We review products independently and our recommendations are genuine. If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More
Guitars for punk music combine three key qualities – mobility, energetic tone, and unique aesthetics that stand out.
Punk music was born out of the desire to move away from the technical styles of musicians in the 1970s, with a D.I.Y ethos that inspired a generation of guitarists to write simple, energetic songs.
After moving from being an underground genre to the mainstream, punk began to fizzle out. However, in recent years, there has been a revival of this unique, accessible style, and it is now stronger than ever.
It’s important that punk guitarists choose a suitable guitar for the high-energy, unique style. In this guide, we’ve rounded up the best options available so that you can make a calculated decision.
In a Rush Roundup
How We Tested
We used three key criteria to test the performance of these punk guitars – playability, tonal versatility, and appearance. Firstly, we analyzed the tonewoods and materials used to construct the instruments, and how they affected the feel.
Next, we tested the guitars based on their effect on endurance when played for long sessions, using mostly power chords and other common punk guitar techniques. We then ran them through a variety of amps and effects pedals, to check they produced the right amount of heat and power required for punk.
Best Punk Rock Guitars Reviews
Although Nirvana is synonymous with grunge, their music also contained many elements found in punk from the late ’70s and early ’80s. Kurt Cobain’s primitive style of guitar playing inspired a generation of musicians.
This unique Jaguar has been meticulously designed to resemble the instrument played by Cobain in his years as Nirvana’s lead guitarist and frontman. It’s extremely playable and packs an array of powerful, unapologetic tones.
In many ways, this guitar is a hybrid, with aspects taken from other popular Fender guitars. The headstock is from a Strat, which gives this Jaguar a distinctive feel and appearance.
Punk electric guitar is all about energy – and therefore it is essential that the guitar you play allows you to focus on your performance. This custom Fender axe makes switching between chords easier, thanks to its smooth rosewood fingerboard and modern “C” maple neck.
The pickups installed on the Fender Kurt Cobain Jaguar are both produced by DiMarzio. In the neck position, there’s a DP103 PAF, and in the bridge position, a DP100 Super Distortion, exactly the same as those found on Cobain’s guitar.
These humbuckers combine to produce a raw, full-bodied output that is ideal for punk and similar styles of playing.
- DiMarzio DP103 and DP100 humbucker pickups
- Modern “C” profile maple neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- High-output, powerful tone
- Customized guitar with classic Fender playability
- Great for chords and riffs
- Custom pickup switches can be complicated at first
There aren’t many guitars in existence that have enjoyed the level of success that the Gibson SG Standard has. Responsible for many of the most iconic recordings in rock music, this is one of the best punk guitars available.
One of the things that make the SG Standard so well suited to punk music is its mobility. Punk performances often get hectic, and therefore it’s important to have a lightweight guitar that doesn’t cause fatigue onstage.
Another reason that punk guitarists should consider the SG Standard is the broad range of tones it can produce. Whether you need a tight, powerful rhythm tone, or a more expressive sound for lead parts, this guitar can do both.
The rounded neck is designed to allow guitarists to effortlessly coast around the fingerboard, which is made from smooth, inviting rosewood.
Sustain is an important attribute for punk guitarists, as it’s common for them to ring out chords over the fast-paced drums and pulsating basslines. The double-horned mahogany body of this SG extracts all of the sustain from the strings with impressive consistency.
Two matched PAF humbuckers have been chosen by Gibson to deliver the classic SG snarl, with a particularly prominent mid-high range and the power to slice through a mix.
- Gibson 490R and 490T humbucker pickups
- Rounded mahogany neck
- Nashville Tune-o-Matic bridge
- Thick humbucking tone
- Smooth and responsive fingerboard
- Lightweight design is perfect for energetic performers
- The horned cutaway design may not suit all tastes
Lightweight and versatile, the Classic Vibe ’70s Jaguar is one of Squier’s most impressive creations to date. It features the classic slightly offset body which is made from poplar and is one of the best pop-punk guitars on the market.
Unlike many of the older Squier guitars, this instrument has high-quality pickups that you’d expect to find on a high-end Fender model. Both of the Alnico single-coils were designed by Fender, and that quality can be heard in the output.
The pickups are designed in the classic Jaguar manner – run through a complex switching system that allows you to switch up the sound of the guitar without needing to mess around with amp settings or effects pedals.
