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Best beginner electric guitars 2020: top electric guitars for beginners

Best beginner electric guitars 2020: top electric guitars for beginners
(Image credit: Future)
Beginner guitar gear essentials

(Image credit: Future)

Got your guitar and amp? There are a few other thing you might need to consider. You'll need one of the best guitar cables to run between your guitar/amp, a guitar strap if you plan on playing stood up, one of the best guitar tuners to keep you sounding great and a spare set of electric guitar strings in case of a breakage. You should also consider grabbing some guitar picks and a gigbag.

When choosing the best beginner electric guitar, you probably have a small number of criteria you’re looking to fulfill. You’ll want it to be easy enough to practice on, naturally, and you’ll probably want an electric guitar that can withstand the rigours of being carted from house to guitar teacher to band practice without falling apart.

Thankfully, a beginner electric guitar can be so much more than that now. Beginner guitarists today are, quite frankly, spoilt in terms of the range, quality and performance of entry-level instruments. So, whatever you’re looking to learn on, there'll be something for you. 

However, with so much in the way of choice it can be hard to know where to start, particularly if you’re coming to the guitar world with completely fresh eyes. At MusicRadar we've been writing about electric guitars since time began (pretty much), and we have poled our guitar experts to come up with this definitive guide to the best beginner electric guitars. You're getting their hard-won years of expertise in one place, ensuring you take home the guitar of your dreams.

Which are the best beginner electric guitars?

For anyone at the start of their musical journey, there are a couple of obvious beginner electric guitars to recommend. As an all-rounder, the Yamaha Pacifica 112V ticks almost every box. It has a great set of pickups which cover most bases tonally, and its classic design and careful choice of tonewoods means it is a comfortable guitar to learn your trade on. We’d go as far as to say that the Pacifica 112V is the sensible choice for most learners. 

That said, who wants to be sensible all the time? For that reason, we’d happily also point you towards the Squier Bullet Mustang. It doesn’t have the familiar body shape of a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul, but it is an absolute blast to play and brought a smile to our faces every time we picked it up.

Best beginner electric guitars: buying advice

Despite how they may appear, electric guitars are fundamentally fairly simple things. At the start of your playing career, you may wonder why there is so much in the way of variation and, let’s be honest, cost across the entire range. How can two identical-looking guitars often be thousands of pounds/dollars apart in their valuation? Put simply, the devil is in the detail. Broken down into component parts, there are plenty of ways for manufacturers and brands to add value or enhance a guitar. Everything from the hardware they install through to the choice of woods in the body and neck.

When you’re starting out looking for the best beginner electric guitars, it’s wise not to worry too much about the small details though. The time for obsessing over scale lengths and the merits of a compound radius fretboard will come, in time. Indeed, that’s the best advice we would offer. 

Your first guitar hopefully won’t be your only ever guitar, so don’t get too hung up on making certain every single detail of it is perfect. One of the (many) joys of playing the electric guitar is having a constant eye on the next one, so relax and allow yourself to choose an instrument that is easy to play, that you like the look of, and that sounds good.

At a basic level, you’ll want to find something that suits the kind of music you’re looking to play. Some guitars suit rock and metal, while others are better for blues or jazz. If you know the type of music you want to play, you may even have an idea of the shape or style of electric guitar you want. Great! All of these choices you make narrow the field down, and make it easier to find the right beginner guitar for you. 

Sticking to established brands like Yamaha, Squier and Epiphone gives you the best chance of finding a beginner guitar with a decent level of build quality, and will have a big impact on your future journey. Nobody ever forgets their first guitar, so trust your gut instinct. Choosing a guitar you like the look, sound and playability of gives you the best chance of sticking to it. Let’s look at some of the best beginner electric guitars…

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The best beginner electric guitars to buy now

Best beginner electric guitars: Yamaha Pacifica 112V beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Yamaha)

1. Yamaha Pacifica 112V

The best electric guitar for beginners overall

Launch price: £299/$299/€259 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 1 Humbucker, 2 single coil | Controls: 1 volume, 1 tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Vintage tremolo | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Natural, Black, Sonic Blue, Old Violin Sunburst

Versatile
Good looker
Great value
Nothing!

