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Best beginner electric guitars 2021: 9 of the greatest electric guitars for beginners

Best beginner electric guitars 2021: 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.

Making sure you choose the best beginner electric guitar for you is arguably the most important decision you’ll make in your guitar playing journey. Naturally, You’ll want your electric guitar to be able to withstand the rigours of being carted around - especially if you’re having lessons at school or going through the motions of band practice and gigging. It’s also crucial that it looks cool and is easy enough to play that you never want to put it down. 

Beginner electric guitars have never been better than they are right now. New guitarists are spoilt with choice, with the quality and performance of entry-level instruments at an all-time high. So, whatever kind of guitar you want to hone your skills on, there'll be something just right for you. 

With so many brands, styles and other options to choose from however, buying your first electric guitar can bring about a case of what we call ‘choice paralysis’ - particularly if you’re a brand new guitarist who isn’t quite sure what they want. 

Luckily, here at MusicRadar we've been writing about electric guitars since (nearly) the dawn of time, and we have racked the brains of our guitar experts to come up with this definitive guide to the best beginner electric guitars. You're getting their hard-fought years of expertise in one place, ensuring you take home a guitar that will take you all the way to stardom.

We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide. If you’d like to read it, click the ‘buying advice’ tab above. If you’d rather get straight to the products, keep scrolling.

Best beginner electric guitars: MusicRadar's choice

Trying to pick our favourites from this list is a real toughie - although there are definitely a couple of great electric guitars that come to mind.

The Yamaha Pacifica 112V is a great all-round option, ticking most of the boxes we can think of. It has a great set of pickups which are capable of covering most genres and styles, and the combination of a careful choice of tonewoods and classic design makes it a super comfortable and great looking guitar to learn on. We’d go as far as to say that the Pacifica 112V is probably the best (or at least the most sensible) choice for new guitarists. 

But who starts playing guitar to be sensible? Take it from us, being sensible can be pretty overrated - and if you’re more interested in fun than sensible, then we’d happily point you towards the Squier Bullet Mustang HH. It doesn’t have the familiar body shape of a Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul, but playing it is an absolute blast and brought a smile to our faces every time we picked it up. It’s a little smaller than most other beginner electric guitars, so it should be super comfortable for everyone - even those with smaller hands. 

Best beginner electric guitars: Product guide

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Versatile+Good looker+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Quite plain

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Great fun to play+Light+Ideal for punk styles
Reasons to avoid
-Not ideal for taller/longer people

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: Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT beginner's electric guitar

(Image credit: Epiphone)

3. Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Great tone+Classic design+Built to last
Reasons to avoid
-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)

4. Ibanez GRGA120

The best beginner electric guitar for budding metalheads

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Great for power chords+Thin neck+Easy access to upper frets
Reasons to avoid
-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)

5. Gretsch G5425 Electromatic Jet Club

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Stunning looks+Great build quality+Interesting tonally
Reasons to avoid
-Vintage style not everyone's bag

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)

6. Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster

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

Specifications
Price: £399/$429/€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
Reasons to buy
+Era-specific styling+Much improved tones+High quality build
Reasons to avoid
-Only available with a Maple 'board

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)

7. Ibanez Artcore AS53

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

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Glorious sustain+Highly resonant body+Looks the part
Reasons to avoid
-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.

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

(Image credit: Squier)

8. Squier Affinity Strat

This classic Strat shape is easy for newbies to grasp

Specifications
Price: £219/$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
Reasons to buy
+Iconic design+Familiar sounds
Reasons to avoid
-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: Harley Benton SC-550

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

9. Harley Benton SC-550

Classic single-cut looks and tone and a price that's friendly to all budgets

Specifications
Price: $293.61/£229/€269
Body: Mahogany with arched AAAA maple top
Neck: Mahogany
Scale: 24.72” (628mm)
Fingerboard: Jatoba
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x Roswell LAF Alnico-5 humbuckers
Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way pickup selector
Hardware: DLX tune-o-matic bridge, Wilkinson tuners
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Faded Tobacco Flame, Paradise Amber Flame, Black Cherry Flame, Desert Flame Burst (pictured)
Reasons to buy
+Great vintage looks+Unbeatable classic rock tones at this price+Oh, yeah, the price is right
Reasons to avoid
-A few finish niggles such the machine head alignment, nothing major

Thomann brand Harley Benton's single-cut electric is inspired by a classic; the Gibson Les Paul, with a little contemporary ESP Eclipse body horn influence too for good measure. But it's no crass knock-off, either, with features that will benefit beginner players.

The modern contoured neck heel allows for comfortable upper fret access, The Roswell humbuckers (another Thomann) are pitched between mid and high-output; good all-rounders for players finding their feet with different vintage and modern tones. 

A bright tonal character overall helps the neck humbucker avoid the pitfall of sounding dark and uninspiring, too. Overall, this is a superb single-cut option for those on a limited budget.

Read the full Harley Benton SC-550 review

Best beginner electric guitars: Buying advice

Best beginner electric guitars: Yamaha Pacificas

(Image credit: Future)

Despite how they may appear, Electric guitars are fundamentally fairly simple things. Especially if you're less experienced with electric guitars, you may be left wondering why there is such variation in cost across the entire range. How can two guitars that look exactly the same often be thousands of pounds/dollars apart in their valuation? Put simply, the devil is in the detail. 

Break these guitars down into their component parts and you’ll notice that there are plenty of ways for manufacturers to add value or enhance a guitar. Everything from the choice of woods in the body and neck to the pickups and hardware they install makes an impact on the final cost of the instrument, so it's worth knowing which factors are worth paying for, and which ones aren't. 

It's wise not to worry too much about the small details when you’re starting out looking for the best beginner electric guitars, though. There will come a time where you get super nerdy, obsessing over scale lengths and the merits of a compound radius fretboard - but now is not really the time. 

It’s highly unlikely that your first guitar will 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 will give you the best chance of finding the perfect beginner electric guitar for you. They (usually) tow the line between value, quality and good locks pretty well, so you won’t be able to go too far wrong with any one of those brands. Nobody ever forgets their first guitar though, 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.  

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.