Having multiple sounds available when performing live is very useful, especially for punk guitarists. Even the slightest alteration can make a chorus stand out amongst the verses of your songs.
Finally, the classic “C” profile maple neck promotes fast playing of chords, riffs, and melodies. It reduces the tension on your fretting hand when forming chard shapes, and allows you to focus on performing rather than applying tension to the strings.
- Pair of Fender Alnico single-coil pickups
- Maple “C” profile neck
- Indian Laurel fingerboard
- Classic vintage Fender look and feel
- Versatile rhythm and lead pickup circuits
- Warm and prominent midrange
- Pickup switches are a little complex
In recent years, Gretsch guitars have become increasingly popular. In the past, they were mostly used by jazz guitarists, but as they have released more solidbody guitars, musicians from all genres have begun to utilize them.
The G5230T Electromatic Jet is incredibly comfortable to play. This is largely due to its thin “U” mahogany neck, which fills your fretting hand nicely and makes it easier to quickly transition between chords.
With a Bigsby vibrato installed on this guitar, you can add some modulation to the notes you play in real-time. This works perfectly for punk, especially if you like to repeat the same chord sequences throughout songs and need some variation.
The pickups installed on this guitar consist of two Blacktop Filter’Tron humbuckers, which sound huge when played through a tube amplifier. Although they’re technically humbuckers, these pickups produce a clear high-end that almost sounds like single-coils.
You also get resonance and sustain in abundance, thanks largely to the chambered mahogany body. Overall, this warm-sounding Gretsch guitar has all the ingredients required for punk.
- Pair of Blacktop Filter’Tron humbucker pickups
- Thin “U” profile mahogany neck
- Bigsby vibrato
- Comfortable body and neck
- Sounds great in the lower registers
- Creamy humbucker tone
- Heavier than most solidbody guitars
It’s a common misconception that Telecasters are only good for their signature twangy lead tones. In reality, this iconic solidbody Fender Player Telecaster guitar performs well across all genres, especially punk rock.
Renowned for its comfortable design, the Player Telecaster has a modern “C” profile neck, which is made from maple. The fingerboard is also made from this reliable tonewood, to ensure ultimate smoothness underhand.
Punk guitarists will enjoy the mixture of classic, vintage sounds this Tele produces, combined with some more state-of-the-art features which improve its functionality.
An example of this is the two Fender-designed Player Series Alnico V Single-coil pickups, which sound rough around the edges when combined with gain, but can also sound smooth and refined through a clean amp channel.
Another thing that makes this modern Tele suitable for punk is its ability to retain proper intonation. This quality is a result of the bridge design, which is of the string-through variety with a saddle for each string.
Telecasters are also very mobile instruments, thanks to their compact body shape and lightweight design. This makes them a great choice for performers who like a move around onstage.
- Pair of Fender Player Series Alnico V single-coil pickups
- Modern “C” profile maple neck
- Synthetic bone nut
- Smooth and responsive fingerboard
- Snappy, warm single-coil tone
- Equally suitable for rhythm and lead guitar
- Lacks some power in the bass frequencies
Made in collaboration with talented blues guitarist John Mayer, the Silver Sky quickly became one of PRS’ most popular creations. However, the original model was out of the price range of many guitarists.
PRS recognized this and followed it up with the SE model, which is much more affordable. Impressively, they haven’t noticeably reduced the qualities that made the original so special. Some of the materials are different, but the sound and feel remain.
Similar to the Telecaster, the PRS SE Silver Sky is a great choice for energetic punk musicians. Playing fast chord changes, downstroke strumming patterns and simplistic riffs are all very easy thanks to the maple and rosewood combo neck.
The pickup assembly of the SE Silver Sky is based on Fender’s Strat, which has a SSS configuration. This includes three 635JM “S” pickups, which produce singing highs, and a tight, refined low end.
When combined with a tube amplifier, this double-cutaway guitar flourishes. Its clean tone is immaculate and provides you with the perfect foundation to color with your chosen effects.
- 3 x PRS 635JM “S” single-coil pickups
- Rosewood fingerboard
- 2-point steel tremolo
- Smooth cleans with warm midrange
- Lightweight, mobile body
- Easy access to higher frets
- Has a modernized neck design
6 Best Guitars for Punk Music Buyer's Guide
Punk may have been initially thought of as a fad that would die out by many music purists, but it has proven the doubters wrong time and time again. This genre is a great entry point for a guitarist who wants to play with energy and attitude.
