Sunday, June 16, 2019

Best Beginner Electric Guitars

Guitar Lessons
For anyone beginning to play the guitar today that wants an electric guitar, instead of an acoustic, there are some great choices from a variety of different companies at bargain prices. Most of these instruments will be made offshore in China or in an Asian Pacific country.

Due to improvements in design, and computer aided machinery, you will have access to a much better instrument than those made back in the 1960’s or ‘70’s, like the instruments that I learned on.

Squier Guitar Package
An electric guitar player will also need an amp, and there are a variety of small or medium amplifiers to choose from to fit your budget. Most of these will  be solid state amplifiers, however with the advent of digital signal processing, you can find solid state amplifiers that almost rival tube amps, and sell at a reasonable price, and are loud enough for you to play in a band.

1957 Fender Stratocaster 

When I started playing guitar at age 13, in 1965, I was fortunate that my Dad was willing to spend $150 for a decent guitar. He purchased a used 1957 Fender Stratocaster. I wish I had kept it.

1964 Kay Model 803 amplifier

He spent another $25.00 for a small Kay model 803c tube amp. This was a basic 4 watt, three tube, class A amplifier with no effects. I still have this amp. Back in the day it was not loud enough to be heard over a drummer. But was a nice practice amp.

Mid 1960's Silvertone 1457 with amp in case

Most of my friends started out on budget Silvertone guitars and amplifiers.

Mid 1960's Silvertone Twin Twelve

Those guitars were not all that great, but a Silvertone Twin Twelve amplifier was very nice amp and affordable for a garage band.

So let us look at some present day electric guitars that I can recommend.

Epiphone Les Paul
All Epiphone guitars are now made in China, but the factory has great quality control. The Epiphone Les Paul Special Vintage Edition retails at $149.00 and comes in a variety of colours. I am not certain what kind of wood the body is made of, but the bolt on neck is made of mahogany. I like this guitar because it has a tune-o-matic bridge, and a stop tailpiece. It also has two Epiphone open coil humbucking pickups. The neck pickup puts out a warmer tone than the bridge pickup. The tuning machines are enclosed, it it comes with a single master volume and master tone control, plus a three way toggle switch to chose the pickup combination. Gig bag or case is sold separately.

Les Paul SL

Epiphone offers a few other instruments in the $120 to $150 price range. Due to the single coil pickups, and wrap-around tailpiece on their Epiphone Les Paul SL that music stores are pushing, I would not recommend this instrument. 

Epiphone LTD Special 1
Another excellent Epiphone electric guitar to start with is the Epiphone Limited Edition SG Special-I Electric. This is based on Gibson’s SG double cutaway shape, and has similar features as the aforementioned Les Paul model; twin open coil humbucking pickups (which eliminate external noise), a master volume, and a master tone control, along with a three-way toggle switch for pickup selection. The bolt on neck is made of mahogany, and the tuning machines are enclosed. This guitar does have a wrap-around bridge.  It comes in 3 different finishes.

As with most Epiphone and Gibson guitars, the scale is 24.75”, which is standard length for a normal guitar.

Squier Stratocaster
Fender has been selling an offshore brand called Squier since the 1980’s. At first this brand was made in Japan. Some of those guitars were so good that when CBS sold Fender to FMIC (Fender Musical Instrument Corporation), the new company did not have a production facility, so for a period starting in 1982, three companies, Fujigen Gakki, Tokai Gakki, and Dyna Gakki built Fender guitars in Japan for the American market.

That same year, since Fender was losing sales to Japanese and Korean companies that were selling “replicas” of their instruments at a much lower price, the new Fender management decided to take them head-on and created the Squier brand, and still has been a successful venture building and selling replicas of their famous instruments that are produced offshore.

Presently there are two types of Squier guitars; The Bullet, and The Affinity. There are several differences between the two versions. The Bullet sells for a lower price, while the Affinity series sells for about $50 more.

Squier Special Edition
Bullet Strat
Both instruments feature the classic Strat design, but the Bullet features a body of usually undisclosed wood, a rosewood fretboard, covered tuners, and three ceramic single coil pickups, along with a 5-way pickup selector.

The Affinity model features an Alder wood body, like on a genuine Fender Strat, a maple fretboard, dye cast tuners, a five position pickup selector, and three high output pickups.

However for a beginner that wants to learn the guitar, and perhaps progress to a genuine Fender instrument, the Bullet Stratocaster would be an excellent choice.

Mini Strat

For a child or an adult with small fingers, Squier also offers the Mini Stratocaster. This 3/4 size instrument features 20 frets instead on 21 found on the normal sized 25.5” scale Stratocaster. It also does not have a tremolo unit, but instead had a six piece adjustable bridge/saddle unit. It does have a maple fretboard on its 22.75” scale neck, and comes in a black or white finish.

