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How To Choose Your First Electric Guitar

After jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, attached a pickup to the body of his acoustic guitar in 1936, the popularity of the electric guitar has since grown exponentially to become a staple in every musical genre. In fact, electric guitar sales boomed to approximately 1.49 million in 2021 in the United States. This is an increase of roughly 30.7% since 2020.

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There are currently many styles of electric guitars on the market. If you're feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to start for your first purchase, keep reading for our easy tips on what to look out for.

Consider pickups

From humbuckers to single-coils, to lipsticks, and even active and passive options, there is a pickup for every type of guitarist. These pickups magnetize the guitar string. Once the magnetized string vibrates manually, it generates a tiny electric current in the coil, which will become amplified to transform into sound. Most beginner guitars come with three single-coil pickups. These are great for clean sounds for beginners who want to pay more attention to form and posture. However, for beginners looking to play with distortion, it may be best to slowly transition into a humbucker pickup that reduces the noise and hum in the guitar.

Determine your music of choice

Everyone likes playing a different type of music, and fortunately, there's an electric guitar for every genre. For one, Joe Satriani is part of the leading guitarists in the instrumental rock genre with his signature Ibanez JS and vintage Fender Esquire. Meanwhile, Van Halen made a name for himself in the hard rock and heavy metal circle with his self-built Frankenstrat. By building his own guitar, Van Halen created for himself a unique sound, as highlighted in his performance of Runnin' With The Devil in the video above. Your music of choice will be a deciding factor in selecting your instrument, as the different types of electric guitars feature various components that will affect the end sound: From the pickups, wood and body shape and other electronics. For this reason, musicians from different genres may prefer specific brands or models. That's why Ron Orden chose the slack-key guitar to best deliver the fingerstyle tunes reminiscent of Hawaii, over any other similar style like the Spanish guitar. The difference in traditional tuning changes the sound entirely!

Explore what’s comfortable Many beginners tend to choose their guitars based on aesthetics. While this is certainly important and can play into one’s motivation to use their instrument, experts stress that the sound of the guitar is also dependent on its body. Electric guitars come in many shapes — from the ST outline of the Fender Stratocaster to the thin neck of the Gibson’s Les Paul — and that can affect performance and sound. When starting out, it's best to prioritize logistics as this will affect how you play in the long run. Explore how the body fits into your frame — a small-sized guitar like a MiniS may be a better option for a younger child than an LP-style guitar like the LP60 — and give it a few strums to determine your comfort levels.

Decide on tremolo

Tremolo often causes problems with tuning if used incorrectly, and is often not recommended for beginners. However, if you're hoping to make an investment, it's best to veer away from the double floating or Floyd Rose-style trem that was popularized by Eddie Van Halen and Neal Schon. You may think Schon's double-locking tremolo is what you need to recreate the many hits of Journey such as Don’t Stop Believin’, as seen above. However, this addition is a non-standard in the community that requires expertise. Instead, look towards the most basic type of trem available on a lot of STH guitars, as its simple format minimizes tuning problems. Your first guitar may not end up as your signature choice after you hone your skills. However, it will always be a memorable one that will remind you of your early passion, so make sure you pick the right one.

Article written by Roseanne Jodson Exclusively for Janie Gallegos

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