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Have you been playing guitar for over a year?
Have you outgrown your beginner electric guitar?
Are you ready to upgrade and test out your new-found skills on a premium instrument?
If you answered yes, you’re ready to shop for intermediate features and quality. But, what does this mean for your budget? Can you upgrade to a higher-end model instead?
We answer your questions here about guitar features, what to expect in quality, the best electric guitars for your skill level, and we also discuss how we grade them with intermediate status.
You’ve worked long and hard to get to this point, so you deserve to check out what we have in store for you. Let’s get rock’n and rollin’!
QUICK ANSWER: Top 6 Intermediate Electric Guitars
- Ibanez S Series Iron Label Review
- Fender Player Stratocaster Review
- Schecter Damien Platinum 7 Review
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFM Review
- EVH Wolfgang WG Standard Quilt Maple Review
- G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Review
The Best Intermediate Electric Guitar
There’s no denying it – intermediate players often get left out as more focus tends to be driven towards beginner players and high-end guitars only worthy of being in the hands of an experienced player. But, what about the middle guy? We’ve got your back.
Why buy an intermediate electric guitar?
The thing is, most players will run a first-time guitar into the ground as it gets you through the learning curves and the inevitable abuse that newbies are known to dish out – accidental or not. Even so, the guitar body can still be in good shape and you’ve adjusted to its contours and curves, but as you’ve gained some skill over the past year the hardware is worn out and tired. This is why many will upgrade the pickups, tuners, and bridges to customize it for their newly discovered tastes and playing style.
Many mods are done by better than average players, but it’s not always the cheaper route when quality machine heads can cost around $60 and more, better pickups at $100 each and more, and then there are the many different bridge, saddle, and tailpiece systems that you can explore.
Reward yourself with the option to kick off fresh with a new guitar that’s closer to what you have in mind. It’s also a good place to start if you haven’t yet discovered what music genre or playing style you like best as intermediate quality can also mean versatile, all-round platforms.
With practice, determination, and commitment, you’ll be ready to upgrade again, make mods of your own, and clearly define what it is you like and what offends you. In no time, you’ll have a collection of your own that details your experience as you grew from green player to master player. That middle groundwork as an intermediate player is very important and so is the guitar you choose.
1. Ibanez S Series Iron Label Review
- Blue Space Burst finish 3pc Maple/ Bubinga "Nitro Wizard" neck Flamed Maple top/Mahogany body Bound Ebony fretboard Jumbo frets DiMarzio Fusion Edge neck pickup DiMarzio Fusion Edge bridge pickup...
This guitar has Ibanez’s Iron Label stamp meant to provide “Metal to the Core” sounds. If you know your style, and you’re after metal head status, the Iron Label S guitar is made for you.
- Nitro Wizard neck
- Flamed maple top
- DiMarzio humbuckers
- Coil tap
- GOTOH locking tuners
Ibanez understands that it takes more than what your amp can provide when it comes to heavy metal tones. Serious sound, super-hot output, power chords, leads, riffs – you name it, it starts with the guitar. Enter here the Iron Label in a striking Blue Space Burst finish.
It’s made from a mahogany alternative – Nyatoh tonewood native to Asia; different species to Nato. Although unusual to find it used for a guitar body, Ibanez has done it, and it does have some heft to it, but it’s warm-sounding and is an economical replacement for the warm mahogany. The 3-piece maple and purpleheart neck (seen on the back as the middle board) has the Nitro Wizard shape which has been designed so you can fly down the fretboard with lightning speed. It has a flatter radius of 15.75″, 24 jumbo frets on an Ebony fingerboard with a 25.5″ scale length, and D-shape profile.
There is a pair of Ibanez-only, DiMarzio-designed Fusion Edge humbuckers at the bridge and neck. They’re preferred over EMG pickups used in the past, and they’re pretty well-balanced, versatile, and warm-sounding, and yet, the ceramic magnets promote high output for fast riffing. To clean up tone, you have a coil tap switch to put those humbuckers in single-coil mode for bright crispiness and snap. Thank goodness for the coil tap feature because without it and the lack of a tone control, it might be limited. But, it’s often said, “less is more” and you won’t have any treble bleed that occurs with tone pots.
The Gibraltar bridge is a nice touch even if it is their standard, fixed bridge. It’s super low profile and smooth, so you have a green light to do all the palm muting you can dish out. GOTOH MG-T locking tuners ensure tuning stability and easy string changing, and even though you can’t see any inlays on the fretboard, they’re there – well, on the side. Luminescent dots will light your way through the dark.
