The 10 Best Electric Guitars for Beginners Under $300.

What makes for a great guitar for a beginner?

In making this list of top electric guitars for beginners, I looked at 3 criteria:

  1. Quality vs. price
  2. Simplicity of design/use
  3. Versatility

My thinking is that it really doesn’t make sense for someone looking to start learning to play electric guitar to get a poorly made (cheap!) guitar – they don’t stay in tune, and they’re difficult to learn on. You really do get what you pay for, BUT there are quite a few good quality guitars for less than $300.

Simplicity and ease of use is also important because if you want to learn to play electric guitar, you don’t want to get lost in the bells and whistles of the device itself. The nice thing about this is that simpler designs are often cheaper too, because you usually pay extra for those bells and whistles.

Versatility is my own personal belief. I think if you’re going to be shelling out good money for something, you should get something you can use for a variety of styles, instead of a one-trick pony.

So without further ado, here’s my list for top 10 electric guitars for beginners under $300.

Epiphone

Epiphone has been making instruments for every style of popular music since 1873. They have a reputation for making affordable versions of Gibson model guitars, but they’ve been instrumental (pardon the pun) in jazz age guitars of the 1920s through through post-war pop, jazz, R&B, early rock n’ roll to grunge, and thrash.

Here are a few of the Epiphone models that make the top electric guitars for beginners, each for less than $300.

Epiphone Limited Edition “1966” G-400 PRO

epiphone-G-400-PRO

The Epiphone Limited Edition 1966 G-400  is a Gibson-authorized version of their great ’66 SG (the one made famous by the likes of AC/DC’s Angus Young, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Tony Iommi, Paul Weller, Derek Trucks and others) with a solid mahogany body and slim-taper set mahogany neck.

Beside the price, there are a few other things that set the Epiphone 1966 G-400 PRO apart from the original vintage 1966 SG. Instead of the smaller pickguard, the Epiphone 1966 G-400 PRO has the larger pickguard so there aren’t any pickup mounting rings around the pickups.

Other features include:

  • high-output Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers (P-90’s on the original ’66 SG )
  • Separate volume and tone controls for each pickup (this increases the tonal possibilities and control)
  • A LockTone tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece (to provide better sustain )

The classic SG double-cutaway body of the Epiphone 1966 G-400 PRO lets you reach all 22 frets with ease. The body is solid mahogany and so is the Slim-taper neck. The Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers are set to coil-split, meaning you can switch them from full humbucker to single coil, increasing the tones available.

Longtime readers of this site know that I’m a huge fan of simplicity and versatility. The Epiphone Limited Edition 1966 G-400 Electric Guitar has both, and at a price which definitely makes it a top electric guitar for beginners.

Here’s Demo of the features and flexibility:

Epiphone G-310

Epiphone-G-310The Epiphone G-310 is built to the same dimensions as the vintage Gibson SGs of the 1960s, and with the same techniques as those used in the original Kalamazoo factory. It’s a well balanced guitar, unlike many cheaper clones that tend to be neck-heavy.

Like the Epiphone 1966 G-400 PRO above, the The Epiphone G-310 features a Mahogany body and neck, with a rosewood fingerboard. Where it differs from the G-400 is in the pickups. The G-310 does not feature coil splitting, so you only get the pure humbucker sound. Also, the G-310 features a 650R Humbucker in the neck and a 700T Humbucker pickup in the bridge, and a 3-way toggle switch for selecting neck, bridge or both.

The 700T humbuckers of the G-310 give it a warmer, Les Paul sounding tone, while the G-400 has Alnico V pickups and give it a more aggressive, punchy sound, typically found on Fender guitars.

The 700T humbuckers of the G-310 make it better suited to more metal tones, but make it less versatile than the G-400.

I actually wrote a review of the The Epiphone G-310 a while ago before I thought about what makes the best electric guitars for beginners. That’s because the G-310 is one of the best electric guitars under $300.. Period. So rather than re-write that review again, you can just read the full review here: The Epiphone G-310, An affordable SG.

The Epiphone G-310 is available in both Black and Red, and is available for about $250 at the time of this writing.

Clean demo:

Gain demo:

Epiphone Dot Studio

Epiphone-DotLast up for Epiphone’s entry into this list of the top 10 electric guitars for beginners under $300 is the Epiphone Dot Studio Electric Guitar.

The Epiphone Dot features:

  • Mahogany neck and body
  • 2 Alnico Classic pickups with a hotter bridge pickup
  • ever fashionable chrome hardware
  • classic vintage style tuno-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece
  • Mahogany center block (to limit unwanted feedback)

The Epiphone Dot is capable of producing a wide range of tone that makes it a very versatile electric guitar that’s great for beginners. It’s also a Semi-hollowbody, which means it has an acoustic element to it as well as electric, and has more resonance than a solid body electric guitar.

