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If there is one purchase any aspiring guitarist needs to pay maximum attention to, it’s the first six-string they will ever get. Data shows that as much as 90% of all guitarists quit in the first year, so getting yourself an instrument that suits you well from the get-go is what can make or break you as a guitar player. Today, we’re here to showcase some of the best cheap electric guitars for beginners, that can be bought for under $200-$300 in 2021.
The market is brimming with budget models, but finding the model that will actually help you learn the ropes and feel enjoyable and fun at the same time is not a small feat. We’ve taken the liberty of picking 10 of the best-looking, best-sounding, and most versatile beginner-friendly electric guitars for your convenience.
Apart from the reviews, we highly recommend that you check out the buying guide section, as it contains rather useful information regarding the factors that influence the performance and value of each budget guitar. Now, without any further ado, let’s dive into the reviews.
Here the best cheap electric guitars for beginners 2021:
- Squier Stratocaster Pack
- Epiphone Slash ‘AFD’ Les Paul Special-II Outfit
- Gretsch G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet Club
- Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster HH
- Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
- Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS32TQ DKA
- Squier Affinity Series Telecaster
- Ibanez Gio GRX20Z
- Yamaha Pacifica 112V
- Jackson Monarkh SC JS22
1. Squier Stratocaster Pack
We wanted to open up our review of the best budget electric guitars for beginners with a bundle that offers the most bang for your buck. Namely, Squier Stratocaster is tailor-made for up and coming guitarists, it feels a bit more natural for starters due to its specific neck profile, and the package features all the necessary accessories that will gear you up to start strumming straight off the bat.
Let’s start with the basics; this particular version of Strat is a ‘short-scale’ guitar. This essentially means that it’s a couple of inches shorter than a full-scale (original) Strat, which further means that it’s also lighter, easier to grip, and easier to carry around.
The slim profile of the C-neck allows for easier movements across, above, and under the fretboard, meaning that pulling off chords, hammer-ons, and pull-offs, as well as other beginner guitar techniques, will come to you organically easier.
In terms of construction, the body of this Strat is made of poplar wood, which offers a distinctive, yet sonically neutral tone. It’s decently durable and most importantly – light. Beginners and even intermediate-level guitarists usually pick up the Strat due to the superb benefits of mobility it offers.
Hardware-wise, Squier’s Strat features three Fender’s single-coil pickups and a three-way switch that allows you to shift between the magnets, as well as three control knobs (two for tone, one for volume).
As for the accessories and gratis goodies that come with the bundle, the most notable one is the Fender’s Frontman – a small 10-watt amplifier that is perfect for learning how to play the guitar at home, although it’s not exactly suited for band practices or gigs. Other accessories include a thoroughly padded bag, a standard guitar cable (3 meters long), a strap, and three Fender picks.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
One of the coolest things about Fender’s Strat is that even its weak points can be turned to your advantage, especially if you’re a beginner. Its tuning pegs are not exactly exemplary, but that might help you learn how to tune your guitar more accurately. The Strat bundle is a premium snatch for beginners as it comes supplied with everything you’ll need to have an enjoyable learning experience.
2. Epiphone Slash ‘AFD’ Les Paul Special-II Outfit
Most people get inspired to pick up the guitar after watching their idols perform live, and if you’re looking up to Guns n’ Roses, we highly recommend that you start with Epiphone’s Slash Les Paul Special-II.
Basically, this guitar is built in semblance to Slash’s signature Les Paul, although different woods and hardware were used in the construction process. This is a solid-body entry-level guitar that rocks a mahogany body and neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and maple top.
What makes this guitar stand out (apart from being built after Slash’s guitar) is the fact that it features open-coil humbucking pickups on the bridge and neck. Open-coil magnets are much hotter than single-coil ones, which means that Les Paul Special-II will react to overdrive and distortion effects much more favorably.