This guitar was made for metal that requires ultra-playability. If you want a quality metal guitar to improve your skills, it will cost you – ka-ching ka-ching.
2. Fender Player Stratocaster Review
- Alder Body with gloss finish
- Three player Series single-coil Stratocaster pickups
- Modern C"-Shaped neck profile
Fender keeps showing up in our lineups across the board. They have an extensive inventory that caters to players of all skill levels, and the masses keep buying them. One Fender series that starts in the mid-range is the Player Stratocaster line. We like the Buttercream model. . . Maybe because it reminds us of cake.
- Player Series pickups
- 2-Point tremolo bridge
- 2x tone controls
- 9.5″ fingerboard radius
- Redesigned body
- Some may have fret issues
Fender really did pay attention to the masses when they shut the door on the Standard Series and opened a window for the Player Series of Strats. The new upgrades are a hit with buyers, the guitar is still relatively new to the market, and it sports a mid-range price with qualifying features that will keep you pleased for a long time.
There’s nothing bad to say about this Fender, but we will mention that a few buyers experienced fret buzz that was corrected with a minor neck adjustment, new strings, or new nut. However, this isn’t the trend, and a guitar requires setup before you start playing anyway.
It sports a new, contoured body that takes it back to traditional curves that have been hand-shaped to meet the original specs. The body is made from Fender’s favorite tonewood, alder, and the neck made from maple. It also has an F-stamped neckplate just so you remember who it is you can thank for the new design.
The Modern C shape neck is raved about by players for its incredible playability. The fingerboard is also made from maple that encourages a tight low-end tone, and it has a 9.5″ radius that you’ll find much easier to grab chords with. Apparently, it also features an extra fret that brings the total to 22 – it’s the icing on the cake.
The pickups are made with Alnico 5 magnets and were made especially for the Player Series of guitars. There are three single coil pickups and the bridge pickup even has its tone control for even more versatility. When Fender upgraded the pickups, they made sure they were hot, snappy, and expressive.
The 2-point tremolo bridge. Don’t get it confused with the 2-point locking Floyd Rose, because that’s not it. Instead of using six screws, they incorporate only two studs to better adjust for height and can even possibly assist in better tuning stability.
The Player Series has all the right features of a midrange guitar set for an intermediate player looking for quality, longevity, and room to improve their skills. It’s proof that you can have your cake and eat it too!
3. Schecter Damien Platinum 7 Review
- Mahogany body and 3-Piece Maple Neck
- Lightning quick Rosewood fingerboard
- EMG 81-7/85-7 Pickups
The Schecter Damien Platinum series is a well-known line of guitars among those trying to attain those heavy death metal tones while keeping to a budget. What does the 7 mean? It’s a 7-string guitar, baby!
- Bat inlays
- Thin C neck
- Arched top
- 16″ fingerboard radius
- No case included
This Schecter guitar has all the right specs of a Damien Platinum: sleek, double cutaway body, Satin Black finish, solid body with an arched top, and Platinum Bat inlays that contribute to an overall appeal of tenebrious edge.
Then, you have some standard specs for the series that include a TOM with string-thru-body bridge, Grover tuners, 25.5″ scale length, Graph Tech Tusq nut, and 24 X Jumbo frets. The neck has been described by players as incredibly playable and comfortable. It ought to be for a thin C profile that lends itself to super-fast and smooth action. With a flatter fingerboard radius of 16″, you have the makings of an electric guitar that will ring out true when you want to bend, shred, lead, and riff.
The guitar is in fact a solid body made from mahogany with a 3-piece maple neck and rosewood fretboard. You have silver/platinum multi-ply body binding, stain chrome hardware finish, and knurled metal caps for the Master Volume and Master Tone pots.
We see Schecter and EMG combos all over the place – they’re a good match together. With active pickups, you have the 81-7 humbucker at the bridge. With ceramic magnets, you know it’s going to have a cutting high-end with excellent sustain that you can thrash and solo with.
At the neck, you have Alnico V magnets making up the 85-7 humbucker specifically designed for 7-string guitars that brings versatile, balanced, and rounded tones that clean up well. Although you have an electric guitar made to handle distortion, gain, and overdrive, it holds its own when you max out volume without hint of any muddy and blurred tones. Switch between the pickups with the 3-way pickup selector.