The Squier Special Edition Bullet Strat retails for $130, and Sea Foam Green or Red Sparkle.

The Mini Stat retails for $130 and comes in black or white.

Squier Bullet Tele

Squier Guitars also offers the Bullet Telecaster in a few different models. The Squier Limited Edition Bullet Telecaster features a maple neck with a basswood body, and a rosewood fretboard, plus the other amenities found on the Bullet Strat, only in a two pickup guitar. It is available in Red Sparkle or Blue. This guitar sells for $130.

Squier FSR Tele

The Squier FSR Bullet Telecaster comes in Butterscotch Blonde, and has a maple fretboard. The body on this instrument is made of Basswood. I sells for $150.

If you need a left-handed instrument, the Squier Affinity Strat or Tele's sell for around $200. The Bullet version does not come in a lefty model.

Ibanez guitars have been around since 1935. They began importing copies (or replicas) of US made instruments in the mid to late 1960's, and are responsible for the "Lawsuit" guitars.

Ibanez Lawsuit Les Paul copies
The a lawsuit was settled out of court before going to trial. It was known as Gibson vs Elger, Gibson Guitars/The Norlin Company, filed suit against a company based in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania known as Elger Music. The owner, Harry Rosenbloom, had entered into an agreement to have Ibanez build acoustic guitars for his store.

Part of his agreement with Ibanez made Elger Music the exclusive distribution center for Ibanez guitars. It is a long story, but a settlement was reached and Ibanez began building its own unique style of electric guitars, instead of copying existing US guitars. Since then, Ibanez has come up with some excellent offerings. The Ibanez company uses a variety of guitar manufacturing companies, that build guitars to their specifications, and then puts their name on the headstock.

Ibanez Mikro GRGM21
The Ibanez Mikro GRGM21 Electric Guitar is built for Heavy Metal style of playing, and comes with a short scale of only 22.5” for quick work on the 24 fret board. It comes with two Ibanez Powersound humbucking open coil pickups, a hard tail six piece adjustable bridge saddle, and a pointy headstock. It is available in Metallic Purple, Walnut Sunburst, or Candy Apple Red. The fretboard is rosewood, with shark tooth markers. The guitar has twin offset pointy cutaways, and retails for $150.

Ibanez Mikro GRGM21M

The Ibanez Mikro GRGM21M Electric Guitar is a similar guitar, with the same features as the MIkro instrument, but has a maple fretboard with dot inlays. It also features twin Powersound pickups, a 3 way toggle switch, a master volume and a master tone control. It is available in a black or white finish.  It too sells for $150. A case or a gig bag is sold separately for either instrument.

Ibanez GRX20

One other suggestion is the Ibanez GRX20 electric guitar. This is a normal sized guitar, with two Ibanez humbucking pickups. The body is made of Poplar, and the neck is maple, with a New Zealand pine fretboard. The advantage of this guitar is the Ibanez FAT-6 Tremolo bridge. This guitar comes in blue, black, or the GRX20W comes in white. It retails for $150.

In 1975, Mr. Hisatake Shibuya opened a shop called Electric Sound Products (ESP) in Tokyo, which provided custom replacement parts for guitars. At this time, ESP also began making guitars under the ESP and Navigator brand in the Japanese market.

 ESP replacement parts were first introduced into the US in 1983 and began crafting custom instruments for local New York artists between 1984 and '85.and in exporting to the Americas.

This company now offers some low cost beginner instrument in the $130 price range, such as the ESP M10 guitar which features a bolt-on 25.5” scale neck, a black basswood body, a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, that has mini dot markers, and 22 frets, The pickups are specially made for ESP, and are controlled by a master volume, and master tone knobs, and a three-way selector switch. The strings pass over a six piece adjustable bridge saddle, and attach through the body, on the instruments back. It retails for only $130.


The ESP EC10 has some of the same features on a modified Les Paul shaped satin black body. The bolt-on neck scale is slightly shorter at 24.75”, and instead of a six-on-a-side headstock, this instrument comes with a three-on-a-side style head stock. It retails for $140.

Yamaha is another Japanese based company that has been building electric guitars since 1967. In 1990 they launched their Pacifica line up. Yamaha currently offers two models priced at $180.

Yamaha PAC012
The Yamaha Pacifica PAC012 is a solidbody electric guitar. It has a comfortable maple neck, with a rosewood fretboard, versatile HSS pickup configuration or humbucker in the bridge position and two single coil pickups in the middle and neck position, and a master volume, and tone control, with a five way blade pickup selector switch on a white pickguard.  The body is made of agathis, and is available in black or metallic blue. It also features a vintage-style chrome tremolo.

