#1
This is my dilemma, and it’s one I’ve wrestled with for a number of years. With the many variables of playing electric guitar, I’m sure this will turn out to be a fairly in-depth question and may even turn into more of a synopsis of my search for the right electric guitar. Hopefully there are a few of you that are dedicated/bored enough to hear me out, and maybe even make some suggestions.

To preface the question, I should probably start with my guitar experience and style. I started playing when I was 16 on my dad’s 56 reissue gold top Les Paul he bought in 72. I wasn’t a natural by any means, but I had such a love for 60s-70s music that it carried me through. I quickly threw out using a pick because playing with my index and thumb felt more natural. My parents bought me a sunburst MIM Stratocaster for my 18th birthday, but with the complexity of tone and technique amongst the distractions of high school, it mostly gathered dust while my interests were elsewhere. Once in college, I regained my interest in guitar after purchasing a Martin Dreadnaught acoustic from the local guitar store, and from there my playing took off. All of the finger and thumb stuff felt great on acoustic, and learning songs like Blackbird, Babe I’m Goin’ to Leave You, Stop This Train, Operator, New York’s not my Home, etc. really helped to improve my right hand as I added more techniques to my arsenal. From this point I became fairly proficient at learning fingerstyle songs and made myself familiar with a thumb pick and hybrid picking as well. As I progressed I was drawn toward funk styles of playing and changing the rhythm of any old song I had in my memory banks. Anything that was rhythmically engaging was an absolute blast to play and led me to more development. I quickly grew an interest in 12 fret acoustics and they have since become my favorite guitars. I’ve even started to collect little 12 fret 000’s and parlors and I absolutely love them. They are the perfect representation of what I’d like to find in an electric guitar. Perfectly balanced with bass and treble, small and compact and can easily travel, the short scale increases string slack for funk style playing and gives you a very warm tone. Playing on these guitars started to change my technique and the music I liked to play. I expanded to chicken pickin’ riffs, as well as old parlor style blues. Pretty soon I had reached a point where my right hand technique could not be matched with my left. I realized that my amateur knowledge of music theory and minimal solo improvisation was holding me back. I now wish to seek lessons to end the streak of 10 years self-taught, and rededicate myself to the electric guitar.

This year I solidified that decision. I will make the proverbial jump to electric guitar…. It shouldn’t be that difficult, right? Sure my technique is largely based on acoustic, but that should be easy enough to convert to electric..... Well, up to this point it’s been the most frustrating thing I’ve done with guitar. I keep running into the issues that pushed me from electric guitar in the first place. There is something I grew to love about just picking up an acoustic and instantly knowing if it’s the guitar for you. This is not the case with an electric guitar. Is it setup correctly? Does it have good pickups? Humbuckers or single coil? P90’s? Coil tap? Is the amp a good amp? All of these questions fill my head from the moment I pickup the guitar to the second I confusingly set it down.

Throughout the year I’ve played a lot of guitars through a lot of different amps. I’ve done my research, and made some progress. But every time I think I have a handle on it something changes my mind or poses more questions. Here’s a list of the guitars that I’ve narrowed my selection to. It’s also worth mentioning that the two amps I’ve gravitated toward most are the Fender Hot Rod and Fender Blues Deluxe (I have a small Fender Frontman, so a new amp may be a necessity).


Fender Telecaster
Pros: Very resonant and warm in the neck and middle position. Simple volume and tone controls allow for easy access while playing. Great for fingerstyle and open chord playing. Durable as hell… I could use the thing as a weapon in case of home invasion. Definitely the guitar that has fit my ear the best and I’ve almost bought one several times. Oh and you can’t beat fenders pricing compared to Gibson.

Cons: The infamous twang! Sure, I love country picking, but sometimes I want a break from the twangyness. It’s also hard to find one with a rosewood fingerboard, or at least in my experience. Everyone sounds different… I mean I guess that’s a good thing, I guess I will just have to wait for the right one.

Stratocaster
Pros: Super comfortable neck. So much versatility with 5 positions. The piercing tone is great! Again pricing compared to Gibson

Cons: It’s not as warm as I would like with much more focus on the mid. I’m sure this can be solved with a new set of pickups, but again we get more questions with each answer.

Gibson 339
Pros: The first electric guitar I had my eye on. Not as bulkly as the 335, but has much of the same tonal qualities. Gibson necks are pretty comparable to the acoustic necks I’m use to playing on. I was born in Nashville… does that count for something?

