There’s a certain irony of a curated list of best punk guitars. After all, if punk rejects authority, then any guitar – the more battered, the better – works. But not everyone has the devil-may-care attitude of Sid Vicious when it comes to gear and technique.
From hardcore and Oi! to emo and pop-punk, there are a few considerations to take when looking for a punk rock guitar. Good punk guitars have to be: aggressive and high-output, geared towards strumming power chords, and unfussy and uncomplicated. Almost all the guitars in this list retail for under $1,000, too, as affordability should be a top priority for true-blue punk rockers.
1G&L Tribute Fallout
Emitting the kind of cool that Devo’s Bob Mothersbaugh and Wire’s Colin Newman have in spades, the G&L Tribute Fallout is a guitar for those who lean on the more eccentric end of post-punk or new wave. That’s partly to do with its rad shape and unique pickup combination that ensures its bite is as potent as its bark.
- Gorgeous design with plenty of slick details
- P-90 and coil-split humbucker combination for versatility
- Fuss-free controls
- Retails for under $450
This is a straight-up six-string that isn’t for knob-twisters and tone-hunters. The Fallout is based on G&L’s 80s-era model, the SC-2, and shares its predecessor’s light weight, easy playability, simplicity and hardiness. In other words: it’s a punk guitar through and through.
According to the brand, the Fallout is designed for “dirty riffs” and “jangly hooks”. That comes through via the pair of Paul Gagon-designed alnico V pickups. A neck P-90 (AP4285B) yields that aggressive bark, while a splittable bridge humbucker (AW4470B) is hot enough for raucous, garage-y tones. And the simple controls – a three-way pickup selector plus master volume and tone knobs – make dialling in a sound quick and hassle-free.
Those pickups are complemented by the Fallout’s tonewoods and hardware. The guitar has a thin, contoured mahogany body, a C-shaped hard rock maple neck, and a maple or Brazilian cherry fretboard. Finally, a G&L Saddle Lock bridge keeps your strings vibrating and increases sustain.
2Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster HH
Yes, classic Jazzmasters are beauties, but a punk could do without their complex circuitry and admittedly troublesome bridge. Enter the Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster HH. The guitar is a stripped-down rendition of a vintage-spec’ed Jazzmaster, sacrificing configurability for simplicity, aggressiveness and affordability. Which make it one of the best punk guitars around.
- Vintage Jazzmaster looks
- Two humbuckers for fatter tones
- Six-saddle hardtail bridge for tuning stability
- Retails for under $200
The Squier Affinity Jazzmaster is a guitar to simply sling on and rock out with – no fiddling with dials and switches necessary. Its two surprisingly hot Squier humbuckers are wired to a simple three-way pickup selector switch, and master volume and tone knobs. While it doesn’t possess the refinement or pristine sounds of other Fenders, this Jazzmaster is all about those distorted tones for blood-and-guts rock and punk.
Its construction matches the simplicity of its circuitry. A one-piece C-shaped maple neck, with a satin finish, is comfortable in your hands, especially if you’re playing hard and fast over extended periods. A 12-inch-radius rosewood fretboard makes it favorable for modern guitarists, and a six-saddle hardtail bridge keeps the guitar in tune better than an original Jazzmaster’s screw-type saddles would.
3Reverend Super Rev
Like the 70s-era muscle cars it resembles, the Reverend Super Rev is loud and abrasive – it’s not trying to be the most refined instrument around. Thick and fat tones thanks to a single Railhammer humbucker, and fuss-free playability make this retro six-string an ideal punk rock guitar.
- Railhammer humbucker produces punchy and clear tones
- Bass Contour knob changes the voice of the pickup
- Pin-lock tuners enhance tuning stability
- Like all Reverend guitars, the Super Rev has high-quality electronic components
- Retails for $1,099
At the heart of the Super Rev is a single Railhammer Alnico Grande humbucker that’s developed by Reverend founder Joe Naylor. It’s been wound hot to achieve a fat, round sound that’s characteristic of the best punk guitars. Rails under wound strings and poles under plain strings serve to enhance clarity, so you’re both loud and clear.
A Bass Contour knob, which appears on almost all Reverend guitars, gives the single-pickup configuration a little more versatility. It’s a passive bass cut that can tighten up your low end and even elicit single-coil tones from the Railhammer humbucker.
The Super Rev is also the only guitar on this list that has both a korina neck and body. The tonewood, which has been used on such legendary guitars as the Gibson Flying V, has a sweet midrange and fantastic responsiveness. Furthermore, it’s lighter than its closest relative, mahogany, so swinging this around on stage won’t be a back-breaking affair.
