Best Intermediate Electric Guitars

So you have a few years of experience under your belt and you’re looking to upgrade to a more versatile, more professional, and better sounding electric guitar without completely destroying your bank account. You’ve put in the time and now have the skill to get the most out of a guitar that can offer a superior tone and style to that of a beginners instrument. Or maybe you’re just looking for some decent models to add to your collection at a price that doesn’t make you want to scream. Whatever the case, hopefully we can help! We’ve included a quick summary table if you’re short on time:

Best Overall
Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Maple Fingerboard - 3 Color Sunburst
Best Jazz Guitar
Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar - Black Gloss
Best Metal Guitar
Ibanez RG421EX Electric Guitar
Best Value
Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar, Heritage Cherry Sunburst
Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Maple Fingerboard - 3 Color Sunburst
Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar - Black Gloss
Ibanez RG421EX Electric Guitar
Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar, Heritage Cherry Sunburst
$849.99
$1,175.99
$680.00
$269.00
Best Overall
Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Maple Fingerboard - 3 Color Sunburst
Fender Player Stratocaster Electric Guitar - Maple Fingerboard - 3 Color Sunburst
$849.99
Best Jazz Guitar
Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar - Black Gloss
Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe Semi-Hollow Body Electric Guitar - Black Gloss
$1,175.99
Best Metal Guitar
Ibanez RG421EX Electric Guitar
Ibanez RG421EX Electric Guitar
$680.00
Best Value
Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar, Heritage Cherry Sunburst
Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar, Heritage Cherry Sunburst
$269.00

Last update on 2022-09-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What is the difference between a beginner and intermediate electric guitar?

If you ask 10 experts you’ll probably get 10 unique answers to this question, but the general themes will be consistent. I personally feel that there are two main differences between a beginners instrument and an intermediate one.

The first one is build quality (which translates into sound quality). When you move into more intermediate level guitars, you’ll start to see higher quality and more expensive materials (alnico vs ceramic pickups for example). You will also see a better manufacturing process that leads to more precision when assembling the guitar. The benefits here are pretty obvious, if you spend more you get better manufacturing and hardware which will usually lead to a better overall sound quality. Of course, sound quality is subjective, especially depending on the style of music you are playing. The rough, unpolished sound of some beginner guitars (like the fender squire for example) will actually sound great when playing certain styles such as grunge.

The second difference between a beginner and intermediate guitar (in my opinion) is a concept I’ll call “skill ceiling”. A pro can pick up any guitar and sound great, but they’re going to get a lot more out of well made and higher end instruments. Beginner instruments lack the precision and sound clarity to truly capture more advanced techniques and playing. More intermediate and advanced instruments also allow for more customization when it comes to tones, which can really help to elevate a players style.

Alright, let’s get into the best electric guitars for intermediate skill level players…

The Best Intermediate Electric Guitars

Fender Player Series Stratocaster – Best Overall

It’s no surprise that one of the most recognizable brands tops our list. The fender player strat takes the number one spot due to its sleek design, high quality craftsmanship (for a Mexican made strat) and classic fender sound. The player series Stratocaster is an extremely versatile guitar, and will serve you well no matter what style you play.

Specs

This electric guitar features player series alnico 5 strat single coil pickups (bridge pickup, neck pickup, and middle pickup). For those unfamiliar, alnico pickups are generally regarded as higher end and better sounding than ceramic (though this is really a matter of preference). The guitar has an alder body, a maple neck and top, and a glossy finish giving the instrument a shiny, sleek appearance. The player includes a 2-point tremolo bridge (allows a whammy bar), and a 9.5” radius fingerboard. You can choose between a maple and Pau Ferro fingerboard. Some might suggest there are tonal differences between these materials, but honestly I think the difference is negligible and suggest you just choose whichever one you think looks better. Finally, the guitar weighs a total of 10.25 pounds with dimensions of 42×15.2×4.4 inches.

