Cheap Electric Guitars: Top 10 Best Guitars for Beginners 2017

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

For the most part, the difference between good but inexpensive guitars and guitars for beginners comes down to one thing: playing on-stage. On the whole, the guitars we discussed in our best guitars under $500 post can all hold their own when playing live. They’re guitars for players, so they use solid components even despite their relatively low price tag.

When shopping for guitars for beginners, playing on-stage is still far off in the distance. Sure, some people are prodigies and yes, you can certainly play any guitar you like in any setting, but as a general rule, the guitar you learn to play on just needs to have all the elements in the right place. You’re working on fundamentals and getting a sense of the instrument, so it probably won’t matter much to you what pickups it has, or even the body wood. The components of truly cheap beginner guitars are indeed the lesser versions, but that won’t stop you from learning chords or running scales.

To that end, there are many cheap guitars aimed at beginners. Your time with this first guitar will be spent making a lot of mistakes, and generally sounding less than stellar. You won’t even necessarily be thinking much about tone or playability, though you should pick something that feels good to you or learning will be more frustration than it’s worth. It’s also good to keep the price low in case you discover that guitar just isn’t for you. Investing a lot up front isn’t necessary, so keep it simple and cheap.

You’ll notice several of these options are modeled on the Fender Stratocaster. That’s because when Leo Fender designed it (following the Telecaster), it was meant to be a low-cost, mass production guitar made of modular parts. It was a quality cheaper alternative to the guitars at the time. The Stratocaster design became massively popular and widely copied. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the only guitar you can start on, though. The Strat (usually) features three single-coil pickups and a five-position pickup selector. For a new guitarist, this isn’t really necessary. You really won’t be making the most of those 2 and 4 positions for awhile yet, so a guitar with one pickup will suffice.

Lots of people learn to play on an acoustic guitar, which has its advantages. For this list, we’ve decided to focus on electrics, which are generally easier to fret. This can help people get started quicker as the lower action, or string height, on an electric means that your hands won’t tire as quickly and your fingers won’t hurt quite as much. In a future post, we’ll do a round up of beginner acoustic guitars. We also haven’t included any of the starter packs — get yourself a Fender Frontman 10G and you’ll be set for an amp. Don’t forget the all-important tuner. You’ll need it. Alternatively, you can usually get all the things you need from a beginner guitar kit.

We’ve compiled a list of the top ten best electric guitars for beginners to help you make the most of your hours of practice.


1. Squier Affinity Telecaster

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Squier)

I’ve decided to start with my favorite option on this list. Everyone knows the Squier brand as being the cheap versions of the more-advanced Fender models. They’re ubiquitous and a natural choice for a starter guitar. Combine that with the Telecaster’s unbelievable flexibility and you’ve got an excellent choice for a beginner’s guitar.

Telecasters are up to the task of playing just about any style of music while being comfortable for most people. Lots of players have a Telecaster in their arsenal somewhere because of its versatility and reliability. For beginners, the simplified control layout of one volume, one tone, and a three-way switch removes a lot of the guesswork. The top-loading bridge makes bends all along the neck easier, too. And because new guitarists tend to focus on these things, it comes in six colors: Arctic White, Butterscotch Blonde, Lake Placid Blue, Sunburst, and Gun Metal Gray.

If you want something similar but a bit more interesting, you can get the Squier Vintage Modified ’51, which will be roughly the same in terms of playability. The controls are a little more advanced, but still very useful.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: C
  • Body wood: Alder
  • Bridge: Top-Load

Price: $199.99

Buy the Squier Affinity Telecaster here.



2. Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012DLX

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Yamaha)

This is the little brother to the PAC112V we discussed in our last list. By opting for cheaper woods, Yamaha has made their excellent Pacifica model available to the absolute beginner.

This is a Strat-style guitar meant for playing any style of music. It’s been a staple of student-level guitars for awhile and offers nice versatility with the humbucker in the bridge position. By combining single coil pickups with a humbucker, new players can learn how to vary their string attack depending on pickup response. There are also valuable lessons about rhythm versus lead playing, all which can be learned with a guitar like this. Even after you move on to better machines, this may kick around as your practice axe.

