The 10 Best Electric Guitars
10. Jackson Dinky
9. Gretsch Pro Jet G5435T
8. Epiphone Sheraton II Pro
7. Squier Bullet Strat
6. Epiphone Les Paul Standard
5. Fender Elite Telecaster
4. Gibson Les Paul Standard
3. Gibson Standard SG
2. Ibanez RGD Iron Label
1. Fender American Elite Stratocaster
Music Becomes Electric
If you've ever stretched out a rubber band and plucked it, you've created the most basic principal behind the guitar.
A guitar's string is where the sound begins, and it's through the deign of the body that the sound is amplified. You can even make your own ridiculously rudimentary acoustic guitar at home, but don't expect to get to Carnegie Hall with it.
Acoustic guitars are designed to enrich this sound by creating a large wooden chamber that catches the vibration of the string, reverberates it and projects it back out.
But most electric guitars don't have any kind of reverberation chamber. They also don't make use of the traditional nylon strings found on classical acoustic guitars.
Instead, electric guitars pair metal strings with magnetic pickups built into the body. We call them pickups because they literally pick up the specific magnetic frequency of the vibrating string and translate that into an electrical current.
That current makes its way to your amplifier where it is translated back into your notes and chords.
You can control the tone of your pickups on most guitars by turning the tone knobs assigned to each pickup. Turn the knob all the way up, and you're using 100% of the pickup's information. As you turn the knob back toward zero, you're cutting off higher frequencies for a bassier, sometimes muddier sound.
There's A Lot To Choose From
There are about as many variances in guitar type out there as there are guitarists.
If you're just getting started, you might not want to drop thousands of dollars on the best of the best. Beginning guitarists likely won't have the touch, skill, or ears to appreciate the differences among higher end guitars anyway, so you won't miss out on much by starting with something made with cheaper wood and rattier pickups.
That said, if you feel inclined to cut right to the top and make an investment in a guitar that you'll never grow out of, go ahead and reach for the stars.
One great thing about nicer guitars: they hold their value tremendously over the years, and at a certain point–if you've taken good care of it–that value can actually go up.
For the seasoned guitarist looking to expand his or her collection, or looking to make that leap toward greater sounds, the questions turn toward your personal playing style and aesthetic.
You'll be able to access better tones for jazz, country, and classic rock from Fender's stock pickups, and chunkier sounds for rock and metal from the humbucking prowess in Gibson's lineup.
Of course, the beautiful thing about guitars is that when you make them your own, your sound becomes uniquely yours. Go shred some hammer-on solos with a telecaster, or play the coolest jazz lines on that SG.
Find yourself in your guitar, and you'll never sound better.
Out Of The Frying Pan
The first guitar to make the intentional leap from acoustic to magnetic electric was the "Frying Pan" in 1931.
By the mid 1930s, the first wooden solid body electric guitars hit the market and began to change the landscape of music forever.
Over the next 30 years, the electric guitar would inform the sounds of jazz, blues, and rock, though not all genres were excited to adopt it.
Rather famously in 1965, Bob Dylan, who traditionally performed alone with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica, took the stage at the Newport Folk Festival backed by an electric band. The reaction was mixed to say the least, but it marked a significant change in the direction of folk music.
These days, guitarists are finding amazing ways to augment their instruments, with the charge toward greater degrees of expression being led by the likes of Matt Bellamy, whose guitars feature everything from built in synthesizers, to auto-detuners, and Korg touchpads.
As the instrument evolves, so too will the music it creates, but among the things that never change are six strings, quality wood, clean pickups, and a little inspiration.