10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500

10 Great Electric Guitars That Can Be Had for a Song

Becoming a truly skilled guitar player takes time. However, the process can be  made a lot more fun and a lot easier if you start out with a high quality instrument.  A poorly made guitar won’t feel right, it won’t play easily, and it won’t sound good. What are the odds that you’re going to stick with it trying to learn on an instrument like that? This being the case, it behooves you to find a guitar that feels good, looks good, plays well, and sounds great. Fortunately, here you will find the 10 best electric guitars under $500. The guitars that are presented here are of such outstanding quality that they are absolutely suited for seasoned guitarists as  well. In fact, almost every one of the guitars you’ll read about here are economy priced instruments that are being used by touring musicians.

Buying a guitar can be confusing. There are hundreds and hundreds of guitars to choose from and you need to have at least some knowledge of the components of a guitar to make a good choice. This article is thus aimed at making your purchase easier by presenting you with ten guitar options that are all wonderful instruments priced below the $500 mark. Likewise, our list includes several different styles of guitars. So, whether you’re into blues, metal, jazz, rock or pop, you’re going to find a guitar here to fit your style.

The Top 10 Electric Guitars Under $500

  • Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Electric Guitar
  • Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster ’50s Electric Guitar
  • Epiphone Limited Edition 1966 G-400 PRO Electric Guitar
  • Hagstrom Ultra Swede Flame Electric Guitar
  • Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster ’50s Electric Guitar
  • Gretsch Guitars G5445T Electromatic Double Jet w/Bigsby Electric Guitar
  • Squier J Mascis Jazzmaster Electric Guitar
  • Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plain Top Electric Guitar
  • Ibanez Artcore AG75 Electric Guitar
  • Schecter Guitar Research Omen Extreme-6 FR Electric Guitar

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Electric Guitar

Blues Backingtrack in G

O.K., my bad. I had actually put this article to bed, but I was so interested in seeing if there was something better, I kept doing research. As fate would have it, I found another guitar that I just couldn’t keep it off the 10 best list. I  present you with guitar number eleven, the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner Single Cutaway Hollowbody. Buying this guitar was a difficult decesion for me.  I don’t own a Telecaster style guitar and before starting to do the research for this article I was leaning heavily toward the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster. The reviews for the Classic Vibe Tele were incredibly positive. It’s a great guitar at an unbelievable price. But when it came down to it, I wanted to own a Gretsch.

Personally, I felt that this Gretsch  is the Crème de la Crème of electric guitars under $500. It’s the one I couldn’t help but buy. I purchased it in the Aged Brooklyn Burst and it is visually a stunning guitar. What separated this guitar from the competition was an extraordinary combination of unparalleled versatility, build quality, ease of play, beauty, and its’ incredible tone. Likewise, it is one of the only guitars in the group where I didn’t read at least some owners saying that there was at least one thing they would eventually be changing out. There is isn’t a single component part on this guitar that I have even an inkling of wanting to switch out. That goes for the pickups, tuners, saddle, nut, frets, strings, etc.

Almost every review I read said that this guitar arrived with a near perfect setup. That’s one of the things convinced me that this was the guitar I wanted.  That counts for a lot because a trip to your trusted luthier will set you back at least $100. When I received this guitar the setup was absolutely spot on.  In the end, I decided to buy this guitar from Musicians Friend. They were running a 15% off sale, so I paid less than $400.00 for the guitar delivered to my door.

The Gretsch G2420 is a hollow-body, so it is well suited to many styles of music. In fact, after playing it for a while, I’m pretty amazed by it’s tone and it’s versatility. If you are into the blues, rock/blues, or jazz, this guitar is spectacular. The G2420 is well balanced, comfortable, and plays like butter. It sounds cliché,  but this hollow-body Gretsch really does stand its’ ground with guitars costing a heck of a lot more money.

Important Considerations When Buying an Electric Guitar

You want a guitar that makes you feel great every time you pick it up and look at it. The look, color, the shape, feel, and sound of the guitar are all important. The guitar needs to inspire you to keep playing.

Try and match your guitar to your music tastes. While long time players and professionals may be fortunate enough to enjoy having a substantial collection of different guitars with varying tones, if this is going to be your “go to” instrument, make sure it fits the style of music you’d like to play.  Don’t buy a guitar that was built for shredding and heavy metal if you’re into the blues. That’s not going to be a marriage made in heaven.

Make an accurate assessment of what you can afford to spend and set a budget.  While it is generally true that that the larger your budget, the better the instrument, that doesn’t always hold true.  In the collection of 10 great guitars we review here, there are several that deliver far more value and quality than their prices would suggest. If you are diligent in your research, you’ll end up with a really fine instrument at a price you can afford.

A great electric guitar should open up an entirely new world of music and enjoyment you have never experienced before. However, you need to have some knowledge about the things that differentiate a great guitar from one that is only average. So, to help you out in this endeavor, take a moment to read the information presented below. It will help you make a more informed decision.

The Body of The Guitar

Electric guitars come in 3 distinct body structures; solid, hollow, and semi-hollow. A guitar’s body has a remarkable impact on its sound quality. Consequently, certain guitars sound best in some specific genres and not in others.

