Simply put, there’s no instrument that’s more iconic than an electric guitar. Whether you’re just strumming around or fully connected to a pedal board with lots of juice effects at your disposal, playing an electric riff is almost transcendent.
While some musicians like to play on a hollow body electric that provides some acoustic-style playability when not plugged in, real rockers will almost always play on a solid body instrument that requires an amplifier for deep shreds.
As a long time guitar player, I’ve been looking for a great guitar model that can play great through an effects-laden amp, and quite honestly, the classic has won out; the Fender Stratocaster is still one of the best guitars on the market today for just about any level of guitarist.
I’m the type of player that frequents several local Guitar Centers and plays on the various guitars that they have there. This is an excellent way to really tamp down on the sound that each guitar plays, and since I play several other instruments like the electric bass, it’s also an opportunity to play those as well.
Since I’ve been looking for a new solid body to replace my aging Fender variant, I decided to do a little research into the best solid body electric guitars on the market today. And I discovered that the Fender Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar – Maple Fingerboard, Arctic White is a perfect, well-rounded option for most modern guitarists.
I didn’t make this discovery in a vacuum. I consulted my local Guitar Center salesman Jorge and also have spent some extra time in the store just trying out some models of guitar that I had never sampled before.
I must have spent three hours in the store plugging in more than 50 guitars just so I could get a good idea of each instrument’s overall quality, so I really want to thank the staff for being patient.
I’ve also checked out online reviews from experts, perused a wide variety of Youtube videos, and also consulted with some of my band mates who know more about guitars than me. Some of the products that I tested that really left an impression you’ll be able to find in the “Other Products to Consider” section, so if a Strat isn’t your thing, check out those instruments.
Top Pick: Fender StratocasterBuy from Amazon
Blends style with functionality – very smooth sounding tone that doesn’t get overly crunchy, even when you kick in some overdrive.
Choosing a Guitar
Before we get into our reviews, it’s important that you understand a few key aspects of the guitar. As you play, you’ll want to get extra items and work on your skills in different ways. There are definitely some pre-purchase considerations before you buy your next solid body guitar.
Your First Steps as a Guitarist
Get a good beginner’s instrument – Not every instrument is for everyone, there are models out there that are designed with beginner guitarists in mind and there are other guitars out there that are made for the pro.
When you’re out there looking to purchase your first guitar, you don’t need a ton of bells and whistles like a vibrato bar (whammy), more than a single pickup, or expensive tonewoods.
Posture is everything -Your first step as a guitarist is to find a solid body instrument that’s comfortable and easy to play. You’ll be chalking up a lot of hours, so make sure that you learn proper guitar playing posture. Playing with the wrong hand positioning and posture can actually lead to injury.
Find the pick that’s best for you – Many beginner electric guitarists start with picking over fingering their strings. When selecting a pick, you’ll have a choice between stiffer picks or picks that have a little more give.
Stiffer plays notes better, but I find that tremolos are easier to execute with a pick that has a little more give. Take the time to figure out which you prefer.
Solid Body Electric Accessories
Amplifier – If you don’t want to play at a volume of zero, then you’ll need a dedicated amp when you purchase a solid body guitar. Many beginner instruments try to help you hit the ground running by providing guitar kits with included amps, but these amps are usually far from impressive when it comes to features.
Many amps on the market actually have effects that can compare with the sounds that can be generated by a pedal. When you purchase a new solid body, remember to get an amplifier that can provide some nice sound (it’s a bonus if it can go to 11 as well).
Guitar Strap – Unless you plan on sitting for your gigs, then you’ll need a strap for your guitar. Some guitars come with one, but in most cases, you’ll have to shell out a couple of dollars in order to let your guitar hang. Once again, a strap is there to help your posture, so purchasing one is in your best interest.
Picks – Even though you may want to strum with your hand, in order to hit some of the metal solos that require a lot of tremolos, you may find that you’ll need a pick. Outside of the pick types that we mentioned before, picks don’t differ all that much outside of size, so finding the pick that works for you is going to come down to personal choice.
Whammy Bar – Does your new guitar have a so-called whammy bar? This bar, which is actually called a tremolo bar, allows you to warble your tones so that they sound beautiful and resonant; without the need for an external pedal or pedal board.
On some Fender models, you can actually detach and reattach your bar with relative ease, but some whammy bars are affixed to the body of the guitar. Just like everything, selecting an instrument that either has one of these or doesn’t will greatly depend on your own personal style.
