Are you looking for an electric guitar that will suit your needs? Read on to find out everything you need to know about electric guitars and how to find your dream guitar!
Electric guitars come in various shapes, woods, necks, and pickups, which is why it can be a bit overwhelming to find the guitar you need for your specific style. But don’t fret. Our comprehensive electric guitar buyer’s guide will help you learn what to look for in a guitar and find your one true companion.
Let’s start with the basics and then dive deeper into woods, constructions, and electronics!
Electric Guitar 101
Typically, an electric guitar comes with the standard six strings tuned EADGBe – from low to high note or thick to thin strings. With that said, some electric guitars come with extended ranges of seven, eight, or even nine strings, which gives you multiple playing options. However, the fundamentals of your guitar will remain the same.
Ideally, you want a guitar wood that looks, feels and sounds great. Here are some details on popular woods amongst guitarists:
Arguably the most neutral tonewood used in guitar construction, Alder is the ideal choice for guitarists looking for a versatile guitar that can act as a jack of all trades. Commonly used for the popular Strats and Tele
It’s a lightweight and affordable tonewood with a bright tone. It’s typically used for beginner and shred guitars.
Korina is known as ‘super mahogany,’ as it’s lighter than Mahogany and has more treble and bass tones.
Typically used in guitars made for rock, metal, and blues, Mahogany is heavy and durable, with a warm, balanced tone. It’s a popular choice among guitar manufacturers, such as Gibson and PRS.
Commonly used with Poplar for a multiply build on a hollow or semi-hollow large guitar. Maple has a bright sound that prevents the hollow guitar from sounding muddy.
Electric Guitar Body
When it comes to electric guitar bodies, everyone has a type they are drawn to; you might love the look of the classic Strats, or you might prefer the more recent Reverends. However, you need to find a body that sounds good on top of looking amazing.
There are three types of body constructions that you can choose from:
Solid-body electric guitars offer a tight sound with a fast attack. Guitarists use them for a lot of genres, including pop, blues, country, metal, and rock. Semi-hollow guitars can be found in these genres as well, but their construction offers some of the benefits of both solid body and hollow-body guitars. They allow you to amp up the gain without the feedback issues associated with full-hollow bodies. Hollow-body guitars are used by jazz and blues players. Their large open bodies create a large number of low-end notes that you can offset with a decent amount of drive.
As for which construction will suit you, it depends on what you want to play. If you are into shredding and overdriving, a solid-body guitar will be a good companion for you. Alternatively, if softer style and cleaner tones are more your speed, you will benefit from a hollow-bodied guitar.
Aside from personal preference rooted in slimness and girth, here are some neck woods that you can go for:
➢ Bubinga: Popular on bass guitars, Bubinga is durable and offers an exceptional low-end response, making it ideal for seven, eight or even nine-string guitars.
➢ Mahogany: Heavy and dark-hued, Mahogany is ideal for medium to thick-sized necks.
➢ Maple: Rigid, stable, light-hued, and smooth-surfaced, Maple is used popularly for slimmer necks.
➢ Multi-Ply: Having a multi-ply neck allows you to benefit from the best qualities of different woods. Want a lighter neck that’s able to handle heavier strings? Opt for a Maple neck with Bubinga stripes.
➢ Rosewood: Dark-hued wood with an excellent smooth feel and grain unfinished, often used on limited-run models.
Materials for the Fingerboard
Here are some materials that you can choose from for your guitar’s fingerboard:
➢ Ebony: Bright-hued, offers smooth action, and is used on Les Pauls and shred-based lead guitars
➢ Maple: Works well both lacquered and un-lacquered, and offers a bright sound with fantastic attack
➢ Richlite: Mimics ebony, used by Gibson in recent years
➢ Rosewood: Darker tone, requires maintenance, and is commonly used on fretted fingerboards in versatile guitars Because of increasing scarcity of many traditional fingerboard woods, many brands are using newer fingerboard materials, such as Indian Laurel, Ovangkol, and Pau Ferro.
Here are the three primary types of pickups on electric guitars:
Loved for their bright sound, single-coils are the original electric guitar pickups. One significant downside is the amount of hum they make that can meddle with your tone, particularly at higher volumes.
Built differently than the standard single-coil, the P90 offers a much more pronounced mid-range tone.
Due to their versatility and silent operation, Humbucker pickups are fairly common. They are designed to cancel the background noise you get with single-coil pickups. They work great for various styles, including rock, jazz, blues, etc. Active pickupsFor many styles of modern high-gain music, guitarists turn to active pickups which include a preamp, and versatile tone controls. Modern manufacturing techniques allow for active pickups to be voiced to sound like the above three types of passive pickups, but with much less noise and hum.
Here are some common controls you will likely find on electric guitars and what each one of them does:
➢ Tone – high-end cut, used in jazz and blues-style playing
➢ Volume – changes the volume of your pickup
➢ Killswitch – a switch or button that gives a staccato effect by killing the signal to your guitar
➢ Coil Split/Tap – makes a humbucking pickup sound like a single-coil pickup by changing its wiring
➢ Mid-Boost – Adds mid-range and volume to the tone, making the sound pop more during solos
The Bottom Line
Even though the world of electric guitars is limitless, you should try to find a guitar that works for you. Keep an open mind, use this electronic guitar buyer’s guide, and choose the right body and neck first before opting for the ideal pickup and electronics – as you can get them modified later as well.