Best Beginner Guitar Review in 2017

Finding the best beginner guitar in 2017 is not quite as easy as it sounds. It is tough to differentiate between good, inexpensive, entry-level guitars and cheap ones that will fall apart and have poor tone quality. In this post, I will explain what makes a good beginner guitar and review 5 of the best value options.

What To Look For In A Guitar

Wood

Best Beginner Guitar

It might seem odd, but the type of wood used in an electric guitar still makes a difference in the tone. They resonate differently and create slightly different sounds. In addition, different woods in the fingerboard and neck will create a different playing eel in terms of speed and weight. The wood also determines how durable the guitar is and how well it can resist accidental bumps and drops. There is no hierarchy of which woods are the best. Instead, look to what kind of guitars your favorite players use and see what woods make up those guitars. That will help you see where you should be looking. Wood in an electric is not as important as an acoustic, but it does mean something, especially if you have a semihollow or electric/acoustic model. More expensive brands tend to use higher-quality wood and vice versa. You can't change out the wood the same way you can the electronics, so be sure you are happy with it.

Body Shape/Appearance

The guitar is one of the most aesthetically driven instruments that exist. When you have a guitar that looks right, you'll feel more confident and the audience will love it. Don't discount the value of having a guitar that looks just the way you like it. The colors and paint jobs can look very different from model to model and brand to brand, as well as the glossiness of the finish, the look of the bridge and tuners, and the inlay on the fingerboard. It's not just about what the guitar looks like, either. Guitars also vary a lot in their body shape and where the cutouts are. That can make a big difference in how they feel and where their weight is distributed. Some exotic shapes can really be polarizing with some people loving how they feel and others hating the shape. Make sure that you find a way to try out any guitar you want to buy, or at least one that comes close to its body type. It's very hard to evaluate how a guitar will feel from reading about it online, especially when it comes to weight distribution.

Electronics

The crucial electronic components have a major effect on your sound. Starting from the pickups, which can be active or passive, the sound signal travels through the processor and possibly a preamp to the equalizer and out of the guitar. All of those parts affect your tone before the signal even reaches your amp or pedals. Each genre has their own preferred setup. Pickups can be single or double coil and either active, meaning they need batteries, or passive, where they don't need power. Most guitars also let you decide which set of pickups is turned on- bridge, neck, or both- and it's common for one to be better for lead and the other for rhythm. The electronics, and the pickups in particular, play a big role in the character of the tone that you produce. In addition, it is important to know that you can change out the pickups for new ones. That is a valuable way to breathe life into a beginner guitar and upgrade it. Other components can also be upgraded, but it is more difficult and will not have as noticeable an effect. Pickups are another good thing to target when you look up your favorite players- you can often find guitars with the same or similar pickups.

Price

Lastly, you need to think about the price of each guitar, of course. There are a lot of different features and attributes that a guitar can have, and it is not always easy to try to put a price on the total package. The best idea is to set a hard limit for your budget, and promise not to even consider any guitar above that number. Otherwise, it is too tempting to just keep moving a little bit up the scale via the "grass is greener" effect. As a beginner, the fact that you even have a guitar is much more important than exactly what model it is, because you need to get into the habit of playing and practicing. By researching different models, you will see how much each feature is worth and how much you need to pay to get good quality of tone and build quality. Overspending on a beginner guitar is a mistake because you might give up on the instrument, in which case it was not worth it, or you will like it and want an upgrade, in which case you need to buy a new guitar anyway.

Five Best Beginner Guitar

Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Player Package

Best Beginner Guitar

It is common for big brands to create entry packages for new players. These packages contain a guitar and also some supplemental gear to help new players get started right away. The Epiphone version costs $200. It comes with a guitar, an amp, a cable that connects the two, a gig bag, a tuner, a strap, and some picks. It also contains a key that gives you access to free extra videos, tutorials, and lessons. The included guitar is the Ephiphone Les Paul II Limited. This is a fairly basic introductory guitar with limited features, but all-around solid sound quality. A beginner can combine this with the included amp to get started in just about any genre. Later on, more expensive and more specialized instruments will give you a much better tone, but for a very beginner this is the perfect way to start. The guitar has humbucker pickups to cut down on interference. The amp has 10 watts of power, which is enough to play in a room but quiet enough to be used for practice. The low price makes this excellent value for anyone looking to try out the guitar.

Pros

  • Great value and very low price make this highly accessible
  • Surprisingly good quality from the entire set for this price point across a variety of genres
  • Guitar is well set-up and doesn't need many adjustments to play well out of the box

Cons

  • Might not last long if you decide to stick with the guitar
  • Gig bag is not hard, so it won't protect against drops or bumps to the guitar
  • The amp doesn't offer a whole lot of control over the tone, so you might need a pedal or other box if you really want to shape the sound

Squier by Fender Affinity Series Stratocaster®

Best Beginner Guitar

Just as Epiphone is a subsidiary of Gibson that sells, among its other offerings, entry-level guitars, Squier plays a similar role for Fender. The Affinity Series is the most recent incarnation of Squier's work. Unlike the first entry on this list, the $200 guitar here does not come as part of a set. It also has a notably different setup: while the Epiphone has the classic Gibson humbucker pickup set, the Affinity uses Fender's typical set of 3 single-coil pickups. That makes for a cleaner, brighter sound, but a bit less warmth and less flexibility. The difference comes down to personal preference and style. The Affinity does not have the same sound quality as a full Fender classic, but it certainly captures the same feel in tone. It also manages to have a very similar body shape, knob and switch orientation, neck size and shape, and overall design. This guitar is ideal for those who want to try learning guitar and love the classic rock players who used Fender-style instruments. It'll provide them with a very similar experience for very little money.

Pros

  • Replicates the experience of playing a Fender very well considering the price tag and accessibility
  • The EQ and pickup switch provides the chance to learn about using guitar controls to change your tone on the fly
  • Comes with a tremolo bridge to provide an extra option for accentuating notes

Cons

  • The neck is a little too thick to play quickly, which can make some songs especially challenging
  • The single-coil pickups don't work as well as humbuckers for high-gain styles and genres
  • The action tends to be a little stiff and may need adjustment to make it more comfortable and responsive

ESP LTD MH-100QMNT

Best Beginner Guitar

ESP is not as well-known as Gibson or Fender, and the brand is traditionally associated more with rock and metal than other genres, but their instruments are actually very versatile and suited to many genres. The MH-100QMNT is no exception. At $350, it is a significant step up in cost, but that increase is justified by the increase in quality. The pickups and other electronics are noticeably superior to other beginner instruments and consist of a pair of humbuckers, a volume knob, a tone knob, and a pickup switch. The body is basswood, while the fingerboard is rosewood and the neck is maple. The pickups are passive. The neck is quite fast to play, with a decently low action and great intonation. This guitar is equipped to play essentially any genre and can put out a tone that sounds like a guitar three times its price. The right amp will draw out its full quality. On many beginner guitars, it becomes necessary to replace the pickups and install better ones to get acceptable sound, but that is not the case here. The 100QMNT has just one finish, a translucent black cherry.

Pros

  • Offers the sound quality and construction of a midlevel guitar in a beginner's format and price point
  • Doesn't need any tweaks or upgrades to reach its full potential, as long as you have an amp already
  • Warm, rich tone that will sound good with distortion or clean and fits into many different genres without needing much modification

Cons

  • It's a little expensive for a beginner instrument and is at the point where you might as well buy a midlevel one
  • The bridge does not have a tremolo arm and there is no way to add one
  • Passive pickups occupy a strange intermediate between low-end and midlevel

Epiphone SG-Special Electric Guitar

Best Beginner Guitar

If you like the Gibson sound and you want something a little more iconic, the SG-Special might fit your needs. The Gibson SG is one of the most definitive guitar designs ever, and it played a major role in major bands from the 60s onwards, including the Beatles, the Who, Black Sabbath, and many others. The SG-Special is a beginner rendition of that design. It includes an interesting feature: a kill pot. If you turn the volume knob all the way to the max, it will apply a kill trigger that cuts all output, which makes for some interesting possibilities. The body is alder and maplewood, and the fretboard is rosewood. It has two sets of humbucker pickups. The neck is slim and fast, permitting shredding or plucking in equal measure. It comes in two finishes, red and black. The base guitar costs $180. If you want to pay more, you can also get a kit with an amp or one with a case. If you already have an amp, that is likely to sound better and give you better value than getting the kit.

Pros

  • Captures the essence of the original SG design, both in appearance and in tone
  • Killpot adds a lot of versatility to an already interesting sound and EQ with pickup switch to give the guitar that much more value
  • Shows little sign of design compromises despite costing under $200 and trying to mimic one of the most famous and well-known guitars of the 20th century

Cons

  • If you can't find a use for the killpot, it only gets in the way when using the volume knob
  • No tremolo bar is included and it would be difficult to add one
  • The alder/maple body doesn't resonate as well as a higher quality wood mix

C-1 SGR by Schecter Beginner Electric Guitar

Best Beginner Guitar

The last entry on this list is from Schecter, a brand similar to ESP in that it is not as popular as Gibson and Fender and is often associated with hard rock and metal. Schecter's C-1 SGR is a $200 guitar with a gig bag that comes in black, red, or blue. For an extra $50 you can get a version with an amp, although in general an amp that you buy separately will be superior. The SGR has pearl inlay, which looks great with the black finish. The pickups consist of a pair of Schecter house humbuckers. The tone is clean but has the quality for you to layer effects on top and reach many different sounds in different genres. This is not just a metal guitar. The finish has a glossy shine that makes it stand out and the hardware is all black chrome.

Pros

  • Very good tone for this price range and can work well in most genres, with the possible exception of classic rock
  • Good introduction to the Schecter style of design if you are interested in that and might buy another Schecter later on
  • Surprisingly durable for a guitar that costs under $200

Cons

  • Action is a little too low, leading to occasional buzz
  • The balance is slightly off, leading to the guitar being uncomfortable to play depending on your height and playing style
  • The bolt-on neck makes it a little hard to access the top frets in the scale

Conclusion

After reviewing the market, I believe the best fit for a new guitarist is the Epiphone SG-Special. It has a great tone and fits a famous design that pops up in many different genres. I recommend avoiding a kit with an amp because any amp you buy separately will be better than a kit one, even if you have to spend a little more. It will be worth it because that extra amp will be something you can keep for a while.

Remember, don't break the bank on a beginner guitar. What matters is that you get started. Spending a lot on a new guitar before you start to play is like buying a whole year's subscription to a gym before you know if you will use it. You might as well just get a good, inexpensive model and see how things go. That's safer and easier on your wallet.

Stephanie Su
 

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