What’s a decent beginner/intermediate guitar for general use including trem for surf?

Horseflesh

Squier-Meister
Sep 19, 2020
153
Seattle-ish
I currently only have one electric guitar, an Affinity tele. It’s a fine guitar, but I want to replace it with a better instrument that has a quality tremolo, because trying to play surf without bending makes me sad.

I’m never going to be much of a guitarist and specialize in any style, so it’s important to find an instrument that is a bit of a jack of all trades and good enough quality that it’ll take me through intermediate playing... if I ever get there, haha.

I don’t know much about guitars outside the ~$200 tier, I spent most of my research time on basses... but I’ve read many times that a cheap trem is hard to keep in tune, and not really worth having.

While I prefer the Fender/Squier look I’m not ruling out any maker or pickup combo as long as it’s flexible with a reliable trem. I don’t have a set budget exactly, but would hope to keep it under $500.

If y’all can recommend some instruments to check out, I would appreciate it.
 

Ralph124C41

Dr. Squier
Feb 10, 2016
6,447
Oh, sorry. I didn't read all your post. I thought you wanted a guitar under $200. For under $500 I'd suggest either the CV Jaguar or Jazzmaster. Better yet, and save some money, a Vintage Modified version of either, preferably the older ones with a rosewood fingerboard.
 

BobWithOneO

Squier-Nut
Dec 3, 2020
626
Djjd
Mexican Strat, preferably one with a 2-post tremolo. Also preferably one built between about 2009 and 2017(?) that has a rosewood fretboard. You should be able to find one used at that price point. If you know what to look for when buying used that would probably be your best value.
 

PangPang

Squier-Meister
Jul 17, 2020
192
Macau
A Squier CV wouldn't go wrong, as it's truly versatile and all. You DO want to check out a Squier Jaguar/Jazzmaster for the look at least. Personally the song of a Jaguar sounds really good special. It plays other types of music well too. We also use an Epiphone casino with a Bigsby to play surf. It seems quite stable (although a bit tight) and needs a bit of getting used to. It sounds great and plays well, just that I find the semi-hollow bodied ones a bit light. Do ask yourself if u need to use the frets near the neck pickup often (like playing the Hotel California outro solo), as they could be hard to reach comparatively.

Now, Floyd Rose....it stays in tune really well if it's setup probably. But once you need to change a string, you will need to find a good luthier to help you re-string plus quite possibly, the guitar will need to have a proper setup again. We play metal and to bring it to a good luthier each time you re-string. Do get a FR system which is on the more expensive side. I'd say avoid the budget FR copies and licensed ones....FR could be the ultimate solution if you want your guitar to stay in tune, but most of the FR equipped guitars are not surf guitars (mostly metal ones) or have pickups that could be off. But, we like using it as the guitar stays in tune almost no matter what. Hope this information helps!
 

duceditor

Squier-Axpert
May 29, 2014
16,286
The Monadnocks, NH USA
A lot depends on what type of trem works for you.

Strat trems work well for a lot of people -- and if that is the case for you, a low cost Strat model is an easy answer.

But for some players Strat trems simply don't work well. I am among such.

I've owned high-end, American-made, Strats and such was a true for them as for their less expensive sisters.

For me the Jazzmaster type trem is a far better choice -- I have two guitars with such -- as are Bigsbys.




This is something you can only discover for yourself.

And if a Strat type trem doesn't work for you than getting an offset style guitar that uses one will be no better than getting a Strat. Such are 'offsets' mostly in their style, not their performance.

Surf music rewards control of the trem unit more than great pitch-change range. Any of these trem styles can get what you want there if it allows you to have that control.

Another type -- and I wish these were more common! -- is the Wilkinson designed one Supro used on their short lived Americana series guitars. It truly is the best design I have yet had the pleasure of playing.

Body.jpg

-don
 
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RetiredNSquired

Squier-holic
Jun 20, 2018
1,962
Canton, Ga
A friend just recently bought a Gretch semi-hollw single cutaway with a Bigsby. The fit and finish blew me away! Sounds really good, too.New for $500. From what I've seen online and this one, Gretch is hitting out of the park at this price point. I could get the exact model if you want to check them out.
 

Horseflesh

Squier-Meister
Sep 19, 2020
153
Seattle-ish
Thanks @duceditor, that was great. (And a beautiful pic BTW.)

Part of my shopping problem is that I have never even touched a trem unit, of any kind. I just know I want one because I love the sound in surf rock. :p

I am sure I would take to one more than another, but when a tool is completely unfamiliar, all of them feel strange so I will probably just have to do my research, pick something, and hope for the best. Reading about the differences here has been super helpful.

I am definitely not interested in anything that makes it tough to change strings, so a Floyd Rose is probably out. Plus it seems like a good one is expensive.

Sounds like a Strat trem may be good 'nuff and they seem to be inexpensive and reliable. I guess if I don't find something else I love it is a safe option.

I am glad to hear the Bigsby and Jazzmaster are good choices, because I like what I have seen and heard of the Bigsby so far, and from what little I just read about the Jazzmaster I like the design.

As with all my gear-centric hobbies I am resigned to the fact that I may go through some gear before I find what works for me.
 


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