If you have found yourself wanting the most versatile guitar possible, this article is for you. I have selected guitars that are very versatile but in different ways, all of which can be bought for under four figures at the time of writing.
Also, I am choosing to put an emphasis on pickup configurations, seeing as that has the biggest impact on tone. Below are five guitar models that can get the job done, all of the jobs in fact.
Fender Stratocaster HSS
When looking into versatile guitars, an HSS Strat is the perfect place to start. For those unaware, these letters stand for the pickups, so traditionally a Strat would be SSS (all single coils). Stratocasters with this traditional config are already known for being able to handle a slew of genres and play styles. From rock to funk and jazz, nearly anything can be played on a traditional Strat. However, if you really want to take on some tones that require a lot of gain or cranked amps, a humbucker is what many people prefer. Adding a humbucker into the bridge of a Strat really makes for one great guitar setup. The HSS layout also doesn’t take away too much from the original sounds, seeing as many players avoid the traditional bridge single-coil tone. While no, you will not be getting the same tone as you would from a Les Paul, having a humbucker in a Strat really expands on what ground the guitar covers.
PRS S2 Vela
PRS is known for being somewhat of a middle ground (or alternative) between Fender and Gibson, so it would make sense to have one on this list. But the Vela goes a step further than just having things like a 25-inch scale and 10-inch radiused board. With this model of S2 you also get PRS’s Type-D single coil in the neck and Starla humbucker in the bridge. We already talked about how great this type of combination can be with HSS Strats, yet you go a step further than the Vela. The bridge can also be split via the tone pot to become a single coil. This adds so much to the range of timbres possible with this instrument, in general, if the guitar coil-splits you can get a lot out of it. The Vela can get you from very warm to quite bright in no time at all, it’s great for just about anything.
D’Angelico Premier Bob Weir
If you want versatility with a really unique look, the D’Angelico Bob Wier sig is a fantastic option. The VERY original pickup configuration is a big part of this thing’s vast tonal palate. With P-90s in the bridge and neck, you already have pickups that can do great cleans and great dirty stuff as well. Yet, these P-90s are actually even more versatile than normal ones. They are stacked pickups, so technically humbuckers, but they can also both be individually split to be regular single-coil P-90s. Furthermore, you have an added middle single coil that gives you access to some of those lovely Strat sounding mid positions. The icing on the cake for the electronics is the blend knob, letting you set the level for most of the pickup combinations. Throw in the locking tuners and Wilkson trem, and this thing is also a great spec all around.
Reverend Double Agent
The best way to sum up the Reverend Double Agent is in three words, simple, different, and versatile. Just because some people are looking for a guitar that can do it all, doesn’t mean they also want a bunch of push-pull pots and hidden features. The DA has two pickups, a standard humbucker in the bridge and P-90 in the neck. Certainly, a pairing that can cover nearly all music in one way or another. As far as the controls go you get three knobs, master tone, master volume, and Reverend’s bass contour control. This bass contour knob when combined with a hum and P-90 yields a lot of variation in terms of the instrument’s tone. If you are playing with a lot of different gain levels the contour makes for a very useful tool in tweaking how much low-end you are pushing out. And yes, this guitar also has great features like locking tuners, a roasted neck, and rock-solid hardware that add to the appeal of this axe.
I am concluding this list with a guitar model that may be a surprise to those unfamiliar with it. Teles are fantastic for covering a wide array of styles and genres. I always hate when people try to pigeonhole them into just being a country-rock guitar. Rock, metal, blues, jazz, soul, fusion, and yes country can be and have been played on a Tele. The stock T-Style pickup configuration is a simple one that with a little use of the tone knob can accomplish a lot. I’ll admit that Telecasters are not the absolute most versatile guitars out there, but they are workhorses that will do what you need them to. It is kind of crazy to think that the first solid-body electric guitar design is still so relevant today, I guess Leo knew what he was doing!
That does it, five guitar models, that enable you to get a massive amount of tonal variety. Any of these six strings should aid you in getting whatever sound you hope to achieve. And truthfully, you can play anything on anything, it just comes down to your fingers. But as tone junkies, we are all well aware that some guitars can do some things better than other ones. While none of the above guitars are objectively “perfect”, they are exactly what many players want. From crazy electronics to great pickup designs, versatility comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. All that’s left to decide is what fits you best.