Yamaha PAC012DLX

The Yamaha Pacifica PAC012DLX HSS Deluxe guitar is a very similar guitar, but is available in a sunburst finish with a black pickguard. Both sell for $180.

Ibanez AM53 & AS53

Any hollow body or semi-hollow body guitar will start at around $300, and have similar features to the solid body models.

In my experience, if you are going to play in a band, you will need at least a 15 to 30 watt amplifier or better. Anything less is fine for practicing at home.

I have a Roland Micro Cube that puts out only 4 watts of power, but it is fine for home practice.

Line 6 Spider V
The Line 6 Spider V 20 gives a lot of useful sounds with it's 16 presets. It will give you anything from a clean acoustic guitar sound, to insane heavy metal crunch. It has lots of features for recording, a USB port, and a built-in tuner. It has built in effects such as reverb, echo, chorus, tremolo, and phasor.

It is light and pumps 20 watts of power into a heavy duty 8" speaker, which is a well made and rated for higher volume. It sells for $130. I own an older version of the Line 6 Spider, and I really like this amplifier.

Fender Mustang LT25

Fender offers a 25 watt version of their Mustang amplifier, the Fender LT25, with a lot of preset sounds, and built in effects. It has an 8" special design speaker and retails at $150.

Fender Champion 40

The Fender Champion 40 watt amplifiers sells for around $200, and is packed with many useful sounds, some are  modeled on older Fender tube amps. It also has two channels, many built in effects, and a 12 inch speaker. It is compact, but loud enough for gigging.

Acoustic G35FX

Acoustic Amplifiers has the G35FX Lead Series Amp for only $120. It comes with a 12" speaker, two channels, spring reverb, and delay and chorus effects.

Marshall MB30GFX

For $230 you can get the Marshall MB30GFX amp which has four channels, Clean, Crunch, OD1, OD2 and pumps out 30 watts. It has built in effects, and reverb.

From Guitar Center Used Instruments
I suggest basing your search on these instruments, or something similar, but look for used gear. You will be able to save 50% or more and get a great instrument of amplifier. Most dealers carry used instruments/amps that they take in on trades.

If you have any other suggestions for readers, please leave a message

Click on the links below the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for more information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Best Beginner Acoustic Guitars

1950's Harmony
I started learning to play guitar when I was 13 years old. At that time, there were not a lot of choices. My Dad took me to Will's Pawn shop and bought a $20 Harmony Patrician archtop.

Today there are folks that would be impressed that I owned that old Harmony archtop, since it is now considered a vintage instrument. However like most Harmony guitars of that era those guitars have huge necks which are generally bowed. That was the problem with my guitar. The strings were at least an inch off the neck at the 12th fret. However I was able to learn the basic position chords on it.

These days beginners have so many better options to find guitars, that are much easier to play, and have a better sound. Some of this is due to due to computerized machinery that is able to consistently produce more exacting intonation, and turn out guitars that do not differ too much, one from another. Also guitar manufacturers face a lot of competition to turn out a quality product.

Because most musical instruments are now made outside of the USA, the construction labor is reduced, therefore the prices are more affordable for beginners, and their parents.

Richie Rich
Unless you are Richie Rich, I would not suggest starting out on a brand new Martin D-18, or a high end Taylor. You or your child might find you are not suited for playing guitar.

So here are a few beginner guitars that I would recommend. Please note, I would never any guitar that does not have a solid wood top.

Solid Spruce Top
The ones I am recommending all have a solid wood sounding board. If you are researching in a music store or on line, the description will mention if the wood is solid, be it the top, neck or any part of the instruments body. If it does not solid wood; it is laminate.

Spruce wood tops are usually associated with a warm tone, while mahogany tops sound a little brighter. The guitars top is one of the most important parts of the guitar, since that is what the strings cause to vibrate, producing the sound.

The back and sides are important as well, as these work as the to project the sound.  On the guitars I am suggesting, the back and sides are generally made of laminated wood. Though not ideal, but it does reduce the price of the guitar, and has far less effect on the sound as does the soundboard.

I’ve kept these in a budget of $300 to $500 range. If you find one that sells for less, make sure it has a solid wood top. Most of these guitars I am suggesting I have played at one time or another. So let's get started.

Baby Taylor - Spruce Top
The Baby Taylor guitar comes with a solid spruce or mahogany top, and is made by Taylor Guitars. Both model have solid wood tops. These are small sized guitars, so they are nice for children, or anyone with small hands. The back, sides, and neck are made of layered Sapele wood, which comes from Africa. It has become a popular wood for guitars since it is plentiful.

