Best Guitar For Beginners: Our #1 Picks For Tone & Playability

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 11/01/21 •  11 min read

You’re a total beginner and you want a guitar. But what’s the BEST guitar for beginners w/ respect to price, features, and overall playability? These are our #1 picks for 2021 and beyond…

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So you want to learn how to play guitar? That’s awesome! Congrats on starting a musical journey that can last a lifetime, and always be a source of fun ways to express yourself.

Maybe you want to learn your favorite songs and jam along with your heroes. Or maybe you want to learn how to play and write your own songs? Either way, you’re going to need a guitar first.

But there are so many choices out there. Maybe you feel like you shouldn’t spend a fortune just to get started? If you’re an absolute beginner, then you need something budget-friendly…But you don’t want it to be bad.

There is a direct correlation between how cool your guitar looks/feels and how often you pick it up to play. That’s science! If you have a guitar you enjoy, then you are more inclined to pick it up every chance you get.

Where do I start?

Picking the first guitar to start your musical journey can seem difficult. There are so many companies and so many styles that cater to Metal/Rock guitarists. So we decided to make it a little easier for you to make your choice!

The key is to strike a good balance between price and features. You don’t want something that will be firewood in a few months’ time. You want something reliable, that looks cool, and doesn’t hinder your learning process.

All of these guitars, I have first-hand experience with. I have played them all and have even owned a couple of them! These are my picks for the best guitars for absolute beginners, based on my personal experience.

What’s The Best Guitar For A Beginner?

We’ve included a bunch of options for the best guitars for beginners in this post (they’re all detailed below). But our #1 pick for 2021 and beyond is the Epiphone Les Paul Studio. And the reason is simple: it offers up some of the best tones and playability on the market at this price point.

Like its significantly more expensive bigger brother, the Gibson Les Paul, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio has a beautiful, iconic design, brilliant humbucker pickups, a rapid neck for shredding lead, and slick rhythm playing, and it holds its tune wonderfully. It is a flawless guitar and the perfect option for any beginner guitarist.

Read on for our TOP 5 picks for the best guitars for beginner players right now…

#5 Epiphone SG Special

Best Guitar For Beginners: Our #1 Picks For Tone & Playability
SG Special in Natural Finish

The SG is one of the most popular guitars in the Metal pantheon of guitar greats. It has been used by hundreds of big name guitarists over the years. Its versatility has appealed to bands like AC/DC, High on Fire, Black Sabbath, Corrosion Of Conformity, Radiohead, Eric Clapton, and so many more it is impossible to list!

The SG is without a doubt one of the most recognized guitar shapes in all of Metal/rock music. The horns allow easy upper fret access for blazing solos. And it looks awesome on any stage.

The Epiphone SG Special may be inexpensive, but it doesn’t skimp on the features:

Epiphone has really stepped their game up over the past 5 years, offering quality guitars for beginners with a killer price point. The Epiphone SG Special is a Heavy Metal machine that is ready to rock out of the box.

This is also a great choice for someone who wants to upgrade their guitar down the line. Swapping out the stock parts with more quality parts is easy for anyone to do. It helps that the parts are also universal for most Gibson/Epiphone instruments!


#4 Jackson Dinky JS22

Best Guitar For Beginners: Our #1 Picks For Tone & Playability
Jackson JS22 in Natural Finish

Jackson often makes these kinds of lists for budget-friendly guitars. That’s because, for the past 30 years, they have made their guitar models in every price range imaginable without sacrificing their quality.

Jackson has been associated with Heavy metal since the mid-1980s and everyone from Steve Vai to Megadeth has played them. These days they are popular with new shredders like Misha from Periphery, Chris Broderick, and Trivium.

I nominated the Jackson JS22 series because it comes in so many cosmetic options, and every model carries the signature Jackson neck shape. This makes the JS22 the perfect choice for the future shredder. It features:

Out of the box, the JS22 is built for speed. The compound radius means the neck gets flatter the further up the neck you go. Making chords easy on the first frets, while making the higher ones easier for blazing-fast lead runs. This is strictly a shred machine!

The body is light and comfortable to sit or stand with. This is due to the light Poplar wood used for the body, combined with the solid maple neck. It is just as comfortable on the stage as it is in your lap.

The only gripe I have with the JS22 series is the electronics aren’t exactly top-notch. But that is something that can be easily remedied. many people buy the JS22 and change out some parts later down the road.


