Top 5 beginner guitars in 2023

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You’re ready to shred. But which guitar should you buy and why? There are all kinds of styles, colors, and types but the bottom line is simple: finding a guitar you can afford and that will sound good on your guitar journey is tough. But, thanks to improvements in technology and manufacturing, it’s definitely not impossible. Here is a list of five of our favorites.

What is the best beginner guitar?

The best kind of beginner guitar is one that you can afford, has a proper setup out of the box, and can survive the grueling process of learning guitar basics. Most modern low-end guitars are excellent for beginners but there are a few brands, including Fender, Donner, and Harley Benson, that make excellent guitars that won’t cost an arm and a leg and often include extras like cases and cables.

What should you look for in a beginner guitar?

When choosing a guitar for a beginner, there are several factors to consider. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Budget: Determine your budget for the guitar. There is a wide range of prices for guitars, so it’s important to establish how much you’re willing to spend. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to budget for accessories like a tuner, picks, a strap, and possibly a case.
  2. Type of Guitar: Decide whether you want an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar. Acoustic guitars are generally recommended for beginners as they are more affordable, portable, and don’t require an amplifier. Electric guitars, on the other hand, require an amplifier to produce sound and can be more versatile in terms of tone and style.
  3. Size and Comfort: Consider the size and comfort of the guitar, especially if the beginner is a child or has smaller hands. Acoustic guitars come in various sizes, including full-size, 3/4 size, and 1/2 size, while electric guitars typically have a standard size but may have different neck profiles that can affect comfort.
  4. Playability: Look for a guitar with good playability, meaning it is easy to play and fret notes. The action (distance between the strings and the fretboard) should be comfortable for a beginner’s fingers. A guitar with a low action is generally more beginner-friendly.
  5. Sound Quality: While beginners may not have a refined ear for sound quality at first, it’s still important to choose a guitar that produces a pleasant tone. Play some notes and chords on the guitar to get a sense of its sound. If possible, have a more experienced player or a guitar teacher try it out and give their opinion.
  6. Build Quality: Check the build quality and overall construction of the guitar. Look for solid construction, sturdy materials, and a properly aligned neck. Inspect the frets to ensure they are well-seated and don’t have sharp edges.
  7. Brand and Reputation: Consider the brand and its reputation. Established guitar brands often have a track record of producing quality instruments. They may also offer better customer support and have a wider selection of accessories and replacement parts.
  8. Try Before You Buy: Whenever possible, try out the guitar before making a purchase. Visit a local music store and play a few different models to see which one feels the most comfortable and suits your preferences.
  9. Seek Advice: If you’re unsure about what guitar to choose, seek advice from a guitar teacher, a knowledgeable friend, or a music store professional. They can provide valuable guidance based on their experience and expertise.

Remember that choosing a guitar is a personal decision, and what works for one beginner may not work for another. Ultimately, the guitar should inspire and motivate the beginner to practice and learn.

The top five beginner guitars for 2023

Donner DJP-1000 Jazz Semi-Hollowbody – $379

The DJP-1000 is what is known as a Jazz guitar and features a thin, hollow body style with two sound holes. It has excellent closed Humbucker pickups and great hardware including a beautiful closed bridge and chromed saddle. It’s also works great as a strumming or rock guitar so don’t count it out if you want to rock.

Why buy a Jazz guitar?

Jazz guitar offers a range of benefits that make it a captivating and rewarding instrument to play. One of the primary advantages is its versatility. Jazz guitar allows musicians to explore various styles, from traditional swing to modern fusion, enabling them to express their creativity and musicality. It offers a rich and complex harmonic vocabulary, allowing players to delve into intricate chord progressions and melodic improvisation. The rhythmic complexity of jazz also challenges guitarists to develop their sense of timing and groove. Moreover, studying jazz guitar helps develop strong technical skills, such as finger dexterity, alternate picking, and chord voicings. It encourages a deep understanding of music theory and ear training, enhancing a musician’s ability to communicate and collaborate with other musicians. Additionally, immersing oneself in the world of jazz guitar opens doors to a vibrant community of fellow enthusiasts and provides opportunities for performance, jam sessions, and musical exploration. Overall, the benefits of jazz guitar extend beyond the instrument itself, fostering personal growth, musical expression, and a lifelong love for jazz music.

Zeru Headless 6-String Electric – $549

The Zeru Headless is an amazing rock guitar designed and built for beginners. Impulse Music spared no expense and added a roasted maple neck, glow-in-the-dark neck dots, and a unique headless design that improves tone. The guitar also features great hardware. It’s brand new so you’re going to have to pre-order it if you want to start rocking.

Harley Benton CLD-41SE WN – $338

This dreadnought-style guitar is beautifully made and accessibly priced. When it comes to acoustics, you’re going to want to want one that is a bit bigger to ensure a nice, full sound.

What is a dreadnought guitar?

The genesis of the dreadnought guitar can be traced back to the early 20th century and is closely associated with the iconic American guitar manufacturer, C.F. Martin & Co. The story begins in the 1910s when Martin was primarily building smaller-sized guitars, known as parlor guitars. These guitars were popular during that time, but there was a growing demand for larger, louder instruments that could compete with other instruments in group settings.

In 1916, Martin received a request from the Oliver Ditson Company, a prominent music publishing firm, to develop a larger guitar with a powerful sound. The goal was to create an instrument that could provide sufficient volume and projection, especially in ensemble situations such as orchestras and bands. Martin’s master luthier, Christian Frederick “C.F.” Martin IV, embraced the challenge and set out to design a guitar that would meet these requirements.

