Written by Bobby
Parent article: Best Cheap Electric Guitars
Christian churches are increasingly using electric guitar players for contemporary worship services. This is an area where I have personally served for years, both as a supporting electric guitarist, and as a worship leader.
Here I'll be highlighting some of the best electric guitars for worship, based on my own experience, and the following features:
- Quality of the clean tone
- Pickup quality
- Overall brand quality
- Popularity and use in contemporary Christian music
This is an area of the electric guitar market that I'm particularly familiar with, so hopefully my experience can help you find an electric guitar that will be a good fit for your church and your role as a worship leader or supporting musician.
The guitars I'll recommend can function in either of the contexts I've already mentioned:
- An electric guitar for leading worship
- An electric guitar for a supporting role
In most cases, Christian churches will use an acoustic guitar to lead worship, which means much of the context I'm assuming is for the person in that supporting role, not so much for the person leading a service.
However, the recommendations I'm making here can be applied to either context as the playing style and overall discipline is relatively similar.
Support Guitar Chalk
We support Guitar Chalk by partnering with Sweetwater and linking to products on their site. This costs you nothing extra, if you choose to shop there, and helps us keep banner advertising (which is super annoying) off our site. Consider buying your gear through our links (the orange buttons below), if you like what we do here.
14 Best Guitars for Worship and Church
Now, let's get to the main event.
In the table below, you can use the compare buttons to compare up to four of these guitars at a time. They're our top recommendations for worship and church, based on our own experience, community consensus, and the features I outlined earlier.
If you have questions about the guitars, read on to the paragraphs below the table, or drop us a link in the comments section.
Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster
Gretsch G5232T Electromatic Double Jet FT
Gretsch G5622T Electromatic
PRS SE Custom 24 "Floyd"
Epiphone 1959 Les Paul Standard
Fender 70th Anniversary Broadcaster
Ibanez Artstar AS153
Fender Player Stratocaster
Squier Classic Vibe '70s Strat
Epiphone ES-339 Pro
Fender Player Telecaster
Epiphone Casino Archtop
Epiphone Les Paul Custom
Gibson Les Paul Studio
Instead of doing a bio of each guitar, we've written more info that explains our recommendations in general. It also provides some further context for these guitars, why they work for worship music, and why they might be ideal for your particular situation. If you don't just want to take my word for it, read on and we'll get into the gritty details.
Best option under $500?
If your budget is under $500, we'd recommend going with the Epiphone ES-339 which is priced at $499. It's a popular electric guitar that can handle both lead and rhythm, as well as the rigors of weekly Sunday playing.
Best option under $1000?
If you can go a little higher, perhaps up to $1000, we'd recommend the PRS SE Custom 24, either the regular or "Floyd" version, which is great for all styles and regular gigging.
Most Important Features & Factors to Consider
What matters most when you're buying an electric guitar to play primarily in church?
While it's true that most electric guitars can work in that setting, there are a few features that I like to look at when I'm recommending something that's going to be primarily used for church or Christian worship services, based on that musical style and conventions within the genre.
We'll go over them in detail in this section.
If you're buying an electric guitar to play in church, you're going to be mostly playing it with a clean tone, meaning you aren't likely to be using a ton of gain or distortion.
This is more related to your amp settings than your guitar, but we've selected guitars that are known for their clean tone accommodation.
Here are a few examples:
- The Telecaster: Often played clean or with really low gain, and known for its "twangy" response
- The Stratocaster: A popular lead guitar that's usually played with low gain settings in melodic, lead guitar contexts
- Gretsch hollowbody guitars: Popular rhythm electric guitars, especially known for producing great clean tones
- Ibanez Artstar: An inexpensive hollowbody guitar that produces beautiful clean tones
We also look for electric guitars that can handle both lead and rhythm responsibilities, or have qualities of both. Many guitars fit this description, though if you want to target either lead or rhythm specifically, here are a couple articles that target both:
Since worship can be a lot of both lead and rhythm guitar, we've targeted electrics that can do both fairly well and are known for their versatility.
For example, while the Gretsch produces beautiful clean, open chords, it's also trustworthy from a melodic standpoint, when you need single notes, lead lines, or fills.
The more versatile your guitar is, the better.