#3 Ibanez GIO GN20Z

Best Guitar For Beginners: Our #1 Picks For Tone & Playability
Ibanez RG GIO Standard in Galaxy Black

Ibanez is another one of those companies that make guitars at all kinds of price points. Ibanez’s entry level GIO series has some really good quality guitars in the lineup, built specifically for Metal.

Ibanez over the years has endorsed some of the biggest metal artists in the world. Ibanez provides instruments for everyone from Steve Vai to Korn! The Japanese-made, top-of-the-line instruments, are a little out of reach for a budget-minded beginner, unfortunately.

But that’s where its stripped-down GIO series steps in. They are budget-friendly versions of the most popular guitars in the Ibanez catalog. However, they retain the design, spirit, materials, and legendary quality of their expensive brothers.

The GIO RG series has:

There’s a good chance that one of your favorite metal guitarists plays an Ibanez, and the GIO series is the perfect way to get a taste of what the company has to offer without breaking the bank.

The Ibanez RG Series is in its 33rd year, and it’s easy to see why they have retained their popularity in the metal world. If you are looking for something with a classic style, but a wallet-friendly price, Ibanez is a no-brainer.


#2 Yamaha Pacifica Series

Best Guitar For Beginners: Our #1 Picks For Tone & Playability
Yamaha Pacifica in Sunburst Color

Yamaha is another company that you hear getting recommended to beginner guitarists, a lot. This is for a good reason. These guitars come with boatloads of features for a low price.

They are also known to be very versatile. The Pacifica can be used to play literally any style of music, from Country to Metal. That says a lot because you can get any tone, or sound you are looking for.

The Pacifica is often called the “Swiss Army Guitar” because of its many applications and features:

I honestly cannot say enough positive things about the Yamaha Pacifica. I used one of the base models to play several shows in a row a few years back. It made it through every show; without fail, without fuss.

You see…the Pacifica was a back-up to my main gigging guitar. I never thought I would have to use it much until I did. This beauty got me out of a tough spot more than once!

Even if you are not a beginner, it’s a good idea to have one of these in your arsenal. Especially if you record at home and need something…different. You can get no less than 5 distinct sounds out of a Pacifica, and that can save you tons of time in the studio.

The Pacifica Series nails just about everything it tries to accomplish. Not only does it hit the mark, it does so while remaining a budget-friendly instrument. Their only downfall was limited colors in the budget range.

Yamaha makes a high-end version of the Pacifica. These are still affordable, yet a little out of reach for a budget beginner model. I can only imagine how an expensive Pacifica sounds and plays!

Our final entry is a personal one. Because it’s the first “nice” guitar I ever owned, and it saw 7 years of use before I finally retired it!


#1 Epiphone Les Paul Studio

Best Guitar For Beginners: Our #1 Picks For Tone & Playability
Epiphone Les Paul Studio in Wine Red Finish

Our final entry is near and dear to my heart. Epiphone makes the list again with what I think is the best value for the money when it comes to mean, tough as nails, rocking guitars.

The Les Paul is iconic in almost every genre of music. heavy metal players that gravitate to them include Slash, Zakk Wylde, Matt Heafy, and countless other skilled masters.

The Epiphone Les Paul Studio is the budget-friendly version of its big brother made by Gibson. However, the Epiphone comes with many of the same features as its bigger brother…at a fraction of the cost.

The Epiphone Studio model does cost a bit more than any of the other guitars on this list. Depending on the color, it can cost almost twice as much. But I honestly think it is worth the extra $$$.

I owned mine for years, and it played hundreds of shows and it even recorded an album with me. I moved on to Gibson Les Pauls and Explorers. But I will never forget how much use, and compliments I got out of a “budget” guitar.

If you are looking for a guitar that you know you will not “grow out of” for a while, this is it! The hardware and electronics can be upgraded easily, but I never saw a need for it. This one has everything you need and want, even for a more experienced player.

Grinding Your Axe: Knowledge…

Picking your first guitar can be confusing, tough, and full of insecurity. But it doesn’t have to be! The quality of budget-friendly guitars is through the roof these days. You just have a little knowledge to get started.

And knowledge is power when it comes to saving money!

20 years ago, you really couldn’t get a decent guitar for under $500. This is not the case anymore. The guitars on this list all price out around the $250 range on average!

Look, there are a few things guitar manufacturers don’t want you to know:

Do I play expensive guitars? Sure I do. This is what I do. They are tools of my trade.

If I was not able to afford something lavish, would I be happy with any of the guitars on this list? Absolutely. I would be just as proud of any one of the choices I have listed above.

Because in the end, guitar is all about your technique, and your own personal style. There is no better time than now to get started!

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects at home in Georgia. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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