Solid Body Electric Guitars – these are probably the most common of all other guitar varieties. The body is made entirely from wood. The solid body architecture of the instrument gives it increased sustain and a reduced feedback. The end result is that electric guitars with a solid body have the widest tone range among all other guitars. They, therefore, can be used to play any music. Nevertheless, they are the champions of rock and alternative music. You thus can’t go wrong when you pick a solid-body electric guitar for rock and/or alternative music.

Hollow Body Electric Guitars – this is the original design that was used on the very first electric guitars. Just like an acoustic guitar, a hollow-body electric has a completely hollow inside. This gives them a warm, mellow tone. The use of the hollow body has been extensive in jazz. It also makes a great instrument for country, folk and rock and roll. You can also tweak the setup to give you a distortion that is sweet, raunchy, and terrific for classic blues or rock tunes. On the whole, hollow body guitars will have more feedback than solid body electric guitars.

Eddie Durham and Charlie Christian made jazz music came to life with their hollowbody electric guitars

Semi-Hollow Body – this is an incredibly good all-purpose guitar. Why? Because it is a hybrid of the solid and hollow body types. Most of the time hybrids like semi-hollowbody guitars offer the greatest utility and allow the musician a better instrument for playing a wider variety of musical styles. These types of guitars have the best qualities of the solid body guitars such as reduced feedback and increased sustain, as well as the finest aspects of the hollow body such as the warm, mellow tones. Blues musicians particularly adore the semi-hollow body electric guitar. It is the duality of a sweet, mellow tone and amazing crunchy sound that makes this a favorite for many.

Chuck Berry and Freddie King touched the souls of many when they played the Blues on their semi-hollow body guitars

Guitar Pickups

The heart of any electric guitar are its pickups. The pickup, in the form of a magnet with a wire coil, collects vibrations from the guitar string and converts them into an electric signal that can be translated and amplified into sound. A pickup can either be a single-coil or a double-coil.

Single-Coil Pickups – these represent the most basic pickup Like the name suggests they simply are a single coil of wire. Classically, single coils produce bright, punchy sounds. These are tones that will cut across other dense band sounds. John Mayer, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton among many other famous players used single coil pickup guitars. However, they produce a slight humming noise in some instances. The P90 is a single coil pickup that doesn’t have this noise. This is because the P90  employs a wide single coil that has a wide surface area for the guitar strings. The pickup thus collects more of the string vibrations resulting in a duller tone than a simple single coil pickup.

Humbucking Pickups – they are at times referred to as dual coil pickups, but more often they are simply referred to as humbuckers. Two single coil pickups are grouped together in series to constitute the humbucker. Humbuckers ‘buck the hum’ produced by single coil pickups. In simple terms, they eliminate it. They thus produce powerful rich tones without any buzzing or humming.

Guitars with double-coil pickups are ideal for thick, loud and powerful tones. They are also quite versatile hence their extensive use in rock, heavy metal and Jazz. Slash, Duane Allman and Jimmy Page are some of the notable names who played using the humbucker pickup.

Multiple pickups – Most electric guitars have multiple pickups. The very earliest electric guitars had only a single pickup. While there still are guitars being manufactured with a single pickup, the vast majority of modern guitars  have 2 or 3 single coils, 2 or 3 humbuckers,  or even a combination of humbuckers and single coils. Such setups offer the player greater range of tonal options. Access to the various pickups in your guitar is manipulated through controls such as rotatory knobs, toggle switches or blade selectors.

Piezo Pickups – unlike the humbuckers and single coils, Piezo pickups are crystalline. These are usually sensors in the guitar’s saddle. They additionally collect mechanical vibrations unlike the coil pickups use magnets to tap string vibrations. Consequently, Piezo pickups are sometimes used to trigger digital sounds or synthesizers. When used on an electric guitar piezo pickups are often utilized in the simulation of acoustic tones. They are also used alongside magnetic pickups to increase a guitar’s tone versatility.

Active Pickups and Electronics – Pickups can also be active or passive. Most guitar pickups are usually passive.  An active pickup incorporates a preamp to shape the sound. They also use energy from batteries. Electric guitars may include also include other active electronics such as filters and equalization circuits. A guitar with active electronic has added sound control, higher output as well as clearer and cleaner sound.

Guitar Accessories

Controls – most electric guitars have volume and tone controls to regulate the output signal. The controls can thus vary the sound giving you warm, mellow, soft tones or even very raw, distorted and brought sounds. Some newer guitars may even come with digital technology that gives you more sound variety than what a traditional electric guitar can give you. Some guitars also feature what is called coil splitting. This gives a player an even greater variety of pickup sounds to choose from in a single instrument.

Scale Length

This is the length of the vibrating string from the nut to the bridge. A short scale length is best for small hand since it offers less tension and easier string bending. A short scale produces warm tones. Long scale lengths, on the contrary, offer greater and tighter string tension. The tone from a longer scale is thus bright with a well-defined low end.