Pedals –Pedals will greatly increase your guitar’s repertoire of sound effects. The examples that we’ve selected below are just a few of the choices that guitarists have:
Vibrato – vibratos on the guitar are executed when you tremble your fretting hand while you strum the strings. A vibrato pedal lets you create this effect with your foot. Usually, these will also have a few dials so that you can modulate the effect.
- Volume – While just about every solid body electric has a volume rocker or dial, having an external volume pedal can be very useful as well, especially when you are playing a gig and want to suddenly boost the sound of your guitar for a crunchy solo. Once again, these have presets and several dials so that you can modulate the effect.
- Overdrive – An electric guitar is made to sound crunch and this type of pedal lets you control the level of crunchiness. Some like the smooth tones of a Fender-esque sound, but when you’d like to turn up the power, an overdrive pedal is perfect.
- Tremolo – Tremolo pedals repeat the tone that you generate with your solid body guitar. With these devices, you can choose the level of repeat tones, their number of repetitions, and even the shape of the waveform. These are very cool-sounding effects pedals to buy with your new guitar.
Number of Strings – When it comes to the number of strings on a guitar, there is a wide variety of options out there. For example, you can find guitars with as many as 12-strings on the market today. While I wouldn’t recommend so many strings for a neophyte guitarists, having additional strings really can add a high degree of resonance to your playing.
Simply put, when each string has an accompanying string, it rings out more clearly, even when playing on an amplifier. I was actually looking into a seven-string guitar, and I almost bought the Dean C750X MRD for myself, but in the end I’m so used to six-string instruments and basses that I chickened out. Instead, you can read about this Dean model in the review section.
Number of Frets – One of the hallmarks of rock music is the so-called “squeedlies.” These are those really high notes that require a guitar that has a higher fret count than many of the guitars on the market today.
If you want to rock out with some high-pitched tones, then try to find a guitar with 24 frets. The standard guitar will have at least 21, which sound nice on the high notes, but if you want real screechers, go for a few more.
After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.
|five-way selector, sound doesn't get overly crunchy|
|simply beautiful shape and an even more beautiful sound|
|Perfect for getting some truly bassey tones on the high strings|
|handle with finger grips along with good functionality|
|active pickups rather than single coil pickups or humbuckers|
|fuller sound than usually found in guitars this beginner-friendly|
|Includes a hard-type case perfect for on-the-road living|
|Designed to give a little extra tonality for more experienced guitarists|
|Good option for beginner guitarists with its lower price point|
Our Recommendation: Fender StratocasterView on Amazon
Simply stated, I found that the Fender Stratocaster is the best guitar for a guitarist of just about any level. More specifically, the Fender Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar – Maple Fingerboard, Arctic White is a beautiful version of this guitar that blends style with the legendary Strat’s high degree of functionality.
Also, for the price, which you can find for you get quite a lot of guitar.
If you were to ask the majority of guitarists which solid body electric guitar is the most iconic, many would cite the Stratocaster. The actual design of the Stratocaster is over 60 years old, with the first versions of the instrument appearing in surf shops and instrument stores in the late 50s.
Those early versions had a buzz that wasn’t very endearing. This version, on the other hand, has almost totally lost that Fender buzz. The company achieved this by shielding the body cavities. The result is a very smooth sounding tone that doesn’t get overly crunchy, even when you kick in some overdrive.
Ever since the late seventies, Fender has had a five-way selector that helps musicians find the right tone for their music. The selector on this instrument is very useful and really adds to the iconic versatility of the Fender Stratocaster brand.
The tremolo bridge on this particular model of Stratocaster is also vintage-style. This means that this is a great instrument to emulate those surf rock-style tremolos that made the Stratocaster famous. Additionally, the guitar also has three single-coil pickups that provide a lot of musical versatility to the instrument.
Like many in the Stratocaster line, the guitar has a volume and two tone knobs. It also features a removable vibrato bar that can be used to add a warble to your tones. It has a standard 21 frets and each major octave is marked with a black dot. The strings go through the body of the instrument and are affixed to the rear of the guitar.
Another feature that makes this version of the Fender Strat so great is its absolutely beautiful aesthetic design. I know that looks aren’t everything in a guitar; there are plenty of bad-sounding beautiful guitars out there, but this instrument looks as great as it sounds.
It has a beautiful maple fingerboard and an arctic white coloration. The pick guard has a black edging that makes it really appear to jump out from the body of the instrument.