Choose from four colors: Black, Metallic Blue, Metallic Red, and Old Violin Sunburst.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: C
  • Body wood: Agathis
  • Bridge: Strat-style tremolo

Price: $149.99 (17 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012DLX here.



3. Epiphone LP Junior

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Epiphone)

If you’re truly new to guitar, allow me to let you in on a little secret: most guitarists only use one pickup. Sure, guitars have any number of them (usually three is the max, but you see some crazy stuff out there), but many times, players find a position and stick with it. I’ve seen pickup selectors taped down or taken out altogether. Studio musicians tend to need all of them, but if you carve out your particular niche in a band, chances are good you can get by with just one.

More than that, the simple configuration of a single pickup just makes it easier to focus on playing. Here’s another secret: a guitar is just a plank of wood with strings and a pickup. Don’t overthink it, especially when you’re starting out.

With this Epiphone, you get a much higher quality of wood as the body, which provides better tone and longer sustain. You won’t miss the neck pickup when you start out, and frankly, you may never miss it. Later on, you can pull out that pickup and put something more advanced in it and basically have a brand new sound. It works for Billie Joe Armstrong, and he makes plenty of money playing guitar for a living.

If you must have two pickups, consider the P90 version for $20 more.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: 1960s SlimTaper
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Bridge: Wrap-around StopBar

Price: $129

Buy the Epiphone LP Junior here.



4. Monoprice 610102 California Classic

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Monoprice)

Spending over $100 on your very first guitar wouldn’t be uncommon. Most people opt for a new Squier of some kind, and most of those are closer to $200. If you really want something ultra-cheap for your first few lessons, you’ll have to seek out one of the many strange and wonderful smaller makers of the standard electric guitar models.

Monoprice makes ridiculously cheap cables for a wide variety of uses. I’ve used their instrument cables and can attest to their incredible performance. I don’t know how they do it, and I don’t want to, but they sound and feel far superior to a lot of better-known brands. Like the Yamaha above, you’re getting a lot of great-sounding electronics for the money, so this dead-on Strat copy is bound to surprise.

That said, it’s a $90 guitar. That’s the price of maybe four lessons. If that’s all you get out of it, it will still have been worth the cost. I have a hunch, though, that this weird, unknown guitar could surprise you and hang around for practice sessions for years to come. Besides, there’s nothing cooler than surprising people with a sleeper machine.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: C
  • Body wood: Basswood
  • Bridge: Strat-style tremolo

Price: $86.93

Buy the Monoprice 610102 California Classic here.



5. Epiphone DOT Studio Semi-Hollowbody

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Epiphone)

Buying a semi-hollowbody your first time out is a bit of a reach, but if that’s what you really have in mind, Epiphone is happy to provide. This entry-level Dot is a take on the venerable ES-355, albeit with simplified electronics to keep the price low. It’s a pretty nice interpretation of that model, including the use of mahogany throughout.

I’ve played this one quite a bit through my rig and I was surprised by the feel. There’s a lot of guitar here for the money and gives beginners a place to start with semi-hollowbodies. One possible advantage for the new player is that since it’s hollow, you get quite a lot of acoustic resonance so you can practice it without an amp like a very quiet acoustic guitar. The pickups are little on the thin side, but that’s to be expected. The body is also quite large for people just starting out, but it’s nice to know the option exists for (relatively) little money.


Specs:

  • Construction: Glue-in Set Neck
  • Neck shape: SlimTaper D
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic

Price: $329

Buy the Epiphone DOT Studio Semi-Hollowbody here.



6. Hofner HCTSHBKO Shorty Travel Guitar

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Hofner)

When you first start out, you’ll most likely be toting your guitar back and forth to lessons at least once a week. If you’re a student, you’ll be dragging it around at school. Similarly, all you need is the basics on your first guitar, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to get much more than that. Because of these factors, a travel guitar could fill the role nicely.

This Hofner still features a full 22 frets, a decent humbucker, and a volume and control knob. The wraparound bridge is simple to use and can be intonated. It’s made of basswood like many fine entry-level guitars, though admittedly the smaller body size may reduce resonance and sustain a bit. Still, this makes a perfect learner’s machine, good for folks of all sizes. Later, when you’ve moved on, this can still serve a purpose as a backup, backstage, or, yes, a travel guitar.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: C
  • Body wood: Basswood
  • Bridge: Wraparound

Price: $134.99

Buy the Hofner HCTSHBKO Shorty Travel Guitar here.


