There are some things that everyone must experience. Places you have to travel, meals you have to eat…

In your case, it’s probably guitars. What about 5 must-own guitars?

Honestly, this list should be 50 guitars long, but we narrowed it down to 5 just for you. These will help you gain perspective not only on the history of guitars, but your own preferences, and build quality overall.

1) An Ibanez JEM

One of the most legendary guitars out there, and arguably one of the best. The JEM’s radical new design has been the basis for infinite guitars since its release, and was designed for Steve Vai, a player who has influenced infinite guitarists.

It’s truly astonishing to consider how many of the features such as the aggressive shape, versatile pickup layout, fast neck, and intricate color schemes have been endlessly imitated, yet the JEM manages to still stand out as being unique.

Many of us have owned a one or two JEMs and can safely say they’re some of the coolest guitars around. If you’re interested in learning more, we have a highly detailed guide on the history of JEMs.

2) A Custom Shop Guitar

There is no better feeling than directly talking to a luthier and planning out a build designed specifically for you and your needs! Many luthiers even allow you to design your own shape, neck profile, and more!

Even if it’s as simple as a cool finish and pickups that you like, being a part of this personalized process and seeing the end result are important insights into the guitar building as a business and a craft. 

Before ordering a custom guitar, please make sure you order from a reputable luthiers or custom shops. We are authorized dealers for some highly reputable custom shops out there such as Thorn, Mayones, and PRS Private Stock. Of course, there are many more choices, just do your research to make sure they’re a good company first!

Make sure to check out our article answering the question “why are custom guitars so expensive?” if you want to not only learn about the process, but how to differentiate a good custom from a bad custom!


PRS are the standard for USA production guitars. They’re finely tuned precision instruments that combine legendary classic designs with modern appointments.

Almost everyone has played a fantastic SE, but a full-blown PRS is the endgame for many guitarists out there! You see PRS guitars in bands like Periphery and in the hands of players like Carlos Santana, and I think that speaks for itself.

Whether it’s a CU24, 513, 408, or a CE, PRS guitars are consistently mind blowing in terms of aesthetics and quality, with some of the best figured tops we’ve ever seen! If you’re wondering what all those numbers and letters mean, we actually have a very in depth guide to PRS models with a lot of hi-res pictures!

4) Any $99 Strat Knockoff

Go out and buy a terrible guitar. Seriously. Find one at a garage sale, pawn shop, Walmart, whatever.

Playing it will teach you both the value of technique, and how to better appreciate quality guitars. Take a look at Paul Gilbert playing an entry level Ibanez; sometimes all it takes is a larger investment in practice, and not a guitar.

I learned to play on a B.C. Rich I got for $15 when i was 14. After setting it up and getting it working, it inspired me to practice. And the years of practice I put into it really paid off when I upgraded to better guitars.

5) A Bass

Wait, what? Yep, go get a bass! Every guitarist should have a bass in their collection. Basses can come in handy if you’re jamming with someone or recording at home (in that case they’re pretty necessary). Not only will it be useful to know some bass, it’ll teach you some new techniques and ways to approach playing that will be of value to you as a guitarist as well.

If you liked this article, make sure to check out our new articles daily for even more content!


This article was written by Mike Azernov, our editor located in New York.

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