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Looking for your first guitar for playing metal? You’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we will cover a wide range of different guitars that are guaranteed to provide the necessary power for all your chugging and squealing needs. Not only are you likely to sound great with these guitars, but you will also look the part.
Warn your family, warn your neighbors. It’s about to get loud.
Ibanez RGA42FM – Best Heavy Metal Guitar For Beginners
If you're looking for the very best metal guitar available within the traditional beginner’s budget range, the Ibanez RGA42FM is your best bet. It is relatively affordable, yet it does not compromise even one iota of playability.
The guitar features the iconic shape of the RG series of Ibanez’s guitars. This is a double-cutaway design coupled with Ibanez’s iconic headstock.
The body of the RGA42FM is made of Mahogany and features a beautiful flamed Maple top. This flamed top is perfectly accentuated with a satin polyurethane finish and different colors including:
- Blue lagoon burst
- Dragon eye burst flat
- Transparent gray flat
The RGA42FM has an accommodating bevel in the back shoulder of the guitar, which allows the hand to play the higher frets without any interference. A large contour in the back allows for comfortable playing when the guitar is strapped up.
The neck of the RGA42FM is made of Maple, with a scale length of 25.5”, and features Ibanez’s iconic Wizard III specifications. These necks have a reputation for being smooth and fast playing.
The fretboard is made of Jatoba, with a radius of 15.7”, and features a 2-octave range of 24 jumbo-sized frets. To indicate frets, the RGA42FM has offset white dot inlays, which are placed at the edge of the fretboard.
The neck is a bolt-on neck, which significantly cuts down on the body heel that may be present otherwise. While you likely won’t need to, the neck can be easily removed (if needed) by loosening the 4 screws.
The RGA42FM is stocked with a pair of Quantum Ceramic humbuckers. A 5-way switch allows you to choose between a number of different pickup combinations, further diversifying the tonal range capabilities of this guitar.
A single master volume and tone knob are available on the guitar. While some people like to have a set for each pickup (if possible), this still allows you to be able to dial in the tones you are looking for.
The RGA42FM is equipped with a plastic nut, closed gear tuners, and an F106 fixed bridge. This adds a large amount of tuning stability to the guitar, which is important if you’re tuning low.
Overall, the Ibanez RGA42FM is a lot of guitar for at a little cost. This is an instrument that is more than capable of being able to play far outside of only the metal genre.
Years of owners have held the RGA42FM to high acclaim. Its comfortable weight, extreme playability, and range of tones always seem to be what makes this guitar a favorite. Plus, it just looks cool.
Item Weight: 7.92 pounds
Package Dimensions: 44.25 x 17.6 x 4.25 inches
PRS SE Standard 24 – Best Metal Guitar For Under $1000
If you have absolutely no budgetary concerns and only want the best you can get for under $1000, it might be worth looking at the PRS SE Standard 24. While Paul Reed Smith guitars might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to metal, this guitar will probably surprise you.
The SE Standard 24 is a solid body guitar that features the iconic PRS double cutaway (modified Stratocaster style) body shape. Comfort contours abound on this guitar, making it extremely accessible no matter how you play.
The body of the SE Standard 24 is crafted from Mahogany and has a gloss body finish. The guitar comes in a variety of different colors including:
- Translucent blue
- Vintage cherry
The neck is made of Maple and has a scale length of 25”. The neck is contoured to PRS’s Pattern Wide Thin design, which feels consistently playable up and down the neck.
The fretboard is made of Rosewood, with a radius of 10”, and has 24 medium jumbo-sized frets. The signature PRS bird inlays indicate the frets and add a decorative flair to the guitar.
As the neck is a set neck (glued into the body), the entire fretboard is easily playable with little-to-no thumb transition involved with the higher frets.
For pickups, the SE Standard 24 is equipped with a pair of PRS 85/15 “S” humbuckers. When combined with the 3-way selector switch, master volume, and tone knob (which doubles as a coil-split), this guitar shows its versatility.
The range of tones that the SE Standard 24 can produce can literally cover nearly any style of music thrown at it. The humbucker mode can produce a nice and rich resonant tone while the single-coil mode can venture into Stratocaster-like territory.
