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Many of us dream of playing electric guitar, there are few instruments which are so enjoyable, with the ability to recreate so many of our favorite songs. The electric guitar has grown from relative obscurity to being the heart of rock and roll as well as many other genres in the last 60-70 years, and are great for playing in bands, or on your own. You can adapt the sound to suit with effects pedals, so this is also an incredibly versatile instrument. If you are on a budget, then, fortunately, there are some excellent contenders for the title of best electric guitar under $1000 which don’t break the bank, as explored in this article.
There are many different components to consider in any guitar review, and electric guitars specifically. There are a number of features which make up the sound, including the fretboard, wood, pickups and number of strings, all of which are considered in our reviews. Other features including the length, fretboard and weight are also considered as they impact the playability of the guitar. Having a guitar which sounds great but is difficult to play can make you less likely to carry on with your hobby and learn more guitar skills.
Our team has spent a lot of time working on this guide to help guitarists (both beginners and more experienced players). Our guide features a quick-look table so you can see at a glance which guitars get our approval, and which are best for certain purposes. We also have some in-depth product reviews and a buying guide to talk about which aspects are most important, and which features you should be looking out for when making your decision on which electric guitar to purchase.
The Revstar RS720b is an incredible guitar made out of some exceptional components. Yamaha manufacture hundreds of different types of instruments and their expertise shows here with a guitar which has a beautiful sound and design, available in a lot of colors and all for under $1000.
This has a mahogany body, which is not only great for sound and projection, but it is also contoured and designed to be comfortable to play. A sturdy rosewood neck feels comfortable and natural to play, and the guitar has an ergonomic feel once you pick it up and start to strum. The fact that it is so comfortable makes it suitable for beginners, but it is also more than good enough for intermediate and even pro guitarists.
The pickups of this model have been chosen by prototyping and testing 50 different types, and eventually Yamaha settled for the VT5+ passive pickups which work wonderfully with the rich mahogany tone. A dry switch allows you to control many aspects of the sound and avoid any hum which may be an issue with other guitars.
If tone and projection are priorities for you then looking into a hollow body guitar can be a great way to get a rich sound from your guitar. Gretsch make some great guitars and the G5420T is their best hollow body guitar which can be purchased for under $1000.
Though this is quite a big and bulky electric guitar, it is perfect for many players who are looking for something sturdy and bright.
It has FilterTron humbucking pickups which can also give a little more drive to the sound, and the three way pickup switch lets you choose the pickups you wish to use. There are ‘upgraded’ controls which allow you to boost or cut the treble of your sound. The oversized f-holes look like they should be on a violin, and the design itself is based around late 50s guitars, with a headstock modelled around this era.
The body itself is excellently designed and sturdy, and a comfortable rosewood fretboard feels natural to maneuver around. This guitar can be an exceptional choice for either playing lead guitar or rhythm, with its rich and balanced sound.
There are very few brands which can even come close to Fender in terms of their reputation. The Stratocaster has been an industry standard model for over 60 years, and is immensely popular among guitarists in pretty much every genre. Used by everyone from Hendrix to Clapton, the strat is arguably the best known body shape in the world.
While there are products available with slightly more in terms of features, this guitar is perhaps best described as a ‘workhorse’. It is a great guitar for beginners and pros alike, for recording guitar or for playing live.
It has a solid alder body with a nice, versatile tone which doesn’t really lead the sound in any specific direction, so you have a blank canvas for effects! The tone is well-balanced, and there are controls to switch between the pickups (which are single coil, and give a bright sound when soloing).
This guitar has quite a big scale, so it is great for learners as it has such a comfortable and spacious maple fretboard. The strat has a brilliant tremolo mechanism for adding extra effects to your sound, and stays in tune fantastically well.
The signatures of this model, the tremolo arm, the recessed jack input and the iconic design mean that it is instantly recognisable wherever you go. Available in multiple designs, this is perhaps best described as an ‘all rounder’ guitar, brilliant for all sorts of different uses. It is available in lots of different finishes so you can even choose the one which looks most appealing to you.
