It's often said that it's not the guitar, it’s the player. And that’s true – Jeff Beck always sounded like Jeff Beck, whether he was running with a Stratocaster or Les Paul. But as players, that doesn’t stop you from wanting to switch around, upgrade and experiment with new guitars.
Since 1993, MOJO have been celebrating the best that music can offer, and more often than not, there’s been a guitar or two involved along the way. Whether it’s the distinctive twang of a Telecaster or the rounded swell of a Jaguar, we understand the importance of a certain guitar to your playing and sound.
The Best Electric Guitars In 2023 At A Glance:
• Winner: Best Electric Guitar - Fender Player Stratocaster - View on PMT Online
• Runner-up - Gibson Les Paul Studio - View on Gear4Music
• Runner-up - Fender Player Telecaster - View on PMT Online
• Best Budget Electric Guitar: Yamaha Pacifica 112V - View on Amazon
Here, we’ve coiled our knowledge into a tight list of the best guitars available in 2023. Whether you’re hunting for versatility or virtuoso specificity, there will be something to scratch that itch.
The Best Electric Guitars In 2023
The best electric guitar 2023 - WINNER
The influence of the Stratocaster is unrivalled with only Gibson’s Les Paul snapping at its heels.
- Excellent sound quality
- Comfortable to play
- Versatile for different genres and playing styles
- A relatively low-end option from Fender’s catalogue
The best electric guitar 2023: Runner-up
In many ways, the Les Paul is the antithesis of the Stratocaster. Thick, weighty, and boasting
- Great humbucker tones
- Robust and comfortable
- Medium jumbo frets are good for fast playing
- The price (Epiphones are a cheaper option)
The best electric guitar 2023: Runner-up
On the scene since ’51, the Fender Telecaster carries a distinct, delightful tone. Tighter than a
- The Telecaster’s bright and twangy tone
- C-neck is easy to play
- The Telecaster sound isn’t suitable for all genres
The best budget electric guitar 2023
The Yamaha Pacifica 112V is such a good guitar for the money, it transcends being ‘budget’ and
- Versatile and easy to play, which is perfect for beginners
- Split-coil humbucker
- Uses budget components
The best vintage-look electric guitar
It doesn’t matter what music you want to play. The Gretsch G5230T Electromatic Jet can deliver,
- Filter'Tron pickups can handle clean and dirty tones well
- Beautiful design
- Bigsby vibrato
- Hollow sections increase chance of feedback
The best electric acoustic guitar
ounded in 1833, Martin is one of the oldest names in guitars and has been relied on by the likes
- Lovely warm tones
- Build is comfortable for playing standing or sitting
- Pickup requires a battery
The best electric guitar for retro 60s enthusiasts
With the rise of surf rock, Fender released the original Jaguar in 1962. Distinct not only because
- Bright and jangly Jag sound
- Classic design
- Versatille tone options
- Tremolo can affect tuning
The best semi-acoustic electric guitar
The Gibson ES-335 has been part of rock and roll since the beginning. Originally favoured by
- Rich, warm hollow-body sound
- Great double humbucker pickups
- Beautiful design
- Feedback is an issue for hollow guitars
The best guitar for high end versatility
If Paul Reed Smith is known for one thing, it’s craftsmanship. With the SE McCarty 594, the
- Rich humbucker pickups that can coil tap
- Quality woods used in construction
- Reputable PRS playability
- Limited finish choices
Pickups: Single coil versus humbucker
Single coil pickups consist of one magnet wrapped with a single coil of wire. They are known for their bright, clear, and articulate tone, producing a crisp and twangy sound that suits genres like country, blues, and funk. However, they can be susceptible to electrical interference or hum. You'll find them on guitars such as Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters.
Humbucker pickups "buck" the hum or noise associated with single coils. They feature two coils wound in opposite directions, connected in series or parallel. Humbuckers offer a thicker and warmer tone with increased output and sustain. They produce a smooth and creamy sound, with a rich midrange and a tighter low end, making them popular in rock, metal, and jazz. Humbuckers also have higher resistance to interference and noise. Guitars like Gibson Les Pauls often come equipped with humbuckers.
Ultimately, the choice between single coil and humbucker pickups depends on personal preference. Some guitarists prefer the brightness of single coils, while others the power of humbuckers. Many guitars combine both pickup types, providing a versatile range of tones to explore.
What’s a split coil pickup?
A split coil pickup is a type of humbucker that lets you switch between the humbucker sound and a single-coil sound. This can be achieved because a humbucker consists of two coils.
