I’m a fairly new guitar player who has only played on old cheap acoustical instruments and am looking forwards to buying an electric guitar. I’m looking for something that can be versitile is style (blues, rock, metal, bluegrass) but won’t break the bank (sub $600 but will go higher if really necessary). I don’t foresee getting involved in to any sort of professional gigs. I’ll just primarily be focused on playing for fun. Of course, I’d love to play like Steve Vai although that is certainly beyond my ability. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.
Go to a decent sized music store that has a range of manufacturers and models and start trying things out. You’re the only one who’s going to know if a guitar feels right to you when you’re playing it, and if you like how it sounds. At a minimum, you should probably pick up a Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster (the American-made Strats are outside your price range) and an Epiphone Les Paul Standard. Both are classics (well, the Gibson Les Paul is a classic, but you can’t afford one of those), are fairly versatile, and are different enough that you’ll be able to begin to determine what you’re looking for in an axe. Once you figure out what you like and don’t like about those, you can branch out into other mfgs. In your price range, you’ll see guitars from Ibanez, Yamaha, Peavey, Jackson, Dean and a bunch of others. Almost everything in your price range will be made overseas or in Mexico. Most are perfectly serviceable guitars. Find what feels and sounds right.
That being said, if you’re having a hard time deciding, you could do a lot worse than a Fender Mexi-strat while you figure out what you really want. At least it’ll still be worth some significant portion of what you pay for it if you decide to dump it in favor of something else down the road.
No matter what you buy, take it to a good, well-recommended guitar shop right away and get them to set up the guitar for you. You’ll pay a little bit for it, but it’s money very well spent.
Do a search on the Guild D’Armond line. They seem to pack a lot of quality for the price into their instruments. I would avoid Epiphone, as Gibson seems to be milking this second tier line like the last cow on the farm. I own three different Guild guitars and all of them are great axes.
Here is a link to a left handed guitar site. Their prices seem to be in your range. You should be able to find right handed models at a lot of stores. The variety of styles you want to play seem to indicate a semi-hollow body guitar. Guild solid bodies are also quite nice. Check out their listings for price and model specifications to determine what is best for you.
I’d hafta say, for your price range, is to look around for mid to late 80’s Yamaha RGX model like the 1212 or 1220. Believe it or not, I’ve had a lot of luck finding them on ebay. They’re neck through body with ebony fretboards and come with various pickup configurations.The locking tremelo system is smooth, easily adjustable, and is tough to get out of tune. I’d take a RGX trem over a Floyd Rose any day. I’ve been playing them for years and you can get any sound ya want out of 'em … Rush to Metallica to country. They’ll usually run you between $300 to $375, but they’re really a great guitar for quite a good price. Good luck !
Here ya go.
Thanks for the suggestions. I was a little worried about going to a guitar shop without first having at least a little idea of what to look for. It’d feel like shopping for a car and not knowing the difference between a Ford and a Toyota. I’d just have to be relying to much on what the salesperson is saying.
What’s the difference in the sound between the semi-hollow and solid body guitar?
All of the following is the distilled experience and opinions of the Ranger. YMMV.
I’m of the school of thought that after you consider the different sounds of various pickups, amplifiers and sfx pedals/boxes, you’re not going to notice much difference in sound solely due to the body being solid or semi hollow. In direct contradiction to that, let me say that if they both have non vibrato tailpieces, the solid will tend to have more sustain. And at high volumes, the semi hollow will tend to feed back more.
It’s not really a Semi Hollow body, you know? I think what we’re talking about is what Gibson named a “Thinline” body. Like an ES-335 or Byrdland (drool).
I first learned about electric guitars in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There are more choices and options now but I think the basics still apply and are a good foundation to build on. I mentally divide electric guitars into 2 general catagories… Fender Style and Gibson style.
Fender style Gibson style
single coil pickups humbucking pickups
25" scale 24" scale
6 in line tuners 3 on a side tuners
odd volume, tone combinations one tone/volume per pickup
bolt on neck glued in neck
maple/rosewood fingerboard rosewood/ebony
Pickups: Single coils have more highs, dual (humbuckers) are more powerful and less likely to serve as a receiving antenna. With the sfx pedals/boxes now available, you can pretty much make one sound like the other.
Scale: The distance from the nut to the bridge in inches. A longer scale means longer finger stretches especially noticeable from the first to the seventh fret. Once you’re above 7, not much difference, IMHO.