Ibanez are known by many for making some great guitars right at the cheap end of the market. This is a little more expensive than some of the other options in their range but the AM93AYS has become very popular due to its semi hollow body, which gives an excellent sound and projection which can be played clean or with effects and sound great either way.
Naturally, with the semi hollow body, this gives quite a jazzy tone, but it still works exceptionally well if you run it through some distortion pedals, which can give a bite to your riffs. This is largely thanks to the humbucking pickups which are included.
This is an interesting semi hollow guitar, not only is it one of the cheapest on the market of its sort, it is quite compact, so in spite of having a partially hollow body it feels more like a solid body guitar, while still reaping the benefits in terms of tone.
The body is made from quilted maple with a rosewood fretboard, it is well constructed, especially when you consider the relatively low cost. Ibanez have really hit a home run with this product, which offers an incredible amount of versatility.
This beautiful Ashthorpe guitar owes it beauty to the A-grade, X-brased, Spruce wood from which it is constructed. The fine wood not just adds aesthetic function to the guitar but makes it resilient and durable.
Furthermore, it makes the guitar responsive to tones irrespective of the pitch you’re playing be it soft or loud, flat picking or strumming.
Additionally, the sound that the guitar makes perfectly complements the old definition of music being “an organized sound pleasant to the ear”. It is perfect for both beginners and pros in the art of playing.
The body of the guitar that is cut away at the neck is not just to make it beautiful, it is designed that way for easy accessibility of the top fret of the 24 inches scale length.
This way, the guitar is less burdensome to carry along for travels or play for longer durations because of its lightweight of 8.25lbs. The guitar comes with an upgraded 4 band pickups / EQs which include bass, treble, mid-range and presence. It also has a very tough ultra glossy finish a dual set of recent model phosphor bronze strings.
The strings are 6 in number with additional ones that come with the package as extras. Other items that are added in the package include the guitar cable, a soft nylon guitar case, heavy, medium and thin celluloid picks, a shoulder strap, and a user manual.
This is a guitar with a real statement design. The beautiful body shape immediately reminds you of metal guitarists playing solos! If you’ve dreamed of an instrument to make a statement then the Dean ML 79 solid body guitar could well be for you.
Dean has a history of making guitars which are adored in genres such as heavy metal. The flamed maple top and mahogany body give a really beautiful sustain which gives a wonderful tone for soloing. It has two humbuckers and controls over the intonation, so you can adjust it for rock, blues, jazz and of course the heavy genres like metal.
The Floyd Rose tremolo is another really nice touch and allows you to add more interest to your playing.
This is a lightweight and comfortable guitar, perfect for playing for long spells of time at practice or on stage. A pau ferro fretboard is very comfortable to play, too, so your fingers can easily glide up and down the guitar playing the songs you know and love.
What makes it special?
Quirky, statement design
Lightweight and comfortable
Great for heavy tones
What cons did we find?
Pickups aren’t the most versatile for other, less heavy genres
More features: 10-watt Electra guitar amp with a 10’ guitar cable, clip-on headstock chromatic tuner, a guitar strap, medium picks, and a gig bag included, Tune-O-Matic bridge, lifetime limited warranty
Epiphone guitars are extremely versatile, and the Les Paul Special II is perhaps one of the best options for beginners, certainly for those who are on a tight budget and just looking to get started. Men, women and children alike have all made the most of the Les Paul to learn their first songs on guitar.
As well as being super affordable, this comes bundled with an amplifier, tuner, strap and a pretty decent gig bag. Epiphone (which are a part of the same company as famous manufacturer Gibson) are able to offer a limited lifetime warranty. This shows just how confident the brand is that they have created something of high quality.
While there are other guitars out there with a richer and nicer tone, at the actual price point of the Epiphone (under $300) you will find it hard to find such a well manufactured guitar.
