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Best Guitar for Metal

Metal, and the styles associated within it are always in flux. With different subgenres and styles emerging constantly, many of which make use of cutting edge guitar equipment such as the extended range guitar, the multiscale, and new technology such as the Fishman Fluence pickups.

Needless to say, there’s an overwhelming amount of guitars that are applicable to metal. So today we hope to give you a broad look at some of the best guitars which are used and abused across the genre.

Fender Jim Root Telecaster

    Number of Frets:
    22

    Number of Strings:
    6


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PRS 7 String SE Mark

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    7


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Music Man Majesty 6

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    6


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Strandberg Boden Standard

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    6


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Schecter Hellraiser C-1

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    6


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ESP LTD EC-256

    Number of Frets:
    22

    Number of Strings:
    6


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Jackson Pro Misha Mansoor

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    6


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Jackson JS32 Rhoads

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    6


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Ibanez RGMS8

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    8


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Ibanez RGD61ALA

    Number of Frets:
    24

    Number of Strings:
    6


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Fender Jim Root Telecaster

The T-style guitar is one that we usually associate with more classic, light, and thinner tones. When people need that metallic twang you get from a single-coil lipstick-style pickup they will immediately reach for the Tele.

Well no more! Aesthetically, people love the look of single cut guitars. As the demand of modern players has increased it’s become mandatory to have a clear tone with no hum that can handle high gain without issue. Fender stepped up with the dual humbucker configuration Telecaster.

With its hipshot style bridge and dual EMG pickups, this is going to handle metal with ease while allowing you to have that classic and timeless look of a Telecaster.

 

 

PRS 7 String SE Mark

Also available in a 6 string version. The PRS Mark Holcomb signature model is one that offered an accessible and affordable (for PRS) guitar that was also geared towards modern metal.

With a 20″ fingerboard radius making the neck ultra-flat for the lowest action possible, a slightly extended 26.5″ scale length which will allow you to tune down while retaining good string tension, and also Seymour Duncans’ Alpha & Omega set which are cutting edge passive pickups specifically tuned for modern metal.

You don’t need to be a Periphery fan to enjoy the benefits of this monster.

 

 

Music Man John Petrucci Majesty 6

John Petrucci’s line of signature models are actually the second best selling signature guitars of all time. Bested only by the Les Paul, which many don’t even realize is a signature model.

The Majesty is the absolute pinnacle of refinement, with every bevel, contour, and control placement being intentional and thought out to push the ergonomics and playability of the guitar to its absolute limit.

Featuring John Petrucci’s newest signature pickups, the Rainmaker and Dreamcatcher, you can take this guitar out of the box and use it straight away in any professional setting as everything about it is of the highest quality.

 

 

Strandberg Boden Standard

One of the newer players in the metal guitar space, Strandberg rose to popularity through the surge of modern progressive music from guitarists such as Per Nilsson and Sarah Longfield. The Boden model became extremely popular for its futuristic looks, ergonomic, lightweight body, and headstock-less design.

These are also fan fret instruments so you can tune the guitar down, and enjoy the benefit of an increased scale length on the bass side making the string tension slightly tighter for your lower strings. While your top strings, that you will typically play leads on, will be at a regular scale length so doing those big bends will feel more comfortable due to those particular strings being under regular tension.

 

 

Schecter Hellraiser C-1

The Hellraiser is an often undervalued guitar for the sheer amount of guitarists it served as a solid workhorse for. We have this guitar to thank for a huge number of iconic metal records.

This is the quintessential ‘gets the job done’ instrument. With a solid mahogany body, active pickups, and a simple string through the body style bridge.

It’s appropriate and functional for all styles of metal and is available in several colors to match your preference. You cannot go wrong with this guitar.

 

 

ESP LTD EC-256

LTDs version of an affordable Les Paul style guitar that is geared heavily towards metal. While also remaining affordable so you don’t need to be afraid to take this to shows and be lively with it.

The arched top body with black finish complemented by gold hardware and pickup covers gives it a sleek and understated aesthetic.

It also features ESP’s own design of LH-150 pickups which are fairly high output passives, but can easily be swapped out with something else if you want to update them down the line.

 

 

Jackson Pro Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT 6

Misha is someone who is known for being a gear fiend, using the most premium of instruments and only ever accepting the best of the best. After an initial brief stint with Ibanez, he moved over to Jackson to create his masterpiece.

But said masterpiece was also monstrously expensive, so Jackson offered their ‘pro’ version of the guitar which is a more affordable/accessible version of its big brother.

But still featuring the absolutely stunning blue burst quilted maple top, simple hipshot style hardtail bridge and caramelized maple fretboard. Which also utilizes the smaller dots inlays which look very sleek. Lastly the neck has been graphite reinforced to make sure it holds tuning exceptionally well.

 

 

Jackson JS32 Rhoads

One of the more classic instruments on this list. Rhoads left a substantial influence on the guitar community, inspiring the new generation of metal musicmans to such a degree that even today many people still use his signature V style guitar. Most notably Alexi Laiho from Children of Bodom.

The guitar itself is a standard, 24 fret, 25.5″ scale length instrument. Featuring Jackson’s own design of high-output passive humbucking pickups.

It also has a Jackson Licensed Floyd Rose style bridge so you can perform all the tricks associated with a whammy bar. As well as the iconic Jackson shark tooth inlays.

 

 

Ibanez RGMS8

Even just 10 years ago the 8 string seemed like a bit of a gimmick and would get sniggers from some of the guitar purists who believed that the 8th string didn’t offer any musical purpose.

