The 3 most convenient guitars you can buy (plus bonus section for metalheads)
You have probably heard many guitar players say that a certain brand and model of guitar is their "go-to instrument" for every type of music they do.
Personally, I don't believe there is any one single guitar that covers every style of music, and this is why I own more than one guitar, because if just one guitar did it all, I would have no need for others.
What's a "convenient" guitar?
A convenient guitar is one that's built with good electronics, allows for many tone types, has a predictable sound with no surprises, and most importantly is reliable. A reliable guitar is one where it plays and sounds exactly how you would expect each time you play it, and provides years of faithful service without needing any repair.
Here are the 3 most convenient guitars you can buy:
Yes, I'm specifically referring to the Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster Standard HSS and not the American model, because the MIM (Made In Mexico) version is less complicated, and I'll explain why in a moment.
The MIM HSS Stratocaster is the most versatile and reliable Stratocaster Fender makes, and has a price point that most people can afford.
I specifically recommend a maple fingerboard because it will outlast the rosewood fingerboard version. This is also why I don't recommend a Squier Stratocaster Standard HSS because it does not have a maple fingerboard option. This is not to say the Squier Strat Standard HSS is a bad guitar, but the maple fingerboard does make a big difference if you intend to keep the guitar for a long, long time, as maple fingerboards are basically zero-maintenance (other than standard wipedowns when changing strings).
In addition, the HSS Strat does everything possible a Strat can do in this price range. The humbucker in the bridge rocks out and you can get metal tones out of it easily, and the mid-position and neck single-coil pickups can do all the rest including country, jazz, blues and other good clean tones.
If you want a Strat that will last basically forever (assuming you properly maintain it), the MIM Standard HSS is what you want from Fender. The maple fingerboard is easier to clean and will outlast the rosewood, and the vintage-style 6-screw bridge has more reliability compared to the 2-post bridge. It is true you do lose some height adjustment ability by using the 6-screw over the 2-post, but ultimately the 6-screw will outlast the 2-post over time because it has 6 points of being connected to the wood instead of just 2.
It is true that you can buy an electric solid-body guitar with a piezo pickup in it which will give you the acoustic sound - but - it will never sound as good as a true acoustic with acoustic-specific strings on it.
The best solution is to play an acoustic-electric that feels like a solid-body electric, and the best choice for this are super-shallow-bowl guitars from Ovation.
The particular Ovation guitar I recommend with a super-shallow body is the CC48 model. It's reasonably priced, looks great, projects great, has excellent electronics and best of all is super-easy to play.
An electric guitarist's biggest complaint about acoustics is that they're big, bulky and annoying to play. That's not the case with an Ovation shallow-body. It will play very similarly to your electric and is very easy to maintain. This guitar is the one where you will say, "Wow! An acoustic-electric that's NOT annoying to play! Cool!"
Here's another advantage: The Ovation is very stage-friendly. It's easy to carry around and its electronics sound great through PA systems at clubs and pubs. Also, the Ovation plugs in and sounds great direct to a mixer board, requiring only minor EQ adjustments (if any). This guitar is great for the home studio or stage, and is truly a go-to, go-anywhere, very convenient guitar.
I'm not a Telecaster guy and most people who read my blog regularly know this. However that doesn't take away from the fact that everyone at some point needs a Telecaster. And it just so happens the most versatile, most convenient "true" Tele at a price that's right is the Squier CV Telecaster '50s.
Eventually at some point I'm going to get a Tele (even though I admittedly hate the body style) because there are sounds the Tele makes that no other electric guitar can - particularly in the clean-tone department. The ridiculously large fat angled overwound single-coil in the bridge combined with the "super-glassy" mini-single on the neck makes for some seriously good tone. I'd even recommend this Tele to heavy metal players for recording clean-tone tracks, because you simply cannot get a Tele sound out of a humbucker guitar no matter how hard you try. When you want your clean tones to "sound like glass", one word: Telecaster.
Because the Squier CV 50s Tele has a maple fingerboard (meaning it will last a good long time) and the exact configuration that makes a Telecaster sound like it's supposed to, this is basically the only Tele you'd ever need.
If you're wondering why I recommend the Squier CV Telecaster over the Squier Affinity Telecaster, it's because it has better hardware - particularly the vintage-style tuners which have super-smooth operation, and the upgraded pickups that give more of that classic Tele sound to them. It's totally worth the extra money because said honestly, you don't need to upgrade a thing on the CV Telecaster. It's that good.
