If you are like me (and you are here right now so, you probably are… at least a little) you sometimes are kept up at night by the many important questions in life. Question like: what is the best cheap electric guitar, or what guitar is a good electric guitar for beginners? Maybe sometimes you even spoil yourself and ask what if I had a 1000 dollars (I don’t) to spend on a guitar.
I spoiled myself like that the other day because I like to torture myself. I also spoiled my sleep since there is such an insane number of guitars under a $1000. I had to spend the whole night looking at instruments, watching videos on videos, reading stories on histories, and looking at specs before I could come up with a list. By the time I was done the night had turned into several nights and the histories and specs I had been reading online had turned into music shops and friends with guitar collections. Now that I have the list I know it was worth it. Why? Because I can fantasize about owning all of them, instead of having to “borrow” from places, and cry quietly as I fall asleep with the terrifying question “What is the best electric guitar under 1000?” floating in the dark corner of my room. If these are just under 1000, what type of perfection waits up above?
Welcome to guitar limbo. You have, unwittingly, stumbled into a world where you will read about instruments you want, but can only have one of (for now). A place where after learning about these guitars you will inevitably end up learning about guitars that inspired these, and want those too. Welcome to the place of eternal desire for more, the place that all musicians and some collectors share.
Top 10 Best Electric Guitars Under 1000
Some musicians die without ever experiencing the sweet taste of fame, while others never cease to leave the shining lights of the stage. They become so legendary that they are remembered even decades after their death. Jimi Hendrix was just like that. So much time has passed since the time he played on stages and captured the heart of thousands. Yet he continues to live and perform behind our screens. He is resurrected with brands, such as Fender, as well. His legacy is fully depicted in their Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster. This guitar has certain features that scream the name of this legendary guitarist. It has a reversed headstock to symbolize the playing style of Jimi: he used to play right-handed guitars upside down. Sounds crazy, ha? Moreover, this axe comes with American Vintage ’65 pickups that are reverse-mounted. This creates a more authentic tone – the sound that resembles that of Jimi perfectly. I know what you’re thinking – signature models aren’t always worth the money – but, trust me, this one deserves every penny!
- Wonderful build quality
- Impressive tone
- Steeped with Hendrix’s character
- Some issues with tuning stability
Decadence is what I refer to this instrument as. Not because it is called hell raiser, though it does raise some hell. I call it decadence because when you hold it for the first time and play it for the first time you get two thoughts on a loop “I sound like an earthquake… I love it”. The EMG 81TW bridge pickup and the EMG 89R neck pickup make the guitar sound like the roar of rolling thunder over the armies of hell. The mahogany solid body is in the thin version of the classic C shape; all 24 Jumbo frets are easily accessible on the rosewood fretboard. The Set Neck results in a simplified access to those pesky frets while providing a steadier sound. Finally, the look of Schecter Hellraiser C-1, whether you go with my preferred cherry red or the fully bound white, the guitar looks fierce and is bound to attract more looks than many others. Finally, the incredible Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo the cherry on that earn this youngster the seat of one of the best guitars available in this price range.
Looks aren’t everything, but they surely are a nice addition to amazing guitars. ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000VB is so beautiful that you’ll definitely want to hang it on the wall. In fact, you’ll never want to take it off and feel a little sad once you decide to play with it – this beauty shan’t be damaged. But a guitar won’t be a guitar unless we play it, am I right? Luckily, this fella can emit the tones that are just as pleasing as its appearance. Let me warn you right away: it comes with EMG active pickups and if you dislike them, in general, I don’t think you’ll fall in love with this guitar either. But to those who don’t care about that (or are willing to swap them for something else), I’ll say that EC-1000VB mahogany body, 3pc mahogany neck and Macassar Ebony fretboard. It has top-notch hardware that knows how to do its job perfectly. Locking tuners are cherries on top of a wonderful guitar. If you want to purchase something that blends together mesmerizing looks and quality sound, then EC-1000VB is the perfect option for you.
- High-quality hardware
- Fancy design
- Includes LTD locking tuners
- You won’t like it if you’re not into EMG active pickups
I’ve talked about this many times and even though I try to avoid mentioning the looks too much, man, these brands don’t leave me any choice. I do my best to accentuate more significant features, yet I can’t ignore the appearance of those guitars that seem to be real pieces of art. They embody everything we love about our instruments and give us the opportunity to enjoy the looks just as much as we enjoy the sounds. PRS SE Custom 24 looks so mesmerizing that you’ll need a couple of days to free yourself from its sorcery. The top of the guitar is made out of bound beveled maple and is covered with Zebrawood veneer. It’s combined with bird-shaped inlays on the rosewood fingerboard, which add even more character to the design. The body wood is mahogany, which seems to be a perfect match for this guitar. Maple neck has a wide and thin shape, which makes a lot of difference – everyone will agree that it makes SE Custom 24 easier to play. Here, once again, we have something that offers a perfect combination of wonderful performance and stunning looks.
