Are you looking to make your first investment in the world of the electric guitar? Are you a little confused by the overwhelming number of guitars available today? Do you especially feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of prices? How much is an electric guitar?
Today, we will be seeking to answer these questions and much more, exploring the ins and outs of the electric guitar market as it stands today, as well as looking at why an electric guitar can sometimes cost as much as it does.
You will no doubt have seen in your own investigations on the topic that electric guitars will go for a whole bunch of different prices, in much the same way as acoustic guitars. The relative price of an acoustic guitar or electric guitar or even a classical guitar will depend on a whole variety of factors (listed at the bottom of this article for your viewing pleasure).
More boutique guitars will boast a far higher electric guitar cost than those designed for beginners or for those operating on a smaller budget, and despite what the advertising might try to convince you of, these more expensive models are far from necessary.
Many guitarists, in fact, suggest that, if you spend anything above $1000 on the right electric guitar, ‘you tend to be paying for luxuries rather than things that make the guitar better from the player’s point of view… you might get prettier wood, but it won’t necessarily sound or feel better.’
This is, of course, a pretty broad statement but it rings more or less true to my ears. In all my years of playing guitar (almost 15) I have never spent more than this on a guitar and have never really been let down by the craftsmanship of a guitar around $1000.
Of course, I was not rocking one of these bad boys when I was first taking guitar lessons. Back then, I was using a whole slew of second hand guitar travesties I had picked up excitedly at yard sales, but you use whatever you have to get by. Besides, what says ‘rock music’ more than a guitar that, though falling apart, is still able to act as a conduit for some power chords fed through a filter of adolescent angst?
Average Price Guide
So, though there are so many electric guitars in the guitar world that it would be impossible to categorize the price of them all here today, we can offer a series of average prices for your consideration. This will be especially useful if you already have some idea of the kind of electric guitar you would like, whether through seeing an idol of yours play it or otherwise. Do not be put off by all these guitars, though, as there is no one guitar for everyone!
Average prices of popular instruments from each respective brand:
- Epiphone: $500 – $900
- Squier: $200 – $400
- Fender: $600 – $1100
- Gibson: $2000 – $3000
- PRS SE: $400 – $1200
- PRS: $2000 – $4000
Average prices for popular electric guitar models:
- Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard: $800
- PRS SE Custom 24: $1000
- Gibson Les Paul Standard: $2500
- Fender American Professional Stratocaster: $1450
- Squier Classic Vibe 70s Stratocaster: $400
- Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster: $825
- PRS CE 24: $2000
- Epiphone Les Paul Standard 50s: $600
- Squier Affinity Series Telecaster: $230
- Epiphone Les Paul Studio: $450
- Fender Player Telecaster: $700
Now, this whole list of names and ideas might be overwhelming at first but you do not necessarily need to know all of these names and words. Your own guitar might not be at the guitar center of all this.
There is certainly a very real divide between the Fender’s and the Gibson’s, though, which many will place themselves within at some point or another. Personally, I have always been a Fender guy, specifically the Jazzmaster, which for me can do just about any style of music, though is especially good for noisy and experimental genres that prize sonic exploration over song structures.
There are advantages to both, though, and you do not have to pledge allegiance to either!
A Price Range Guide
Whether you want a Fender Stratocaster or any other guitar, we thought it would be useful to walk you through what you can expect from some of the different price ranges of guitars available on the market, no matter whether this is your first guitar or not. Bear in mind that these price ranges will mostly be for new guitars though.
Low End ($100 or less)
Most major companies will offer this kind of option, whether through their cheaper company or not. Though compromising on materials and craftsmanship, these instruments will be able to get the job done.
Beginner (between $100 – $400)
You can expect guitars in this price range to be slight upgrades of those in the previous, catering amply to beginner guitarists who are not necessarily willing to cripple themselves financially when they are purchasing their all important first electric guitar (but who are not willing to buy a used guitar).
Intermediate (between $400 – $900)
For a gigging musician who is regularly on tour, this should be the minimum they are using in terms of quality and reliability. Guitars in this category will get the job done, no questions asked, and I have been relying on them for most of my career.
Top End (between $1000 – $2500)
Ideal for those for whom music is their livelihood. This kind of guitar is an investment and is usually one that a guitarist will keep for a long time to come, perhaps even for life.