The dark and antiquitous theme perfectly matches Damien Platinum sound. As a flawless guitar, we couldn’t find any legitimate drawbacks to buying this guitar even though no case is included with the buy. However, we did mention this is an affordable Schecter guitar, so spend a little more and get a hardcase for it.
4. Yamaha Pacifica PAC611VFM Review
- Solid Alder Body with a Flamed Maple Top
- Maple Neck with Tinted Finish & Rosewood Fingerboard
- Wilkinson VS50-6 Bridge
The OG Pacifica guitars of the early ’90s are back in the re-envisioned Yamaha Pacifica PAC600 series. This model, the 611VFM, is one of the more affordable, high-end models, but there’s no compromise in quality and hardware for the lower price tag.
- Flame maple top
- Teflon saddles
- Grover tuners
- TUSQ nut
- Inadequate shipping
We don’t like using shipping issues as a fault against the guitar, but when there’s no flaws to bring to your attention, we’ll look to other buyer issues. Although there are rarely any problems with damage to the guitar during shipping, it does lack an included case for protection and arrives in a cardboard box – just FYI.
As for the guitar itself, it’s a gorgeous Super Strat with its exaggerated double horns and 25.5″ scale length, and yet, it has a sound of its own. The body is made with maple and alder and it’s capped with a Flame Maple laminate finished with gloss polyurethane. The bolt-on neck is maple and you have a rosewood fretboard with 22 medium frets, 13.75″ fingerboard radius, and a Graph Tech TUSQ nut.
String in-line Grover locking tuners top the color-matched-with-body headstock while you have a Wilkinson VS50 bridge which is a vibrato bridge with Teflon saddles that help prevent string breakage and reduce the tonal spike that’s often an expectant of metal saddles. A 4-ply tortoiseshell pickguard will last a long time and adds a vintage touch to the Pacifica.
An excellent feature intermediate players will appreciate is the Seymour Duncan pickups. You have an SP90-1n single coil at the neck that has an Alnico V magnet and coil winding that produces hot response that’s smooth and vintage sounding like a Les Paul. Sitting at the bridge is a TB-14 humbucker that has full tone, high output, scooped mids, and well-balanced treble and bass. With a push/pull tone pot, you can split the bridge pickups for even more versatility.
This Pacifica is a well-made instrument that is in no need of mods. It’s an intermediate and seasoned player’s midrange pick with value and excellent quality worthy of adding to your collection.
5. EVH Wolfgang WG Standard Quilt Maple Review
- Body Body shape: Double cutaway Body type: Solid body Body material: Solid wood Top wood: Maple quilted Body wood: Basswood Body finish: Gloss polyurethane Orientation: Right handed Neck Shape: Info...
As one of the most affordable EVH guitars around, it’s no wonder why it’s so popular. EVH tops this electric guitar with a Translucent Purple Burst Quilt Maple top where even boys, er. . . ‘scuse us, we meant men, can pull off purple with ease.
- WG humbuckers
- FR double-locking bridge
- Comfort cut
- Compound radius
- Pickup selector reverse wiring
The 3-way pickup selector found on the upper bout is a favorite position for many players, but if you’re accustomed to the conventional wiring of having the neck at the top and the bridge in the down position, you’ll have to relearn your setup with the WG guitar. On all EVH guitars, Eddie used this opportunity to provide a functional system where his selector switch keeps him in the bridge pickup in the up position for when he played aggressively and would accidentally knock himself out of the humbucker. It’s not a drawback, but something you should know if you haven’t yet owned an EVH guitar.
As is expected, the guitar is a solid body made from basswood. The Transparent Purple Burst finish allows the exposed wood grain to show through. The body also features a comfort cut that allows for a more natural and comfortable forearm contour. It also has a delicate, natural-looking body binding and thin quilt maple top that lends itself to high-end appeal.
The neck was made for strength, speed, and comfort. It’s bolted on and made with maple and reinforced with graphite to hold up to extreme temperature and humidity changes. It has a Wolfgang neck profile with an oiled finish made for speed. The fretboard is maple and has 22 jumbo frets with rounded edges and a compound radius of 12-16″ excellent for smaller hands or for those looking to shred and lead solos.
When it comes to sound, you have an EVH Floyd Rose Special double-locking tremolo bridge that can handle all the dive-bombing and tuning issues that come with it. It should be expected to see EVH pickups on an EVH guitar, and this model has a pair of Direct Mount Wolfgang Humbuckers.
They’ve been described as glassy, but never shrill, warm with powerful presence and clarity. It’s made for hard rock, classic metal, modern metal, and anything you think you can throw at it.
