The electric guitar was originally labelled a “phase”, after Chuck Berry cemented its use in the early rock n’ roll scene. Yet here we are in 2017, and it’s still about. Not to mention it’s probably the most popular instrument to exist.
Every man needs a hobby. Some choose their motors, some prefer to plow their way through Stephen King novels, some even like to waste their hobby time on stupid gaming consoles. I personally decided to take the more musical path and took up the good old six-string.
Learning to play guitar is a (usually) satisfying journey, that makes you feel very fulfilled over time. Every axe you encounter gives a personal connection – sometimes it’s great, but you’ll have your bad eggs every now and then. That’s just all part of the journey though. While you make lots of friends, you’ll also make plenty of enemies.
The way a guitar feels, sounds and looks are its three factors of importance to me, in that particular order. It’s no cheap hobby though, as many of us find out the hard way. That’s why I’ve gathered together 8 of the best affordable guitars I could find, in terms of feel, sound and look – all appropriate for veteran or beginner players alike.
By the way – when I say affordable, I mean anything equal to or below £500. Trust me, that’s kind of “cheap” when it comes to guitar prices.
Squier Jim Root Telecaster
You may know Jim Root as the guitarist for Iowa metal outfit, Slipknot. However, don’t let your opinion on the band, whether it’s positive or negative, sway your feelings towards his signature model.
I feel like I’m too old for the fast riffs and shouted vocals now, but Jim certainly has some style and class when it comes to his playing and guitar of choice. His signature Squier comes in a more affordable model, fitted with EMG pickups and a choice of either white with a black scratch-plate, or vice versa.
This guitar was designed for Slipknot, so heavy is what it knows best but you’d be surprised how many different styles can make use of such a guitar. You shouldn’t be looking at any more than £420 for this one, and it boasts a superior feel, sound and look. It ticks all the boxes for me, I may end up buying one of these for myself as a slight modern twist on my usual!
Notable icons that use this signature guitar (or at least its more expensive yet hardly different Fender counterpart) obviously includes Jim Root himself, but Alison insisted that Charlie Simpson of pop rock band Busted makes use of one… and she’s spot on. If that doesn’t prove its diversity then I don’t know what does!
Squier Vintage Modified 70’s Stratocaster
The Squier VM Strat is based on one of the most notable guitars in history, dressed up in black with a maple neck. With a very familiar 70’s vibe, Squier have tweaked this classic to give it a custom look and feel, adding its own new twists.
At a very affordable price of around £250, you’ll probably never have to bother with a Fender upgrade, and only add it to your collection. Reviews around the web on this guitar from even the most veteran players are claiming it’s not that much different to any of its higher priced counterparts.
For those who prefer to experiment with the less heavy side of music, and are looking more to progressive rock or a bluesy feel, then this strat was made for you. Players such as David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix are both noted for their use of a strat, so if they happen to be your idols but you’re on a budget then this guitar is your best bet for sure.
Gretsch G2622 Streamliner
Gretsch has been earning accolades since the dawn of rock n’ roll back in the 50’s. Their Streamliner series is designed to allow more affordable Gretsch models, but without losing any of its vintage magical touch. The G2622 is stunning when it comes to sound as well as its look.
This semi-hollow body impresses drastically in the sound department with its supposed “instant” blues tone. Fancy yourself as a bit ofa Chuck Berry impersonator? This is the guitar for you. While it’s fairly neck heavy, it still manages to sit comfortably whilst playing, giving it quite a smooth and pleasurable feel.
You won’t be looking at much more than £380 for this guitar, which is about half the price of its not-so-budget counterpart. Honestly though, nobody is going to notice a difference between the two. If you ask me, you’re far better off with this model for what it’s worth. Unless you’re rich of course.
Schecter Stealth C-1
This guitar certainly lives up to its name, with its satin black body as well as its black hardware. Don’t put it down in the dark, you’ll never find it. The finish really is gorgeous, and if you more interested in a “modern” type of guitar, then put this high on your wishlist.
The satin-finished neck is extremely smooth, meaning you are encouraged to apply a bit of speed to your playing. Great if you’re planning on whizzing through some Metallica type riffs. The guitar is very well built, and its pickups are extremely versatile, considering they’re not active. You could play anything on this with little to no problem.