The Yamaha Pacifica 112V is still, decades after it was launched, almost the perfect beginner electric guitar. The ‘Strat’ style body shape is ergonomic and easy to play sat down, yet is light enough to make playing stood up a breeze. 

The three pickups – one humbucker and two single coils – deliver a range of tonal breadth meaning the Pacifica is comfortable across a number of different genres, while the vintage tremolo bridge offers stability and allows you to hone your whammy bar techniques.

At this level, the Yamaha Pacifica 112V ticks every box. Combine this all together, with the inviting price tag, and you have all the guitar you could ever need to start your playing journey.

Read our full Yamaha Pacifica 112V review

Best beginner electric guitars: Squier Bullet Mustang beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Squier)

2. Squier Bullet Mustang

This huge-sounding beginner's electric guitar is perfect for small hands

Launch price: £179/$179/€115 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24” | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 humbuckers | Controls: Master volume, Master tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Fixed thru-body bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Black, Imperial Blue, Sonic Gray

Great fun to play
Light
Ideal for punk styles
Hard to find fault at this price

A big part of learning the guitar is learning to have fun when you’re practicing. We’ve probably all got experience of being forced to learn nursery rhymes and the like, but if you make learning fun then you’re more likely to stick to it, right? And, as far as guitars go, there are few more fun to play than the Squier Bullet Mustang. 

Its slightly smaller scale means it suits younger players perfectly, and we particularly loved the two humbuckers which can make a real racket when paired with an overdriven amp. For the price, you’ll struggle to find a beginner electric guitar that delivers as much in the way of tone, playability and sheer enjoyment.

Read our full Squier Bullet Mustang review

Best beginner electric guitars: Squier Affinity Stratocaster beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Squier)

3. Squier Affinity Strat

This classic Strat shape is easy for newbies to grasp

Launch price: £179/$229/€175 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 3 x single coil | Controls: 1 volume, 2 tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Vintage style tremolo | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Black, 2 Tone Sunburst, Competition Orange, Slick Silver, Surf Green

Iconic design
Familiar sounds
Easy to outgrow

If you have your heart set on a Stratocaster to learn on, then the Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster could be just the ticket. As an authentic offshoot of Fender itself, Squier caters to learners and budget-conscious players with a broad range of guitars that mirrors its big brother. 

The Squier Affinity Stratocaster features the same visual stylings and features of its established brethren, including three single coil pickups, a lightweight alder body and maple neck, and vintage tremolo bridge. As a foot on the ladder the Squier Affinity Series is well worth your consideration.

Best beginner electric guitars: Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Epiphone)

4. Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT

When it comes to the best beginner electric guitars, this LP delivers

Launch price: £249/$249/€205 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75” | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 Humbuckers | Controls: 2 volume, 2 tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Tune-o-matic bridge | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst, Vintage Sunburst, Walnut

Great tone
Classic design
Built to last
Might prove too heavy for younger players

The Gibson Les Paul is one of the best-known guitar styles on the planet, seen in the hands of countless legends. Players like Slash, Zakk Wylde and Jimmy Page have shown off what this iconic instrument can do, so it’s no surprise that many learners want to emulate them. 

The Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT gives learners the chance to buy into that classic vibe, providing the same tried and tested mahogany body and neck, along with a pair of meaty humbuckers, which deliver thick, rich tone in spades. We should warn younger players, however, that all that mahogany does make for a fairly heavy guitar in more ways than one…

Best beginner electric guitars: Ibanez GRGA120 beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Ibanez)

5. Ibanez GRGA120

The best beginner electric guitar for budding metalheads

Launch price: £199/$199 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: New Zealand Pine | Frets: 24 | Pickups: 2 Infinity humbuckers | Controls: 1 volume, 1 tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Tremolo bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Black Night, White

Great for power chords
Thin neck
Easy access to upper frets
Not the most versatile tonally

If your inspiration to learn the guitar comes from those super-fast players in the rock and metal world, you’re going to need an axe with a certain set of characteristics. The Ibanez GRGA120 might just be that guitar. Employing a thin neck with easy access across all of its 24 frets, and a pair of Infinity humbuckers, the GRGA120 is the perfect guitar for any budding Joe Satriani and Steve Vai fans.