Inspired by the large-bodied guitars produced by European builders, Martin introduced a new model in 1916, which he named the “Ditson Model 111.” This guitar featured a larger body size with a wider waist, broader shoulders, and a deeper soundbox. It was designed to maximize volume, resonance, and tonal balance. The innovative design, combined with its powerful sound, quickly gained popularity among musicians.

In 1931, Martin made further modifications to the design, refining the body shape and dimensions. The revamped model was named the “D-1 Dreadnought,” referring to the large British battleships of the time. The name “dreadnought” itself became synonymous with the new guitar design and eventually became the standard term for this style of guitar.

The dreadnought’s larger size and distinctive shape had a profound impact on the guitar industry. Its deep, booming sound and increased volume made it an ideal instrument for accompaniment in a variety of musical genres, including folk, bluegrass, country, and rock. The dreadnought’s popularity soared, and it became one of the most widely recognized and played guitar styles in the world.

Harley Benton SC-550 Plus EMG PAF – $345

This Les Paul singlecut guitar is a great buy. It features split humbucker pickups and great styling. A selector allows you to choose which pickup to run – body, neck, or both – and the whole thing is strikingly finished. Donner makes excellent Les Paul-style guitars as well so it’s definitely a toss-up.

What is a Les Paul-style guitar?

A Les Paul style guitar refers to a type of electric guitar that is modeled after the iconic Gibson Les Paul guitar, designed by guitarist and inventor Les Paul in collaboration with the Gibson Guitar Corporation. The Les Paul guitar has a distinct design and sound that has made it one of the most recognizable and influential electric guitars in history.

A Les Paul-style guitar typically features the following characteristics:

  1. Solid Body: Les Paul guitars have a solid body construction, typically made of mahogany or a mahogany/maple combination. The solid body contributes to its sustain and resonance.
  2. Single Cutaway Design: Les Paul-style guitars usually have a single cutaway body shape, providing access to the higher frets. The cutaway enhances playability and facilitates lead guitar techniques.
  3. Set Neck: The neck of a Les Paul-style guitar is set into the body, creating a solid connection. This design enhances sustain and provides a warm, resonant tone.
  4. Tune-O-Matic Bridge and Stop Tailpiece: These are common features on Les Paul-style guitars. The Tune-O-Matic bridge allows for individual string intonation adjustments, while the stop tailpiece anchors the strings and enhances sustain.
  5. Dual Humbucking Pickups: Les Paul guitars typically have dual humbucking pickups, known for their warm, fat, and powerful tone. The pickups help deliver the guitar’s characteristic sound, with a blend of warmth, clarity, and high output.
  6. Dual Volume and Tone Controls: Les Paul-style guitars often have separate volume and tone controls for each pickup, allowing for precise tonal shaping and the ability to blend the pickups’ output.
  7. 3-Way Pickup Selector Switch: This switch lets the player choose between using the neck pickup, the bridge pickup, or a combination of both.

Les Paul style guitars have been favored by a wide range of musicians across genres, including rock, blues, jazz, and fusion. Their versatile tone, sustain, and playability make them suitable for various playing styles and musical genres.

While Gibson is the original manufacturer of Les Paul guitars, many other guitar companies produce their own versions of Les Paul-style instruments, providing players with a range of options in terms of price, quality, and customization.

Fender Squier Sonic Stratocaster – $199.99

Fender is the grandaddy of guitar makers and their Squier series is beloved by beginners and pros alike. These low cost guitars are well-made and sound great and you can often find great bundles that include everything a beginner needs. This bundle, for example, costs $299 and includes a strap, tuner, amp, and other goodies. A killer deal on a great guitar.

What is a Stratocaster?

A Stratocaster guitar, often referred to as a “Strat,” is a type of electric guitar model that was introduced by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 1954. It has become one of the most iconic and widely recognized electric guitars in the world, renowned for its distinctive design and versatile sound.

The Stratocaster guitar features several characteristic elements:

  1. Double Cutaway Body: The Stratocaster has a double-cutaway body design, which allows easy access to the higher frets and provides enhanced playability, especially for lead guitar techniques.
  2. Solid Body: Stratocaster guitars have a solid body construction, typically made of alder, ash, or sometimes mahogany. The solid body contributes to its sustain and overall resonance.
  3. Bolt-On Neck: The neck of a Stratocaster is bolted onto the body, offering stability and ease of maintenance. The neck is usually made of maple, providing a bright tone and a smooth playing surface.
  4. Three Single-Coil Pickups: The Stratocaster is known for its three single-coil pickups, positioned at the neck, middle, and bridge positions. These pickups contribute to the Strat’s signature sound, offering a wide range of tones from bright and clear to twangy and glassy. The pickups are controlled by a 5-way pickup selector switch, allowing different pickup combinations and tonal variations.
  5. Tremolo System: Stratocaster guitars often feature a synchronized tremolo system, also known as a vibrato bridge. This allows players to use a tremolo arm (whammy bar) to manipulate the pitch of the notes, creating expressive vibrato effects or dive bombs.
  6. Tremolo Arm: The Stratocaster’s tremolo arm, attached to the bridge, provides the player with the ability to raise or lower the pitch of the notes by manipulating the bridge’s tension. This feature adds versatility and expressive potential to the instrument.
  7. Controls and Electronics: Stratocasters typically have separate volume and tone controls for each pickup, offering extensive tonal shaping options. The guitars often include a master tone control and a master volume control, allowing easy adjustment of the overall sound.

The Stratocaster has been a favored instrument across various genres, including rock, blues, funk, pop, and more. Its versatility, comfortable playability, and ability to produce a wide range of tones have made it a staple among guitarists worldwide.

The Fender Stratocaster has remained highly popular since its inception and has seen many iterations and variations over the years. It is available in various models, including affordable entry-level versions and high-end custom shop models, catering to a wide range of players and budgets.

John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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