There are several ways to control a split coil pickup, including a pick-up selector, push/pull tone knobs and on-body switches.
Which guitar shape is for you?
When it comes to electric guitars, the choice between single-cutaway, double-cutaway and hollow body designs can greatly impact playing experience. Not only that, but cross-pollination between guitar designs means that you’re often contending with elements of more than one guitar standard. In this guide, we'll delve into the pros and cons of each type.
Single-cutaway guitars: The Gibson Les Paul is a prime example of single-cutaway guitar and is well known for its classic look. Thanks to the mass of material making up the guitar, they offer exceptional sustain. However, the absence of a second cutaway can pose challenges when reaching higher frets.
Double-cutaway guitars: The Fender Stratocaster is pretty much the archetypal double-cutaway design. Guitars in this style feature two cut-outs, allowing for greater manoeuvrability on the fretboard and easier access to the highest frets. Due to there being less material on the guitar, they tend to be lighter and boast more comfortable curves, enhancing playing comfort.
As there is less material on the guitar body, there can be some reduction in sustain. However, sustain is also affected by the wood used and neck construction.
Hollow-body guitars: Hollow-body guitars have a completely different construction style and combine electric and acoustic guitar elements. Hollow-body guitars offer a unique blend of acoustic resonance and electric versatility, making them a mainstay among jazz and blues players.
A hollow-body guitar design can be combined with single-cutaway and double-cutaway shapes, creating semi-hollow guitars. The Fender Thinline range is an example of this practice.
Archtop guitars: Archtops are hollow-bodied guitars with a distinctive arched top and f-holes. They are liked by jazz musicians for their warm, resonant tones and ability to project in ensemble settings – think Wes Montgomery. The combination of floating pickups and carved tops contribute to their unique sound and aesthetic appeal.
Archtops have also been adopted by rockabilly players. Archtops can be fully hollow-bodied like the Gretsch White Falcon or semi-solid/semi-acoustic like the Gibson ES-335.
Wood matters: Electric guitars are crafted from various kinds of wood, with mahogany, maple, alder, and ash being the most common. Each wood lends its own characteristics to tone and weight. Mahogany gives a dark, warm sound thanks to its dense nature and rich tonal characteristics. Ash is a good selection for a brighter tone as it has pronounced upper-midrange clarity.
Often, manufacturers will combine woods to alter both the sound and the feel of a guitar. For example, Gibson is known for adding a maple top to mahogany to add some brightness to guitar’s tone. Meanwhile, Fender will stray from its standard maple fingerboard, known for its slick playability and sharp tone, to the smooth warmth of rosewood fingerboards.
Plenty of choice exists, so investigate your chosen guitar’s construction and play different combinations before making your final pick.
Guitar necks explained
The shape of a guitar neck has a huge impact on playability and comfort, as well as sound. Your personal preference, playing style and hand size all play a role in choosing the right neck shape. We recommend trying out different neck shapes to find the one that feels the best for you.
Here’s a list of the most common guitar neck shapes. Note that some manufacturers refer to neck shapes using branded names, but often, they can fit into one of these generic categories.
C shape: The C-shaped neck is a popular choice found on many guitars. It has a comfortable rounded profile that fits well in the hand, providing a balanced feel for both chords and lead playing. Often, players enjoy this neck shape as they have more flexibility on how they use their thumb.
U shape: The U-shaped neck has a more pronounced curve, giving a chunkier and fuller grip, suited for players with big hands or those who prefer a substantial-feeling neck.
V shape: The V-shaped neck has a V-like contour. It provides a vintage-style feel, offering more grip and stability. The degree of V-shape can vary from subtle to severe.
D shape: The D-shaped neck resembles the letter "D" and offers a flat back with rounded edges. It can provide a comfortable grip, balancing the bulkiness of a U shape with the slimmer feel of a C shape.
Slim taper: A modern neck, the slim taper is known for having a thinner profile that’s well-suited to faster playing styles.
‘Tremolo’ arm versus Bigsby
The Bigsby is a type of vibrato system with a unique design with a tension bar and a movable arm, best known for their employment on Gibsons and Gretsches. They are known for delivering a subtle vibrato effect.
The Fender-style tremolo arm – a time-honoured misnomer since ‘tremolo’ is technically a variation in volume and not pitch – is sometimes called a whammy bar. It’s attached to the bridge or tailpiece and can be pushed or pulled to create pitch variations. Its effect is very pronounced – even more so if you choose one of the ‘locking’ types favoured by hard rock and heavy metal guitarists looking for extreme ‘dive bomb’ effects.
They are both great, which you prefer is down to personal choice.
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