Baby Taylor
Mahogany Top

The neck on the Baby Taylors are bolted onto the body by a couple of screws that are mounted on the fretboard and covered under fret markers. These guitar come with a sturdy gig bag, and they retail for $350.00. Martin guitars offer a similar instrument called The Little Martin LX. I cannot recommend it as it is made of high pressure laminate material.

Taylor Big Baby
The Taylor Big Baby comes with a solid Sitka spruce top. The back, sides, and the neck are made of Sapele wood. This guitar is a larger version of the Baby Taylor, It is a 15/16th size guitar with a 25 1/2" scale, so it is actually a normal sized guitar, with just basic features. The body is larger than the Baby model, therefore the sound is larger.

The back on this model, and on the Baby Taylor has a slight arch, which eliminates the need for back bracing.  Like the smaller model, this guitar comes guitar comes with a bolt on neck.  It also has pickguard. The Big Baby Taylor comes with a gig bag, and retails for $450.00

Taylor 3/4 size GS Mini with
 a  Mahogany, Spruce, Koa top
The Taylor GS Mini comes with a Sitka spruce, Koa, or a mahogany top and though it is a 3/4 size guitar, it has a bigger body than the Baby Taylor, The neck on the GS Mini is one inch longer than the Baby Taylor with a 23 1/2" scale. The back, sides, and neck are made of Sapele wood.  The neck on this guitar has a heel, and it is bolted from the interior of the body, so it is easily adjustable.

Taylor GS Mini ES-Go PIckup System
The body on this guitar has the added feature of binding. Although it is not an electric guitar, for an extra cost, you can buy the Taylor ES-Go pickup system that easily turns this instrument into and acoustic electric model. The Taylor GS Mini comes with a gig bag and retails for $499.00

All Taylor guitars in this price range are made in El Cajon, Mexico.

Seagull S6 Original 
The Seagull S6 Guitar This guitar is normal sized. It has a solid cedar top, that is pressure tested at the factory. The grain of the wood is cut to give a compound curve and produces a superior tone. The back, and sides are made of three layers of cherry wood, which are laminated so the grain of the mid layer is reversed from the inner and outer layers.

The neck is made of Silverleaf Maple and has a 24 5/8" scale.

Seagull Tapered Headstock

The headstock on Seagull guitars are tapered so the strings have a straight pull, which is helpful in maintaining and keeping intonation. The headstock is angled at a 45 degree angle.

Seagull S6 - Natural Cherry
Back and Sides
The Seagull S6 guitar comes with a natural finish on the back and sides, or the stained finished (shown above). It retails for around $420.00, but I have seen used models for more than $100 less.

If I was starting all over again, this is the guitar I would want. Seagull guitars are made in Canada, in the Provence of La Patrie, in Quebec and they are well made instruments.

The company is owned by Robert Godin, who builds guitars under a number of different brand names. The wood for Seagull guitars is harvested in Canada, and it is aged at the factory. The case or gig bag are sold separately.

Ovation Elite Celebrity CE44-1
The Ovation Elite Celebrity CE44-1 acoustic-electric is a normal sized This guitar is made in China. The top is solid spruce and instead of a large sound hole, it has multiple small sound holes with a decorative overlay. It comes with a built-in OP-4BT preamp which controls volume and EQ, and has Ovation's unique piezo pickup system in the instruments bridge.

It also has a built-in tuner. This guitar is made in China, and retails for $470.00. The case or gig bag is sold separately

Saga Musical Instrument
Company Brands

Saga Musical Instruments is a distribution company and has been in business for more that 40 years. They started by offering instrument kits, which they still sell, but currently sell completed instruments that are made in China.

Blueridge Guitars
Their current line up includes a brand called Blueridge Guitars. Many of these guitars are replicas of Martin guitar, right down to the scalloped bracing. The company makes some high end, and expensive instruments that are totally solid wood.  Some professional musicians are using these.  However for a beginner or amateur player, I would recommend a lower price point guitar.

Blueridge instruments are well constructed.

Blueridge BR-63

The Blueridge BR-63  is a replica of a vintage 000 Martin guitar. It has a solid Sitka spruce top. The back and sides are mahogany. Much like the 000 Martin style, body is slightly smaller, but this is a normal size guitar. You would need to purchase a case or a gig bag. It retails for around $450.00

Blueridge BR-40
The Blueridge BR-40 is a replica of a Martin D-18, but it has a fancy headstock. The guitar has a solid Sitka spruce top, and the back and sides are mahogany and it is a full sized guitar. You would need a case or a gig-bag. It retails for $650 to $700, but you can find a used one for less than $500.

