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Looking for a great electric guitar?
Not sure you want to spend a king’s ransom on a new axe?
We get it. Money can be tight as a musician, and even though your desire is likely to enjoy your creative passion freely, you can’t always spend without restraint.
Paying for rent and feeding yourself is kind of important. But owning your own gear is important too.
Good news – you can still get an awesome electric guitar for under $1,000. It may not be top of the line, but it will more than get the job done.
If anything, there has never been a better time to buy, because competition among manufacturers has increased and brands have had to stay on top of their game to remain competitive in today’s guitar market.
Let’s look at the best electric guitars you can get for under $1,000.
Fender American Special Telecaster
Rhythm guitarists, tone purists and chicken pickers rejoice. Whether it’s in the studio or on stage, there’s just nothing quite like a Tele.
And, while the Fender American Special Telecaster isn’t top of the line by any means (you’ll pay a pretty penny for some of the higher end Teles), it’s still a great axe for the price.
This Tele comes with two Texas Special Tele pickups, 9.5” fretboard radius, jumbo frets, satin-finished neck, Grease bucket tone circuit and deluxe Fender gig bag.
The jumbo frets make it easy for you to perform string bends, which is always important for country guitarists.
No doubt you’re wondering about the pickups. Good news – they give you a bit of a thicker sound than vintage Teles. So, if you’re the only guitarist in a band, you’ll be happy to know you can still fill a room with your sound.
Thicker isn’t always better, and depending on what you’re looking for, you may not like the Texas Special Tele pickups. Of course, you can always swap them out for something that is to your liking.
I don’t have any complaints with the Special Telecaster and wouldn’t be afraid to bring it on stage for any gig.
We’ll be looking at more Fender products throughout this guide, but if a Tele is specifically what you’re looking for right now, you should have a look at this one.
Epiphone Les Paul STANDARD PLUS-TOP PRO Electric Guitar With Coil-Tapping
We’re a big fan of Epiphone guitars at Guitar Aficionado. With that in mind, this doesn’t mean all Epiphones are universally or equally good. It depends on which one you’re buying.
The Epiphone Les Paul STANDARD PLUS-TOP PRO comes with a set neck, rosewood fingerboard, Trapezoid inlays, cream binding on the body and neck, locking Tune-o-matic bridge, Epiphone ProBucker 2 and 3 pickups, Grover machine heads, push/pull coil-tapping and limited lifetime warranty.
By the way, we’re not the only ones that love Epiphones. Customers and other reviewers rave about this axe too.
And, it doesn’t hurt that Epiphones are quite a bit cheaper than the Gibsons they’re emulating. Honestly, in our opinion, they’ve gotten to the point where they’re competitive with Gibson, which is the parent company.
Thanks to coil-tapping, this guitar offers more than just the round, creamy tone Les Pauls are known for. You can even get some single coil “in-between” tones if you need them.
So, if you need more than a couple of tones, you can get it with this axe.
We’ll be looking at other Epiphone guitars on this list but here’s one that’s certainly worth a look. For that classic Les Paul sound, this is your best bet, at least on this list.
Ibanez Paul Gilbert FRM200 Electric Guitar
In this price range, Ibanez is a solid brand to consider. Their reputation as a “bang for buck” manufacturer still holds true, and how they do it is an ancient Japanese secret (they’ve always had a great touch with guitars – must be that Kaizen).
Joking aside, the Paul Gilbert FRM200 is obviously going to appeal to Gilbert and Mr. Big fans and if it wasn’t obvious, it’s a Paul Gilbert signature guitar (there are a few others, by the way, including the PGM333, PGMM21 and PGMM31).
It’s got a peculiar look to be sure (and that’s part of what it gives it its characteristic tone), but I think it sounds great.
Mostly uncomplicated, the FRM 200 comes with an ebony fingerboard, two DiMarzio humbuckers (PG-13 neck and bridge), mahogany body and mahogany/maple set neck.
If you’re looking to create your own signature style, then we get that this axe might not be for you. But in this price range, we couldn’t pass it up. Got it?
Plus, there’s nothing saying you can’t use someone else’s signature guitar to find your own classic tone. It has happened before.
And, rest assured, we’ll look at other Ibanez products in this guide too.
PRS SE Custom 24 Exotic Laurel Burl Limited Edition
PRS guitars typically aren’t cheap. But because they’ve got a few in this price range, we simply couldn’t pass up featuring at least one.
