What £300-£500 guitar to buy?
September 19, 2005 5:46 AM   Subscribe

What electric guitar should I buy? I currently have a dreadful Encore (£60 second hand) and need advice on a second guitar. Budget: £300 - £500. Music style: tech/math rock. Skill level: been playing for two months, practice two hours a day. I need advice on: makes and models, where to buy from, whether to buy new or used. I don't care about name-brands - I just want something good.
posted by pollystark to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To me the classic beginner electric guitar will always be the Fender Stratocaster which I saw on eBay.co.uk for anywhere between £200-£500. This guitar may not be the most stylish electric, but it sounds fine and is extremelly reliable.
posted by cyphill at 7:42 AM on September 19, 2005

For £500 you can probably own a used Gibson. I've said it before, and I'll say it here: I love my Gibson SG; it practically plays itself. I never thought I'd feel that way about an instrument. So if you can find a used SG or Les Paul in your price range in good condition (it's a stretch, but not entirely unheard of), go for it. Failing that, Gibson's Epiphone line of sanctioned knock-offs play well, too. The G400 (SG) is particularly nice for the money.

I wouldn't recommend a Stratocaster, but only because you'll be infuriated by the noise if you play with a ton of distortion (they are otherwise very nice instruments).
posted by uncleozzy at 8:14 AM on September 19, 2005

Response by poster: What is the difference in sound between the Gibson SG and the Gibson Les Paul? A number of bands whose guitar sound I like use SGs.

Thanks very much for the answers so far.
posted by pollystark at 8:56 AM on September 19, 2005

There actualy isn't much difference between the sounds of the stock SG Standard and the LP Standard. They both use similar, Alnico humbucking pick-ups placed in similar locations on a similar piece of mahogany. (The carved top of the LP doesn't affect the sound that much.) The electrics are pretty similar too (you getting the picture yet?) It's perhaps no suprise to learn that the SG was originally released as another Les Paul, until it's name was changed to Solid Guitar...

The Les Paul probably has more sustain (it is slightly heavier) and a bit of a fatter bottom end, so it's great for that biting, grinding rock sound whereas the SGs are slightly lighter (in sound and weight).

Of course, this is just comparing two stock, standard guitars - custom jobs, neck and pickup changes and even different lacquers can change the sound of either guitar to move further from or closer to the other...

And in your price range, I'd pick up a second hand Variax 300 from eBay. At the moment, when you're learning, the feel of the guitar is not as important as the sounds you can get out of it - you wanna sound like your heroes and when playing along with records (the only way to learn) you want to fit in - the Variax will give you 26 different sounding guitars (including Strats, LPs, SGs and accoustics) in one clever body, and while the basswood feels light and the neck isn't the best in the world - at the moment that won't really matter to you. And when you get good enough to notice the limitations of the Variax's manufactur, you can always buy a pre-router LP body from Warmouth and transplant the Variax's electronics into it...
posted by benzo8 at 9:24 AM on September 19, 2005

Unless this is impractical for some reason, you just need to get to a music store and try a few out. There's nothing anyone can tell you that'll answer the question of what's right for your hands and your music anywhere near as well as sitting down with it in your hands for a few minutes. Unless you know exactly what you want - and, given the question, I'd say that's a negative - you need to visit a couple of live physical stores where they'll let you try lots of stuff out.

Scale length is one factor (among many) that'll make a difference to how it feels to you, and it's one of the defining differences between the gibson and fender feel. Try 'em both and note the difference. See if you can get your hands on some Ibanez models, too - they offer good bang for the buck and the stock setup (I'm thinking particularly of the pickups and high-quality locking tremolo) should be well-suited to your math-rock style.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:32 AM on September 19, 2005

Nothing beats trying out a guitar before you buy it, if you can. I also say look into used guitars; you've played long enough now to know if a guitar works for you or not.

I love Strats, but for the type of music you play, a single-coil Strat would be wrong unless you want to go with something outside the mainstream of tech/math rock.

