From the Les Paul to the Telecaster, we look at 9 of the best Rock guitars of all time!
If you want to rock out on stage, in the studio or at home, you’ll need the best Rock guitars around to do the job. But where do you start? And what should you be looking for?
Dave Grohl once said you don’t need lessons to rock out, and he’s totally right. Fortunately, all you need is a little determination, the general gist of how to play and a good Rock guitar and you’re on your way. You don’t have to be an amazing guitarist to rock out, you just need the right tools to do it and the need to make music.
Why are these the best guitars for Rock?
There are a range of guitars out there that are known as the best Rock guitars, but we should say that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to choosing a Rock and Roll guitar per se. However, there are a few options out there that are better for rocking out, thanks to the tonewoods used, pickups or just the fact that the stars of Rock n Roll out there made them cool by using them in different ways.
We’ve essentially picked these guitars as they respond well to the heavier side of music, are particularly versatile and are ideal for those who like to be able to add a bit of grit to their sound without losing that good ol' time Rock vibe.
These are 9 of the best Rock guitars that are widely regarded as best in their field, and the ones we think are most suited to the title of best guitars for Rock.
1. Gibson Les Paul
We’ll start with the absolute classic all-rounder. The Gibson Les Paul is not only one of the best guitars for Rock, but one of the best electric guitars of all time. This comes down to the fact the humbucking pickups are extremely versatile, the mahogany body is highly resonant and the playability is particularly comfortable for rhythm and lead players alike.
Although it was designed as a Blues guitar, the versatile tones on offer within the humbucking pickups saw it picked up by the worlds greatest Rock guitarists. The Gibson Les Paul has been championed by Slash, Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley, Zakk Wylde, Joe Perry, Billy Gibbons – the list goes on and on.
Again, the major reason Rock players love this guitar (aside from the fact it looks really cool) is its versatile pickups. The PAF style humbucking pickups really shine when coupled with a little distortion, so you can really rock out with your power chords and solos. Or roll the volume back and clean the amp up and enjoy the subtle nuances and emotionally charged notes of your playing.
If you can't quite stretch to the budget of the Standard models, we recommend the budget friendly Gibson 2019 Les Paul Studio Tribute, which works just as hard, but offers a streamlined alternative.
Whether you want fuzz driven riffs, cutting guitar solos or beautifully crafted rock ballads, the Gibson Les Paul can do it all.
View all Gibson Les Paul Guitars.
2. Fender Stratocaster
Since the Fender Stratocaster was introduced back in 1954, the humble Strat has been an icon in the Rock and Roll world. Heck, this thing came out at the birth of Rock and Roll and has been used by the likes of Elvis - The King of Rock and Roll, The Edge, Ritchie Blackmore, Jeff Beck, John Frusciante, Mark Knopfler, Eddie Van Halen – again, the list goes on.
Although single coil pickups are predominantly known for their clean tones and use within the Blues community, the Fender Stratocaster is widely regarded as one of the best rock guitars as they respond particularly well to a distorted amplifier and guitar pedals. These guitars love it when you use a tube amplifier with them, or even a quality solid state amplifier like the Katana with some added distortion. Dig in and the pickups will follow you, responding beautifully to the subtle nuances of your playing.
The access to the upper frets allows you to solo easily whilst the easy to play neck encourages better performance. Whether you’re busting out some guitar riffs or rocking out with some cool Rock guitar lines, the Fender Stratocaster is ideal. Riffs, solos, guitar lines clean or dirty – you’re covered with a Strat.
Again, if you can't quite stretch your budget to the USA Stratocaster models, we recommend the Fender Player Series, which offer budget friendly options that are still widely used by professionals.
View all Fender Stratocaster Guitars.
3. Gibson ES-335
If you’re a fan of Foo Fighters, Alvin Lee or Soundgarden then you’ll understand the impact the Gibson ES-335 has had on Rock music.