Cons: I’ve really only had access to the Epiphone versions. I think I’d prefer single coil, but P90’s might solve that issue. High Price. Not sold on coil taps.

Les Paul
Pros:First guitar I ever idolized. My Dad’s Les Paul is probably the sexiest guitar I’ve ever seen, and they absolutely crush Fender in the aesthetics category. Gibson bridges allow me to plant my palm like I’m use to, and it’s very comfortable to play for that reason.

Cons: HEAVY…. Like woah heavy. Weight is one of my biggest issues with the Les Paul. Not sure how I like coil taps. Again, not sure if I should go the humbucker route. I have the hardest time getting them to fit my ear. Price gets high real fast! Especially if you want gold hardware and a nice wood grain. I’d really like to try p90’s in a Les Paul, but none of my local guitar stores have them readily available.

So there it is. Granted, there are many more guitar options than I’ve listed here, and this list really only centers around Fender and Gibson. There are other guitars I’d like to try, such as the Gretch Duo Jet, but sadly most guitar stores don’t have them in stock. I’m open to any suggestions about guitars, amps, pickups, or even play style. Am I going about the whole purchase process the wrong way? Any and all advice will be helpful. Thanks in advance for any responses and I apologize with the novel that you just read.

- Chris
#2
I played acoustic for over 30 years before I took up electric, and the main problem I have as a result is poor string-to-string balance in electrics. I'm also not overwhelmed with the warmth of humbucker pickups or the bright twang of strat style single coils. For this reason I've homed in on P90-equipped guitars with their adjustable pole pieces. My bought one (as opposed to home-mods) is '95 Gibson LP Special with P100s, but I guess that there are plenty of choices out there. - Two I liked are the Fender Modern Player Thinline Deluxe Tele and the Ibanez copy of the Gibson ES330, the ASR70.

The other thing I would suggest is that, as an acoustic player, you might prefer the sound of a bright amp. I had a Blues Deluxe and found it too warm with P90s and humbuckers, I haven't tried a Hotrod. I have an H&K St Dual El84 and a highly modded Epi VJ, but something like a Fender Deluxe Reverb or Princeton Reverb might be the go.

On a moderate budget, I would be thinking about spending more on the amp than the guitar. So, modest guitar (around the price of the two I mentioned) that can be modded to upgrade and a decent amp.
#3
First thing is, you need to set a budget. It need not be a hard cap- mine never are- but it gives us something to work with for suggestions, and it gives YOU a bit of structure.

Second, you need to shop with your body as much as your eyes & ears.* Comfort is king, IMHO.

Third, you need to decide if you're willing to buy used or if new is the only thing you want. You also need to decide if you want one of the big name brands, or if quality guitars of similar styling will work as well.

Fourth, your amp & pedal choices will define your tone more than your guitar will. I have a Fender HRD, and I love it. It handles blues, country, jazz, classic rock and pop with ease because it delivers great cleans that you can shape with pedals. (Vox and Carvin amps are similarly clean, with slightly different flavoring.) Its second channel is supposed to deliver better distorted tones, but I personally don't care for it...nor do most people. As such, it's not a good amp if you ever want to play anything heavier than, saaaaayy, Led Zeppelin.


* I'll say this, though: I buy a lot of guitars without trying them beforehand, mainly because what I want is not readily available where I live. However, I usually only buy from sellers with good return policies.
Last edited by dannyalcatraz at Nov 19, 2014,
#4
Just wanted to say .. great post!

Comparing apples with apples, the first thing that comes to mind is an SG - possibly cos that was my first electric coming from classical. Light weight, fixed bridge, short scale and you can get them stock with P90s, which I agree should give you a nice clear, balanced tone. Nothing wrong with the Epiphone mid-range either so maybe that 339 is worth another look, if you're ok with the size.

My second thought is something like this http://www.fender.com/series/modern-player/modern-player-jaguar-rosewood-fingerboard-2-color-chocolate-burst/ for all the same reasons.

Happy hunting mate!
#5
Honestly, if I were you, i'd be looking at a Taylor T5.