The fretboard is constructed of maple and has a darker wood stripe along its rear area. This maple material has a shiny luster to it that adds to the guitar’s keen aesthetic. Maple, especially when combined with the white material of the body, really looks beautiful, and it’s clear that the crafters at Fender really put a lot of work into this particular model of guitar.
Runner Up: Gibson 2016 T Les Paul Studio 50’s TributeView on Amazon
The Stratocaster isn’t the only iconic guitar. As a matter of fact, during the early and mid-70s, there was a different king of the hill guitar – The Gibson Les Paul. As I did my research, I just had to check out the available Les Paul models, and this one, the Gibson 2016 T Les Paul Studio 50’s Tribute Electric Guitar – Gold Top, was almost the instrument that I selected for our recommendation.
This instrument simply has a beautiful shape and an even more beautiful sound. Gibson designed this particular electric to be reminiscent of the earliest forms of the Les Paul guitar line. It has a slightly lustrous gold top that looks great on stage and a black back that looks classy.
There is no pickguard on this guitar, but the top of the body has several curves and bumps that add class to the little lady.
The fretboard is also much wider than what you would get on a Stratocaster, which makes this a great guitar for string bending. Additionally, this is a very soulful sounding instrument; it uses humbuckers rather than single coil pickups so that the instrument has a decidedly vintage-sounding tone.
This is also a reasonably priced guitar; you can find it for .
Other Products to Consider:View on Amazon
This was a close one. The Iron Label RGIF8 really competed for my top pick and the only reason why I didn’t select it is because of the fact that it has a couple extra strings. If you like to play an eight-string guitar, then this might be the instrument for you as it has a ton of excellent features.
First, this is definitely a heavy metal guitar. It’s perfect for getting some truly bassey tones on the high strings and also has some very high pitch sounds as it has 24 frets. This is a very attractive guitar as well; its body has a matte finish that is gray colored and has all of the whorls from the wood that it’s made of.
The frets, especially the ones that are closest to the headstock are fanned – this means that they are at an angle, which makes for an interesting-looking visual aesthetic. I definitely would say this is a beginner’s guitar because there are no fret inlays at all, so you’ll definitely have to know the fretboard of this instrument.
Finally, this is a relatively expensive guitar. You can expect to spend for this beauty.View on Amazon
Ibanez is another classic brand of guitar that many musicians seem to love. The Japanese company didn’t hit it big until the 80s or so, but it’s with iconic designs like the one featured on the Ibanez JEMJRWH that the company excelled.
First, if you are looking for a bend-friendly instrument, this guitar really shines in this regard. It has jumbo frets that allow for a lot of inherent finger movement. Because of this, it isn’t the best beginner’s guitar, especially considering the price tag (Current Amazon.com price: ).
I really liked the fact that the fretboard and neck are very detailed. Ibanez calls it the “tree of life” and this is as apt a description as any. This is also a guitar with a whammy bar where the whammy doesn’t really get in the way when you’re playing, which is a major plus.
If you want a cool-looking instrument, this one has two really cool design notes. First, it has a handle that has finger grips, which is also very functional as well. It also has a recessed section near the base of the bridge. This part isn’t functional, but it looks interesting.View on Amazon
This is an attractive guitar! If you’re looking for a unique instrument that you can wow audiences with at your gigs, this guitar which has a dual-colored wooden body is absolutely perfect. On the outside of the face of this guitar, the material is jet black. Further in, this fades in a starburst pattern to a more traditional spalted top that’s wood-toned.
This unique aesthetic makes this the perfect instrument for those who are looking to make a splash. It has a very sharply shaped headstock as well, which looks great on stage.
The Iron Label only has a volume dial, which can be a bit of a turnoff for musicians who want more tone control, but it does sport a kill switch that is perfect for live gigs. The guitar also has active pickups rather than single coil pickups or humbuckers, which can be perfect depending on your type of music.
Overall, this is a great choice for many types of musicians, but if you want tone dials, try another guitar. It’s a bit expensive, you’ll find it for right now on Amazon.View on Amazon
This is as near-perfect as a budget-priced guitar can get. While you’ll be able to find it for , Epiphone didn’t skimp on some really premium features with the Les Paul Special-II.
Cheap guitars tend to have even cheaper-feeling knobs, this guitar, on the other hand, has the clear amber-style dials that you’d find on many more expensive guitars. Another feature that makes this an uncommon low-priced guitar is its inclusion of humbuckers instead of pickups.
This provides a much fuller sound that you don’t usually find in guitars that are this beginner-friendly. Aesthetically, this is also a very attractive instrument. It sports a starburst design that blends the colors very prettily.