The Takamine Guitar Company is a Japanese firm that started in 1959, and took it's name because the original companies facility was at the base of Japan's Mount Takamine. This business makes some very nice guitars.

In fact their guitars are so nice that are so nice many well known artists use them on stage. Their parametric piezo pickup system is very similar to Ovation's system.  Takamine offers their G series of guitars that are made in China.


Takamine GX18CENS 3/4 Size Travel Acoustic-Electric Guitar is a 3/4 sized guitar. This guitar has a solid spruce top. This is a very well made instrument that has some aspects found on more expensive guitars. The back and sides are mahogany laminate.The case or gig bag is sold separately. It sells for $400.00.

Takamine GD30CE

The Takamine G Series GD30CE is a full sized acoustic electric guitar. It has a solid spruce top, and laminate mahogany back and sides. The guitar includes a TP-4TD preamp, with EQ and a built in tuner connected to the bridge saddle piezo unit.  It is available with a gloss natural or black finish and retails for $460.00 to $480.00. Once again the case or gig bag is sold separately.

Currently all Epiphone guitars are now all made in Qingdoa China. In the past they were manufactured in Japan, and Korea. However in 2004 Gibson invested in the Chinese factory.  Some of the companies moderately priced models are good. These are all are replicas of Gibson guitars, which sell for thousands of dollars more.

Epiphone DR-400MCE
The Epiphone Masterbilt DR-400MCE retails at $400.00, and is probably the best instrument in it's class. This acoutic-electric guitar not only has a solid Sitka spruce, but the back and sides are made of solid mahogany.

This guitar has Epiphone's Esonic2 HD pickup system which combines a piezo unit mounted in the bridge saddle, and a magnetic pickup at the end of the fretboard.  The controls are thumb wheels on the upper side of the sound hole. The neck is nicely dovetailed to the body. It retails for $400.00 The case or gig bag is sold separately.

Epiphone Hummingbird Pro
The Epiphone Hummingbird Performer Pro model, is no longer being manufactured, but new and used models are still available. This model features a solid spruce top, with laminate back and sides. It includes a Shadow undersaddle nano flex pickup with a 2 band EQ control, and phase filter. This comes in a cutaway, or non-cutaway version, and tobacco burst or cherry burst finishes and sells for around $370.00. Case or gig bag is extra.

 Epiphone currently offer the Hummingbird Artist with a price range from $200 to $225. The "Artist" has a laminated top, and a plain black pickguard. The Pro model has the decorative pickguard with hummingbirds embossed on it. I advise to go with the Pro model.

Epiphone Dove Pro
The Epiphone Dove Pro model is Epiphone's take on the Gibson Dove guitar. The Dove Pro is a gorgeous instrument and features a solid spruce top. The decorative image of a dove is found on the pickguard, and dove wings are inlaid in the guitars mustache bridge. The back and sides are laminated maple. The fret marker are parallel style. This guitar has a Fishman Sonitone undersaddle pickup with soundhole controls and preamp. It comes with a violin-burst finish, however there are LTD, or limited editions with an Ebony or Alpine white finish. The guitar retails at $370.00, and case or gig bag are sold separately.

Yamaha FG800

At a lower price of only $200.00, the Yamaha FG800 is a normal sized guitar that comes with a bound solid spruce top and is a very good bargain.  The back and sides are made of nato wood, which is a Asian hardwood from the Mora tree. There is nothing fancy about this guitar. This guitar is available with a Sand-burst or a natural finish.

The Yamaha corporation of Japan has been building guitars since the 1940's. Many popular artists including John Denver and Paul Simon have used Yamaha guitars. In the early 1970's the Yamaha FG150 was a popular guitar due to its affordability.  The FG800 seems to be an updated version. A case or gig bag is sold separately.

Cordoba CM3
I have concentrated on guitars with steel strings, as they are more popular than their nylon string cousins. The same rules would apply to a nylon string instrument. Find one with a solid top. Better yet find one with solid back and sides, such as the Cordoba CM3 which sells for $200. If the description of the guitar says cedar top, mahogany back and sides, it is made of laminated wood. Classical guitars have wider necks, usually no position markers, and are meant for playing with your fingers instead or strumming the guitar with a pick.

Finally, if you can find these guitars, or any acoustic guitar in the used market, at a lower price, I would buy it, as long as the top is made of solid wood, and the action is acceptable. You can always use lighter gauge strings on a guitar, or have a music store adjust the action. If you have any suggestions, please respond to me,

Click on the link under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further information.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)