Many professional guitarists have described them as “perfectly tuned Les Pauls”, and in the upper price range, we can hardly argue.
As it pertains to the PRS SE Custom 24 Limited Edition Laurel Burl, they only did a limited run of 1,500 unites. Surprising, then, that you don’t necessarily have to shell out an arm and a leg for one.
The SE Custom 24 comes with a rosewood fingerboard, mahogany body and vibrato bridge/tailpiece. The 85/15 “S” pickups, volume knob and push/pull tone control with three-way blade selector are part of what makes this guitar cool.
But what stands out most is the Laurel Burl wood grain, which is simply beautiful. We think it looks a bit like a flower or paisley pattern.
To me, the guitar has kind of a sharp attack, so you might want to dial back the treble a bit. To each his own, of course.
But there’s no doubting that it sounds great and I could see it being particularly useful for rock.
There are other PRS guitars in this price range depending on what you’re looking for, but we thought we’d highlight this one, especially since there are only so many of them and it may not remain available forever.
ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB Electric Guitar
The EC-1000VB may well be a Les Paul copy of sorts (and a sharp-looking one at that), but it’s fair to say it’s got its own unique characteristics too. No wonder it gets featured in so many best-of lists.
One of ESP’s most popular guitars, the EC-1000 comes with LTD locking tuners, Tonepros locking TOM bridge and tailpiece, EMG 81/60 pickups, mahogany body, three-piece mahogany neck and 24-fret Macassar ebony fingerboard.
This axe has plenty of gain, a clangy clean and a destructive dirty tone. It may look like a Les Paul, but it’s an ESP after all – it’s far more volatile and temperamental than that.
I’m not necessarily into the tone myself and would probably need to do some tweaking to get it to where I’d want it. Then again, I don’t play much metal. And, it seems to me ESP guitars are for metal heads.
Regardless, there’s no denying it’s a great guitar for the price. If you’re in the market for a Les Paul that knocks your socks off, check out this one.
EVH Striped Series Stratocaster Electric Guitar
Eddie Van Halen’s style, playing, tone and guitar designs have had a massive impact on an entire generation of guitarists. And, his influence can still be felt today.
If you’re still trying to get that elusive “brown sound” Van Halen is known for, we know of no better way of achieving it than using the gear he uses (seriously).
The EVH Striped Series Stratocaster is visually appealing, simplistic and just as awesome sounding as you’d expect.
No, it’s not a versatile guitar by any means. It would be great for classic rock, rock, hard rock and maybe even a bit of metal, but not a whole lot else.
This Strat comes with a solid basswood body, Floyd Rose tremolo system, D-Tuna, one humbucking pickup and volume knob, plus the trademark design that made the Frankenstein famous.
You can find it in three colors – Black/Yellow, Red/Black/White and Black/White.
We happen to think this is a killer guitar for a killer deal. If you like Van Halen, you won’t regret checking out this EVH.
Guild S-200 T-Bird Solid Body Electric Guitar
There’s no beating around the bush – this is one odd looking axe.
The Guild S-200 T-Bird comes with a solid mahogany body, mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, Tune-O-Matic bridge with Hagstrom Vintage Tremar vibrato tailpiece, dual Guild LB-1 pickups and a deluxe electric gig bag.
But I’m sure you’re wondering – what is this sucker for and how does it sound?
I’ll start off by saying that this guitar’s tone is thick, warm and full. It would be great for blues, jazz, slide and any music you might classify as “classic”.
But this is also a versatile guitar. How could it not be with all those knobs and switches? You can even get something resembling a single-coil tone from the T-Bird.
It’s up to you how you use the guitar. If you don’t mind tweaking and experimenting, I’m sure you could find some good country, funk or rock tones (in addition to those already mentioned) too.
For the price, it’s hard to argue with the Guild.
Ibanez S Series Iron Label SIX6FDFM
Again, there are plenty of Ibanez guitars worth looking at in this price range but we simply can’t resist featuring the space-age looking Iron Label SIX6FDFM.
This axe comes with a thin, solid mahogany body, rosewood fingerboard, ultra-fast maple/bubinga neck, SAT Pro II Tremolo Bridge and DiMarzio humbuckers.
It also comes with coil-tap in case you need to “tap” into some of those in between tones.