While this guitar is very good value, especially if you’re after simplicity, there’s not a great deal to it considering its price point of around £450. Whether it’s softer rock or pounding thrash you’re after, this guitar can cover all ends of the spectrum, but if you’re into your guitar tech it might seem a bit boring.
I always find Schecter models to be fairly unique. There still isn’t anyone that has majorly iconised one, not that I can think of anyway. Maybe that next icon could be you? Better get practicing!
Epiphone SG G-400
Another massively iconic guitar, but put on a more budget level. You’ve probably most famously seen the SG being played by Angus Young of AC/DC. There are multiple guitarists in various styles that also make great use of the SG though.
A very sturdy guitar considering its price tag. The finish, build and hardware is massively complimented by many. A lot of Gibson players seem to get hold of one of these as a backup, but then find themselves playing it a lot more than they initially intended!
The SG makes a fantastic beginner instrument, but it’s not an uncommon sight to see them in the hands of skilled players too. If you’re still thinking about taking up playing, this could be a perfect starting point. You won’t be looking at paying anything more than £275 from the best vendors.
Kramer Pacer Classic
Not one of my favourites on this list, I will admit. But, it’s all you need if you’re the kind of player it’s suited for. Basically, without sounding too harsh, this guitar would be wasted on anybody that prefers to play less technical.
The Kramer Pacer is a shredding guitar, so if you really wish you were Eddie Van Halen but you’re still in that practice stage, this guitar could prove useful in getting you to that point. At a mere £330, it’s a decent shred guitar on a budget, and you’ll probably never want to part with it once you’ve both bonded.
By all means though, the tone is beautiful and can handle some great rhythm sections too. Many users tend to find that the guitar is more of a great base to make their own modifications to later down the line. That’s your call though. It might be exactly the kind of thing you’re after when guitar hunting with a limited bank balance.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II
Epiphone strikes the list again, but this time with the even more iconic Les Paul shape, famously wielded by Guns n’ Roses’ very own Slash. This guitar is by far the cheapest on the list, at only £135. So what’s the catch? Why is it dirt cheap, guitar-wise?
Obviously, this won’t feel as flawless as its more pricey siblings, but for what you pay it’s actually quite a steal. In fact, I’m having trouble trying to find somebody that doesn’t recommend it, so the catch is so far non-existant.
It’s a no brainer, regardless of what kind of music you’re after playing or your playing ability. The guitar checks all the boxes for sound, feel and look. It comes in three finishes: Ebony, Vintage Sunburst and Heritage Cherry Sunburst – each looks equally amazing.
It’s also worth noting that these guitars appear to have rosewood necks. The type of rosewood used is now listed as endangered, so it could be worth snapping these up whilst they last, because they’re bound to become a rarity.
Charvel Joe Duplantier Signature
Much in the same vein as the Jim Root Signature, Charvel’s Joe Duplantier Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 2 HH has been described by Joe himself as a “killing machine with class”. He’s not wrong.
If you don’t know who Joe is, he is the frontman of French groove metal band, Gojira. Malcolm has described them as one of the tightest bands he’s ever seen live, and I’m guessing he was probably the oldest chap in the venue too. This guitar isn’t cheap, but it isn’t too expensive for a signature model either, at around £450.
With Gojira in mind, this guitar was designed to chug crushing heavy riffs. This makes it ideal for anybody who is more focused as a rhythm guitarist, but lead guitarists will benefit from this monster too.
While it’s fairly modern looking and sounding, it still has a respectable nod towards that classic telecaster look, which I personally find extremely stylish. It’s very minimalist too, with only one control knob and a pickup selector – so if you’re a bit of a guitar-technophobe then you’re in luck.
Hopefully if you were only considering taking up guitar at the beginning of this article, you are now settled on one of these fine choices to get you going.
I’ve tried to keep a bit of variety in this list so there’s something for everyone. You’ll get your occasional gear elitist that hates one and loves the other but at the end of the day it’s down to what YOU want. If you require more information on any of the above, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or drop me a message!