Tuners: Often, the 6 in lines are ‘mini’ tuners. It’s easer to grab the wrong tuner to give it a turn on a fender style. Imitation pearl knobs look sharp, but the plastic can sort of come loose. Look for sealed gears and at least a 12:1 ratio.
Controls: Basic Gibson configuration- 2 humbuckers, 2 tone and 2 volume controls, one selector switch. Basic Fender Strat - 3 single coil pickups, one master volume, one tone for neck and one tone for middle. Selector switch.
Neck Attachment. Bolt on neck, easier and less costly replacement, more adjustment. I’ve read more sustain in glued in, but glued in is probably Gibson type and I feel they have more sustain due to the bridge/tailpiece/pickups anyway.
Fingerboard: The harder the wood, the better. Maple and Ebony are harder than rosewood or mahogany. Also more expensive. Rosewood or mahogany will work just fine.
Whammy bars/vibrato tail pieces/micro tuners/locking tuners/string locks: Avoid them all. I don’t think anyone besides Brian Setzer uses a whammy bar effectively. Sure, some folks go for flash and gadgets, but I prefer musicianship. They add to the cost of the instrument and can make it more difficult to tune the guitar or keep it in tune. My Strat has a vibrato tailpiece. I took a plane to some wooden dominos and have blocked it so it’s rock solid. The result? Longer sustain and easier tuning. Gibson tunomatic bridges and stop tailpieces are great. Fender 6 piece bridge/tailpieces are great too (if you block the vibrato block if you get that) .
If you get a Les Paul type, be sure to get something to keep the strap from coming off the strap button. Good way to break the neck and you can’t really get that repaired short of replacing the glued in neck, and that’s expensive.
When you buy a new electric guitar, the price should include a case. You should be able to talk them into throwing in a cord, strap, set of strings or two and a dozen or so flatpicks. I’d recommend a .10 set of strings (the high e is .10) and fender medium picks to start. As you develop your touch for your guitar, you may want to change. That’s okay
A semi-hollow, when you are using the pickup closest to the neck, can sound more like a hollow-body jazz guitar. Lots of players like Larry Carlton, John Scofield, etc., use them this way - neck pickup for their jazzier tunes, bridge pickup for more overdriven rockier stuff…
Given that you said “Blues, rock, metal and bluegrass” - you are spreading the varieties pretty wide.
- A Telecaster can handle bluegrass, blues and rock, but is less conducive to metal (unless I suppose you get a metal distortion stomp box and maybe roll the midrange off your amp…).
- A Strat can do pretty much the same, although a little less bluegrass and a little more metal.
- A Les Paul type (e.g., with humbuckers) can handle the first three, but I would be less inclined to say it could do bluegrass.
- A semi-hollow can do blues, rock, and Jazz, but is less conducive to metal and probably bluegrass
YMMV for all of these. A few thoughts:
Don’t get anything with a locking tremolo - period. A bear to tune and change strings on, and they suck the tone out of your guitar, especially if you aren’t playing distorted…
Try a few top of the line guitars - US Strats, Teles and LP’s and also Ibanez and Yamaha. You can get a sense of what feels / sounds good and try to match that in your cheaper guitar. Kind of like trying on a $2000 Armani suit then going to Men’s Wearhouse…
Don’t buy off eBay unless you have tried a bunch of guitars, know exactly what you want and then ask the seller a bunch of questions to ensure that their guitar is like the one you tried in the store and is in good condition (neck straight, frets in good shape, etc…)
Best of luck. For my neighbor’s 13 year old daughter, we went to Guitar Center, where they were dumping some Fender made-in-Indonesia Strats for $99. Rosewood (or rosewood type fingerboard) okay pickups, decently put together - for the price a great deal. Next years’ model is being made in China and was not nearly as well put together and cost $30 more…
My intention was to have 2 columns, fender style on the left, gibson on the right. It didn’t work and I can’t edit. Crap!
I’ve got a lefty Epiphone Les Paul, and I’m very pleased with it… the bridge is sharp as hell, though, and the strings have a tendency to break at the bridge… anyone else on this?
Who mentioned left-handed, anyhow?
That would be moi.
When you go into a guitar shop, it’s a courtesy to wear your belt buckle over at one side to avoid scratching the back of that mint-condition guitar. If you’re wearing riveted pants, you can tuck a small towel into your waistband to cover the rivets. The shop owner will appreciate it.