As a mid-range guitar, it fits the bill and will satisfy your need for an upgrade.
6. G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Review
- "Swamp Ash body on translucent and burst finishes, Basswood on solid finishes Hard-Rock Maple neck with Maple or Rosewood fingerboard Leo Fender-designed G&L MFD single coils made in Fullerton,...
- Hard-Rock Maple neck with Maple or Rosewood fingerboard
- "Leo Fender-designed G&L MFD single coils made in Fullerton, California"
Haven’t heard of G&L? It’s okay, we won’t hold it against you. G&L stands for George and Leo, as in, George Fullerton and Leo Fender – yep, the same Leo of Fender Guitars. Well, G&L comes after Fender in the timeline, and the ASAT series comes after Leo’s passing, but it has tell-tale features that shows it is a tribute to the man himself.
- Telecaster inspired
- “Hook” headstock
- Tribute model
- MFD system
- Traditional bridge
- No case included
Speaking of those tell-tale features, you have the classic single cutaway, single coils pickups, bolt-on maple neck, and 25.5″ scale length all iconic of a Tele. Although traditional on paper, it has some modern twists to it that put it at the top of the charts where a Leo Fender Tribute should be.
To clarify, this model has a Butterscotch Blonde translucent finish on a Swamp Ash body that shows all the glory of the natural wood grain. The neck is made from Hard Maple and the fingerboard from Maple. The headstock has a distinctive hook design, and everything about its tinted gloss neck finish, 1-ply black pickguard, and nickel frets adds to its “less is more” appeal.
G&L equipped their very own Mr. Fender designed MFD (Magnetic Field Design) single coil pickups on the tribute guitar. They’re special in their own way as they incorporate ceramic magnets with coils on top of the magnet with soft iron pole pieces that transfer magnetic energy to the top. What’s the result? Hot output, focused energy and response, and balanced tone. Another result of this design to take note of is the adjustable pole pieces. Instead of adjusting the height of the entire pickup, you have more control over the EQ and strings with each adjustable pole.
Versatility comes with the tone pot, and they have a very full low-end with shining trebles not without crisp sonic attack. Did we mention they’re hot? To further customize intonation, the brass saddles allows for individual adjustments to achieve the modern requirements of harmonic complexity. So, you have brass saddles that are gentle on the strings and a bridge with the traditional style steel box plate that encompasses the pickup, too. What you get is a combo of twang, edge, and character.
The ASAT Classic guitar is a classy guitar. It’s a must-have for every collection, an upgrade for an intermediate player, and a versatile and yet traditional guitar with modern flair for every guitarist looking for a classic.
What to Look for in an Electric Guitar for Intermediate Players
Who is an intermediate guitar for? It’s for a player with some skills under their belt, the experienced player looking for a daily axe to bash, and even for some beginners looking to start on a higher quality electric guitar.
It’s also for someone searching after better-than-average quality to refine their personal tastes, a no-frills guitar that’s good enough to modify and customize without fear, and for those who value longevity out of their guitars.
What is Intermediate?
In this article, we use intermediate in two ways. One – to define the skill level of the player. Two – to define the quality of the guitar.
However, even if you’re not as good as an intermediate player or you’re much better (not that you’re bragging), you can benefit from an intermediate grade guitar. So, the focus is on the quality of the guitar, how much it costs, what hardware it comes with, and what tonal options it can provide. Like a player of intermediate level, guitars will be in the middle ground between cheap and expensive prices, offer better but not the very best features, and will be extremely playable but can sport features that may challenge you to practice and improve upon your talent.
We put intermediate guitars in the price range between $500 and $1000. To avoid repetition with our best electric guitars under $1000 guide, we wrote up a completely new lineup with different models specifically geared for intermediates. This market is rife with electrics, and you’re sure to find one that will compliment your style, both aesthetically and sonically, and they are of a higher caliber in quality versus their cheaper counterparts.
Of course, you must consider the brand. There are some brands that enter this price range with their entry level models like EVH, and there are others that put their high-end models here like Yamaha. But, you may notice a quality difference between manufacturers. It’s easier to choose between them if you’ve already homed in on what features you’re after and if you’re going to mod at some point.
We reckon money is well-spent in this price range. Intermediate and experienced players can easily justify buying a $1000 guitar. But, what about the beginner? If you’re truly new to the instrument, we would refer you to electric guitars under $500. You can even find starter packages that will help you get set up with everything you need for an even cheaper price.
