5 Most Versatile Electric Guitars (2023 Update)

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Is your playing style impossible to pin down? Are you constantly working on different projects that test the variety of scenarios that your guitar can fit into? Are you simply looking to invest in one guitar that is going to get you through it all, no matter what?

Then you are in the right place, for today we will be trying to track down the most versatile electric guitar for you, offering a selection of some of the best the market has to offer today, featuring along the way some tried and tested classics as well as some new inventions sure to inspire you.

5 Most Versatile Electric Guitars (2023 Update)

Table of Contents

What Makes the Most Versatile Electric Guitar?

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By definition, a versatile guitar is one that can be implemented in a whole host of different and varied musical contexts and styles without appearing anachronistic. Versatile guitars, then, are guitars that can be used as an all round instrument, one that can easily be picked up without any questions and brought into a whole variety of situations.

The ears of the touring musicians ought now to be standing erect, for all too often are they burdened with choosing their best electric guitars to act as their ambassadors as they take their music to the high seas. The most adept of these touring musicians will instead choose the best electric guitar (singular) for the job, one that can theoretically do the job of all of the others combined.

Traditionally a versatile guitar was one that had electronics that enabled this panoptic vision of variety. Guitars like the Gibson ES 335 or the Fender Telecaster, for example, will come to mind in these scenarios for precisely this reason. Their comparably lower output pickups provide an ample canvas upon which many tones can be painted. By contrast, a guitar with higher output pickups would be more difficult to coax a clear sound from.

Versatility has come to mean something else in the modern era. For one, a guitar with high output pickups can be coil split, turning an unruly and overexcitable humbucker into a single coil at the flick of a switch, eschewing the need to keep darting to and from the tone controls, or even to flick constantly between the neck pickup and the bridge pickup.

This works well for a solid body electric guitar but is especially impressive with a hollow body, which can all too often act as a harbinger of feedback within its walls.

1. Gibson ES-335

Guitar designs scarcely come more classic than this cultural behemoth from Gibson, occupying a place up front and center as one of the most important and influential guitar designs of all time. Even those unfamiliar with guitar lore or history will recognize this particular ubiquitous shape from the Garageband logo.

The Gibson ES-335 has seen no end of artists queueing at its door and awaiting to use it for their own artistic endeavors, including: Chuck Berry, Ritchie Blackmore, Justin Hayward, Bob Weir, Alvin Lee, Larry Carlton, June Millington, Elliott Smith, Noel Gallagher, Peter Frampton, Dave Grohl, Freddie King, B.B. King, Chuck Brown, etc.

The now ubiquitous electric guitar body of the guitar is still something that most electric guitars with a solid body cannot boast to have. The semi hollow body makes this an extremely resonant guitar, just over halfway between an electric and an acoustic.

This, coupled with the lower output humbucking pickups, means that it can accommodate next to any playing style without much maneuvering to and fro. They have sometimes even been said to have a similar tonal characteristic to single coil pickups, though this is very much open for debate.

Easily one of the more expensive offerings on this list, the quality of the electric guitar hardware alone is enough to exhibit this price without numbers, and some electric guitar deals might help you cop up one of these for considerably less than the market value, bringing you closer to the ever loving arms of your dream guitar, the one that your fantasies are made of, besides the Gibson Les Paul of course.

All of these things and more make this one of the most beloved and most versatile guitar types in the history of the instrument.

2. Fender Vintera Road Worn ’50s Telecaster

Keeping in line with more vintage conceptions of versatility, we come to the almighty Fender Telecaster, which alongside the Fender Strat is oft considered one of the most versatile instruments in showbiz, the workhorse beneath the saddle of so many classic and beloved popular culture landmarks.

Much of what typifies the Tele in this way is precisely the same as the 335, besides the key difference: humbucker vs single coil. Still, the pickups are lower output, so as to allow for more gradations in tone, though just as easily cranked to maximum overdrive with the help of external effects pedals and amplification.

This version of the Telecaster seeks to recreate some of the most classic models of the guitar, and even aesthetically it is bang on the money, with those bent steel saddles that barely look able to do the job but that always do time after time. This version has even been given that distressed look that arises when you have owned a guitar for long enough and played it hard enough that the paintwork actually begins to wear out.

Other than the Fender Stratocaster perhaps, Guitars scarcely come more classic than the Telecaster; a master tone vendor through and through, I will forever kick myself for selling my own Fender Telecaster back in the day for not being able to afford rent. I miss those delectable single coils, the maple top neck and the way it enlightened my mornings…

Fender Vintera Road Worn '50s Telecaster Electric Guitar - Lake Placid Blue

3. Fender American Pro II Stratocaster

As you are probably beginning to tell, my preferences lie with older guitars, classic models that were born in the original rock and roll era and yet that have still stood the test of time.