The Epiphone Dot is well suited to classic rock, country, blues and jazz styles.

The Epiphone Dot is Epiphone’s version of the Gibson ES 335 “Dot” (made famous by the likes of Eric Clapton, BB King, Albert Lee, Chuck Berry, Larry Carlton, Dave Grohl and Roy Orbison) and is one of the best deals today for guitar players who want the classic sound of an ES 335 at an affordable price.

Jazz/Blues/Rock Lead demo

Fender

The Squier name is known to many as a low-cost “value brand” alternative to the Fender name. Don’t worry, Squier guitars are made with the attention to quality and often with the same parts as Fender guitars, albeit lower priced parts. While you won’t find top-notch extras and hand-assembly in Squier models, you will find top-notch quality. Squier guitars can be viewed as simply Fender electric guitars under $300.

Squier Affinity Telecaster

Squier-Affinity-TelecasterThe Squier Affinity Telecaster is hands down one of the best choices for an electric guitar for beginners. It’ solid, simple and versatile. Because it’s a Squire (by Fender) you know it has quality built in and it can be yours for a great price.

The Squier Affinity Telecaster features:

  • Alder body
  • Maple neck, with Polyurethane finish
  • 2 single coil pickups – both vintage Tele single coils
  • Master Volume control
  • Master Tone control
  • 3-Position blade pickup switch:
    • Position 1. Bridge Pickup
    • Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups
    • Position 3. Neck Pickup

What makes the Fender Squier Affinity Telecaster Electric Guitar such a great choice for a beginner is its price, and simplicity. There’s no coil tapping, tremolo bar or pickup circuit switching.

The Squier Affinity Telecaster stays in tune and holds its intonation well. Basically, it gets out of your way so you can focus on learning guitar, be it blues, rock, jazz or country. Easily one of the best electric guitars under $300, for beginners or anyone, really.

Demo

detailed demo

Squier Stratocaster

Squier-Fender-Deluxe-StratocasterThe Fender Stratocaster is a musical icon unto itself. It’s taken center stage from the early days of rock-n-roll, through blues and even hard rock and metal. It’s easy to see why, with the comfort and features it has to offer.

The Squier Stratocaster is a value-priced version of the Fender Strat, which means not as many hand-styled appointments and less expensive pickups. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad guitar. In fact, it’s a really great guitar and saves you $700+ in the process!

Squier Deluxe Stratocaster features:

  • Basswood body
  • Polyurethane finish on the neck
  • Maple neck and fingerboard
  • 3 Duncan single-coil pickups; SC-101B (bridge), SC-101 (middle), SC-101N (neck)
  • 5-position pickup selector :
    • Position 1. Bridge Pickup
    • Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup
    • Position 3. Middle Pickup
    • Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup
    • Position 5. Neck Pickup
  • Standard Tremolo Arm

The Squier by Fender Deluxe Stratocaster is a great electric guitar for beginners and a great way to own a piece of iconic guitar history for less than $300.

Demo

Jaguar

Squier-Fender-Vintage-Modified-JaguarThe Jaguar was originally released for the Surf Music crowd in the 1960’s, but has been seen prominently in everything from Jazz to punk to alternative. It’s one of the few guitars on this list that don’t fit the simplicity rule, but it’s got such a great, unique vibe and it is one of the better electric guitars under $300 on the market today, so it made the list.

The Jaguar style is very similar to the Jazzmaster, but the tone circuit is where the difference really hides. The rhythm circuit is a simple, straightforward design that lets the player only worry about the tone and volume. The lead circuit lets you choose between pickups, turn off either pickup on or off and cut the bass frequency for treble heavy lead tone.

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar features:

  • Basswood body
  • Maple neck with polyurethane gloss finish
  • Duncan JG-101B single coil bridge pickup
  • Duncan JG-101N single coil neck pickup
  • 3-way toggle switch for pickup selection – neck, bridge or both
  • Tortoiseshell pickguard
  • Chrome hardware
  • non-locking floating vibrato with vintage-style tremolo arm

The Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Jaguar Electric Guitar is a unique and versatile guitar at a great price. It’s great for beginners and experienced players who are looking for something a little bit different, without breaking the bank.

Demo

Gretsch

A Gretsch guitar is a very special thing. They have a completely unique vibe. Unfortunately, they also have a Gibson-like price tag. Gretsch does have a few really nice budget friendly models. Only one makes the cut for top 10 electric guitars for beginners under $300 though.

Gretsch G5425 Electromatic

Gretsch-G5425-ElectromaticThe Gretsch G5425 is all you Gretsch fans out there who can’t afford the $2,500+ for most models. (me included!)