For hardware, the SE Standard 24 has a molded PRS tremolo which allows you to dive-bomb and add in vibrato whenever necessary. PRS tuning machines help to keep the guitar in tune, especially with heavy tremolo use.
The nut of the guitar is made from PPS plastic. This type of plastic is an extremely durable polymer that will likely provide a long life.
A gig bag comes with the guitar, which is a major plus for the metal guitarist who is frequently traveling to rehearsals and gigs.
Overall, the PRS SE Standard 24 is a luxurious guitar to play. I’ve had the fortunate occasion of playing this guitar during a few live performances and it has always exceeded my expectations.
The guitar feels extremely accessible, which seems to unlock all of your capabilities. You will likely not have a hard time playing any style of music with this guitar, which can be a great and invaluable tool to the session guitarist that plays multiple genres.
Item Weight: 12.41 pounds
Package Dimensions: 44.02 x 15.98 x 5.98 inches
Jackson JS1X – Best Cheap Guitar For Metal
If you’re younger, buying for a child, or just want a smaller guitar to slay your musical notation with, the Jackson JS1X Dinky Minion is perfect for you. This guitar is very affordable, priced in the lower range of the beginner’s budget.
The JS1X is a guitar that screams the phrase “metal music” just by the way it looks. This is a 2/3-scale guitar featuring a modified Stratocaster-style body, with Jackson’s iconic headstock, making the guitar look like a musical weapon.
The body of the JSX1 is made of Poplar which lends itself to being a lightweight guitar. A gloss finish adds a shine to the guitar. As is fitting for metal music, this guitar only comes in black.
The neck of the JSX1 is crafted from Maple with Jackson’s Speed neck contour. As this neck has a scale length of 22.5”, it is ideal for those with smaller hands.
Despite its short-scale size, the JSX1 has 24 jumbo-sized frets on its 12” radius Amaranth fretboard. This fretboard is reinforced with graphite, adding extra tuning stability for any tuning you throw at it.
Further completing the weaponized look of the JSX1 is Jackson’s Pearloid sharkfin fret indicators.
For pickups, the JSX1 is equipped with a pair of Jackson High-Output humbuckers. These are wired hot and can provide plenty of crunch and scream.
A 3-way switch along with a master volume and tone knob allows you to further dial in your tones. You can easily find versatile tones from a smooth twang to a hard crunch.
Elsewhere on the guitar can be found a plastic nut, sealed die-cast tuners, and a hardtail bridge. This guitar is a string-through guitar, requiring the strings to be fed through the back of the instrument. This helps to add resonance and tuning stability.
Overall, the Jackson JSX1 Dinky Minion is perfect for a child or those with small hands, who aspire to make a career playing metal music.
It’s also the perfect guitar to hang out with at home, as this small-sized guitar adds a sense of portability not often felt with other guitars. Playing this guitar while cooking eggs in the kitchen? It’s safe to say that the possibility is likely.
Item Weight: 10 pounds
Package Dimensions: 44 x 16 x 6 pounds
Schecter Omen Extreme-6 FR
If you’re looking for an affordable guitar that will have no issues during live stage performances, the Schecter Omen Extreme-6 FR will exceed your needs. Schecter has a reputation for building brutal metal guitars and this is no exception.
The body style of the Omen Extreme-6 FR features a double-cutaway design with offset horns. This allows for playability without body interference. A large contour is beveled out of the back to add comfort when playing the guitar.
The body itself is crafted from Mahogany with a gloss polyurethane finish. A quilted maple top, along with a cream-colored binding, makes the Omen Extreme-6 FR a very appealing guitar visually. This guitar comes in a variety of color options including:
- Black cherry
- Vintage sunburst
- See-thru black
The Omen Extreme-6 has a 25.5” scale length Maple neck. The neck is contoured to have a thin C-shaped design, which makes this neck feel comfortable, familiar, and fast.
The fretboard is made of Rosewood and has a radius of 14”. 24 extra jumbo-sized frets with Schecter’s vector inlays (made of Pearloid and Abalone) can be found on the fretboard.