If you’re thinking about playing metal, then this guitar is simply unmistakable. It’s exactly what Ibanez built it for. They wanted to make it one of their heaviest sounding guitars ever.
Of course, it still comes with that signature fast Ibanez neck and simplistic design. The body is also thin.
If you wanted to use it for something other than metal, you certainly could. It would just be a matter of dialing in the desired tone.
But I think most guitarists will be best served using this Ibanez axe for hard rock and/or metal, if anything at all.
Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR
I think you can get a good sense what to use this guitar for just by looking at it.
Its design is reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen’s classic homebrew Frankenstein guitars and its sound is also similar.
Welcome back to the era of hair metal. The Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal is perfect for hard and melodic rock.
The Charvel comes with an alder body, maple fretboard, a Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo and two humbuckers.
But it’s also more versatile than you might think, because it comes with coil-tap. So, if you need to get some of those in-between Strat-like tones, you can do so with ease.
There’s also no denying the guitar looks sharp.
They are sometimes overlooked at times, but Charvel makes great guitars. If you’re ready to rock out, you won’t regret checking them out.
Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar
There’s no denying that the Hellraiser tends to make a lot of best-of lists like this one. But we just can’t help ourselves – it’s a killer guitar and it does what it was designed to do.
The Hellraiser C-1 comes with a set-neck and ultra-access, quilted maple top, EMG active 81TW/89 pickups, mahogany body, abalone binding and Gothic cross inlays.
And, it comes in BCH, BLK and WHT – all attractive colors made for thrashing.
Yes, this is a metal machine and it’s been a favorite among metal heads for a long time. If not the name, then its crisp tone makes it obvious what it’s for.
Deep, gritty and mean – that’s what this guitar is all about. And, you’ll love it if heavy music is your thing.
If you want to do killer whammy dives or ensure your Schecter guitar stays in tune, then you might want to check out the Floyd Rose version, just so you are aware.
Fender American Special Stratocaster
You knew this was coming, right?
Yes, you can get a Stratocaster for under $1,000, and yes, it’s decent. But just so you know, we’ll be looking at another fascinating and compelling Strat a little later.
The Fender American Special Strat comes with three Texas Special pickups, 9.5” fretboard radius, jumbo frets, satin-finished neck, Grease bucket tone circuit and a Fender Deluxe gig bag.
I still think they should offer hard shell cases at this price (they used to if I’m not mistaken), but hey, better to have a case than none.
If you’ve played guitar for a while, then you already know all about the Strat’s iconic tone, which makes it perfect for blues, country, pop, funk, rock, pop and more.
It’s amazing for a variety of genres and styles, aside from maybe hard rock, metal and jazz, though some guitarists use it in those genres too.
There isn’t a whole lot more to say. It’s a Strat, and it costs just under $1,000. Most if not all guitarists should have one, even if just for studio use.
Yamaha RevStar RS420 Electric Guitar
We can’t get over it – despite some of the flack it’s received, the Yamaha RevStar RS420 is a killer guitar, especially for the price.
The RevStar RS420 is available in Fired Red, Black Steel, Factory Blue and Maya Gold. We love the variety.
It comes with Alnico V magnet and German silver baseplate, VH3 Vintage output humbuckers, solid nato body with maple top, die cast tuners, Tune-O-Matic bridge and three-way lever, dry switch (tone push-pull).
Its tone may be vintage, but that doesn’t make it any less perfect for blues, jazz, rock and a variety of other genres. Don’t be fooled by its appearance or design – this is a versatile guitar and it sounds great.
The Yamaha won’t be for everyone, but you have nothing to lose by taking a look.
Guild S-100 Polara
The S-100 Polara with a mahogany body, rosewood fingerboard, HB-1 humbucking bridge and neck pickups, Tune-O-Matic bridge, Guild compensated stopbar tailpiece, three-way toggle switch, two volume knobs and two tone knobs.
As you would expect, the guitar sounds like it would be perfect for blues and rock. It’s got both warmth and cut, which is characteristic of SG style guitars.
Not every guitar has got both a great clean and dirty tone. But this guitar does. I’m not saying you’d want to use it for jazz, but for gentle picking and clean rhythm parts between crunchy power chording, it can be great.
In this price range, the Guild is a solid guitar.
Godin Guitars Session LTD Black HG MN
In case you didn’t already know, Godin offers a host of versatile guitars suited to a variety of genres and playing styles. This Canadian manufacturer doesn’t always get the press it deserves.
