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A Guide to Choosing an Electric Guitar


Whether you're a novice or an accomplished guitarist, choosing the right electric guitar can be a daunting task. We hope this guide will help you pinpoint the ideal electric guitar that meets your preferences and needs.

Types of Electric Guitar


Usually guitars come in three primary types:

  1. Solid body

  2. Semi-hollow body

  3. Hollow body


The most common among these is the solid body, which is versatile and free from feedback issues.

Semi-hollow and hollow body guitars are lighter and more conducive to cleaner tones and are often featured in jazz, blues, and indie genres.


The semi acoustic guitars possess a resonant, acoustic quality that complements specific musical styles. However, they also present feedback susceptibility. Keep in mind that the guitar's body type significantly influences its overall sound and performance.


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Recognizing solid body electric guitars is straightforward, while semi-hollow and hollow body guitars exhibit "f-holes" on the front.


For most players, particularly beginners or those gravitating towards distortion-heavy music, the solid body guitar is generally the recommended choice.


Amongst solid body electric guitars, various shapes exist.


The Most Common shapes

  1. Stratocaster Shape

  2. Telecaster shape

  3. Les Paul shape

  4. SG shape

  5. Explorer shape

  6. Flying V shape

  7. Jaguar, Jazzmaster Shape

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While these guitar shapes were initially introduced by Fender and Gibson, similar, much less expensive designs are offered by other brands such as Ibanez, Tokai, Epiphone, Squier, Revalation, Burny, Yamaha and Washburn - to name but a few.

When evaluating shape, prioritize the aesthetics and comfort of the guitar, considering factors like access to upper frets, weight, and playability while sitting down.


Tonal Characteristics


Achieving an excellent sound is a pivotal aspect when selecting an electric guitar. However, bear in mind that tonal preferences are subjective, varying from player to player.


Pickups, the core contributors to a guitar's sound, play a crucial role. Other factors like tonewood, shape, and size also influence the sound, but pickups remain paramount. 


Pickup Varieties


The three primary pickup types are single coils, humbuckers, and P90s. Each has distinct characteristics:

  1. Single coil: These have the brightest and thinnest sound and are more prone to feedback. Common in country, pop, and rock.

  2. Humbucker: Full and warm sound with minimal feedback. Ideal for genres demanding distortion like metal and rock.

  3. P90: A versatile middle ground between single coils and humbuckers. P90's generally have a punchier sound due to them being a single coil pickup with a larger magnet and extra copper wire windings.


Consider the pickup configuration (number and combination) in your choice; mixing pickup types can amplify versatility. Additionally, there are active and passive pickups:

  1. Passive pickups: Lower output, versatile, yet might sound muddy with high gain

  2. Active pickups: Higher output, particularly suitable for playing heavy metal. 


Certain pickups feature extra functionality, such as coil splitting or tapping, to transition between humbucker and single coil sounds. Such features are more common in guitars beyond the beginner price range. Some guitars have a mixture of pickups.


Guitar Controls


Electric guitars feature various switches and controls, such as:

  1. Pickup selector: Choose between neck, middle (if applicable), and bridge pickups. Available in 3-way or 5-way configurations for added versatility.

  2. Tone control: Adjust tonal characteristics for each pickup.

  3. Volume control: Regulate pickup volume.

  4. Other features like coil split/tap and phase/parallel switches enhance tonal possibilities.


Choose the control setup aligned with your musical needs and playing style.




Comfort is paramount, especially for beginners. Playing a guitar that feels good enhances your playing experience and facilitates improvement. While comfort is subjective, try out guitars in-store to identify the ones that resonate with you. Key factors affecting playability are:

  1. Body shape: Influences sitting and standing comfort. Many guitars have contoured body shapes to make them feel more comfortable.

  2. Neck shape: Guitar necks have different profiles - from round to flat, catering to different hand sizes.

  3. Neck joint: Affects upper fret accessibility.

  4. Weight: Significant during prolonged standing play

  5. Number of Frets. Most electric guitars have 20 - 24 Frets (2 Octaves).

Certain factors like body shape and neck joint are unchangeable, while action (string height) and string gauge can be adjusted post-purchase through setup.



Visual appeal is vital, as a guitar that resonates with your taste enhances your connection to the instrument. Considering various factors can guide your choice:

  1. Body shape: Impacts both playability and aesthetics.

  2. Color: Diverse options are available.

  3. Finish: Choose between solid, burst, or uniquely patterned finishes.


Strive to choose a guitar that speaks to you aesthetically, as this personal connection encourages consistent practice.


Navigating Affordable and Premium


Guitars Price tags often differentiate guitars, with higher-priced models offering enhanced hardware, pickups, tonewoods, and finishes. They also undergo more meticulous quality control, resulting in a superior product. Factors that escalate with price include:

  1. Manufacturing origin: Higher-quality countries include the USA and Japan.

  2. Premium finishes and woods.

  3. High-quality pickups.

  4. Improved fretwork, detailing and hardware.


Remember, affordability doesn't compromise playability. Novice and expert players alike can work with budget-friendly guitars which are well set up.


Guitar Brands and Country of Origin.


A guitar's origin and brand, while influential, shouldn't overshadow your personal preference. While some players associate higher quality with American-made guitars, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian and Mexican-made guitars also excel.

Focus on the guitar's sound, appearance, and feel rather than fixating on its origin or brand. 

These days many cheaper brands play very well and you would hardly notice the difference. The headstock label doesn't define your playing experience. Due to advances in manufacturing techniques, you can buy an excellent guitar between £250 and £500. 

Brand preferences often correspond to musical styles. Fender and Gibson evoke traditional tones, while Ibanez and ESP emphasize modern and aggressive sounds. 


Simplify your Decision-Making Process.

  1. Establish your budget.

  2. Test each model in-store to assess playability, sound, and comfort and take your time.

  3. Consider aesthetic preferences.

  4. Weigh pros and cons, narrowing down to a few contenders.

  5. Make your selection based on personal satisfaction.


Trying out Guitars at a Guitar Shop


When testing guitars in-store, consider these tips:

  1. Sit and stand with the guitar.

  2. Try various fretting positions and strumming styles.

  3. Evaluate the guitar's balance and comfort.

  4. Experiment with both clean and distorted sounds.

  5. Examine upper fret accessibility.


These trials provide insight into a guitar's playability and compatibility with your playing style.

New vs. Used Electric Guitars


Both new and pre-owned guitars offer advantages. New guitars provide the latest technology and often come with warranties, while pre-owned ones can offer quality at a reduced cost. Evaluate both options based on your priorities and budget.


Ultimately, your choice depends on the sound, appearance, and feel you seek.




Selecting the perfect electric guitar involves a balance between sound, aesthetics, and comfort. By considering the guitar type, tonal aspects, playability, appearance, and budget, you can make an informed choice that resonates with your musical journey.
As you gain more experience you will probably want to experiment with guitar pedals and different amplifiers which can totally change your sound. Buy the best guitar you can afford, look after it by keeping it well maintained and it will last you for many many years.


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