Sound

Fender describes their own “classic sound” as “bell-like high end, punchy mids and robust low end, combined with crystal-clear articulation”. If you need more convincing, check out the long list of famous Stratocaster players that includes the likes of SRV, Buddy Holly, Hendrix, Clapton, Gilmour, and many more. On clean settings the guitar sounds clear and balanced with a lot of punch. It remains crisp when you add crunch and distortion. Overall you can use this guitar for any style, but if we had to choose a style it excels at, it would probably be rock, blues, or maybe funk.

This guitar is perfect for

Intermediate level blues or rock guitarists looking to invest in a higher end guitar that will last awhile.

Pros

Cons

  • High quality manufacturing and hardware

  • Versatile, classic Fender sound

  • Whammy bar compatible

  • Slightly high price tag due to the renowned Fender brand

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Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe – BEST JAZZ GUITAR

The Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe plays just as amazing as it looks, and it looks quite phenomenal. The look of this guitar is sure to grab the entire room, which is part of the reason why it also topped a previous guitar list we made.  The glossy black finish of this guitar works extremely well with the contouring, giving the overall appearance an elegant and powerful look. The finish on the bridge blends well with the whole aesthetic. Everything is high quality and assembled perfectly. This is a great guitar for playing and a good addition to any music room as well.

Specs

The viking comes with a semi-hollow ply flamed maple body and a contoured top. The 22 medium jumbo fret neck is also maple, and the fretboard is made from Hagstrom’s trademark Resinator material, which is basically a synthetic version of ebony. It’s made from paper and resin layers, creating a great sound and excellent durability. The neck is one of the primary selling points of Hagstrom guitars. The instrument also features an H-Expander truss rod (another Hagstrom trademark design, though not as impressive as the neck) and two HJ-50 humbucker pickups. There is a three-way pickup selector, and two volume and tone knobs each.

Sound

The Viking is primarily a jazz-oriented electric guitar. It has a warm sound and excellent mid-range frequencies. The high tones are powerful too, with a bright quality that is perfect for leads. The guitar handles distortion fairly well, but we feel that it is definitely designed for clean or light crunch settings. Heavy distortion can take away from the amazing clarity the guitar offers.

This guitar is perfect for

Intermediate jazz players. The Hagstrom Tremar Viking Deluxe is one of the best electric guitars you can buy that’s not a Fender or Gibson. It perfectly marries amazing sound, advanced hardware, and a beautiful exterior—and the price isn’t even that out of this world. Overall, amazing pick!

Pros

Cons

  • Amazing look

  • Great jazz sound

  • Great quality for a solid price

  • There are some trivial design flaws, like excess glue in the hollow body

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Epiphone Les Paul Studio – Best Value

The Epiphone Les Paul Studio is a special design from Gibson manufactured in Asia. This guitar is a best-seller due to the fact that you get almost all of the Gibson Les Paul quality (commonly regarded as one of the best electric guitars) at a mere fraction of the price. If you’re looking for the best bargain on this list, this may be the guitar for you.

Specs

The Epiphone comes in wine red, ebony, and vintage sunburst. The guitar features a mahogany body and a mahogany neck with a gloss finish. The Indian Laurel fingerboard has a radius of 12 inches (slightly flatter than the fender) and a total of 22 frets. The neck pickup and bridge pickup both sport an Epiphone Alnico Classic PRO Humbucker. The bridge is a LockTone Tune-O-Matic, an original Epiphone design. The company claims that the tight stop bar technology adds sustain and tone, though we didn’t really notice a difference vs other bridge types.

Sound

This electric guitar has a nice warm and deep sound, especially on clean settings. It handles distortion well, though I’d probably prefer a strat if I were playing anything that required more grit and punch. This guitar really excels at styles like jazz, softer alternative rock, and anything incorporating clean, smooth guitar.

This guitar is perfect for

Intermediate guitar players looking for the most value per dollar from a mid tier instrument.

Pros

Cons

  • Warm, smooth tone

  • Most bang for your buck

  • Stylish

  • Not the best guitar for distorted tones

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PRS SE Custom 24 – Highest Quality

The PRS SE custom 24 is the closest this list will get to a true high end, professional guitar. Made in South Korea, this electric guitar definitely pushed the upper limits of intermediate guitars in terms of build quality, tone and sound, and aesthetics (in our opinion). The PRS (Paul Reed Smith) company has a long heritage known for high quality and great sound.