The Les Paul Special offers a lovely mahogany body, comfortable rosewood fingerboard, open coil humbuckers and a pickup control switch to allow you to choose the tone you are wishing for. A combination of standard pickups and humbuckers allow you to choose between a more growling and heavy sound or something a bit more bright and melodic.
It may not be quite as iconic as some of the other solid body guitars such as Fender, and the tone just falls a little short of what we could call ‘professional’, but for beginners, this can be a very solid choice which won’t hurt your bank account too much either.
Ibanez does have some versatile guitars in their range, but it is worth mentioning the fact that the brand is synonymous with metal. This is the best budget guitar for metal that we’ve found under $1000. Not only does it have an incredible tone, it has been made with a seven string design which opens up lots of interesting possibilities for metal soloing and powerful sounds in low tunings.
This product was first launched in the Ibanez range in 2013. If you are looking for something similar but with six strings, the RG421 is basically an identical model of guitar. Over time this has been in production the brand has actually improved the quality of the materials which go into it. It uses a mahogany body and a jatoba fretboard.
The signature metal sound comes from Ibanez’s very own humbucker pickups which are what amplifies the sound. The tone is definitely most suitable for heavy types of music. A fixed bridge means no tremolo or whammy bar. There are however five different lever controls for the pickups and for the overall tone of this guitar.
This is possibly the cheapest you will find a good quality seven string guitar, and though this is quite a specific thing to look for, the Ibanez RG7421 has a great sound and has a six string alternative if you prefer.
This is another guitar which has a very specific appeal to a certain type of guitarist. The 12 string design has been popular among acoustic guitars for a long time, but now you can have a beautiful electric option too. 12 strings is simply two lots of six strings, tuned to the same key but in different octaves. The way you play chords is the same, you are just playing ‘double’ strings.
Because this has an appeal for folk and acoustic styles of music, the DMT design pickups, mahogany body and f-holes all add to a nice bright and thorough sound, which projects very nicely. 12 string guitars are designed to have this gorgeous sound which fills the room when played, and covers a huge amount of different frequencies.
The 22 fret rosewood fingerboard is comfortable for chords, which is what you are likely to be playing most often on any 12 string guitar. The design is definitely folk influenced, with beautiful f-holes reminding of instruments from a bygone era. This has tone controls and multiple pickups which allow you to choose the nuances of this rich tone.
It may be tough for beginners, if you are purchasing your first guitar then a 12 string might not be the wisest option for learning, but purely for sound, this is a great choice for a rhythm guitar.
If you are looking for an alternative instrument in this price range that can offer a wonderful tone, and is right at the top of the range for what it is, the Kala UBass can give a wonderful beginner instrument that you can start to get to grips with pretty quickly.
Both chords and basslines can be played on the Ubass, which is a very portable and lightweight instrument, perfect for musicians on their travels. As well as this it can also be amplified and played at band practices, with a surprising amount of versatility for a four-stringed instrument.
As a Ukulele, you will have to learn to play slightly differently than playing guitar, but you can quickly start to learn a lot about instruments and songs. Plus, if you are already a guitarist, turning to a new instrument can be a good way to increase your musical skills.
The mahogany body of the Ubass combined with Shadow pickups for amplification make a very rich tone. The slightly unusual proprietary polyurethane strings also accentuate the bass tones. This also ships with a gig bag to keep it safe on your travels, and at only 3 lb in weight it is easy to take on the road with you. More amazing instruments can be found in our review of best bass guitars on the market.
Now that you know your options and had a closer look at some of the most impressive electric guitars that cost less than 1000 dollars, you need to learn what makes electric guitar such a popular inctrument and get to a final decision of which guitar suits you better
Main perks of an electric guitar
Some people think electric guitars are just popular because they look cool. There’s no denying that a huge amount of people dream of playing these guitars when watching rock concerts, but there is far more to it than just the style aspect.
