Benefits of Learning on Electric Guitars & Trending Models 2021
Versatility and playability make electric guitars a great choice for new players.
By Ben Nemeroff
Twenty years ago when I was shopping around for my first guitar, the thought of starting on an electric never crossed my mind. At the time, my mother and I assumed acoustics were the way to go for beginners. Fast forward to 2021 and beginners are choosing electrics. Electric guitars offer players features that are not (commonly) available on standard acoustic guitars,that improve versatility and playability. In this article we'll explain why you should consider starting on an electric guitar and highlight our favorite models, parts and accessories popular with beginners today.
Why start on an electric guitar?
Unlike acoustic guitars, which require large body cavities to produce enough vibration to create sound, most electric guitars are made of a slab of solid wood. Solid bodies are thinner and more ergonomic than their electric relatives. Rather than relying solely on wood vibration, electrics come equipped with pickups that use magnets to transfer the vibrations of the instrument, to an amplifier which expands the tone. Amplifiers offer more control of and customization of your sound, great for players looking to personalize their tone. (more below).
Scale length is the distance between nut and saddle. This distance has great impact on how the instrument sounds and plays in a few ways:
- the shorter the scale, the less tension there is on the strings, which makes bending and strumming chords easier.
- shorter scale guitars have less distance between each fret, requiring less of a stretch when playing difficult chords and exercises.
The right scale length for you is dependent on your personal preference and play-style.There is no such thing as a “standard” or "best" scale length. Most Fender electic guitars come in 24” scale length or 25.5”.
Short scale instruments are a more accessible option for:
-- young players
-- players with small hands
-- players that prefer less string tension
-- Players looking for a more comfortable experience (this is subjective)
Here are a few models that have the shorter 24” scale length:
25.5 Scale guitars are great for players:
-- with normal/large sized hands
-- that enjoy the classic Fender tones that became popular in the 50s and ever since.
Here are a few models that have the 25.5” scale length:
Measuring Scale Length
If you have a guitar, and aren't sure of the scale length you can search for the scale length of your model online, or measure it yourself. To do so, measure the distance from the saddle to the nut. Another option is to measure the distance from the nut to the 12th fret (this comes in handy if you have a small sized measuring tape).
Scale length has an impact on the spacing between the frets of the guitar neck. Longer necks means wider fret spacing. This can be uncomfortable for someone with smaller hands or a young player.
The gap between the strings and the frets is called the “action.” Some players prefer a lower action because less effort is required when pressing down to make a note. On the other hand, a high action can provide more attack and room for expression.
Generally speaking, short scale guitars require a higher action allowing the strings more room to vibrate. This is because the strings have more room to wiggle because they are under less tension. We've written a guide on how to minimize finger pain, which can be a problem for beginner players, especially those that prefer higher actions and heavy gauge strings.
Electric guitars offer features that are not found in acoustic instruments, including the capability of being plugged into an amplifier via an onboard input jack. Plugging into amplified allows you to fine tune your tone and adjust your volume using knobs. Most Fender contemporary digital amps include LCD screens for using effect presets, more below. Modifying your tone with amps and effects is a great way to sound more like your favorite music, especially within genres like rock which commonly rely on effects like distortion and reverb.
Effects and Tone Integration
If you've ever heard a Tom Morello guitar solo, then you know how guitar effects can be used to transform a simple riff, into something that sounds like anything but a stringed instrument. Electric guitars are designed to integrate well with effect pedals and amplifiers, which allow players to expand the tonal options for their instrument.
Electric guitars can be easily modified sonically using amplifiers and effect pedals. Electric guitars can be used on just about any genre of music. Certain effects can turn your guitar into a different instrument all together. Rather than a guitar, you might think you're listening to a DJ spinning a record during one of Tom Morello's solos during his Rage Against The Machine days.
For the modern beginner, we recommend testing out one of our contemporary digital amps like the Mustang GTX50. The Mustang GTX50 makes switching between presets easy by pairing seamlessly with our Tone app for one-touch control of your amp.
For the modern beginner, that still loves the vintage aesthetic, we recommend the Champion 20.
If you listen to genres of music commonly played on electric guitars, like classic rock and blues, then there is a good chance starting on an electric is a good choice for you. Guitarists across many genres rely on effects that are applied to the guitar signal before it’s sent out to the amplifier speaker. For genres that require acoustic tones, try using an acoustic amp preset or an acoustic guitar simulator pedal.