The LTD Black HG MN comes with a Canadian Laurentian basswood body, maple neck and fingerboard, 22 frets, push-pull tone, volume knob, five-way toggle switch, Godin Tru-Loc tremolo, Godin GS-1 single coil pickups in the neck and middle position and a Seymour Duncan Custom Shop SH-11p pickup in the bridge position.
You’re probably starting to get a sense that this guitar is a little different than the others already mentioned, even if it slightly resembles a Strat.
The Session LTD was built with rock music in mind, and I love its warm, Strat-like tone. It sounds good clean, too.
But thanks to the humbucker-single-single configuration, your tonal palette is far from limited. So, if you always find yourself playing a variety of styles, you will love this axe.
If you want a Strat with a little more attitude to it, we’d suggest checking out the Godin.
Ibanez Steve Vai JEMJRSP
Steve Vai is truly one of the geniuses of our time. And, his guitars have often reflected his eccentric and otherworldly nature.
The Steve Vai JEMJRSP comes with a Wizard III maple neck, meranti body, Jatoba/Tree of Life inlay, jumbo frets, double locking tremolo bridge, Infinity pickups and of course the trademark monkey grip.
Naturally, this is a more affordable version of Steve Vai’s signature guitar. But much of what you’d expect from a Vai signature axe is intact.
The neck is fast and easy to play on. The double-locking bridge helps the guitar to stay in tune.
The pickups are fine, though you might consider swapping them out if you need to sound like the consummate pro. The humbuckers sound considerably better than the single coils.
But that’s not to say the guitar doesn’t rock – because it does!
The clean tones are alright, but the dirty tones are where the guitar truly shines. If you’re going for that trademark Vai tone, you must check out the Ibanez immediately.
Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster – Pau Ferro Fingerboard
We hinted at it earlier. Here’s another Strat that might strike your fancy.
The Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster comes with an alder body, maple neck, pau ferro fingerboard, 22 frets, three vintage noiseless single-coil Strat pickups, volume knob with S-1 switch, tone knob, six-position V6 rotary tone switch, five-way pickup selector, two-point synchronized tremolo and Deluxe locking tuners.
The CBS-era headstock gives the guitar a vintage vibe, but the modern upgrades (such as the noiseless pickups) make it comfortable for today’s players too.
This surprisingly affordable guitar sounds great. The rotary tone switch allows you to thicken up your tone, giving you access to more tonal colors, as if a Strat wasn’t already a versatile instrument.
The Roadhouse Strat is certainly gig worthy. Check it out for yourself.
Jackson SLX Soloist Electric Guitar
The Jackson X series Soloist comes with a basswood body, gloss polyester finish, a Jackson pointed 6 in-line headstock, through-body maple speed neck with tilt-back scarf, rosewood fingerboard, Pearloid Sharkfin frets, Floyd Rose double locking two-point tremolo and a Seymour Duncan HB-102B humbucking pickup in the bridge position and a Seymour Duncan HB-102N humbucking pickup in the neck position.
That’s’ more than a mouthful.
As you can probably tell from its appearance, as with the Charvel, this is a great 80s hard rock guitar – it looks and sounds the part, too.
And, it sounds great to my ears. This axe should work just as well for metal as it does for hard rock thanks to its high-output pickups.
Here’s what’s good about it – it stays in tune, it’s fun and easy to play, you can access the higher frets without any trouble and it’s amazingly affordable.
Also, whether you’re playing low notes or high notes, they all ring out clearly.
If you’re ready to unleash your inner guitar hero, you’ll want to check out the Jackson.
Gretsch Limited Edition G2420T P90 Streamliner 6 String Hollow Body Electric Guitar
This list simply wouldn’t be complete without a hollow body guitar, which as we know, are great for heart wrenching blues bends and adventurous jazz licks. And, Gretsch is known for their hollow bodies.
The Limited Edition G2420T P90 Streamliner comes with a laminated maple body, 24.75” nato neck, rosewood fingerboard, 22 frets, Broad’Tron bridge pickup, P-90 Dog Ear neck pickup and Adjusto-Matic.
The guitar has a nice tone to it and both clean and dirty tones are highly usable. And, although I mentioned jazz and blues, you could use this guitar for country, rock, pop and other genres too.