And you can’t deny that those racing stripes and bold finishes – it’s available in lime, orange and yellow – will command the attention of the crowd.
4Gibson Les Paul Junior 2018
Here’s a punk icon if there ever was one. Released in 1954 as a student guitar, the Gibson Les Paul Junior came into its own in the late 60s and early 70s when garage and punk rockers started picking it up. Unfortunately, this boom also resulted in an inflated price tag, but its no-nonsense nature and undeniable power have earned it a spot among the best punk guitars.
- Slab Mahogany body and neck
- A single high-output dog-eared P-90 provides great bite and snarl
- Single volume and single tone knobs
- Retails for $1,429
There’s nothing fancy on the Les Paul Junior – it’s designed to be as robust and simple as possible. Right away you’ll notice that this Les Paul sports a flat top instead of the more commonly seen arched top. And, just like when it was introduced in ’54, the guitar features a solid slab mahogany body and neck.
If you’re wondering what kind of tone the P-90 provides, just listen to Billy Joe Armstrong’s, Paul Westerberg’s and Mick Jones’ work. That ought to give you an idea, but think snarling distortion with a dash of crunchiness thrown in for good measure.
There aren’t many other features on the Les Paul Junior, but then again, that’s what makes it such a great guitar for punk rock. A single knob for volume and another for tone is all you need to tinker with. Both pots feature black caps and dial pointers, keeping to Les Paul Junior tradition.
With this six-string, you get the quality of a real Gibson at a comparatively low price tag. Sure it tops this list in terms of price, but you truly get what you pay for: a high-output guitar that’s just as eager to chomp on punk riffs as it is to slide into electric blues.
5Squier Bullet Mustang HH
Don’t think of the Squier Bullet Mustang HH as a cheaper alternative to a Mustang – it’s a beast of its own. A beast that will put you a mere $150 out of pocket. And for that price, you’ll get a solid, if barebones, guitar that’s best employed for brasher, ‘looser’ types of rock – just like punk.
- Lightweight, with a thin body and quirky shape
- Fuss-free controls and simplified circuitry
- High-output humbuckers that work better distorted
- Retails for $150
Everything on this made-in-Asia guitar makes it a great punk machine. It has a basswood body, one-piece satin-finished maple neck with a C-shaped profile, a flat 12-inch fretboard radius, and a 24-inch scale length. The shorter scale results in a ‘looser’ string feel – in standard tuning, at least – that lends itself well to the powerchords of punk.
Over on the electronics side, the Bullet Mustang has two hot humbuckers that sound as fat and creamy as budget pickups can get. Even when played clean, the guitar’s urging you to hit that distortion pedal. And with a simplified set of controls – three-way pickup selector switch plus master volume and tone knobs – this axe is punk-ready right out of the box.
If this one seems familiar, that’s because it’s an upgrade of the older Jimmy Page model. The ’59XT is, thanks to its pickups, a more aggressive beast altogether. Ramones fans, new wave musicians, and other punk rockers with a flair for vintage aesthetics will find a home for this affordable, retrolicious guitar.
- Vintage-inspired good looks
- High-output P-90 (neck) and classic lipstick humbuckers (bridge)
- Wilkinson tremolo for added versatility
- Maple neck and rosewood fretboard on a semi-hollow body
- Retails for $499
Snobs may scoff at the ’59XT’s chambered Masonite body. But plug the guitar in, crank up the amp, and the rich, fat and velvety tones that it’s capable of will zip the lips of any naysayer.
Those sounds come courtesy of the guitar’s unique pickup configuration of a P-90 at the neck and lipstick humbucker at the bridge. Both pickups, which are offset, are aggressive and growling with a musical midrange bump. The lipstick humbucker has also been coil-split, so you can use it as a single-coil, too.
But due to the semi-hollow body, you don’t want to pile on excessive amounts of gain. Just a moderate amount is enough to dial in that Velvet Underground gristle, Television snarl and Echo & the Bunnymen insouciance.
The latter – particularly that ringing vibrato chord on Killing Moon – is also easy to execute on the ’59XT due to its Wilkinson tremolo. It’s a sensitive trem system, and allows for deep dives and pitch changes that appear more frequently on post-punk, new wave and even no wave songs.
7Fender Deluxe Strat HSS
If you love adding cleaner, chiming passages to the usual hard-strumming punk rock romp, here’s a Fat Strat for you. The Fender Deluxe Strat HSS swaps a bridge single-coil for a humbucker, leaving you with the choice of thicker, in-your-face tones as well as the pristine qualities of a true Stratocaster.
