The Top 10 Guitars of All Time!

Here are the top 10 guitars of all time - instruments that shaped the guitar industry and revolutionized music.

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We have squeezed in all the guitars that made a big difference and we covered a range of musical styles. Note that there are usually cheaper versions of the guitars on this list so don't despair if you don't have the budget. There are Squire Strats, Epiphone Les Pauls, Gretsch Electromatics and other affordable alternatives for the budget conscious.

Fender-Stratocaster

When you say electric guitar, the most probable picture that comes to people's minds is that of the humble Strat. The Fender Stratocaster has simply become the most familiar guitar in the world - bearing its distinct shape and practical setup. Its simple yet flexible combination of three single coil pickups is able tackle various musical genres. Its design was so successful that it has been the basis of many of the "super strats" and rock guitars that we see today. Thanks to its great playability, versatility and its relatively affordable price, the Strat has become a staple in the music world. From the closet rocker to Jimi Hendrix - it's hard to deny that this guitar is the all time best, as seen and heard in countless live performances and recordings worldwide. The 2012 version of the Fender American Standard Stratocaster currently retails for $1,099.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Gibson Les Paul

The Gibson Les Paul is the ultimate dream guitar. This iconic guitar is the definitive weapon of choice for rockers such as Paul Kossoff, Billy Gibbons, Slash and many others - as evidenced by its use on countless rock arena concerts. Although relatively expensive, this guitar makes your purchase more than worth it with its amazing construction, finish and tone.

It's like carrying a trophy and a guitar at the same time!

The Les Paul has a very straightforward setup, two humbucking pickups and a stop tail-piece, but it outclasses other guitars easily with its focus on sound quality, elegance and impressive looks. In a bold move by Gibson, the 2012 Les Paul Standard improved on its basic design with split coil functionality, allowing for Strat like flexibility. The current retail price for the 2012 Les Paul Standard is at $2,499.00. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Gretsch G6120

Although not the first hollow body guitar, Gretsch with the help of guitar legend Chet Atkins overtook other big name brands to rise above the top of the heap. Instead of the usual mellow and warm sound that hollow bodies are known for, Gretsch added a distinctive twang which became its tonal fingerprint. With this sound, the G6120 sparked a worldwide music phenomenon - courtesy of players like Duane Eddy and Eddie Cochran. Rockabilly players like Brian Setzer will almost always be wielding a great looking Gretsch 6120. Aside from its cool sounds - the 6120 guitars feature impressive aesthetics and workmanship that more than makes up for its price tag. The Gretsch G6120 Chet Atkins is currently priced at $2,275.00. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Rickenbacker 360

Rickenbacker 360
Rickenbacker 360

Rickenbacker guitars helped define the British dominated sound of the '60s. With the help of the "fab four", this semi-hollow guitar was launched into worldwide popularity, becoming synonymous to the sound of British pop. Aside from their familiar sound, Ricks have a distinct look that up to now are very much sought after. The guitars feature classic styling, a wide body and a dash replacing the traditional f hole. The Rickenbacker 360 was a common site back then, but it was gradually replaced by the slicker and faster guitars of our era. However, this iconic guitar stays in demand because of its historic significance, its association with the Beatles, and its "jangly" pop friendly tone. The current 360 model has updated features including dual truss rods and stereo output. Its a bit harder to find but you can get a Rick 360 for around $2,499.00.

Ibanez Jem

At first, Ibanez was just known for their "super strats", but they soon started making quality instruments that are favored by some of the best fretboard wizards. Joe Satriani is just one of them, and our featured guitar - the Jem7V is the signature guitar of virtuoso Steve Vai. Ibanez had a unique way of working with artists, giving them more control over the design and thus producing instruments that simply change the way we think of what the guitar can do. Although the cheaper RG series became more popular because of its affordability, it was the Vai's signature guitar that attracted guitarists to the brand. If you are looking to stretch your guitar playing with extreme playability and functionality, do yourself a favor and check the Jem signature series guitars. The JemV7 currently retails for $2,799.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

PRS McCarty

PRS McCarty
PRS McCarty

In a market dominated by the same old big name brands, it was a breath of fresh air to find relatively new breeds, and the best of them is currently the PRS. Paul Reed Smith designs seem to mimic the traits of Gibson's workmanship and aesthetics and mixes it with Fender's playability and functionality. Thankfully the mesh did not end with mere clones, but rather guitars that have a character and sound of their own. Thanks to guitar players like Carlos Santana and Mark Tremonti among others, the versatile PRS guitars became more prominent. The PRS McCarty as pictured is among the best in their production line, bearing PRS' standard build quality and tonal versatility. The pickups deliver modern tones and convincing vintage sounds in one instrument. The PRS McCarty is currently being sold for $3,014.00.