- Wide tonal range
- Wonderful build quality
- Extremely comfortable to play
- Might have some problems with tuning stability
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about alternate reality? For a long time, these two words triggered the feeling of mysteriousness. They always made me think about the things that are beyond our perception – the things that can’t be understood with conscious minds. But since Fender announced their Alternate Reality line, these two words became associated with guitars and I can’t get them out of my mind. The Powercaster, in particular, is the prologue to the story that is yet to be written. It comes in three colors: sunburst, surf green and white opal. The roasted maple neck with Pau Ferro fretboard is really easy to play, even though it might take some time to get used to. This puppy features an Adjusto-matic bridge with a stop tailpiece. It has an atomic humbucker in the bridge position and a single-coil soapbar pickup on the neck. These two are a perfect combination for a powerful sound that has an extra bite. We’re rarely spoiled with completely new releases from brands such as Fender, which means you have to do everything in your power to get your hands on Powercaster from Alternate Reality series.
- Powerful sound (just as the name indicates)
- Interesting and unique
- Pickup selector has a weird location
- Doesn’t have locking tuners
Have you ever wished for an instrument that would be your ultimate weapon? A guitar that would mesmerize the masses with its sound and take your craftsmanship to a whole new level? If so, there’s an easy and relatively inexpensive solution – you can purchase Jackson Pro Series Dinky DK2QM and start rocking? Whether you play classic rock or submerge yourself in the extreme metal mayhem, this bad boy is the perfect solution for you. It has a lightweight alder body with maple top, which is really comfortable to hold and play. The neck is a real treat – it’s so convenient that you’ll never want to stop. Compound radius fretboard makes sure that you can nail even the most complicated chords in no time. Trust me – even if you’re not a professional, Dinky DK2QM will turn you into one sooner than you can imagine. It’s a perfect match for those who want to develop themselves and become even more skilled with each practice. Not only the guitar itself, but its sound will also help you improve your craftsmanship – its pure and expressive sound tone will dictate what’s wrong and what’s right. In short, give this one a try!
- Expressive and rich tone
- High-quality hardware
- The neck is a pleasure to play
- Binding might have some blemishes
We can’t help but notice the fact that metal lovers and rockstars are the most spoilt ones – I can’t even articulate just how many guitars are dedicated to this genre. The abundance of choices makes it harder and harder to single out the best ones, but we have found a pretty decent solution – we can always mention the ones that work wonders and give you as much information about them as we can. This way you’ll be able to compare the available models and choose the one that’s perfect for you. If you play heavier genres, then it’s a sin not to play Ibanez Iron Label SIX6FDFM. This bad boy has everything you’d wish for in a guitar under 1000: mahogany body, flamed maple top, 3pc Maple/Bubinga neck with ebony fretboard, locking tuners and Dimarzio Fusion Edge pickups (you can always swap them for something else if you personally dislike these particular pickups). This one also has a Gibraltar Standard II fixed bridge, which seems to be more stable and reliable. And the sound? It’s simply gnarly! Go online right away and listen to the demos – trust me, you’ll enjoy every second.
- Wonderful bridge
- Locking tuners
- Solid construction
- Some of you might dislike the pickups
Imagine James Bond. He is playing a guitar. Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro is solid black, just like his tuxedo. You ask what the guitar is, a man with a strange mustache next to you explains: It was first made in 1954. It has a solid, mahogany body and the SlipTaper D profile shaped mahogany neck. You take a closer look and see sweat glistening on Mr. Bond’s forehead. He still looks top as he blazes through a warm sounding riff all through the pearloid black inlaid fretboard. Suddenly you see the man with the strange mustache yawn. You see Mr. Bond’s hand move and change a knob. Suddenly a heavy metal sound breaks out. The man keeps going, louder: thanks to the two Probucker pickups and a coil splitting function the guitar can switch around between Humbucker and Single coil. As he finishes this sentence Mr. Bond launches into a soul splitting solo. You hear a pop and see the moustache man’s mind literally blow. You look at Mr. Bond and see him wink at you. Suddenly you realize: this is one of the best guitars you’ve laid your eyes on.