The great thing about punk guitar is that pretty much anyone of any ability lessons can play it. The downstroke-heavy rhythms don’t take long to master, and the plug-in and play attitude make the guitar seem much less complicated.
Choosing a guitar that you are comfortable playing and that you like the sound of, will help you to become the best punk music that you can be. Punk is also about image, so it’s essential to choose an instrument that you like the look of.
The guitars featured in this guide are all perfect for punk, but if you’re struggling to make a decision, the following information should be helpful.
Things To Consider When Buying
Consider weight and size
Punk guitar requires mobility, due to the energetic nature of performances. Therefore, lighter guitars tend to be better suited, especially if you enjoy moving around a lot on stage.
Think about the pickups
Power chords are a staple technique used by punk guitarists, and they generally play a lot of midrange frequencies. Humbuckers tend to offer a thicker, more prominent midrange, while single-coils will scream more during a solo.
Look out for controls and pots
Tone and volume controls, along with pickup selectors, are wonderful tools for punk guitarists. They allow you to instantly change the sound of your chord patterns and riffs, without needing to use any pedals. Some guitars have more controls than others, so it’s worth looking out for them if they will be useful to you.
The Main Qualities of a Punk Guitar
Although guitars are essentially pieces of wood joined together with strings and electronics attached to them, it’s amazing how much variation there is within the category of this amazing instrument.
The different models of electric and acoustic guitars are associated with certain genres and styles of playing, due to their physical characteristics, and of course, the way they sound.
Guitars for punk music must combine three key qualities – mobility, energetic tone, and aesthetics that stand out.
The essence of punk is its attitude, and this must be conveyed by the guitar that you play. If you like the look of a guitar, then this is half of the battle, because you’re more likely to look confident when playing it if you believe that it looks good.
Mobility is a key aspect of punk guitar because you need to be able to move around on stage to match the energy of the music you’re playing.
While it may be appropriate for guitarists to stand still or even sit down when playing certain genres like blues or country, it’s practically impossible for a punk guitarist to do this while they’re thrashing out riffs on their instrument.
Pickups and Tone
When it comes to creating the ideal punk tone, the pickups that your guitar has installed are one of the most important factors.
Indeed, it’s possible to take any guitar with any pickups, stomp on an overdrive pedal, play a few power chords, and call it punk. However, if you want to be more versatile and have the ability to play a mixture of techniques, choosing the right pickups is essential.
Unlike other heavy styles of music like metal guitar which is associated mostly with high output humbuckers, punk guitar can be played with single coils too.
The key thing to look for when assessing which pickups you need to be installed on your new guitar for punk is whether they are designed for the techniques that you like to play.
Humbuckers will provide you with a thicker tone, that is better for playing power chords and chunky riffs in the low-end and lower midrange.
Single-coils are likely to be a better choice if your playing is predominantly focused on playing riffs, melodies, or solos in the upper mids and treble end of the guitar.
Don’t Disregard Comfort
Due to the seemingly nonchalant attitude of many punk guitarists, you might assume that playing comfort isn’t one of their priorities when choosing an instrument.
In reality, playability is essential when choosing a guitar for punk music because the style involves switching between chords very quickly and utilizing the entire fretboard to make different sounds.
Punk guitarists should look for axes that have fast-playing necks, preferably made from maple or mahogany as these materials are pretty reliable when it comes to playability.
Punk Guitars FAQs
Which Techniques do Punk Guitarists Use?
Punk guitarists departed from the more technical playing styles that had been common in the 1970s. They developed certain ways of playing that were more simplistic and easy for anyone to pick up a guitar to learn.
The main techniques used by punk guitarists are the power chord and barre chord. This is where three notes are plated to create a major or minor chord on the guitar, much like a triad on a piano.
Barre chords were used heavily in punk because it makes it easier for the guitarist to move around the fingerboard quickly and without needing the change the chord shapes too often.
Is the Les Paul the Most Popular Punk Guitar?
The Gibson Les Paul is one of the most popular punk guitars. It was used by pioneers of the style, such as Mick Jones from the Clash.
Other popular guitars used in the early days of punk included the Fender Strat and Tele. Some guitarists around the time simply played any instrument they could get their hands on before a show!
Do Punk Guitarists use Pedals?
Punk guitarists usually have a simple rig, that may consist of an amp, their chosen guitar, and a small selection of pedals if any. Overdrive and distortion are the two main effects used by punk guitarists.