This guitar is stocked with a pair of Schecter Diamond Plus humbuckers. When combined with the 3-way toggle switch, 2 x volume knobs, and tone knob (which doubles as a coil-split), the Omen Extreme-6 FR begins to show its musical versatility.
With this guitar, you will reap the benefits of having the ability to play with both humbuckers and single-coils, which opens your range of tone far beyond what could be possible with either one pickup type or the other.
The Omen Extreme-6 FR is also equipped with a Floyd Rose Special Locking Tremolo (which is a bridge and nut combination system). This tremolo is world-renowned for being a necessity to pull off certain metal guitar techniques.
As the nut is locking, you won’t have to worry about tuning issues during heavy tremolo use. Your guitar will also stay in tune should you happen to break a string. The Schecter tuners on the headstock provide a smooth process while tuning your guitar.
Overall, the Schecter Omen Extreme-6 FR is a ton of value for an affordable price. This is a guitar that will likely last you long into your guitar career. It will certainly be able to open doors with your own playing, providing a great foundation for learning highly technical skills.
Item Weight: 10.23 pounds
Package Dimensions: 46.25 x 19.75 x 4.75 inches
If a more traditional-looking metal guitar is what you’re after, consider taking a look at the Ibanez GRG170DX. This is a guitar that takes inspiration from many well-known guitars from the genre, providing good looks and reputable Ibanez playability.
This guitar comes from Ibanez’s Gio line, which is notorious for its extreme capabilities and value at affordable prices. It is another example of the detail that Ibanez takes with each of their instruments, even with those built for beginners.
The GRG170DX features a modified-Stratocaster style body, with the body itself made from Poplar. The body has a contour relief in the back so the guitar can fit comfortably against your body.
In true metal fashion, this guitar only comes in one color: black night.
The neck of the GRG170DX is made of Maple and has a scale length of 25.5”. The neck is contoured to Ibanez’s special GRG neck specifications which aim to add comfort and playability all over the neck.
The fretboard of the GRG170DX is made of Bound Purpleheart, with a radius of 15.75”. 24 jumbo-sized frets provide 2 octaves of range per string, with white shark tooth inlays indicating the frets and adding to the guitar’s aesthetic.
This guitar has 3 pickups, sporting a pair of Infinity R humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions, and an Infinity RS single-coil pickup in the middle position. A 5-way switch allows you to really take advantage of the different tonal combinations present with the GRG170DX.
The guitar also has a single volume and tone knob controlling the entire instrument. These chrome knobs make it easy to set-it-and-forget-it when dialing in your tone.
Elsewhere on the GRG170DX can be found a plastic nut, chrome tuning machines, and a T102 bridge which has tremolo capabilities. You should be able to add vibrato and dive-bomb without too many issues.
While it might seem like a small addition, the GRG170DX has a reinforced output jack. This adds extra durability to the jack, which can be important if you are one that likes to jump around a lot when you play.
Overall, the Ibanez GRG170DX is a good guitar for metal for its price range. The guitar gives a nod to the classic metal aesthetic with a look that has become a staple within the music genre. The GRG170DX will likely be able to carry you well into intermediate-level playing.
Item Weight: 7.04 pounds
Package Dimensions: 42.13 x 16.93 x 3.94 inches
Jackson JS32 – Best Jackson Guitar For Metal
Jackson is a guitar company well-known for creating iconic guitars that are built specifically for metal music. Many signature metal songs of years past have featured a Jackson guitar in one way or another.
If you’re a beginner looking for an affordable metal guitar that can launch you into intermediate-level playing abilities, it might be best to take the Jackson JS32 Dinky Arch Top into consideration.
Jackson’s Dinky series of guitars is a great access point for beginner guitarists looking for a competent instrument that can meet all of their metal music needs. The JS32 is no exception.
The JS32 has an accessible body style that can allow shredding anywhere on the neck. The body itself has plenty of beveled contours in the right places, ensuring that playing the guitar will be a comfortable experience.
