Best Budget Guitars And The Ultimate Upgrades

Squier to Fender, Epiphone to Gibson we discuss best beginner guitars and the ones you should consider when upgrading

best beginner guitars

When most of us begin our musical journey, we start out with a cheaper, sometimes even hand-me-down version of the guitar we’ve seen our musical idols play – and there’s absolutely no shame in that whatsoever. Starting out with a cheaper, budget friendly guitar is a rite of passage for all musicians as it helps us to learn what we’re really capable of and eventually appreciate a good quality guitar or amplifier when we do get our hands on one. When we do upgrade we find out how they can completely change our sound or at the very least improve it.

Unfortunately, we can’t always afford to go out and buy our dream guitar straight away, especially if we want to be able to afford food the next week! Fortunately, there are a variety of budget guitars and amplifiers out there designed for the guitar or bass enthusiast who are taking their first musical steps, and for those who are ready to upgrade, there’s plenty to choose from! So in this blog we’re going to look at the best budget friendly guitars and amps as well as the ultimate upgrade options.

The Rock guitarist

Epiphone Les Paul Special II Electric Player Pack

If you’re a fan of the Gibson Les Paul, but can’t stretch to the price tag just yet, the Epiphone Les Paul Special II Electric Player Pack is a great option. In the box, you get a fantastic Epiphone Les Paul Special II complete with a great set of Alnico 650R and 700T humbuckers built in, which will suit most musical styles, especially those who like rock or metal. You also get an awesome 10-watt portable guitar amplifier combo which is perfect for small gigs or jamming with your mates. There’s a headphone output in the amp for silent practice at home and you can choose between clean or drive channels depending on your musical preferences. If that’s not impressive enough considering the small price tag, you get a gigbag, medium picks, strap and 10 foot guitar cable, not to mention a clip on tuner. It’s everything you need to get your musical career started.

Gibson 2016 Les Paul Traditional Electric Guitar

As far as the ultimate upgrade goes, you can’t go wrong with a Gibson Les Paul Standard Traditional, especially in the classic Heritage Cherry Sunburst. Gibson Les paul’s have been around for what seems like forever, with guitarists of all genres choosing to pick one up and mould a career with one of these over their shoulder, so it stands to reason that this should be the ultimate goal for a Les Paul fan. This model features a mahogany body with modern weight relief and a pair of Burstbucker Pro pickups with coil-tap to allow you to access both smooth humbucking tones as well as gritty, hot single-coil tones. If you wanted to go for the definitive (and lottery winner) choice, may we recommend the Gibson 50th Anniversary of Marshall Les Paul Goldtop & 1962LE Bluesbreaker Amp set. Limited to 50 worldwide, this set includes a limited edition Marshall 1962LE Bluesbreaker Amp as well as a Gibson Goldtop Les Paul that has been hand aged by the legendary Tom Murphy and adorned with various 50th anniversary nods. One for the wishlist!

The Blues guitarist

Squier Affinity Stratocaster With Fender Frontman 10G Amp

Whether you’re a fan of Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan or you just like the look of a Fender Stratocaster (we don’t blame you) there’s plenty of options out there for you. If you’re a beginner you could of course start with the very budget friendly Squier Affinity Stratocaster complete with Fender Frontman 10G Amp. Just like the Epiphone pack, this gives you everything you need to get you on your way to musical stardom and includes a Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster with Maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and three single coil pickups with selector switch – ideal for finding your sound. It also comes with electronic tuner, DVD with lessons, gig bag, cable, strap, and pick as well as a great 10G electric guitar combo amp with built in overdrive. Learners will happy to know that there’s also a headphone jack for silent practice so you can practice whenever you want.

Fender 2016 Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster

When it comes to upgrading to the next level, you should consider the Fender 2016 Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster. New for 2016, this guitar has been designed with performers in mind and features superior build quality with a myriad of different sound options without costing a great deal more. It’s packed with Fender’s vintage noiseless pickups which eliminate hum and has an S-1 switch in the master volume which enables you to bypass the preamp and enjoy pure tones from the guitar. When the time comes to start gigging, this is the guitar you’ll want to upgrade to. When it comes to upgrading your amplifier, the likes of the Fender Bassbreaker amplifiers are an excellent choice. With the Fender Bassbreaker 15 combo, you have the 3 12AX7 pre-amp valves and 2 EL84 power-amp valves to thank for the full toned gain as well as glass like clean tones. If you’ve discovered all valve amps, you’ll understand the why players love them so much as the warmth is addictive. The Bassbreaker series features boost and EQ controls to drive your amp and can be manipulated via footswitch. Perfect to add to your plethora of pedals that you have undoubtedly started to collect.