Professional ($2500 and beyond)
For the seasoned veteran and professional who needs a guitar that is rarely if ever going to let them down while they are entertaining their audience on the front line. These kinds of guitars, if owned by someone not of the means, would most likely spend time gathering dust.
Of course, unlike an acoustic guitar, you can’t just get away with purchasing the guitar and being done with it. There are a whole bunch of extra things that you should at least think about purchasing to enhance your playing experience.
- A case will ensure that your guitar does not incur more knocks and cracks than it needs to (unless you intend to set fire to the damn thing like Hendrix and his upside down guitar). This does not necessarily need to be a case either, as a gig bag can do an ample job of protecting.
- Being an electric guitar, an amplifier will be essential if you are looking to achieve the sound of an electric guitar properly. You can learn how to plug guitar into computer which will negate this aspect entirely, especially as amp simulation is getting better and better with each passing day.
- Though plectrums or guitar picks are not exactly essential, they have formed an alliance with many guitarists. For as many guitarists as there are that completely eschew the use of a plectrum, preferring fingerstyle guitar techniques, there are just as many who feel that the use of one is simply indispensable in their guitar peregrinations.
- Even if you are the kind of guitarist like Robert Fripp who chooses to sit down over standing up, a guitar strap will be pretty damn important for those moments where your attention slips and / or you simply want to let the guitar go for a second to give your hands and arms a breather.
- At least to begin with, you will want to be using a guitar tuner at regular intervals, even if only to train your ears in the ‘regular’ tuning and intonation that has come to predominate in western music. After this, it can be as much of a free for all as you like.
Why Does an Electric Guitar Cost?
As mentioned earlier, we will now delve into some of the primary reasons for a guitar’s pricing.
Though slightly more significant in the realm of acoustic guitars, the types of wood that an electric guitar is constructed from can still have an impact on how much it costs a company to produce said guitar and subsequently how much it costs the consumer when it is put up for sale.
So, it stands to reason then that the rarer the wood and the better quality it is, the more expensive the guitar will be from which it is constructed.
More expensive guitars, thus, will tend to be made from woods like mahogany, alder, or maple, which inherently have a stronger ability to resonate guitar tones than something like pine which would more typically be used in the construction of a low end guitar for mass production purposes.
2. Wood Grading
Besides simply looking at what kind of wood the guitar is constructed from, there is also a more nuanced method of determining the quality of wood, one that is implemented by no less than the American Hardwood Export Council to determine the cost and quality of an electric guitar’s manufacture.
‘Wood is a natural material and by its very nature may contain different characteristics and defects that need to be understood and allowed for in any given application. The grading of sawn wood into categories as it is processed helps to determine to a large extent the value and potential use possible for each board of sawn lumber.
‘The grade of lumber purchased by a manufacturer will determine both the cost and waste fact that is achieved. Because the grades are based on the percentage of clear wood in the board, many of the beautiful, natural characteristics found in hardwoods are not considered in calculating the clear yield.’
In terms of working out the price of a guitar, the next most important factor will be the pickups which are without doubt one of the key determining factors in how a guitar will sound, period.
There is a trend in the manufacture of cheaper electric guitars to use what are referred to as ‘stock’ pickups – i.e. those made by the guitar company themselves (especially if they are not especially known for making good pickups).
Ibanez, for example, does this, using stock Ibanez pickups on their cheaper guitars and then DiMarzio and EMG pickups on their more expensive models, outsourcing the job to other more experienced companies who do a better job of it.
This can even be seen in a brand like Fender which has higher end models with pickups designed by reputable pickup manufacturers Seymour Duncan.
Then comes the issue of hardware, which some would even put in more or less the same category as the pickups, even if only in terms of their relationship within the process of guitar manufacture and pricing.
Hardware components include the bridge, the vibrato system, the tuning mechanisms, etc. Anything that is made of metal on the guitar is usually going to be one of the pieces of hardware.
And, as with the pickups, a company will tend to outsource their manufacture or use less specialized pieces of hardware when manufacturing a cheaper model of guitar.
Anyone with a discerning ear and touch will be able to feel the difference between the vibrato system and the bridge of a cheaper Squier Stratocaster and a more expensive Fender Stratocaster.
This comes with the territory and, in my opinion, both will get the job done without any questions being asked.
What makes an electric guitar an electric guitar? Its ability to project and amplify itself beyond the means of its body! Of course, there are electro-acoustic models which do this too, but originally this ability was the domain of the electric guitar and the electric guitar alone.