What would be the deciding factor between the Squier CV Tele and the Fender Standard Telecaster (Mexican made)? It basically depends if you want the vintage-style 3-saddle setup of the CV or the 6-saddle of the Fender. If you really feel the 6-saddle version is more to your liking, then get the Fender. Otherwise, get the Squier CV.
** BONUS SPECIFICALLY FOR HEAVY METAL PLAYERS **
THE TWO MOST CONVENIENT ELECTRIC GUITARS FOR METALHEADS
You didn't think I'd leave you guys out, did you? 🙂
I know what you want. You want an electric that has big fat bottom end humbucker sound on the bridge position, smooth lead tones on the neck position and a lightning-fast flat neck, right? Right.
First - and I'm being dead serious here - you really do need a Telecaster for your clean tones when recording. See the Squier CV 50s Tele above.
Second, you need two electric guitars with very specific configurations. One must be a "hardtail" with absolutely no vibrato system (meaning no "whammy bar") whatsoever because they're easier to set up, play and stay in tune better, and the second to have a quality vibrato system for "divebombing".
Before I list off the guitars that will work for you, here's a few tips.
Floyd-Rose "Licensed" SUCKS
There is a huge difference between Floyd-Rose Original, Floyd-Rose Special and Floyd-Rose "Licensed". Any FR system that states "licensed" is junk, and you will break it in 2 years or less with normal guitar playing. Even if you're gentle with the FR-Licensed system, it simply isn't built to last.
Avoid the gold
I made mention of this here, but I'm going to say it again, do not buy a guitar with any gold on it anywhere, because that will be the first thing to tarnish and look like absolute crap in less than a year.
Stick to chrome or black hardware.
It is typically true that USA-versions of metal guitars completely suck compared to Korean and Japanese
I do not recommend shopping for USA-built "metal" guitars whatsoever because they will fall apart. Why? Because the construction processes are crap.
In the metal guitar department, the quality of build is in this order from worst to best: Chinese, Korean, Japanese. If you want top quality, you buy Japanese. If you want mid-grade to upper-mid-grade, you buy Korean. If you want cheap, you buy Chinese (and said honestly, some metal guitars from China are pretty respectable these days).
USA can build Strats and Telecasters all day and build them well, but not metal guitars.
Here are the 2 metal guitars I recommend.
I recommended this guitar very recently to someone because he was asking what the best under-$500 value was for a metal guitar - and the RG350DX is it.
The RG350DX comes with Ibanez's "EDGE" tremolo system and is guaranteed to outlast any FR "Licensed" crap. The HSH pickup configuration will give you everything you want tone-wise (except Strat and Telecaster sounds) and the build quality is there. The neck on this thing is also ridiculously quick for soloing. Furthermore, it just looks good.
While most other metal guitars will break and go in the dumpster in less than 2 years, this Ibanez will last a good long while. The guitar sounds and plays exactly how you would expect a metal guitar to perform. It's a true metal player's guitar at a price that won't put you in the poorhouse. And you'll love that EDGE trem system as it is very reliable and will last and last.
This is your "hardtail" metal guitar. Contrary to its name, it's actually quite affordable. It's weighted right so there is no neck diving, and the unique angles give it a decidedly "metal appearance". The red color is called "Dragon's Blood". Need I say more there?
Also, this guitar gives the impression that the neck is long. That's an optical illusion as it has a 24-5/8" scale, meaning you can race up and down the neck with no problem at all. String-through means the sustain is there and the pickups are fairly good (although you might want to change them).
The only crappy part about the guitar is that yes, it's a veneer top (meaning "photo finish"), but who cares? The price is low, so go ahead, buy one and headbang to your heart's content with it.
This hardtail will allow you to thrash around on stage with no problems whatsoever. Note the positions of the knobs and how they're pushed back on the body, meaning it's very unlikely you'd hit them by accident when really banging on this guitar. Also, the shape makes it very comfortable sitting or standing when playing it. Note that the top of the body is carved, meaning you can play this thing for hours on end without your forearm getting irritated.
Lastly, the guitar has a "wow" appearance to it. I guarantee no other metalheads you know have this guitar simply for the fact they didn't know it existed. Other guys have the plain-looking black guitars, but when you break out the blood-red Mockingbird, you'll get noticed.
So there you have it, metalheads. Grab an Ibanez for the wicked soloing and divebombing, and grab the Mockingbird for your thrash-around hardtail guitar.
And yes, again, for clean-tone recording you really should get a Telecaster. Yeah, I know, that guitar "isn't metal", but in the studio nobody cares. You have to play what works. The Ibanez/Mockingbird/Telecaster combo will deliver it all for you.
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