The Bigsby tremolo only adds to this already stellar axe, and it gives it that vintage vibe too.
So, if a hollow body is what floats your boat, the Gretsch is good value for the money.
So, Which Guitar Is For Me, Anyway?
We’ve looked at a lot of guitars, so let’s not beat around the bush.
If you’re planning to buy a $1,000 axe, you’re probably not a complete beginner and have at least a few opinions around what you prefer and like.
If you are a beginner, cool – we hope you learned a thing or two and will pick up a few more tips from the remainder of this guide.
Anyway, maybe you like Fenders or Gibsons. Maybe you prefer single coils over humbuckers. It could be that you need a whammy bar and double locking bridge.
It’s okay to make these distinctions because it can help you narrow down your options.
But if you just can’t make up your mind and need a little more direction, we’ve broken it all down for you.
Here are a few criteria we consider when we’re thinking about buying a guitar.
It’s Got Killer Tone
For many a guitarist, tone is the holy grail.
That’s not the case for every guitarist, mind you, as some care more about looks. And, depending on your branding as an artist, it might make more sense to go with something that matches your image over something that sounds stellar.
But we happen to think tone is up there. And, sorry to say, you’re probably not going to get it all out of just one guitar.
Beginners often make this mistake and assume they can, for instance, sound just as huge as Slipknot all by their lonesome. Sorry, not going to happen.
Slipknot has multiple guitarists, and it’s the combination of the guitars and differing tones that makes them sound as massive as they day.
Sure, in live situations, sometimes you got to “let it fly” and play everything on one guitar – clean, funky, dirty, crunchy, metal, and more – depending on the song.
But in a studio, it’s common to swap out guitars depending on what the song calls for and the tone you’re going for.
For something funky/bluesy, Strats and Teles are often the go-to.
For hard rock and metal, something with humbuckers and a double-locking bridge is par for the course.
For jazzy soloing or mellow rhythm parts, you might want to use a hollow body like a Gibson ES-335.
I’m just riffing here, and you might have differing opinions.
Strats and Teles can also be great for country. Guitars with humbuckers are sometimes used for sweet soloing in the style of Carlos Santana. Hollow bodies can also be great for blues.
The point is that different sections of music require different tones. And, different tones come from different guitars – not just different amps and effects pedals.
But most guitarists have one standby. In the case of Eric Clapton, it was the Fender Strat. In the case of Eddie Van Halen, it was the EVH Wolfgang. Phil Collen from Def Leppard loves his Jacksons (his son’s name is Jackson too, although we’re not sure there’s any connection).
The point is that most pros have their “old standby”.
So, tonally, we suggest finding a guitar that matches your stylistic approach, genre, playing style, what have you…
Practically every guitar sounds great to someone. It’s more a matter of what sounds good to you and how you plan to use it. We want you to be happy with your selection.
It Plays Like Butter
Now, playability has a lot to do with the action on the guitar, which as we all know, is adjustable.
Don’t like how your guitar plays? Bring it to a tech. Obvious enough, right?
The same goes for different gauges of strings. If you want 10s on there instead of the standard 9s, you can get your tech to do a set up job for you and it should play like butter.
But then we can’t forget the impact of the neck, fretboard radius, frets, pickup placement, bridge size and shape and so on when it comes to playability.
Yep. It all makes a difference, and some guitars are just going to be more comfortable to you than others. Your own body size, shape and hands are going to be a factor too.
Playing style also matters. Some guitarists perform lots of big bends. Some don’t. Some dig in aggressively with their picking. Some are more subtle and finesse their way around the fretboard.
Since you’re in the market for a midrange guitar, I hope you have at least some idea of what you like. I hope you’ve tried out a bunch of guitars already.
If not, that’s what guitar stores are for. Walk in, try out a few axes and ask plenty of questions. The staff might kick you out at some point (it’s happened to me), but hey, at least you got a better sense of what you like.
Don’t forget that renting a bunch of guitars and trying them out is another worthy option.
I will also say that “butter” isn’t what some guitarists are going for, as evidenced by axe-men like Jack White, who likes to wrestle with his instrument.
So, let’s leave it at this – find a guitar that plays how you want it to. Got it?
It Draws The Eye
Whether it’s Jimmy Page’s Gibson double neck or Prince’s Cloud, there are certain guitars that have become iconic (and in some cases legendary) because of their look.