Electric guitars can produce such a wide variety of tones, based not only on their different parts such as pickups and the tonewood and electrics, but they can also be moderated with effects pedals, they can also be easily recorded with guitar interfaces. There is not much to dislike when it comes to playing an electric guitar, and they are even far more simple and easy to start to play than acoustic guitars. Though the hand positions and tunings are the same, the electric guitar strings are more easy to push in and make it simpler to play many melodies.
What to expect for the price
A $1000 budget is plenty for a high quality electric guitar. There are many models at this price point which have wonderful tonewood, great electronics and exceptional features. Plenty of the guitars within this range will be perfect not only for beginners, but for intermediate and even professional guitarists. At the higher end of this $1000 budget there are some guitars with very few limitations even for a top guitarist.
If you are looking for something on the cheaper end of the market, you may end up with a guitar which utilizes cheaper woods for both the body and the fretboard. The other big difference if you are looking to buy a cheap electric guitar is that you may end up with lower quality electronics.
This particularly impacts the sound if the area compromised is the pickups. A huge amount of pickups are made by Seymour Duncan, which are high quality. The very cheapest guitars will likely use own-brand and lower quality pickups which do not amplify the sound as well.
In terms of the brands you can purchase at this price range, you have so much choice under $1000. For instance, if you have always dreamed of playing a Fender guitar just like some of the most iconic guitarists ever, you have this option without breaking the bank. Many exceptional Fenders are on offer at this price. This doesn’t mean you should ignore other brands though, Epiphone, Ibanez, Gretsch and Dean all offer some great guitars for the money. If you get lucky, you can even gain a decent PRS electric guitar.
How to choose the guitar that fits you
We can give you all the tips and tools you need to make this decision, but ultimately the guitar you purchase will be quite a unique decision. Many people see a certain design and fall in love, others will want to buy a guitar based on it being good for a specific genre. For instance, some guitars are designed with a certain tone in mind. Some will be brilliant for an airy, jazzy sound, while others can sound great pumped through pedals to create a heavy metal tone. The genres of music that the guitar suits will be an important consideration.
On top of this, you need to think about your physical build, design preferences and what offers the best value for money. Some guitars are heavy and bulky, these might be good for larger players, and they may be more sturdy and hard-wearing, but if you are petite and have small hands they may be tough to play and heavy to wear over your shoulder for those long gigs and practice sessions. Thinking about your own needs is the key here.
Tips on learning how to play an electric guitar
If you are a beginner then you will need to learn how to play to get the most out of your guitar. Not just learning how to play, but learning how to care for your guitar, how to tune it, and what all the different controls do.
The good news is that we are in the golden age of information when it comes to instruments. Never before has so much been available in terms of tutorials and searchable guides. If you want to know how to tune your guitar or how to play a D chord or what a scale is, you can simply google it and find the answer in no time at all. Of course, you still have to put the effort in to spend the time learning.
Some techniques can be tricky when just learning from tutorials, for instance. There is no interaction so if you are getting something wrong, your computer can’t tell you that you are. The best way to get the very basics sorted is to have a few lessons if you can with a local guitar tutor. This way, if you are doing something wrong, your teacher can tell you so and help to tailor the lessons for exactly what you will need. Playing with others can be intimidating but finding open jams or friends who play can also be a good way to learn from one another.
Features to consider while choosing an electric guitar under $1000
So what are the actual features that make up a good electric guitar? Which are the most important for you to think about? This will all go to make up your own unique choice, so having a think about your priorities in terms of features will help you a great deal.
Guitars don’t tend to be excessively heavy, but remember you’re not going to be using them for a few minutes at a time. Over a period of hours then the weight can start to cause issues, and if you’re a relatively small person then this can be a bigger issue. Heavy guitars sometimes lead to back or shoulder issues. If you are used to it, you’ll have no problem, but if not then it may be worth considering.
What wood is the best for an electric guitar?