It may not be the most versatile – you’re unlikely to find many indie bands using Ibanez metal guitars, for example – but we prefer to frame it another way. This is a specialist guitar for a specialist style of music, and a very respectable one at that. 

Best beginner electric guitars: Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Gretsch)

6. Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club

The best beginner's electric guitar if you want a vintage flavour

Launch price: £299/$249/€375 | Body: Basswood with arched Maple top | Neck: Maple | Scale: 24.6” | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 Gretsch Dual Coil | Controls: Master volume, Master tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Adjust-o-matic bridge | Left-handed: No | Finish: Silver, Black

Stunning looks
Great build quality
Interesting tonally
Not much!

Slightly off the beaten track for learners comes the Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club. As an established brand in its own right, Gretsch has a great heritage in delivering vintage-era tones and vibes but is usually more associated with its range of oversized hollowbody guitars. The Electromatic Jet Club, on the other hand, is a solid bodied electric with two humbucking pickups that oozes class. 

For players of rock, indie and country, the Electromatic Jet Club will provide a great looking, superb sounding guitar that will last you well beyond your initial learner stage. They also make a great alternative to all the usual Les Paul style guitars beginner players more readily migrate to.

Best beginner electric guitars: Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Squier)

7. Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster

The best beginner's electric guitar in terms of performance and tone

Launch price: £399/$399/€379 | Body: Nato | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 3 Fender-designed Alnico single coils | Controls: Master volume, 2 tone, 5-way selector | Hardware: Vintage tremolo | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Black, 2 colour sunburst, Fiesta Red, White Blonde

Era-specific styling
Much improved tones
High quality build
None

As the second Squier Stratocaster to feature on the list, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Strat had better offer something different, right? Thankfully it does, and it does it in spades. This model offers a marked improvement in every department, making it something of a luxury choice for a learner. 

We’ve included it, however, because while there is an increase in price, there is also a significant leap in overall value. The tones are superb thanks to the three Fender-designed single coil pickups, while the maple neck and fingerboard is a sight to behold thanks to its lightly stained finish. 

There’s a growing school of thought that the Classic Vibe range from Squier actually outperforms the entry-level, Mexican-made Fender line-up, and with the ‘50s Strat in particular it’s hard to argue against that. Put simply, this isn’t a guitar you’ll outgrow any time soon. 

Read our full Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster review

Best beginner electric guitars: Ibanez Artcore AS53 beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Ibanez)

8. Ibanez Artcore AS53

Serving up semi-acoustic tones you’ll love from the outset

Launch price: £299/$299/€259 | Body: Sapele | Neck: Mahogany | Scale: 24.75” | Fingerboard: Bound Laurel | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 2 ACH humbuckers | Controls: Master volume, Master tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: ART-ST tailpiece | Left-handed: No | Finish: Tobacco Flat, Transparent Black Flat, Transparent Red Flat

Glorious sustain
Highly resonant body
Looks the part
Not ideal for higher gain sounds

If indie, blues or jazz are your thing, the Ibanez Artcore AS53 could well be the guitar for you. This semi-hollow electric thrives on ringing, open chords thanks to a rich bridge humbucker, while switching to the neck pickup gets you in the territory of some wonderfully warm, creamy tones. 

The AS53 has a wood centre-block, which eliminates some of the feedback associated with hollowbody guitars, but we’d still veer clear of anything too high-gain. 

That said, this isn’t meant for the metalheads. The Ibanez Artcore AS53 instead delivers much more in the way of clean, natural tone which makes it easy for us to recommend.