The Top 5 Alternative Electric Guitars

From the storm brewing ESP Explorer to the trippy sustains of the Yamaha SG2000, five overlooked rock guitars that are worth checking out.
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With the Les Pauls, Telecasters and Stratocasters of the guitar world having become as synonymous with rock and roll as heroin, it's often easy to overlook the mulittude of other guitars out there. Here are our top 5 alternative axes for those wanting to step out of the usual rock-by-numbers approach and broaden their sound.

ESP Explorer

Forget all about your Les Pauls and your SGs, if you’re a serious metal player this is your guitar of choice. Just ask Metallica frontman James Hetfield who has been thrashing the shit out of one since the mid-eighties. Inspired by the Gibson Explorer, the ESP edition comes with the added punch of doom spewing EMG pick-ups that may as well be made from congealed devil blood.

Danelectro DC 59

Don’t let the slightly ridiculous superhero style name and feminine ‘lipstick’ pick-up fool you, this is a rock guitar to be proud of. A favourite of Jimmy Page who played them extensively throughout the final years of Zeppelin, it has a semi-hollow Masonite body with a double cutaway and two basic single coil pickups. The perfect alternative for any guitarist bored of the standard Stratocaster.

Rickenbacker 481

A guitar that looks like the future as imagined by the people who dreamed up The Jetsons. The body of the guitar is identical to the iconic 4001 bass from the same manufacturers and is no less striking in this six string format. Comes complete with two humbuckers (a rare feature for Rickenbacker) and the icing on the cake of 24 slanted frets to fit the natural position of your hand and increase playability. Famous players include Tom Petty, The Byrd’s and most recently Kasabian’s Serge Pizzorno.

Yamaha SG2000

If the Danelectro is the Strat alternative then this is your Les Paul competitor. Looking like the love child of a Gibson Les Paul and SG, the SG2000 combines a through neck with a double cutaway – making high fretting and long sustains a doddle. Probably one of the most versatile guitars on this list owing to the built in coil taps. A feature which basically lets you transform your humbucker into a single coil pick up, allowing you to get a lot more sound for your money. Effectively, it’s like having several guitars in one. Carlos Santana is one of the most famous guitarists to play the Yamaha SG using one regularly during the earlier stages of his career.

Fender Jaguar

Originally used by the surf bands of the 60s and later adopted by shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine and Chapterhouse, similarly attracted to their unique tones. The Jaguar was also one of the influential sounds of 90s grunge and Kurt Cobain is one of its most iconic users – recording most of Nevermind on one. It’s for this broad range of sounds that the guitar remains a popular tool for ‘gigging’ bands. The body of the guitar incorporates a floating bridge pick-up making it actually a far more technically sufficient bit of kit than its better marketed brother and sister, the Stratocaster and Telecaster. Sonic Youth use a Jaguar to create some of their more unique chiming style sounds.