An electric guitar will usually come with at least two pickups, meaning there will need to be a pickup selector so that the user can choose which they prefer to use, as well as a volume and tone control (sometimes more than one depending on the kind of pickup system the guitar is sporting).
Some guitars, however, come with all the frills and extras. These days you can even buy guitars with knobs that, once pushed or pulled, can bypass the single coil or humbucking capabilities of the pickups and reverse them. This will, of course, cost you extra!
You will no doubt have noticed that among the big brands, there are some who seem to produce more or less the same products but sometimes at wildly varying prices. Fender, for example, is producing the same products as Squier, and the same for Gibson and Epiphone: what gives?
Well, companies like Fender, Gibson, and PRS have created subsidiary companies that are slightly cheaper and more affordable for guitarists who either are not willing to pay the price for the full package or do not have the means to do so.
These subsidiaries tend to make use of outsourced labor in so called ‘less developed countries’, where workers are willing to work for less money, meaning that the manufacturer overall can sell you the instrument for less money.
This kind of hierarchy even happens in Fender guitars, where some are made in Mexico and some in America. I have never owner a Fender guitar from America but I can tell you that the Mexican ones pay for themselves.
Popular and mainstream models of guitar – like the Stratocaster and the Les Paul for example – will be released anew each year, much like cars (and there is a lot to be said about the links between guitars and cars – and typewriters for that matter).
Thus, there will usually be a year attributed to the guitar you have bought, some years fetching more than others when put on sale because of inherent discrepancies and faults in some batches of the instrument.
One of the first things a guitar collector who knows their stuff will tell you is to look into the year of manufacture, for this can very easily save you a whole bunch of money in the long run. Much like Discogs is to record collectors, Reverb is the authority on used music gear.
When you start to veer into more expensive and high end territory, guitars will be released in very select batches.
These kind of guitars are far more the domain of collectors than performers or musicians, wherein an instrument is released for a limited time and / or in a limited batch, both of which can amp up the price of a guitar, whether individually or combined.
This is how things would have been done in the earlier times of mass manufacture, where there would have been no factory or production team. More likely, it would simply have been a workshop of dedicated luthiers and engineers putting together the individual pieces and sending forth their flock of instruments into the world.
Word of mouth spreads the good word and, eventually, you have a whole empire!
So, there you have it!
Hopefully, your curiosity about the price of electric guitars on the market today has been satiated and you are feeling at least a little less overwhelmed by the sheer number of guitars available and the differences between them.
Perhaps you have even come away today with a strong notion of the kind of electric guitar you might want to invest in, now or in the future!
FAQs How Much is an Electric Guitar
This will very much vary from person to person. Some, for example, will not want to spend too much on an electric guitar, especially if it is their first and they are unsure of whether they actually want to commit to learning the guitar just yet; some might not even have the means to purchase much. On the other hand, there will be some who are more experienced and willing to put more money into their new instrument.
A beginner could spend anything under $1000 without being disappointed. The traditional boundary for a beginner guitar is between $100 and $400 within which you can find some very able guitars these days. For those who are simply looking to get not much more than a feel for the instrument, to see whether it is suited to them and whether they intend to continue with it, then I suppose you can’t go wrong with a guitar for less than $100. These will by no means be suitable for a touring musician unless this touring musician intends to make some ugly noise music with it.
Absolutely. If you are looking for the guitar as an instrument in its purest form, then perhaps an acoustic guitar is the way to go; but for the sheer depth of expression and sonic experimentation, it has to be an electric guitar all day long. I have always preferred electric guitar, though, so I will undoubtedly be biased and this really is your own decision to be made. By no means would I rule out the use of an acoustic guitar – in fact, I own a couple – I simply prefer the electric guitar as it better suits the kind of music I wish to make.
This will depend, I suppose, on what you are comparing it to. Some people, for example, believe that the acoustic guitar is easier to learn or vice versa when, really, there is not much difference between the two beyond the fact that the electric guitar needs to be amplified to be appreciated properly. If we are comparing the learning of the electric guitar to, say, learning the theremin then the electric guitar is certainly easy to learn. For those unacquainted, the theremin is an instrument that is played as though you are fingering the air, meaning there are no visual or kinetic boundaries to see or touch to help you along – it relies completely on your ears and the depth to which you are able to experience the minutiae between pitches.