Modification / Upgrades
Most Fender electric guitar components can be removed and replaced if needed for functional, cosmetic or aesthetic reasons. Installing new components can be a fun and educational process that connects you deeper with your instrument and why it sounds/behaves as it does. We recommend these easy-to-install upgrades for beginners looking to customize their instrument:
-- Fender Locking Tuning Machines (for Strat and Tele) - stay in tune longer, with locking tuning machines that lock strings into place. (Screwdriver required)
-- 11-hole Modern-Style Stratocaster S/S/S pickguard - change the aesthetic of your Stratocaster with 8 color choices. (Screwdriver required)
-- Tex Mex Strat Pickups - find new sonic possibilities with these versatile pickups. (Soldering iron and screwdriver required)
Visit the Fender Shop for a full list of available parts.
Pro Tip: Be sure to check the model, scale and year of your particular instrument as some parts are not compatible with all instruments.
Trending Beginner Electric Guitars
In 2020, beginner guitarists are starting their journeys on electric guitars. Here are a few popular top picks for all players needs:
Classic Vibe 60s Mustang - Playability a in Vintage-Inspired Instrument
In 1964, the first Fender Mustang was marketed as a student guitar due to its affordability, playability & reliability. The short scale and offset body make this guitar particularly beneficial to guitarists with smaller hands, like students - or those looking for a more comfortable playing experience.
By the 1990s, the Mustang had attained cult status as a result of usage by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth's Lee Ronaldo. Surviving the rigors of multiple world-tours with Nirvana and Sonic Youth is a testament to the reliability of this workhorse (pun intended). If the Mustang can make it on the road with experimental rock and grunge legends, then it can probably handle whatever most players are gonna throw at it.
I purchased this model a few months into my role with Fender. I picked it out of a 10-guitar lineup because I loved the color. "Vintage Yellow" can only be described as the color of mixing equal parts yellow mustard and mayonnaise. I'd never played a Mustang prior to this one, yet the "C"-shaped neck and 9.5'' radius felt familiar to me.
Fifty six years after its release, the Mustang continues to provide new players with a consistent and comfortable playing experience as they embark on their guitar playing journeys. At its core of this instrument is the ethos of the 1964 original: playability, affordability and reliability. This is why the Squier Classic Vibe 60s Mustang is my personal favorite beginner instrument.
Squire Mini Stratocaster - small sized instrument, full sized tone
There is no denying the stratocaster's impact on music history. You'd be hard pressed to find another electric guitar that has made onto as many music recordings as this one. As versatile as this instrument is, it may not be for every player. Some players can find the standard 25.5' scale stratocaster to be a bit uncomfortable. The Mini Stratocaster is for those seeking the familiar strat tones, in a reduced size instrument. Perfect for young guitarists or those looking for a short scale instrument that sounds more like a classic single coil instrument.
Do not be fooled by this guitar's small size. The mini version of our most iconic model has every bit of mojo of the full sized version. The vintage style hardtail bridge and classic SSS (3 single coil pickups) configuration is a nod to the historic models of the 50s and 60s. Check out our current stock of Mini Strats or view our new Kid-Friendly bundle featuring the Squier Mini Strat.
Affinity Series Telecaster - versatility at a entry level price point
The telecaster is the oldest model included in this list. While it's gone through many iterations, it has never lost its signature twang or place in the genres it help form like country and rock. The Affinity series brings legendary design and vibrant colors to beginners at an entry level price point of $229. Classic features like the “C”-shaped neck profile and vintage tremolo bridge are comfortable and functional. Players that want a simpler playing experience may prefer the telecaster 2 pickup wiring and 3 way-switch as opposed to the strats 3 pickups and 5-way switch.
Opening Act Bundle - this bundle includes the Telecaster, award winning LT25 digital modeling amp and everyhing else you need to get started.
In addition to the teleaster, we offer an Affinity Stratocaster as part of our Affinity Series HSS Pack. HSS stands for humbucker, single coil, single coil. The humbucker, in the the bridge position, offers a higher output, great for players of rock music and other high gain genres.
Player Series Stratocaster HSS - Our most versatile beginner Electric
The stratocaster is an iconic piece of music history and Americana. The strat has transcended all genres and playstyles, to become one of the most successful guitars of all time. It's never gone out of style since its release in 1954.
The Player series stratocaster is our most versatile beginner instrument because it combines a timeless model with contemporary appointments including a dedicated bridge pickup control and "Modern C"-shaped neck. most versatile beginner series with Fender's timeless body-style.
Choose from seven colors including classic Fender 3-Tone Sunburst and Tidepool (metallic teal). This guitar comes with maple or rosewood fingerboards.
The Player Stratocaster is for the player looking for legendary design, all the classic features and most-of-all versatility. Check out our new Headline Bundle featuring the Player Stratocaster.
For more beginner electric guitar options, check out the full list of electric guitar bundles featured in our New Players Guide!