With more signature models than ever coming soon in 2021, we’ve given the artists' models their own category for the first time. Here’s our 20-strong pick of what's new.
Sterling by Music Man 2021 Majesty MAJ200XQM and JP150DSM
The Dream Theater guitarist is one of the most candent stars in the galaxy of shred, and befitting a man of such status he has signature models coming out of his ears, including TWO new models for 2021..
His 2021 SbMM Majesty arrives in Cerulean Paradise with immaculate quilted maple veneer, an ebony fretboard, stainless steel frets (!), and Dimarzio LiquiFire Crunch Lab humbuckers.
And his JP150DSM is a looker too, in a Blood Orange Burst finish, with spalted maple top and the same hardware spec as the Majesty, locking tuners et al – with an active push-push pot for adding 12dB of boost whenever your solo needs to cut through the mix.
The 2021 Majesty is available to order now, priced £1,749 / $1,399, as is the JP150DSM, priced £1,499 / $1,199.
See Sterling By Music Man for more details.
ESP Kirk Hammett 30th Anniversary KH-3 Spider
Yes, ESP is bringing the KH-3 Spider back – a guitar made most famous in the hands of Metallica's Kirk Hammett.
Specs-wise, the pickups have been updated, with Hammett's signature EMG BoneBreaker humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions. These are controlled by two volume controls and a master tone dial, with a three-way pickup selector switch.
The neck-through build sees a solid alder body paired with three-piece maple neck and Macassar ebony fingerboard. We are glad to report that the fingerboard remains a nightmare for arachnophobes, has 24 extra-jumbo frets, and is scalloped beyond the 17th fret for maximum shred.
The LTD KH-3 should be available February, price £1,379 / $1,299 street. While the Japanese Custom Shop ESP KH-3 will be out later in the year, priced £4,599 / $4,699.
See ESP for more details.
Collings 470 JL Julian Lage
Collings has unveiled a stunning new signature electric guitar for jazz phenom and composer Julian Lage. A hollowbody electric with a trestle block, the 470 JL follows on from the success of Lage's OM1 JL acoustic, and has been years in the making.
The body comprises a maple laminate top, complemented by solid Honduran mahogany on the back and sides, bound in non-grained ivoroid. Glued to the body with an extra long mortise and tenon, the mahogany neck is carved into a custom C/V hybrid profile that measures a comfortable 21.6mm at the 1st fret, 24.3mm at the 9th.
This would make a incredible option for the adventurous jazz player and rock 'n' roll player alike, with custom-wound Ron Ellis Ellisonic pickups – inspired by mid-50s DeArmond Dynasonics – driving the design of the guitar as Lage sought a mid-50s electric guitar sound.
See Collings for more details.
Kramer signature models for Tracii Guns, Dave “the Snake” Sabo, and Charlie Parra
Someone should check in with Kramer because here we are in 2021 and all the calendars in at the workshop are stuck on 1984. When it comes to spec'ing shreddable guitars, though, this is forever an asset.
You know what you are getting from Kramer: quick necks, hockey stick headstocks, a hotrodded feel and the occasionally retina-bothering finish. The Gibson-owned brand has unveiled a huge selection of electric guitars, updating the Modern and Original Collections and releasing three stand-out signature models for Tracii Guns, Skid Row's Dave "the Snake" Sabo and Charlie Parra.
The Kramer Gunstar Voyager is what you'd call a shape, its star profile mahogany Voyager body has a Black Metallic finish and flame graphic. It has a three-piece maple neck that's carved into a slim C and glued to the body. The headstock could take out your eye. Price $899.
Dave "the Snake" Sabo's signature model is based on his favourite Baretta and has a Snake graphic over Snake Green Gloss finish. It features a reverse headstock, a three-piece maple neck that's carved into a K-Speed SlimTaper profile and left with a natural Satin finish. Price $949.
The Charlie Parra Vanguard is finished in Candy Apple Red Gloss and has a Rhoads-esque asymmetric V-shaped body with a sculpted area that exposes more of the upper-frets on the treble-side of the fingerboard. It has a solid mahogany body, with a bolt-on three-piece maple neck, a bound ebony fretboard with 22 jumbo frets, dot inlays with a Day of the Dead owl at the 12th. Price $899.
See Kramer for more details.
Epiphone Nancy Wilson Fanatic
The Epiphone Nancy Wilson Fanatic is one for 90s Gibson fans. Remember the Nighthawk? Well that is the body shape that is being used here, and it is sure to be interesting to those who like the Les Paul solidbody singlecut vibe but worry about all that weight.