- Great Sound
- Amazing Looks
More often than not brands experience some sort of nostalgia – they can’t forget the greatness of their past models and do their best to bring those virtues to the modern world. Such a nostalgia means beautiful, renovated guitars for us – the ones that bring joy to our hearts and inspiration to our fingers. Dean ML 79 is a great example of that. It comes with a mahogany body and flamed maple top, as well as mahogany neck and Pau Ferro fretboard. It features Dean’s proprietary ML body shape, which has a big headstock and V shaped wings. This way all the frets become more accessible to the player, while the bigger headstock increases the sustain. Notable features also include Floyd Rose tremolo bridge and 2 DMT humbuckers. This beautiful guitar has great action, which makes playing even more convenient. ML 79 is an expressive instrument that combines queer design (that makes a lot of sense) with rich tone and affordable price. Let’s face it – you can’t get a better guitar at this price tag. Thank you Dean for such an amazing piece!
- Great value for money
- Floyd Rose tremolo bridge
- Rich and dimensional tone
- Pickups could have been better
The Pacifica series is the result of a test conducted in California by two musicians/engineers. The musical explosion that resulted in the Pacifica has since traveled the world many times over. The PAC611HFM LAB is the progeny of this accident. It is the superhero that came as a result of a monstrosity that took over the world. This guitar, with a double cutaway, solid alder body and a California tanned, sunny coloring sounds like a ray of sunshine much needed in this world of badasses, rock stars and metal kings. First released in 2010, it has since then inspired a feeling of ease and carelessness you can only feel while riding a wave (at least I think that’s what the feeling would sound like. Not that I know the feeling). This is achieved thanks to the Trembucker pickup installed on it by the geniuses who decided that some test subjects should be set free upon the world.
- Great Sound
- Understated Look
- Not for those who love heavier genres and distortion
Despite my overly imaginative descriptions of these guitars, do not expect them to be the most intensely amazing things you’ll ever touch. Even the best electric guitars for under 1000 dollars are not much more than mid range in the guitar world. They are good, really good, but they are not the best item you’ll ever see on the market. This does not mean you should not be drooling over them, as showcased by me. This is the time you will be spending money on an instrument with a story and ambition. Each one of these guitars is distinctive in its nature. Each one deserves a good look and admiration.
What are YOU looking for?
Once you have surpassed the beginner level of an electric guitar, or the introduction to a cheapish guitar, and allow yourself the luxury of a more expensive guitar it becomes clear how much specifics matter. It is not even the case of specifics making the perfect guitar – there is probably no such thing. The specifics define the sound and feel of the guitar and to you, and me, and every person who has ever held played a guitar, including Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix or Keith Richards or Eric Clapton, the perfect feeling is unique.
Now is the time to acquaint yourself with the details of what makes an electric guitar the way it is. The types of pickups used, the type of material used for the body, the type of neck fastening, etc. I have talked about these details before but I will not do so here because 1. Not enough space and 2. There is a romance in this exploration and study when done on your own. It gives you the chance to appreciate the instrument for what it is. Because every guitar has a reason to look, sound and exist the way it does. A lot of thought goes into every guitar and thus each one has a story that comes with it. A legend of sorts. Be it the story of how or why it was created, the brand name that it carries, or the many associations fans, musicians and people have with it. The moment you buy it, you commit to the guitar as much as it commits to you. Buying a good guitar is like buying a house: it will not be cheap, it will have a story and a legacy and it will result in either misery or happiness. Make sure the house is comfortable, sturdy and most of all, feels like home.
Don’t Get too Stressed
All these things you need to know and consider before buying a guitar might stress you out. Don’t do that. A healthy amount of caution is the only thing I ask for here, not a paranoid flipping in between choices. The world of music, especially electric guitars, is intrinsically playful. Yes, sometimes it can be gloomy, dark or sad, but in the end all of music is play. So don’t get hung up on tiny little details that don’t really matter too much. Choose the instrument that seems fun, seems like something you’d enjoy. Don’t worry about the fact that its bridge is a little different from what you wanted. That doesn’t matter. What is important is that you have fun during the process of choosing your instrument. So go ahead captain, choose whatever you want!
A thank you to…
Before I leave you to your decisions I would like to bring to your attention something that should never be forgotten. It is also going to be very hard to forget since every time you see something related, you might get a tear in your eye.
I would like to say thank you to the first guitar I owned, and so should you. Because that guitar inspired you to travel down this road, to travel where you are right now. It was your first axe on the long, winding way of being a sonic warrior. It was your first companion, the one you learned to speak with. It was the one you used to play in your first band with, the one you used to practice in the middle of the night with. The one that took more abuse than any instrument should. The one you gave up on and came back to so many times, the one that always stuck around. It might not have been the best guitar you have ever owned, or will ever own, but it was your first, and it is the most important.
Give it a couple of years, because you will get nostalgic every time you see it, or a sister guitar. Maybe it is already happening. And while this might seem sentimental, these memories will also serve the purpose of helping you choose. Because your first guitar helped you define your sound and style. Is that what you want to stay true to?
Anyway, enough sentiments, back to picking the best electric guitar under 1000 dollars. This is just as important right now. Good luck, and I hope I helped.