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I am an amateur guitar player for some time, and I have owned a couple of electric guitars. Now, I am looking to buy a new one.

I mostly play metal (Lamb of God, Godsmack, Metallica, Megadeth etc.), but sometimes I also want to play some smooth rock/blues (John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Bonamassa etc.) Thus, I do not want to be limited by the guitar.

I am well aware that these two groups of artists/bands require two very different types of guitars to play properly. However, I am not expecting to play every song at a perfect level. What I am looking for is a guitar that allows me to play various genres with a decently proper tone.

So, my question is,

In other words, playing Master of Puppets with a Stratocaster is not very pleasing as well as playing Gravity with a King V. What combination of scale length, neck length, pickups and wood allows me to be flexible among different genres?

For the sake of completeness; I will not use an amp. I will use an amp simulator software and ordinary computer speakers to play.

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    You might consider a guitar with a pair of humbuckers with coil-tap switches; this way you can get either humbucker or single-coil sounds. The rest is really down to what you need. Do you want hotter pickups, do you need 24 frets, do you prefer longer scale lengths (like Fender) or shorter scale lengths (like Gibson), do you need to dive-bomb with your tremolo? For a more general purpose guitar you might want to avoid super low-action. – David Bowling Apr 19 '18 at 2:23
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    Not posting as an answer, but you could have a look at the Line6 Variaxes; more guitars in one 'box' than you'd know what to do with. – Tetsujin Apr 19 '18 at 6:49
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Honestly, I think a strat would fit the bill for what you described especially one fitted with a humbucker at the bridge. Otherwise, many people consider semi-hollowbody guitars to be among the most versatile guitars. Though if you mostly play metal, it may not be the best choice. (I personally use mostly a single semi-hollow for a wide variety of styles, but I don't really play much metal or high-gain music these days).

Pickups

In general I'd aim for a bridge humbucker for the metal stuff. A variety of pickups in the neck position could work for other styles or leads. The output/volume of the pickups is also a factor. For metal/modern tones you'd usually want a hot pickup but for cleaner and vintage tones you might want something a with a bit less output. So maybe a hot humbucker at the bridge and something with a little less output in the neck position?

Pickup Position

Another thing I'd consider is the position of the neck pickup. Many shredder-style guitars have 24 frets which requires the neck pickup to be slightly closer to the bridge than on a 21/22 fret guitar. This is actually nice for some kinds of shred leads because it will make the neck tone a bit brighter than it would be which usually helps it cut through the mix more.

But for an optimum thick, bluesy, neck tone, you want the pickup to be positioned about where that 24th fret would be and it can't be if the neck extends that far. So consider what type of neck tone you need and whether you'll actually use those extra few frets.

Scale Length

As far as scale length, longer scale lengths (ex. strat/tele) will have more tension using the same string gauge—affecting the feel for better or worse depending on preference—and will generally produce a clearer and more focused tone. Shorter scale lengths (ex. les paul) will have less string tension and sound a bit warmer. There's no best; they're just different.

Compromise or Compliment?

All that said, it's pretty hard to get a single guitar to cover a wide variety of styles well. You'll always be compromising somewhere. So I'd consider splitting your budget to get two cheaper but vastly different guitars to cover more ground. Or make your new guitar one that compliments the ones you already have rather than looking for one that does everything.

  • You've covered it all. Especially in the last para.+1. – Tim Apr 19 '18 at 8:54
  • This is the one guide that has to be published and distributed. Thank you, fellow musician for this great script. – padawan Apr 19 '18 at 23:40
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For me, the main thing is to have three pickups and at least a 3-way pickup selector (a 5-way is even better, since it lets you choose combinations of multiple pickups); in this way, you can drastically change your tone depending on the pickup(s) you're using (bridge, middle, neck). It's also good to have multiple types of pickups (single coils, humbuckers).

I also like using a short-scale guitar (like a Fender Mustang, for example)-- since the strings are not stretched as tightly as on a longer-scale guitar, you can do crazy bends with it!

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