Gibson ES-335

Gibson ES-335
50th Anniversary 1960 ES-335TD

The Gibson ES-335 was the first commercial arched-top semi-hollow guitar, and to this day it continues to amaze guitarists and music lovers with its distinctive sweet and warm tones. The curvy looks and "mickey mouse" ears further add to its likability, making the ES-335 one of the most sought after guitars there is. As expected from Gibson, these babies come with a hefty price tag, but you do get what you pay for with topnotch craftsmanship and expressive response. Its versatile and dynamic tone is the favorite of many guitar players from various genres - of which Larry Carlton and B.B. King is the most popular. Semi-hollow bodied guitars started out as a compromise between a solidbody and hollowbodies, but the ES-335 ended up being a distinct and versatile guitar. The 50th Anniversary 1960 ES-335TD is priced at 5,645.00.

Fender Telecaster

The Tele was first introduced as the Esquire and the Broadcaster back in 1950, it was one of the pioneers that influenced modern solid body guitar production. It was then renamed to Fender Telecaster and popularized by guitar players like Roy Buchanan and Albert Collins among many others, turning into a staple instrument for country, blues and rock music genres. The Tele is known for its bright, warm and cutting guitar tone, thanks to its unique bridge pickup placement and setup that features more windings to produce higher output. Although not as versatile as its brother - the Strat, the Telecaster's unique birdge pickup tone is sought after for playing lead parts, while the neck pickup gives you useful cleans and crisp transparent tone. The Fender American Standard Telecaster 2012 are currently selling for $1,099.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Gibson SG

Of all the guitars that did not make it on the original version of this list, the Gibson SG stood above the others for being the most requested. And so to appease their legitimate request, we have given back the Gibson SG its rightful spot. The Gibson SG started as a derivative of the Les Paul, and was even disliked by Les Paul himself. However that did not stop its unique design from making its own mark in rock music. The guitar found its way into the hands of many guitar players, from hard rockers Angus Young and Tony Iommi to guitar wizards like Derek Trucks. All the essential features of the original SG is still present in the current production line Gibson SG Standard, it features the same lighter solid mahogany body and neck along with its distinctive double-cutaway design. The Gibson USA SG Standard is currently retailing for $1,099.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Ibanez Artcore Series

Hollow body guitars were normally very expensive and out of reach for the average guitarist. Thankfully, the versatile company that is Ibanez entered into the Jazzbox market with the help of popular jazz masters like George Benson. They then came up with the Artcore series, a bunch of unbelievably affordable workhorse archtop guitars that gives you convincing jazzbox action, response and sound. Case in point, the AF85 follows the traditional hollow body design with no sound blocks in the body, at a fraction of the cost of other big name brands. It even features a Bigsby clone - VBF70 - vintage vibrato bridge. Thanks to the Artcore series, jazz guitars are more accessible than ever. The Ibanez Artcore Series AF85 is priced at $649.99. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Some of you are probably asking why we missed your favorite guitar on this top 10 guitars list. Let us, and everyone else, know what you think through the comments section below.

Dean Dimebag Razorback - Runner Up

Dean is known for making guitars suited to heavy metal that are affordable and accessible to the masses. Aside from the typical focus on powerful pickups and fast fretboards, Dean made sure that their guitars are full of personality and attitude. The Dimebag signature Razorback series is a good example, it oozes with the typical Dean attitude - lots of pointy edges and nerve wracking shapes. It suits rock, metal and alternative music, but you obviously will feel awkward playing pop or jazz music with this guitar. The Dean Dimebag Razorback Cemetery Gates feature a killer graphic that pays homage to the famous Cemetery Gates song, there is even a hidden image of Dime on the finish for metal fans to appreciate. This guitar is currently retailing for $719.30. Get the latest price & reviews at Amazon.com.

Related Article: Check out our Cheap Electric Guitar Roundup

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Best 10 guitars - No No No!