The shredder/Metalhead

Ibanez GRG140-WH Electric Guitar

Whether you’re a fan of the shred masters like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani or you just want something that is easy to play, has a whole host of different tonal capabilities and looks awesome whilst you’re busting out Killswitch Engage style riffs, the Ibanez range of guitars will likely be for you. The Ibanez GRG140-WH for example, is reminiscent of Vai’s Jem Junior model without all the little intricacies but just as beautiful to play. It features a deep double-cutaway body shape and 24 jumbo-fret rosewood fingerboard which is perfect for those who want to be able to speed along the fretboard and exploit the double octave range. It’s equipped with two single coil pickups and a humbucker allowing you to change up your tone to your needs – ideal for those who are experimenting with guitar for the first time. In terms of amplifiers, you want a reliable, high gain option with a selection of effects such as reverb and delay.

For beginners and pros who want a smaller gigging amp, the Blackstar ID:15 TVP Guitar Combo Amplifier is a great choice owing to it’s small size, portability and huge amount of versatility. The “True Valve Power” valve modelling technology sounds amazing, giving you that great valve tone with added solid state reliability – meaning you don’t have to change valves! You have 6 Voices to shape your tone when you’re finding the right sound for you and the onboard reverb, delay and modulation effects are great too.

Ibanez Jem77P Steve Vai Signature Guitar - Blue Floral Pattern

If you’re still keen on throwing yourself into the guitar virtuoso world of Steve Vai, either the Jem Junior or Vai’s signature Ibanez Jem77P Steve Vai Signature Guitar with gorgeous Blue Floral Pattern (pictured) could be the guitar for you. The Jem77P features the signature “monkey grip” design and a powerful combination of DiMarzio Gravity Storm and Evolution pickups making it the ultimate upgrade for the discerning guitarist. You also get a hardshell case to keep it safe when you’re transporting it to and from gigs/practice. The Edge-Zero II locking tremolo bridge allows you to dive bomb to your hearts content and locking nuts will keep your tuning at all times. By this time, you’ve probably refined your musical tastes and want a more powerful amp to keep up with your drummer and cart to gigs so the Marshall CODE series of amps will be a great choice. The Marshall CODE50 50 Watt 1×12 Guitar Amplifier Combo is perfect for the guitarist who wants a great deal of versatility and the extra power to cut through at a gig or live situation. You have 14 preamp models, 4 power amp models, and 8 speaker cab models to scroll through giving you the option to emulate the same amps as your musical heroes as well as 24 pro quality FX to choose from – 5 of which you can run at the same time! A great amp for the professional guitarists and those in the making.

The Jazz/country player

Epiphone Dot 335 Electric Guitar

Whether you’re into your jazz, have a penchant for country or like the sounds of southern infused rock like Kings Of Leon for example, you’ll likely want a hollowbody guitar. The Epiphone Dot is a great starting point for those who want lush, thick sound with that unmistakable hollowbody tone froma  beginner guitar. The Dot ES-335 Style’s ’57 Classic pick-ups have alnico magnets to provide gorgeous cleans and dirty growls when you need it and the guitar itself is a delight to play, lasting a lifetime when looked after. When looking at a great beginner amp, the Orange Crush 20 Watt Guitar Combo Amplifier is always a great choice owing to the fact you have a gorgeous clean sound and dirty growl thanks to Orange’s signature overdrive tones. This is a modestly priced practice amp that sound amazing and can offer you a variety of different tones to suit your styles whilst being easily portable for those jam sessions or days in the practice room.

Gibson 2016 ES-335

The next logical step on your hollowbody journey has to be a Gibson ES-335. These quintessential models are world renowned for their playability and tone thanks to the hollowbody construction utilising 3-ply plain grade Maple / Poplar / Maple for the body, back and sides as well as Burstbucker 1 and 2 pickups modelled on PAF (Patent Applied For) pickups. You also get a hardshell case to keep it safe so you can hand it down to your grandkids one day – believe us when we say you’ll keep this forever because this absolute workhorse sounds (and looks) amazing! For that awesome valve sound and classic dirty driven rock tone you can’t go wrong with a VOX AC30C2 Custom Guitar Combo Amp. This amp is responsible for the sound that powered the 1960s’ “British Invasion” and is used by countless professionals in the music industry. The Normal and Top-Boost channels can be manipulated to your needs and driven as hard or as soft as you need. When you really get to grips with one of these amplifiers you’ll understand why so many musicians rely on them for their live sound. It’s 30-watts of pure power through two 12-inch Celestion G12M Greenback speakers resulting in a gorgeous valve sound that really cuts through – so live gigs of all sizes are catered for. This amp is a what many musicians will aspire to own, and for good reason.