The new God of Rock n Roll, Dave Grohl has championed his customised Gibson ES-335 model, based on the Trini Lopez version for many years. And if it’s good enough for him, then you know it’s going to be good enough for every fan of Rock music.
The reason the Gibson ES-335 makes our best guitars for Rock blog is down to the full-bodied tones on offer that add a certain, unmistakeable thickness that really stands out on record. The combination of a semi hollow body construction and thick sounding humbuckers makes it great option for the rhythm guitarists and frontmen out there as your chords and riffs really fatten up the sound.
When it comes to lead tones, the ES-335 doesn’t exactly cut through the way a single coil guitar does, but gives a more wall of sound aesthetic that the likes of Mastodon have relied on to get their sound in the studio.
The wooden block running through the centre of the guitar helps reduce feedback when you’re running a higher gain amp or using a guitar pedal, whilst still adding to the resonance. Your guitar lines sing out clean for days with a weight that tone purists love.
A distinctive tone that you’ll instantly recognise. We can’t recommend them enough.
View all Gibson Memphis Guitars.
4. Jackson X Series Monarkh SCX in Quicksilver
Jackson may specialise in Metal guitars, but they certainly cater to the Rock world too. If you like the power and articulation of dual Jackson humbuckers, but you want a less aggressive and edgy look than the type Jackson usually favour, then the Jackson X Series Monarkh SCX is ideal.
This guitar is certainly designed for the hard Rock world out there, offering two high output humbuckers that will instantly cut through the mix. Best of all, you can toggle between the bridge and neck humbuckers or combine the two for a powerful output.
We think this is one of the best guitars for Rock, especially the harder rockers out there as the lightning fast neck allows you to fly up and down the neck easily – ideal for the soloists and riff merchants.
A classic single cutaway design allows for easy reach to the upper frets and the 12-16” compound radius fretboard is exceptionally comfortable to play whether you’re just chilling out jamming at home or rocking out on stage.
View all Jackson Guitars.
5. Gibson SG Standard
Well obviously, we’re including the most iconic Rock guitar ever made! Although it’s championed by guitarists of all genres, it was Angus Young that really put this guitar on the map. He sculpted some of the most important Rock n Roll songs of all time with his SG guitars, and we have him (and Tony Iommi) for championing the horned beast that is the Gibson SG.
Again, you have a set of gorgeous Gibson Humbucking pickups at your disposal which can be used in a cleaner environment like Robby Krieger of The Doors chose to, or you can make it cry just like Derek Trucks with a slide and bit of reverb. But overall the Gibson SG Standard really comes alive when you partner it with some distortion… well, a LOT of distortion. The key benefit of these guitars is that they are still articulate even when played at higher gain. So you can crank your amp and the guitar will still sound great.
The solid, yet thin Mahogany body is highly resonant and really offers a sonic experience like no other guitar. The fatter fret board may take a little getting used to, but offers a great playing field for chords and guitar lines.
This is hands down one of the best guitars for Rock and you certainly won’t be disappointed when you pick one up as it’s like channelling the Gods of Rock.
6. Fender Telecaster
The Fender Telecaster itself is synonymous with Rock music, having been used by the likes of Rock icons such as Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer, John 5 and Jim Root, the last two having their own signature line.
We recommend the Fender American Original 50s Telecaster Butterscotch Blonde - a classic design.
This guitar is almost a contradiction as the two single coil guitars offer a particularly twangy and “clucky” sound which is often best suited to Blues and Country. However, throw some distortion at it and it shines.
Songwriters love the Telecaster as they can be tamed for rhythm guitar or set loose for their articulation during solos. You know a Telecaster when you hear one on record. And when you throw some distortion at them the single coil pickups cut like a knife.
The comfortable neck allows for easy power chords, the single cutaway design means you can get past the 12th fret easily and the stop tail bridge adds to the resonance and sustain of the strings.
This is a no-nonsense guitar that offers a simple control over your pickups. You can select either or both and you have a single volume and tone – no messing about here. There’s a reason why these are known as the working musician’s guitar – they just get the job done.