This is also the reason why this guitar is perfect for beginner rockers; you’ll immediately be able to dial into the tone of some of your guitar heroes. Just like our previous pick, this is also a beginner’s bundle that features a guitar strap, a gig bag, a cable, and three Epiphone picks.
|Image credit: Epiphone Check Sweetwater||
Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bedroom guitarist, a budget Les Paul is, by definition, a valuable guitar. It’s made of top-shelf materials after the specs of the guitar one of the most recognized musicians plays, and it comes in a bundle packed with a variety of guitar accessories.
3. Gretsch G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet Club
Gretsch is favored by the entire guitar-playing community, regardless of the skill level. They have a very broad and versatile catalog of top-shelf axes, and suffice it to say, each one of the models they have to offer can be labeled as a ‘Jack of all trades’. The G2210 Streamliner is not an exception, but it is just a bit more special than most other models because it’s available at a bargain price.
The first reason why most people have their eyes stuck at the G2210 is that it looks much, much more expensive. It rocks a beautiful natural finish, a massive body, and it could easily be mistaken for a boutique-level guitar of premium quality.
With a nato body and neck, as well as with Laurel fingerboard, Gretsch’s G2210 Streamliner Junior Jet Club offers a unique blend of tonewoods, which results in a fairly exquisite, almost unfamiliar tone. It’s exceptionally robust, but it’s actually just a bit lighter than you’d imagine since its scale length is shortened down to 24.75 inches.
While we’re still on the topic of tone and sound, G2210 Streamliner features two Broad’Tron humbucking pickups (on the neck and bridge), a three-way toggle switch, a master volume knob, and master tone knob. In short, you’ll be able to play around and dial into a nearly infinite spectrum of tones, although it will require a bit of skill, time, and patience to do so.
|Image credit: Gretsch Check Sweetwater||
If your budget allows you precisely $300 and you don’t need any additional guitar gear or accessories, the Streamliner G2210 Junior Jet Club should be a no-brainer for you. This guitar sounds amazing, feels great to the touch, and it’s best-suited for beginner guitar players who want to get accustomed to quality sound right from the start.
4. Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster HH
Squier, as well as most Fender guitars frankly, have a very recognizable outlook and sound, but it seems like a couple of models they’ve graced the market with do not fit that bill perfectly well.
The Jazzmaster is an iconic guitar, and nowadays most people are pretty familiar with how it sounds and looks like, but the fact still remains that it’s one of the most uniquely-looking and exquisitely-sounding guitars the brand’s built to this day.
There are tons of reasons why we think you should begin with the Affinity Jazzmaster HH, but let’s just mention some of the most notable ones; apart from looking both beautiful and elegant, this guitar’s playability is in a league of its own.
It features 22 medium frets and a slim C profile, which means that it practically plays itself once you start holding it in your hands. Furthermore, it sports an alder-made body, a maple neck, and Indian Laurel fingerboard; this particular combination of tonewoods is fairly uncommon, and it might not be to everyone’s liking. However, new students of music seem to be attracted to its tone even though it’s as unique as it can be.
A perfect way to bring the Affinity Jazzmaster a bit closer to people and beginner guitarists who are only versed in popular and mainstream guitars was to implement stock humbucking pickups, and that’s precisely what Squier did. These magnets are balanced through and through, and we can safely say that they ‘tame’ Jazzmaster’s dreamy tone in a sense.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
Squier’s Affinity Jazzmaster is cheaper than most Tellys and Strats, yet it could easily go toe to toe with any budget and entry-level models this brand made in terms of performance. It offers an elegant body, much variety with the versatile tonewoods it comes supplied with, and a completely unique sound; you simply couldn’t ask for more for the buck.
5. Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT
We briefly touched on Slash’s Epiphone Les Paul, and we decided to pitch in another one for the sake of variety. In comparison to the aforementioned, the Les Paul Studio LT is slightly cheaper, packed with a bit more traditional features and it obviously sounds, plays, and feels substantially different than Les Paul ‘AFD’ Special-II.