Sure, there might be something to be said for their functionality. But who are we kidding? If you’re going to walk on stage with something as bizarre and unplayable as Bill Bailey’s six-neck, you’re not going for tone, man.
It’s nice when a guitar serves a dual-purpose (i.e. it sounds great and it looks awesome).
James Hetfield’s custom Ken Lawrence Explorer is the perfect example. It looks like a metal machine, acts the part and even matches the band’s branding/image.
Look, music isn’t just about what you play. It’s about how you look, too. And, to be fair, most guitars look cool.
But the point is that your audience wants to see a show, and you need to give them what they want.
Looks aren’t everything, and they never will be. But for some artists and bands, it is a major consideration.
We’ve featured a bunch of different looking guitars in this guide, even some that are particularly odd. So, we trust you can find what you need.
It’s Got All The Bells & Whistles
Some guitars (like the Kramer Baretta Vintage) only come with one pickup and a volume knob. That’s it.
But some guitarists like more versatility – three pickups, multiple volume and tone knobs, coil-tapping, rotary switch, B-Bender, double-locking bridge, D-Tuna, kill switch, built-in effects and more!
Have you ever seen a Kramer Ripley Stereo guitar? If not, it’s worth Googling. It’s crazy how many knobs and switches it’s got. It’s also what Eddie Van Halen used to get his tone on “Tom Jimmy” from 1984, which I think is sick.
Well, it’s up to you, buddy.
I won’t lie – it’s a lot of fun playing a guitar with a bunch of features. But if you’ve also got a pedalboard and an amp with a ton of settings, you could easily sit there all day just tweaking!
Again, some people love that flexibility. To each his own.
I don’t know how important bells and whistles are. But I will say this – if there’s anything to obsess over, first and foremost, it would be pickups and bridges.
Single coil and double coil pickups have different characteristics and a different tone. And, when it comes to bridges, if you like to use that whammy bar, you might want to find an axe with a double-locking bridge.
At the end of the day, it all depends on what you need. So, look for a guitar that has the right features.
Is Six Strings Enough, Or What?
I used to think that seven-string guitars were crazy. These days, you can find eight-, nine-, 10-string guitars and beyond.
YouTuber Stevie T even has a 20-string guitar (it’s ridiculous).
I guess you could argue that there is a point to this.
But if you go too low with your guitar notes, you’re just going to step on the bass player’s toes (unless you’re planning to play in bands with no bass player).
If you go too high, it’s going to infringe on a singer’s tonal territory. And, to an extent, because guitars are basically midrange instruments, they’re already invading vocal space.
Maybe you’re a one-man band. Fine. I suppose you need all those notes.
But don’t forget you’ve got physical restrictions. Certainly, there are guitarists capable of playing bass lines, rhythmic riffs and melodies simultaneously. Just look at Charlie Hunter.
But you can’t fret more notes than your fingers allow, and you can’t strum more strings than it logically makes sense to either.
Also, the more strings a guitar has, the wider the neck gets, and some of those notes get downright unreachable after a point.
I get that some metal guitarists are always in pursuit of a heavier and more destructive tone. But I think after a certain point it’s just not going to come from more strings.
If you want to get a seven- or eight-string guitar, be my guest. I won’t judge. They have their place. I wouldn’t mind owning a seven-string myself.
But mastering six strings is already a massive undertaking so be mindful of that fact.
So, Do I Need An Amp To Go With My Axe?
Technically, no. But it is recommended.
I spend plenty of time practicing on my electric guitars unplugged. Some say not to do that, but it hasn’t done me any harm.
The basic argument is that you can’t hear your mistakes if you’re playing without an amp. That’s technically true if you aren’t a terribly mindful player.
Anyway, these days, you can use software plugins on your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), multi-effects units or pedals, digital mixers with built-in guitar effects and other solutions to dial in a tone and mess around.
Of course, if you want to jam with your friends, attend rehearsals, play jams and gigs and so on, you should probably put some money into an amp, too.
And, you should try to find an amp that has enough headroom to compete with a drummer. You don’t want to be drowned out by other players.
Having raised this point, another question you might have is “how powerful should my amp be?”
The general answer is that the exact wattage you need can vary depending on the gigs you’re playing as well as whether you buy a solid state or tube amp.
But if you’re getting a solid-state amp, you’d probably want 50+ watts of power, and with a tube amp, 30+ watts of power.