This is a commonly asked question but one which is very hard to answer with a one word answer. Though there may not be one “best” overall, there is certainly a best for you and the sound you wish to create from your guitar. There are many examples of common woods which have certain characteristics. For example:
Notoriously lightweight and has a warm sound with good middle frequency sounds. This is a popular cheap material.
Another lightweight wood which has a more rich and balanced tone.
Heavier in weight but warmer and the sound rings out well, this wood is used a lot for acoustic instruments but is used in electric guitars too.
This is used as it is a very strong wood but also has good sustain, it is a popular neck wood.
Rosewood is a popular material to be used in instruments and is often used for the fretboard as well or instead of the body.
There are other types of wood including Ash and Korina for the body, with Ebony and Pau Ferro also being used for the neck regularly.
The tone of your guitar is made up of a lot of different aspects. Each has its own specific signature, which we have tried our best to explain within the reviews. Tone can be a difficult thing to explain, and with an electric guitar it is largely created by the wood, the strings and the pickups. Fortunately, if you need to hear the tone, many of the models have YouTube videos or videos made by the manufacturer which demonstrate the sound you can create.
As well as a good control, tone control is also worth considering. Many guitars allow you to make choices on the tone. Many of them have multiple pickups and allow you to choose different combinations of these to customise the tone to something which suits your style.
The neck style and angle on your guitar will affect the comfort of you playing. If you are playing a lot of chords close to the neck then this will also be extra important. A neck which juts out a long way can make it difficult to play the frets.
The body of the guitar is significant in terms of the tone and also the feel of the guitar. The shape will affect not only looks but comfort, and how the guitar feels when it is strummed. Many of us will be drawn to a certain type of guitar based on how it looks, and the body shape is a big part of that. There are so many variations, from Fender style designs we have grown to love like a Telecaster or Stratocaster, to more out there designs like a “flying V”.
The tone is mainly impacted by the wood of the body and also whether it is a hollow body or a solid body. Hollow bodies have a beautiful resonance and can really give an incredible tone, but these can be more expensive and less durable due to the complex nature of the designs. Many classic guitars are solid bodied, and though they do not have as much resonance as hollow body, they are not necessarily any worse, there is just a different character to the tone.
The fretboard of a guitar simply must be comfortable. This is how your secondary (weaker) hand will interact with the guitar. A fretboard should be made out of a sturdy and comfortable wood, with the frets carved in a smooth way so that your fingers feel comfortable sliding between them. The fretboard should also be comfortable in terms of the space between frets, and being able to reach the frets closer to the body, which are useful for soloing.
The tuning keys are vital on any instrument. You will need to tune up your instrument from time to time, this is unavoidable, but the tuning keys need to be high quality not just to make it easier to tune and less likely to break, staying in tune is the key here (no pun intended).
Better quality tuning keys make it much likely that the strings will fall out of tune regularly. This can be a real pain, especially for beginners who may not be as comfortable with tuning.
Both the amount and type of strings will make a difference, though it should be said that the vast majority of all kinds of guitars have six strings. There are some alternatives with a different number of strings, but these don’t tend to be aimed at beginners and they can make playing songs more complicated.
The type of strings which are on your guitar are important as they contribute a lot to the sound, and the way the guitar is played. For instance, thicker wound strings might have a deeper tone with more frequencies which suit metal music and heavier riffs. Thinner strings may be better for playing melodies, soloing and creating a brighter sound.
The pickups use coils of wire to “pick up” the sound from the strings before amplifying it. Pickups can be positioned differently around the guitar, and have different characteristics. For instance, a humbucker pickup has a dual coil which is less likely to pick up interference from the air, and also creates a more deep, rock and metal style of tone. Single coil pickups are often more prone to interference but it depends on the quality of the materials they’re made out of. Many famous guitarists through history have played guitars with single coil pickups, and a lot of guitars have these.