Two humbuckers (one lipstick sized, one tucked under the fretboard), one piezo-style body pickup, this guitar is a pretty amazing transitional piece between electric and acoustic. It solves a whole lot of puzzles for you. It's relatively lightweight, wider than an LP, but not as thick or wide as an acoustic. You can actually play it as an acoustic, and it's balanced, but quiet, with a sound more like a flat top than an archtop. The piezo body pickup does a great job of amplifying that, while the humbuckers allow you to get deep into electric territory. The tone controls are *active*, which means you've got a much wider range of tonal choices than the simple treble rolloff controls (commonly referred to as a "tone" control") available on most electrics. Quality of build is unsurpassed.
Last edited by dspellman at Nov 19, 2014,
#7
If you like the looks of the Gibson Les Pauls and wanna try one with P90's in them why not try a Les Paul Melody Maker? I have a 2003 and its light, the P90s sound incredible and they're pretty cheap, i think the 2014s were about 600 new and can find used ones in the range of 300.
#8
Thanks for all of the great responses guys. After reading these I went to another local guitar store and happened to find a Gibson Les Paul Studio with P90s. I plugged it into the clean channel of a Vox amp, and I ended up playing it for about an hour. I could get it as clean as I wanted, but I could also get some thick tone from it if I wanted.

Tony Done,
Yes. After today's experience I do need to look into other amps. The Hot Rod sounded ok with the P90s, but the Blues Deluxe was just too warm.

dspellman,
It's been awhile since I've played a T5. I'll have to give them another look.

dannyalcatraz,
My budget is probably in the range of 2,000 or so. This of course including an amp. This was a non issue with going the Fender route, but mid to high range Gibson models would break the bank. Like jsevert mentioned, the melody maker or even an entry level studio may be the best bet.

The one thing that I haven't given much thought to is a used guitar. I guess the main reason for this is that I can't seem to find many used guitars at my local guitar stores. I guess it's back to the drawing board. I was hoping to take my Christmas bonus and purchase a guitar this year, but I may need to do a bit more research.
#9
$2K gets you a Gibson historic reissue if you're patient. Used prices tend to be good after christmas when people realize that they have to actually pay that credit card bill they racked up during the holidays.

Not that it's necessarily the guitar that will work best for you, but I wouldn't even be looking at the Melody Maker with 2K. Go poke around the Gear Page emporium for an idea of prices and availability.

That's just if you decide on a Gibson though. With 2K the world is your oyster. Go play a boatload of guitars before you make a decision. You could even end up getting 2 nice guitars for that money if you want to jumpstart your addiction.
#10
$2K? In the USA?

Without getting too obscure, Carvin could be a winner for you.

Consider G&L & Godin, too.
Last edited by dannyalcatraz at Nov 19, 2014,
#11
Another thing to look at is a Gretsch or a filtron equipped guitar. They have a sound in between the humbucker sound and single coil. They are very quiet too which I like since I record a lot. (P-90's sound cool but they are definitely not quiet) There are telecasters with those pickups too the Cabronita Tele is the model you can try it out for that sound see if you like it.

There are so many options for electric and you have a chance to geek out on it and learn all about pickups amps etc. Of the guitars you mentioned the Telecaster is a great choice they are bulletproof and can cut through like a knife through butter. ) roll off your tone to tame the twang.
#12
Yeah, 'Tron type pickups are one reason I love Reverends.

And, of course, TV Jones' pickups are a great version of those that you can buy & put in almost any guitar.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
Last edited by dannyalcatraz at Nov 20, 2014,
#13
Don't underestimate the Melody Makers, they're solid guitars and the P90's can go from crystal clear cleans to nice gritty distortion. They're cheap and play great. I have a Les Paul Standard which i love but i constantly go back for the sound of the P-90. Granted they are pretty much a minimalist guitar but try one I really think you may like it.

Some Great guitarists Have played them Like Joe Perry, Billy Gibbons, Even Slash.
#14
Quote by Roc8995
You could even end up getting 2 nice guitars for that money if you want to jumpstart your addiction.

That's also a good idea. Lets you cover a lot of tonal territory.

Going that route, I'd probably go with a Reverend of some kind- equipped with their RevTrons, RailHammers, or P90s in all likelihood- and some kind of HSS or SSS guitar, possibly from Godin or G&L. A Bigsby or other trem might be in order on one of them.

...unless I went used, of course. That opens all kinds of doors.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#15
Oh Geez, how could I forget?

Just buy a flippin' Variax. Line 6 has dropped the prices a bit on all models and they're offering a $150 rebate until the first of the year.

<*Wall of Text Warning -- I type really fast*>

There's a Les Paul-ish model, a strat-ish version and a metal/shredder-ish setup. The current models are very good guitars as is with the magnetic pickups (the LP has a very smooth neck heel, not quite like the Axcess, but very much better than a standard LP) alone. But the piezo saddles have been much improved over the original Variax and the electronics are more powerful (4X the power) and the firmware has been improved ("HD" models now).