Don't be too concerned, though, about getting a 'wrong' guitar. If you are serious about the instrument, you will be buying more as you age. Your big cash outflow will be amps!
posted by mischief at 10:51 AM on September 19, 2005

Yes, definitely try out a few different guitars at a couple of shops before deciding on one model in particular.

My suggestion for a brand - see if you can get your hands on a Gordon Smith to try. I've seen lots of math / tech rock types playing them. They're very sweet, immensely playable, and even hand made in England. You could definitely pick up a used one within your budget - possibly a new one at the upper end of your budget, depending on options.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 1:41 PM on September 19, 2005

Actually - checking the Gordon Smith site, the GS1 slim models are well within your budget - sub £400. Definitely worth investigating.
posted by coach_mcguirk at 1:43 PM on September 19, 2005

i'm going to cast another vote for going to the guitar shop (or several guitar shops!) and seeing what you fall in love with.

that said, i finally got a rickenbacker last year and it's a joy to play. :)
posted by clarahamster at 1:45 PM on September 19, 2005

From personal experience: do NOT get anything with a Floyd Rose and/or "floating" bridge. It'll look cool and sound good when you use it correctly, but it really isn't worth the trouble as a beginner guitar.
posted by pantsrobot at 2:39 PM on September 19, 2005

I'm partial to Fenders in general and Telecasters in particular. I'm not sure what "tech/math rock" is but if it uses heavy distortion then something with single coil pickups (like Teles or most Strats) would be a poor choice. For heavier distortion humbucking pickups are usually necessary. I'd probably get something like an Ibanez with a humbucker at the bridge and single coils in the neck and middle positions for a pretty versatile guitar at a good price.

pantsrobot is right on about floating bridges. Don't get one. Most guitarists never use the ones on their guitars and they just make tuning and staying in tune a pain in the ass. I've actually blocked the floating bridges on all the Strats we have.

It would be helpful to link to some samples of artists you like, at least for those of us unfamiliar with tech/math rock.
posted by 6550 at 3:32 PM on September 19, 2005

This guitar is well within your budget and sort of splits the difference between a strat and a Gibson. They've become really popular (again) in the last few years, and with good reason. It's a very, very versatile guitar. I own one.
posted by Heminator at 4:12 PM on September 19, 2005

I would suggest, in this order: SG, Telecaster, Stratocaster. If you can find a decent Fender jazzmaster/jaguar (or one of their recent replicas), those sound great in the math-rock, too. Stick to Gibson or Fender, though.
posted by sluggo at 7:52 PM on September 19, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks very much for your advice, everyone. I'm going to go into so guitar shops and try out some stuff: definitely the Gibson Les Paul and SG, the Gordon Smith GS1, and whatever else appeals.
posted by pollystark at 5:02 AM on September 20, 2005

This thread is kinda old so you probably already bought something, but I just discovered it after you responded to my question.

I have two really great guitars that were both cheap, but very high quality.

My one guitar is a Greco Les Paul, which is a replica of the Gibson Les Paul. Greco was a Japanese company that made "lawsuit" copies of Gibson and Fender guitars back in the 70s and 80s (search google for "lawsuit guitar" or "greco" or "tokai"). They were made to exact specification and the guitar I have is nearly perfect -- only slight fret buzz on one string when played open with lighter strings, and awesome resonance. I got it on eBay for about $300.

My other guitar is an SX strat copy. SX is a Chinese company that makes fender copies that are nearly perfect in the body (TIGHT routing -- no swimming pool -- and the neck fits tighter than many fenders I've seen), but different in the neck. The necks are weird... kind of a cross between "U" and "V", but they fit my hands perfectly. They're only $99 on eBay, and I highly, highly recommend them. I only bought one because I needed a cheap backup to knock around but it quickly became an instrument that I play almost every day.

Here are links to harmony central reviews:
Greco Les Paul Custom
SX strat copy
posted by ducksauce at 8:08 AM on September 29, 2005

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