My own penchant for the Telecaster compels me to put it slightly higher on this list, though I implore you to believe me when I say that the Stratocaster is no less versatile for it. Fender guitars stand toe to toe with the best of what guitars can do, having been there doing what they do best since the very beginning.

The addition of extra pickups and pickups on a Strat will certainly appeal to some more than others, particularly those who seek a little more tone control or more solid guitar sound options at their fingertips. The Stratocaster is famed for its in between pickup positions, those between the bridge and middle pickup & the middle pickup and the neck pickup, which became workhorses in their own right during funk’s second era.

This particular iteration of the Strat has been crafted for the greatest possible comfort imaginable, with rolled fretboard edges and a carved neck heel that seek to relish the comfort imported by the smallest of things. The option to sound like a Telecaster is here too, for there is a push / pull tone pot that allows you to add the neck pickup into the first position, imitating the fabled jangly middle position of a Telecaster.

4. D’Angelico Premier Bedford

This will, without doubt, be one of the more affordable options on this list, though you can buy cheaper versions of pretty much all of the other guitars previously listed.

This guitar company was the offspring of the legendary luthier John D’Angelico, who began his journey through an apprenticeship in mandolin and violin making at the age of 9, harboring all of the expertise instilled into him and building his own company in New York City’s Little Italy in the early 1930s.

He went on to craft some of the most charming archtop guitars in the business, and though he died of a sudden heart attack in the 60s, his legacy lives on through his own apprentices.

The originals were handcrafted by John himself and his two apprentices and were often the wet dream of jazz guitarists, though were obviously well out of reach financially. New management moved production to east Asis where they were able to make high quality guitars which, via exploitation of the working masses, could still be sold at a reasonable price point.

Though somewhat exotic in its aesthetic appearance, the laminated maple neck will undoubtedly feel familiar to anyone who has played an electric guitar, and there is plenty more to love here, all of which seeks to make the guitarist feel as comfortable as possible.

These guitars stand out from the crowd while still offering a familiar experience that can be implemented into just about any musical style or context.

5. ESP LTD EC-256

For those looking to take their musical stylings in a harsher, darker, and overall noisier direction, then there are scarcely more dedicated workhorses at this price point.

Though it is very obviously borrowing the look and timbral output of another very famous single cutaway electric guitar, this particular model has gone on to accrue quite the following among metal and hardcore guitarists looking for chunky metal tones on more of a budget.

This guitar, like its counterpart, is extremely resonant, with a mahogany neck that is fond of delivering unforgiving riffs at a moment’s notice. The sheer versatility of a guitar like this will be evinced by anyone who goes to a metal or hardcore festival and sees a whole variety of different bands sporting different styles and substyles of music, many of whom will also be donning an ESP Eclipse.

This version, though more affordable, is more than capable of fulfilling even your darkest and most twisted fantasies with regard to pulverizing tones.

There is also the option to split the coils of the potent humbucking pickups, offering forth a different tonal character altogether at the flick of a switch, further proving this guitar’s unending versatility, not just in the realms of darker and heavier music but also in more popular styles too, making it the best guitar for death metal and then some.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully your curiosity about the most versatile electric guitar on the market today has been satiated.

Though many of the guitars here listed have the support of countless droves of popular musicians, the most important part of investing in a guitar is how it feels to you, so before you go on and invest a whole bunch of money in a guitar that is supposedly meant to last you through a whole bunch of different emotional and sonic contexts, at least give it a try at your local guitar store first.

FAQs Most Versatile Electric Guitar

What electric guitar is the most versatile?

Though the modern era of guitar manufacture has complicated this question considerably, the typical answer would once have been a debate between the Gibson ES-335 and the Fender Telecaster. Both feature lower output pickups which are considered more able to deliver a wider variety of tones; a guitar with higher output pickups, for instance, is all well and good but they would struggle to offer the nuance of the quieter moments that lower output pickups would. You can always add more, you can rarely if ever take less, and the same is true here: you can use an overdrive with a lower output pickup, you cannot change the inherent quality of the higher output pickup without some serious work.

Is the Telecaster the most versatile guitar?

Arguably, yes, or at least this used to be one of the typical answers to the question. Thanks to their lower output pickups and unbeatable three point combination of the bridge and neck pickups, the Fender Telecaster offers forth a near infinite set of tonal options which, when paired with an equally versatile amplifier, leaves you acres ahead of the competition when it comes to sheer versatility.

What is the most versatile guitar ever?

Though the modern era of guitar manufacture has complicated this question considerably, the typical answer would once have been a debate between the Gibson ES-335 and the Fender Telecaster. Both feature lower output pickups which are considered more able to deliver a wider variety of tones; a guitar with higher output pickups, for instance, is all well and good but they would struggle to offer the nuance of the quieter moments that lower output pickups would. You can always add more, you can rarely if ever take less, and the same is true here: you can use an overdrive with a lower output pickup, you cannot change the inherent quality of the higher output pickup without some serious work.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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