A smaller-bodied electric, the Fanatic loses the Nighthawk's middle pickup for a dual-humbucker configuration that pairs an open-coil ProBucker 3 Slant at the bridge with a nickel-covered ProBucker FB720 at the neck.
With a five-way pickup selector, master volume and tone controls, there should be plenty of range in the Fanatic's voice – which makes perfect sense for Nancy Wilson, because Heart have got guitar tones from across the rock spectrum.
The Epiphone Slash Signature Series
The Slash Signature Series is coming to Epiphone and will feature the same finish options as the Gibson models.
The news was shared by Slash himself, with the Guns N' Roses guitarist sharing a picture of the five Les Pauls on his Instagram account. "Here they are in all their glory, the Epiphone Slash Signature Series due out this year," he wrote. "They play & sound killer. & look good too."
With Slash having let the cat out of the bag, expect official confirmation from Epiphone, and we'll bring you news of the spec just as soon as it is announced.
Ibanez Lari Basilio LB1 signature model
Lari Basilio's LB1 assumes the form of Ibanez's quite magnificent new Tele-inspired AZS series and adds a number of signature flourishes, most significantly Basilio's signature Seymour Duncan pickups.
Arranged in an HSS configuration and fitted with gold covers, these were wound with the LB1 in mind.
Basilio likes to get involved in all kinds of styles so it is no surprise to see that the LB1's switching options are particularly interesting.
Here, Ibanez and Basilio have deployed a dyna-MIX9 switching system, which sees a mini-switch join forces with the five-way pickup selector for a total of nine core sound variations from the pickups, including running both single-coils in series for a humbucker effect.
At £2,399 / $4,999 street, all this luxury does not come cheap. But like Steve Vai's PIA series, you get what you pay for.
See Ibanez for more details.
Mark Lettieri's new signature PRS doublecut is offered in three finish options and comes with a number of personal touches – including a whole new body shape.
The Fiore – Italian for "flower" – is an aesthetically pleasing doublecut with an HSS pickup configuration custom-wound to Lettieri's specifications. The Fiore has a bolt-on, maple neck, 22-fret maple 'board, and a Fender-esque 25.5" scale.
But it's the Fiori all-new body shape for PRS – carved from solid swamp ash with contoured cutaways that – really dazzles.
Priced £2,599 / $2,449 street, the Fiore is available to preorder. See PRS for more details.
PRS Silver Sky Limited Edition Lunar Ice
Does a fresh finish count as a new release? Perhaps not. This fancy-schmancy edition of John Mayer's PRS Silver Sky is unchanged from the formula that has made it one of the most successful artist tie-ins in recent years.
You've got the same early 60s Strat feel in a modern build – the 635JM neck profile, the trio of 635JM single-coils, and a tremolo that sits flush to the body to enhance resonance. So, not much change.
But this limited edition Lunar Ice colour, with its polychromatic metallic off-pink changing as the light hits it really looks incredible. Last year, the Nebula "flip-flop" finish was sold in a flash. With only 1000 models in existence, if you've been hankering after some Silver Sky action, we'd pull the trigger on this with no delay.
Street price is £2,825 / $2,699.
If you miss out, then the Silver Sky is still available in 16 colour and maple or rosewood fretboard options, and remains a high-end option for old-school S-style tone and feel.
See PRS for more details.
Dean Dime Razorback Rust
Paying tribute to late Pantera guitar hero Dimebag, Dean's Dime Razorback Rust returns for 2021 as part of the US company's Artist Series.
That is big news for the far beyond driven guitarists out there who missed out on its original custom shop run of 100. This one is not for the shrinking violet. The Dime Razorback Rust has a striking finish and, err, rust-themed graphic, while the bevelled mahogany body is carved into one of the most aggressive shapes on the market. It makes the BC Rich Warlock look like a Squier Hello Kitty.
It is built to shred, and built tough, featuring a set three-piece mahogany neck with 22-frets, 14"-radius rosewood fingerboard and Dime's razorblade inlay on the 12th fret.
Pickups are a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers – a Dimebucker SH13 in the bridge and the classic ’59 model in the neck.
The Dime Razorback Rust also features a Floyd Rose 1000 Series tremolo, a locking nut, black 18:1 Grover tuners, a locking nut and is fitted with Dimebag Darrell’s signature Hi-Voltage DR guitar strings.
If you are worrying about trying to find a case to fit this beast, then rest assured: it comes with a hardshell case. As the man himself would say, getcha pull. It's yours for $1,349. See Dean for more details.
Fender Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster
The Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster is based on Isbell's well-travelled and well-played 1954 model.