One of the chief drawbacks of this instrument is its inclusion of very bendy strings. While this is actually a boon for beginners as it will let them practice bends, this can be a bit annoying for intermediate players who want more tone control.
That being said, this is a great instrument. There was a time when cheaper guitars meant cheaper materials, but seemingly Epiphone has found a way to bring the price down on this particular instrument.View on Amazon
Another Les Paul variant, the Epiphone Les Paul CUSTOM PRO Electric Guitar with Coil Tapping, which comes in an alpine white body has a versatile pickup system. Coil tapping allows for a guitar to have two output levels – a beefier, single coil output that sounds very full and a more vintage sound that sounds much brighter.
Switching between these two outputs only takes a flick of a switch. Having this level of versatility is a major plus for this guitar, which is why I thought it was worthy of being in this guide. This is one of the few guitars that I researched that comes with a case.
The case that Epiphone included with this is a hard-type case that’s perfect for on-the-road living. Aesthetics are a major bonus with this guitar. It’s alpine white body that has gold-colored hardware and a black pick guard really makes this instrument look great.
The fretboard is made of mahogany and it has mother of pearl fret inlays that add a high degree of class to the guitar. When it comes to price, this is a very reasonably priced instrument for its features; you should easily be able to find it for .View on Amazon
Our last two guitars are designed to grant a little extra tonality for more experienced guitarists. This first instrument is the Dean C750X, I really liked the look of this one when I played it. It has a bright red coloration that has a metallic luster that really would look great on a stage.
All of the hardware is crafted of a black metal that looks great when combined with the red body. I’ll have to admit, whenever I play anything more than a six string that I never quite know what to do with the extra strings unless it’s a 12 string guitar that adds some tonal options.
Despite this, I found that this guitar is very fun to play; it has a dual humbucker pickup, a tone and a volume knob, and a body that has a ton of great-looking curves. If you are a guitarist that loves to execute bends, this may not be the instrument for you.
It has a very thin neck that doesn’t leave a lot of room to bend the strings, especially since this is a seven string guitar. This instrument is also very reasonably priced; it can be found for which is a steal for any guitar over six strings.View on Amazon
Squier is a great option for beginner guitarists because its instruments almost always have a lower price point. This is because Fender releases these guitars to be lower priced versions of its iconic guitars.
This particular guitar, the Squier Bullet Strat, has a classic surf-style design that draws heavily on the Stratocaster experience of the 1950s and 60s. It even has a wide tremolo bridge, which makes this instrument perfect for surf solos. Some of this instrument’s best features are its beautiful sea green body and its black pickguard and matching tuning pegs.
This is a great starting guitar because it is less expensive than many of the other top guitars. It doesn’t have the most solid construction; the attractive black tuning pegs almost feel like plastic, but beginners don’t necessarily need the best materials – they just need a responsive instrument that can help them learn, which is where this Squier shines.
For the best sound, it’s best to remove the string trees from the headstock. When you do this, the output really reaches the level of some of Fender’s more classic guitars.
Wrapping It Up
There are an absolute myriad of great solid body electric guitars on the market today and finding the best one for you is going to take a bit of work. Your choice is going to differ based on your skill level, your tone requirements, and the degree of customizability that you want in your particular desired sound.
My research has found that the Fender Standard Stratocaster Electric Guitar – Maple Fingerboard, Arctic White is the great and well-rounded instrument to pick, but maybe you’d prefer one of the other instruments I selected. In any situation, I hope that this guide helped make your instrument selection easier and you can find your next guitar with ease.
- Unknown (2016). Stratocaster Buying Guide Retrieved from http://thehub.musiciansfriend.com/guitar-buying-guides/stratocaster-buying-guide
- ekullhu (2016). Ibanez RGIF8 Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbBYwgjGuho
- German Guitarguy (2015). Ibanez Fanned Fret 8-String RGIF8 video review English Retrieved from http://synthesizeracademy.com/subtractive-synthesis/
- Unknown (2016). Single-Pickup vs. Double-Pickup Guitars Retrieved from http://www.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Battle-of-the-Fans/en-us/single-pickup-vs-double-pickup-guitars-0724-2012.aspx
- Unknown. Top Rated Expensive Electric Guitars That Money Can Buy! Retrieved from http://www.guitarfella.com/best-electric-guitar/expensive/
- Andrew Connor (2016) The Complete Guide To Buying An Electric Guitar Retrieved from http://gearpatrol.com/2014/07/16/best-electric-guitars/