Beyond the limits – why should you buy a guitar for metal
If you’re interested in a new genre you can’t always continue with your old gear. For starters you can’t play metal on an acoustic and even though electric guitars have many similar features, metal music has unique requirements. For this genre you must be able to slide across the frets quickly and you need your guitar to respond when you want distortion. This means you need a uniquely designed neck (smooth and narrow for your fingers to easily reach) and it must have appropriate hardware. Look at the ESP LTD Deluxe EC1000QM above as an example. The pickups make all the difference, which you won’t find on all electric models. Therefore, you won’t get that metal vibe with your acoustic guitar of course, and not even all electric guitars will give you what you want. If you want to perform optimally in a certain genre your gear must align with that goal.
Go heavier. Main points of choosing a guitar for metal
There are many aspects that determine a guitar’s worth and we’ll discuss some of them more in detail below. However, if you quickly want to gauge a guitar for metal playing, some of the main points are:
- Make sure it’s of solid construction.
- Prioritize well known brands so you know you’re buying quality and your warranty will be honored. In this genre you can trust brands such as Gibson, Scheckter and PRS.
- Pick a style: Do you want a six string, which is ideal for everyone including beginners? A seven or eight string will be challenging, but an exciting venture for a skilled guitarist.
- Before you shop, know what you want, such as a bridge, the length you feel comfortable with and the electronics required.
When you start off with a list of what you’re after, you’ll keep to your budget and get what you want instead of being side tracked by marketing talk.
Judge the guitar by its shape
Yes, aesthetics do matter. You want to be inspired every time you see your guitar, don’t you? Even the right color can inspire. That’s why you should listen to your gut and pick something you love the moment you see it. There are some aesthetics that have practical value too: cutaways make it easier to reach higher notes, but this isn’t essential. If you know you’ll play many fast solos though, you may put this feature higher on your priority list.
Features to consider while choosing the best guitar for metal
Every guitar is different and you need one that matches your personal requirements as well as the genre’s. It’s best to decide what you want before you start shopping. That way you’re not swayed by marketing jargon, but end up picking the dynamic instrument that’s relevant to your musical journey. Here’s what you need to consider.
Size and weight
The size and weight of your guitar will determine how comfortable you feel playing it. If you’re only playing at home you’re probably sitting. As long as you can easily reach high on the neck, you’ll be fine. The requirements change when you perform with a band or on stage often. You’ll get tired fairly quickly jumping around with a heavy guitar such as the Fender Jim Root Telecaster mentioned above. Make sure it’s a manageable weight, while still being of good construction.
The length can be 24.75” or even 25.5”. The shorter the neck the easier playability you’ll have. However, a longer design will add features such as tight response. Longer necks become more difficult to play especially if you have small hands, as it’s challenging to reach everywhere. Bass guitars on the other hand are the whole other deal, so we suggest you take a look at our pick – the Ibanez SR505BM.
The wood of your guitar determines the tone you’ll get. For most experts the preferred wood for metal guitars is mahogany because it resonates well. However, it’s a more expensive option. If it doesn’t fit your budget you can opt for the more affordable basswood. It’s less durable, but does give excellent tone.
As with many features, the bridge is about your personal preference. The Floyd Rose on the B.C. RICH Mk7-WL-TCB Warlock and Jackson Pro Soloist SL2Q MAH are excellent examples: not everyone prefers it, but some love it. If you want sustain, go with a fixed bridge, but a vibrato type will give your play amazing character. Also remember your bridge determines how easy it is to restring.
Brands may brag about the strings they provide, but the ones you receive with your guitar are usually test strings. You should replace them as soon as you can.
From then on replace all strings at once as soon as:
- One breaks
- They seem dirty
- They don’t tune anymore
But what to buy? For metal playing you need a thicker gauge, anything above .010-.052. It’s worth investing in high end strings, or else you’ll have to replace them often. Therefore you don’t save money in the long run by buying cheap.
A protective coating will prevent rust and can make your strings last five times longer than usual. Also consider making a visual impression in every way possible and opt for colored strings.
You can only string a seven string guitar with an appropriate set—don’t try to substitute that seventh one from a different pack you have on hand.
These components pick up mechanical vibrations and convert them into electrical signals. Humbucker pickups with two coils are popular among metal players because they produce thick sounds.
You can opt for active or passive pickups with both performing well at high volume; The latter will sound more organic though. This is an important choice if you’re the lead player in your band. Your sound will be very prominent, so decide what you want your audience to hear.
Fretboard and frets
Guitars differ in the number of frets they have. There’s no perfect number, although you should at least have more than 12. In general there will be around 22 on an electric guitar. The more frets the wider your range of notes become, but more isn’t always better: If a fretboard is too long the pickups won’t have an effect on the far reaching ones anymore. Tip on buying: Make sure the cutaway is well placed so you can easily reach upper frets.
The back of the guitar neck can be shaped in a range of forms. A popular choice is the U-neck. Make sure the neck is thin to make it easier to reach and therefore speed up your playing. Look for satin finishes that will help your hand glide along the wood
There are many types of electronic control knobs and switches you can get. Not everything is essential, but volume and tone should be standard. For more advanced playing you will enjoy EQ adjusting and phase switching.
As stated above only you can decide which design you prefer: The shape, color and finish. Don’t pick something because it’s a trend. You have to be comfortable with how it looks so you’ll love showing it off on stage. Remember to look at details such as Mother or Pearl inlays. They enhance the overall look, making them worthwhile investments. Just look at the Gibson USA Flying V 2017 HP above to see proof.
Something as simple as a guitar pick or a guitar strap can determine how well you play. Make sure the strap fits comfortable and doesn’t chafe you. You also want it to slide over fabric without snagging.
Your pick must suite your playing style:
- A stiffer one to do precise picking, this often works for death metal
- You need a pointy version if you love fast shredding
- Experienced metal players prefer light ones
Also note the thumb hold area for a comfortable grip.
Warranties on guitars vary a lot. You can get short ones for a few months, or even lifetime coverage. However, changes to your guitar such as adding a different pickup will affect this or even cancel it completely.