The Different Types of Electric Guitars - A Quick Guide

The Different Types of Electric Guitars - A Quick Guide

Been playing acoustic guitar for a while and thinking of buying your first electric guitar? Or, have you decided to start learning on an electric but are not sure what to buy? Well, buying your first electric guitar can be a difficult choice, so I’m going to give you all the advice you need to make the perfect decision.

Why start on an electric instead of an acoustic?

A lot of people think that it is better to start leaning the guitar on an acoustic, as opposed to an electric. I completely disagree with this unless the learner wants to play singer/songwriter, folk, or country. Since most students of the guitar don’t, go for an electric first, they are far easier on the fingers, the necks are smaller making it easier to reach more difficult chords, and they look a lot cooler, which is far more important than you think!

As for starting on a classical guitar, forget it. Until you can make a classical guitar sound good, which takes many months, everything you play on one sounds terrible, they are designed for classical and flamenco, anything else (play pop, rock, etc.) sounds bad unless you really know what you are doing, which a beginner doesn’t.

What shape of guitar should I buy?

This will mainly depend on what type of music you want to play and who your favorite artists/bands/guitarists are. Obviously, you can play a lot of different styles of music on one guitar, with the Fender Stratocaster/Squire Stratocaster probably being the most versatile. However, for certain genres, some guitars either give you access to features that are needed, or just look the part, which is just as important in terms of the style of the band.

Your basic choices are:

  • Stratocaster
  • Telecaster
  • Offset
  • Super Strat
  • Les Paul
  • SG

Let’s take a quick look at each of them in turn…

Fender Stratocaster, Squire Stratocaster

As mentioned, the strat is the most versatile guitar out there and can be used for just about any style of music. From pop to soul, blues to country, rock to funk, and R&B to Prog Rock, a good strat can do it all effortlessly.
It’s the guitar of choice of such legends as Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ritchie Blackmore, Mark Knopfler, Rory Gallagher, Buddy Holly, etc., etc. which again just shows its versatility.

Fender Telecaster, Squire Telecaster

The Telecaster is so unfairly associated with country music, and this can turn beginners off this absolutely wonderful guitar. Yes, it is the most common type of electric guitar used in country music but that in no way makes it a one trick pony. Teles are great for a vast number of styles, which is why they are not only the staple of so many great country guitarists (James Burton, Danny Gatton, Merle Haggard, etc.) but also players such as Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, Robert Smith from The Cure, Joe Strummer from the Clash, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai, and Wilko Johnson from Dr. Feelgood.

As for studio use, they are used on everything by a vast selection of guitarists, such as Jimmy Page (the solo on Stairway to Heaven is a Tele), Jack White, J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), and Kurt Cobain.

Offsets - Fender Jaguar, Fender Jazzmaster, Fender Mustang, Squire Jaguar, Squire Jazzmaster, Squire Mustang, Gibson Firebird (Non Reverse)

If you play slightly oddly sounding music, what better than a slightly odd looking guitar? Offsets have a visual style all of their own and if your band is making alternative, shoegaze, noise pop, post rock, art rock, or any of the hundreds of other ‘cool’ subgenres, then you probably need to get yourself a super cool-looking guitar.

From jangle to noise, offsets hit the mark if you want an unusual sound, which is my they are so often used by the likes of Johnny Marr from The Smiths/The The, J. Mascis, Kevin Sheilds (My Bloody Valentine), Kurt Cobain, Thurston Moore and Lee Ronaldo from Sonic Youth.

Super Strat - Ibanez, Charvel, Fernadez, Schecter

Do you like the look of a strat but want it to do more? Then get yourself a Super Strat!

Starts are extremely versatile, but what if you want humbuckers instead of single coil pickups to give a fuller rock sound? No problem, super strats have high-power humbuckers, many of which can be coil tapped, which is a switch that can instantly turn them back into thinner-sounding, more traditional start pickups. Or what about a quality whammy bar for those massive dive bombs? Again, no problem, super strats have it all.

Since most guitarists don’t need this level of sophistication, Super Strats tend to only be used in a few genres of music, basically various forms of rock and heavy metal from hair metal to thrash, and in jazz fusion and neo soul.
Legendary users of super strats include Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Kirk Hammit, Joe Satriani, and Jake E. Lee.

Gibson Les Paul, Epiphone Les Paul

After the strat, the Les Paul is probably the most iconic guitar shape in history. Like the strat, it has also been around since the 1950s and the design has hardly changed since then.

As opposed to the strats three single coil pickups, the Les Paul comes with a pair of humbuckers, delivering a more powerful, warmer sound that works very well for rock, as well as a number of other styles.

Famous players include Les Paul, Jimmy Page, Slash, Ace Frehley, Bob Marley, Peter Frampton, and Eric Clapton, most famously when he was with The Bluesbreakers.

Gibson SG, Epiphone SG

A great alternative to a Les Paul if you want a pair of humbuckers but a lighter guitar with a slightly brighter sound is a Gibson SG. These were originally introduced in 1960 as the direct replacement for the Les Paul, however, they were later re-introduced in 1968 due to popular demand.

The horns on the body were originally included to attract country players away from their beloved telecasters, but the SG had a lot more about it than just another country guitar. It is highly versatile and can be used to play a number of different styles from reggae to metal.

It is the guitar of choice of such varied guitarists as Angus Young, Albert King, Tony Iommi, Derek Trucks, and Brian Molko of Placebo.

Wrapping it up

So, there you have a quick guide to the main types of electric guitars. I didn’t go into the more unusual shapes, because not many beginners start off with a Flying V or an Explorer. You should now have enough information to make your choice of your first electric guitar!

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