- Classic Stratocaster aesthetics and familiar layout
- A coil-split bridge humbucker and two single-coils open up a palette of tones
- Retails for $799
The Deluxe Strat is an ideal vehicle for straddling the brawny skate punk of Lagwagon and the intricate emo noodling of American Football. It’s thanks to the pickups. In the neck and middle positions, Vintage Noiseless single-coils yield that glassy Strat tone. But a Twin Head Vintage Humbucking pup at the bridge ensures you have a high-octane burst on tap. That humbucker is also coil-split, which is useful if you need a trebly shriek to cut through the mix.
What remains are your classic Stratocaster specs. There’s an alder body, C-shaped maple neck and maple fretboard that, unlike an American Professional or Mexican Player Strat, has a 12-inch radius. It may not be the best punk guitar around, but it’s great if you have both power chords and quick lead lines to muscle through.
8Eastwood Mach Two
The Eastwood Mach Two is a replica of the Mosrite Mark II, one of Johnny Ramone’s most favoured guitars – so we simply couldn’t leave this out. With a high-output single-coil and a hot mini humbucker, this is a guitar that screams “Hey, ho! Let’s go!”
- Faithful replica of Johnny Ramone’s Mosrite
- Powerful pickups in the form of mini humbucker (neck) and single-coil (bridge)
- Mosrite-style adjustable roller bridge
- Lists for $999
With a high-gain amp, this axe snarls like a wolf. A mini humbucker at the neck and single-coil at the bridge are responsible for its aggressive nature – the former, in particular, has all the fatness of a regular humbucker but with an added punchiness and brightness.
The rest of the controls are simple: volume and tone knobs, and a three-way pickup selector switch. And tonewood-wise, the Mach Two has the typical combination of an alder body, bolt-on maple neck and a rosewood fretboard. Honestly, though, what else does a punk rocker need?
As Tom DeLonge and Tim Armstrong have proven, hollow-body guitars are great punk rock instruments. Even The Jesus and Mary Chain’s William Reid uses a Gibson archtop for his furious, fuzzed-out riffs. Dollar for dollar and feature for feature, the Epiphone Dot is arguably the best semi-hollow out there.
- Semi-hollow construction for resonant and full-bodied tones
- Alnico Classic humbuckers are voiced to vintage specs
- That iconic Gibson ‘ES’ look
- Retails for under $500
In simple terms, the Dot is a budget Gibson ES-335. And like the far more expensive guitar, this one has a laminated maple body and top, and a centre block running within the otherwise hollow body. This lengthens sustain and reduces feedback – but with enough distortion, it’ll still howl. Which, if you’re a punk rocker, may be exactly what you’re after.
The SlimTaper D neck on the Dot also has thicker ‘shoulders’ than the rounded C on an ES-335. Most players will find the former slightly more comfortable for power chords.
But the biggest difference between the Gibson and Epiphone is in the pickups. The Dot uses Epiphone’s Alnico Classic humbuckers, which admittedly don’t have the character, clarity and ‘singing’ mid-range of the ES-335’s PAF-harking Gibson Burstbuckers. But they’re still ace for the price: clean, thick and punchy enough to make it a good punk guitar.
10Fender Deluxe Thinline Tele
We’re not exactly sure when the Telecaster became an emo guitarist’s instrument of choice. But third-wave bands such as Armor For Sleep, Saves The Day and American Football have used the guitar to produce the twinkling arpeggios and open-chord plucking that define emo’s most popular years. And the Deluxe Tele Thinline is ideal for that genre.
- Semi-hollow body balances acoustic resonance and ringing sustain
- Handsome looks with a classic F-hole
- Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups for noise-free trademark Tele tones
- Pickups can be activated in series for hotter output
- Flat 12-inch fretboard radius and C-shaped neck
- Retails for under $1,000
While hollow electrics can be noisier and difficult to rein in, the alder-bodied Deluxe Tele Thinline manages to evade those problems. It’s largely due to the pair of Fender Vintage Noiseless stacked Alnico II single-coils, which produce the pristine ‘chime’ for which the brand is known – minus the hum. Paired with these single-coils, the guitar’s semi-hollow construction takes it out of country territory and into lusher, rounder zones.
And the Deluxe has a not-so-secret weapon that makes it a competent choice for both rhythm and lead players. Those pickups can be engaged in series, via a four-way switch. You’ll get a warmer, hotter output to deploy on emo’s heavier, life-affirming choruses – but you can still keep the pups in parallel for a brighter and quieter jangle.