Jimmy Page recorded Led Zeppelin 1 with his Telecaster (and released a signature model), Keith Richards has used a Telecaster for his entire career and Bruce Springsteen would look weird playing anything else. Hard Rock icons such as Jim Root and John 5 utilise customised versions of the Telecaster thanks to the sustain they provide, too.
There’s no music style a Telecaster cannot sit comfortably with.
View all Fender Telecaster Guitars.
7. Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet
Malcom Young, Billy Duffy and George Harrison are three rock icons who have helped put Gretsch on the map, so you're in good company when you choose Gretsch. Although commonly associated with Rockabilly, Gretsch has a long history with Rock guitarists and for good reason - they just sound incredible!
The combination of their incredible sounding custom pickups like the Filter'Tron and newer Broad’Tron options allows you to enjoy a range of instantly recognisable tones. Thick and fat when you need it and warm and resonant at all times, you have immense power at your fingertips.
We feel the Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet is one of the best Rock guitars as it features a Chambered Mahogany Body which when partnered with the newer, more powerful Broad’Tron pickups provides a massive sound which responds beautifully to warm, driven valve amp especially. The “U” shaped mahogany neck is comfortable to play for guitarists of all styles, whether you play power chords or bar chords and is easily traversed when you need to solo.
This is also a particularly budget friendly guitar at £399, which means anyone can enjoy the versatile sound of this beautiful rock guitar.
Again, the late Malcolm Young used his Gretsch guitar throughout his entire career and even has a signature model available.
If you're on a budget, we also recommend the Gretsch G5655T-CB Electromatic Electric Guitar which is also a double cutaway option similar to Malcolm’s signature model but a little easier on the bank balance.
View all Gretsch Guitars.
8. Charvel Pro Mod DK24 Dinky HSS
Charvel basically helped introduce the Hard Rock genre to the world. Where Fender Stratocaster users in the 80s wanted more power, Charvel stepped up and create guitars that took inspiration from the classic shape but added things like humbuckers and floating bridges for those who needed a heavier sound and liked to wail on the whammy.
We love the Charvel Pro Mod DK24 Dinky HSS, especially this one in Shell Pink as it combines high performance hardware with an elegant, sleek look. The key benefits here, and the reasons why we think this is one of the best Rock guitars, comes down to the combination of the caramelised Maple neck and Custom Seymour Duncan pickups.
The two-piece bolt-on caramelised maple "speed" neck feels incredible in your hand. It’s not sticky at all, and encourages a positive playing experience whether you’re busting out solos or laying down chords.
The powerful Custom Seymour Duncan Full Shred bridge pickup, and pair of Seymour Duncan Custom Flat Strat single-coil pickups provide a world of versatility and sonic options that Hard Rock players will love.
A beautifully designed Rock guitar built for comfort with a lush sound that doesn’t shy away from a bit of grit.
View all Charvel Pro-Mod Guitars.
9. PRS SE Standard 24
PRS guitars are yet another brand that have traversed a wide range of genres, but they are favoured by Rock guitarists all over the world, like Chris Robertson (Black Stone Cherry) and Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge) thanks to their immense playability and quality sound. The PRS SE Standard 24 is a budget friendly electric Rock guitar that takes inspiration from their Custom 24 line, offering guitarists a chance to get that classic PRS style at a more affordable price point.
The feel of the PRS Wide Thin neck is unmatched, as you have a really comfortable area that encourages better chording and easier soloing. The guitar has 24 frets so you have all 4 octaves at your disposal as well as the PRS designed Tremolo unit for further control and note bending – plenty of options.
The PRS SE pickups are also extremely versatile, able to clean up nicely offering pristine cleans or earth-shattering, Heavy Rock tones.
This is easily one of the best Rock guitars out there for those who want a performance level guitar without busting the bank.
View all PRS SE Series Guitars.