The body of the JS32 is made of Poplar, which gives the guitar a lighter weight with sustain and extra resonance. Depending on the color choice, the guitar has either a satin finish or a gloss polyurethane finish. Color options include:
- Satin black
- Bright blue
- Natural oil
- Neon orange
- Pavo purple
The JS32 has a Maple neck with a scale length of 25.5”. The neck shape is designed to Jackson’s Speed specifications. The neck is reinforced with graphite for extra tuning stability and durability.
The fretboard is made of Amaranth and has a compound radius of 12” and 16”, which provides extra accessibility where it is needed most. This guitar has 24 jumbo frets with Jackson’s signature Pearloid sharkfin inlays.
For pickups, the JS32 has a pair of Jackson High-Output humbuckers which are wired hot to provide plenty of squealing grit for those musical moments that call for it. A 3-way selector switch, along with a single volume and tone knob, allow you to easily dial in your ideal tones.
This guitar also has a Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo system which has been specifically licensed by Jackson for use on their guitars. This means that the nut locks the strings into place so you don’t have to worry about tuning instability during heavy tremolo use. Your guitar will also stay in tune if you happen to break a string.
Topping it all off are sealed die-cast tuning machines which provide a smooth experience when tuning the guitar.
Overall, the Jackson JS32 Dinky Arch Top is a perfect guitar for beginners who are looking for an affordable metal guitar that doesn’t skimp on the metal aesthetic. You can likely unlock your shred with this guitar. For the value, the JS32 is the best Jackson guitar for metal that beginners can get their hands on.
Item Weight: 10 pounds
Package Dimensions: 44.49 x 19.02 x 5.24 inches
Another great affordable guitar from the Gio line of guitars is the Ibanez GRG121DX. This guitar comes in a couple of different build varieties, one of which is likely to suit your tastes.
The GRG121DX has a very familiar body style and is similar to many of the aforementioned guitars on this list. There are comfort contours on the face and the back of the guitar’s body to provide a level of comfort for playing even the most technical guitar passages.
The body of this guitar comes built in two different ways:
- Poplar body, with a gloss polyurethane finish, and a metallic gray sunburst color
- Mahogany body, with a satin polyurethane finish, and a natural walnut color
Regardless of the body material and color/finish combination you choose, the rest of the components are identical across both models. There likely is not too much difference between the two, aside from possibly a minimal weight difference.
The neck of the GRG121DX is made of Maple, with a scale length of 25.5”, and has Ibanez’s signature GRG-shaped contour specifications. Again, these are known for being fast and highly playable necks for a beginner-grade instrument.
The GRG121DX features a Purpleheart fretboard with a radius of 15.75”. A 2-octave range for each string is accessible with the guitar’s 24 frets, outlined with shark tooth inlays.
For pickups, the GRG121DX has a pair of IBZ-6 Ceramic humbuckers that produce a thick and warm tone. A 5-way switch and a master volume and tone knob allow you to experiment with different pickup combinations and find your favorite tones.
Elsewhere on the guitar can be found a plastic nut, closed gear tuning machines, and an Ibanez F106 fixed bridge. The fixed bridge helps to add extra tuning stability, which is very useful in low-tuning situations.
Overall, if you are working with a smaller budget but are looking for a guitar that can help you grow and foster brutal technique, the Ibanez GRG121DX is going to help. This is a great beginner guitar that can get you ready for the stage in no time.
Item Weight: 10.5 pounds
Package Dimensions: 41.5 x 17.5 x 3.7 inches
Is Metal Guitar Easy To Learn?
In order to become specialized in any music genre, it takes an extreme amount of time, dedication, and focus. Metal music has a reputation for having some of the most difficult techniques in application.
Blazing fast scale runs and complex rhythms are some of the common tropes of metal. However, it’s not always easy to pull this off. It is for that reason that many metal guitarists opt to play guitars that are built to accommodate a more technical style of playing.
A great amount of detail and focus goes into being able to not only fret your notes accurately but be able to pick the notes in an extremely efficient manner.
Can You Play Metal On Any Guitar?
You certainly can, with the exception of an acoustic guitar. The metal genre is a very large umbrella of many different types of metal music, each with its own signature musical attributes. It is important that the guitar can support whatever techniques and styles you wish to play.