Aesthetics-wise, the Studio LT Les Paul looks simply amazing. It sports a single-cutaway design, it’s colored in ebony, and it rocks an elegant high-gloss black finish. It’s also available in heritage cherry sunburst, vintage sunburst, and walnut style options, although they might be a little more expensive, so let’s stick to this one for the time being.
This is essentially a mahogany guitar (neck and body) with a rosewood fingerboard, which means that you’ll be able to get a full-bodied, yet relatively darker tone. It also sports 22 medium-jumbo frets that are perfect for beginners with smaller hands and fingers. The reduced scale length also heavily complements the already-great level of playability the Studio LT Les Paul provides.
The only thing that most people don’t seem to be able to wrap their head around regarding this guitar is that it doesn’t actually look like your average Les Paul guitar. Even still, it’s a beautiful guitar, regardless of which color style option you go with.
However, what sets this guitar apart from the rest is its hardware. It rocks a Lock Tone Tune-o-Matic tailpiece, a set of top-shelf tuning pegs that provide superb intonation, two volume control knobs, two-tone control knobs, and a three-way pickup selector switch. Speaking of which, this Les Paul features a 650R Zebra humbucking neck pickup and a 700T Zebra humbucking bridge pickup as well.
|Image credit: Epiphone Check Sweetwater||
If you’re searching for a beginner’s electric guitar solely based on how it looks (or should look like), you’d probably do best with a Gretsch. However, if you’re on the market in search of a guitar that sounds great and is very playable, we recommend checking the Les Paul Studio LT.
6. Jackson Dinky Arch Top JS32TQ DKA
Thousands and thousands of metal players have started with (or at least aspired to have) one of Jackson’s guitars. If you have a taste for heavier, faster, and darker music, be it hard rock or death metal, you’ll be more than satisfied with the Dinky Arch Top JS32TQ DKA.
As far as looks go, the Dinky JS32TQ DKA has a marvelous textured surface coated with a reflective glossy finish, and it’s available in several color variations, including transparent red, transparent blue, and if you’re lucky enough, you might stumble across the elusive gray (black) variant.
Judging by its aesthetic component, you probably wouldn’t be able to discern that it features a body made of poplar. It’s exceptionally sturdy, and it’s probably just a bit heavier than you’d be comfortable with, but that affords it the ability to withstand years of use and abuse.
The quilted maple top spices up the tonewood batch with a bit of extra warmth while the exotic amaranth fingerboard stretches the sound to the other end of the tonal spectrum, bringing slightly darker shades to the palette.
In terms of sonic performance, Dinky’s tone is all around the place. It boasts a balanced soundstage, although its sound features a very characteristic, bassy low end with an accentuated treble. We should also note that Dinky JS32TQ DKA is meant to be played with big amps, heads, and cabs; it features two high-output humbucking pickups that welcome any kind of gain-packed distortion with open arms.
Playability-wise, Dinky JS32TQ DKA features 24 jumbo frets and a 25.5-inch scale length. Navigating the fingerboard as you learn the ropes of guitar playing shouldn’t be too hard, especially during the process of learning how to fret some of the most basic chords. On the flip side, once you start feeling inclination towards playing solos, you might find that the frets are a bit wider in comparison to some of our previous picks.
Lastly, let’s briefly touch on the controls this magnificent guitar has to offer. There’s a master volume knob, a master tone knob, and a three-way blade pickup selector switch, so finding your own ‘voice’ should be relatively easy.
|Image credit: Jackson Check Sweetwater||
Dinky JS32TQ DKA was made to last a century, and we can say with utmost certainty that its tonal capabilities will allow you to find and redefine your tone time and time again over the years. It looks great, it has exceptional hardware and features, although be prepared to have a workout every time you pick it up as it weighs quite a bit.
7. Squier Affinity Series Telecaster
We’ve already stepped into the vast world of Squier’s Affinity Series with the review of the Jazzmaster, and now we intend to immerse you even further with the Squier Affinity Telecaster.