But, if you’re the type of beginner that’s been playing for a while, you’re after longevity, you want to challenge yourself to progress, and you have the cash to spare, you’re welcome here.
However, the price tag doesn’t always prove what’s best for you. You might find you’ll need to spend a little bit more to get the type of quality you’re after, or conversely, you could find that you didn’t need to spend as much to get something you’re happy with. While it has a large part to do with your choice of guitar, it has more to do with practice and developing skills. An amateur wouldn’t be able to do much or maximize an guitar’s potential on a pimped-out, custom guitar, but a skilled musician has the earned ability to make almost any guitar sound good.
Put aside about $500-$1000 and get specific about what you’re after. You might find your budget more flexible than you think.
First off, most guitars in this price range won’t come with anything. Occasionally, you may get a gig bag included in the buy, but it’s not always the case. The assumption is, if you’re buying a guitar at this price range and quality level, you already have an amp and pedals in your arsenal at home. Now, the question is, can your current gear handle your new guitar?
First tip is to look into upgrading your amp, especially if you’re still plugging in the starter amp that came with your beginner guitar. Match the amp quality with the new guitar to be able to explore the full potential of your guitar’s features and tonal range.
Second tip is to start experimenting with pedals to improve your skills. Pedals can often provide better quality distortion than what an amp can provide, or you may want to stomp around with digital delay pedals, tuning pedals, and more. Don’t be afraid to add some effects and discover new ways to shape your sound.
The pickups on intermediate level guitars are better than average but not necessarily the best there are. The pickups may also be a point of future mods, but they’re usually always more than adequate to get started playing right away.
The first thing you want to start thinking about is the pickup configuration you’re after. You may not have a preference just, but it will impact sound, the ability to split coils, and how well it can achieve your playing style or specific genre you want to pursue.
The most common pickup configurations are S-S, H-S, S-S-S, H-S-S, H-H, and H-S-H, with S for single-coil and H for humbuckers. At this point, you should already have an idea if you like the bright, chimey, and snap tones of a single coil or the warmer and fuller tones of a humbucker. You can even have a combination of both and split coils on a humbucker to achieve single-coil sounds.
The configuration is usually a personal preference as it lends more to a specific genre or playing style, for example, a Telecaster has two single coil pickups in the neck and bridge position which provides twangy, punchy, and crisp tones that is especially great for playing blues, country, and funk, however, it’s a versatile guitar that can be played with many genres. Then, you have humbucker configurations, and even the H-S-S, used for metal.
If you want to make the most of your pickups, get a little more specific about what sounds you want to achieve.
There is a significant change in hardware on these guitars. That’s because they must handle the new moves you’ve learned or about to learn. You’ll start seeing quality tuners from respected brands like Grover, locking tuners, string-in-line machine heads, and so on.
You’ll also see many different bridges, saddles, and tailpieces all designed to cater to various features. Floyd Rose bridges are tremolo bridges where you can use a whammy bar, double-locking features, and saddles that enable individual string adjustments and even tuning.
Pickguards will get stronger in ply ratings as they will hold up longer to abuse. Plastic control knobs are the norm, but we like the metal pots that adds to durability seen on the Schecter Damien Platinum 7 mentioned above.
Creative inlays add a unique touch to your guitar. Fret ends should be rounded and smooth. Contours in the body should be seen to make it more comfortable to play. Strap buttons may be oversized and more durable so they’re not popping out of the guitar body.
The bottom line? Hardware is better than average – exactly what you’re looking for in your intermediate guitar.
Just because you may be through the basic learning curves, it doesn’t mean you don’t have some more learning to do. Practice, practice, and more practice will help you learn how to make ridiculous dive bombs like Eddie Van Halen, how to shred like Steve Vai, or how to riff confidently like Led Zeppelin.
You can also start playing with others to learn new tricks and tips and to help gain confidence needed to play on stage. If you have the cash and dedication, you can also take guitar lessons to home in on the skills needed to refine specific playing styles suited for your favorite genre.
Keep Up the Great Work!
Congratulations on all your progress so far. If you’re shopping for a new guitar, you’re obviously making the commitment to improve your skills and further define your signature groove.
While it can be a costly adventure buying midrange quality, it’s a worthwhile investment if you want to eventually justify buying a premium guitar to match your learned skills, add a high-end electric guitar to your collection, and even perform live and record with.
Soon enough, you’ll be the kind of player that can make any old guitar sound good, but it doesn’t happen overnight. You may as well make the journey fun, challenging, and worthwhile with an intermediate guitar.