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New to the guitar? Interested in assembling a guitar kit and learning to play but unsure which guitar kit options are going to best suit your needs?
While, assembly, cost, and aesthetic appeal will all play a role, for the most part, your choice of guitar will largely be dictated by the style (or styles) of music you intend to play.
In the following article, we’re going to break down the most common ‘guitar-centric’ musical genres, including metal, rock, blues, jazz, and country and list the guitars most commonly associated with each.
Keep in mind though, as a rule, the majority of electric guitars are not merely limited to one particular style of music over another, and some genres are incredibly diverse, taking into account any number of sub-genres with different defining characteristics. This is especially the case with regard to metal, rock, and blues.
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It's also the case that electric guitars often come equipped with different components, even within the same model e.g. the Telecaster® 'performer', a Telecaster® that features a humbucker in the neck pickup position.
But, for the most part, all things being equal, the guitars listed below have characteristics that make them sound more authentic and ideally suited to the genres they are listed below.
Guitars are guitars for the most part, right?
If you take a look over the range at guitarkitworld.com you will notice a diverse range of body shapes, pickup configurations, and electronics to name just a few of the differences between models.
While the guitars listed are DIY kit guitars, meaning you will need to assemble the guitar yourself, the components chosen including the custom options available will have a large bearing on the playability and tone of the finished instrument.
When first starting out on guitar, it can be easy to miss these finer details. In fact, many people I have spoken to who have shown an interest in the guitar but are yet to purchase their first guitar assume these variations are merely aesthetic.
But, as we are about to learn, differences in body shape, neck profile, pickup configuration, and electronics are often very deliberate choices made by manufacturers with a specific musical genre or sound in mind.
Starting with the heaviest style of music on our list and perhaps the most interesting from the perspective of guitars, the term ‘metal’ can be a touch limiting with regard to the diversity of this particular style.
From nu-metal to thrash, through to more extreme forms including death metal and doom metal, metal incorporates a wide range of styles and approaches on guitar.
While metal is incredibly diverse, the intensity and aggressive nature of the music is a constant across all sub-genres. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that guitars built specifically for metal tend to reflect the characteristics of the music they are used for in a visual sense also. As a result ‘metal guitars’ tend to have a more aggressive look and feel, in the form of sharper, more defined and aggressive lines.
Aside from aesthetics, some of the components commonly associated with ‘metal guitars’ include:
Ideal for heavy tonal output. Humbuckers ‘buck’ the hum typically associated with single-coil pickups allowing for greater output gain and distortion, making them ideal for metal.
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Metal lead guitarists tend to utilize the entirety of the neck when soloing and focus on learning scales horizontally rather than vertically e.g. the ‘caged system’ as it facilitates greater speed, making access to the upper frets an important consideration.
While not essential, the presence of a floating tremolo system allows for a range of guitar ‘trick shots’ associated with some forms of metal including extreme bending and dive bombs.
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Floating tremolos also include locking tuners, ensuring greater tuning stability when pushing the guitar's ability to stay in tune.
Nu-metal, in particular, is commonly associated with 7 and 8 string guitars which provide greater ‘bass range’ in the form of an additional low B string which is often tuned even lower for more extreme forms of metal.
Taking this into account, the kit guitars best suited to metal include the following:
Rock, much like metal, is another very broad musical genre. This is mostly due to rock's evolution, beginning with blues-infused acts such as The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin through to hard rock acts such as Aerosmith and Van Halen.
As a result, the guitars utilized tend to vary considerably.
For example, Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) has used Telecasters® almost exclusively, which utilize single-coil pickups and are more associated with a ‘twangy' country sound. Whereas, Slash (Guns and Roses) tends to favor Les Pauls® due to their lengthy sustain.
As a result, there really is no ‘one size fits all’ option when it comes to rock and no set of defining qualities. My advice, if you particularly admire a particular band and wish to emulate their sound, is to consider the style of guitar they play.
For example, you may really admire the tone and sustain of an artist such as Joe Perry of Aerosmith who plays a Les Paul®. Alternatively, you may be particularly drawn to the often jangly, dynamic nature of ‘alt-rock’ employed by artists such as Nirvana and find yourself drawn to the sound of a Mustang® or Jaguar®.
Below are some great options that will be ideal for playing rock.
As time goes by, blues music becomes more and more sophisticated. A far cry from the primitive music it once began life as, blues music is now a diverse style of music that is often credited with the emergence of pop, rock and even metal.
Initially, blues music consisted of what we might refer to as ‘delta blues’ today, incorporating slide guitar and often accompanied by harmonica and little else.
Nowadays, due to the emergence of country blues, blues rock, and regional styles including Chicago and Texas blues the lines have blurred somewhat between blues music and other blues-inspired genres.
But, interestingly, for the most part, blues players, including some of the greats such as Gary Moore, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and modern heavyweights such as John Mayer tend to stick to the tried and true models offered by Gibson® and Fender® respectively. These include:
Additionally, slide artists such as Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman Brothers) wrangle some incredibly heartfelt blues slide tones from the humble SG, another guitar that sites comfortably across a number of genres.
In many ways, Jazz and swing music played an important role in the evolution of electric guitars and amplification.
Before the birth of electric guitars, acoustic guitars were constantly being adapted and experimented with to increase their volume so as to be able to compete with accompanying instruments such as the banjo and violin.
This is why over time acoustic guitars have increased in size from the smaller ‘parlour’ sized guitars to the larger ‘dreadnoughts’ and jumbo bodied guitars we commonly see today.
With the birth of ‘big band’ swing in the late ’30s and ’40s and the increasing number of brass instruments being introduced to big band lineups, acoustic guitars simply could no longer compete and borne out of necessity electric guitars began to emerge.
Jazz players, in particular, were drawn to hollow-body semi-acoustic guitars utilizing humbucking pickups, which due to their ability to produce higher output without interference produced a less abrasive, warmer, cleaner tone, than that of the standard single-coil pickup, making them ideally suited to jazz music in particular.
Keep in mind, jazz music's association with hollow-body guitars is in large part historic in nature and jazz can, and is often played on solid-body instruments also.
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Country music has long been dominated, at least with regard to the electric guitar by the workmanlike Telecaster® with it’s unique ‘twang’ and brightness of tone that manages to carve out space sonically that would otherwise be dominated by other instruments associated with country and bluegrass including the mandolin, banjo, and harmonica.
It’s easy to pigeon hole country music in this regard, especially if you listen to modern country artists such as Keith Urban. But if taking into account southern rock/country music also, we tend to see a melting pot of styles and guitar playing emerge.
Along with the humble Telecaster® (and to a lesser extent the Stratocaster®) guitars such as the Les Paul® are often heard in southern rock/country acts such as The Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Remember, defining music is always a complicated business and the instruments associated with creating music are every bit as diverse as the music itself in most cases.
Many types of guitars have also been, at least partially responsible for evolving specific styles of music, this is especially the case with metal, in particular, nu-metal which relied on bands such as Korn and their lower sonic range, thanks to the 7 string guitar which made this sound possible.
Also keep in mind, if you consider yourself more of a musical all-rounder and don’t really want to define yourself as a guitarist of one particular style over another, you really can't go past either the Stratocaster® or Les Paul® which tend to suit a large number of musical styles and offer a broad range of tones.