7. Dean Vendetta XM

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Dean)

For just a little bit more than the Monoprice guitar above, this Dean model provides a nice upgrade for the money. This is a machine set up for speed, made to emulate the many other Soloist-shaped shredders that came before it. This isn’t an all-arounder like the Strat variations on this list, so choose this if you want to specialize a bit. Dean offers several budget options, all of which are a little more interesting looking than your average Strat or Les Paul copy.

Unlike the Jackson, you get a full 24 frets, which may be a bit unnecessary when you first start out, but offers you the chance to grow into the guitar a bit. Especially for extended runs, the double octave will eventually come in handy. The neck profile is more akin to a Strat, which is comfortable for learning on, though perhaps not quite as quick as some other profiles. The Dean humbuckers are wound to be hotter for a more aggressive sound.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: Thin C
  • Body wood: Paulownia
  • Bridge: Thru-body Tune-O-Matic

Price: $99 (10 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Dean Vendetta XM here.



8. Jay Turser 300 Series

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Jay Turser)

For my money, the best cheap Strat going is the Jay Turser. They make a number of classic models at budget-friendly prices. Their thinline Tele is very good, and so is their Les Paul copy. They pay a little more attention to detail than a lot of companies, including even Squier, and the result is a very playable instrument.

This is a bang-on Strat copy with volume and two tone controls. When I first started lessons, I played this at my local guitar shop before I got my Affinity Strat as a gift. The Turser was just a little bit better in terms of setup and build quality. For some reason, the finish always strikes me as being well-done for the price range. It’s cheaper, too.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: C
  • Body wood: Basswood
  • Bridge: Strat-style tremolo

Price: $129.99

Buy the Jay Turser 300 Series here.



9. Squier Mini

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Squier)

It’s true, I’m not including the aforementioned Affinity Strat on this list. Though it is ubiquitous and the seemingly-obvious choice, the full-size version is easily bested by others on this list. If you like it, go for it, of course, but I’d pick the Turser or the Affinity Tele before I played it again.

On the other hand, I started playing guitar when I was 15. That full-size Strat was the first guitar I ever owned and I was plenty big enough to manage it easily. If the new guitarist in question is younger than that, the junior or 3/4 sized guitars are perfect. At that point, your options narrow. You could pick up an Ibanez miKro, but that’s a little more expensive.

Instead, in the case of the short guitars for short folks and short money, the Squier Strat is the tool for the job. At this size, you still get an adjustable truss rod, and nearly the full functionality of any other Stratocaster on the planet, minus one tone knob. Even for larger folks, the small size can make it much more comfortable to learn on. It also works as a travel guitar so you can keep up with your practice wherever you happen to be.

Choose from three colors: pink, red, and black. You’ll eventually outgrow this guitar, but it plays the same notes as any other guitar, so keep it around for noodling.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: C
  • Body wood: Laminated hardwood
  • Bridge: Strat-style hardtail

Price: $99.99

Buy the Squier Mini here.



10. Jackson JS11 Dinky

cheap electric guitars, electric guitar, guitar for beginners, beginner guitars, best electric guitars

(Jackson)

For the future metalheads among us, you’ll want something a bit quicker than most of the options on this list. The Dean certainly covers some of the same territory, but Jackson practically invented the genre of the inexpensive shredder when it created the Dinky.

Even though it’s unlikely you’ll be pursuing speed right out of the gate, thin necks can make easier learning in the early days. If you’re into the speedier, heavier stuff, you know you’ll end up with some variation of the Soloist body type, anyway, so if this is comfortable for you while you learn, you’ll have a head start.

On this basic machine, you get two advantages over some of the other starters out there. The first is that these are super hot pickups, which will help you break into lead tones. The second is that the tremolo is a bit more advanced, designed after the models on much better guitars, so it won’t go out of tune quite as often as other cheap bridges. You could do worse than starting here.


Specs:

  • Construction: Bolt-on
  • Neck shape: Thin Speed
  • Body wood: Basswood
  • Bridge: Fulcrum tremolo

Price: $149.99

Buy the Jackson JS11 Dinky here.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.
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