Pickup brand & quality
With all electric guitar recommendations, we look closely at pickups and try to get you a branded set shipped with the guitars we choose.
This does not mean that every electric guitar we recommend has a Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio pickup set. Again, we try to target them, but that doesn't mean we always avoid stock.
In the cheaper guitars, stock pickups are almost impossible to avoid, yet we still recommend the guitar and assume a pickup upgrade could be in your future.
For example, the Classic Vibe series by Squier have stock pickups, but are still decent guitars and good fits if you're playing in church.
But if you're going to spend more, we try to make recommendations for electric guitars that ship with a branded pickup and get you something that doesn't ever need upgraded. Regardless of what you're buying an electric guitar for - church or otherwise - you should pay close attention to the pickup quality. It's one of the most important factors in regards to what the guitar will sound like, so we want to see at least couple hundred dollars going into that part of your purchase.
An a more practical note - and an issue that is unique to church - we also recommend simpler aesthetics. Of course this depends on the culture of your church, but guitars with flames, lightning bolts, spiders, or other aesthetic add-ons are potentially bad fits for that type of music and style of play.
We always recommend going with the basics.
It can and should look beautiful, but the more intense designs and aesthetics aren't good options here.
In a church service - perhaps elsewhere, too - they just end up looking juvenile and silly.
Hollowbody VS Solid Body
Normally, I don't recommend hollowbody electric guitars outside of very particular scenarios.
A church service is one of those scenarios, where I give the hollowbody design more consideration.
It produces a uniquely warm and "big" clean tone, giving you a little more substance without requiring you turn on a bunch of distortion. In fact, I always found hollowbody guitars to sound better without a ton of distortion piled on.
Their clean tone is often more full and big without the additional gain.
This makes them more competitive with solid body electrics, and will require that you do some digging to figure out which one you'd prefer. As always, I'd recommend trying a few of each, if you haven't already.
Tone Qualities to Look for
Since we're on the topic of hollowbody tone, what are the overall tone qualities we look for in the best electric guitars for worship? Here are a couple that I would seek out first:
Clean tone should be warm, smooth, and inviting. Avoid guitars that put too much bite on their clean tones, or are too shrill. This will also have a lot to do with your amplifier.
Big on lower gain levels
These guitars should be able to sound big without piles of distortion (as previously mentioned in the hollowbody discussion). In a lot of churches, distortion is used sparingly, perhaps with only low amounts of gain implemented. All of the guitars recommended work well with smaller amounts of gain.
Is it possible to lead worship with an electric guitar?
Can you lead worship with an electric guitar? The short answer is yes, it's absolutely possible.
However, it's important to have a decent electric guitar, which is where a list like this comes in. We don't recommend leading worship with a cheap electric guitar, anymore than we do a cheap acoustic guitar. Just make sure you're comfortable with the instrument, and able to play in a way that makes the congregation feel comfortable as well.
If they notice you struggling with an instrument you're not familiar with, they'll struggle to engage as well.
Lincoln Brewster Example
One of the more popular examples of an electric guitar-focused worship leader would be Lincoln Brewster, pictured below:
Is it common to use distortion when playing electric guitar in church?
What about using distortion? Does that "work" in a church setting?
It really depends on your church, denomination, and the culture surrounding it. Though generally, electric guitars in church are played through a clean signal or with a small amount of gain (breakup).
Certainly there's a place in church for upbeat or heavier music, but it tends to take a a back seat to melodic lines and ambient effects.
Recommended Price Range
This round up hasn't been limited by a particular price range, though most of our suggestions are moderately priced.
The Squiers are on the cheaper end, while the Gibson Les Paul Studio is the most expensive option, and one of the few that break the $1000 threshold. If it's a guitar you'll use every week and keep for a long time, I wouldn't be shy to recommend going closer to $1000 since that'll get you a much nicer guitar, even if the $500 guitar can still get the job done.
I'd aim for between $700 and $1000, if I had to settle on a price range.
Read more: Average electric guitar cost
Do you have questions about these guitars?
Perhaps you have more broad questions about the electric guitar and leading worship? Do you use an electric guitar in your church, and if so - which one?
Keep the conversation going and get in touch with us via the comments section below. We love hearing from readers because it helps future Guitar Chalk readers by providing more information and building a bigger/better community.
We'll see you there.