radius, and overall construction quality. Look for a guitar with a smooth and comfortable neck, well-leveled frets, and a reasonable action (string height above the fretboard).
Pickups are a critical component of an electric guitar, responsible for capturing the sound and transmitting it to an amplifier. There are two primary types of pickups: single-coil and humbucker. Single-coil pickups offer a bright, clear tone with excellent note definition, making them suitable for genres like country, funk, or jazz. Humbuckers, on the other hand, produce a thicker, warmer tone with reduced noise and are commonly associated with rock and metal. Some guitars offer a combination of both pickup types, providing greater versatility. If standard single coils or humbuckers aren’t what you’re looking for, then you may want to take a look at guitars with P90 pickups.
There are plenty of options for beginner electric guitars out there. In this article, we’ve given you seven of the best models on the market, as well as a brief guide on what to look for when choosing the best beginner electric guitar for you.
To recap our choices, our Top Pick was The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica. It comes with an Agathis body and is a great choice for beginners looking for a comfortable neck, good sound, and nice playability at a fair price.
If you are looking for a great beginner guitar at a very low price consider our Best Budget option, the Jackson Dinky JS11. With a basswood body, good playability and two Jackson High-output Humbuckers, this guitar delivers muscular distortion at low cost.
Last but not least, if you’re after the best beginner guitar, check out our Editor’s Choice, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio. It comes with a mahogany body with a maple top that delivers the fat tones that Les Pauls are renowned for but at a fraction of the cost.