Specs

The guitar has a mahogany body, maple top, maple neck, and a 24 fret rosewood fingerboard with a 10″ radius. The bridge for this guitar is a PRS patented tremolo, and the pickups are 85/15 “S”. These are exactly what you would expect to find on an intermediate guitar; they aren’t top notch, but they’re better quality than typical low end pickups. While we think the standard options are great, the bridge and pickups can easily be swapped out if you’re looking to shape the sound a bit more.

Sound

If you’re a fan of warm, smooth sounds, you might think the PRS is slightly harsh. If you’re a fan of harder rock and distorted sounds then this might be the guitar for you. The guitar definitely doesn’t sound bad with clean settings, but it has a lot of bite and attack that really cuts through if you’re trying to melt some faces with heavy crunch settings. Overall it’s versatile, but definitely excels at harder rock styles.

This guitar is perfect for

Annoying your neighbors

Pros

Cons

  • High overall build quality and hardware

  • Full, punchy tone

  • Great for distorted tones

  • Most expensive guitar on the list

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Ibanez RG421 – Best for Metal

Ibanez is up there with Fender and Gibson in terms of overall company reputation and recognizability. Their guitars are made in Asia (mostly Japan), and the RG series is one of their most popular lines.

Specs

The Ibanez RG421 features a meranti body and maple neck. The neck is fast, which is one of the reasons this guitar is popular with metal players. The fingerboard is jatoba with 24 jumbo frets and a 15″ radius. The neck and bridge pickups are both ceramic quantum (H). The bridge is an F106 bridge.

Sound

The Ibanez is the best guitar on this list for harder rock and metal styles of music (though if you are really into metal, there are other great brands like Jackson guitars that you should check out). The RG has a rep for high end bite and a bit of a compressed sound. However honestly with the right amp and enough tinkering with the EQ, you can get an extremely wide range of sounds (really this is true for all the guitars on this list).

This guitar is perfect for

Intermediate players that gravitate towards heavy metal

Pros

Cons

  • Handles crunch and distortion very well

  • Fast neck

  • Honestly the guitar looks sick

  • Ceramic pickups

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Fender Player Telecaster

If you’re partial to fender but the Strat wasn’t quite what you were looking for, the Telecaster could be a viable option. Overall both guitars are extremely similar, we will highlight the key differences in each category below.

Specs

The material and hardware used for the Telecaster is the same as the Strat. There are some aesthetic differences, the Telecaster has a thinner headstock and a different body shape (it isn’t quite as sleek). The bridge isn’t floating, so you can’t use a whammy bar with the Telecaster. Additionally, the strat has two tone knobs, while the Telecaster has only one.

Sound

Telecasters are known for being extremely versatile, and are favored in genres like country and jazz but are seen in almost every style of music.

This guitar is perfect for

Intermediate players that love Fender but are looking for a more versatile guitar (or country/jazz players)

Pros

Cons

  • Extremely versatile sound

  • High quality manufacturing and hardware

  • Doesn't really stand out in any aspect

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Honorable Mentions and Niche Brands

Reverend Manta Ray – Similar to the Hagstrom Viking, the manta ray is a great jazz guitar, but also has enough sustain and attack for rock and blues styles. A great alternative if you like the look of the Hagstrom but are looking for something slightly different.

Esp Ltd Ps-1000 – Awesome psychedelic look, with a nice hard rock sound

Conclusion

Congratulations on progressing to the point where you feel ready for a more intermediate level guitar! Hopefully this guide will help you find the best intermediate electric guitar for your playstyle and needs. Ultimately there isn’t a universal best choice, it just depends on the price point and value adds you are personally looking for. While we can provide you with a list of specs and a general idea of what each guitar sounds like, there is really no substitute for actually playing them. Demo’s are your friend when it comes to making a big purchase like this. If nothing on this list sparked your interest, check out this list!

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