That’s just a general guideline, as results may vary.
You must consider the size of the venue, the other band members and what instruments they’ll be playing and so on.
9 Gauge Strings Are For Wusses, Man
I’m going to dedicate this space to talking about strings, but only briefly.
You can set up your guitars with whatever strings you want, and I promise we won’t judge.
It doesn’t matter whether you choose 9s, 10s, 11s, 12s or even 13s.
I’m a fan of 9-gauge strings, as they give me the control I need. They’re easy to fret and bend.
A properly set up guitar with 10-gauge and beyond is fine, but when it hasn’t been set up right, I find it to be painful.
While tone is affected by string gauge, you can easily make the mistake of thinking that certain guitarists achieved their tone by using a certain type and gauge of strings.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, for instance, was known to experiment with a variety of string gauges – oftentimes thick ones.
But even if you used the same gauge of strings he used, you wouldn’t necessarily sound like him. You’d have to master his techniques.
And, so it is with any guitarist. So, find what feels good to you. That’ll give you a better chance at expressing yourself creatively than merely copying your heroes because you like how they sound.
I Only Play (Insert Brand Here) Man – Forget The Rest
I won’t lie. I used to have preconceived ideas about the various guitar brands out there myself.
I used to think things like:
- Ibanez guitars have weird necks and don’t stay in tune.
- Fender guitars sound good and feel comfortable but don’t keep tune, especially if you use the whammy bar.
- Parker guitars feel weird.
- And so on.
And, you know what I eventually discovered?
All guitars have their pros and cons. They all sound different, feel different and are intended for different things.
To this day, I’ve owned Squier, Fender, Epiphone, PRS and Ernie Ball Music Man electric guitars. I have my favorites to be sure. But all brands just mentioned make great guitars.
I’m not as picky as I once was. I’ll give just about anything a go, and if I like it, I might even use it on stage or in the studio.
And, you must remember that the quality of the guitar you get depends a lot on how much you’re willing to spend. Some brands have great guitars for about $500. Some don’t even have worthwhile options until you get to the $1,500+ range.
But if you’re a dedicated Gibson fan and you don’t want to put your money towards anything else, for example, that’s fine.
Just recognize that there may be other guitars out there suited to your needs. You may end up liking other brands once you give them a shot.
Is It Even Worth Looking At Higher-Priced Guitars?
In terms of guitars, $1,000 is on the expensive end of affordable gear.
So, your expectations might be high. And, many guitars in this range will more than deliver. But depending on your needs, it may not be enough.
Is a guitar worth $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000 immeasurably better? It depends.
More expensive guitars are usually better. But not necessarily by leaps and bounds.
Some $1,000 guitars are essentially cheaper versions of more expensive equivalents.
The manufacturer may have cut some corners to make the guitar more affordable – by reducing the amount of wood used or by manufacturing it in another country, for instance. But it could be the same guitar in every other regard.
I will say that more expensive guitars almost always have a more luxurious feel to them. Sometimes they are handmade. Sometimes the pickups are custom designed. And, sometimes they feature nicer parts and materials.
Although it may seem like you end up paying a lot more for incremental improvement, the difference is noticeable.
An Ernie Ball Music Man Axis, for instance, can cost about $2,700. I can tell you that it looks nicer, feels more comfortable and sounds better than my $300 Mexican Fender Stratocaster – though I’m aware we’re not comparing apples to apples.
Bottom line – more expensive guitars are worth it, assuming you’ve come to the point in your development where you can tell the difference between materials, tone, feel, etc.
But if you’re on a budget, then honestly there’s nothing wrong with a $1,000 guitar.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but even as a pro you can get a great instrument that will last you for a long time to come at this price point.
Best Electric Guitars Under $/£1000 Wrap Up
Shopping for a new guitar is always a lot of fun.
We find that people sometimes get overwhelmed by the options available. It’s a double-edged sword – it’s what’s great about the age we’re in, and it’s also what can easily cause analysis paralysis.
But assuming you know how you’re going to be using the guitar, you should be able to narrow down your options comfortably.
From there, it’s just a matter of comparing tone, pickups, materials and so on.
We also find that purchases are usually emotional rather than being entirely rational. So, don’t be driven 100% by logic – it’s just not how humans are wired! Let your hunches and best guesses guide you as much as your informed opinion does.