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I'm a home musician. I don't have a band and I don't do live gigs. I'm looking for a cheap electric guitar I could use for home recording. Since I won't be playing live or on a real amp, I want to know what I should look for in a guitar to be good enough to record using a computer, benefiting from the power I'd have with software amp simulation and effects.

It doesn't need to be beautiful. I know I can replace the electric parts in the future (like the pickups, for example) so I just want to know what I should look for in the build construction or something like that.

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4 Answers 4

This answer summarizes most of my advice for choosing an electric guitar.

When I go looking for a guitar, I check the following specifics:

  • Run your hand up and down the neck. Does your skin catch on the ends of frets? That's bad.
  • Look at the surface of the neck closely - are there sharpie marks showing? That's bad.
  • Sight down the neck. Does it bow excessively one way or another? Twist? That's bad.
  • Feel the heel. Is it abrupt and uncomfortable? Does it limit your access to the high frets? That's bad.
  • Try the knobs and switches. Do they wiggle or rattle? That's bad.
  • Try the jack. Is it loose or scratchy? That's bad.
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1  
As an aside, I have never been unhappy with an Ibanez. I cannot imagine you'll find a better electric under $200. –  gomad Apr 28 '11 at 19:27

As well as the excellent points that gomad made, I would ensure that the pickups etc. on the guitar don't have excessive hum. Nothing will kill a good recording more than unnecessary noise or hum. For that reason, humbuckers might be a better choice, but better quality single coil pickups should be OK.

Make sure also that the volume and tone pots aren't noisy or scratchy when you adjust them. Cheaper guitars tend to have these problems due to cheaper electronic parts and lack of shielding.

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The hum can come from the cables, the amplifier, ambient em-fields etc, so this can be difficult to be sure of. However, by using the same everything else, and multiple guitars, you will have a baseline. –  horatio Apr 28 '11 at 16:08
    
Excellent points, CyberFerret! You are right. My "how it feels is more important than how it sounds" bias is showing! I guess I assume a certain baseline of quality is established and then a choice is made! –  gomad Apr 28 '11 at 17:23

I bought a cheap guitar (60 Euro) for my home recording stuff. Dont expect a clean or tight sound. But you can change the pickups. The worst thing of this cheap guitar is that the high notes do not ring clear. Don't make a mistake and check that all string sound clean on the highest notes.

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Most online musicstores offer good models for a better price then local retailers. I suggest that if you buy locally that you demand a good preparation of the guiter. When a cheap guitar is configured properly you will have a very good sound, no fret buzz and good sustain. If you buy online then let your guiter setup by a qualified local technician for a few bucks. If the guitar arives with strings already mounted then I recommend to let these strings immediately be changes with a new set.

If you are thinking about high gain scenario's like rock then I recommend a guiter with humbuckers which is usually indicated with HSH (humbucker, single coil, humbucker) for stratocaster models. If your main usage is more blues, funk, country oriented then I recommend single coils are these give a better clean tone.

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