While the Jazzmaster is very ‘specific’ in almost every sense in the world, the good old Telly is much closer to the hearts, hands, and ears of the people who’ve had a guitar in their arms only a couple of times in their whole life.
The Affinity Telecaster is a perfect choice for beginners who already have a certain tone they’re looking for in their mind – Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Jim Root, Marty Stuart, and the like are all Telly players.
If you’re a fan of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, or even some more modern music such as Slipknot or The Winery Dogs, for example, you’ll be able to achieve a portion of their sound with a Telecaster. Rest assured, even low-end Tellys are capable of rocking the house, just like boutique models.
The Affinity Telecaster has an alder body, and maple neck and fretboard. It rocks 21 medium-jumbo frets and a shorter scale length (25.5-inch), as well as two vintage-style Telecaster single-coil magnets. With that being said, you can safely and accurately guess that the Affinity Telly has a well-rounded sound that leans toward the warmer edge of the tonal spectrum.
|Image credit: Squier Check Sweetwater||
Telecasters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the one that belongs to the Affinity Series is essentially a true representative of what a budget high-quality guitar can do. If you want to sound like your guitar heroes while being able to learn the ropes in the fastest fashion possible, we highly recommend checking it out.
8. Ibanez Gio GRX20Z
The GRX20Z from Ibanez is easily one of the best-looking Ibanez guitars, as well as one of the best electric guitars under $200. Aside from the fact that it’s dirt-cheap, its sound and tone are absolutely amazing, its playability is over the top, and its sustain and resonance are almost unparalleled.
It features a basswood body and a maple C-shaped neck, which means that it’s more receptive to low-end frequencies. This further means that it offers a bassy, trebly sound, but since it also sports Powersound PSND1 and PSND2 humbuckers, you’ll easily be able to reach favorable mids and highs with it.
In terms of hardware, the Gio GRX20Z features a plastic nut, the FAT6 fully adjustable Vibrato tailpiece, and standard Ibanez machine heads.
|Image credit: Ibanez Check Sweetwater||
The GRX20 has a look of an expensive guitar, it’s built from top-shelf tonewoods, and it offers an exceptionally high playability. The only thing that might get into your way of liking it is its relatively inexpensive sound, but luckily, that can easily be corrected with a pedal or two. It plays really well on both smaller and larger amps, and it’s well worth every single cent.
9. Yamaha Pacifica 112V
Yamaha guitars are all-rounders; axes that can fit any play style, any music genre, and ultimately, every individual player. They boast superb playability and feel, their intonation is by default great, and their distinctive sound is what buys you at the end instead of it being the other way around.
The Pacifica PAC112V is a schoolbook example of what an inexpensive low-cost electric guitar should look, feel, and sound like, which are just some of the many reasons why we’ve decided to include it in our review of the cheapest beginner-friendly guitars worth buying. As a matter of fact, it just might be the best electric guitar under $300.
Another reason why Pacifica PAC112V is so great for beginners is the fact that it sports 22 medium-sized frets and a somewhat shorter scale length. The frets are big enough for you to quickly and easily weave masterful chords, but they’re also ‘small’ enough for you to line single notes in rapid succession once you start learning your favorite solos.
This guitar rocks a maple C-shaped neck, a rosewood fingerboard, and a body made of high-quality alder. Although it’s exceptionally durable, that’s not everything it brings to the table; alder, maple, and rosewood are all pretty versatile tonewoods, but each of them belongs to different ‘points’ along the line of the tonal spectrum.
You’ll be able to dial into balanced, warm, and mellow tones, but just as easily will you be able to locate harsh, crude, and dark sounds, regardless of the amp you’re using.
In terms of hardware, the Pacifica PAC112V features a vintage tremolo packed with proprietary block saddles, a set of Yamaha Sealed tuning pegs and two Alnico single-coil pickups. The magnets are responsive and hot enough to work with clean tones, overdriven sounds, and gain-packed distortion just the same.