And so you get LP sounds (including P90 variants), strat sounds, tele sounds, rickenbacker sounds, and some pretty good resonator and acoustic sounds (they've even got a very decent stab at 12-strings, both electric and acoustic).

I've got three Variaxeseses -- one of the originals ("it's a $200 Korean guitar with $1500 worth of electronics built in"), one of the Variax Acoustic 700 models (it *looks* like a smallish thinline acoustic, but it's actually a solid body mahogany guitar) and one of the new ones.

When I originally heard a Variax, I was unimpressed and sort of dismissed them. Acoustic models, in particular, through an ordinary guitar amp sounded...well, like an acoustic guitar played through a guitar amp. Nasty. It wasn't until I heard a demo in the hands of someone who knew what he was doing that the lightbulb went off. These days, I mostly have a Pod on the other end of things, and I can play an LP through a Marshall model, a Strat through a Fender model and a tele through anything I want. The acoustics sound, as they were meant to, like a miked acoustic (not like an unmiked acoustic in a room), and are meant to be run through a full-range speaker system like a PA or recording monitor.

The built-in guitar models are seriously good, and the alternate tuning section allows you to do resonator slide tunings instantly (with no change in string tension), bass (it'll downtune as much as a full octave on each string individually), or metal-style downtunings WITH a Floyd Rose (if you have the JTV-89F), and you don't need bridge cables to maintain tension. With the old Acoustic 700, I've run the Gibson jumbo model with the top four strings in standard tuning and the bottom two an octave down as a bass. If you're a fingerstyle guitar player, particularly one playing with other players, the light should have just come on.

I play a lot of Les Pauls, and my first reaction was to focus on that guitar. But my Les Pauls mostly have Floyds, mostly have smooth neck heels (yeah, I have an Axcess), and some have 24-fret necks.

Later, I found out that one of the Variax models was going to be introduced with a Floyd (I was really thinking, "it has to be the LP, right?"). But it turned out to be the 89F that I'd mostly ignored. Then I started looking at the specs.

Relatively flat fretboard (if you're an acoustic player, listen up) with a 16" radius, jumbo frets, 24 fret board and a wide/slim (ish) neck profile. I ordinarily do NOT go for bolt necks (prefer neck-through if I can get them), but this one is cut away and smoothed in the right places.

The body's solid mahogany and heavy-ish, but not as heavy as some of my Les Pauls. It's a quad of controls like the LP, but unlike the LP, the 89 places a master volume within pinky swell distance from the bridge/bridge pickup. Brilliant. Five-way (the Variax electronics work best with a five-way as their original design parameter) vs. the odd three-way arrangement on the Variax LP version. Great upper fret access, and the back of the neck has a satin finish. Very fast. On the 89F they flipped the headstock around right-way up again (on the non-Floyd 89, it's a reverse).

The bad news? It's only available in black or "blood red". I'm surprised it didn't come with guyliner. The magnetic pickups are hotter than the ones on the LP (ah well, there are all those lovely models built in), but they're growing on me. And in order to attract the metal boys, some of the factory alternate tunings available on the other versions (Blues G, etc.) have been replaced with extended down tunings. Ack.

The good news? You can change the tunings to anything you like and save them to the spots on the dial you're not using. Better yet, you can use the Line 6 Workbench editing software on your computer to change alternate tunings, and even edit the models extensively, while retaining the ability to come back to factory models at any time.

But wait, there's more. If you use the guitar with a Pod floor or rack model, you can store alternate tuning and model information along with your amp/cab/FX settings in a user preset on the Pod. Stomp one time and you've changed everything, even right in the middle of a measure. But wait there's more. If you're using the Variax with a Pod, you can also use an ethernet cable instead of your expensive 50' Mogamis. You get to run both the magnetics and the piezo electronics information back to the Pod (and from there to the amp), and capacitance and RF interference due to the analog cable run is removed from the equation.

Worthy of consideration.
Last edited by dspellman at Nov 22, 2014,
#16
Tele. There is just something about a freaking Tele. Simple yet completely versatile and a voice like no other. Playable and built like a Sherman tank. If I only owned one, this would be it for me.

Tip: Get the maple fretboard. I didn't think I would like maple but Leo had it right. It completes the package.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY