How To Choose An Electric Guitar For Beginners

When Figuring out how to choose an electric guitar, the first thing you should consider is the pros and cons of why you would choose an electric guitar.

Pros Electric Guitars

  • Want to play the same as a guitar hero. Your motivation might be to play like your favorite rock star. In this case, you may want to start with electric guitars. 
  • I don’t want that mellow crap. You hate acoustic guitars and just want to rock out. That’s fine. Have fun with it.
  • Looks really cool. Electric guitars do look really cool. But don’t ever choose a guitar just because it looks cool. There are many other things to consider.

Cons Of Electric Guitars

  • Needs additional equipment. An electric guitar needs to be plugged in to be heard properly. Consider a good amp with your electric guitar to get the most out of it.

Chosing An Electric Guitar Body Style

  • Solid-body guitars are very popular for rock and country guitar playing.
    • Fender Stratocaster’s – Popularized by Fender Guitar Company, Strats have a distinctive style that has been copied over and over again. They have a great variety of sounds that you can incorporate and are fun to play.
    • Fender Telecaster – Another great guitar by Fender. This style is used a lot in country music.
    • Gibson Les Paul – Popularized by heavy metal and hard rock bands, Les Pauls is another versatile guitar that can really get a raunchy sound.
    • Gibson SG – Another great raunchy-sounding guitar that has been played by greats such as Jimmy Page. This guitar has a double-cutaway design that is great for playing higher notes on the fretboard.
    • Gibson Flying V – I’m not a big fan of this style but some people love them.
    • Gibson Explorer – This model looks like a lightning bolt. The SG, Flying V, and Explorer all make playing high notes more accessible and easier.
  • Hollow Body Or Archtop Guitars
    • A very resonant instrument with a top that is arched and set up for playing amplified.
  • Semi-Hollow Body
    • These are popularized by Gibsons ES Series guitars and Rickenbacker. These guitars have a tone block that runs down the center of the guitar that helps to reduce feedback, while still retaining a deep tone. These instruments are often used in jazz-style guitar but you can find them in rock and country as well.
  • Other
    • There are lots of other variants of these main styles out there. Play as many guitar styles as you can so you can decide for yourself what you like, what feels the best, and what gives you the sound you are looking for.

How To Choose An Electric Guitar – Electric Guitar Pickups

Active vs Passive

  • Active Guitar Pickups – Active guitar pickups also use copper wire coils but they use fewer coils than passive. Instead, these use a preamp to boost the signal which is usually powered by a 9-volt battery.
  • Passive Guitar Pickups – Passive guitar pickups use simple transducers, built by wrapping many coils of copper wire around a magnet. The location of the magnet in proximity to the strings causes the strings to magnetize. So when the strings move, they disturb the magnetic field and cause an electrical current to pass through the copper wire. A lot of popular brands use this type of pickup.

Benefits And Drawbacks

  • Passive guitar pickups tend to transmit more hum and interference. Also, since the pickups and strings are magnetized, it can cause the strings to bend enough to cause intonation issues. Passive pickups can also cause a lot more feedback. Passive pickups tend to have a higher dynamic range than active so they are praised for this. They also enhance lower frequencies and have a warmer tone.
  • Active pickups are less susceptible to background noise. They are sometimes described as tonally “cold” meaning the tone dynamics are much lower than that of passive. However, these are sought after for their ability to articulate lines for shred or jazz guitar.

More About Pickups

  • Single Coil Guitar Pickups – Single-coil pickups are just that. A single coiled pickup controlled by electromagnetic copper wiring. Passive pickups tend to be single or double coiled pickups. These produce
  • Humbucker Guitar Pickups – Humbuckers were created by combining two single-coil into one pickup and wiring them so that their magnetic poles oriented in opposite directions. This canceled or “bucked” the electric hum. Hence the name humbucker.
  • Why choose single coil-over double coiled guitar pickups? Because single coils tend to be brighter and crisper with more not definition between strings. Humbuckers are usually darker, heavier, and louder.

How To Choose An Electric Guitar – Evaluating A Guitar

When looking at how to choose an electric guitar, first and foremost, go out and play a bunch of guitars and see what you like. This is the best way to get a feel for what you prefer.

Guitar Price

You do not have to spend a ton of money on a decent electric guitar. At the same time, too cheap can be devastating. Don’t order your guitar from Walmart because it is cheap and comes with a bunch of starter stuff. On the other hand, don’t spend a small fortune on your first guitar. A good starter guitar with a decent tone will run you around $150 to $200. Some makes and models even come as a kit with a strap, tuner, and case among other things. A used guitar can be good too, just be careful and know what you are looking at. Plug it in and make sure the pickups work, if sounds and feels good, and plays well.

Guitar Quality

The old adage “you get what you pay for” is true. If you go super cheap you will get super cheap and you will probably end up discouraged by the tone and quality of the guitar. This is why I recommend spending a little bit more and getting something you really like and that you will enjoy.

Check the frets, fretboard, and body for flaws. The frets should be smooth, the fretboard should not have nicks or other flaws and the fretboard should be a size that fits your hand. Are the seems and joints snug and put together well? Are there scratches? Look down the length of the neck, is it straight? One of the most important questions to ask is whether the guitar can hold the note when it is tuned? Do the tuners slip when you are trying to tune?

Take a look a the pickups and plug it into the same type of amp you plan to use with the guitar. If you plan to buy both at the same time, make this a consideration. What type of amp do you want, need? Are the pickups working and do the switches work? How is the tone when plugged in? Does it plugin from the side of the guitar or the top. This may change which chord you choose. Do you want or need a tremolo?

Buy the guitar not the brand name and buy the best you can afford, you will enjoy it more. Mostly do not buy a guitar just because it’s pretty.

Feel Or Action

The action is the distance between the fretboard and the strings. The strings too far from the fretboard make the action hard. Closer is better, but not so close that the strings buzz on the frets. The closer the action the easier it easy to play. This is where it might be good to bring a friend with you or consult with a store employee who can play who can help you with these things. Another consideration is ergonomics, is it a comfortable guitar? Is the headstock heavy and does it experience head dive? A guitar should be balanced so that you don’t have to hold up the neck when playing. Head dive is really annoying especially when you are trying to learn.


An important consideration in how to choose an electric guitar should be the sound. How is the tone of the guitar and the pickups? Make sure you plug it in and listen to how it sounds through an amplifier. Use the same or similar amplifier as you plan to use at home. When it comes to electric guitars, you will find that having a good amp will make a huge difference in the tone of the guitar. If you have a cheap amp, it will be frustrating because it will likely sound bad. Don’t spend $800 on a great guitar and plug it into a crappy amp. Practice amps don’t have to break the bank but make sure it sounds good. You can also plug the guitar into a computer with a computer interface. This will allow you to use digital amplifiers which is a great option when you are just learning. We cover computer interfaces in Guitar Accessories For Beginners.


How does the size of the guitar feel? Do your fingers fit in the frets? Some people recommend full-sized guitars no matter what. They believe that you will adjust your playing to suit the guitar. While this is true, there may be reasons for considering a 3/4 sized guitar, especially for smaller children. The more comfortable the guitar is the more you will want to play it.

Conclusion On How To Choose An Electric Guitar

How to choose an electric guitar can be overwhelming, however, when you know what to look for it becomes much easier. So in conclusion, look at the price of the guitar, the overall quality, action, tone, and size. How a guitar feels is one of the most important considerations when choosing a guitar. When this information all comes together, you can make an informed decision and pick the right guitar for you!

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