It is not uncommon to see guitars being used that might be used in other musical genres (such as a Gibson Les Paul, SG, or any other common humbucker guitar). Effects pedals can play a very significant role in achieving the metal sound, at which point, it sometimes doesn’t matter what guitar you use.
Again, much of this is going to depend on what kind of metal you play. For instance, something more classic-rock/metal sounding to stoner-rock could likely get away with any guitar, whereas a tech-death metal band is going to demand a different level of playing, with a guitar built to accommodate.
Due to the high gain nature of metal music, semi-hollow-body and hollow-body guitars likely wouldn’t make a great fit (despite their deep rich tones). You would probably be battling feedback more than you would be playing.
What Type Of Guitar Is Good For Metal?
For the most part, humbucker guitars are the most commonly used guitars due to the thicker tones that they produce. However, some guitars offer coil-splitting which can give you the best of both worlds. Having a tonally-versatile guitar can come in handy, especially if you play leads.
A good metal guitar should be able to support low tunings. Quite often, guitars are set up in the factory at E standard tuning and sometimes do not perform well if tuned to C (due to decreased string tension). A setup might take care of this issue, but a guitar built for this style of playing will be more readily accommodating.
You may also wish to have some sort of expression capabilities, such as a tremolo system. These systems have produced some of the most iconic sounds in metal music and can add a different contour to your tonal output when used in the right way.
What To Look For When Buying A Metal Guitar For Beginners
Buying a guitar is a big decision and one that you want to get right the first time around. Fortunately, if you know what to look for, you can make the best-informed decision on a guitar that could last you a lifetime.
It goes without saying that there is a certain aesthetic when it comes to metal music. If you are one who buys into this and desires to have the “metal look,” you’re going to want to make sure the guitar you pick fits your tastes.
Similarly, if you are a guitarist that has interests in other styles of music, you might take into consideration whether the metal guitar will fit the aesthetic of a different genre. It might seem like a vain thing to consider, but aesthetics can matter to a lot of musicians, especially when performing on stage.
Playability & Pickups
Again, depending on what sub-genre of metal you are playing, the guitar you choose is going to need to support your technique. If you know that you’re going to be doing fast arpeggio sweeps, tapping, and lightning-fast scale-based runs, the neck of the guitar needs to be accommodating.
When it comes to your pickups, you have a little more room to experiment. Each person’s ears and tastes differ from one another.
However, a good metal guitar should be able to provide a thick and present tone that also has clarity. If the pickups are wired hotter, the clarity needs to stay intact no matter how crunchy the tone may get.
Of course, you can doctor your tone as needed with guitar pedals. If you are starting off with a great tone (without pedals), you are likely to have an excellent tone with pedals. Pedals should enhance the tone, rather than provide the basis for your tone.
Your budget is going to be one of the biggest determining factors in the guitar you choose to buy. You need not spend a fortune to get your hands on a playable guitar.
If you’re a beginner, a guitar from the middle of the beginner’s budget can likely suit your needs until you start getting into the middle of the intermediate skill range. More expensive doesn’t always mean better, but it can mean a guitar that will suit your needs well beyond beginner level.
Best Brands For Beginner Metal Guitars
Like most things in life, there are a number of different guitar brands that are well-known for creating superbly-crafted guitars for metal music. You likely cannot go wrong with a beginner guitar from one of these companies.
Jackson Guitars is one of the most iconic brands associated with metal music. The company was founded in the late 1970s with a vision for creating guitars worthy of the most complex virtuosos. Their guitars have been a staple in metal music ever since, with generations of new guitarists carrying on the tradition.
Schecter, otherwise known as Schecter Guitar Research, was established by David Schecter in1978. He originally got his start in the industry producing replacement parts for other guitar companies. Today, the guitar company has a massive reputation for crafting guitars that are tailor-made for heavy music.
Best Beginner Guitars For Metal, Final Thoughts
Metal music has a sacred history with innumerable styles of related sub-genres that are created seemingly every few years. If you are about to embark on this journey, make sure your musical weapon of choice can slay any musical passage but also has the ability to make your guitar leads soar with wings.
Most importantly, take some time to try these guitars out. Playing them before you buy them is the only way to know what guitar feels and sounds right for you.
Last Updated on January 1, 2023.
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