But thanks to titan musicians such as Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah and Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, the 8 string has become totally normalized and the number of people using 8 strings is higher than ever before.

So of course, companies have stepped up to offer 8 strings across the board from premium down to affordable. This one has a multiscale neck to give you the best balance of string tension between those heavy rhythms and expressive leads.

 

 

Ibanez Axion Label RGD61ALA

The RGD series has been an incredible line for Ibanez. Due to the demands of down tuning for modern players the 26.5″ scale length has made this a wonderful choice for people looking for an instrument to accommodate all their tuning needs.

Visually the guitar is stunning with the matte black finish tapered back to show the midnight tropical rainforest stained wood on the arm contour. The inlays swap from the bass side to the treble side after the 12th fret to make them more visually accessible as you play leads on the high strings.

It also features the incredibly popular Fishman Fluence pickups which can have both a passive and active circuit for ultimate tonal shaping options.

 

FAQ

What makes a guitar better for metal?

In terms of aesthetics, absolutely anything is appropriate for metal. Some like the pointy and aggressive look of a flying V or Gibson Explorer. But then there are those who use Telecasters and Les Pauls for metal too.

Functionality wise, with the demand for aggressive, high-gain tones which need to sound clear with a thick/tight bottom end, good pickups are a major factor in what makes a guitar work for metal.

Additionally, and depending on the style, a low action can be useful for fast and technical playing.

Can you play metal on any guitar?

Absolutely! One of the great things about this style of music is that if you look hard enough, there is someone using any type of guitar you can imagine to play metal on. Such as Iron Maiden who use Stratocasters or Slipknot who use Telecasters.

With that being said, you will seldom see those guitars kitted with single-coil pickups as they are often not conducive to the type of tones people are trying to achieve within the style. So even when you see a Tele being used in metal, there’s usually a few elements in there that make it a little more appropriate to the style.

How do I become a good metal guitarist?

The biggest factor that will come into play when becoming a good metal guitarist is how much time you are putting into your practice. The demands of metal are quite substantial, requiring you to play razor tight and clean even while using a large amount of distortion. And usually at some pretty fast tempos.

In addition to that, having a great tone is also important, high gain guitars are notorious frequency hogs so having a clear and defined sound is vital to not sounding like pure white noise when playing live.

Are Fender guitars good for metal?

Generally, we associate Fender instruments with more classic styles of music, with models such as the Stratocaster and Telecaster almost exclusively being used in more classic genres.

But over the years Fender has opened up tremendously to the demands of metal players, and have created instruments that specifically cater to heavier styles. Such as the Jim Root signature Telecaster which has the dual humbucking pickup set up, or the baritone models like the Jaguar and Blacktop which have an extended scale length to facilitate tuning low.

These days there are now plenty of models in the Fender range that are great for the metal player.

Can I play metal on a Strat?

The most common setup on a Stratocaster is 3 single-coil pickups which can be blended in various combinations to achieve all manner of luscious clean tones and creamy leads.

But unfortunately, this was not that popular in metal due to the need for extremely high gain tones which would create feedback.

But Fender now makes numerous Stratocaster with the HSS pickup configuration (meaning a Humbucking bridge pickup with 2 single coils in the middle and neck position for leads/cleans) which can handle those high gain tones much better.

Can you use single coils for metal?

The downside of single coils (and also the main reason for the invention of the humbucking pickup) was that they feedback when using a lot of gain and distortion. This is why most of the time metal guitars will have a humbucking pickup at least in the bridge position.

However, there is such a thing as humbucking ‘single space’ pickups, which is essentially a humbucking pickup that’s been squeezed into a single pickup slot. People will commonly use these in the neck position for great, high-gain leads.

Is Gibson SG good for metal?

The SG has always been popular for rock music, when you think of the guitar the first player that probably comes to mind is Angus Young from AC/DC for his extreme Marshall tones. Because of its HH configuration, it can handle those amplifiers very well.

You seldom see it used for metal, but there is no real reason for this. It’s mostly due to its association with more classic guitar playing so it doesn’t fit the style or fashion for metal.

So if you like the SG, go right ahead and use it for metal! it will definitely work.

What scales should I learn for metal?

With metal spanning such a broad range of styles and moods, you will find metal in almost every scale you can imagine. It’s certainly not unusual to see a metal song written in Dorian or Lydian.

With that being said, there are definitely some scales and modes you will see more commonly within the style. The first one is of course natural minor and minor pentatonic, these are the tried and true workhorses of the genre.

Then in addition to that, you will commonly see darker sounding scales such as phrygian and phrygian dominant, and even more off the wall scales such as the diminished or augmented scales.

Do you need humbuckers for metal?

While not absolutely mandatory, it is highly recommended to use a humbucking pickup in order to avoid all the nasty noises and feedback associated with using a true single-coil pickup with a high gain, distorted tone.

There are so many humbucking pickups available now with all manner of tonal options and varying outputs, and even single space humbuckers if your guitar does not have space to have a full-sized humbucker installed.

There are very few barriers that would prevent you from being able to use a humbucker, and we highly recommend it.

What key are most metal songs in?

One extremely popular aspect of metal is down tuning, and as the years pass people have taken to down tuning lower and lower.

So across the numerous styles of metal, you will see songs in almost every key, with bands like Gojira staying tuned quite high in D. Killswitch Engage staying predominantly around C, many of the European melodic bands around B. Then many more modern bands such as Periphery or Architects tuning as low as A or G, and finally, your 8 string bands such as Meshuggah being all the way down in F.

So no matter what your guitar is tuned to, any key is appropriate for metal.

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