It isn’t necessarily the fact that one type of pickup is better, but there is no doubt that higher quality and more expensive pickups tend to do a better job. Also, if you have multiple pickups it gives you more choice and control over the sound.
The bridge is where the strings are suspended from towards the bottom of the guitar. They keep the strings elevated from the body and allows the vibrations to take place on the strings, which ultimately creates the sound. The pickups are usually located near the bridge, under the strings.
A reliable bridge is needed as this helps your guitar to stay in tune, but there are different types of bridge. Bridges can have tremolo or vibrato design, which have an arm or a ‘whammy bar’ to allow you to ‘bend’ and alter the sound. It is another effect in your arsenal. These aren’t popular in every type of music, and they do affect the tune of a guitar if overused, but for some guitarists, these effects are a big part of their playing style.
The controls on your guitar include volume, tone controls, EQs and pickup controls. If your guitar has multiple pickups it may well be the case that you have control over this. Ultimately, the more choice you have, the more customizable your sound is. This gives you the opportunity to create a signature sound, or to mold your sound for different songs within your band’s set.
Some electric guitars will ship with accessories, which is a nice touch. While all have strings which come with them, not all have the extras such as tuners, gig bags, spare strings and straps. All of these little extras are a nice bonus if they are included within your guitar, and are things you will need to buy if you don’t get them included. Also an important accessory some of the professional musicians consider an essential one – the amplifiers. They come in different price ranges, so you can find some decent ones even under 300 and 200 dollars limit.
A warranty is always useful, and when you’re spending a significant amount of money on an instrument then it is natural to expect some sort of warranty. Many guitars have 12 months or more to offer, but we’ve compared this as one of the features within each guitar review. All of these guitars have a lot of electronics, of course, and the brands which are most comfortable with this will be happy to offer a warranty.
Feel free to add something you think is important and relevant, and please mention some of the products reviewed as examples in the buying guide, where appropriate.
There is a balance to be struck in terms of which electric guitar to buy. If you have played guitar a little, or if you are shifting from acoustic to electric and know you will continue with the hobby then there is more justification to invest a little more. For your very first guitar, or a guitar for a child who you aren’t sure will continue, getting a good beginner guitar on the cheap end of the market may be wise.
Used guitars have their pros and cons. A good quality guitar, kept in good condition, can last decades, but if you purchase a guitar second hand then you do lose the protection which comes from buying from a store. If you do go for second hand, opt for something refurbished which has been checked over in a guitar store.
There are some very simple things you can do to take care of your electric guitar. Ensuring that it is carried around in a protective case, keeping it away from extreme temperatures and cleaning and oiling the fretboard regularly are some basics you can do to ensure a long life.
Instructors are best chosen through recommendation, ask around your friends who play or even look on social media. You will know pretty quickly if an instructor is right for you. They should show patience and be able to explain things clearly and in a way that works for you.
Our editors choice for the best guitar in this category is the Yamaha RevStar RS720B. This is a wonderful example of the brand’s prolific abilities to make quality instruments, with only the finest materials used, and pickups which give a versatile sound.
The FendeStandard Stratocaster had to be included on the list, too. This is another incredibly versatile guitar which is relatively affordable and is the ‘workhorse’ of the guitar world. This doesn’t mean it isn’t glamorous though, and if it is good enough for Jimi Hendrix, it is good enough for us! Many aspiring guitarists dream of owning a Fender, and this is an affordable way to get your hands on a good quality model.
Gretsch is another immensely famous brand, who make guitars but also drum kits and other audio equipment. The Gretsch G5420T has a lot going for it if you want the bright tone and jazzy feel of a hollow bodied electric guitar which can be purchased for under $1000.
The best electric guitar under $1000 for you is likely to be the one from this list which best suits your needs as a consumer, and the type of music you wish to play. What is best for a beginner metal player may not be best for an experienced jazz player. Learning what the different features are can make all the difference and lead you to the right choice (and tone) for you.