Particular attention has been paid to the pickups, which have been custom wound for that late 50s Tele twang, with a three-way selector and volume and tone controls. It has a 60s C profile maple neck and a 21-fret, 7.25" radius rosewood fingerboard, and its neck is bolted to the body in time-honoured style
The relic'd Chocolate Sunburst finish is very nice indeed. But it is player-friendly such as the cut Telecaster bridge that really sweeten the deal. The Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster is priced £1249 / $1499 / €1439 and is available from May.
Fender Chrissie Hynde Signature Telecaster
This exquisite signature Telecaster for the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde is a replica of her much-loved '65 model, which she bought in New York City almost 40 years ago.
There's an alder body, a bolt-on maple neck and a few appointments that set this apart from other Teles on the market.
For a start, that RoadWorn lacquer puts some lovely checking and crackle in the finish. Then you have a pair of vintage-style ‘50s single-coil pickups, wound to replicate those on Hynde's original Tele, plus a 6-stainless steel barrel saddle bridge to maintain the all-important twang while keeping the intonation on point.
The Fender Chrissie Hynde Telecaster is priced £879 / $1399 / €1009. See Fender (opens in new tab) for more details.
Fender Ben Gibbard Mustang
Death Cab For Cutie guitarist Ben Gibbard has long been an advocate of the Mustang, using an array of modded 70s models on tour, and now he has one built to his exacting spec.
Gibbard's 2021 signature model features a number of appointments that goes to show that you can design a compact electric guitar with a short 24" scale and make it wholly practical for the working musician.
It has a bolt-on one-piece maple neck that's carved into a modern C profile, with a 9.5” radius maple fingerboard and 22 medium jumbo frets. There are two custom-wound single-coil pickups that are controlled by a volume knob and a 3-way rotary pickup selector that masquerades as a tone control.
Priced £599 / $1099 / €699, the Ben Gibbard Mustang is available in a Natural finish, and is out in March.
See Fender (opens in new tab) for more details.
Charvel Angel Vivaldi Pro-Mod DK24-6 Nova signature
The Charvel Angel Vivaldi Pro-Mod DK24-6 is the first six-string signature model for the US note wizard, and as the name might suggest (similarly to his 7-string), his new signature has a modified Dinky body shape.
The basswood, body is contoured with a rounded heel and scalloped lower back bout. The maple neck features a 24-fret caramelised maple fingerboard, which is also crafted to a 12”-16” compound radius, and fitted with cascading dot inlays on the front face, while the upper edge includes blue Luminlay (luminescent) fret markers.
Pickup-wise, there’s a pair of humbuckers: Dimarzio ‘The Tone Zone’ DP155 in the bridge, and an. Air Norton DP193 in the neck position, hooked up to a five-way switch to allow for coil splits on both p’ups.
The Charvel Angel Vivaldi DK24-6 Nova is available from March, priced £1,289 / $1,599.99 / €1,429.
See Charvel for more details.
Gibson Peter Frampton "Phenix" Les Paul Custom VOS
The Peter Frampton “Phenix” Les Paul Custom VOS is a namesake and meticulous replica of Frampton's triple-humbucker 1954 Les Paul Custom, which graced the cover of Frampton Comes Alive!
It is one of the most storied guitars in music history, surviving a plane crash in Venezuala, spending nearly three decades off-grid before being reunited with Frampton.
And it's quite a beauty. There have been replicas before. In the 90s, Gibson spec'd up one for Frampton to play. Then in 2016 there was a Custom Shop reissue with a Richlite 'board.
Where the 90s-built replica only had photos and Frampton's memory to guide its build, the 2021 Phenix has the benefit of the original for reference, with the VOS designation something of a guarantor that the Custom Shop has gone all in for accuracy.
What does Frampton thing? It's "a hair lighter" he says, which is a good thing. Price TBC, but it won't be cheap.
Gibson Kirk Douglas SG Custom
The second Gibson SG to bear The Roots guitarist Kirk Douglas's name is a triple-humbucker Custom configuration with gold hardware, a Maestro and is quite stunning in Ebony or Inverness Green.
One of Douglas's primary requests for this new production model was a modification to place a master volume control closer to the bridge for easier swells. But that's just one of a number of features that makes this electric guitar especially versatile.
Each of the Burstbucker pickups have a coil-split via a push/pull control on volume knob for single-coil sounds and there's a single master tone knob in the position where you would find the second tone control on an SG.
Players can use the neck and/or bridge pickups alone or together, the neck and middle, bridge and middle, or all three pickups simultaneously, and at any relative volume amounts desired. And you can adjust the overall output level of the entire guitar with the pickguard-mounted master volume.
It's very cool, and the price is not too bad either, with the Signature SG Custom is $2,499 / £2,199. See Gibson for more details.