On a side note, the Pacifica PAC112V also comes pre-strung with D’Addario’s EXL120 strings, and it features a five-way pickup switch, a master tone control knob, and a master volume control knob.
|Image credit: Check Sweetwater||
Most beginner guitar players don’t actually realize what they should be looking for in a guitar, which in turn leads them towards axes that either look or sound good. While Pacifica PAC112V might not be the most aesthetically captivating guitar ever made, its playability and tonal versatility are more than enough to compensate for this little ‘downfall’ of sorts.
10. Jackson Monarkh SC JS22
Let’s wrap our review up with a classy Jackson model labelled as the Monarkh, a.k.a. SC JS22. The reason why we’ve saved one of the best electric guitars for beginners for last is quite simple – it’s a no-brainer if you’ve already decided your budget, and it has all the elements of a quality guitar.
This guitar features a body made of nato and finished in satin, a one-piece maple neck, and amaranth fingerboard. The exotic tonewood will help you get accustomed to exquisite sounds right from the start, and they’re pretty terrific in terms of durability as well.
|Image credit: Jackson Check Sweetwater||
The Monarkh exudes authority, and it’s one of the few of beginner guitars that tend to stick with new players for years. Its sound is exceptional, its durability is great, and its playability was tailored towards helping beginners learn the ropes.
Choosing the best beginner electric guitar in 2021
What is a good beginner electric guitar?
As electric guitars keep evolving, and new features are added every so often, there is truly a wide range of different types and models you can get. We’ll try to cover the basics, explain the most important specifications, and give advice on what we think would help you when you start playing.
Price often dictates the quality
If you’re buying an electric guitar for someone who is an absolute beginner, opting for a less expensive one shouldn’t be a problem. Electric guitars, like many other instruments, have a wide price range. Don’t simply go for the cheapest option, but also don’t stress yourself about getting a crazy expensive one.
On the other hand, if you or the person you’re buying the guitar for already has one, and wants to upgrade, think about the style of music, and the overall skill level, and choose the new guitar accordingly. There are, of course, cheaper models that prove to be of excellent quality. However, most of the time, the quality depends on the money you’re ready to spend.
As there are three types of the body when it comes to electric guitars, let’s see what are the benefits and downsides of each.
As you may have guessed, these electric guitars have a body similar to acoustic guitars. This means you get quite more resonance, but at the same time feedback can be a problem. As a beginner, you shouldn’t focus on searching for hollow-body guitars before you understand how to shape and control the sounds and tones your ax can make.
A solid center wood block is positioned inside the body in order to provide stability in the structure of the guitar, but you still get great sustain and warm sound. They’re right between hollow and solid-body guitars in terms of weight, structural stability, and general sturdiness.
The most common option. Though it may not offer that much sustain and resonance, it’s definitely the sturdiest one. Solid-body guitars are typically heavier than average, but the weight is also influenced by other factors, such as tonewood choice, hardware, and such.
So, what should you pick as a novice guitarist? It boils down to personal preference. If, however, you still don’t know what to get, our personal advice would be to go for a solid body guitar, as you won’t have to think about it breaking that much if you accidentally hit your chair or the wall while playing.
Pickups are the part of the electric guitar that detect the vibrations of the strings and translate them into a signal the amplifier can understand and transform into sound. They’re the key ‘electrical’ component of a guitar that separates electric models from acoustic ones.
There are two important things to have in mind when talking about pickups: the type, and the layout.
The most basic pickup type or design is called a single-coil pickup. Single coil pickups tend to produce bright and crisp sound. It’s a good choice because the tone can cut through the overall mix when playing as a part of a band. The downside of this type of pickup is that it often generates hum and unwanted noise in the background.
Your next choice would be humbucker pickups. Designed as a solution for the mentioned hum with single-coil pickups, they also offer a different sound. As they offer more power and tend to sound thicker and heavier, they are a good choice for playing hard rock, metal, or even jazz.
Active pickups aside from needing a battery to operate, offer a preamp, as well as some additional sound-shaping controls onboard the guitar. These are primarily used for higher output needs and offer a more controlled, cleaner sound. Ultimately, active pickups work best for heavier, driven or distorted tones.
