Sunday, 28 December 2008

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The two main choices in beginner electric guitars.

There can be a fair amount of disappointment when the wrong choice is made, and all it takes is a look through the guitar user reviews of popular beginner electric guitars to see the truth of it.

There are two main types of electric guitar, and they're the two most popular electric guitars available. They are the Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster. These guitars sound totally different, in fact you could say that they are the two most distinct sounding electric guitars available.

I'm not saying that you should buy a Gibson or Fender to get the right sound for the kind of music you like, although that's certainly an option.

What I am saying though is that there are some excellent copies of Gibson Les Paul's and Fender Stratocasters that you might want to take a look at.

Let's first look at the Stratocaster as a beginners choice.

The Stratocaster is a very comfortable guitar design, with contouring to accommodate your strumming hand as well as your stomach. The main feature that makes a Stratocaster sound the way it does, is its pickup configuration.

The standard pickup configuration on a Strat is 3 single coil pickups, a 5 way pickup selector switch, one volume control and 2 tone controls.

The typical single coil pickup is made from 6 pole magnets, one for each string, around which copper wire is wound. When the guitar string vibrates, the magnetic flux of the magnet is disturbed and a corresponding electrical current is produced in the coil surrounding the magnets. That's the signal that gets sent out to the amplifier.

Single coil pickups typically sound very bright, and this is the signature sound of the Stratocaster. A good example of this is the guitar sound of Mark Knopfler on Sultans of Swing. Guitarists who's sound comes mainly from a Strat are Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Marvin of The Shadows, Eric Clapton, and a whole list of other guitarists who's names would make this article way too long.

A lot of beginner guitarists complain about the Stratocaster, and the main reasons for this are:

1.) The Strat is best suited to clean sounds, and a lot of beginner guitar players become disappointed when they don't get a good distortion, or overdriven sound out of the guitar.

It is possible to get a good distorted rock tone out of a Stratocaster, but you need to know how to get a good guitar sound and tailor your sound to suit you. A beginner guitarist won't know how to do this and a Strat isn't very forgiving, mostly because of its treble sound.

If you're into heavy metal then this is not the beginner guitar for you.

2.) The single coil pickups you'll find on a beginners Strat, or any standard Stratocaster for that matter, will pick up a lot of electromagnetic interference from flourescent lights, TV's and computer monitors, and any other sources of electromagnetic radiation. There are ways around this, but it's important to remember that this problem only really shows itself when you put your guitar through a distortion unit.

The guitar was designed in the 1950's at a time when distorted guitar sounds weren't that common. Some of the more expensive models of Fender Stratocaster have improved pickup design that eliminates the electrical hum. This won't be on the beginner Stratocaster models.

Why the Stratocaster is still a good choice for a beginner electric guitar.

Despite the problems mentioned above, the Fender Strat still remains one of the most popular electric guitars available today.

The three single coil pickups that it has are capable of producing some beautiful shimmering clean tones, especially when the five way selector switch is in positions 2 or 4. These positions are also hum cancelling, but unfortunately don't lend themselves to a great rock guitar tone.

Of the 3 pickups, the one at the neck position is the most capable of producing a classic blues rock tone, and a very desirable one at that. The pickup that normally puts people off when it comes to rock guitar tone, is the bridge position. This is the brightest sounding pickup on the guitar.

I personally don't mind it too much, seeing as it adds a bit of chalkyness to the sound. A good solution here is to later buy what's known as a hotrail pickup and replace the one that's there. This will give you a fatter rock guitar tone without the hum.

Alternatives to the standard Stratocaster.

There is another alternative to the standard Stratocaster called the Fat Strat, which features a humbucking pickup at the bridge. If there's one saving grace for the beginner metal guitarist who wants to buy a Stratocaster, it's the Fat Strat.

Humbucking pickups are a special design of electric guitar pickup that eliminates outside electromagnetic interference. They are generally louder than single coil pickups and not as bright sounding.

By having a humbucker in the bridge position and two single coils in the other two, you've got a good combination for getting a decent rock tone in the bridge pickup as well as all the other classic Fender Strat tones.

Just one last thing about the standard Stratocaster. It has a tremelo system, but don't use it. There are a few people who know how to make these things stay in tune when used, but they're not telling. If you leave it alone, it'll leave you alone.

The Gibson Les Paul as a beginners electric guitar.

This has to be the ultimate symbol of heavy rock tone. Unlike the Strat, the Les Paul has a glued in neck, or set neck as it's sometimes called.

This neck to body joint has the effect of increasing the sustain of the guitar. Because of its more complex construction, the Les Paul is a bit more expensive to manufacture.

It's a heavy guitar that can become quite uncomfortable when standing and playing for a long time. It also has a thicker neck, depth wise, than many other guitars, which can also add a bit to the discomfort factor.

What makes the Les Paul a good rock guitar?

The same things that make the Gibson Les Paul uncomfortable to play are what make it sound so great for rock.

First of all, its made out of mahogany wood. Mahogany is an excellent tone wood for electric guitars as it has a lot of bass coupled with a distinctive upper midrange bite. What makes it uncomfortable with this guitar is that there's a lot of it.

A heavier body and thicker neck all made out of mahogany adds up to tons of sustain and great tone.

Your typical Les Paul guitar has two humbucking pickups - one in the bridge position and one in the neck position.

The only real downside to the Gibson Les Paul as far as sound goes, is that although one can sometimes get close to the sound of a Stratocaster, by using some simple electronic tricks, like splitting the humbucking pickups so they can do single coil sounds as well, It's never really quite the same.

To make sure your beginners electric guitar plays at its best, there are two resources you may want to look at. The first - Beginner Electric Guitars, what to look for which also deals with the Stratocaster, and the second - Rock guitars for beginners will show you the best value Les Paul copy

the fender stratocaster handbook pdf