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The Best Budget Guitars

Updated on January 21, 2014
Hendrix playing a restrung right handed Stratocaster upside down.
Hendrix playing a restrung right handed Stratocaster upside down.

Affordable And Playable Guitars.

When seeing the prices of the guitars i have mentioned here you may well think ,why are none of the really cheap guitars mentioned ?, you know the type, cheap Korean or Chinese imports that cost around $150, well the reason is most of them are just unplayable. I often have students come to my house who bring round this type of guitar, most of them sound awful, they are difficult to play and usually don't stay in tune very well, Steve Vai would have problems trying to play one of these things so what chance would a beginner have?

The guitars listed below are not mega cheap but they are within most peoples budget, especially if you go down the second hand route, they are all very playable, sound great and will serve you from beginner level up to intermediate standard and beyond.


Materials and Sound

When looking to buy your guitar try to gain a bit of knowledge on the materials that the guitar is made from, make sure that decent woods have gone into its production such as Rosewood or Maple for its neck. Be aware that different pickups produce different sounds ( pickups are the magnets located in the center of the guitars body which magnify its sound )..Watch some videos on Youtube for example of the different guitars you are considering buying, get an idea of what sound you want achieve and what guitar would be best to help you achieve those goals.

Amplifiers, Leads And Strings

Today there are some awesome amplifiers available to guitarists without breaking the bank. Not so long ago one had to buy an amplifier and effects units separately and the effects boxes could be pretty expensive, nowadays we have what are called modelling amps available that can not only mimic the sounds of some of the greatest amps ever built but also come with loads of built in effects such as distortion, phaser, wah wah, slapback echo etc. Never ever skimp on price though when paying for guitar leads or strings, poor leads and strings can effect your sound badly, always go for brand name leads and good strings like Ernie Ball.

What Type Of Guitar Is Best For You?

When choosing an electric guitar the buyer must consider what type of music they intend to play. If for example you would like to become the next Chet Atkins and country is your thing then a guitar with single coil pickups such as the Telecaster would be for you. Single coil pickups give a cleaner and clearer sound and cut through the music mix better than the two coils of a " humbucker " pickup such as used on Les Paul type guitars.The " Humbucker " pickup was originally created to buck the hum created by single coil pickups, in doing so they created a completely different sounding pickup, richer and also deeper sounding although some would argue not as clear as a single coil. If metal is for you then guitars made especially for metal players by companies such as Jackson or BC Rich is where you should be looking. For that classic rock sound there is no need to look further than the Les Paul and the Epiphone version mentioned below is ideal and of course the legendary Stratocaster has been used by Rock and Blues players since the 1950s and is a great all rounder.

An Essential Learning Tool

If you are serious about playing the guitar to a good standard then consider investing in a guitar trainer CD such as the Tascam CD GT1 or 2. These little boxes allow you to plug in and jam along with your favorite bands or backing tracks. Tracks can be sped up or slowed down or a short phrase or solo can be repeated so you can practice it until you get it right. If you cannot afford an amplifier these sort of boxes can be played through just using headphones and also feature a range of effects to enable you to get the right sound.

Fender Mexican Telecaster

Before saying anymore on this guitar i have to admit i am a little biased towards Telecasters, ever since i found out Jimmy Page played the solo to Stairway To Heaven on a " tele " i was sold. When i first got my Mexican Telecaster i found the action a little too high for me and so i had to make some minor adjustments at the bridge to bring the action down a little, after that it was perfect. Don't expect this guitar to have the " twang " of an American made telecaster, but you will be paying around only a quarter of the price. Put through a decent modelling amp or effects unit this can be a cracking sounding guitar and excellent value. I once owned the Stratocaster version of this guitar, this guitar had one of the best actions i have ever played, however it sounded awful, i don't know whether it was the wood they used or the pickups but i understand that these guitars sound a lot better now so maybe the Mexican Stratocaster is worth a look also if a strat is more your thing. The Telecaster i own is as the one in the picture , ice white with a maple neck, i love it!

Epiphone Les Paul Custom

This is a super looking guitar, it is available in black, white , the lovely cherry sunburst pictured or even in a bulls eye pattern a la Zak Wylde. Having owned one of these i can confirm it is a pretty powerful sounding guitar with a surprisingly slim neck for a Les Paul type. Power chords pumped out on this beast really hit the mark as one would expect of a guitar with two powerful humbucker pickups. I actually changed the pickups on mine at one point for some Suhr Doug Aldrich pickups but ended up going back to the originals. A very sound and solid guitar that gives a good approximation of a real Les Paul at something like a 6th of the price. Great if you are in a band and want that classic rock sound of bands like Thin Lizzy or Free.

Yamaha Pacifica 112V

Yamaha recently came out with a statement that they had sold over a million of Pacifica guitars since they were introduced in 1990. It is not hard to understand why, the Pacifica is a great guitar for its price. I have played a few of these in the past and they were all perfectly set up straight from the factory. This guitar features a solid alder body and a maple neck which has a rosewood fingerboard. The look of the Pacifica is very reminiscent of the Stratocaster but subtly different, longer horns for example. Of course there is not a long list of famous Pacifica players like there is for the Telecaster or Les Paul but if you are not trying to emulate a personal hero then this well made guitar is well worth a look.

Jackson JS32 RHOADES

An awesome rock /metal guitar for its price. This guitar has a slim neck which is easy to navigate when soloing sweep picking etc. I changed the stock strings on the one i have been playing for a heavier gauge and this bought an immediate improvement in sound, pinched harmonics sounded especially great. The guitar also comes with a free gig bag and a Floyd Rose tremelo.My only very small gripe with this guitar is that it doesn't sit too well on the knee when practizing due to its shape, but that's a small price to pay if you want to look and sound like a metal god!

Squire Classic Vibe Stratocaster 50s

The list of famous guitarist associated with the Stratocaster is pretty endless, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn just to name a few, the " Strat " is probably the most iconic piece of kit in music. During the early 1980s Fender produced a budget version of the Stratocaster in Japan and gave it the Squire label, these early models have become classics in themselves. The Squire Classic Vibe Stratocaster 50s are made in China and is a ridiculously easy guitar to play, it comes nicely set up straight from the factory and sounds amazingly authentic for its price.

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