Pickup layouts are a bit more complicated. Different models offer different solutions. Now that you know what single-coil and humbucker pickups are, you can understand different layouts. S stands for single-coil, and H stands for humbucker. Going from the neck, down to the bridge, there are different combinations of these two types of pickups.
The crucial thing for you to understand is, bridge pickups provide a sound with more treble, and by going towards the neck, pickups offer more of the mid and low range of the sound.
As a beginner, you should aim for a guitar that has multiple pickups, so you can tune in the desired sound. Simply use the dedicated knob or switch, and experiment with different pickup combinations.
This refers to the length of the strings, from nut to bridge. In order to avoid any kind of confusion, your best bet would be to go for guitars with a scale length of 24-25 inches. Essentially, the average scale length of an electric guitar is within the range of 25.4 to 25.5 inches, which further means that a beginner would do best with a ‘shorter scale-length’ guitar.
Neck shape and type
Hosting a fretboard (the part where you press the strings) from ebony, maple, or rosewood, necks come in different sizes. If you have smaller hands, go for a narrower, shallower neck, as it will definitely feel more comfortable.
There are also different types of neck construction options, which is the way that the neck and body are joined together.
- Bolt-on – The neck is simply bolted to the body. This is probably the most common and cost-effective type of neck construction. The downside is that it provides less sustain and resonance as opposed to other options.
- Set necks – The neck is glued to the body of the guitar. Though that means you’ll be getting more sustain and resonance, any potential repairs can be difficult and expensive.
- Neck-through – As the name suggests, the neck goes through the body of the guitar. If you’re looking for maximum resonance and sustain, this is your best bet. This also makes the whole construction more stable, minimizing the chances of any cracks.
The type of wood used for the guitar is one of the more important factors when it comes to sound quality and characteristics. Without getting into too much detail, let’s go over some of the most common types of wood used for guitars, and their impact on the sound.
- Maple – more trebles.
- Mahogany – very resonant, great sustain.
- Ebony – hard, dense wood, balanced sound.
- Rosewood – most common, balanced sound.
- Ash – bright tone, nice sustain, punchy midrange.
- Alder – similar to ash, but not that expensive.
- Agathis –not quite resonant as Alder.
- Nato – warm sound.
Another important thing to know about tonewoods is that you can never discern the tonal capabilities of a guitar-based on ‘one alone’. Tonewoods always function in ‘harmony’, which means that the ‘end result’ in terms of how a guitar sounds like is provided by the combination of three different tonewoods – neck, body, and fingerboard.
The bridge is the piece of hardware located on the lower end of the body, over which the strings are routed. Different options provide you with different possibilities when it comes to doing vibratos, as well as adjusting string height.
- Tune-o-Matic – A common design, offers individual string intonation and height adjustment.
- Fulcrum Vibrato – Every string sits on an individual saddle, which you can adjust in terms of height and intonation.
- Floyd Rose – Provides the same benefits as a fulcrum vibrato, but with more space for the vibrato motion.
- Bigsby – Offers a vintage vibe, as it’s commonly found on old- school guitars. Cheap electric guitars seldom come supplied with one.
- Six-point locking tremolo – All the benefits of a fulcrum vibrato, but also offers better vibration and resonance.
- String-through – The strings go over the saddles, and through holes in the body, giving a bit more sustain.
This would pretty much round up the most important specs and features electric guitars have to offer. With this knowledge and understanding, reading through the next part of this guide should be easy.
And that wraps it up. We hope that you’ve liked our review of the best electric guitars for beginners and wish you luck in finding the model that suits your needs the best. Feel free to take your time and make sure you’ve found your ideal pick. Based on our experience with entry-level guitarists, we feel confident that what you’re looking for is likely on this very page. Stay safe and rock on, guys!
Marko is a writer, bassist, and fan of all things music. His passions include quality music gear, King Crimson, and sifting the web for the latest music updates.