The question of what is the easiest electric guitar to play has been debated between guitarists for years.
If you are wanting to find the easiest electric guitar to play, you first need to understand the factors that contribute to an electric guitars ‘playability’.
These factors will be explored throughout this article, and then recommendations made as to which electric guitars are most likely to meet this criterion for you.
If you want my answer upfront on what the easiest electric guitar to play is, then the answer is the Fender Stratocaster, for a variety of reasons.
Even if it’s not Fender brand Stratocaster, the Stratocaster body shape and design in and of itself provides some advantages that make it easier to play, and we explore those below.
What Makes an Electric Guitar Easy to Play
There are literally dozens of factors that could impact the playability of an electric guitar, but for the purposes of this article, we will focus on a handful of the most important things, that impact how easy an electric guitar is to play.
These will be explored in turn.
Electric Guitar Action
The action of your guitar refers to how high the strings sit from the neck of your guitar.
This is important because if the action is too high, it can be challenging to play because the strings will be higher off of the fretboard, and require more effort to press down.
A lower action means it is much easier to press the strings down on the guitar neck which makes a considerable difference after prolonged playing.
But if the action is too low this creates other issues like fret buzz so you need a low action that is easy to press down, but not so low that it buzzes don’t the frets.
How close guitar strings are to each other is also a factor to consider with a guitar you test because if they are too close then it can be hard to have your finger press only one string with your chord strumming etc, and you can end up with a muddy, undefined sound.
The Impact of Guitar Strings on Playability
Guitar strings vary in their thickness and the thicker the strings, the more tension they require to tune and therefore the more effort it takes to press them against the fretboard and bend them when playing lead guitar.
So in general, lighter/thinner strings are easier to play and easier to bend and manipulate.
Electric Guitar Neck
The neck of your electric guitar impacts playability because guitar necks vary in height and thickness.
The bigger the height of your guitar neck is the more your hand will stretch your finger to the top strings. Over a period of time, this can make a significant difference.
The thickness of your electric guitar neck also influences how easy it is to play because, as with height, it will be a bigger distance your hand needs to stretch to provide the relevant pressure to keep your fingers pressing down on the required strings.
Electric Guitar Body Shape
The shape of your electric guitar can influence how easy it is to play as you need it to feel comfortable against your body, whether sitting or standing.
Certain electric guitar bodies have rounded/angular edges designed to lean into your body (Stratocaster), whereas other electric guitar edges are just 90-degree angles.
This can be fine in that it gives you a flat stable surface to rest on your leg, but at the same time, the edge can start to cause a painful sensation in your leg after a period of time, for that reason many people love the Stratocaster shape.
Electric Guitar Scale
The scale of a guitar refers to the measure of distance between the bridge of a guitar and the nut. The larger the scale of the guitar is the more pressure is required on the strings, stretching the muscles of your hand and therefore the harder it is to play.
By contrast the smaller the scale of a guitar is the less pressure is required on the strings which means that it is, therefore, easier to play.
Some of these issues discussed can be fixed or improved by taking your guitar to a luthier for a service. It is quite common for a luthier to ‘lower the action’ on a guitar etc.
But things like how far the strings are from each other, neck height and width, scale and body shape cannot be modified so should be considered in your purchase decision.
Does the guitar weight make a difference in how easy it is to play?
The main impact of guitar weight on how easy a guitar is to play depends on whether you will be sitting or standing.
If you will be sitting and the guitar will be on your lap then the weight of the guitar will not matter since the weight will not be felt.
However, if you will be standing and playing the guitar then the weight of the instrument will be felt and this will make playing more difficult.
So make sure you pay attention to the weight of the guitar you are considering buying.
Is a Strat (Stratocaster) or Tele (Telecaster) Easier to Play?
This is a very divisive question in the Fender community, with many passionate supporters on each side. But more experienced Fender players agree that the Stratocaster is easier to play.
There is no difference in the scale between the Stratocaster and Telecaster meaning there is no advantage either way there.
Though the Stratocaster has some additional components that may cause a complete beginner some confusion (extra pickup, extra tone knob, tremolo bridge etc) the shape of the Stratocaster body is what leads most to say it is an easy electric guitar to play.
The main features of the Stratocaster body that make it more comfortable than the Telecaster are the smoother edges, the belly cut on the back, and arm cut on the front, and the knobs on the Stratocaster are in a better position that is less likely to be accidentally impacted while strumming.
What Is the Most Comfortable and Easiest Electric Guitar to Play?
For multiple reasons, the Fender Stratocaster and the Stratocaster shape, in general, is one of the most comfortable and easy electric guitars to play.
The Stratocaster design stands out in that it is an acceptable weight, has good action (that can be adjusted further), and has an ergonomic body.
As alluded to in the above discussion regarding the differences between the Telecaster and the Stratocaster there are multiple things about the Stratocaster that make it ergonomically appealing to a beginner player.
On the top of the rear of the guitar is a belly cut. This is a flat angle carved into the body means your electric guitar can rest back onto your torso and sit there comfortably without you feeling a sharp edge jutting into your body.
By default, this belly cut natural leans your guitar back on a bit of an angle so you can see your guitar neck and where your hand is at on the guitar, which also makes it easier to play.
On the front side at the top rear end of the guitar is also an arm cut. An arm cut is an angled surface that gives you a comfortable place to rest your strumming picking hand, as opposed to the 90-degree angle that many electric guitar bodies have.
Some electric guitar knobs are placed directly below the strumming area so you can easily turn the knob in the course of your playing which can be very frustrating.
The knobs on a Stratocaster are neatly placed to the side so there is very little chance of being accidentally bumped in the course of your playing.
Are Expensive Guitars Easier to Play Than Cheap Guitars?
Based on the above discussion it becomes pretty clear that expensive guitars are not necessarily easier to play than cheap guitars.
You can buy cheap guitars with a well-designed body and if the action is bad then you could potentially take this in for repair and have resolved.
With an expensive electric guitar, part of what you are getting is likely better quality materials but also more time by a guitar technician setting it up optimally (action etc).
So if you do buy a cheap guitar with a good design, there is always the possibility of getting it worked on at a later date.