Some real surprises in here - not sure they've earned their place - but 2 serious omissions. Why no guitars with P90s - very distinctive sound and seminal in early blues and rock and roll. So you've got to put the Les Paul Junior in there and then why no Charvel/Jackson? They pioneered the superstrat format in the earlier years (incurring lawsuites from fender in the process) more so than Ibanez giving the player a truly versatile instrument that spanned the clarity and tone variances of the strat pickup format with the grunt of the Gibson humbucker in the bridge. Plus the top end Charvels had active pickups.

So kick-out the Dean and the Ibanez - you can get the same sounds on the LP and the PRS, and put in 2 more versatile and influential instruments - Les Paul Junior and the Charvel Model 6

Special Mention

I agree that the Les Paul Junior with its P90s were very influential, even the Gibson SG is fit to be on the list. My excuse for making the cut is to make room for other guitar makers that made a difference, besides these guitars can share the glory with the iconic Les Paul - since they are derivatives of it.

Charvel/Jackson was part of our initial choice because of the same reasons you provided - most notably their cool pointy headstocks which started a trend in guitar designs. In the end we chose Ibanez because of its widespread popularity, impact on guitar music and accessibility. Just like Gretsch, they were able to make the super-strat shape synonymous with their brand name.

Here are a few more runner ups:
- Parker Fly (innovative design and features)
- James Tyler Variax (modeling guitar!)
- iGuitar from Brian Moore (innovative features)

Dean maybe - Ibanez Jem definitely

I can see what you mean about including something with P90s - perhaps at the expense of removing Dean - but I agree with Alexander, if you include a Les Paul then there are more appropriate choices.

But I disagree with the idea of not including the Ibanez Jem - although it was jointly designed by Steve Vai, it was the first Japanese built guitar to really stand on its own as an instrument in its own right instead of just being a direct clone of an American guitar.

Even if you were going to go with Charvel's Model 6, wouldn't you go for the Jackson Soloist (its predecessor) instead?

Best Guitars

Guys - We are going to have to agree to disagree on the Jem! I still think it was a direct clone of the strat/superstrat concept and that the Charvel/Jackson stable were better and more versatile instruments - and did it earlier - and they epitomised the whole 80s big hair and spandex thing! I do take the point about a Japanese manufacturer standing on its own, but I think probably that space was taken by Yamaha with their SG2000 (was developed with Carlos Santana) and the series way before the Jem. Beautifully made guitars and the first production models (to my knowledge!) with built-in push/push coil taps - pickups were so-so. So I'd keep Ibanez for the Artcore semi - that really is a Japanese manufacturer doing something different and standing on its own.

The Les Paul junior is not really a Les Paul in the classic definition - a very different and cheaper construction. Same shape but no maple top and no neck binding - more like the SG really. And wasn't the the TV yellow colour developed specifically to look good on black and white TV?

Could we do the best dozen? :-)

M

I'm not sure...

Perhaps the headline should be "Greatest Electric Guitars of All Time."

Omissions

The Artcore? Razorback? Jem? Puh-leeez! Where's the Gibson L-5? Martin's D models? Or even the mass-produced, inexpensive Harmony models that got so many famous players started?

An interesting, yet somewhat

An interesting, yet somewhat predictable list. In addition to the axes mentioned by the posters above, I would like to put forth the "Dano". And hey, we are musos and we could be thinking outside the square. So why be restricted by the framework of a decimal system? We could have the best 16 guitars ever made or the best 14.

10 best

Kramer, Ibanez, Charvel/Jackson

They brought to the masses the locking tremolo! And a variety of Hum- Sing pickup combinations

Flying V!!!!!!!!

Where's the Flying V? And the Explorer? You should drop some others of the list or call it the big 12. How can you put Ibanez Artcore or Jem on with out putting these two classics.

Influence and impact.

Can't argue with this list.

Best guitars?? No Acoustics make the list?

You should call this list the best electric guitars then throw out the Jem and the Artcore for Les Paul Jr and Epiphone Casino. My other thought is if you are going to do a list like this add some acoustics.
Martin D-18, D-28, 000-28
Gibson J-45, Hummingbird, Advanced Jumbo, SJ-200, L-7, L-00
National Duolian
Epiphone (pre-Gibson) Emperor

Look these up or better yet play them.

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