The Bass player

Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass Guitar - Natural

Don’t worry Bass players, we haven’t forgotten about you! A great beginner bass guitar can take many forms. Squier make fantastic beginner bass guitars perfect for both learners and intermediates, or even professional players who want a reliable, solid and great sounding bass guitar for recording with. The Squier Vintage Modified Jazz Bass Guitar, pictured here in Natural with maple fretboard is a great option that not only sounds amazing thanks to Fender-designed single-coil jazz bass pickups in neck and bridge positions but looks and feels amazing owing to the soft maple body and maple neck, which is super comfortable to play. Although it says Jazz in the name, this is definitely suited to a wide variety of musical styles. If you’re on a tighter budget, the awesome Epiphone EB-0 SG Bass Guitar offers a more “rock” look and a single Sidewinder humbucking pickup for classic 60s tone that sounds amazing with a bit of distortion added in.

When looking for a great amplifier to practice with, or a great beginner amplifier the Blackstar Fly 3 Bass Compact Bass Guitar Amplifier is a great option when you’re learning to navigate the 4 (or 5) strings. This is a very small and compact amp with a lot of power, with a gain channel MP3/line in connection for jamming along to your favourite tracks as well as a headphone socket for silent practice at home or on the move. In addition, if you want to be able to jam with your friends straight away, and benefit from an amp that will last a lifetime of rehearsals, you should consider an Orange Crush Bass 25 Bass Combo Amplifier. These things are practice room ready without costing a fortune and provide 25 watts of power, easily enough to stand up to a drummer. The onboard chromatic tuner is extremely handy and the parametric 3-band equaliser along with a frequency dial helps you get the best low ends or dirty grunge sounds.

Fender American Elite Precision MN Bass Guitar

When it comes to the time of upgrading your bass guitar, there are a myriad of options out there to choose from, but many of which are designed for a variety of different musical styles. The awesome Fender Precision or “P” bass is a great example owing to the fact it’s pretty much an industry standard bass guitar. The Fender American Elite Precision MN Bass Guitar in particular is a world class touring and recording bass from the geniuses over at Fender. The Ash body is a fantastic resonant body ensuring those low end riffs can be heard, and the 2 powerful yet quiet 4th generation N4 Noiseless pickups in PJ configuration offer gorgeous tonality – ideal for those who want a versatile bass that works well with any bass amplifier. The super-slim modern “C” profile is carved into a “D” profile towards the neck heel, which is a new appointment for 2016 and a very comfortable improvement on an already stellar bass design.

When you need a gigging amplifier that will stand the test of time and look completely comfortable on stage at Leeds and Reading (you’ll get there, we believe in you!) a great option is the Orange OB1-300 Bass Amp Combo. You have 300 Watts of power at your disposal making it an impressive bass combo amp ready for all types of gigs. You also have a great deal of control over your sound thanks to the bass, middle and treble but the fact the amp is capable of splitting the input path, is a real bonus. You can enjoy the clean signal of your bass whilst the other side of the signal path will add gain to the upper harmonics giving you a great bass tone with uninhibited dirty growls.

Check out a full range of guitars and amps at the Dawsons website and find the best set up for you, whether you’re looking for beginner guitars or the best in touring quality guitars and amps.

Summary
Article Name
Best Budget Guitars And The Ultimate Upgrades
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We discuss the best budget guitars and which models you should consider when the time comes to upgrading for the live arena or studio. If you've outgrown your beginner guitar, these are the best guitars to upgrade to.
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Dawsons Music
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Lee Glynn is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who lives in Liverpool, England. After moving to the UK from Perth, Australia, Lee enjoyed a successful career as guitarist in Liverpool based rock band Sound of Guns. After releasing two albums, a myriad of EPs / singles and touring extensively around the world for 6 years including stops at Glastonbury, Latitude Festival, as well as the coveted Reading & Leeds Festivals, Lee decided it was a time for a change of scenery. Utilising his experience in music journalism, Lee now works within the web team at Dawsons Music, where he can still relay his passion for music by producing great content for the Dawsons blog and social media. Lee is still an avid guitar player and writer.