If you were every wondering what makes a great signature guitar, this year’s list of the best artist models will give you a good idea of what you should be looking for.
There’s something for everyone here. There is even a bass . . . Yeah – crazy, huh?
The best signature guitars find something in existing designs, and incorporating in the artist’s insight into a improving upon it, manufacturers put a refreshing twise on an original design, taking the evolution of the electric guitar further.
This year’s end list sees plenty of evolution going on, plenty of customising, and it charts the evolution of the electric guitar, too, with a reimagined ’59 Tele, inspired by one of the greatest players of all time, rubbing shoulders with a state-of-the-art shred machine that can do everything but order post-gig pizza.
1. Ernie Ball Music Man John Petrucci Majesty
The galaxy's apex shredder John Petrucci continues to accelerate the evolution of the electric guitar via his endorsement with Ernie Ball Music Man, future-proofing it for generations to come who might want to play musically ambitious, long-form progressive metal.
Hand-built in California, the Majesty (what Dream Theater was going to be called) has a meticulous build as you would expect, with a solid basswood body and neck-through but it's touches such as the John Petrucci Music Man Piezo floating tremolo, the onboard active preamp, the active Dimarzio Dreamcatcher and Rainmaker humbuckers that make this premium instrument sing.
Available in six or seven-string models, with a variety of stunning finishes, this makes a convincing case for being the finest shred guitar ever built. Well, put it this way: it's in the conversation, that's for sure.
2. Fender Jimmy Page Dragon Telecaster
OK, so this is the coolest guitar in the list because it has the coolest history. Way back when, Jimmy Page did Jeff Beck a solid and recommended him for the Yardbirds and whatnot. Beck returned the favour by gifting Page a '59 Tele. Now, that guitar went through a number of revisions, with Page gluing mirrors to its White Blonde lacquered body, before he stripped it and painted a dragon on it.
This year's Artist Series sees both those incarnations of Page's Tele – as heard all over Led Zeppelin I – and all those original specs recreated. There is a "top-loader" bridge for easier string bends, or alternatively you can just go through the body, and a pair of custom-wound singlecoils
3. Gibson Custom Chris Cornell Tribute ES-335
This is a stunning semi-hollow, faithful to the late Soundgarden frontman's 2013 specs for his Memphis-built model. There are no numbers on the "top hat" tone and volume controls. The build is a three-ply maple/poplar/maple top, back and sides, with spruce bracing, maple centre block, and a quarter-sawn, rounded-C mahogany neck.
It has a pair of Aged Lollartron humbuckers in neck and bridge positions. Limited to 250 units worldwide, priced $3,999 (£3,269 approx), this is one for collectors, super-fans, and anyone who is looking for a high-end electric guitar that exudes understated cool. C'mon, that Olive Drab Green satin nitro finish . . .
4. Sterling By Music Man St Vincent STV60HH
St Vincent's signature model was been updated for 2019, offering a dual-humbucker option for more of a classic rock feel. Yet it retains that Jetsons-play-rockabilly vibe that made the STV60, well, one of the best signature models of 2017.
Elsewhere, the spec remains unchanged, with the mahogany body, maple neck with the oversized headstock and rosewood fingerboard, and the neat, bent-steel vintage tremolo. With this, the Albert Lee and the Mariposa, Music Man are leading the way on retro-futuristic bodyshapes.
5. Jackson Pro Series Misha Mansoor Juggernaut
A stripped-down and super-charged S-style electric that's built to the spec of Periphery riff-master Misha Mansoor, the Juggernaut is a an awesome option for today's metal player. The profile of that caramelised maple neck is typical Jackson, totally shreddable, topped off by a super-flat 20-inch fretboard radius. The pairing of high-output Jackson humbuckers is convincing; the push-pull tone knobs for pseudo-singlecoil tones is persuasive; the appearance of glow-in-the-dart sidemarkers seals the deal.
6. Fender Duff McKagan Deluxe Precision Bass
Based on the ‘80s Jazz Bass Special he used while recording Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction, McKagan's signature P-Bass adds a number aesthetic touches and player-centric improvements.
It comes fitted with a Seymour Duncan STKJ2B singlecoil in the bridge and a Precision Bass split-coil in the neck and a TBX (Treble Bass Expander) control. There is also a Hipshot Bass Xtender for on-the-fly drop D tunings, a very comfortable modern C-profile neck, custom block inlay and, well, it just looks the business.
7. Fender Britt Daniel Telecaster
Firstly, Britt Daniel's signature Thinline Tele is awesome because anyone, whether you are a fan of Spoon or not, could pick this up. There's nothing aesthetically controversial; it's just a beautiful Thinline. That Amarillo Gold finish is quite something.
Daniel's Thinline has a lightweight semi-hollow ash body, maple neck and fretboard with dot inlay, and a pair of Fender Custom Shop pickups and an S-1 switch that expands the Tele's range, allowing you to change between series and parallel wiring. The "Deep C" neck profile gives you a nice ol' piece of maple to hold onto while the 9.5-inch radius fingerboard and medium-jumbo frets lend it a modern feel.