The G5425 has that real Gretsch sound and classic Gretsch style that just ooze jazz and rockabilly vibe. The  Jet Club Electromatic is well suited to country and rock too.

The Gretsch G5425 features:

  • Chambered Basswood Body with Arched Laminated Maple Top
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Maple neck
  • 2 Gretsch dual-coil humbucker pickups; 1 in the neck position,
    1 in the bridge position
  • 3-Position pickup selector toggle:
    • Position 1. Bridge Pickup
    • Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups
    • Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Master Volume control
  • Master Tone control
  • “G” arrow knobs and white pearloid Gretsch-logo pickguard

The G5425 Jet Club Electromatic is all Gretsch, except the price.

It’s also a great electric guitar for beginners for the same reason the Squier Affinity Telecaster is – simplicity, quality and price (although the Gretsch G5425 is a bit more money than the Squier).

What sets the Gretsch G5425 apart from the Squier Affinity Telecaster is the Telecaster has more treble-y “spank” and twang to its character, while the Gretsch G5425 has a more mellow tone, and is capable of darker (more traditionally metal) tonal characteristics.

The Gretsch G5425: another great electric guitar under $300.

demo

Ibanez

Ibanez is well known in jazz and rock circles, even though players of one genre may not be aware that they make guitars for the other!

A quick look at these two offerings for this list of top 10 electric guitars for beginners under $300 from Ibanez will show how diverse a company it is.

AS53TF

Ibanez-AS53TFThe Ibanez AS53 is a great electric guitar for beginners because it’s a semi-hollowbody guitar, which means it has acoustic guitar qualities of resonance – the best of both worlds! The AS53 has jazz box looks and vibe, but don’t let that fool you, it can rock with the best of them.

AS53 features:

  • Mahogany neck
  • Sapele body
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 2 humbucker pickups:
    • Neck:ACH-ST
    • Bridge:ACH-ST
  • 3-way toggle
    • neck
    • bridge
    • both

The ACH pickups create a nice, warm tone with quick response which makes it very well suited to jazz or clean style blues. It does give a nice classic rock crunch as well, but probably not enough for metal (without some serious distortion effect pedal…).

The ACH pickups and semi-hollowbody structure of the AS53 make for some great sustain characteristics, while the center block helps eliminate unwanted feedback. The Ibanez AS53 is one of the few hollow body or semi-hollowbody electric guitars under $300, and it’s a great buy if you dig the style.

Demo

Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Ibanez-GRX20ZBKNThe Ibanez GRX20ZBKN is most definitely a hard rock/metal/80’s guitar. It always makes me laugh to think that the same company makes guitars like the AS53TF jazz box above and a shredder like the GRX20…

Anyway, where the AS53TF is built for comfort and groove, the Ibanez GRX20 is built for speed and power. It’s dual humbuckers are built to howl, not purr, and a tremolo on an ax like this is meant for one thing – dive bombs!

Yeah, I know… this one doesn’t quite meet up with the “versatility” criteria for top electric guitars for beginners, but it is a great buy and rounds out the list nicely.

Ibanez GRX20 features:

  • Maple neck
  • Basswood body
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 2 Powersound humbucking pickups
    • Bridge
    • Neck
  • Tremolo arm

The Ibanez GRX20ZBKN Electric Guitar is a great electric guitar for beginners, or anyone seeking that 80’s rock vibe.

Demo

Yamaha

Yamaha is well known for their keyboards, pianos and bass guitars, but they also have a number of very good electric guitars. Sadly, there’s only one with a price tag that fits the under $300 category. The good news: it’s definitely a top electric guitar for beginners!

Pacifica PAC112V

Pacifica-PAC112VThe Pacifica PAC112V has a very strat-like body, and like the strat, it is comfort-contoured. Unlike the classic strat, the Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC112V has 1 humbucker pickup and 2 single coils. This gives it a different sound than the Squier Deluxe Stratocaster further up this list, even though it has a similar look.

Here are the full specs:

  • Solid Alder body
  • Maple neck
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • Vintage Tremolo with Block Saddles
  • 3 pickups:
    • single-coil neck pickup
    • single-coil middle pickup
    • AlnicoV Humbucker bridge pickup
  • 5-Position Pickup Switch with Coil Tap Function
  • Master Volume control
  • Master Tone control

The Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC112V Electric Guitar is currently selling at the high end of the price range to make this list of top 10 electric guitars for beginners under $300, but it’s a very good quality guitar.

Demo

Conclusion

No matter what style of music you prefer, I think we can agree that there is something on this list of top 10 electric guitars for beginners under $300 that suits the style, and fits the bill (budget-wise). They’re all great quality guitars and none is better than the other, just different enough to suit your personal taste.

Happy strumming!

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