Neck Construction

The neck extends from the body, and it’s the part where the tuners of the guitar are mounted. It includes a headstock and a fretboard. It also has a metal truss rod that holds the neck in place and prevents twisting or bowing. This truss rod can also be adjusted to maintain a constant pitch. The fretboard is commonly a thin layer of rosewood or mahogany. It can also be a maple neck in some models. Inlaid within the fretboard are dots or other markers. In some models, the markers are on the upper edge for enhanced visibility.

A guitar’s play-ability is greatly affected by the profile and width of the neck. These two features also impact on the comfort of the player when fretting. Therefore, the width and the depth of the neck is an important consideration when making a purchase. A player with small hands should go for a narrow, shallow neck. A beefier neck is conversely best for individuals with large hands.

Generally, a neck can be V-, U-or C-shaped. Experimental shape designs are however also available. Three commonly neck structures include:

Bolt-On Necks are usually bolted onto the body. This cost-effective model allows the neck to be replaced with relative ease. It nonetheless offers reduced resonance and sustain when compared to other neck construction models.

Set Necks are usually glued firmly onto the body. This offers stability as well as better resonance and sustain than bolt-on neck guitars. Nevertheless, neck replacements and repairs might be a bit of a problem with necks of this variety.

Neck-Through guitars characteristically feature a laminated neck spanning the entire guitar body with fins or wings projecting from the body. This offers enhanced stability and an increased sustain and resonance from the guitar. As you might guess, neck repairs and replacements here are not only difficult but costly too. Nonetheless, with the excellent stability offered here, such repairs and/or replacements are rarely required.

Tonewoods

Though a guitar’s sound principally comes from an interaction between the vibrating strings and the pickup, the wood of the guitar has a significant role in modifying the sound produced by the guitar. It’s the wood’s resonance that determines the length of the strings’ vibration as well as what shape their motion takes.  The wood may additionally regulate pickup movement. Various tonewood options are available.

Mahogany has been used in all parts of guitars except bridges and fretboards. It is usually rich brown in color and is also dense and strong. It, however, isn’t very hard and thus is best for mellow guitars playing midrange and bass frequencies. It, however, is very resonant and has an enhanced sustain.

Maple is usually favored for the neck. It can also be used on the fretboard to add to the sound definition. It usually is hard and dense. It is known to give attractive grain patterns called figuring. It gives an overall bright tone. The figuring and the brilliant tone mean that maple is often used as a top laminate or veneer for the expensive guitars.

Rosewood is common on many fretboards of electric guitars and occasionally on guitar bodies. It is beautiful with colors ranging from near-black to blond and variegated brown. It is usually very dense and hard; when used on the body, it may make the guitar quite heavy.

Ebony is primarily found on the fretboards of the pricey guitar models. It is usually very hard and dense. It is black and usually has a silky feel to it.

Ash is commonly used to make the body of solid body guitars. Compared to Mahogany, Ash is harder and more resonant too. It not only gives the guitar a well-defined midrange bright tone but also offers a ringing sustain. Ash is particularly appealing in that it is light colored with unique grain figuring. Hence, ash is almost always given a transparent Swamp ash is an exceptionally appealing tonewood that’s found on high-end guitars.

Alder is the most common tonewood on solid body guitars. It has tonal characteristics of ash but is less expensive. It is light tan in color and not as highly figured as ash. Hence, Alder often gets an opaque finish.

Agathis has the tonal characteristics and appearance of Alder. It, however, is less resonant and often used on the more affordable guitar models.

Nato or Eastern Mahogany is a very strong wood found on the necks of the less expensive guitars. It has a warm resonance and is considered to be quite cost effective.

Hardware

Electric guitars come with a host of hardware styles for different uses. The quality of a guitar’s hardware is often directly proportional to the cost of that guitar. Better hardware often means that the guitar will have enhanced stability and versatility. The most crucial hardware components include the tuning machines, tailpieces, and bridges. Tuning machines are of particular importance. High quality tuners (like Grover’s) will not only make the guitar easier to tune, they will keep your guitar in tune for a very long time. Having a guitar that goes out of tune all the time is a major annoyance.

The Sound

Once you know the various components of an electric guitar and how they affect the tone and sound, you must decide on what sound you are looking for. This obviously will be determined by the kind of music that you play. A blues or classic rock player needs a guitar that is powerful and offers a full sound. This can be offered by a solid or semi-hollow body guitar with a P90 or humbucker. Hollow body guitars are an excellent choice if you are playing folk or country.  Modern day electric guitars may differ in tone, but many models do offer tremendous versatility and can be . Additionally, some accessories can help you replicate a myriad of tones and sounds.

Summary

Well, you pretty much can’t miss no matter which of these guitars you pick. We are very fortunate to live in an era when there are finely crafted and super affordable  guitars coming out of China and the Far East. Yes, it’s always great to buy American, but with few exceptions, almost all of the companies we recognize as “American” guitar manufacturers are having the majority of their guitars built offshore. Why? Because they can build and import great guitars and sell them at prices that you and I can afford. How many of us can afford high-end, domestically manufactured guitars? And let’s be candid about this. If I were to give credence to even a small percentage of the criticisms I’ve read online regarding quality control issues with at least one of the domestic manufacturers, I’d be very reluctant to spend big bucks for one of their guitars.

 

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